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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
2 Peter 1

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Verses 1-2

2 Peter 1:1-2

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.

The author and his readers

The author describes himself by--

1. His name.


“Simon.” Commonly a happy name in the Scriptures. Not that grace is tied to names; for there was a Simon Magus, a sorcerer. Whatsoever thy name be, let thy heart be Simon’s. It is said to signify hearing or obeying; so do thou confess, profess, love thy Master.

(2) “Peter” was his surname, given him by Christ Himself.

2. His condition. “A servant.”

(1) This extols the dignity of Christ that so famous an apostle creeps to Him on the knees of lowliness. Many arrogate great dignity to themselves, because so famous men are their servants. Ahasuerus might vaunt of his viceroys; but let all sceptres be laid down at the foot of Him who is crowned with unspeakable glory for ever.

(2) This is a clear demonstration of St. Peter’s humility. The godly are no further ambitious than to belong to Christ.

3. His office. “An apostle.”

(1) He joins together service and apostleship.

(a) To distinguish and exemplify his calling (Hebrews 5:4).

(b) To show that apostleship was a matter of service; as an honour, so a burden (Matthew 9:38).

(2) It was the custom of the apostles to magnify their office (Romans 11:13), to weaken the credit of false intruders (1 Corinthians 9:1).

4. His Master. “Of Jesus Christ.”

(1) They were apostles of Christ, for none ever called themselves apostles of God the Father, because Christ Himself only was the Father’s Apostle.

(2) Christ only hath authority to make apostles. He chose them to the work, who could enable them to the work.

(3) They came not in their own name, but in Christ’s (2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 11:2).

The persons to whom this Epistle is written.

1. The generality of the person. To them, all them. This is called a “general epistle”--

(1) Not only because the doctrine contained in it is orthodox and catholic.

(2) Nor because the use of it is general.

(3) But because it was directed to all the saints and worshippers of Jesus Christ, howsoever, wheresoever dispersed, or whensoever despised. For with God is no respect of persons.

2. The qualification of this generality. “That hath faith.”

3. The excellency of this qualification. “Precious faith.” As Athens was called Greece of Greece, so faith may be called the grace of grace. (T. Adams.)

Them that have obtained like precious faith.--

Apostolic faith

Let us first of all glance at the family that is here addressed. The letter is directed plainly, and to deal honestly with Scripture, and to deal honestly with souls, we must do as an honest postman would do. When he takes his budget of letters from the office, he does not take pains to tear off the envelopes and directions, and scatter them in the streets for any one to pick up. This should be the case with regard to this Epistle. It is not addressed to us individually, but it is “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us.” In order to ascertain if the letter belongs to me, I must ascertain if I have like precious faith with the author. The fraternity to whom all this Epistle is addressed, they have obtained like precious faith--apostolic faith. How is this? Did they buy it? Did they earn it? Did they trace it out by dint of study? Verily not. Those who really have it, have it inspired in their souls, implanted in their experience as a living grace, by the operation of the Holy Ghost. And this leads me to observe that this precious faith obtains and maintains a holy intimacy with God in all the persons and perfections of the Trinity. There is another point I must press upon you, and that is the basing of faith upon truth, as its solid bottom. If the faith of God’s elect has taken possession of your heart, I know that the testimony of Scripture with regard to all the doctrines of grace, will be received in your creed.

Ascertain the evidence of our affinity. “Like faith in us.” “Like!” How am I to know it is “like”? Now I really think it will be quite fair to ascertain what is like the apostles’; let us appeal to the apostles’ preaching, and to their practice. Now I think their preaching consisted of three things chiefly--affirming, admonishing, and advising. They were accustomed to affirm. Says the apostle--“opening and alleging that Jesus Christ must needs suffer and enter into His glory.” Well, then, they went on to admonish, and they could say to the rejectors of the gospel, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish.” And this led on to their advising them to continue steadfast to the truth, to flee the very appearance of evil, to gird up the loins of their minds, and so on. Moreover, I should like all such to ask the question, whether their practice is at all like the apostles’. Like precious faith will produce like precious practice. And we find the apostles active in the cause of God. So also we find that the apostles’ practice way very affectionate--that they spoke in love to those who surrounded them. I want more of this affectionate deportment, as well as activity, and zeal, and vigilance in the cause of God. And then, mark, their lives were of an inspiring nature. They did not content themselves with earth--they wanted not its gaudy toys, but they waited for that crown of righteousness which was laid up for them. Well, just go on to mark that the apostles’ faith was immovable and invulnerable. Now, I ask whether this faith that we profess is so much like the apostle’s that it is unmovable. Can you stand a cannonading from the enemy? Can you stand a good volley of reproach and insult from the world? Just pass on to mark that this like precious faith, which thus appeals to the apostles is necessarily fixing its attention upon the name and perfect work of Christ, its object is to glorify Christ.

The very wonderful appellation given to this faith. It is “like precious faith.” One of the first features of its preciousness is that it takes hold of all the stores of the covenant of grace, and appropriates them as its own. But there is one point in the preciousness of faith which appears to me more precious than all the others, and that is its habitual war. “Why we thought that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” So we have, and yet there is habitual war. There is old Satan, with his roaring like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. What is to be done with him? “Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” That is war, at any rate. (J. Irons.)

Like precious faith

The object of faith as here defined. Revised Version reads more accurately, “faith … in the righteousness.” Faith is trust, and the object of trust must be a person. We may say that we trust a promise, but that really means that we trust him who has made it. We may believe a creed, but for trust we must have a living Christ of whom the creed speaks.

The worth of this faith.

1. You remember that in one verse we read about the door of faith. What is the worth of a door? It is only a hole in a wall. The value of the door is that which it admits into. So faith is precious, not because of anything in itself, but because of what it grasps, and of what it admits into your heart. Just as the hand of a dyer that has been working with crimson will be crimson; just as the hand that has been holding fragrant perfumes will be perfumed; so my faith, which is only the hand by which I lay hold upon precious things, will take the tincture and the fragrance of what it grasps. A bit of earthenware piping may be worth a few pence in intrinsic value, but if it is the means by which water is brought into a beleaguered city, which else would perish of thirst, who will estimate its worth?

2. Then again, we may consider the worth of faith as a defence. We read of the shield of faith. I do not become safe by believing myself to be so, however strong may be the imagination or the fancy. All depends upon what it is that I am relying on. Your faith is precious because it knits you to Christ’s immortal stability.

3. And in like manner we may consider the worth of faith as a purifier. But how does faith purify? Is there anything in my confidence which will make me pure? No! there is no moral efficacy in the mere act of trust. All depends upon what it is that you are trusting to. You will get like what you are trusting to. The only faith that purifies is faith in Him that is pure.

The substantial identity and equal preciousness of faith in all varieties of form and degree. The deepest thing in every man that has it is his faith in Jesus Christ, and likeness in that brings him near all others who have it, however unlike on the surface their characteristics may be. All manner of differences in opinion, in politics, in culture, in race which may separate men from men, are like the cracks upon the surface of a bit of rock, which are an inch deep, while the solid mass goes down a thousand feet. But I am not going to pretend that the man whose Christ did not die for him, and whose Christ gives him no righteousness in which he can stand before God, possesses “like precious faith with us.” To say that he does is to worship charity at the expense of truth. The poor man’s half sovereign which stands between him and want is made of the same gold as Rothschild’s millions. And so the smallest and the feeblest faith is one ill character, and one in intrinsic value with the loftiest and superbest. Only as is the measure of the man’s faith, so will be the measure of his possession of the precious things. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Of faith

As to its nature. It doth involve knowledge, knowledge of most worthy and important truths, knowledge peculiar and not otherwise attainable, knowledge in way of great evidence and assurance.

1. Truth is the natural food of our soul. What light is without, that is truth within, shining on our inward world, illustrating, quickening, and comforting, exciting all our faculties to action, and guiding them in it. Faith, therefore, as implying knowledge is valuable.

2. But it is much more so in regard to the quality of its objects, which are the most worthy that can be, and most useful for us to know, the knowledge whereof doth indeed advance ore” soul into a better state, doth raise us to a nearer resemblance with God. Thereby we understand the nature or the principal attributes of God. By it we are fully acquainted with the will and intentions of God, relating both to our duty and our recompense. By it we are informed concerning ourselves. It enableth us rightly to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong. It prescribeth us an exact rule of life. It proposeth the most valid inducements to virtue. It discovereth the special aids dispensed to us for the support of our weakness against all temptations. The knowledge of these things is plainly the top of all knowledge whereof we are capable; not consisting in barren notion, not gratifying idle curiosity, not serving trivial purposes, but really bettering our souls.

3. Faith also hath this excellent advantage that it endueth us with such knowledge in a very clear and sure way, it not being grounded on any slippery deduction of reason, nor on slender conjectures of fancy, nor on musty traditions or popular rumours; but on the infallible testimony of God conveyed unto us by powerful evidence.

It hath also divers ingredients, or inseparable adjuncts, which it doth imply, rendering it commendable and acceptable to God. As--

1. Faith implieth a good use of reason. This is that which commendeth any virtue, that a man acting after it doth act wisely, in conformity to the frame and design of his nature.

2. Faith implieth a compliance with the providence and grace of God.

3. Faith doth imply good opinion of God and good actions toward Him.

Thus is faith precious, considering its nature, and those essential ingredients or inseparable adjuncts which it doth include or imply. It will also appear to be so if we consider its rise and those good dispositions which concur in its production.

1. To the engendering of faith there is required a mind sober, composed, and wakeful; ready to observe what befalleth, apt to embrace what is offered, conducible to our good; a mind not so drowned in worldly care, sensual enjoyment, or impertinent sport as to neglect the concerns of our eternal state.

2. Faith doth require much diligence and industry.

3. Faith must needs proceed from sincerity and soundness of judgment.

4. To the begetting faith there must concur humility, or a readiness to entertain sober and moderate opinions of ourselves, together with suitable affections and desires.

5. To faith much fortitude, much resolution must conspire, for he that firmly persuadeth himself to be a Christian doth embark in most difficult warfare.

6. The noble virtue of patience is likewise accessory to faith.

7. With faith also must concur the virtue of prudence in all its parts and instances; therein is exerted a sagacity, discerning things as they really are in themselves, not as they appear through the masks and disguises of fallacious semblance.

8. In fine, the embracing Christian doctrine doth suppose a mind imbued with all kinds of virtuous disposition in some good degree.

Its effects are of two sorts: one springing naturally from it, the other following it in way of recompense from Divine bounty. I shall only touch the first sort, because in this its virtue is most seen, as in the other its felicity. Faith is naturally efficacious in producing many rare fruits. Even in common life faith is the compass by which men steer practice, and the mainspring of action, setting all the wheels of our activity on going; every man acteth with serious intention, and with vigour answerable to his persuasion of things, that they are worthy his pains, and attainable by his endeavours. In like manner is faith the square and the source of our spiritual activity, brooking pains and hardships. What but faith, eyeing the prize, will quicken us “to run patiently the race that is set before us”? We are told that faith doth “purify our souls and cleanse our hearts”; that is, our whole interior man, all the faculties of our soul; disposing them to an universal obedience and conformity to God’s holy will; and so it is, for faith not only doth clear our understanding from its defects, but it cleanseth our will from its vicious inclinations, it freeth our affections from disorder and distemper, in tendency toward bad objects, and in pursuit of indifferent things with immoderate violence; it purgeth our conscience or reflexive powers from anxious fear, suspicion, anguish, dejection, despair, and all such passions which corrode and fret the soul; how it effecteth this we might declare; but we cannot better set forth its efficacy than by considering the special influence it plainly hath in the production of each virtue, or on the performance of every duty. “Add to your faith virtue,” saith Peter, implying the natural order of things, and that if true faith precede virtue will easily follow. In fine, it is faith alone which can plant in us that which is the root of all contentedness and all patience; a just indifference and unconcernedness about all things here; it alone can untack our minds and affections from this world, rearing our souls from earth and fixing them in heaven. (Isaac Barrow, D. D.)

The nature of saving faith

In the sacred oracles five objects especially are called precious. The redemption of the soul is precious. The blood of Christ is precious. Christ is precious to His ransomed people. The promises of the gospel are great and precious. And in our text faith is called precious. That is accounted precious which is of an excellent quality, especially if it be rare. Gold is preferred to brass, moral virtue to gold; but the faith of God’s elect infinitely surpasseth these, and every acquisition below the sun. And in its operations and effects it is most excellent. What tends farther to raise the value of saving faith in our esteem is--

1. The manner in which we are made partakers of it, namely, by the gracious and sovereign disposal of heaven.

2. That the weakest real believers share the blessing together with the strongest apostles themselves, greatly magnifieth our idea of its worth.

First, saving faith consists in the credit the heart yieldeth to the testimony of Jesus, “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness.” This testimony we have delivered to us in the law and the gospel.

1. In believing the soul is persuaded of the power of Christ to save it, guilty and wretched as it is; for God hath laid help upon One that is mighty to save.

2. In saving faith the soul gives full credit to this great gospel truth, that the mercy of Christ is equal to His power to save.

3. In believing the heart fully confides in the faithfulness of Christ to perform His promise of eternal life to all those who believe on Him.

4. Take notice of the light or evidence by which true believers discern, and yield their assent to the truths of the gospel. Now this is wholly supernatural. The full credit given by the heart to the testimony of the Spirit in His Word, is peculiar to saving faith; there is therefore an essential difference between this and the assent of mere common professors. This difference chiefly consists in three things.

(1) The transcendent glories of faith’s object are truly discerned by the one; the other has only some dark ineffectual notices of them. The difference is as real and as great as that of seeing an object and hearing of it only.

(2) The objects of faith are most agreeable to the faculties and condition of true believers. In them they perceive everything for their entertainment and profit.

(3) They differ widely in the effects they have upon the minds of their respective subjects. The impressions the objects of faith make upon the mind of temporary believers, are as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away, leaving their hearts still unchanged. But sincere believers with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord.

Explain the nature of trust in Christ, the second constituent of saving faith. This act of faith is called a receiving Christ, embracing Him, accepting Him, coming to Him, leaning upon Him, and resting on Him for salvation.

1. It implies a hearty approbation of the scheme of redemption in the blood of Christ, as originating from, and infinitely worthy of, the wisdom, mercy, and love of God.

2. Trust in Christ more specifically consists in the hearty acquiescence of the soul in Him for salvation. Its leading exercise is a rest in His propitiation for pardon, and then, being accepted in the Beloved for grace, for glory, and for every mercy. He is all in all to believers.

(1) The gospel offers Christ fully in all His offices, for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. And faith corresponding fully with the offer, accepteth Him as the only remedy for ignorance, guilt, slavery, and every misery to which sin hath subjected a fallen world.

(2) The gospel offers Christ in due order--Christ Himself first, and then His gifts. It inviteth us to come to Him, and promiseth rest upon our coming.

(3) The gospel offers Christ and all the blessings of His purchase freely, without money and without price; and faith disclaiming all goodness wrought in or done by the creature, as a ground of trust. Lessons:

1. What ground of lamentation is it, and how surprising that the far greatest part of those who profess the name of Christ, and the Scriptures to be His Word, have, notwithstanding, so little of Him in their religion, and are such strangers to the doctrine of faith in His blood for salvation.

2. From what hath been said, many professors of religion might be easily convinced, did they yield to the evidence of it, that they have not the true faith of the gospel, but are still held in the chains of unbelief and condemnation! For he that believeth not is condemned already.

3. I most earnestly beseech unbelievers of every description to acknowledge your character fully and freely. Admit the conviction of your guilt and danger, fall at the feet of mercy, and beg for the life of your souls. (R. South, D. D.)

The value of faith

1. Faith, considered intellectually, is valuable.

2. The value of faith appears in its power, of realising in our minds the existence and presence of God.

3. Faith appears pre-eminently precious when we remember that by it we obtain a part in the great work of redemption which our Lord Jesus Christ has affected.

4. The preciousness of faith appears in its beneficial influence on character.

5. The value of faith is felt in the power it has to sustain and comfort the mind when no other help is available. (The Congregational Pulpit.)

Faith and life

Faith and life! these are vital points to a Christian. They possess so intimate a connection with each other that they are by no means to be severed. You shall never find true faith unattended by true godliness; on the other band, you shall never discover a truly holy life which has not for its root a living faith upon the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Woe unto those who seek after the one without the other!

Observe what He says concerning the the character and the origin of faith, and then concerning the character, and origin of spiritual life. Let us begin where Peter begins, with the faith. You have here a description of true saving faith.

1. First, you have a description of its source. He says, “To them that have obtained like precious faith.” It is not a matter which springs up by a process of education, or by the example and excellent instruction of our parents; it is a thing which has to be obtained. Now, that which is obtained by us must be given to us; and well are we taught in Scripture that “faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.”

2. Peter having described the origin of this faith, proceeds to describe it’s object. The word “through” in our translation might, quite as correctly, have been rendered “in”--“faith in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” True faith, then, is a faith in Jesus Christ, but it is a faith in Jesus Christ as Divine. Who but a God could bear the weight of sin? Who but a God shall be the “same yesterday, to-day, and for ever”? Remark, that the apostle has put in another word beside “God,” and that is, “of God and our Saviour.” As if the glory of the Godhead might be too bright for us, he has attempered it by gentler words--“our Saviour.” Now, to trust Jesus Christ as Divine, will save no man, unless there be added to this a resting in Him as the great propitiatory sacrifice. A Saviour is He to us when He delivers us from the curse, punishment, guilt, and power of sin.

3. Notice the word “righteousness.” It is a faith in the righteousness of our God and our Saviour. I have not received Jesus Christ at all, but I am an adversary to Him, unless I have received Him as Jehovah Tsidkenu--the Lord of our righteousness. There is His perfect life; that life was a life for me; it contains all the virtues, in it there is no spot; it keeps the law of God, and makes it honourable; my faith takes that righteousness of Jesus Christ, and it is cast about me, and I am then so beauteously arrayed, that even the eye of God can see neither spot nor blemish in me.

4. Our apostle has not finished the description, without saying that it is “like precious faith.” All faith is the same sort of faith.

5. He tells us too that faith is “precious”; and is it not precious? for it deals with precious things, with precious promises, with precious blood, with a precious redemption, with all the preciousness of the person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Well may that be a precious faith which supplies our greatest want, delivers us from our greatest danger, and admits us to the greatest glory. Well may that be called “precious faith,” which is the symbol of our election, the evidence of our calling, the root of all our graces, the channel of communion, the weapon of prevalence, the shield of safety, the substance of hope, the evidence of eternity, the guerdon of immortality, and the passport of glory. So much, then, concerning faith. Now we shall turn to notice the life. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God,” etc.

1. Here we have, then, the fountain and source of our spiritual life. Just as faith is a boon which is to be obtained, so you will perceive that our spiritual life is a principle which is given. A thing which is given to us, too, by Divine power--“according as His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” The selfsame power which is required to create a world and to sustain it is required to make a man a Christian, and unless that power be put forth the spiritual life is not in any one of us.

2. You will perceive that Peter wished to see this Divine life in a healthy and vigorous state, and therefore he prays that grace and peace may be multiplied. Divine power is the foundation of this life; grace is the food it feeds upon, and peace is the element in which it lives most healthily.

3. Observe, again, that in describing this life he speaks of it as one which was conferred upon us by our being called. He says, “We were called unto glory and virtue.” I find translators differ here. Many of them think the word should be “By”--“We are called by the glory and virtue of God”--that is, there is a manifestation of all the glorious attributes of God, and of all the efficacious virtue and energy of His power in the calling of every Christian. He says there was in that calling, the Divine glory and virtue; and, doubtless, when you and I shall get to heaven, and see things as they are, we shall discover in our effectual calling of God to grace, a glory as great as in the creation of worlds, and a virtue as in the healing of the sick, when virtue went from the garments of a Saviour.

In the fourth verse he deals with the privileges of faith, and also with the privileges of the spiritual life, Notice the privilege of faith first. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.”

1. Note here, then, we have received by precious faith the promise and pardon.

2. Then comes the righteousness of Christ: you are not only pardoned, that is, washed and made clean, but you are robed in garments such as no man could ever weave. The law was great--this righteousness is as great as the law. The law asked a precious revenue from man, more than humanity could pay--the righteousness of Christ has paid it all. Is it not great and precious?

3. then next comes reconciliation. You were strangers, but you are brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Is not this great and precious?

4. Then comes your adoption. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” etc. “And if children, then heirs,” etc. Oh, how glorious is this great and precious promise of adoption!

5. Then we have the promise of Providence: “All things work together for good to them that love God,” etc.

6. Then you have the promise too, that you shall never taste of death but shall only sleep in Jesus. “Write, Blessed are the dead,” etc. Nor does the promise cease here--you have the promise of a resurrection. “For the trumpet shall sound,” etc. Now, beloved, see how rich faith makes you!-what treasure!--what gold-mines!--what oceans of wealth!--what mountains of sparkling treasures has God conferred upon you by faith I But we must not forget the life. The text says He has given us this promise, “that”--“in order that.” What then? What are all these treasures lavished for? Is the end worthy of the means? Surely God never giveth greater store than the thing which He would purchase will be worth. We may suppose, then, the end to be very great when such costly means have been given; and what is the end? Why, “that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature.” We are, by grace, made like God. “God is love”; we become love--“He that loveth is born of God.” God is truth; we become true, and we love that which is true, and we hate the darkness and the lie. God is good, it is His very name; He makes us good by His grace, so that we become the pure in heart who shall see God. Nay, I will say this, that we become partakers of the Divine nature in even a higher sense than this--in fact, in any sense, anything short of our being absolutely Divine. Do we not become members of the body of the Divine person of Christ? And what sort of union is this “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones”? Then the other result which follows from it is this, “Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Ah, beloved, it were ill that a man who is alive should dwell in corruption. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” said the angel to Magdalene. Should the living dwell among the dead? Should Divine life be found amongst the corruptions of worldly lusts? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Precious faith

Those he describeth here from their faith, which is amplified, first, from the certainty of it, they had obtained it. Secondly, from the quality and worth of it; it was of like price with the faith of the apostles, worthy of the same respect that theirs was. Thirdly, from the means whereby they did obtain it, even the righteousness of Christ, that is, His fidelity and truth in keeping His promises. True justifying faith is of great price and worth, styled here a precious faith. First, from the causes of faith. Secondly, from the effects of faith. Thirdly, from the subject of faith, or persons which have faith; those are not every one, for all men have not faith. Fourthly, from the properties or qualities of faith. It is a saving faith; it is a justifying faith; it is a sanctifying faith. It is the faith of God’s elect. It hath great boldness in it. Fifthly, from the object of faith, which is Jesus Christ; styled, therefore, the faith of Jesus Christ. Sixthly, by comparing faith with other graces, hope, love, humility, and the like, they are precious. Therefore is faith (the mother grace, the lady and mistress on whom the rest wait) of great price and worth. Seventhly, by comparing it with things external which are accounted precious, gold, silver, precious stones, and the like. For instruction, first, that faith is diligently to be inquired and searched for. Secondly, that faith is much to be respected.and honoured. Thirdly, that such as have obtained faith, are possessors of a jewel of great price. (A. Symson.)

Like precious faith

Faith in all God’s children is alike precious. Alike, I say, in price, in worth, in nature, in substance, in kind, though not in extent and measure. There is a weak faith and there is a strong faith, and yet both alike precious. Peter no doubt had greater faith than all or most of those had to whom he wrote, yet doth he acknowledge that they had obtained like precious faith. Some attain unto a great faith, which may be compared to a great flame, a great fountain, a strong man’s holding or gripping of a thing; some again have but a weak faith, like a sparkle, like a drop of water, like a child holding of a thing; the sparkle is as truly fire as the flame is; the drop as really water as the fountain is; the child’s gripping, as the strong man’s. Even so faith in the least child of God, though it were but as a “grain of mustard seed,” is as truly faith as the faith of the apostles, the faith of the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. So that faith is alike precious to all. (A. Symson.)

The preciousness of faith

Faith is precious in its object.

Faith is precious in its testimony.

Faith is precious in its benefits.

Faith is precious in its influences. Faith produces--

1. A living spiritual influence.

2. A comforting influence.

3. An enriching influence.

4. An establishing and conquering influence.

5. A joyous triumphing influence.

6. A meetening influence for eternal glory. (J. Burns.)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you.--

The salutation

The matter. “Grace and peace.”

1. We are here taught the Christian use of salutings; such godly compliments are not to be neglected.

2. We are further taught here to use good forms in saluting. “Grace and peace,” gracious, not grievous; holy, not hollow; blessings, not curses.

(1) Grace. By this is generally meant the receiving of the sinner into the covenant of mercy, into God’s favour by Christ.

(a) Many prophets and holy men of the first times lived in grace, but not under grace.

(b) Many in our times live under grace, but not in grace, hearing the gospel and receiving the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).

(c) The unbelieving Gentiles were neither in grace nor under grace.

(d) They that now believe are both under grace and in it. Under it, as released from the damning power of sin (Romans 8:1); in it, as delivered from the reigning power of sin.

(2) “Peace.” I take it specially for the tranquillity of conscience; that which follows righteousness.

(3) I come from considering this sweet pair of graces asunder, to join them again together.

(a) It is not enough to wish grace to the souls of our friends, but also peace; that is, health to their bodies, and other temporal blessings.

(b) The apostle puts grace before peace.

(c) The apostle wisheth to us the best things, grace and peace. There be two fiends that torment us--sin and a bad conscience. Now grace delivers us from sin, and peace doth quiet the conscience.

The measure of his wish: the increase and multiplication of these blessings. For the goods of this world, the best point of arithmetic is division: it is a better thing to give than to receive, said our Lord. But for heavenly graces, the best point is multiplication.

1. There is no plenary perfection in this life, for we must still be in multiplying our graces.

2. We must seek to multiply our grace and peace. He hath nothing that thinks he hath enough.

The manner. “Through the knowledge,” etc. This means not a mere knowledge, but an acknowledgment, a reflective and doubling knowledge. There is knowledge mental, sacramental, and experimental. The first is by the light of nature; the second by the power of grace; the third by the practice of life and continual proving the favour of God.

1. The means of multiplying grace and peace in our hearts is knowledge of God (John 17:3; Psalms 9:10).

2. There is something in grace and knowledge still wanting, that must be multiplied and increased; for we know but in part.

3. There is no knowing of God with comfort, but through Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:27). Without Him, he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth his own sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18). (Thos. Adams.)

Multiplied grace desired for others

1. Such as have experience of the worth of grace and peace in themselves, desire also that others may be partakers of the same.

2. The preachers of God’s Word ought by their labours and endeavours, by their wishes and prayers, to point out unto their people those things for which they should especially labour and endeavour.

3. The grace and favour of God is the chiefest good thing to be sought after, to be wished and desired above all things in the world next to God’s glory.

4. God doth bestow His graces upon His own children, not all at once, but by degrees as He findeth them fit and capable to receive them. This I gather from the word “multiplied.”

5. Grace and peace may be obtained, continued, and increased through the knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ. That the main reason why so many complain of the want of peace of conscience, and of their not profiting in grace, is their not growing and increasing in saving knowledge. (A. Symson.)

Through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.

Life through the knowledge of Christ

The advancement in the Divine life of those in whom it is begun is the aim of this Epistle. Solemn and earnest, yet animating and assuring, are these his farewell words. It is a voice from the borders of eternity--from the threshold of glory--the voice of one who has all but reached the goal. The Christian life is life that springs up and grows through the knowledge of Christ.

Aspects of life in Christ. The delineation of life in Christ by the hand of the apostle here is one of marvellous richness and completeness. First your eye is directed to heavenly birth--the Divine source of the holy life which we enjoy through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. You see it coming down from God out of heaven, having the glory of God stamped on it. “His Divine power (2 Peter 1:3) has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” If with your own hand you must tend and trim the lamp, that the flame of holiness may burn on and burn even brighter, God ministers the oil of grace wherewith it is fed. But next, if we ask, What are the essential elements and characteristic features of this life from on high? we have a clear answer. Worthy of its Divine source is its noble expression, in those Christian excellences which the apostle in the three following verses (5-7), commands us to acquire. A fair and glorious edifice this which you are called to build. Survey it well from base to cope, if you would know what it is to build yourself up on your most holy faith. In the change which every day is making on you, is there discernible any trace of the gradual advancement towards completion in your daily deeds and words of such a structure as this?

Life through the knowledge of Christ. The dawn of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus is the dawn of spiritual life in your heart--its noon is life eternal in the heavens. That life and that light are really one. Till you know God revealing Himself in Christ, and in Christ reconciling Himself to you, you have not begun the Christian life. To know Jesus is to master the science of salvation--it is to know God. To know Jesus is to receive the life of God into our souls. To see farther into the heart of Jesus, to see in His face the ever-blessed Trinity--Father, Son, and Spirit--with whom in eternal bonds you are linked, and for whose blissful communion you are prepared--this is to make progress in the life of faith. Each new step of advance in that life is the fruit and the forerunner of new discoveries of Christ. (W. Wilson, M. A.)

The knowledge of God in Christ

The fires of the sun in the distant heavens are not more necessary to ripen the wheat or to perfect the grace of the wild-flower than are the great revelations of Christ concerning God to create and sustain the characteristic Christian virtues. The religion of Christ regulates, inspires, and sustains the morals of Christ. The morals are part of the religion. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Verses 3-4

2 Peter 1:3-4

His Divine power hath given unto us all things.

The Divine liberality


1. The hope of the petitioner. The experience of former mercy works a persuasion of future mercy.

(1) Let us pray in confidence that God will hear us, because He hath heard us. A noble princess asked a courtier when he would leave begging; he answered, when she left giving.

(2) Seeing that God gives more where He hath given much, let us be thankful; for how should God bless us with that we have not if we do not bless Him for that we have?

2. The ability of the Giver. Here is power, yea, Divine power; not only great, but good. For mercy and majesty must meet together in the donation of all things that pertain to life and godliness. The knowledge of this Divine and giving power may comfort the most dejected heart.

(1) Concerning the salvation of others and ourselves; how desperate soever we judge their estates, by reason of their continual habit of sinning, yet this Divine power is able to convert them.

(2) This comforts us in the midst of all afflictions. We are weak in ourselves, unable to stand under the lightest cross; but there is a Divine power that strengthens us. Though it doth not nullify our sorrows, yet it doth fortify our patience (Colossians 1:11).

(3) This comforts us in prayer.

(4) This comforts us against all opposition, even those principalities that wrestle against us (1 John 4:4; Revelation 12:11).

(5) Let this hearten us to cheerful liberality; because, whatever we lack or lose, there is a Divine power able to requite it (2 Corinthians 9:8).

3. The liberty of the action. God does not set, nor let, nor sell, nor lend, but give.

(1) How to judge of all we have; as the Lord’s gifts, not our own merits (1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 15:10).

(2) Follow God’s example, in being evermore giving good things.

4. The necessity of the receivers.

(1) We had nothing; miserable beggars.

(2) We deserved nothing.

5. The universality of the gift. “All things that pertain”--

(1) To life.

(a) Natural. He put a soul to our flesh, gave birth to the child, nourishment after birth; bread when we were hungry, drink when we were thirsty, etc. To the wise man his wisdom, to the strong his might, to the wealthy his riches, etc.

(b) Spiritual; whereby we live to Him, and in Him, and whereby He lives in us.

(2) To godliness. By His grace we come to godliness, and by godliness to life.

The cistern. The ever-flowing and over-flowing conduit is Christ, in whom dwells all fulness (Colossians 1:19). The more capacious a vessel of faith we bring, the greater measure of faith we shall receive.

1. The water of life, which is an effectual calling to glory and virtue.

(1) Who hath called us. Christ alone can call home sinners.

(2) The action. There was a time when Christ came personally to call. He went out from His majesty that is invisible, to His mercy that is manifested in His works. Now He calleth at divers times, in divers places, and after divers manners.

(a) In all ages of the world, and of men’s lives.

(b) Some from their ships, others from their shops, etc.

(c) After divers manners. First, by the preaching of the Word; and herein He useth two bells to ring us to church, the treble of mercy and the tenor of judgment. Next, in His sacraments.

(3) Whom hath He called? “Us”--miserable sinners, that were deaf and could not hear Him, lame and could not meet Him, blind and could not see Him, dead and could not answer Him.

(4) To what? “To glory and virtue.”

(a) In present being. We must understand by “glory” the honour of being Christians; by “virtue” the good life that becometh Christians.

(b) Hereafter we shall come to a perfect and plenary possession. The virtue there is a pure white garment without spot, and the glory a golden crown of eternity.

2. The pipe and bucket to draw and derive all to us. “Through the knowledge,” etc. One was of opinion that a philosopher excels an ordinary man as much as an ordinary man excels a beast; but every true Christian excels a philosopher as much as a philosopher does a dunce. They scarce knew God in His creatures; we know God in His Christ. There is no pleasure so sweet as knowledge, no knowledge so sweet as that of religion, no knowledge of religion so sweet as that of Christ; for this is eternal life, etc. (John 17:3). Let us therefore use the means to get knowledge.

(1) Read the Scripture; that is God’s will, there is knowledge (John 5:39).

(2) Frequent the temple; that is God’s house, there is knowledge (Psalms 73:16-17).

(3) Resort to the Communion; that is God’s maundy, there is knowledge (1 Corinthians 11:26).

(4) Consult His ministers, for the priest’s lips preserve knowledge. (Thos. Adams.)

The wonders of Divine grace

The greatness of Divine grace. “His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” The reference here is to our Saviour Jesus Christ.

1. Grace comes by Divine power. It is no angelic effort or human invention. Its wisdom is Divine omniscience. Its power is Divine omnipotence. Its activity is Divine omnipresence. Its resources infinite. Its love the eternal love of God:

2. It supplies every real need. Life is the state and godliness the activity. In the gift of the Holy Spirit every possible want of the soul is met.

The method of Divine grace. It comes through the knowledge of Him that calleth us by His own glory and virtue. In knowledge is the spring of life. Our actions are governed by our volitions, our volitions by our emotions, our emotions by our knowledge or belief. Thoughts of Christ’s love set our hearts all aglow with love to Him, and that love becomes the spring of a new and holy life.

The consolation of Divine Grace. “Exceeding great and precious promises.”

The glory of Divine Grace. That through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature.

The foe of Divine Grace. The corruption that is in the world by lust. There are two great spiritual cities: in the one there is corruption by lust, in the other life by godliness. The Divine new life is in peril in the poisoned air, that life which to the believer is infinitely more precious than all besides. (The Freeman.)

All things that pertain unto life and godliness.--

All things pertaining to life and godliness given unto the saints

That the people of God are to live godly lives.

That for this life and godliness, Divine power bestows everything necessary.

1. It is necessary that He should give us all things, for we have nothing in ourselves.

2. It is very gracious of Him to give all things. We were told that during the first winter campaign in the Crimea, our armies were subject to many sufferings and privations on account of inadequate provisions. This might have been so; it often has been so in times of war, and no human power can prevent it. But it can never be so with the armies of the Cross. Divine power is our guarantee.

The text teaches us that all things are in Christ, and obtained through the knowledge of Him.

That among the “all things” we have in Christ the promises are especially to be prized.

That the possession of these heavenly gifts makes us partakers of the Divine nature. (H. Quick.)

Christ the complement of our life

In the sunshine there is a colour for every plant that seeks its own hue out of sunshine, and in Jesus Christ there is every possible hue which the heart could want. All things that pertain to godliness are in Christ--in other words, Christ is the complement of our nature. When I use that word complement--a mathematical term--I infer that just as a segment of a circle may be a very small thing, and may need the rest of the circumference to be its complement, so, whatever be the segment of your life, Jesus Christ is the complement of all the rest. He just fills out your deficiency and makes you a complete thing. It is no use a man saying he was born deficient in patience, because there is all the patience of Jesus to complete his impatience; no use for a man to complain of weakness or cowardice, when any kind of want comes, which has been permitted to come into his life that he might learn to appropriate the fulness of Christ. So the apostle gloried in his infirmity, because he said--the smaller the segment is the more of a complement I get, and a man may even be proud in a sense of the natural deficiencies of his nature, because he is thrown back upon Jesus Christ, in whom everything is stored to make him a saint. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Called us to glory and virtue.--

A glimpse of glory

That whereby a Christian may have title, interest, and comfort, in life and glory. It is not a knowledge of calling in general, but of that particular calling of ourselves to glory and virtue. This doth interest us in the promises of God (Acts 2:39). No calling, no promise. Nay, further, without this there is no encouragement to holiness (1 Timothy 6:12). By our calling, which is by an eternal purpose and grace of God in time, changing and renewing us unto holiness of life, we come to know the eternal decree of God, which otherwise were presumption to look unto. For, as a prince’s secret mind is made known by edicts and proclamations, which before we durst not search into, neither could know, so when God’s secret counsel to execution is manifested, by changing our hearts, by calling us from the world to an holy calling, in a sanctified life: this, then, is no presumption, but duty in us, by our calling, to judge of our election, and so of our calling to glory and virtue. If you look for an example of this, see that of St. Paul (Galatians 2:20).

That this knowledge of our particular calling is one of the strongest motives unto all goodness. So we see the apostles in their opinions still urge holiness and sanctification from this ground of the assurance of calling and election (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12). He that hath no assurance of this calling can have little comfort in performing of holy duties. A fearful, doubting soul lives in much vexation.

Use 1: The first is against all such as oppose this doctrine, chiefly the Papists, who are for that, that a man should not inquire after the assurance of his salvation.

Use 2. The second is, that every man then must try his title, what calling he hath.

Use 3: The third is for instruction. If this be so, let not then any man dare to confound the external calling of men with the internal calling of God. Further, how precious this calling should be unto us, we may see (Luke 10:20). Here is only cause of true joy. By this then be sure to take thy warrant of rejoicing, fetch it out of this calling, that God hath called thee to glory and virtue, which is the next thing to consider of; our calling to glory and virtue; I mean a consideration of these things whereunto we are called, glory and virtue.

1. Glory. Glory is the end of all. The glory of God is the furthest reach and end of all things, and virtue is the way leading unto glory. This glory then we speak of is the reward of goodness, and is ever attended with virtue. For as shame and sin still go together, so do glory and virtue, even by the testimony of the consciences of all good and ill men. The glory then we speak of is an eternal glory. It is not meant, when he says “called to glory,” that a Christian is only called unto that, and unto nothing else by the way, but by the way he is called unto virtue, and by occasion unto afflictions. But God’s end of calling us is unto glory; as 1 Thessalonians 2:12. This glory is only of His mercy, from whence glory floweth unto us; mercy is the ground thereof. What shall I say of

(2) Be thankful to the Giver, not only for spiritual, but even for temporal things. It is not enough to take the whole loaves, but let us even gather up the fragments. And if God gives all to us, let us give something to Him. Not only my goods, but myself.

(3) Be not proud, arrogate not that to thyself which is God’s gift.

5. These promises are signed, sealed, delivered, and bound with an oath.

(1) God hath put His hand to them in the gospel.

(2) The two sacraments are the seals.

(3) They are delivered to us (Romans 8:15). Use: From the stability of God’s promises to us let us learn to be constant in the performance of our promise, both to God and to man.

An inheritance. God’s nature may be participated two ways, of quality and of equality.

1. For equality: this is only proper to the three Persons of the Trinity.

2. Our participation must be only qualitative: by nature we understand not substance, but quality, by grace in this world and by glory in the world to come. This communication of the Divine nature to us is by reparation of the Divine image in us (Hebrews 12:10; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 8:29).

(1) As servants of a Master; not merely as creatures; so all men partake (Acts 17:28).

(2) As subjects of a Prince; and thus we partake with the King of heaven in many benefits.

(3) As sons of a Father: thus we partake many things of the Divine nature.

(4) As members of a Head (1 Corinthians 12:27).

(5) As branches of a Vine (John 15:1-27.).

A deliverance.

1. The discovery of great danger.

(1) The infection, corruption of lust. It gets into the thoughts, senses, tongue, hands, etc.

(2) The dispersion through the world. Consider the villainy, misery, inconstancy, insufficiency of it.

2. The recovery. We have escaped, not by our power, but by His grace that hath delivered us (Psalms 124:7). There is a fourfold manner of freeing captives.

(1) By manumission (John 8:36).

(2) By commutation. Christ was killed; we escaped.

(3) By ransom (1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:19).

(4) By violence (2 Timothy 4:17). God did all this for us, and shall we do nothing for Him, for ourselves? (Thos. Adams.)

The promises of God

The excellency of the Divine promises. The promises of Scripture are generally declarations which God has made of His intention to bestow blessings upon His faithful people. Under the Old Testament dispensation the promises mainly related to the future advent of the Messiah. The Christian covenant is, in fact, one comprehensive promise (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:40; Hebrews 8:6-12). So that illumination, pardon, holiness, and union with God--that is, all imaginable mercies--are included in this one rich and overflowing promise.

The design for which these promises are given--“that by these you might be partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” The two designs of the promises, then, are a deliverance from the corruptions of the world and a participation of the purity of God. What this corruption is need scarcely be described. Men by their concupiscence and ungoverned passions corrupt each other. The Divine nature stands opposed to all this corruption. We are to be holy as God is holy.

1. That this is the direct tendency of the Divine promises may appear, first, from the consideration that it is in the view of His love and grace as displayed in the gospel of His Son, which God is pleased chiefly to employ to win the heart to His service.

2. The assurances of assistance offered to us in the promises tend also directly to promote holiness. The promise of forgiveness excites us to forsake sin; the promise of inward grace to mortify it.

3. Again, the condition annexed to the promises make them the powerful means of producing in us conformity to the Divine nature. These are frequently expressed. To him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God. The meek will He guide in judgment.

4. But I ask once more, What is the matter of God’s promises--what are the blessings themselves which they hold out to us? Do they not all either imply holy obedience or directly include it? Repentance, faith, love, joy, hope, peace, strength, communion with God, are subjects of the promises; and what are these but parts of sanctification?

5. I ask, again, what are the direct and necessary effects of such promises, when they are received? They are the nutriment of faith which worketh by love. They inspire hope which purifies the heart even as God is pure. They work therefore not as an opiate to stupefy, but as a medicine to restore. And all this they do, not by a mere natural process, but by the gracious appointment of God.

The test which it furnishes of our state before God. If men will put a general notion of God’s mercy in the place of His promises; if they will substitute a form of godliness for a Divine nature, and a mere decency and good order before others, for an “escape from the corruption which is in the world through lust,” they must perish. (D. Wilson, M. A.)

Great and precious promises

Did you ever hear the story how, once upon a, time, a dove moaned and mourned to her fellow-birds of the tyranny of the hawk--the dove’s great foe? One advised her to keep below; but the hawk can stoop for his prey. Another said, Soar aloft; but the hawk could soar as high as she could. Another said, Fly to the woods; but the woods are the very palace and court of the cruel hawk; safety could not be found there. And another said, Fly to the towns; but there she was in danger of being caught by man, who might even make her a sport for the hawk. At last one said, Fly to the holes of the rocks. Violence cannot surprise the dove there. Thus it is with the soul of man distressed and fearful. Come to me, says Riches, and I will shelter you. No, Wealth is only the devil’s lure, and, by and by, his rein and his spur. Conic to me, says Pleasure; but she is the very Delilah of the soul, to betray you to the Philistines. Honour says, Come to me; but there is no assurance in any of these. No. Oh, ye that dwell in cities and repose in wealth or pleasure or honour, there is safety in Jesus or nowhere. “Leave the cities and dwell in the rock--in the Rock of Ages--fly to the promises, and be like the dove that maketh her nest by the side of the hole’s mouth.”

Consider the promises. Ah, if we practically realised the might, the majesty, and the meaning of God’s promises, how happy they would often make us l The astronomer, when he knows that the hour of the planet draws nigh, prepares his glasses and climbs his highest towers, and through its bright farseeing eyes he watches and he waits till he beholds it come labouring along its infinite way. And when it has shone through the darkness its hour or its season, then it fades down again into the darkness till another season shall come, and, perhaps, another astronomer hails its beams. So the promises of God are made to conditions, and they shine like constellations. Oh, sweet garden of the promises! But are they not rather like trees--exceeding great and precious promises? It seems to me, when I study the life of the promises, I come as into a vast and stately forest, planted by the glorious men of God in old time by His will and word; and they are, “the fir tree, the pine, and the box together.” There are the cedars of Lebanon, which He hath planted; and, like all trees, they are fit for meditation and fruit and use. How cool it is to walk amongst the promises! They are quiet places, and sacred and secret ways, where God, in an especial manner, meets with man’s soul. When the glorious sun strikes down, how the promises stretch out their cool arms; and when storms are in the heavens they cannot strike through these boughs. And so every promise conceals or reveals some biography--some way of God in a human soul. Poor Bilney, that noble martyr, lost all comfort after he had recanted till he found the words, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Beza found the life of his hope in words which I can never forget: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I will give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” Some of the fathers divided the promises into Pabulum fidei, and Anima fidei--“Food of faith,” and the “Soul of faith.” “Oh, thou of little faith,” see yonder is the state; but do you not see the sunshine falling over it?--those arrowy flakes of gold, they are the promises--the exceeding great and precious promises: when you come to that darkness, fear not, but you shall inherit that light.

Exceeding great and precious. Do but think how wonderful it is that God should make Himself known by man. And all God’s works are promises. They are tokens of holiness, and wisdom, and faithfulness. Why do you plant an acorn? Does it not contain a promise? Infinite value is placed here. And methinks if we did but read the works and ways of God in nature aright we should see everywhere the promise of our future. Oh, when I can stand on the great mountain chains of the Bible, what a view I have! And do not promises strengthen? Our whole life is maintained by promise. Without promise we should sink into the deepest places of despair. We need spiritual tonics. We need them to destroy our unhealthy consciousness, which is only another name for weakness. And how glorious that, by these promises, we are able to look beyond the tomb; yes, by them we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust and see our fair inheritance there. But remember one great condition by which you know your relation to the promise--“escaping the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Here, you see, is the great condition. Have you escaped the corruption? Till you breathe in purer air you cannot expect to breathe the sweetness of this promise. Obedience first, then recompense. (E. P. Hood.)

The promises of God

Their greatness will appear if we consider their Author. They derive importance and value from the holiness of God in all its glory, from His justice in all its inflexibility. Finally, they must derive importance from His infinite benevolence and mercy in which they originated, of which they are the magnificent expression and all the resources of which they open. Is there not an important sense, then, in which these promises are as precious, as great as God is glorious? Those, therefore, who neglect them despise Jehovah Himself when making the most interesting appeals to their hearts, and involve themselves in guilt and wickedness proportionable to the glories of the Divine character.

The greatness and value of the promises will appear if we consider them in their own nature and properties, or, if we attend to their intrinsic worth. In estimating the value of promises, this is the chief consideration. No matter what may be the rank or character of the promiser, or what the relation in which he stands to us. The promise cannot be denominated great and precious if it relates to an insignificant object or to one that does not meet our exigencies. The great consideration here is: suppose the promises to be accomplished, and all the good that is contained in them enjoyed, will all our capacities be filled? Shall we be completely delivered from all dangers and enemies? Shall we be raised to the perfection of our nature? If so, but not otherwise, the promises, the value of which we are endeavouring to estimate, are exceeding great and precious. Now, tried by this criterion, the promises to which the apostle refers will appear to be fully entitled to the epithets under consideration. For when they are all accomplished in heaven, what want will remain unsupplied? what capacity unfilled, even to overflowing? what danger or enemy will threaten, what desirable good will not be possessed? What will then be wanting to complete the dignity and happiness of human nature?

Consider the medium through which these promises have been made, or the way in which these blessings are secured and conferred, and they, too, will show that they are indeed exceeding great and precious. “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” and, therefore, making all the promises through Him. “All the promises of God are in Him yea, and in Him Amen.” They are all made and confirmed in Him. In Him who, though He was the brightness of His Father’s glory, and the express image of His Person, the Lord, the Creator of angels, and the object of their worship, became the Babe of Bethlehem, the sufferer on the Cross. In Him who, by the exercise of every grace of which innocent human nature is capable, and the performance of every duty in their very perfection, and that in the most difficult circumstances, met all the demands of an absolutely perfect law. In Him, who, by making His life, His blood, His soul an offering for sin by drinking, to the very dregs, the bitter cup of Divine wrath, secured all the blessings contained in the promises.

Consider the number and variety of the promises. We have given to us not an exceeding great and precious promise merely, but exceeding great and precious promises relating to all the endless variety of the believer’s wants and circumstances and dangers and duties: to prosperity and to adversity, to the body and to the soul, to time and to eternity, to earth and to heaven.

Consider next the suitableness of these promises, and this, too, will prove that they are exceeding great and precious. A promise may be valuable in itself, and as it regards the blessing which it exhibits; and yet it may be to the individuals to whom it is made of no importance because it is not suitable to their circumstances. How valuable to some would be the promise of a large sum of money, of a rich and extensive estate, of a crown! What are they to the man who is the victim of a mortal disease, who has only a few moments longer to live? “Behold, he is at the point to die,” and what are riches and crowns to him? How valuable is a promise of pardon to a convicted and condemned malefactor! But what is it to the man who glories in his innocence and virtue and claims the protection of the law, and the blessings of life as his right? But the promises of the gospel are as suitable to our circumstances as they are great and wonderful in themselves. They secure light to those who are in darkness, and rich supplies to those who are perishing of hunger, and pardon to those who are guilty and condemned.

Consider the immutability of these promises, and this will show that they are exceeding great and precious. How inexcusable, then, is unbelief!

On account of their influence the promises may well be denominated exceeding great and precious. The promises of men often exert an injurious influence on those to whom they are made. They dazzle the eyes of the mind, enkindle a flame of unhallowed feelings, lead astray from the path of duty, and thus prove the most dangerous temptations to sin. How many have been led by them to act a foolish, a base, a disgraceful part! By seeking the honour that comes from men they have lost all the honour that comes from God. But the influence of the promises of the gospel is always beneficial. They ever enlighten and sanctify and stimulate to act wise and noble part. This must be the case, for they make those who embrace them partakers of the Divine nature and keep from the corruption that is in the world through lust. Now we may infer from what has been advanced--

1. That the Bible is an exceedingly great and precious book, for it contains all these promises.

2. We may learn whether or not we are personally, actually interested in these promises.

3. How great the folly and guilt, how wretched the state of those who despise all these promises and reject all these blessings!

4. Remember that the Bible contains not only exceeding great and precious promises, but exceedingly great and terrible threatenings, and the latter are as dreadful as the former are glorious. (W. Scott.)

Divine promises

The means whereby God conveys His grace to us, viz., the promises of the gospel.

1. Their excellency is set forth by two adjuncts. They are “exceeding great and precious.” The one noteth their intrinsic worth and value; they are “exceeding great.” The other, our esteem of them; they deserve to be “precious” to us.

2. Their freeness: “given,” made freely, made good freely.

The end and use of them: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature; that is, the communicable excellence of God.

1. Because these are communicated to us by God; they are created in us by His Divine power. We have them by virtue of our communion with Him. They flow from God, as the light doth from the sun.

2. Because by these perfections we somewhat resemble God. Therefore it is said (1 Peter 2:9), “We show forth His praises,” His virtues or Divine attributes, His “wisdom, goodness, bounty, holiness”; for in these we most resemble Him.

the way, method, and order how we receive this benefit of the Divine nature. “Having first escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” As we die to sin, the Divine nature increaseth in us. There is a putting off before there can be a putting on (Ephesians 4:22-24).

1. What is to be avoided: “The corruption that is in the world through lust.” Observe, sin is called “corruption” as often in Scripture, because it is a blasting of our primitive excellency and purity (Genesis 6:12; Psalms 14:1). Observe, the seat of this corruption is said to be in the world, where lust and all uncleanness reigneth, therefore called “the pollutions of the world” (chap. 2:20). The generality of men are defiled with them, corrupted in their faith, worship, and manners; therefore conversion is called for under these terms (Acts 2:40). Lastly, observe that this corruption is said to reign in the world “through lust.” Besides the bait there is the appetite; it is our naughty affections that make our abode in the world dangerous.

2. The manner of shunning, in the word escaping. There is a flying away required, and that quickly, as in the plague, or from a fire which hath almost burned us, or a flood that breaketh in upon us. We cannot soon enough escape from sin (Matthew 3:7; Hebrews 6:18). No motion but flight becomes us in this case. Doctrine: That the great end and effect of the promises of the gospel is to make us partakers of the Divine nature.

Let us consider the effect or end.

1. That it is a natural, not a transient effect. There may be such a sense of the goodness, wisdom, and power of God as may produce a sudden passion; as suppose of fear or love. It may only affect us for the present, but inferreth no change of heart and life. But the promises of the gospel are to breed in us such a temper of heart as may be a second nature to us, a habit or constitution of soul that may incline us to live to God. A habit serveth for this use, that a man may act easily, pleasantly, and constantly.

(1) To act easily. There is an inclination and propensity to holiness.

(2) To act pleasantly. They have not only a new bias and tendency, but it is a delight to do what is holy (Psalms 40:8), as being in their element when they are thus employed.

(3) It is a constant principle of holy operations, so that a man doth not only obey God easily, but evenly, and without such frequent interruptions of the holy life.

2. It is a Divine nature; that is, not only such as floweth from God, but may carry some resemblance with Him or to Him. It floweth from God, for we are “partakers”; it is but a ray from His excellency, and it carrieth a likeness to Him, or cometh nearer to the nature of God Himself than anything that a man is capable of. Now this is said for two reasons--

(1) To show the dignity of it. Nothing known to man is so like ‘God as a sanctified soul. The saints have their Maker’s express image; therefore if God be excellent and holy, they are so. The image and picture of God and Christ is in them, not made by a painter or carver, but by the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 3:18).

(2) To show the quality and condition of it. You must have a new nature, and such a nature as may be a Divine nature. If you have nothing above natural men or corrupt nature, you are strangers to the promises of the gospel.

3. This Divine nature may be considered three ways. Either--

(1) As begun; when we are first “renewed in the spirit of our minds,” and regenerated “according to the image of God” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

(2) As increased; when more like God in a conspicuous degree.

(3) As it is perfected in heaven; for there we have the nearest communion with God, and so the highest conformity to Him that we are capable of (1 John 3:2).

Let us now see the means by which God doth accomplish this effect: “To us are given great and precious promises.”

1. It is an instance of God’s love, that He will deal with us in the way of promises.

(1) A promise is more than a purpose; for the purpose and intention of a man is secret and hidden in his own bosom, but a promise is open and manifest. Thereby we get the knowledge of the good intended to us.

(2) It is more than a doctrinal declaration. It is one thing to reveal a doctrine, another to promise a benefit; that maketh a thing known, this maketh a thing sure, and upon certain terms; that gives us notice, but this gives us interest.

(3) It is more than a prophecy or simple prediction. Scripture prophecies will be fulfilled because of God’s veracity; but Scripture promises will be fulfilled, not only because of God’s veracity, but also His fidelity and justice; for by God’s promise man cometh to have a right to the thing promised.

2. The promises of the new covenant are of a most glorious and valuable nature. They are not about small things, or things of little moment, but about worthy and dear-bought blessings.

3. They are precious promises, worthy of our esteem; for they are not about things that we have nothing to do with, but such wherein we are deeply and intimately concerned. In God’s promises there is due provision made for the desires, necessities, and wants of mankind.

4. All this is given to us wretched men without any desert of ours; nay, we had deserved the contrary.

The influence of the one upon the other; or, how do these promises promote the Divine nature?

1. From their drift, which is, to draw us from the creature to God, and the world to heaven; to mortify the esteem of the false happiness which corrupteth our natures; and to raise us to those noble objects and ends which dignify and adorn the soul, and make it in a sort Divine. It breedeth an excellent spirit in us, which is carried above the world, and the hopes and fears of it (1 Corinthians 2:12).

2. The matter of the promises. Many of which concern the change of our hearts, the cleansing or healing of our natures (Hebrews 8:10; Ezekiel 36:25-26; Jeremiah 33:8).

3. The conditions or terms on which our right is suspended. Not pardon without repentance (Acts 3:19). Not heaven or eternal life without holiness (Hebrews 12:14).

4. The power with which the promises are accompanied (Colossians 1:3). The Divine nature is communicated to us by virtue of the promises; for the Spirit is our sanctifier, and He works by congruous means.

Use 1. Believe the promises, for they are most sure and certain. God’s testimony of the good things He will bestow upon us cannot deceive us, or beget a vain and uncertain hope.

Use 2. Esteem them (Hebrews 11:13).

Use 3. Labour to improve the belief of every promise for the increase of holiness, that we may be like God, pure and holy as He is (2 Corinthians 7:1). (T. Manton, D. D.)

“Exceeding great and precious promises”

First, the source of all the promises is shown by this same apostle to be “the abundant mercy of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3-5). By whatever name called, in whatever dispensation or method made known, the “abundant mercy” of the ever-blessed God has been the great original, only source of promise to man.

Their character. They are “exceeding great,” or, as the Rhemish version literally translates it, “most great.” As the announcements of Divine mercy concerning the provisions of redemption for man, we may expect the promises to be so great as to meet all the wants and woes of our fallen nature.

1. One wide, deep, and long-felt want of our spiritual nature is--“light.” The most enlightened Pagans but guessed at immortality, and felt after the true God among a rabble of false ones. Need I point out to you how Jesus Christ is thus “the Desire of all nations”? “To Him,” as the true Light, “gave all the prophets witness.” Pleasant to the eyes, cheering to the heart, indispensable to labour, assuring to the traveller, longed for by the watchman, an indispensable condition of all healthy growth, and therefore of life, light is in every language the symbol of truth; and as Jesus Christ is “the brightness of the Father’s glory,” so His gospel is “the light of lights” in all these respects to believing souls.

2. Another deep-felt want of the human soul is the craving for “peace with God.” Wherever the religious instincts have been awakened, their most poignant conscious ness has been that of guilt, a dread of the Invisible, and “a fearful looking for of judgment.” Hence all the self-torments of superstition, and the altars and offerings of Paganism, past and present. And of all the promises of God, none are more “exceeding great and precious” than those which invite, intreat, “beseech men to be reconciled unto God,” on the ground of the great propitiation of Jesus Christ for sin. They are more precious than the royal warrant that releases the death-doomed culprit; they are our passport and safe-conduct into present safety and eternal life.

3. Thus we might proceed in regard to every want of the human spirit. Does the quickened soul pant for self-harmony and purity, crying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”? Then one of a thousand promises uttered from the heart of God replies, “I will sprinkle dean water upon you; from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you; a new heart will I give unto you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”

4. Does the heart, pre-designed for Divine love and fellowship, feel restless for its adapted element--a good which it knows not, and without which it must inly burn and pine for ever? To all this multitude of weary, feverish souls there comes from the Father of spirits such exceeding great and precious promises as these: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters: and he that hath no money, come.”

5. Again, does the universal soul of man believe in and anticipate immortal life? Does the savage from his instincts, and the sage from his reasonings, expect to live for ever? Does even the bad man inly shudder at the prospect of annihilation, and the good man long for immortality? Then the certainty, the nature, and the path of endless life are the subject-matter of transcendently “great and precious promises.”

6. Finally, as to the wants of the soul and their Divinely promised supply. The life and immortality--rather incorruptibility--brought to light by the promises of the gospel meet another demand of our nature--“the resurrection from the dead.” And are they not “precious”--“precious” as the free pledges of sovereign, paternal, everlasting grace?--“precious” as the fruits of Jesus’ death-enduring love?--“precious” as the subject of the Comforter’s ministry to the heart, and the medium of His sanctifying energy therein? They are precious for their past beneficent history in healing wounded spirits and raising fainting hearts. Their greatness and preciousness have been in part realised by the first advent of Christ and this present “dispensation of the Spirit.” This, however, is but the introduction to the vast volume of “good things yet to come.” The sons of God are now adopted, but not manifested.

This is rendered still more evident by the design of the promises: “That we might be partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

1. This declaration inevitably implies that man has lost that participation in the Divine nature which is called “the image of God,” and which consisted in “spiritual knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.”

2. It also implies that there is in man’s nature, however fallen, a constitutional capacity (though we know, alas! a deep disinclination) to receive back and reflect the moral character of God.

3. It suggests that all the needful influences are given by the God of the promises, and lie within our reach for the recovery of the Divine nature; and that God holds us responsible for the earnest, prayerful use of those gracious means whereby we may grow into His likeness, and ascend to fellowship with Himself.

4. And this involves most inspiring views of what redeemed humanity may attain even on earth, much more in heaven.

5. This fellowship with God is the only means of escaping the infectious pollutions of moral evil that abound in the world on every side, and that spring from the desires of the heart turned from God to impure and forbidden objects.

6. The promises, then, are indispensable to the attainment of this end. They reveal the “Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness,” and assure the gift of the Holy Spirit to renew and inhabit the soul. (John Graham.)

The efficacy of the promises

What is the “whereby” with which the passage commences? designating, as it appears to do, some channel of communication. There are here several antecedents to which the “whereby” may be grammatically referred; but, without examining a variety of critical opinions, it appears to me the most obvious course to take the concluding words, “glory and virtue,” as the antecedent which we are in search of; “the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue; whereby”--that is, through which glory and virtue--“are given to us exceeding great and precious promises.” We are called to glory and to virtue--to a warfare that is full of honour, but at the same time full of difficulty, requiring much wisdom and vigour in the combatant. If we obey this calling, and throw ourselves into the conflict, then the struggle in which we are engaged will be the best witness that we are the elect of the Most High. Having this witness, we possess an assurance that the promises of the Bible are spoken specially to ourselves. Now, having thus cleared up the connection between the text and the context, it still remains that I vindicate the description that is here made of the promises given in the Bible. Yet, can this be necessary? If there be a spiritual solicitude for which the Bible contains not a word in season; if there be a doubt which is left without a message to disperse it; if there be an anxiety which is passed by without a whisper to soothe it; and if there be a tear which it dries not; then I will give up the description, and pronounce it overdrawn. But in nothing has God so manifested His wisdom as in the precision with which His Word meets the wants of His people. It were idle to attempt to descend into particulars. Exceedingly great are the promises of the Bible; great in their sweep, for they leave no circumstance unattended to; great in their power, for they bring all the magnificence of eternity to bear on the solicitudes of time. And precious are the promises, as well as great. He who can appropriate them has blessings which no arithmetic can reckon, a security which no contingency can shake, and a help which never can be without use. But there is no need that I insist further on the character that the text gives of the promises. Those who have proved them acknowledge them to be “exceeding great and precious”; they who have proved them not, want, alas! the spiritual ardour by which their character is to be discerned, and are therefore not to be convinced by the most elaborate description. We all profess to believe that once on the earth the spectacle was exhibited of the human nature adopted into union with the Divine. There was the perfect instance of one of our race being made partaker of the Divine nature: I need scarcely add that the instance will stand for ever by itself; and that the sense in which we alone can share in the nature of God differs from that in which Christ Jesus had share. He had it in essence--we in conformity; He by being God--we only by being renewed after the image of God. The Greek might more strictly be rendered “partakers of a Divine nature,” and not of the Divine nature. Now, the point which yet remains to be investigated, is the agency of the promises in effecting such a change; for, you will observe, that whilst partaking of the Divine nature is the result, the promises are the means through which it is brought about. “Exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature.” The machinery exhibited in the Bible when a spiritual transformation is in question, is the influence of the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the blessed Trinity. We may be assured, therefore, that when any other machinery is brought on the stage, we are to understand that it is effectual, not through its inherent energies, but only through its being actuated by that Agent. The promises in themselves have no power to animate; but if I believe in the promise, then the promise becomes a quickening thing; and that which as spoken was merely sound that melted into air is now a radiant star which rules me and guides me by the brilliancy of its light. We shall take for granted, in all we say of the power of the promises, that the power is derived from faith, and faith from the Holy Ghost; and we go on to show in the first place the power which promises wield over men in ordinary things, and in the second place, the influence which they exert over Christians in particular. If you took a rapid survey of the various classes and occupations of men, you would find that almost every one is submitting himself to the power of promise. If you enter the crowded marts of commerce, or pass through the courtly circles of ambition, or sit with the student in his secluded chamber, or accompany the dissolute into the haunts of pleasure, the same pursuit is in each case carried on; they are all hunting after some fancied good, which, though it may cheat them at last, engages them at present. Some busy spirit has been whispering into the ear of every man whom you meet, that if he will but follow this course, or that course, he shall attain the object of his desire. And the greatest marvel is, that although the experience of successive ages has shown there is a lie in each of these promises, they nevertheless attain the same credit as ever. If it could, however, come suddenly to pass that an arrest was put on this circulation of promise, there would be an instant standstill in the busy scenes of human occupation. And I need hardly point out how amplified would be the power of promise if there were anything like an assurance of fulfilment. If men can do such things on chance, what will they do on certainty? Now I turn from this rapid survey of the power which promise wields over men in general; and I ask you whether, if you turn the uncertainty of promise into certainty, you may not expect to find the power a thousand times greater which is wielded over Christians in particular? The defects in promise are here done away With; the result which is desired not only may take place, but shall take place. And if a promise, which is both indefinite in its terms and insecure in its pledges, be the efficient thing we have already described, who shall marvel that where the terms are the noblest, and the pledges are the strongest, it shall lead those who believe to work out their salvation with the fear and trembling of men who know themselves to have eternity at stake? I will seek, however, to dissect this point a little more nicely; for it is both of interest and importance. Escaping the pollution that is in the world, we account to be the same thing as being made partakers of the Divine nature. It is by escaping pollution, by withdrawing from the trammels and habits of sinfulness, that this partnership in the celestial character is procured; and if we can show that it is by the promises that pollution is escaped, it will follow that it is through the promises that conformity to the Divine nature is attained. But whether it be by promises or by threatenings that the work is commenced, assuredly it is by promise that the work is carried on. Is the believer disheartened when he considers the might of his spiritual enemies? the promise is kindly whispered, “God shall bruise Satan under thy feet shortly.” He takes courage, and wrestles with the enemy. Is he confounded at the view of indwelling corruption? “God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear.” Are kinsmen and friends alienated from him on account of his profession of godliness? What sustains him but this?--“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Does prayer seem unanswered? “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart.” Do sorrows seem multiplied? “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Is his progress in the life of faith scarcely perceptible? Where God hath begun a good work, He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. You see, then, that promises are mighty engines in the hands of God’s Spirit. It is by these souls are animated to prayer; it is by these they are prepared for warfare; it is by these they are warmed in love; it is by these they are cheered on in their way after holiness. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Precious promises

What makes a promise precious?

1. The thing promised must be valuable.

2. He who promises must be truthful.

3. He who promises must be able to perform. (W. Lawson, D. D.)

The Divinely assimilating force of Divine promises

Christianity is a system of promises. Even its doctrines and precepts may be regarded as promises. These promises are “exceedingly great” in their nature, variety, and influences; they are exceedingly “precious” too;--precious essentially and relatively in themselves and in their bearings on man.

These promises tend to assimilate us to God by giving us an attractive view of His character. Two thoughts will illustrate this point:--

1. Man’s moral character is formed on the principle of imitation. There are two wrong developments of this instinct.

(1) When it is directed to the natural peculiarities of others.

(2) When directed to the moral faults of others.

2. Man’s imitation is ever directed to that which seems to him beautiful. He will not copy that which appears to him unamiable, unlovely, repulsive. If the Infinite appear to us supremely lovely, He will by the laws of our imitative nature mould us into His own image. Now His promises give us this attractive view of Him. A sincere promise reveals the author’s disposition. If the promise is trifling where there are large resources, it indicates a niggardly soul, and the reverse. A sincere promise reveals the author’s resources. If great things are promised, the possession of great things are implied. According to these criteria, what infinite kindness and inexhaustible resources do the promises of God reveal!

These promises tend to assimilate us to Him by bringing us into personal contact with His character. We must be with a being to become like him. Fellowship is absolutely indispensable. There is on the one hand a giving, and on the other a perpetual receiving. Thus the two are brought together. Both minds meet, as it were, in the promise,

These promises tend to assimilate us to Him by giving us a living interest in His character. (Homilist.)

The design of the promises of God

In the Divine nature are attributes properly incommunicable; such as cannot, in the nature of things, be imparted; such as cannot be even imitated by creatures. It is peculiar to Him to exist in and from Himself; while a creature is a dependent being, and ever must remain so. It is peculiar to Him to be from everlasting to everlasting. It is peculiar to Him to have supreme dominion. Absolute perfection, that which is liable to no injury, admits of no diminution, is capable of no advancement, is peculiar to Him. Finite cannot equal infinite. It is, then, in moral attributes that we are to look for this participation of the Divine nature; in those which, indeed, constitute the very glory of that nature; the others being adorable as they are exercised and employed by a perfect wisdom, rectitude, and love. But let it be here observed that the promise is not that we shall be raised into something like God; sonic mere imitation of what is morally perfect in Him. We are to be partakers of the Divine nature. There is to be a communication on the part of God, and a reception on our own, of those principles on which all that is pure and holy in God may be said to depend; a communication continued to us, on which the growth and permanency of those principles rest. The moral nature of God, thus to be participated by believers, may be summed up in the three terms.

1. Knowledge. The power of knowing is the property of spiritual beings. It is not merely to perceive in the low degree which belongs to irrational animals, but to apprehend, to remember, to compare, to infer, and from particular to bring out general truths, which are to be laid up in the mind for meditation or action. This knowledge is the knowledge of things as good or evil, as right or wrong, as tending or not tending to our own happiness, and that of the whole creation. Infinitely perfect is this knowledge in God. And by the indwelling of His teaching Spirit, opening these truths to our mind, and rendering us discerning to apply them, He makes us partake, in our degree, of His own knowledge, His infallible judgment of things. Then it is that we walk in the light. We find a sure way for our feet, and so are enabled tot escape the snares of death.

2. Holiness. This is essential to God. It is that principle in Him, whatever it may be, which has led Him to prescribe justice, mercy, and truth, and to prohibit their contraries under penalties so severe; that principle, which is more than a mere approval of the things which He enjoins; which makes Him love righteousness. The holiness of a creature as to actions is, conformity to the will of God, which is the visible declaration of His holy nature. That conformity implies justice, a rendering to all their due; a large duty, referring not only to man, but likewise to God, to whom are to be given the honour and worship He requires from us: perfect truth and sincerity in everything, so that all outward acts shall concur with the heart, and the heart with them; and the strict regulation of every temper and appetite, so that they may be kept within the bounds prescribed, beyond which they become impurity and sin. But there must be principle from which all this must flow, or it is only external and imitative; and that principle is found only in the new man, that which conies from this participation of the Divine nature.

3. But the Divine nature is love. Who can doubt this when he sees the happiness of the creatures so manifestly the end of their creation? when we can trace all misery to another source? when we see the mercies He mixes with His judgments, always bringing some good out of evil? when He spared not His own Son, but gave Him freely for us all?

We observe, that the value of the promises of the Gospel is specially displayed by their connection with this end. “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature.” To raise men to this state is matter of promise, and therefore of grace. We might have been left to the sin and degradation we had sought. And the promises thus given to us, all of them suppose the covenant of grace. And when we consider their great design to make us partakers of the Divine nature, how clearly and brightly does it display their value! They appear to us of unspeakable value; “exceeding great and precious.”

1. They are so in respect of the honour which this great attainment puts on man.

2. Consider this value in respect to interest. What is the real interest of man but the attainment of the favour and image of God?

3. Consider this value in.respect of peace. There can be no peace to the wicked. Every evil brings its own punishment with it in the disquietude which it occasions.

4. Consider this value in respect of usefulness. Knowledge is a powerful instrument of God when prompted by benevolence and sustained by consistency of character. And where there is this participation of the Divine nature, there we find all these elements of usefulness, knowledge, holiness, and love.

5. And lastly, consider this value in reference to hope. (R. Watson.)

That by these ye might he partakers of the Divine nature.--

Partakers of the Divine nature

The keynote of the passage is the word “Divine,” which occupies so conspicuous a place at the commencement and the close. To the momentous questions, What is the source and what the nature of true religion? the sum briefly is--It is a Divine life. Its source is traced to the Divine power of the Mediator, and on its features are stamped the impress of the Divine image.

1. Life and godliness is a comprehensive and practical description of true religion. Life alone, in Scripture, often describes the state of grace, and sums up all the blessings of salvation (1 John 5:12; Acts 5:20). Godliness, also, by itself, often denotes the whole of religion--the whole life of faith (1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:7). Employed together they modify each other’s meaning, and give completeness to the delineation of the Christian life. Life points out its inward source in the heart, godliness its outward manifestations in conduct and character. Be it ours to seek this life. Filled with it, it will show itself in the blossoms and fruits of godliness, And, let us not forget, that if there is no godliness of conduct or character, we want the only sure evidence that life from on high has descended into our souls.

2. Have I escaped from the corruption that is in the world? Worldly life apart from God, and opposed to God, is moral and spiritual death; in its most refined as well as in its grosser forms, in its intellectual as well as in its sensual enjoyments, it has the taint of corruption. Its maxims and morality are unsound. The tie that binds us to the world and its corruption is the corruption of our own hearts. That removed, the magnetic attraction of evil is broken. The world and the renewed nature have no affinity, but repel each other. Like the occupant of the diving-bell, breathing air which is replenished and purified by constant supplies from above, and which, by its elastic force, keeps out the water which presses on every side; so the Christian, breathing the vital air of a heaven-derived life, moves unharmed in the midst of the world’s corruption; surrounding him on every side, it cannot overwhelm.

3. Partakers of the Divine nature! At that momentous change, variously spoken of as a resurrection from the dead, as a new creation, as regeneration, there is communicated to the soul a Divine principle of life which, through grace, gradually transforms the whole man. Nothing less will do as a commencing point for the Christian life as a foundation on which to build a new and Godlike character. By God’s overruling providence and restraining grace and favourable circumstances the worst outbreaks of sin are often prevented, as by the physician’s skill the maladies of an unsound constitution may be mitigated. But only by a renewal of the soul, by the communication of the life of God, can we obtain true spiritual health and vigour. Christ then becomes our life. We are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and thus are made partakers of the Divine nature in the only sense possible for creatures. But the fellowship of the renewed soul with God is also embraced in that participation of the Divine nature of which the apostle speaks. Converse with God is the highest bliss of which we are capable. The life that has descended from God into our hearts rises up to Him again in desire and love, and the new nature in us subsists by communion with the source whence it is derived. (W. Wilson, M. A.)

The promises designed to make men holy

The scriptures often declare this to be a principal design of the Divine promises. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Whatever is necessary to encourage, to cheer, to strengthen, to prompt in the course of holy obedience, is derived by constant appeals and illustrations from the promises of God.

We argue the same thing from the character of man as a moral being, and the purpose of God toward him. The great purpose of God toward man is to perfect his moral character through moral influence. But where is this influence furnished? in what are these motives presented, if not in the blessings promised as the reward of obedience? If God by these promises intended merely to comfort His people by quieting their fears and awakening their hopes, why are not His promises absolute and unconditional securities?

From the direct practical tendency of the promises of God. There is no higher evidence of the design to be answered by the appointments of God than the true tendency of such appointments.

1. Such is the tendency of the Divine promises, as they remove every obstacle to personal holiness. To rouse man to holy activity the promise of God is indispensable. You may show him an opening hell, but without a promise revealing a pardoning God and opening heaven he will never stir. With such promises all the hopelessness and despair of escaping the curse is taken away by the assurance of favour and reward to obedience. Without the promises there would remain also another obstacle of paralysing influence--the impracticability of obedience without the grace of God. But with the promise of a faithful God sounding in his ears, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” how will he rise, as it were, in the consciousness of that strength, which shall be perfected in his weakness, and enter the career of obedience with the inspiration of hope!

2. This tendency is apparent in the nature of the blessings promised. Whether we look at the general or specific nature of the Divine promises we see that they cannot become effectual as motives without producing holiness. What are the promises of God? Peace of conscience is promised. But who can think of escaping the reproaches of this inward monitor except by the practice of holiness? Is justification unto life promised? But who can be influenced by this blessing as a motive, and still wish to incur the guilt and the condemnation of sin? Is heaven promised? but what is there in heaven but an influence of transformation into the likeness of the God who reigns there?

3. The same tendency is apparent in the circumstances or mode of the Divine promises. Such is the manner of God’s promises as to secure to the utmost their full energy on the soul. While the holiness of man is their ultimate end, there is no sensibility or interest of man to which they do not appeal, and aim to render subservient to that end. They create no interference, but insure a perfect coincidence between man’s temporal and eternal well-being.

4. The same tendency is apparent from the number and magnitude of the blessings promised.


1. We see the error of those who aim to derive comfort only from the Divine promises. To say nothing of the prostration of the Divine law thus involved, the notion is a direct perversion of the very promises of God, which are pleaded as its warrant. Where is the promise of life except to patient continuance in well-doing? Others there are who make the application of the promises to depend on the belief of their own personal interest in them, us if to believe one’s self to be interested in the promises of God really made us so. This perversion is equally gross. The promises of God given to promote holiness, and made to nothing but holiness, do these secure an interest in their blessings to him who has no holiness? There is yet another error nearly allied to these, and still more common. There are those who, though they deny not that the only warrant for the hopes of the gospel is obedience to the gospel, yet seem practically to disregard the conviction. Their concern is to discover the evidence of an interest in the promises, rather than to create that evidence, by increasing their holiness.

2. How great are the obligations of the people of God to holy obedience! (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

The influence of the promises of the gospel

Not that we can partake of the essence and nature of God, as some have blasphemously affirmed. For this would be for men to become gods, and to be advanced to the state and perfection of the Deity.

By way of internal efficacy and assistance. And this influence the promise of God’s Holy Spirit, and of His gracious help, hath upon the minds of men, inclining them to that which is good, and enabling them to do it. For the Holy Spirit is promised to us, in consideration and commiseration of that impotency which we have contracted.

By way of motive and argument, to encourage us to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.” For--

1. A full pardon and indemnity for what is past is a mighty encouragement for us to return to our duty, and a forcible argument to keep us to it for the future.

2. The promise of God’s grace and Holy Spirit is likewise a very powerful encouragement to holiness, encouraging us hereto by this consideration, that we have so unerring a guide to counsel and direct us, so powerful an assistant to “strengthen us with all might in the inner man.”

3. The promise of eternal life and happiness, if duly considered, hath a mighty force in it, to take us off from the love and practice of sin, and to encourage our obedience and patient continuance in well-doing.

All that now remains is to make some useful reflections upon what hath been discoursed upon these two heads.

1. If we expect the benefits of these exceeding great and precious promises of the gospel, we must be careful to perform the conditions which are indispensably required on our parts.

2. From hence we learn that if the promises of the gospel have not this effect upon us, to make us partakers of a Divine nature, it is our own fault, and because we are wanting to ourselves.

3. If the promises of the Christian religion are apt in their own nature to work this great effect upon us, to make us like to God, to make us good, and just, and merciful, how doth this upbraid the degenerate state of the Christian world at this day, which does so abound in all kind of wickedness and impiety; so that we may cry out, upon reading the gospel: “Either this is not the gospel which we read and the Christian religion which we profess, or we are no Christians.” (Abp. Tillotson.)

Partakers of the Divine nature

“Partakers of the Divine nature,” which is to say, taking part in the Divine nature. Not simply like God, but in a way shareholders in Him; something, possibly, as the waves of the sea are partakers in the sea, something, it may be, as the leaves of a tree share in the life of the tree. We are not afraid of widening out the area of our humanity along the line of its upward frontier. Man differs in one very peculiar regard from the brute; not only in moving in a higher range of life and experience, but in not being tethered to any fixed condition. The brute is a brute, and always a brute. Improve your dog, and he will still be brutal; debase your dog, and he will still be brutal, and evince no symptoms of dropping to a lower grade of being. Once a dog, always a dog! On the contrary, there is a just sense in which you can say of humanity, that it is not so much a condition as it is a position of poise between two alternative conditions. It is like standing at the halfway point on the Gemmi Pass in Switzerland. You look down to the profound depths beneath you, or you turn and look up to the superb heights above you, but you are not going to stop there, nor to live there. It is not a place to remain, but a place from which to look off. You are either on your way down the pass to Leuker-Bad, or you are on your way up the pass to the Wild-strubel; it is merely a position of poise between two alternative destinations. Ye are partakers of the Divine nature. Our thought now is particularly up the pass, not down. There is more danger in a theology that differences man from God than in one which assimilates man to God. There is, as a rule, more quickening stimulus in the prospect of victory than there is in the danger of defeat. Few men ever become great through fear of remaining small. There is more incentive in trying to get to the top of the class than in trying to keep away from the bottom of it. If God can humanise the Divine to the point of its becoming man, as in the instance of Jesus, what is to hinder Him, in the exercise of the same omnipotence, from deifying man to the point of his becoming Divine? It is no farther from the bottom of the mountain to the top than it is from the top to the bottom. Now that, as we read the gospel, is exactly what the blessed Spirit is trying to do with us. God became like us that we might become like God. He is seeking to lead us back over the same road that tie came down. “Partakers of the Divine nature.” “Now are we the sons of God.” It is all in that word “sons.” There is community through identity. You cannot get sonship in any other way. A loyal son is governed by his father; but it is the best element of that loyalty, not that the son does what the father bids him do, or makes him do, but that the son has his father’s spirit so reproduced in himself, and so become a part of himself and he so a partaker in his father’s nature, that his one act is at the same instant both his act and his father’s act. And when we pray that God will control us by His Spirit, we certainly hardly expect that He is going to put His personality behind us, so as to push us onward; or put His personality in front of us, so as to hold us backward. We would rather mean, would we not, that as children of His, we are bound in the bundle of one life with Him, moving therefore at the impulse of energies that are ours without their ceasing to be His--somewhat, perhaps, as each separate storm-wave rolls in the expression of its own might, which is at the same time a part of the might of the sea; somewhat, perhaps, as each separate leaf or branch grows green in the expression of its own life, which is at the same time a part of the life of the vine. I in you, you in me. Frontier lines gone. One in each other, A single bundle of life, human or Divine, either or both; a shareholder in God; up the Gemmi Pass toward the indistinguishable summit. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

Partakers of the Divine nature

Look, first, at this lofty purpose which is here presented as being the very aim and end of God’s gift in the gospel. The human nature and the Divine are both kindred and contrary. There are no gods of the heathen so far away from their worshippers, and there are none so near them, as our God. The arched heaven, though high, is not inaccessible in its cloudless beauty, but it touches earth all round the horizon; and man is made in the image of God. True, that Divine nature of which the ideal man is the possessor has faded away from humanity. But still the human is kindred with the Divine. The tiniest spark of flame is of the same nature as those leaping, hydrogen spears of illuminated gas that spring hundreds of thousands of miles high in a second or two in the great central sun. But,that kindred, belonging to every soul of man, abject as well as loftiest, is not the “partaking” of which my text speaks, though it is the basis and possibility of it; for my text speaks of men as “becoming partakers.” What, then, is it? No mere absorption, as extravagant mystics have dreamed, into that Divine nature, as a drop goes back into the ocean and is lost. There will always be “I” and “thou,” or else there were no blessedness, nor worship, nor joy. We must so partake of the Divine nature as that the bounds between the bestowing God and the partaking man shall never be broken down. But that being presupposed, union as close as possible is the great hope that all Christian men and women ought consciously to cherish. Only mark, the beginning of the whole is the communication of a Divine life which is manifested mainly in what we call moral likeness. Partakers we shall be in the measure in which by our faith we have drawn from Him the pure and the hearty love of whatsoever things are fair and noble; the measure in which we love righteousness and hate iniquity. And then, remember also that this lofty purpose which is here set forth is a purpose growingly realised in man. The apostle puts great stress upon that. He is not talking about a being, but about a “becoming.” That is to say, God must ever be passing, moment by moment, into our hearts if there is to be anything godly there. Cut off the sunbeam from the sun and it dies, and the house is dark; cut off the life from the root and it withers, and the creature shrivels. The Christian man lives only by continual derivation of life from God; and for ever and ever the secret of his being and of his blessedness is not that he has become a possessor, but that he has become a partaker, of the Divine nature. By daily increase we shall be made capable of daily increase.

Look, next, at the costly and sufficient means employed for the realisation of this great purpose. “Promises” here must necessarily, I think, be employed in the sense of fulfilment of the promises. And so we might think of all the great and wondrous words which God has spoken in the past, promises of deliverance, of forgiveness, and the like; but I believe that by these “exceeding great and precious promises “is meant the unspeakable gift of God’s own Son, and the gift therein and thereafter of God’s life-giving Spirit. For is not this the meaning of the central fact of Christianity, the incarnation--that the Divine becomes partaker of the human in order that the human may partake of the Divine? Contrariety vanishes; the difference between the creature and the Creator disappears.

Let me say, lastly, that this great text adds a human accompaniment of that Divine gift, “Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Corruption is initial destruction, though of course other forms of life may come from it; destruction is complete corruption. The word means both. A man either escapes from lust and evil, or he is destroyed by it. And the root of this rotting fungus “is in lust,” which word, of course, is used in a much wider meaning than the fleshly sense in which we employ it in modern times. It means “desire” of all sorts. The root of the world’s corruption is my own and my brothers’ unbridled and godless desires. So there are two states--a life plunged in putridity, or a heart touched with the Divine nature. Which is it to be? It cannot be both. A man that has got the life of God, in however feeble measure, in him, will flee away from this corruption like Lot out of Sodom. And how will he flee out of it? By subduing his own desires; not by changing position, not by shirking duty, not by withdrawing himself into unwholesome isolation from men and men’s ways. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.


The source of a tremendous evil. Lust--of flesh, eye, and pride of life.

The nature of this evil.

1. Corruption of the physical nature--health damaged, disease engendered.

2. Corruption of the intellect judgment biased, mental powers enfeebled.

3. Corruption of the moral nature--heart polluted.

4. Corruption of the life--the corruption of the intellect and heart having its full development.

The escape from the evil.

1. From its tyrannical power and authority.

2. From its baneful effects, both in time and eternity. (Homilist.)

Verses 5-7

2 Peter 1:5-7

Giving all diligence.

Christian diligence

It is not fit that heaven should take all the pains to bring earth to it; earth must do somewhat to bring itself to heaven. God’s bountifulness is beyond our thankfulness; yet thankfulness is not enough; there is matter of labour in it. If the lord of a manor have given thee a tree, thou wilt be at the charges to cut it down and carry it home. He who works first in thy conversion hath in wisdom made thee a second. Thou seest God’s bounty; now look to thine own duty.

Diligence. Here, first, for the quality. There is no matter wherein we hope for God in the event, accomplished without diligence in the act. He that expects a royalty in heaven must admit a service on earth. The good man is weary of doing nothing, for nothing is so laborious as idleness. Satan’s employment is prevented when he finds thee well employed before he comes. It is observable that albeit the Romans were so idle as to make idleness a god, yet they allowed not that idle idol a temple within the city, but without the walls. There are four marks and helps of diligence:

1. Vigilance. A serious project, which we can hardly drive to our desired issue, takes sleep from our eyes.

2. Carefulness (Ecclesiastes 5:1).

3. Love. This diligence must fetch the life from affection, and be moved with the love of virtue.

4. Study (2 Timothy 2:15).

Give diligence. Not a pragmatical business in others’ affairs; but rectify thy diligence, confining it principally to thyself. Dress thine own garden, lest it be overrun with weeds.

All diligence. Here is the quantity--“all.”

1. The working up of salvation is no easy labour; thereto is requirable all diligence. Such a diligence respects so great an object, and such an object requires so great a diligence. Refuse no labour for such a reward. The best things are the hardliest come by (Matthew 11:12). Spare no invention of wit, no intention of will, no contention of strength about it. Will we adventure our estates, our lives, to find out new lands where may be gold, and spend no diligence for that where we are sure there is gold, and such as cannot perish?

2. God requires “the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13); that is God’s due. What, nothing left for this world? Yes, moderate providence; the saving of souls hinders not provision for bodies, but furthers and blesses it (Matthew 6:33). Follow thou Christ; the rest shall follow thee.

beside this … add. Thus much for the addiction: now to the addition, wherein we find a concession, an accession that He requires--“add.” You have done something, yet there is a “besides.” I yield a beginning, I ask a proceeding (Hebrews 6:1). God’s arithmetic principally consists in addition. To give every man his own is but equity; but the addition of charity makes blessed. And as addition teaches us to add grace to grace, so there is a multiplication required to increase the effects of those graces in a multiplicity of good works. Knowledge not improved will be impaired. If there be no usury, we shall lose the principal. As in generation, so in regeneration, we must be growing up to a full stature in Christ (Ephesians 4:13). As a traveller passes from town to town till he come to his inn, so the Christian from virtue to virtue till he come to heaven. (Thos. Adams.)

The power of diligence

Now as to the homely virtue itself, “giving all diligence.” We all know what “diligence” means, but it is worth while to point out that the original meaning of the word is not so much diligence as haste. It is employed, for instance, to describe the eager swiftness with which the Virgin went to Elizabeth after the angel’s salutation and annunciation. It is the word employed to describe the murderous hurry with which Herodias came rushing in to the king to demand John the Baptist’s head. It is the word with which the apostle, left solitary in his prison, besought his sole trusty companion Timothy to “make haste so as to come to him before winter.” Thus, the first notion in the word is haste which crowds every moment with continuous effort, and lets no hindrances entangle the feet of the runner. When haste degenerates into hurry, and becomes agitation, it is weakness, not strength; it turns out superficial work, which has usually to be pulled to pieces and done over again, and it is sure to be followed by reaction of languid idleness. But the less we hurry the more should we hasten in running the race set before us. But, with this caution against spurious haste, we cannot too seriously lay to heart the solemn motives to wise and well-directed haste. The moments granted to any of us are too few and precious to be let slip unused. The field to be cultivated is too wide and the possible harvest for the toiler too abundant, and the certain crop of weeds in the sluggard’s garden too poisonous, to allow dawdling to be considered a venial fault. Little progress will be made if we do not work as feeling that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” The first element, then, in Christian diligence is economy of time as of most precious treasure, and the avoidance, as of a pestilence, of all procrastination. “Now is the accepted time.” “Wherefore, giving all haste, add to your faith.” Another of the phases of the virtue, which Peter here regards as sovereign, is represented in our translation of the word by “earnestness,” which is the parent of diligence. Earnestness is the sentiment, of which diligence is the expression. So the word is frequently translated. Hence we gather that no Christian growth is possible unless a man gives his mind to it. Dawdlers will do nothing. There must be fervour if there is to be growth. The engine that is giving off its steam in white puffs is not working at its full power. When we are most intent we are most silent. Earnestness is dumb, and therefore it is terrible. Again we come to the more familiar translation of the word as in tile text. “Diligence” is the panacea for all diseases of the Christian life. It is the homely virtue that leads to all success. If you want to be a strong Christian--that is to say, a happy man--you must bend your back to the work and “give all diligence.” Nobody goes to heaven in his sleep. No man becomes a vigorous Christian by any other course than “giving all diligence.” It is a homely virtue, but if in its homeliness we practised it, this church and our own souls would wear a different face from what it and they do to-day.

Note the wide field of action for this homely grace. First, note that in our text, “giving all diligence, add to your faith.” That is to say, unless you work with haste, with earnestness, and therefore with much putting forth of strength, your faith will not evolve the graces of character which is in it to bring forth. He has just been saying that God has “given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, and exceeding great and precious promises.” The Divine gift, then, is everything that will help a man to live a high and godly life. And, says Peter, on this very account, because you have all these requisites for such a life already given you, see that you “bring besides into” the heap of gifts, as it were, that which you and only you can bring, namely, “all diligence.” The phrase implies that diligence is our contribution. “Diligence” makes faith fruitful. Diligence makes God’s gifts ours. Then, again, the apostle gives an even more remark able view of the possible field for this all-powerful diligence when he bids his readers exercise it in order to “make their calling and election sure.” If we desire that upon our Christian lives there shall shine the perpetual sunshine of an unclouded continence that we have the love and the favour of God, and that for us there is no condemnation, but only “acceptance in the beloved,” the short road to it is the well known and trite path of toil in the Christian life. Still further, one of the other writers of the New Testament gives us another field in which this virtue may expatiate, when the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorts to diligence, in order to attain “the full assurance of hope.” The last of the fields in which this virtue finds exercise is expressed by our letter, when Peter says, “seeing that we look for such things, let us be diligent, that we may be found of Him in peace with out spot, and blameless.” If we are to be “found in peace,” we must be “found spotless,” and if we are to be “found spotless” we must be “diligent.” What a beautiful ideal of Christian life results from putting together all these items! A fruitful faith, a sure calling, a cloudless hope, a peaceful welcome, at last! (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


1. That it is not enough to flee and abstain from our fleshly lusts, and so perform the duty of mortification, unless also we add unto the same, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, and the like Christian graces.

2. That naturally we are sluggish, slothful, and dull in the performance of holy duties, and therefore have need to be often roused up, admonished, and warned to perform our duty with all diligence.

3. That we cannot attain unto any of the graces of God’s Spirit without diligence, painful labour, and travail.

4. That the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit are worth the pains taking, worthy I say, both in regard of their nature and in regard of the recompense which we receive by them.

5. That neither the unlawful pleasures of this world are to be sought at all with any diligence, or the lawful pleasures and profits thereof with all diligence.

6. That this diligence which is required must be total, both inward and outward--=outward in every member of the body, inward in every faculty of the soul.

To the first I answer, that God doth require this great diligence in the apprehension and application of His benefits.

1. Because of the worth and excellency of His benefits.

2. Because of their inefficacy unto us if not apprehended and applied by us.

3. Because of the great profit which we shall reap thereby, being by us rightly apprehended and with all diligence applied.

4. Because of the great diligence which Satan and his adherents, the world and the flesh, do use to deprive us of the same.

5. Because the work is great, we unwieldy, our time both short and uncertain, yea, and not being diligently apprehended as they are diligently offered, they are not afterward so easily attained. (A. Symson.)

Christian diligence

The graces which we are here exhorted to cultivate.

The considerations by which these exhortations are enforced, By cultivating these various graces we shall show--

1. That our piety is not merely speculative and nominal.

2. They will contribute materially to our spiritual illumination.

3. A consciousness of our personal acceptance.

4. Perseverance in the face of temptations and difficulties.

5. A joyful and triumphant death. (Expository Outlines.)

A downright Christian

It was the saying of a shrewd thinker: “If it is worth while being a Christian at all, it is better to be a downright Christian.”

Activity necessary to piety

To purity activity seems essential. Fill your room with the purest air, and shut it up for one month, and when you open it the air is foul. Its stagnation has made it impure. The same is true of water; no matter how pure it may be, let it become stagnant, and it grows fetid and deleterious. The spiritual world presents an analogy. Idleness is the stagnation of the mind, and, like that of the air and water, it breeds impurity. (Christian Armour.)

Connection with preccding verses

“As He hath given us all things needful for life and godliness (so), do you give all diligence,” etc. The oil and flame are given wholly by God’s grace, and “taken “by believers; their part is to trim their lamps. (A. R. Fausset, M. A.)

Practice necessary to perfection

A neighbour near my study persists in practising upon the flute. He bores my ears as with an auger, and renders it almost an impossibility to think. Up and down his scale he runs remorselessly, until even the calamity of temporary deafness would almost be welcome to me. Yet he teaches me that I must practise if I would be perfect; must exercise myself unto godliness if I would be skilful; must, in fact, make myself familiar with the Word of God, with holy living, and saintly dying. Such practice, moreover, will be as charming as my neighbour’s flute is intolerable. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Exercise develops strength

As in the body so is it in the soul, exercise develops strength. The Laplanders and the Patagonians are in climates almost equally cold. The Laplanders are a small race, the Patagonians a large one. What makes the difference? The Laplanders, supported by their reindeer, spend most of their time in indolence; the Patagonians are an active race, and spend much of their time in fishing and hunting. Hence the stunted development of the one, and the large dimensions of the other. It is thus grace expands by the activity of love. (C. Graham.)


Religion a principle of growth

Our age is writing “progress” on its banners. It bids us to forget the things that are behind, as incomplete and unsatisfactory, and to press toward those which are yet before us. We believe that the gospel, and it alone, adequately meets this deeply-seated craving of our times. Religion is a principle of perpetual progress. Setting before us, as the great end of our existence, and as the only perfect model of moral excellence, the Infinite Jehovah, it requires, and it also ministers an ever-growing conformity to Him. “Grow in grace,” is the apostle’s injunction to all recipients of that grace. It is the secret and rule of personal reform, constantly advancing, and of social amelioration, enfranchisement and elevation.

1. The Church needs in this age to be kept in mind of the great truth, that there remains yet much land to be possessed.

2. And if, from the peculiar state and needs of the churches, we turn to review the present aspect of the world, we seem to discover similar reasons why the churches should not, now at least, overlook the fact that the gospel is, to its obedient disciples, a principle of continuous advancement, a law of expansion and moral elevation. The world, falsely or with justice, is shouting its own progress, and promising in the advance ment of the masses, the moral development of the individual. It is an age of rapid discovery in the physical sciences. The laws and uses of matter receive profound investigation, and each day are practically applied with some new success. Yet physical science can certainly neither create nor replace moral truth. The crucible of the chemist cannot disintegrate the human soul, or evaporate the moral law. But besides these advances in physical science, our age is one of wondrous political revolutions. It is again, even in lands and governments where political revolution is not needed or is not desired, an age of social reform.

3. And now, having seen how in the aspects, both secular and ecclesiastical, of our age, Christians were especially summoned to evolve what of progression there was in their own faith, let us see how in the inspired presentations of that faith, the fullest provision is made for man’s moral growth. Were there no other precept: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” would be sufficient to show how a limitless expansion of our intellectual and moral stature was set before us in the gospel. To man, the heir of immortality, it prescribes the law and warrants the hope of an immortal progression. There are stages in Christian attainment; and one but prepares for another, and, without all, the Christian cannot be fully useful or perfectly blessed.

4. From the word “add,” a heedless reader might infer that all the graces thus clustered were independent each of the other, and might be selected or omitted as each disciple saw fit; and that a man might at least be safe in having but the first, though in his negligence lacking all the rest. But such is not the apostle’s meaning. The believer is called upon to furnish not a single and isolated grace, but to supply “adding “one to another, the whole consenting train, and harmonious interwoven troop, the complete sisterly choir of Christian graces. He is to look upon the one in this cluster of Christian excellences as fragmentary and untuned without the others. The one grace is the supplement and complement indispensable to the symmetry and melody of all its sister graces. Now in this choir or train Faith is the elder born, and upon it all these other graces depend. It alone justifies, but as the old theologians were fond of saying, not being alone. It comes singly to the task of man’s justification, but in the heart and life of the justified man it does not come as a solitary, building there its lonely hermitage. (W. R. Williams.)

Christian growth

The word which has been translated “add “is a very pictorial term, and refers to a choir of well-trained musicians. The musical illustration of Christian growth is a very pro found and far-reaching one. Keats says that “heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter,” implying that there is a music which appeals to the soul finer than anything that can be expressed by human voice or musical instrument. Beethoven was deaf, heard no outward sounds, but the soul of music was in him, and therefore with the deeper inner ear he heard continuously the Divine music to which all things are attuned. Music is the great principle of order. It enters into the essence of all things. The music of the spheres is not a mere poetic, but a scientific phrase. Everything speaks to the ear of the thoughtful of the wonderful rhythm of the universe. What nature does unconsciously and willlessly, we are to do consciously and willingly. We are to keep step and time to the music of the universe--and to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity--and thus practically make the statutes of the Lord our song in the house of our pilgrimage. There are two ways in which we may add to our faith all the graces which the apostle enumerates. We may add them as a builder adds stone to stone in his wall; or we may add them as a plant adds cell to cell in its structure. Whether, therefore, we take our illustration from architecture or from plant life, the essential point, as implied by the significance of the word “add” in the original, is that growth should be harmonious. Architecture is said to be “frozen music.” This is true of the commonest wayside wall. What is it that makes the sight of a well-built wall so pleasing to the eye? What is it that makes building a wall such an interesting employment that children take instinctively to it? Is it not the love of symmetry--the delight in shaping large and small, rough and smooth, pieces of stone, adapting them one to the other, and placing them in such a way that together they make a symmetrical structure? And if we see this curious harmony in the humblest rustic building, how grandly does it come out in the magnificent Gothic cathedral, where every part blends faultlessly and carries out the design of the architect; and clustered pillar, and aerial arch, and groined roof soar up in matchless symmetry, and the soul is held spellbound by the poetry which speaks through the entire structure! There is a remarkable peculiarity in the text in the original which must be specially pointed out. The preposition which we have translated “to” should be rendered “in,” and so rendered, we are significantly taught, that Christian growth is not by mechanical addition, but by vital increase. We are to add not “to” our faith, but “in” our faith, virtue, and “in” our virtue, knowledge, and so on. The first thing that we are commanded by the apostle to “add” to our faith is virtue, meaning by this term vigour, manliness. Our faith is to be itself a source of power to us. We are to be strong in faith. It is to be to us the power of God unto salvation, enabling us to overcome the temptations and evils of the world, and to rise above all the infirmities of our own nature. Our faith should be manifested as it was in olden times by a victorious strength which is able to overcome the world, which fears the Lord and knows no other fear. To this strength or manliness we are further commanded to “add” knowledge. In our manliness we are to seek after knowledge. The quality of courage is to be shown by the fearlessness of our researches into all the works and ways of God. We are not to be deterred by any dread of consequences from investigating and finding out the whole truth. The wisdom from above includes not only the knowledge that we are pardoned sinners, but also all that can furnish the understanding and fill the soul with food for its high capacities and boundless appetites. With wonderful sagacity the apostle commands us to add to our knowledge temperance; for there is a tendency in knowledge to puff us up and fill our hearts with pride. Temperance gives us just estimates of ourselves and of the world. It gives us the true knowledge of all things. It enables us to use our knowledge aright, to convert thought into action, and vision into life. We are to know ourselves and our relations to God’s Word in order to regulate our life accordingly. To this self-government we must add patience. As the plant slowly ripens its fruit, so we are to ripen our Christian character by patient waiting and patient enduring. It is a quiet virtue this patience, and is apt to be overlooked and underestimated. But in reality it is one of the most precious of the Christian graces. The noisy virtues--the ostentatious graces have their day; patience has eternity. And while it is the most precious, it is also the most difficult. It is far easier to work than to wait; to be active than to be wisely passive. But it is when we are still that we know God; when we wait upon God that we renew our strength. Patience places the soul in the condition in which it is most susceptible to the quickening influences of heaven, and most ready to take advantage of new opportunities. But to this patience must be united godliness. Godliness is Godlikeness, having the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus, viewing everything from the Divine point, and living in our inner life as fully in the light of His presence as we live in our outer life in the light of the sun. And exercising ourselves unto this godliness, our patience will have a Divine quality of strength, endurance, beauty imparted to it such as no mere natural patience possesses. We wrong God when we are unkind, ungenerous, and uncourteous to each other. But brotherly kindness is apt to be restricted towards friends only--towards those who belong to the same place or the same church, or who are Christians. It must, therefore, be conjoined to charity. In our brotherly kindness we are to exercise a large-hearted charity. Such, then, are the graces which we are enjoined by the apostle to add to each other, to develop from each other, not as separate fruits dispersed widely over the branches of a tree, but as the berries of a cluster of grapes growing on the same stem, mutually connected and mutually dependent. This is the ideal of a perfect Christian character. It must have these parts; it must be characterised by these qualities, These are the fruits of the Spirit. These are the products of genuine faith. They are not like the links of an iron chain, manufactured separately, and mechanically added to each other; but they are like the living cells of a growing plant, in which one cell gives birth to another, and communicates its own qualities to it. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)

An apostle’s method of silencing objectors

“Add to your faith virtue.” “You have faith.” This is assumed, you perceive. “Now,” says the apostle, “let your faith be associated with virtue.” The word is used in only three passages in the New Testament. It is a word derived from the name of the Greek god of war, and hence would give some countenance to those who would simply make it to mean fortitude, or courage. Others take it in another sense, by associating it with rectitude of conduct--everything that is “lovely and of good report,” in conduct. For my part, I do not see how we can do without either meaning. The apostle speaks, in one of his passages, of our being “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, to show forth the virtues of Him who hath called us” that is, “to show forth the praises”; so to exhibit God in connection with our faith in His Son, that men may praise Him, seeing how His name and His law are magnified in the work of redeeming love. In another passage, in the Philippians, the Apostle Paul uses, in a more general sense, the same word: “If there be any virtue”--if there be anything at all commendable. Now, I think, we must look at the word as having both these senses. “See,” the apostle says, “that your profession of faith is in connection with such conduct that the name of God may be magnified in you and by you.” But, then, why should we exclude the idea of courage? Right conduct in the midst of evil men; consistency of conduct in the midst of a world lying in the wicked one; forgetting all distinctions of time, or country, or circumstances, to take God’s mercy, and apply it to our own souls; to accept Christ as God’s well-beloved Son; to look right into the grave, and think of the judgment-seat will require fortitude; and take the word, in whatever sense you please, fortitude and courage and rectitude of conduct must, says the apostle, be associated with your profession of faith in Christ Jesus. But then the apostle says we are to associate also “knowledge”; that is, he enjoins upon us to be intelligent professors of faith in Christ Jesus. God puts none of our faculties under ban; God does not ask any man whom He has endowed with faculties, by which He may be glorified by His creature, to keep them in abeyance, to leave them uncultivated. We are to have the soul filled with wisdom from above, and to seek all kinds of wisdom, that we may consecrate them to the service of God. And mark how necessary it is for the believer in Christ Jesus ever to be growing in intelligence. New errors creep into the Church; new forms of error are presented to the believer. He is not to be satisfied with the instruction which God blessed to the bringing him into living relationship with Christ Jesus. We ought, as a matter of conscience, and as a matter of duty, to seek to increase our intelligence, that we may be ready always to give an answer to every man, and a reason of a hope that is in us. And then the apostle enjoins “temperance” upon us. The simple meaning of the idea is self-government, or self-restraint, rather. This was one of the virtues which the Grecian philosophers laid great stress upon, in this general sense, not simply in eating and drinking, but in everything that referred to the passions of men. As the apostle says, “Be angry, and sin not.” If there is just cause of anger, we are to be moderate in our anger. And the Apostle Paul speaks of persons who are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God”; that is, they are not temperate in their pleasures. There is nothing contradictory between this temperance and earnestness. Now, a man may be earnest without intelligence; he may be zealously affected even in a bad cause; but temperance--prudence, that is, moderation in our views, and in the mode of carrying out our views--may be found in connection with great earnestness. But, then, to “temperance” we are to add “patience.” Even when you regulate yourselves most, and have your spirits under the directing influences of the Spirit of God, you cannot possibly live and act for Christ without finding some difficulties. “But,” says the apostle, “just quietly endure all things; just patiently persevere in all that concerns your Christian course.” “And, then,” says the apostle, “associate also with these things godliness.” The word means certain acts of worship presented to God; but it means more than this, it means a reverential spirit, by which our acts of worship are regulated. Is it not remarkable how much our religious worship is dependent upon certain influences, certain associations, certain circumstances? You perceive a man who has associated early in life with persons who frequent the house of God, and he contracts a kind of habit, and it is a long while before he can shake off this habit. Now, just change a man’s position in society; see what the increase of this world’s goods will do for a man; you see him slackening his attendance at the house of God, and leaving certain acts of worship that he once regularly engaged in. I have seen men who rigidly observed certain outward acts of worship when they were at home. I have seen them give the lamentable proof that it was all a matter of external influence. And therefore the apostle says, “Associate with everything that is right, everything that is virtuous in conduct, godliness”: that is, a devout and a reverential spirit, manifested in connection with your devotedness to Christ and Him crucified. But the apostle says, “Not simply towards God, but towards your fellow-men.” Christ Himself enjoined upon His disciples love towards each other, by which they should manifest that they loved Him. (J. Sherlock.)

Additions to faith

The additions which you are to make to your faith. The apostle does not exhort Christians to seek after faith. This he supposes them to possess already. You say you have faith--but faith without works is dead, being alone. Faith resembles a foundation, of high importance in case of a building, but useless ii no superstructure be reared. It is only a beginning, which is nothing without progress. What are clear notions unless they influence; or proper motives unless they impel? Moses had faith, and he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.

1. The first addition which he requires of you as believers is virtue--courage. This principle in the whole of your Christian course will be found indispensably necessary. You live in a world unfriendly to religion. It will be found no easy thing to deny yourselves and take up your cross, to pluck out a right eye. Some of these difficulties, indeed, might be avoided if you were only to be religious and not to appear so. If we trace things to their origin we shall find a thousand evils springing, not from ignorance but cowardice. Pilate condemned a Saviour of whose innocency he was conscious because of the Jews. Many of the Pharisees “believed on Him, but feared to confess Him lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” The disciples were afraid and forsook Him.

2. A second addition is knowledge. And this very properly follows the former. It teaches us that courage is a force which wisdom is to employ; courage may urge us to undertake the war, but judgment is to manage it. And hence it will be easy to determine the nature of this qualification. It is practical knowledge; it is what we commonly mean by prudence, which is knowledge applied to action. It is what Paul recommends when he says, “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Walk in wisdom towards them that axe without, redeeming the time.” This kind of knowledge results principally from experience and observation; and he is blameable indeed who does not grow wiser as he grows older, and who does not make every day a correction of the former. Our own history affords us some of the best materials to improve and embellish our character. We should derive strength from our weaknesses, and firmness from our falls. But, alas I what numbers are there upon whom the continuance of life and all means of improvement seem to be thrown away. They have eyes, but they see not; ears have they, but they hear not. Whereas “the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.” “The prudent man looketh well to his going.” He draws down his knowledge from speculation, and uses it in common life. He judges of the value of his notions by their utility. He studies his character and condition. He examines his dangers, his talents, his opportunities.

3. You are to avoid intemperance. There is a sense in which this word may be applied to the mind as well as the body.

4. You are to add to your temperance patience. There is an obvious and striking relation between these. The one requires us to bear, the other to forbear. The one regards the good things, the other the evil things of the world. By temperance we are preserved under the smiles of prosperity, and by patience we encounter the frowns of adversity.

5. Godliness is indispensable. Courage and prudence, temperance and patience, would be no Christian qualities, if in the exercise of them we were not influenced by suitable regards to God. Without this reference our religion is nothing more than morality.

6. We are to add to godliness brotherly kindness.

7. To brotherly kindness, charity.

Inquire how this is to be accomplished. The apostle tells us. It is by giving all diligence.

1. These things deserve your diligence. It is pitiable to see men employing their zeal and consuming their strength upon trifles. But this cannot be said of spiritual blessings and graces. These are in the sight of God of great price. They are necessary to man. They purify his passions, and tranquillise his conscience, They enrich, they dignify him, they are his perfection. They make him happy.

2. Diligence will infallibly secure these things.

3. There is no attaining these things without diligence. Diligence is indispensable.

(1) Indispensable if we appeal to analogy. You must labour even for “the meat that perisheth.”

(2) Indispensable if we appeal to the character of a Christian. He is a merchant, a scholar, a husbandman, a traveller, a soldier--the anxiety of the merchant, the application of the scholar, the hardy toil of the husbandman, the wearying progress of the traveller, the painful exercise of the soldier, are images which ill accord with indolence and ease.

(3) Indispensable if we appeal to the promises of the gospel. These all require it, encourage it, produce it. (W. Jay.)

The Christian chorus

The word translated “add” takes us back to an old Grecian custom; it means to be a chorus-leader, to furnish a chorus at one’s own expense. The Greeks worshipped their gods through a hired chorus. When the poet had completed his work, he called upon the archon (or city mayor) to grant a chorus. He in turn appealed to a wealthy citizen called a choragus, who collected a chorus, hired a trainer, and in time rendered the poet’s composition to the delight of the citizens and the glory of the gods. As a reward he received a tripod, which he consecrated, and in some cases placed on a monument. The Athenian street lined with these memorials was called “the avenue of tripods.” Into this custom as a mould Peter pours the truth of God’s gift and man’s duty. Verses 2-4 set forth God’s gift to man, the composition of Jehovah, the sacred score, the expression of His life and love. Grace and peace are allotted to us; they are not obtained by effort, but are gifts of God. All that pertains to life and godliness comes through precious promises. He who takes the promises of faith takes the life of God into his soul. Here stands the poet with his finished work, pleading for a chance to help the people and honour the gods. He has put himself into the composition, it is as yet only a promise of harmony; the chorus is organised, trained, the people gather, the soul of the composer finds expression, the people are inspired to nobler lives, the gods are glorified. Until the archon accepts the poet’s promise, and the chorus renders it, the poet is dumb. God has given Himself in great and precious promises, completed His work, and now calls upon men to accept and fill the universe with Divine harmony. Verses 5-7 give us man’s duty growing out of God’s gift. His work is the inspiration to, not the substitute for our work. God operates, man must co-operate. The air is free, therefore breathe it; the earth is rich, therefore till it; the seed is vital, sow it; the sea is wide, launch out upon it. Opportunity means duty; gifts bring obligations. Peter is writing to Christians--to “them that have obtained like precious faith.” Faith is a present possession, something assumed, to which other things are to be added. Yet faith is but one grace, one instrument in chorus; without it the others are useless; with it alone you can never render God’s composition. A solo is not a chorus. Beethoven and Wagner cannot be rendered by one instrument; much less can God be set forth by one virtue. “Add to your faith virtue.” Not virtue in the narrow sense of moral excellence, but of the energy which Christians are to exhibit, as God exerts His energy upon them. Faith in “the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” must be an energetic faith. The verb of life is passive toward God, but active toward men. The poet threw himself into his composition; the chorus was simply to take in what he gave, and pour it out upon others. God has put Himself into this gift of His; receiving it we are to yield our powers to it, and let His energy control us. A lazy Christian is a contradiction in terms. “And to energy knowledge”--intelligence, understanding, spiritual discernment. This looks two ways: understanding of truth, and discernment of what is right and wrong in life. As the years go by we should “know more and more of God’s will as made known in His Word. Astronomy is ever finding new stars. Christians should find new depths, new heights, and new breadths in God’s Word as the years go by. “And to knowledge temperance”--self-control, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions. Keep the beast beneath the saddle. Eyegate and eargate must be guarded lest the enemy capture man’s soul, and the door of speech be kept; for “If any man offend not in word,” etc. “And to self-control patience”--the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. Not only endurance of the inevitable, but the heroic, brave patience, with which a Christian not only bears but contends. Faith, energy, self-control count for little unless you endure; there are many Galatian Christians, who run well for a time; but the crowns are given to men who complete the race. Quick response on the part of the soil is no guarantee of a harvest; depth is as needful as willingness. “And to patience godliness”--reverence, respect, piety toward God; the confession of human dependence upon God manifested in conduct and conversation. Having faith, energy, self-control, and patience, there is danger lest we lose the fine sense of reverence; danger that we become irreverent. At the beginning of the Christian fife there is an awful sense of God; in too many cases this wears off, we become familiar with and degrade holy things and places, forget to bow in prayer, to close the eyes in worship. “And to godliness brotherly kindness”--love of the brethren. Nearness to Christ as the head means nearness to one another as members in particular; the muscles that bind the members to the head bind them to one another; the nerves that give the head control of the members are nerves of mutual icy and suffering. Godliness cannot be solitary and selfish, but must be social and unselfish; he who loves God must love his brother also. “And to brotherly kindness charity”--love, the broad affection which should characterise Christians, the love of men as men, “God is love.” The object of God’s love is the world; likeness to God means love to all mankind. Paul calls it the bond of perfectness, the sash which binds all other graces into place, the girdle over all; here it is the last instrument; without it you cannot render God’s composition to the world. The first is faith” in God, the last is love to man, for faith in God begets His likeness in us. Yonder is God, the great composer, bidding us render His composition. What powers He must see in us; what confidence in our powers He must have; what a calling is ours! When St. Cecilia played the angels responded; well may they respond when human powers are counted worthy to render God’s opera. Oh, men and women, rise to the dignity of your powers and possibilities! God waits for expression, angels wait to hear God expressed. There are eight instruments called for, the octave, the perfection of harmony; though the chorus be what no man can number, yet at the heart of it is the octave, and God calls on each man to use the powers in himself; each man has the octave in himself, and is called upon to chorus his powers, to train his gifts. Then we have (verse 8) the consequences of faithful service. Grace and peace are multiplied through knowledge, and knowledge comes through faithful use of these powers. The musician who gives himself to the works of the master gains knowledge of the score, and is transformed into a sort of human photograph, possessed by and giving out the genius of the composer. So the Christian who tries to render God’s composition comes into a fuller knowledge of it, sympathy with it; God’s thoughts become his thoughts, and God’s ways his ways; he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him. The composition controls the performer. On the other hand, “He that lacketh these things is blind,” etc. The word “blind” here carries with it a curious figure, “darkened by smoke.” Smoke-blinded, squinting his eyes up, forgetting the door of entrance and exit, bewildered, he gropes about searching in vain for the way out of sin. Refusing to give himself to God’s gift, to cultivate the Christian graces, his horizon narrows, his life shrinks; what he has mastered sinks from him: forgiveness forgotten, sin returns, and he is lost. Hear God’s call to constant practice, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” God’s work is done, Christ has offered the finished opera; in grace as in nature the end of His work is the beginning of your work; where the composer stops the performer begins, and at this point the composer becomes dependent upon the performer. Enter diligently upon your part of the task; “by patient continuance in well-doing” thou shalt reach the final reward. And that is “an entrance shall be ministered unto you,” etc. “Ministered” is the passive of the same verb that is translated “add” in ver.

5. As the city honoured the man who assumed the burden of the chorus, giving him a public triumph, rearing for him a tripod on the broad avenue, so God shall minister to those who chorus His works of grace mighty triumph in the kingdom of His Son. (O. P. Gifford.)

Apostolic Christianity

Men are very fond of looking at the Divine government from that side where it can be the least seen, and where they are most subject to the errors of their own fluctuating imaginations, and to the obscurities of philosophy, falsely so called. It is far better, wherever we can, to look at the great truths of the Divine moral government, at the mystery of God’s dealing with men in this world, from the human side. And this is what is done in this passage. It is, in brief, the inspired disclosure of the purposes of God in respect to men. What it is that the grace of God is attempting to do with those who are called in the Lord Jesus Christ, is set forth. We are called of God. In our version it is “to glory and virtue,” but in the original it is “by glory and virtue,” as if the call was not by the nature of man, but by the nature of God. By His own being, by the glorious and virtuous power of His own Spirit, He calls us up out of our lower life--out of that nature of ours which is physical. The apostle goes on to say, “On account of this, giving all diligence.” You are called. The call is one which is to be answered. There is to be working together of the inspiration of the Divine Spirit and human endeavour, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you.” “On account of this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue.” What is faith? Supersensuousness. Well, what is supersensuousness? It is all that truth which exists beyond the discermnent of the senses. Now the apostle says, “Add to that faith virtue.” “Add to this vision-seeing tendency of yours, which may etherealise itself and go off in a cloudy dream--add to this the practice of a wise and righteous kind. Add to your faith virtue, in the old Roman sense--true manhood.” By the way, I have jumped a thought. It does not say “add to” in the original; it says, “Provide,” or “develop in.” It is as if he had had in his mind the thought of a plant. “Add to your faith, or in your faith, virtue; in other words, develop out of your faith virtue that is, practical godliness; and in your virtue or front out of your virtue, develop knowledge.” By this is not meant, evidently, that knowledge which we gather by our senses--scientific knowledge, ideas, facts; but a higher knowledge that subtle intuition of truth which men have who live high and noble lives. That which is meant by temperance is self-government. And in temperance, or front it, develop patience--endurance--the spirit of bold, quiet waiting. “And to patience, godliness.” That is, let your patience be not stoical. Let it not be stubborn, sulky. Let it be the waiting and endurance of a man who believes that God reigns, and that all the affairs of the universe are in His hands, and shall work toward good. “And to godliness, brotherly kindness.” That is, let there be in your godliness a warm sympathy and affection, not only for yourself, but for your family, for all your near neighbours, for all your neighbours that are more remote, for all your townspeople, for all the world. “And to brotherly kindness, charity.” Local affection and universal affection--add these. Here, then, is the apostle’s conception of a Christian man’s character, development, and destiny; and I remark--

This ideal destiny of man is one that shall lead hint into the likeness, into the sympathy, and into the participation of the Divine nature. The reason why we know so little of the Divine nature is, that we have so little ill ourselves that interprets it to us. I have groped to see if there are not at least some traces along the line of this march, and I think I see some. I observe, for instance, in the progress of the lower animal in man up toward the higher, that when it reaches the human race, the difference between undeveloped men and men who are developed, is the power to discern the invisible. That is, men whose forces are muscular are inferior to men whose forces are mental. And when the apostle says that we are to be partakers of the Divine nature, I say that the declaration is in harmony with everything that I see going on in human nature. We rise away from the animal toward the spiritual. We advance from lower manhood to higher manhood. The line is from the flesh toward the spirit. Therefore, it might naturally be expected that Christian character would consummate itself in the development of the Divine nature. That is the highest form of spiritual existence, and when the apostle says this is so, I am prepared to receive it, and to rejoice over it.

No man was ever converted to Christianity at one flash. No man ever built a house at a single blow, except in a summer dream. The conversion by which the Spirit of God starts a man, just starts him--that is all. It turns him away from the wrong direction. It turns him toward the right model. It gives his heart an inspiration for things higher, and then says to him, “Work out your salvation.” A man who has a musical ear goes into a workshop and sees lying there large quantities of material of various kinds--iron, and steel, and copper, and brass--and he says, “.Let me make these available.” And he takes the various kinds of metal, and puts them into a furnace and melts them, and pours the liquid which they form into a mould; and when it is cool and brought out it is a bell. Such is the result of the combination of all these incoherent substances. And when it is struck it is musical. And he says, “I have hit it! It is perfect!” But it is a monotone; and after some thought he says. “No, I have not reached perfection yet. There is more material here. What if I should make another bell?” So he goes to work and makes a second bell. And then he makes a third; and then a fourth. And some musician says, “Hang them up in yonder tower,” and they are lifted up into the tower; and, swinging there, they ring out through the air glorious chants which call men to God’s house. God has lifted up the spire or tower of the human soul, and has set in it some thirty bells; and they are all to be brought into accord. There are two or three that strike bass notes musically; but it is our business to bring harmony into the whole mighty collection of musical instruments that are swinging in the belfry of man’s soul. No man is perfect until all his faculties are brought into harmonious play. God never put a faculty into a man which was not necessary; and if we are to be perfect, every one of our faculties must be developed and used. As God looks upon men, they are not perfect until they are built up into the lines and lineaments of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have partaken in part of the Divine nature. Then they are sons of God; and to be a son of God is something transcendently glorious.

The glorious ideal of Christianity, compared with all the current ideas, stands up in bright and rebuking contrast. How many are calling men to church-membership! How many are calling men to morality! How many men are called to philosophy! How many men are called to philanthropy! But such is not the call of God. God calls men to be partakers of the Divine nature. And the providence of Divine grace is working on that pattern incessantly. What the gardener means, and what Nature means, are very different things. What the grape-vine means is to drive out its branches, rank and strong, far and wide. What the gardener means is grapes; and therefore he cuts back the vine on every side. “Let me grow,” says the vine. “Bear,” says the vintner. “Give me more room for my leaves,” says the vine. “Then give me more grapes for my wine,” says the gardener. Men in this world are seeking to develop forces that shall be for their pleasure. God is meeting those who are His own with blows at every step, and beating them back. He is tempering this man’s zeal by various shames. He is subjecting another man to such tests as shall compel him to come to endurance. In various ways God’s providence is meddling with us. We are all praying that God’s will may be done; but we do not like the answer to our prayer when it comes. The soul is a temple, anal God is silently building it by night and by day. Precious thoughts are building it. Disinterested love is building it. Joy in the Holy Ghost is building it. All-penetrating faith is building it. Gentleness, and meekness, and sweet solicitude, and sympathy are building it. All virtue and all goodness are workmen upon that invisible temple which every man is. “Ye are the temple of God.” The foundations are laid, the lines are drawn, and silently, night and day, the walls are carried up, tier after tier being laid; and when the temple is built it shall seem as if it were composed of precious stones--of beryl, and amethyst, and topaz, and diamond--so that at last when it is completed, and there comes the shout of “Grace, grace, unto it,” it shall be a temple built in darkness to reveal light; built in sorrow to produce a joy which shall never die.

If these views are generally correct, we may see in them the correction of many of the popular sayings and tendencies of the day. I am met at every step by those who say, “I ought to conform to the laws of my being.” Which way is the eagle’s nature, where he lies in his nest, or where he is, in the might of his power, poised under the sun, on a summer day? Is a man’s nature that which he is born to, or that which he comes to by unfolding? Is a man’s nature that which is furthest from, or nearest to, that which God meant should be the final estate to which he is to come? A man’s real nature lies far beyond his present sphere. Nature in a man is not what he came from, but what he is going to. I am not, therefore, to take my models and patterns from behind; but this one thing I am to do--I am to forget the things which are behind, and to look on beyond, and to take my conceptions of true manhood and noble nature from the ideals which I form of God- and they are interpreted in my experience by God’s Spirit. (H. W. Beecher.)

Combination of Christian graces

You would think that flower-garden very defective which grew only one kind of flower, however beautiful that one may appear. It is the large variety of flowers that gives interest and pleasure in a garden. Thus, if you see a Christian with only one predominant grace, whatever it may be and however fine, he is lacking. It is the variety of graces, and their combination in the one life of experience and practice, that give charm and glory to Christian character, as it is the combination of colours that makes the light of the day. (James Hamilton, D. D.)

An incongruous addition

As it is always incongruous to see a mighty foundation with a trivial superstructure, a block of granite the basis, and a mud wall the building, a foundation of jasper, and the remaining corners all brick; so where there really is precious faith to begin with, you grieve that there should not be added courage, knowledge, temperance; but wood, hay, stubble, trivial tastes, narrow notions, sectarian prejudices, a sour or censorious spirit, and manifold infirmities of the flesh and spirit. (James Hamilton, D. D.)


Faith the root of Christian life

When the Vatican issued the celebrated Bull Unigenitus, the occasion of so many scandals, and of such protracted controversy, and in which it condemned, as abounding with most portentous errors, the excellent commentary upon the New Testament of the pious Father Quesnel, it selected as one of those errors, a remark of the good Jansenist upon the chapter before us, that “Faith is the first of graces, and the source of every other.” And yet what else than this very sentiment does the language of the apostle here suggest? Faith is put by him first in order; and is it not so put by Peter’s Lord? (John 3:36.)

Faith, in its widest sense, is trust or belief; confidence in the word, character, or work of another. Though requisite in religion, it is as much requisite elsewhere. Human society in its whole framework is so held together; and the kindreds and amusements and business of the world are presenting to the most earthly-minded, continual images and intimations of that faith which, when demanded of him by the Church and by the Word of God, he may sometimes affect to regard as strange and unexampled. The generous confidence of soldiers in a tried and heroic leader; the implicit confidence of his correspondents in a merchant of known means, and of proved integrity; the trust of the voyager in the intelligence and vigilance of the navigator; the unshaken assurance of a friend in the worth and affection of one whom he has long known and intimately loved--these are all but examples, in daily recurrence, of the use and the need, of the sweetness and of the power, of a reasonable faith and a well-placed trust. The faith of the gospel is something more than these, only as being trust in God. It is trust as to matters of higher concernment, and upon better warrant, and in a greater and better Being. It is a reliance on His true testimony. It is not irrational, for it has overwhelming evidence. Instead of its being, as the bigots of scepticism (for infidelity has its blind and bitter bigotry) represent it, a bandage for the eyes; and a manacle for the free hand, faith is really, to the eyes of the soul, a telescope bringing near the far glories of heaven: “the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for.” And it is, to the hand, a clue leading our steps out of the mazy dungeon of sin, and through the labyrinth of earth. It is a magnet pointing the voyager to his desired haven; the charter, to the criminal, of an undeserved and full pardon. And as this faith is trust in the truth of the ever-truthful God, it is highest wisdom, as it is reliance on the Omnipresent, the Almighty, and the everlasting Jehovah, it is the surest, the only safety.

And should it be asked, why has it this priority in the Christian system, we answer, it may well occupy this place of precedency in the scheme of man’s salvation, for various reasons.

1. Man’s history required it. Unbelief, the opposite of faith, had the primary place in man’s fall and perdition.

2. It occupies the first place, again, from the nature, respectively, of God and man. He, as the Infinite and Omniscient, knows much which man, as the finite being of limited faculties and existence, can know only through His Divine testimony.

3. Again, God’s unutterable tenderness and goodness have assigned to faith this post of precedency. The babe, yet but a prattler, may have full trust in the parent who cherishes it. Before it can reason, or even speak, it may believe in its father and mother.

4. And man’s besetting sin--the pride which, after all the deep descent of the Fall, clings so persistently to him, however degraded, made it fitting, that the mode of his acceptance before God should be one that allowed no occasion for boasting.

But will not a scheme of salvation, thus free and indiscriminate, break down all virtue, and “the dignity of human nature,” and abolish law, and holiness, and truth? So, in all ages, objectors have argued. But the providence of God, and the history of the churches, have sufficiently answered these cavillings. The faith that justifies is implanted by a transforming Spirit, and reconciles to a holy and sin-hating Father, and unites to a Redeemer detesting and destroying iniquity. Whilst faith then accepts pardon as God’s free gift, it accepts as the inseparable concomitants of that pardon, penitence for sin, gratitude to the Giver, ingenuous love, adoption into the household of God, and assimilation to the Elder Brother--the Head of that household.

From the necessity of its nature the implanted faith becomes a root of spiritual growth, and a principle of practical development. In its earlier stages faith is generally but feeble. That it should remain so, is not the will of Him who implants and who sustains it.

1. From the nature of faith, and of the human mind itself, faith, where well placed, on a trustworthy object, must grow and strengthen by exercise and continual repetition.

2. The growth set before our faith appears, again, from the character and structure of Scripture, the volume on whose testimonies faith fastens, and in whose rich pastures she must ever feed. God might have made it a book to be exhausted at one reading; or a record of the past, unavailing to the men of the present; or a mysterious outline of the future, of little clearness or usefulness till the times of its fulfilment had come. Instead of this, it is a book of all times, full of the ancient past, and the busy present, and the dread or gorgeous future. It has the simplest teachings interwoven inextricably with its most fathomless mysteries. Now, when faith is presented with such a manual, not to be mastered in weeks or years, but still evolving new lights to the latest studies of the longest lifetime, does not the structure of the book proclaim the intent of God, that faith should not sit down content with present attainments, and its as yet immature strength?

3. And so, too, the character of God Himself proclaims the same great law of the constant growth of faith. “Acquaint thyself with Him and be at peace,” is the demand of reason, no less than Scripture. Man has capacities and aspirations that the earthly, the perishable, the finite, and the sinful can never satisfy.

4. The office and character of the Holy Ghost, the Author of faith, point to the same results. The Saviour Himself described the influence of this Spirit’s indwelling “as a well of water” in the disciple “springing up into everlasting life.” (W. R. Williams.)


Its necessity.

1. Our apostle, to build the house of Christianity, lays this as the foundation. Philosophy lays her ground in reason, divinity in faith; the first voice of a Christian is, “I believe.”

2. The necessity of faith appears--

(1) In respect of God (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:14; Matthew 8:13).

(2) In respect of the devil (1 Peter 5:9). He is too strong for thee if thou meetest him with thy virtue, or with thy good works; for he will object sins enough to outweigh them. Solon cannot meet him with his justice, nor Solomon with his wisdom; every poor sinner can overcome him with his faith (Ephesians 6:16).

(3) In respect of thyself.

(a) Thou art ignorant. There is no understanding of God but by faith.

(b) Thou art originally corrupt, naturally hateful to God; nothing canst thou do to please Him, till thyself be first made acceptable to Him. The doer is not acceptable for the deed, but the deed for the doer. Hadst thou all the succeeding graces, and not this foundation of faith, whereby thy person is made accepted in the Beloved, when thou art judged, thou couldst not be saved.

Its singularity. Not faiths, but faith (Ephesians 4:5). There is but one faith in the church, as but one church in the faith; one faith in nature, not one in number. Every man hath his own faith, yet all have but one faith.

Its propriety.

1. “Your faith,” because you have a right and interest to this faith. Divers gifts are appropriated to divers men; but faith is general to all the elect.

2. “Your faith,” because every one must have a proper and peculiar use of faith. Thou canst not see Christ with another’s eyes, nor walk to heaven on another’s feet.

Its society. “To your faith”; “to” implies some accession. Faith is a great queen; it is base to let her go without a court and a train. (Thos. Adams.)


Faith and virtue

Isaac Taylor has told us we may find an illustration of this apostolic injunction by taking a view at large of church history. If we do so we shall “discern beneath the scientific phraseology of the passage, a condensed but comprehensive caution against each of those prominent corruptions that have developed themselves in the course of eighteen centuries. They are readily enumerated, and may be put somehow in this fashion.”

1. Pusillanimous or inert faith.

2. The licentious abuse of the gospel.

3. A fanatical or haughty subjugation of animal desires.

4. Anehoretic pietism.

5. Sectarian or factious sociality.

Thus our apostolic canon is seen to hold up as in a mirror the history of the degenerate Christianity of all ages.” Now let us think of faith and manly energy combined. It would be better to inquire at this point, what is the New Testament conception of “virtue”? We have to thank the gospel of Christ for the force of the meaning which we at present attach to the word. You are familiar with the history and some of the literature of the great heathen nations the Greeks and the Romans. You know what “virtue” meant with them. Patriotism, first and chiefly; willingness to endure all, to give up all for the safety or benefit of their country; fearlessness of danger; implacability of hatred of the enemy; scorn of physical suffering; insensibility to the common sympathies of men; the cultivation of a brave war-spirit; this was courage, manliness, “virtue,” in those days. We have, as I said, to thank the gospel that the meaning of the word has changed, that we understand true manliness to consist in the full and free development of all that is good in human nature; the cultivation of some of those tenderer emotions which were so haughtily scorned; the recognition of the fact that, in quiet, unanswering submission, there may be majesty of soul as true or truer than is evident in the man who does battle with fortune and writhes under her hand; that love, mercy, forgiveness of injury, are not tokens of an effeminate heart, but of manliness; that a man is most victorious when he conquers himself, and most free when he yields ready, grateful obedience to the will of God. The manliest man must be the Christian; and what strikes us chiefly in thinking of the great names of pagan history, men of the type of Aristides, of Pericles, of Socrates, of Decius, of Brutus, is that it was the inspiration of this truth that they lacked for their perfection. This manly energy, then, is to be cultivated, conjoined, mixed up with that faith in the promises of God which is the only true basis upon which spiritual character can be built. Now, such a command would not have been given if the apostle had not foreseen that the tendency of human nature would be to divorce these two things, as either incompatible with each other, or, at all events, as not necessarily connected. Some of you have not lived beyond the remembrance of your first Christian experience. What effect was produced upon you by the vivid consciousness that you stood cleared from sin in the presence of a merciful Father; that eternal life was yours, that all the promises of the rich heavenly inheritance were yours? Was not the effect that your inclination was just to sit still, and ponder thankfully the marvellous grace of God, in revealing such blessing, in assuring to you such a glorious future? Such a desire for quiet contemplative enjoyment of this new experience tilled yon, that you regarded with distaste anything which threatened to break in upon it. Now you see the wisdom of it all. Now you see the necessity of the apparent harshness of some of that life. As some one has said of the early Christians, “they were daily brought upon a path of danger which made them such men of action, of promptitude, and of courage, as they were men of meditation; while, more than any others, they lived in correspondence with things ‘unseen and eternal,’ more than any others also they wrestled with things earthly, being embarrassed amid common cares, exhausted by hunger, thirst, and toil, distracted by fears, and often actually engaged in encountering the anguish of cruel deaths. Thus they were compelled, by the very position they occupied, to ‘mingle with their faith, virtue.’ “Such has been, in varying fashion, the course of God’s providence with all of us. Our nature is such that the active and the passive emotions must both have play, or the man is not proportionate in his development--the man is not manly. It is no small evidence of the Divinity of Christianity that such a precept as this is found as part of its ordinance, showing that the religion is adapted for tile man by a wisdom above his own. Faith cannot thrive without some expression in action. Faith without activity ends in superstition. Now, just glance at the other side of the truth. There must be this Christian manliness evident and active, but it must have faith as its basis, as its very life. While language helps thought, language without thought would be nothing. Activity without faith leads to infidelity, utter and complete atheism. (D. J. Hamer.)


Consider, first, what this virtue is. No better suggestion has been made than that which takes it as meaning a certain manly energy, vigour, and firmness of disposition, which is the first outcome of Christian faith, and may well be the first aim of Christian effort. Now that strength of nature, firm tenacity of character, will at bottom be neither more nor less than a good strong will; for a man’s strength is the strength of his will. And that being understood, what are the shapes in which this manly energy will manifest itself? There should flow from faith a tenacious vigour which masters circumstances and does not let them work with us as they please. True, the ship can only be carried by the wind and the currents, but, equally true, if there be a good strong hand on the tiller, and the canvas be wisely set, she can sail almost in the wind’s eye. Circumstances do make us, but it depends on us what they make us. Though they supply the force, the guidance ties in the hand that holds the reins and pulls the bit. The strength of tile Christian man will manifest itself in ruling outward things, and making them subservient, whether they be sorrowful or joyful, to the highest end of all, even his larger possession of a fuller Divine nature. And, in like manner, the “virtue” of my text will manifest itself in the rigid subjugation, by the energy of a strong will, of all my own inclinations, desires, tastes, passions, and the like; which all seek to assert themselves, and which the more mightily and ungoverned they work, the weaker a man is. In like manner, this manly energy, which all Christians are bade in the very first place to cultivate, will teach us independence of other people. Learn not to live upon their smiles, dare to be voices and not echoes, and to take your commandments, not from the habits of your class or of your calling, but from the lips which alone have power to command, and whose approval is praise indeed. Let me remind you that the gentle Christ is the pattern of this manly force as of everything else. All that the world adores as power looks weak, hysterical, strained by the side of the calm gentleness of that life which bears no trace of effort, and yet is mightier than all besides. He is Power, because He is Love.

And now observe the root of this virtue, or energy, in faith. A faith which does not grow into virtue and knowledge, and all the other links in this chain is, if not dead, at least ready to perish if it has not vitality enough to fruit. And then need I say that the exercise of confidence in God, as revealed to us in Jesus Christ, has a direct tendency to produce this strong form of character of which my text speaks? Faith as the realisation of the Unseen will bring strength.

And now a word as to the culture of this “virtue” by our own effort. The original word is very graphic and picturesque. It means, “Bringing in by the side of,” when fully and clumsily and yet accurately translated. “Bringing in your diligence by the side of”--what? By the side of that, “partakers of the Divine nature.” God’s gift does not make my effort unneccssary, but rather demands it as its completion and consequence. The best way by which we can give diligence to make ourselves strong, is by nurturing the faith which strengthens. Get into the habit of thinking about Jesus Christ all through your days, get into the habit of bringing mind and heart and will under the dominion of the principles of the gospel, and you will find the strength flowing into you and you will be mighty by Him. And we can get this strength in larger measure, too, by the simple process of habitually acting as if we possessed it. That is to say, you may cultivate the habit of suppressing yourselves, of stopping your ears to men’s voices, of mastering and coercing circumstances. The Will gets dominion by asserting its dominion. There are no better ways of evolving this strenuous vigour from faith than these two--First, live near the source of it--“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” And then, exercise the little that you have got, and it will grow by exercise. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


The meaning of the word. Ii. The description of this characteristic as belonging to a Christian.

1. What a Christian ought to be. Not feeble, vacillating, pusillanimous; but brave, strong, trustworthy.

2. How a Christian ought to endure.

3. How a Christian ought to resist.

The need for this characteristic. There is no high goodness without strength.

The way to the attainment of virtue.

1. A deep conviction of its necessity.

2. Fellowship with heroes who have embodied it.

3. Communion with its great source.

4. Exercise of as much of it as we possess. (U. R. Thomas.)


In common speech every moral excellence is called a virtue. We also give the name “virtue” to that outward conformity to the law of God which constitutes a good moral character. Thus honesty is a virtue; veracity is a virtue; chastity is a virtue, etc. It is evident, however, that the text does not use the word in either of these significations. It cannot intend by virtue moral excellence in general, since it goes on to enumerate several particular moral excellences, such as temperance, patience, godliness, and charity, which must be added to virtue in order to complete the Christian character. It cannot intend any one in particular of those moral traits which we sometimes call virtues, since in addition to virtue it specifies most of these by name. For the meaning of the apostle we must go back to the primary idea of virtue--which is, manhood, manly vigour, a courageous tone of mind. The old martial Romans, from whom our word virtue is directly inherited, used this term to denote primarily the sum of all corporeal or mental excellences in their ideal of a man. The use of virtue in the sense of power or energy is common in old English; and there are some traces of this elsewhere in our version of the Scriptures, which help to determine the meaning of virtue in the text. The Greek word here translated virtue occurs but four times in the New Testament. As used by Paul in Philippians 4:8, it has the sense of moral excellence. But as used by Peter with respect both to God and to man, the word clearly denotes force, energy, power. There is another word (δύναμις) whose primary meaning is power, which our translators, following Wiclif, sometimes render by virtue, thus showing that they attached to virtue the old Latin sense of energy or force (Luke 8:46; Luke 6:19). Here virtue denotes not moral goodness, but miraculous healing power. Wiclif uses virtues as the equivalent of miracles. Where our version speaks of the “mighty works” done in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, Wiclif styles these “virtues.” Again, “He could there do no mighty work”; Wiclif reads, “He must not do there any virtue (Mark 6:5). Milton applies the phrase “celestial virtues to the fallen “powers and dominions” of heaven, rising

“More glorious and more dread than from no fall.”

Here the word “virtues” conveys no idea of moral excellences, but is the equivalent of potentates. It is obvious, then, that in old English and in the first English version of the Bible the word virtue had its primitive Latin sense of manliness, a vigorous or energetic spirit, and that it sometimes retains this meaning in our version and also in good poetry. This is the meaning which most fitly renders the original term in the text. It is almost impossible to express this idea of virtue by any one English synonym. Isaac Taylor paraphrases it as “manly energy, or the constancy and courage of manly vigour.” The one word which comes nearest to it, while it has the abundant sanction of good English writers, is hardly domesticated in the pulpit; yet both the word and the thing were strikingly expressed by an honoured foreign missionary, when urging upon the American Board the immediate and thorough occupation of Turkey, with men and means for the service of Christ. Said Dr. Schauffler, “After all the discouragements and disasters of the Crimean campaign, official mismanagement, army jealousies, camp sickness, and the discomforts of winter, the soldiers held on and took Sevastopol, not by science but by pluck”--and what we need is Christian pluck to take possession of Turkey in the name of Christ. This is the virtue which all Christians are expected at all times to cultivate. “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue. The apostle speaks to those whom he fully recognises as one with himself in Christ. The faith that bringeth salvation is already theirs. But they are not to rest in that faith as the whole of the Christian character and life. Add to your faith, virtue; as followers of Christ cultivate a true Christian manhood.

Is what this manhood consists.

its place in a complete character.

How it may be attained and cultivated.

1. The virtue of which the apostle speaks--boldness, vigour, courage, manhood--is not to be confounded with rashness. In his earlier experience as a disciple, Peter was sadly deficient in the very virtue which he here recommends, though he was by no means wanting in a rough physical vigour, and the courage which that inspires.

2. This manly virtue should not be confounded with wilfulness. Stubbornness of will is not strength of character. It is doggedness or mulishness, not manliness. If wilfulness were a virtue, then Pharaoh was the most virtuous of men. A resolute, unfaltering purpose to do right, a will to honour God and to stand by truth and duty, a will which cannot be broken upon the wheel, nor relaxed by the fires of martyrdom, but like steel grows more firm and inflexible under pressure and heat--such a will is, indeed, a manly virtue. But “will-worship,” the magnifying of self-will, adherence to a position or course, not because it is known and felt to be right, but because it has been taken, and pride forbids to change--this wiifulness is as far from Christian manliness as a spoiled child is from an angel.

3. But the virtue of which we speak, while it is neither rash nor wilful, is always bold, firm, and determined in maintaining truth and performing duty: it is a manly and energetic tone of mind.

(1) An obvious constituent of this state of mind is an intelligent conviction of truth and duty. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Steadfastness in purpose is impossible where the mind is doubtful as to the object in view. A purpose springing from mere feeling is apt to prove unstable, since feeling is a variable quantity. Manly resolve rests upon intelligent conviction. Strength of conviction gives courage to resolution.

(2) But in order to this manly virtue, the principle of obedience to God must be established in the soul as final, above all personal interests, above all earthly goods, above all merely human custom or law, above whatever would obtrude itself between the personal soul and a personal God, its Creator, Ruler, and Judge. You cannot cower down a soul that rests implicitly on God. When Luther stood before that court of the German empire which held his life in its hands, it is said that he was the only person in the assembly who was perfectly undisturbed. Luther was ready to die fox” the doctrine of justification by faith, since he himself had added to faith--virtue, a manly courage, a holy energy of soul--proceeding from an intelligent and principled obedience to God.

(3) One other constituent enters into this manly virtue--that is, frankness or sincerity in avowing one’s convictions of truth and duty. He who would be manly must be open. Frankness is not forwardness; it does not require that one should be always thinking aloud; neither is it bluntness; but it does forbid one from a selfish motive, to conceal his convictions when truth and duty are in question. When the Jewish Sanhedrin threatened Peter and John, and forbade them to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, the apostles fell back upon conscience and the law of Christian obedience, and said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken to you more them to God, judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things which we hi, ye seen and heard.” That was Christian manliness. Peter had now learned to add to his faith, virtue.

The importance of this virtue to completeness of character is evident without argument. There call be no sterling character without this. The annals of Christian martyrdom often exhibit this manly virtue grafted upon child-like faith.

How shall this virtue be attained?

1. Study the examples of those who have manifested virtue. Look at Noah, standing up against the cavils of an apostate world to do the command of God a preacher of righteousness. Look at Abraham, with firm tread walking trackless wastes to Unknown lands, his courage rooted in faith. Look at Moses confronting the stubborn will of Pharaoh. Look at Paul, ready to face a Jewish mob, or the prejudiced Sanhedrin, or pagan governors and Roman captains, or the wild beasts at Ephesus, or the dungeon at Rome, and to stand in Caesar’s palace as a witness for Christ.

2. To attain the full vigour of Christian manliness, you must exercise this virtue whenever you have opportunity. Virtues will not come to serve us upon great occasions unless they are trained and developed day by day. The young Christian should begin early to cultivate this holy courage--learn to say “no” to every solicitation of evil; learn to say “yes” to every call of duty.

3. Since virtue rests upon faith, you can strengthen and develop it by increasing faith as a living power in the soul. Much as we may discipline ourselves to virtue, our strength must lie not in ourselves and our purposes, but in God our Saviour. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” A living faith secures a manly piety. (Joseph P. Thompson.)


The term ἀρετὴ, translated virtue in the text, denotes strictly manhood, prowess, manly qualities. Stephanus defines it by “virtus, sed proprie virtus bellica”; martial courage or valour. He cites a gloss on Thucydides 1:33; where “arete” is expressed by industria, navities, virtus, fortitudo; activity, zeal, manliness, fortitude. Suidas denotes “arete” to be “Constantia et animi vigor”; firmness and strength of mind. Homer applies it to his heroes to denote valour in battle, and other manly qualities. The Mycenaean Feriphetes is said to have been “superior in all kinds of virtues (ἀρετὰς), whether in the race or in the combat (I1. 15.642). Here virtue denotes physical qualities, such as speed, strength, prowess. So the “god-like Polydorus” in the agility and valour which he displayed in fight, is said to have exhibited “virtue of feet” or limbs (ποδῶν ἀρετὴν. I1. 20.411). The same term is applied to the “valour” of Meriones (Il. 13.277), and to the “bodily vigour” of Menelaus (Il. 23. 578). This primary sense of ἀρετὴ is strictly expressed by the Latin virtus, from which virtue is derived. This, in its literal sense, is manhood, valour; and is applied to physical courage and to energy of character--vigour of mind in dangers and labours. Cicero speaks of something akin to virtue in animals, as in lions, dogs, and horses; but insists “that virtue of the mind” (animi virtus), being the offspring of reason, is to be preferred to “physical virtue” (corporis virtuti anteponatur. De Finibus 5.13, 38). He also speaks of “the Divine force and virtue of the orator.” Here virtus is a pleonasm, reiterating the idea of vis. (Joseph P. Thompson.)


What is virtue?

As early as the days of apostles there were in the Christian Church those who would make faith suffice without virtue. Some really loving and practising piety, have yet, in their crude theories, discredited morality and virtue, for the purpose of extolling, as they supposed, religion.

But there is another class who proclaim the superiority of virtue to faith, and the sufficiency before God and man, for this life and the next, of virtue without faith. But if virtue be but the small portion of man’s duties that he owes in this life to his fellow-mortals, and man be formed for another life as well as this, and have a God as well as human society to regard and propitiate, it seems impossible on any rational principle to establish it that the discharge of this small portion of his obligations shall be accepted in full for his neglect of yet higher duties to a yet higher Being. And if, in matters of human courtesy and friendship even, you are wont to look at the motive as determining the worth or worthlessness of the service rendered, does it not seem necessary even to the claim of true virtue for these social and human duties, that the man discharging them do it from right motives, from the true love of man and the paramount love and fear of Almighty God? From mere vain craving after honour and praise, men may discharge the duties. But are such duties, so prompted by lower motives, genuine virtue? Again, take a few of the more eminent of those whose virtues are thus held up as surpassing the fruits of Christian faith. Take Hobbes, the philosophical oracle of the court of the last Stuarts. Take Hume, whom his friend, Adam Smith, pronounced among the most faultless of human characters; or in later times Bentham. And after a close analysis of the lives and influence of these men, do you not find the inquiry of the apostle remaining still in full force, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ? “Was the morality of any of these men superior to the average morality of their times? Did virtue do in them what faith achieves in the Christian--overcome the world? Again, did it tend to improve that world, recovering its degraded, and uplifting its oppressed classes? Go out as missionaries of the new lights of philosophy without Christianity; and who of you would hope to see the new creed, like the faith of the New Testament, teaching the barbarian, taming the cannibal, making freedom possible, and law and duty sovereign over the nations?

But turn to dwell rather upon the union that scripture makes between the two principles, which we have seen isolated and divorced, requiring as those Scriptures do, the man of faith to become the pattern of virtue, abounding in every good word and work. The problem is not to guide the sinless, but to recover the sinful. How can you efface the brand of sin on their souls? Morality has not the atoning calvary. It cannot call down on its pentecostal aspirations the rushing fires of the Holy Ghost. The virtue that would be thus recuperative on the masses must be preceded by a faith, with which shall go the regenerating power of God, and for which shall have been first provided the great remedial and reconciliatory process of the redemption. Let the Pharisee or the Sadducee go with another doctrine than that of faith to Zaccheus, would they have won his fourfold restitution of aught wrongly gained? The God that shall answer by fire, He is God. Faith can produce virtue. Look again at the way in which she instructs virtue. Read the twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, or take the same apostle’s discourse of charity and its fruits, in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthian Church. Saw you ever such full, and brilliant, and unmatched portraitures of virtue as this? But beside these preceptive instructions, remember that all the doctrines and mysteries that faith receives have their practical lessons. The fall, and original sin, how they teach humility and dependence on God--the first lessons of moral progress. The incarnation and redemption--is that a mere logomachy? On the contrary, see in it a great scheme for the subdual of sin, and the implantation of hope, and love, and gratitude. But must faith produce always virtue? It must, or it is not genuine. The inseparable accompaniment of true faith in Scripture is repentance; and what is repentance but the practical and the outward and inward renunciation of sin? (W. R. Williams.)

Of Christian fortitude

First, let us consider that which must accompany our whole duty, the manner of performing it, or applying ourselves to it, “giving all diligence.” It is not to be confined to one point, but runs through the whole detail of the Christian graces which is here given. We should summon all the powers of our souls continually to attend this very thing, and watch every occasion of doing and of receiving good. The necessity of this will appear if we reflect on the constitution of human nature, and the Divine wisdom and condescension in accommodating to it the way of conferring the greatest blessings upon us. The blessed Author of our beings has a regard to their frame while He carries on His merciful designs towards us. He does not deal by us as unintelligent machines, but rational creatures. He does not make us happy without our own knowledge, choice and concurrence. I will add but one observation more on this subject, that religious industry will produce constancy, as its natural effect. Whatever obligations we are under to diligence in our duty at any time do equally bind us at every time; and there can be no sure evidence of our sincerity without a persevering steadfastness in the work of the Lord.

I now come to the first particular which the apostle exhorts us to add to our faith, and it is virtue. This virtue carries in it the idea of hazards and difficulties, and the excellence of it consists in a magnanimous superiority to all dangers and all opposition. As it is peculiar to a probationary state, or a state of discipline, like ours, it is that without which there can be no real goodness, at least no steadfastness in such a state. The “flesh lusteth against the spirit”; our senses and inferior appetites always minister the occasion of evil. Now, these must be resisted by a Christian. Here, then, is another occasion for the exercise of Christian fortitude, which may in some cases require all our strength. How difficult must it be to stand unmoved against a train of sufferings in our outward estate. And how much invisible wicked agents may contribute to the difficulties and trials of the Christian life, who can certainly say? Having thus shown you the proper object of Christian fortitude, or the occasion of its exercise, I will next consider the exercises and dispositions of mind which are necessary to it, or do concur in it. And let us, first of all, observe that it is very different from a blind passion. Nothing is more necessary in the whole of our religion than that we be sedate and deliberate; and particularly that our zealous resolutions for God be formed upon a just and solid ground of calm and mature consideration. Secondly, having proceeded so far, the next thing necessary is steadfast resolution. It is of consequence to us that we hold on in a religious way, that we endure to the end. Then certainly we should fortify our minds against temptation by firm purposes; we shall find the firmest we can enter into weak enough. Thirdly, the virtue which the apostle here exhorts us to add to our faith imports bearing trials, uneasiness and fatigues with equanimity. A Christian has the same sense of pleasure, profit, and honour with other men: and yet he bravely denies them. He has the same feeling of pain, and yet is not moved by it to forsake his duty; and herein he acts reasonably, for the tendency of such disagreeable sensations is overruled by superior motives; he sees such an excellence in religion, finds such an inward peace and comfort in his integrity, has such a solid joy in the prospect of a future glorious reward, as is sufficient to bear him up under all his present uneasiness. Here, then, is the exercise of religious fortitude. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)

Christian fortitude

I am to explain the nature of this grace of Christian courage or fortitude. Courage, in general, is a temper which disposes a man to do brave and commendable actions, without being daunted at the appearance of dangers and difficulties in the way.

1. For what it is to be exercised. It is courage in Christ’s cause; that is, in maintaining the profession of the Christian faith, and adhering to the practice of our duty.

2. Against what Christian courage is to be exercised. It supposes oppositions, trials and dangers in our way, else there would be no occasion for it. It is a temper for which there will be no room in heaven.

(1) The power, the subtilty, and activity of the powers of darkness call for courage in a Christian.

(2) The oppositions from within ourselves require courage.

(3) The several discouragements or dangers we may meet with from other men, in the way of our duty, and even for our duty, make courage necessary.

3. Wherein or in what acts and instances it should express itself.

(1) In deliberate and vigorous resolutions for God and our duty, upon counting the cost.

(2) In the suppression of distracting fear of evils at a distance.

(3) In a vigorous application to our Christian work, notwithstanding the stated and constant difficulties and oppositions attending it.

(4) In a readiness to undertake hard and difficult services when God calls to them.

(5) In a uniform steadiness of conduct under all the trials we actually meet with.

What may be intended in the exhortation to add virtue, or courage, to our faith. When we are called to make this addition we are only required to build the most proper and natural structure upon our most holy faith. The fortitude required by the gospel is distinguished from all other fortitude, not only as it is upon account of the truths and duties of Christianity, but as it is founded upon Christian principles. Christian faith is most fit to inspire with Christian fortitude.

1. Faith discovers Divine providence as engaged for us and with us in all our difficulties.

2. Faith proposes the Divine Spirit as directly provided to help our infirmities. Particularly for this very purpose, to inspire us with needful courage.

3. Faith represents our main enemies as already vanquished, and as having their chief power broken.

4. Faith gives us particular assurance that our trials shall not exceed our strength; either the strength we have, or that which shall be imparted (1 Corinthians 10:13).

5. Faith sets in view greater evils to be feared from our cowardice than can be feared from our adherence to God.

6. Faith assures us of the certain and glorious success of our courage. That our endeavours against our powerful enemies shall issue in a full conquest (Romans 16:20.)

7. Faith represents to us the noblest examples of such holy fortitude upon the same principle.


1. Consider this grace of fortitude as a matter of the utmost importance in the Christian life. The variety of oppositions and difficulties in our way make it necessary.

2. Cultivate therefore your faith, in order to the forming of your minds to holy fortitude.

3. Use all farther additional means to fortify your minds. Be prepared for the worst, by counting frequently the cost. Make clear the goodness of your cause, for which you may be called to exert your courage. Carefully exercise good conscience: without this the best cause in profession will be very faintly maintained in an evil day. (J. Evans.)


Whatever the Christian was in the early days, he could not well be a coward, He could not live in any fear as to what people would say about him: there was no doubt about that. And he could not live with a miserable counting of the loss or gain that religion should bring him. He knew full well that it would mean abuse, loss, danger, perhaps death. So in the old time Christianity first demanded faith that took hold of the promises- and then demanded courage that held on to them at any risk though earth and hell raged furiously. To-day religion is not so much a battlefield as it is a hospital for sick and disabled folks; it is very often only a round of poultices and plasters and nourishing diet, where the talk is of troubles and trials and what we have to go through. Look at fire company in which this valour is found. “Add to your faith valour.” St. Peter is writing to those who have obtained like precious faith in the Saviour. But it is not good for Faith to be alone; to live in luxurious ease; hers is a high and sacred calling. So is it that at her right hand must stand the tall and stalwart captain of her guard, Courage, my Lord Courage, strong in action, resolute in danger, fearless always. And at her left is her Prime Minister, and councillor, old Knowledge, with lofty brow, and ready understanding of the times and its requirements, and skilful in devices for meeting them. Then comes the Comptroller of the Household, a goodly gentlemen of clear eye and of fair complexion, my Lord Temperance. Then cometh the Lady-in-Waiting, Patience, fair Patience, whose cheery song keepeth the palace bright in troublous times. “Bear bravely,” Patience sings, “it is all well that cometh down from Him; and it is ever well for them that journey up to Him.” Then cometh the Queen’s chaplain, Godliness, who moveth amidst the rest having a deep and holy sense of God’s claim, a steadfast eye to His commandments, a lofty sense of His greatness, and a glad obedience to His will. Then come the two almoners who dispense the Queen’s bounty--Brotherly Kindness and Charity. Thus only is Faith secure, and thus only can she rightly discharge all her duties and claim all her honours, when she is attended by each of these.

That Christ’s religion asks for courage should give it a stronger claim upon us. I ask you to-day to come and pledge yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, because it does need courage.

With many is it not just this one thing--the lack of courage--which is the undoing of the life? Some want courage to decide for Christ.

In these busy times many a man wants courage to deal with circumstances that hinder him. “Well:” says somebody, indignantly, “must I sacrifice my business? “Yes; or anything else, if you can dare to call it a sacrifice, seeing what infinite gain is at stake.

Others need courage to deal with damaging influences about them. There is some companion, or some pursuit, or some pleasure that takes away all the heart and appetite for the service of the Lord Jesus. It leaves you like a garden in winter--nipped, withered, dead, without bud or bloom or beauty. There are things that make prayer such hard work that it seems impossible, and the Bible is a weariness, and the service of God is a dreary restraint. Resolve by God’s help to have done with them bravely for the sake of the King, and for the sake of your own true life.

There are others still who need courage to deal resolutely with besetting sins. Your only hope is to add to your faith courage--to have no terms with the enemy. You must perish or your foe; the two cannot live together. (M. G. Pearse.)

Christian courage

It is not physical courage, the courage of the brute, the courage of the man without nerves; it is the courage of the man who has moral sense developed and spiritual ideas strong. I suppose you have heard the story of the Duke of Wellington, who, seeing in the thin red line which shines in Britain’s glorious story a man trembling in battle but who would not retreat, said: “There is a brave man; he knows his danger, and he faces it.” Another story is that two men were once standing together in battle, one strong with accumulated flesh and blood, phlegmatic, not knowing what fear was, and the other thin and pale and nervous; and as he trembled so much that his spirited horse trembled also, his phlegmatic companion turned to him and said: “Humph! afraid, are you?” “Yes,” said he, “if you were as much afraid as I am you would rum” And so sometimes in the Christian life apparently the weakest one is called to bear the heaviest strokes of Providence. He staggers under his affliction even as Jesus, pale and weak and trembling, staggered beneath the Cross. So we are not called to physical courage--that is good enough in its way--but to moral courage. (W. E. Griffis, D. D.)

Goodness is true manliness

There is nothing really brave, really manly, really womanly, on earth, unless it is also good. To be good and to do good--that alone is manly. There are two Latin words for man. The one--homo--means merely a man as an animal distinguished from a dog or a horse. But the other word--vir--means a man in the best and truest sense; and that gives us our word “virtue,” Never forget, virtue and manliness are one. (Canon Teignmouth Shore.)



What exactly is meant by this second link of our chain. What is meant here is a practical insight into what Christian people ought to do, not only in general, but at each moment in accordance with the circumstances and demands of the instant. The more we can rule our lives by the intelligent application of principles, and not by mere use and wont, instinct, imitation, mechanism, necessity, the more we shall be the men and women that God meant us to be. But Peter does not stop with such a mere toothless generality as that; for everything depends on what the law is which we apply to conduct. So this knowledge is not only of what it is right and wise to do at the moment; but it is knowledge of what it is right and wise, on Christian ground, to do at the moment and in the circumstances. Let the perception of duty be a perception illuminated and determined by the principles of the gospel, and bring that law to bear upon all life. Such a continual reference of daily exigencies and circumstances to the great principles that lie in Christ and His revelation will take the place of that selfish and secular tact and instinct which the world prizes so highly. It wilt give delicacy to roughness, sympathy to the hard, tact to the clumsy, and will bring a simplicity of motive and a suppression of self which are the best possible precautions for seeing clearly what the will of the Lord is. “Supply in your strength knowledge.”

The connection of this link in the chain with those that go before. The believing man is the truly sagacious man. The real prudence is got in communion with Jesus Christ. The eye that looks at the sun is blinded, but the eye that looks constantly at God sees all things as they are, and is delivered from the illusions which deceive the rest of mankind. To see all in God and God in all, that is the way to understand the depths of things, and to know what, at each moment, they call upon us to do. What we want to know is not only what circumstances and self-advantage require, but what Christ requires, and that we shall learn when we keep near to Him in faith. In like manner the strength, of which my text has been speaking, naturally produces--when it gets fair play, and when men give themselves honestly to work out all that is in it--it naturally produces this happy certitude and illumination upon the path by which we should walk.

The practical duties which come out of this exhortation.

1. First, study, and keep very near the pattern of Jesus Christ. There is nothing more wonderful in that wonderful life than the unconscious facility and certainty with which He did the very act, and said the very word that the moment required.

2. Then, again, I would say try and get a more firm and intelligent grip of the principles of the New Testament as a whole. I believe there is the weakness of much of our modern popular Christianity. You do not read your Bibles half enough.

3. Let me say again what is only a deduction from what I have already said--regard all Christian truth as being meant to influence conduct. We write up in churches the Creed on the one side, and the Ten Commandments on the other. Christ is creed and Christ is commandment.

4. Again, let us see to it conversely, that we bring all the actions of our lives under the grip of our Christian principle. The lawyers say, “De minimis non curat lex.The law does not take care of the very small things.” Perhaps it does not; Christ’s law does. It stretches out its hand over all life, and the smallest duties are its special sphere. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

“To virtue knowledge

”:--Virtue without knowledge were like a beautiful damsel blind, or a fair house that hath not a window in it. Virtue is like a pearl in the shell; there must be knowledge to break the shell, or we cannot come at the pearl. Ignorance is dangerous. Thus the devil carries many to hell, as falconers carry their hooded hawks, without baiting. There is no wretchedness so pitiable as that which is not known to the sufferer. If men will not know God, God will not know them. The work of regeneration begins at illumination. The first thing that sunk in our first parents was knowledge: now where the wound began, there must begin the medicine. Knowledge is the light of virtue.

1. By knowledge is here meant an insight into heavenly things.

2. This earnest exhortation to knowledge intimates that naturally we want it. The first way to knowledge is to know our own ignorance.

3. Knowledge is not the cause of sin, but ignorance; for virtue is begotten and nourished by knowledge.

4. Seeing we must join with our faith knowledge, it is manifest that an ignorant faith is no faith.

5. This knowledge must be added to virtue also. (Thos. Adams.)


There is in the Church of God, as well as in society generally, a disposition to exalt practice at the expense of theory; and yet all practice is but the embodiment of some theory. There is in some minds a disposition to mock at all science and all patient thought as being but idle and unprofitable speculation. Common sense is lauded at the expense of study and research. The labourer is exalted above the thinker, and the man of experimental activity is pronounced the truly useful, whilst the studious and reflecting is denounced as a thriftless and unprofitable cumberer of the earth. But society and the Christian Church need the thinker as much as they require the labourer. Every seaman is not expected to construct his own nautical tables, or every miner to build his own steam-engine that may uplift the ore or drain off the superfluous waters. Yet without the aid of the astronomer and the machinist, of what avail would be the practical energy of the hardy mariner, or the begrimed miner toiling in his ever dark and narrow gallery? So, in religion, a just, religious practice must grow out of just, religious principles. And although a simple and childlike faith may readily grasp the great outlines of these principles, it requires that faith should be patient and studious, in order that these principles may be fully understood and justly stated, may be seen in their due position, and may be held in their just proportion, and in their mutual dependence and symmetry.

Now our text and, in full harmony with it, the entire body of the Divine Scripture, require that the Christian profit in his religious course, by going on from faith to virtue, and from virtue to knowledge. The first great necessity of our nature is that we know ourselves, that we learn from the book of God our origin, destiny, and redemption. But to have a just and safe knowledge of ourselves it is needful that we know our God. Framed by Him and for Him we cannot ascertain the moral bearings or calculate, so to speak, the latitude and longitude of our own drifting course over the ocean of life; but, as we refer to Him whose will is the meridian line by which we estimate the position of all beings, and whose favour is the Light and central Sun of our moral life. And knowing ourselves, and knowing our God in Scripture, we are called upon to know this world, that portion of it called Nature which we can reach and survey; and that march of the Divine purposes in the government of the race which we call history; and to know life, or those arts, and occupations, and relations, and human laws, and local customs that are to affect us in the discharge of our duties to our fellows. We are required to know man, not only as he should be, and as in his original innocence he was, but man as he is, in his selfishness, craftiness, and wretchedness, and yet, withal, in the long and tangled train of all his susceptibilities, and his capabilities, and his hopes and his fears, his grovelling desires and his soaring aspirations.

The order of Christian knowledge as following and tending to guard and crown faith and virtue. Why should it be set here, and not at an earlier place, in the rank of Christian excellences?

1. We suppose the reason to have been this: it was to remind us of a great truth, that practical obedience or virtue is necessary if we would gain any great advancement in Christian knowledge. Not only is such obedience an evidence of a sound understanding, but it is also a safeguard for it. No man can keep a healthy and sound intellect who is perpetually sporting with known error, and wallowing in known iniquity. The very conscience may become defiled, and the eyes of the soul contract blindness, by disuse and misuse.

2. Virtue was again made to precede knowledge, in order to protect against a great error that began to be promulgated ere the first apostles had quitted the arena of the Church militant for the thrones of the Church triumphant. Gnosticism, or the system of knowledge, claimed in the early Christian Church the highest prerogatives. It sought to plant knowledge, or the teaching of its own wild and foul philosophy, as the very basis of faith. Much of the Rationalism and Pantheism of our own times proceeds on the same most false and most fatal principle. Instead of going out of ourselves to lind, by faith in God’s testimonies, what He is and what we ourselves are, and to obtain the recuperative grace that sanctifies the heart and so enlightens the intellect, this system drags the God and the oracle and the revelation into man’s self, makes its own purblind reason, and its own hasty and crude utterances, in the natural state of alienation from God and moral blindness, the law of judgment, to God and to His teachings.

3. The gospel does not proscribe knowledge: it requires it. It makes knowledge possible to the savage by awakening aspirations where before were only appetites; and by letting out on every side the horizon of his cribbed and narrow intellect, into the wide eternity and the high infinity around and above him. It not only patronises and diffuses knowledge; it classifies it as humanity unaided cannot do it. See in modern missions the usefulness and glory of consecrated learning in a William Carey and a Henry Martyn, a Morrison and a Judson; and is it not evident that, whatever else the gospel be, it is not the patron or the parasite of ignorance?

4. Physical science in our day has made rapid progress. Religion frowns not on it. But far as physical science claims to be paramount and sufficient and exclusive, it has usurped honours that are not its due. It would, in so doing, treat man as a being of mere bodily organs, without conscience, without a God, and without an eternity; and in so regarding our race it robs and degrades us. Religious knowledge comes in to prevent the degradation and to denounce the usurpation. Religious knowledge comes in to remedy the deficiency, and to right the wrong. Political enfranchisement, or the recovery of the rights of the masses, is another most popular subject of thought and debate. But when was humanity so elevated as when the Creator assumed its likeness in Bethlehem? How is fraternity to be expounded and established, but by bringing men to look on themselves, as being in common amenable to the Last Judgment, and as being also in common interested in the great propitiation? The gospel it is, then, that gives the best knowledge; ascertains the relative rank and worth of all knowledge; popularises, diffuses, and defends it; and above all gives to man, the sufferer, the knowledge of the Consoler; and to man, the sinner, the revelation of the atonement; and to the groping captive of sin and heir of the pit, announces liberty and holiness, citizenship in heaven and sonship with God. (W. R. Williams.)

Of knowledge

What kind of knowledge is the subject of this exhortation? Knowledge is an attainment very suitable to a reasonable nature, and is the glory of man because it is the improvement of that faculty which is one of his distinguishing privileges. But there is a great diversity in the kinds of knowledge, which chiefly depends on the quality of the object and the importance of the ends it serves. That knowledge which the text recommends is, according to this rule, the most valuable (Proverbs 9:10.) If we observe the connection of the apostle’s discourse, that he has placed knowledge in the middle of the Christian virtues, it will appear plainly enough that he means a right understanding of them, such a knowledge as is necessary to our practising them. We should constantly study to be more and more acquainted with the Christian virtues, to understand the mind and will of God, and be making daily proficiency in the exact knowledge of our duty. We should use our own active endeavours that we may grow in knowledge, for the purposes of usefulness and goodness. Secondly, another thing intended in this exhortation is a disposition to improve knowledge to the proper practical ends of it.

The reasonableness of our endeavouring to attain knowledge, and make daily progress in it. II knowledge be absolutely necessary to our doing our duty acceptably, then all the arguments which press us to the one do also oblige us to the other. First, this is the way to be preserved from snares, of which we are always in danger through temptation and the deceitfulness of sin. Secondly, in proportion to the measure of our knowledge, so is our steadfastness; if it is of a rational kind. Thirdly, this unsteadiness, together with weakness of understanding, which is one cause of it, renders men in a great measure unprofitable to the world and to the Church. There is not anything a Christian should have more at heart than to promote the common edification of the body of Christ. And that this may be effected, adding knowledge to our faith and virtue is the best expedient.

Some directions for attaining useful and salutary knowledge.

1. The first is a high esteem of it. If it be pleasant to our souls, if we have a just sense of its excellency, and thus our affections are captivated to it; it is the best preparation of mind we can have for this most important acquisition.

2. Let us use the means of attaining knowledge with great diligence and care. There is no other way to prove our sincerity and our love of wisdom.

3. But it is above all things necessary that we use the means of knowledge, and particularly that we search the Holy Scriptures without prejudice and prepossession.

4. The best means of attaining to religious knowledge, is doing what we know to be the will of God. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)


The meaning of the term “knowledge” must be ascertained by a comparison of the text with other passages in which this word occurs. It is of course knowledge with respect to spiritual things and religious duties of which the apostle here speaks. This word is used in the New Testament some thirty times, and with various shades of signification. Sometimes it denotes a supernatural gift, knowledge by immediate inspiration. Perhaps it is in this sense that the “word of knowledge” is classed with the gifts of healing and of tongues, and with other miraculous powers. But since all Christians are exhorted to add knowledge to their faith, the apostle cannot intend a miraculous gift which God only could bestow. And for the same reason he cannot here intend the power or faculty of knowing in which sense the word is used when it is said that “the love of Christ passeth knowledge,” i.e., is beyond the natural comprehension of men. We cannot add a new sense or faculty to our natural endowments. Again, the word “knowledge” is used for the object of knowledge, and especially the system of truth made known in the gospel. But this must be known, in a measure, before we can have faith; and the knowledge spoken of in the text comes after faith. Knowledge is used also to denote a general apprehension of religious truth; but, as this is essential to the act of faith in Christ, it could hardly be referred to as a something to be added to faith. Isaac Taylor says this knowledge is “neither human erudition nor general intelligence, but that specific knowledge of which the gospel is the subject.” There is another use of the word which applies it to the deep, clear, and cordial perception of truth, followed by the discriminating adaptation of truth to practical ends. Thus the apostle Paul speaks of the Christians at Rome as “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14); i.e., they possessed that discriminating insight into truth which would shed light upon questions of practical duty. Knowledge is a spiritual apperception of Divine things, forming and controlling the practical judgment. A soul informed by such knowledge discerns the way of truth and duty. This knowledge is not the mere perception of the truths of the gospel in their objective form, but an apperception of gospel truths in their inward spiritual relations.

What this knowledge is.

How it may be cultivated.

The excellence of this knowledge in its effects.

This inward experimental knowledge of Christ and His truth differs from the intellectual perception of truth, just as the feeling that we know the mind and heart of another differs from the knowledge of his person which we gain through the eye; it is the difference between heart knowledge and knowledge merely by perception or intellect[on. Now we may know Christ, and yet may not know Him; may know Him as to His person revealed as Divine; we may know Him as to His character recorded in the four Gospels; we may know Him as to His doctrine and His work; and still we may come far short of really knowing Christ. Such knowledge is objective; i.e., it exists in our thought as an object, and does not bring us into personal sympathy with Christ as our Saviour and Friend. It is in the brain but not in the heart.

2. And here, again, this knowledge differs from faith. Faith is that belief in Christ upon the evidence of the Gospels which leads the soul to rely upon Him as its Saviour, and to commit itself to His service. This faith rests upon a degree of knowledge as its warrant. But having gained this faith, and rested ourselves in it, we are exhorted to add to it knowledge; not the mere knowledge of the doctrine of Christ as a Saviour--for that we have already--but knowledge of Christ Himself, which comes through the heart, proving His doctrine, His promises, His love, in its own blessed experience.

3. But this inward knowledge of Christ has its outward expression in a judgment wisely exercised upon truth and duty. We need to cultivate the judgment as well as to fortify the spirit, to attain to a sound discernment of duty as well as to firmness in duty. It is a proverb that discretion is the better part of valour; a critical judgment as to the time and manner of acting is important to the success of the boldest and bravest action. In his description of the good man the Psalmist happily combines a sound judgment with boldness and firmness as essential qualities of his character. “He will guide his affairs with discretion; surely he shall not be moved for ever. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid.” Such knowledge is not what men of the world call prudence, which is exercised more in the cautious avoidance of evil to one’s self than in devising and executing that which is good. There are two or three words which somewhat approach to this meaning--discernment, discretion, and discrimination; these all in their radical idea mean “to separate,” “to distinguish,” to “make a difference,” especially between the true and the false, the right and the wrong, in theory and in practice. This discrimination as to truths and motives duly exercised by the mind itself, and faithfully applied to our outward conduct, constitutes knowledge as a practical thing.

How shall this knowledge be attained?

1. By the prayerful study of Christ as He is set before us in the gospel. The mere tourist sauntering through a gallery of art recognises in one painting a work superior to the rest; but the artist lingers before that picture and scans its every point till, without the help of catalogue or cicerone, he discovers it to be a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Murillo, and feasts his soul upon those diviner touches that reveal the master’s hand. You must not look only, or read by catalogue or note-book, but must study. Prayer is the life element of such a study.

2. We gain this knowledge by a diligent and teachable seeking after the will of Christ. The spirit of obedience helps to the knowledge of duty. This determination to do the will of Christ is like a signal rocket piercing the gloom of night from a ship on an unknown shore.

3. We gain this knowledge by studying questions of right and duty in the closet. The place for calm, mature judgment is the place of secret prayer.

4. We may gain this knowledge by being willing to learn, and to correct mistakes. The key of knowledge is humility.

5. We may cultivate this knowledge by often testing ourselves by our principles. If we were careful to keep a daily balance-sheet of our actions and principles, we should be more quick to detect errors of judgment, and to increase our stock of practical wisdom. True principle is a fixed quantity. It rests upon the eternal base of truth and justice, and is firm as the pillars of heaven. As the old Egyptians took their astronomical bearings from the sun-line upon the pyramid, so should we take our moral bearings by the light of Christ’s teaching and life, giving the meridian line of principle and duty.

The excellency of this knowledge in its effects.

1. This knowledge, combined with firmness in faith, gives beauty and dignity to character. We have seen that virtue gives energy, strength, resolve; but a character in which force and earnestness predominate is one-sided; may easily run into extremes.

2. This knowledge gives us power over ourselves. Man was created a power, and not a thing. In proportion as the soul gains a true spiritual power over its inferior desires does it become a power over the world.

3. This knowledge gives us power for good and even great achievements. It is no modern discovery that “knowledge is power.”

4. This knowledge of Christ gives us power over evil and over death. It is half the battle to know the enemy, his ground, his resources, and his tactics. Classical usage helps us little as to the meaning of γνῶσις (gnosis) in the New Testament. Plato uses it commonly of “understanding,” though sometimes of a deeper philosophical insight. But with the Neo-Platonists, gnosis came to be almost a technical term for higher insight, deeper wisdom, a certain mysterious knowledge reserved to the initiated. In this sense of deep spiritual insight, but without the associations of mysticism or mystery, the word gnosis is often used in the New Testament. It is a term peculiarly liable to abuse by enthusiastic minds, and before the close of the apostolic age there began to appear a sect of Gnostics, who claimed to have “an extraordinary insight into Divine things beyond the system of faith, which the people commonly received on authority.” This insight they professed to have gained through certain secret traditions handed down from Christ, the higher light. Their gnosis corresponded to the esoteric doctrines of the old Greek philosophers, mysteries to be communicated only to the initiated. The Epistles of John seemed to have been aimed in part at this Gnostic tendency. The true Christian knowledge is as far as possible both from the obscureness of mysticism and from the pretensions of clairvoyance. The gnosis of the New Testament is the privilege of all Christians alike. (Joseph P. Thompson.)



Temperance is the curb, bringing into subjection all those passions of human nature that tend to voluptuousness, just as patience and meekness check and keep under the fiercer passions or those tending to violence. Christian temperance sets itself in opposition to the drunkard’s bowl, and the glutton’s banquet, and the revels of the profligate, and the anxious longings of the covetous, and against the immoderate desire of what is net ours, as well as against the undue and immoderate abuse of what is ours. It includes, thus considered, sobriety, and chastity, and moderation--all the varieties of a wise self-discipline, imposed on man’s fierce quest of pleasure.

Let your knowledge, then, said the apostle to the readers of his Epistle, defend itself by the companionship of temperance. Why, it may be asked, should this be selected, and not any other of those clustering graces which go to attest the energy and fruitfulness of the Divine Spirit in the work of his moral renovation? Let it be remembered, then, that in the sin of our first parents, the knowledge which they sought, beyond God and His instructions, was knowledge which brought with it a sin against the holy temperance that had before been the law of Paradise, and the defence of primeval innocence. Was it not then fitting that the victim of the Fall should be perpetually reminded of his need to be on his guard evermore against that dominion of the bodily senses into which the Fall betrayed us? In Satan’s school knowledge brought forth intemperance; but it must not be so in Christ’s school. Is it not, again, a fact, sustained by the history of the Christian Churches, that even when men enjoy this gospel their knowledge, both in things secular and spiritual, is but too often perverted into a license for casting off the self-control and the serene moderation of Christian principle? Is not a palmy civilisation often found shading a feverish and lawless sensuality? Was it not thus that Solomon--after his wide research, that wrote of plants from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall, and in consequence of his growing acquaintance and his large converse with heathen society--became in his old age a doting conformist to the lewd idolatry of Ashtaroth?

To glance at the bearing of this Christian grace on the temperance reformation of our times. But we suppose that the best friends of temperance will yet find that, to give it permanence, it needs the broader basis and the deeper root of a religious movement; and that there, as in so many other earthly reforms, the controlling motives--the effectual lever, must rest on some stronger and firmer basis than earthly considerations. Drunkenness is enough to damn a man; but the mere absence of drunkenness is by no means enough to save him.

The claims of this Christian grace, taken in the wide and comprehensive sense which scripture attaches to it, upon the disciples of our times.

1. It is necessary to true piety. The knowledge and love of God cannot lodge in a heart crowded and dragged downward by debasing and sinful pleasure. If men are Christ’s, they are crucified with Him to the flesh and the world.

2. It is necessary to Christian usefulness. The man who would be really and truly useful must have an unselfish sympathy. Now, of this the lovers of pleasure are notoriously destitute. Few things more rapidly bring a seared callousness over the heart than the habitual pursuit of gross and selfish pleasure.

3. It is necessary to national well-being and prosperity. (W. R. Williams.)

Of temperance

The virtue itself, and wherein it consists, will be easily understood by any one who attends to the present constitution of human nature, and what our experience will obviously suggest to us. The Author of our being has implanted in us passions which excite us to such action as is useful for our safety; and herein His wisdom and goodness appears, making provision for the continuance, the comfort, and all the purposes of our existence in this world. But, as the highest ends of our being are not confined to the present state, the same wise Creator has endued us with nobler powers and affections, by which we are deter mined to the pursuit of more excellent objects, wherein our true perfection and happiness consists; it is plain these inferior appetites were ordained to be in subjection to reason, and to be gratified within such limits as to be consistent with superior enjoyments, and with the proper exertion of superior powers. To consider this subject a little more particularly--

1. In the first place, it is plain that sobriety or temperance does not require the rooting out or an obstinate refusal to satisfy or comply with the original appetites of nature.

2. But, on the other hand, temperance requires such a regulation and restraint of our desires towards sensible objects, or the pleasure of the external senses, that they shall not possess that room in our esteem which is due to things of vastly greater excellence and value. Temperance not only forbids all excesses, but requires such an habitual moderation that the freedom of the mind may be preserved, its powers in a constant readiness for better exercises, and that it may have a taste for intellectual and moral pleasures. The natural effect of a customary indulgence to carnal desires is a confirmed habit which increases the desire so as it prevails against better inclinations; and then experience shows the truth of what the apostle teaches, “that fleshly lusts war against the soul”; they tend to enervate its powers, impair its liberty, and bring it into bondage.

3. I observe that sobriety, like all other virtues, is seated in the mind. The appetites take their rise from the body, but the regulating them belongs to the higher faculties of the soul. It is in the superiority of the soul in its freedom, and in the dominion of reason and conscience over the lower desires and passions that the virtue chiefly consists.

To propose some motives to sobriety or temperance. This particular virtue of temperance stands upon the same foot with the rest, and is, like them, recommended by its own native beauty and intrinsic worth, which at first strikes any mind which attends to it. It is impossible for any one, upon a deliberate comparison, not to acknowledge in his heart that the sober man is more excellent than his neighbour who is intemperate; that it is a more lovely character and more worthy of the human nature to have the rule over one’s own spirit. Besides, intemperance naturally tends to make life not only mean and contemptible, but miserable. But I intended principally to insist on these considerations which are contained in the gospel. It deserves the serious attention of Christians that the blessed Author of our religion Himself, and His apostles after Him, very earnestly inculcate this virtue. Let it never enter into our thoughts that great professions of respect or pretended faith will please Jesus Christ if we continue in carnal impurity and live after the flesh. But there are two arguments Which you will find often urged in the new Testament: one is taken from the circumstances of our present state compared with the future. The second is, that temperance is an excellent preservative from snares and temptations. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)


One of the old Italian masters has left us his conception of temperance on the walls of a little chapel, where he has painted a heroic female figure with a bridle upon her lips, and her right hand binding the hilt of a sheathed sword to its scabbard. And that conveys in symbol and emblem an idea of a self-command that restrains the utterance of emotion and sheathes the sword of passion.

This self-command is a universally admitted necessity. A man has only to look at himself to see that he is so made as that bits of him are meant to be governed, and bits of him are meant to govern; that there are some parts of his nature which are intended to be kept down under hatches, and some that are meant to be on the quarter-deck, with the helm in their hands. We have only to look, for instance, at the way in which the necessities and the appetites which belong to our bodily organisation work, to see that they were never meant to have the mastery, or to be left to operate as they please. A man is hungry, thirsty, feels the sting of some perfectly innocent, legitimate, fleshly need, and that appetite is as blind as a bat to all other considerations except its own gratification. No matter what lies between it and its object, its tendency towards the object is the same. And is a man to let such a mere unintelligent and almost involuntary impulse drive him? And ii is just as true, too, about other bits of our nature, for instance--emotions and passions. Anger is a very good thing; God puts it in us. It is meant to be exercised. Yes! But it is meant to be governed. And so joy, mirth, fear, and all the rest of them; all these are inseparable from the perfecting of a man’s nature. But their unbridled working is the ruin of a man. And then excellences want to be controlled, in order that they may not run to faults. Some edible plants, if they once run to seed, are ruined for food; so a man’s good qualities need to be kept under, in order that they may not become exaggerated into weaknesses. And a man’s bad qualities, natural weaknesses and defects of character, which are too deeply engrained in him ever to be got rid of--these want control in order that they may be turned into excellences, as it is quite possible for them to be.. What did God put a will into you for, but that you might be able to say not “I like”; or “I was tempted, and I could not help it”; but that you might, before each action, be able to say “I will”; and that passions, and the stings of lust and sense, of appetite and flesh, and emotions and affections, and vagrant fancies and wandering thoughts, and virtues that were running to seed, and weaknesses that might be cultivated into strength, might all know the master touch of a governing will, and might obey as becomes them? And what did God give you a conscience for, but that the will, which commands all the rest, might take its orders from it?

This absolute necessity is a proved impossibility. From the beginning moral teachers of all sorts have been saying to men, “Rule yourselves”; and from the beginning the attempt made to govern myself by my unaided self is doomed to failure. Not absolute failure, thank God! I would not be understood as if I were denying that, to a large extent, every man and woman has this power of self-government. But I do want you to consider that the worth of self-control depends, to a large extent, on the motive from which it is practised; and that, unfortunately, for twenty men that will exercise it for the sake of temporal purposes and immediate advantage, there is one who will exercise it for the sake of higher motives. A great deal of the moral reformation and restraint which the best of men, who are not Christians, put in practice upon themselves, is exactly like taking a child with scarlet fever and putting it into a cold bath. You drive in the eruption, and that is about as much as you do, except that you make the disease worse, because you have driven it in. But, beyond that, when once a man’s passions, or affections, or desires, or any other part of him, have got the bit between their teeth, and have cast off control, it is impossible to bring them again into obedience. When the very instrument by which we are to coerce the worst part of our nature is itself tainted, what, in the name of common sense, is to be done then? When you send out the military to suppress the mob, and the military, bayonets and all, go over to the mob, there is nothing left for the sovereign but to abdicate. As somebody has said about such a matter, it is a bad job when the extinguisher catches fire. And that is exactly the condition which men stand in who are seeking to exercise a thorough-going self-restraint, when the self which should govern is itself tainted and evil, the will bribed and enslaved, the conscience sophisticated and darkened. What is the use of saying to such a man, “Govern thyself”?

Here we have a Christian certainty, if we choose to make it so. Let these three things, faith, strength, insight, work upon you, and they will make the impossible possible. That is to say, if you want to govern yourselves begin with faith. We rule ourselves when we let Jesus Christ rule us. The Christian man, thinking of his conflict, and knowing that with his ten thousand it is hard for him to meet the twenty thousand who are arrayed against him, invokes, as some petty chief of a weak tribe might, the aid of the great emperor whose dominions are at hand, and when he stretches his protecting power over the little territory there is liberty and there is victory for the trembling prince. So hand over the authority and the sovereignty of thy soul to Jesus Christ, and He will give thee the strength to govern thyself. And, in like manner, we have here implied another prescription, “Add to thy strength, temperance.” II I am in Christ it is not a question of one bit of my nature against the other, but it is a question of the higher nature, which is His, flowing into mine, and so enabling me, the true me, which is Christ in me, to keep down the animal and the evil that attaches to me. And, in like manner, there is the third condition of self-command here; that knowledge of which the preceding clause speaks, which is mainly a clear insight into Christian duty. If we have once clear in sight the dictates of an enlightened conscience, felt to be Christ’s will, then it will not be so hard to put the screw on all that rebels against Him, and to stimulate (for that is a part of self-command) the lagging and slothful graces of our hearts. So it comes to this, the necessity, which is an impossibility for everybody else, is a possibility for the weakest among us, if we let Christ rule in our hearts. Put the reins into Christ’s hands, and He will make you kings over yourselves, and priests unto Him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


The grace of temperance may be here diversely understood.

For such a discretion as may season all these graces; So taken it is the salt of every virtue. Devotion without discretion is like a hasty servant that runs away without his errand. Profession of faith without temperance is turned into hypocrisy or preposterous zeal; virtue without it is folly. Patience without discretion wrongs a good cause. Godliness without temperance is devotion out of its wits. Brotherly kindness without temperance is brotherly dotage. Charity without temperance is prodigality; it gives with an open hand and shut eye.

For such a discretion as may moderate knowledge, and qualify that heat to which it is addicted (1 Corinthians 8:1). Temperance is not so much a virtue itself as a marshal or moderator of virtues. It is not enough to do a good work unless the due place, fit manner, and convenient time be observed.

For such a moderation of the mind whereby we so demean ourselves as neither to surfeit on fulness, nor to despair on want.

For a moderate use of outward things. There is intemperance--

1. In lust; so it is called incontinence. This may be avoided--

(1) By subduing the body to the soul (1 Corinthians 9:27).

(2) By debarring the flesh all lust-provoking meats and drinks, High diet is adultery’s nurse.

(3) By avoiding temptations (1 Corinthians 6:18).

(4) By meditating on the punishment. What men think most pleasing is most plaguing; to have their lusts granted (Psalms 81:12).

2. In apparel. Christ says the body is more worth than raiment; but some strive to make their raiment more worth than their bodies; like birds of paradise, their feathers are better than their carcases.

3. In meats.

(1) For the manner; this is merely circumstantial, and may thus he expressed: too Soon, too late, too daintily, too fast, too much, is gluttony.

(2) For the measure: it is an insatiate desire of delicacies (Luke 12:19; Philippians 3:19). As too much rain drowns the fields which moderate showers would make fruitful; so this plethory of diet, instead of conserving nature, confounds it.

(3) For the matter: it is great feasting.

(4) The effects are manifold and manifest.

(a) Grossness.

(b) Macilency of grace.

(c) Consumption of estate.

(d) Sickness of body.

(e) Rottenness and death. The finest food shall make no better dust.

(i) Abstinence is man’s rising, as intemperance was his fall.

(ii) It is God’s blessing that makes fat, and not meat.

4. In drinks.

(1) It makes room for the devil.

(2) It overturns the estate.

(3) It poisons the tongue.

(4) It woe to itself (Proverbs 23:29).

Learn we how to avoid it--

(a) Because we are men. While the wine is in thy hand, thou art a man; when it is in thy head, thou art become a beast.

(b) Because we are citizens, and therefore should lead civil lives; drunkenness is an uncivil exorbitance.

(c) Because we are Christians (1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 2:11-12; Luke 21:34). (Thomas Adams.)


This is the third figure in that sum in compound addition the footing up of which makes the complete Christian character. Our modern use of this word temperance restricts it mainly to abstinence from strong drink. Abstinence alone does not fully express the idea, since this presents rather its negative side. The word means strictly “ruling with a strong hand,” having the mastery; and when applied to a person, the temperate man is he who governs himself firmly, who has the mastery especially over the passions and appetites of his lower nature.

What this self-control involves or implies. ̓Εγκράτεια is used by Plato and Aristotle to express self-discipline, self-mastery. Xenophon uses it to express the government of all the passions and appetites; such a mastery of the natural desires for food, drink, and sensual gratification, and such a power to endure cold, heat, fatigue, and want of sleep, as become a good general in time of war. (Mem. 1.2, 1; 1.5, 1; 2. 1, 1.) So Paul used the word when addressing Felix, who lived in open adultery with Drusilla, and who indulged every selfish and sensual passion; he reasoned of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment,” till the wretch trembled. The Latin temperantia, from which our word temperance is derived, has the same meaning; moderation, regulation, government, self-restraint. And it is applied not only to sensual appetites, but to the government of the tongue, the eyes, the temper; to the restraint of the emotions of grief under calamity or of exultation in victory. Cicero defines temperantia to be that which teaches us to follow reason, both in what we seek and in what we avoid; a firm and judicious control of reason over impulse and desire (De Finibus 1, 14, and 2, 19).

By what means it may be attained.

1. This Christian temperance or self-control implies and demands the absolute subjection of all evil appetites, passions, and desires. Those grosser social vices with which the pagan society of the old world was thoroughly infected, and which the old pagan religion encouraged--vices which destroyed home, corrupted literature, debased art, and defiled the altars of the gods--were so little thought of as evils, were so fully sanctioned by custom, were so gilded over by the example of public men, the toleration of law, and the flattering arts of genius, were so protected by the priests, who made them a means of revenue, that it was an easy thing for a Christian at Corinth, at Ephesus, at Antioch, or any like luxurious capital, to slide into sins the bare suggestion of which we should resent with abhorrence. Anger, in the common use of the word, is an evil passion. A passionate man cannot exercise self-control. Some ancient philosophers used the word temperance as the specific opposite of irritability. Self-indulgence in appetite, whether under the form of drunkenness or of gluttony, is a sin. It is a sin against the body, whose beautiful mechanism we strain and impair by any excess. It is an offence against the mind, whose faculties we clog and stupefy by excess. It is a sin against God, the gifts of whose bounty are perverted. Covetousness is specified again and again in the Word of God as one of the worst forms of carnal passion; and the subjection of this is indispensable to self-government. The greed of gain must be subdued, or it will choke the life of godliness in the soul. The Christian must learn to moderate his views and desires of worldly possessions. The tendency to a self-satisfied and even luxurious enjoyment of the world is, perhaps, the strongest antagonist in our times to a simple scriptural piety. Sensual appetite, pleasure-seeking for its own sake, and frivolity in the methods of enjoyment, a vain love of pomp and show--these proceed from a propensity which cannot be reconciled with the love of God.

2. Besides this absolute subjection of all evil passions and propensities, the law of temperance requires that those natural desires which are in themselves innocent and lawful, should, both as to the manner and the measure of their indulgence, be regulated by a regard for the highest good of the soul. Appetites and tastes we have which were never designed to be our tempters and tormentors--making the body a mere battlefield of the soul--but were meant to minister to a pure and healthy enjoyment. But the peculiarity of these native appetites and tastes in man is that they do not, like the instincts of animals, regulate themselves, but require the mild restraint of reason. That is a nice point--a hair-line--where desire instead of ministering to rational enjoyment, oversteps the bounds of reason, and becomes an ungovernable passion. Keep well within that line.

3. It has been assumed in this discussion that since all sin concentrates in a selfish will, this of course must be subdued in order to a sound and perfect self-control. But I wish to insist upon the idea that selfishness is not merely to be restrained, held in check by compromises, but to be conquered, if ever the soul would gain the mastery of itself for God. Our love of God, to be complete, must be unconditional. The existence of a calculating, selfish spirit is incompatible with the very idea of love.

How shall it be attained?

1. Not by mere force of will, determining to override, and if possible to annihilate the sensibilities and propensities of our nature, whether for good or evil. The cold impassiveness of marble is not self-control, nor can the Christian perfect his moral nature by cutting away all natural emotions and sympathies. One may conquer many an appetite and passion by mere force of will, and in so doing may strengthen the will itself in resistance to God, and may stiffen that will with the pride of self-righteousness.

2. Neither is self-control to be attained by the arbitrary mortification of the body, by means of denials and penances. Christianity was not made for the desert and the convent, but for the living and hostile world; and we are not to become saints by secluding ourselves from the outer world, but are to be saints in it by the power of a new life.

3. But in order to gain self-control we must study ourselves, especially as to our weak points of character, and aim to conquer specific modes or habits of evil to which we are prone.

4. Again, the power of self-control will be strengthened if we cherish habitually the sense of God’s presence and of His watchful eye. And not only the thought of God as ever nigh to us, but the presence of God by His spirit within us must be cherished if we would govern ourselves by His law. The apostle enumerates temperance, self-government among the fruits of the Spirit. And now, in conclusion, let me urge you to give all diligence to add this grace to your character; to perfect yourself in the government of your own heart.

(1) I urge you to this diligence by the greatness of the object to be obtained. Consider what it is to gain the mastery over a single passion. Think of the poets, the statesmen, the warriors who have sunk under the inebriating cup and have left a dishonoured name.

(2) I exhort you to be diligent in this self-conquest because it is made practicable by timely diligence. Passions indulged have a rapid and fearful growth.

(3) I exhort you to this self-control for your own peace of mind.

(4) Your duty to Christ and your professed hope in Him require that you shall govern yourself in His spirit. “He died for all, that they should not henceforth live to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again.” (Joseph P. Thompson.)


The nature of self-mastery.

The difficulties of self-mastery.

1. Hereditary.

2. Surrounding.

3. Inherent.

The advantages of self-mastery. The evils from which it saves--physical, social, spiritual.

The means of self-mastery.

1. Fellowship with other self-conquerors.

2. Communion with Jesus Christ.

3. Help from heaven.

4. Earnest, brave endeavours. (U. R. Thomas.)


Temperance, self-mastery, the power of self-restraint, is a necessary part of Christian life, natural to it, indispensable to its perfection. Let me illustrate what I mean. You have a servant: he comes to you unacquainted with the perfect working of your system of business, strange to you, strange to the service he has to render; you do not take him into your full confidence at first; you give him such detailed directions that he cannot well make a mistake. By and by you give him your confidence, you throw him upon his honour; he knows as well as if you were always telling him what you want him to do. If there comes to pass a transaction different from what he has been engaged in, he knows your principles so well that he can complete it without referring to you at all. Detailed instruction is no longer necessary. It strikes you, too, very forcibly sometimes, does it not, that the higher position which the servant now occupies may be much more abused than the lower--the more mechanical office? He is freer in one sense from control, and, if he be a good man, the very fact that you put him on his honour in your service makes him doubly dutiful. But you know that confidence may be abused, and the fuller the trust, the greater the possibility of abuse. You know that freedom--leaving a man to act for himself, with nothing but well-instilled principles to guide him--means possibility of delinquency as well as possibility of uprightness. You say, in a word, that the man has knowledge; and that knowledge will be a dangerous thing for him and for you unless it be conjoined with self-mastery, self-restraint. You say, in other words, that in this high, confidential, honourable position in which the servant stands, to be faithful and perfect in his service he must “add to his knowledge, temperance.” You have raised your servant from being little better than a machine, and you have made a man of him; the risk increases with the dignity. Intemperance is of two kinds--asceticism and licentiousness; temperance is the mean between the two. If a man is of such a nature that he cannot use his freedom without abusing it, if he must go to one extreme or the other, it is better that he should be an ascetic than a theological libertine, just as it is better for a man who must be either an entire abstainer or a drunkard, that he should be the former. Both extremes are equally intemperate; but, of course, while there is not much more than self-denial in the one, there is sin in the other. (D. J. Hamer.)


A river is usually an unmixed blessing to a country. It fertilises adjacent lands. It presents a matchless highway for commerce. But there are exceptions to the rule. One of the largest rivers in the world is known by the name of “China’s sorrow.” The banks through which the Yellow River flows for nearly a thousand miles of its course are so low and so friable that, with the first flash of the spring floods, away they sink, and thousands of square miles of country are laid under water. It is not hemmed in by granite or limestone gorges like its great and incomparably useful neighbour the Yang Tsze. Its torrents are unrestrained. Within historical times it has shifted its course altogether, and discharges itself into the sea some hundreds of miles away from the old mouth. Although a river of first-class dimensions, counted by the volume of water it discharges, for nearly a thousand miles of its course it is scarcely navigable. It is a colossal power for good wasted through the lack of strong, binding power in its banks. And there are not a few people who are like this capricious river in the career they follow. We might, perhaps, describe them as the “Church’s sorrow.” There is uncommon virtue or potency in their characters, and they are not altogether wanting in knowledge. But through the lack of this temperance or “self-restraint” they break out at given periods like “China’s sorrow,” and make schism and faction in the Church, and fritter away their own capacity for usefulness, and possibly in the end shift their course into altogether unexpected channels. (T. G. Selby.)



The Christian attitude in reference to all that is unwelcome and sorrowful. “In your self-control supply patience.” Is there one of us who is not aware of some crook in the lot? Well, then, this is true wisdom, quietly take it and let it work as it is meant to work. It is Christian patience that is here enjoined, not the mere stoical, submitting to the inevitable; not the mere pride of not showing my feeling; not the mere foolish attempt to argue myself into insensibility. This Christian patience has for its very first element the recognition of the bitterness of the cup that He gives us to drink. The second element in Christian patience is quietly bearing, with submitted and acquiescent will, the pain or sorrow that comes upon us. Now, remember where, in our series of Christian graces, this wise endurance of the inevitable and God-sent suffering comes. It comes after self command. That teaches us that it will take a great effort of self-control to keep the quivering limb quite still, if undrugged by any false anesthetic, under the gleaming knife. But we can do it. And remember, too, that this injunction of Christian patience comes in a series which is all dependent on faith. Patience is possible when beneath all the sorrows, be they great or small, we recognise God’s will. And in another way faith ministers patience by teaching us to understand and recognise the meaning of sorrows.

The Christian attitude towards all difficulty, the armour for them that struggle. What we have to deal with here is Christian perseverance. And about that I have only two things to say. First, how impossible it is to get any wholesome, vigorous Christian life without it; and in the second, how faith likewise ministers to all persistent effort and energy. As to the first, no course of life which has in view a far off end, towards which all its efforts are to be directed, but runs the risk of wearying ere the end is attained. The quiet persistence with which the leaf “grows green and broad, and takes no care”; the quiet persistence, with which from tiny knob, hard and green, the grape advances to blushing purple, and juicy sun-warmed mellowness, is the type of the fashion in which alone the harsh crudities of nature can be turned into the sweetnesses of grace. “Add to your faith persistence.” And be thankful to remember that our gospel alone gives men motives and power thus to persevere to the end.

The attitude of the Christian soul towards long-deferred good. There is an element of hope in the New Testament conception of patience. In fact, in some passages the word seems almost to be a synonym for hope, and we read in other places of the patience of hope. This view of the “patience of hope” suggests to us a thought or two. The weakness and the misery of all earthly anticipation is that it is full of tumult and agitation. Hope is not calm, but the very opposite. As usually entertained it leads to impatience and not to patience. And the reason why hope is impatient is because we foolishly set our hopes on things that are too near us, and on things that are uncertain. The man that is only going a railway journey of an hour’s duration will be more tired at the end of the first half-hour than a man who is going a journey of a day’s duration will be at the end of the first half of the day. If we were only wise enough to fling our hopes far enough forward, and to set them upon that future upon which they may fasten, which is as certain as the past, there would be no need and no possibility of the agitations that perturb all earthly anticipations. And you can get the patience that endures and persists where you get everything else--from Him who is its example as well as its giver. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


Patience is, in the estimation of some, a mere rudge among the virtues. In Scripture she is a queen, magnanimous and dignified. How it is and why it is that the disciples of temperance or self-restraint are immediately commended to the cultivation of a gentle and forbearing spirit, will, as we think, appear if we but advert to the petulance which all rigorous and abstinent self-control is apt to foster. Thus, during the great fast of the Mohammedans, the Ramadan, observed by severe abstinence from food through all the hours of daylight, travellers have noted the querulous spirit that seems for the time to reign through a Turkish city. A recent British missionary speaks of the devotees of Hindooism, whose austerities are most rigid, and who proclaim superiority to all passion, as being notorious for “a general irritability.” The ascetic, of all times and of all forms of faith, has been subject, and not without some plausibility, to the imputation of sourness.

What Christian patience is not.

1. The patience of the disciple of Jesus is not stoical apathy, nor acquired or affected obduracy to all physical suffering.

2. Nor, much less, is Christian patience a meek indifference to all error and wickedness in the world around us. The standard of Christian piety adopted by some, which is all softness and repose, would have no room for men like the lion-hearted Knox who did, under God, so thorough and good a work before a licentious court, and a frowning nobility, and a raging priesthood, for the Scottish nation. Patience shines forth in such a spirit at such a time triumphant. It is the patience that dares brave all anger, and loss, and suffering; but that dares not sacrifice truth or duty, or make the fear of God to bend to the fear of man.

What then is Christian patience? We understand by it “a calm endurance of evil for God’s sake.” Now, evil is both physical and moral. Physical evil includes pain, want, disease, and death; moral, errors, sorrows of soul, and wickedness in all its varying shades, and in all its hideous shapes. Taken in this largest sense, patience includes the grace of meekness, from which, however, in other portions of Scripture, it is distinguished. Meekness is the quiet endurance of wrong from man, and patience is the endurance of woe appointed of God. But in our text we suppose the word patience to include both meekness and patience strictly so called. It is the quiet endurance of evil for God’s sake. That it is endured, implies that the evil is not self-invented and self-inflicted. If the physical evil be the effect of our own utter neglect, the passive endurance of it is not sufficient to make the sufferer a patient Christian in the truest sense of those terms. Against moral evil it must bear patiently its bold protest; but the want of immediate effect to that protest, and the presence of that evil in the world, and its temporary triumph, must not shake the Christian’s patient reliance on the wisdom and justice of the Divine Providence. For Christian patience is essentially hopeful. It must quietly wait for the salvation of God. So is it also in the New Testament represented as bound up with Christian diligence or industry. The Bible tells us of “patient continuance in well-doing,” and sends the pleader of the promises and the keeper of God’s precepts to learn of the husbandman, who, having sown the seed, must have long patience for the harvest. We have seen its needfulness to fill out Christian temperance.

Let us observe, now, its relations to other graces of the religious character.

1. Ours is a day of religious effort for reform at home and evangelisation abroad. Look at the need of patience to preserve the spirit of the labourers in working order, and to render their endeavours successful. Mackintosh praises Wilberforce as being a model reformer, because of his immovable sweetness, as well as his inflexible persistency. But many good men assay, without this patient sweetness, to reform others by the virtual tyranny of harsh and unreasoning criminations. They resort to moral coercion where they should use moral suasion.

2. Again, as a preservative of faith and knowledge and godliness, patience is indispensable. It was said by the illustrious philosopher Newton, that if he had accomplished anything in science, it had been “by dint of patient thought.” The believer in Scripture who would feed, from its full pages, his faith and knowledge and piety into richer development and greater vigour, must be patient in searching, patient in pondering and comparing, and patient in praying over those sacred lines.

3. Again, virtue and godliness and charity, all practical Christian excellences, need patience for their development. “Confidence,” said a British statesman, “is a plant of slow growth.” True, consistent piety is also such, and needs long and meek study of God’s providence and Word to refine and perfect it. Carey said, modestly, in his old age, when his grammars and versions of Holy Scripture were almost a library in themselves, “I can do one thing--I can plod.” Men, families, nations, have pined and dwindled because they could not plod. In the soul’s struggle heavenward we do well to recollect that he “who endureth to the end shall be saved, and that by faith and patience we inherit the promises.

Let us now consider the motives that should persuade us to be patient as Christians. For as patience includes meekness under wrongs of our fellow-men, we must forgive or we may not hope ourselves before God to be forgiven. As patience includes submission to the Divine appointments, let us remark that our trials are lessened by serene meekness and resignation. God lightens and removes them more early, and they do not so deeply wound and empoison the soul. We are to remember, too, the necessity of this grace to success and influence with our fellow-men. It is the patient perseverance in well-doing that builds up consistency, and influence, and weight of character. We are, again, all to remember our own unworthiness before God, and our liability to pay ten thousand talents, ere, in our fretfulness, we chide man harshly, or murmur bitterly against our God and His providence. Nor is it unfitting that we remember how much of mercy and kindness there is in God’s allotments.

We see why patience is to be desired, but how is it to be attained?

1. By the study of Scripture. We see there glorious examples and inspiriting promises, and the most solemn warnings, and the most apposite models and precepts.

2. Let us pray. Does the spirit in us lust to envy? And would envy swell into wrath, or blasphemy, or murder? The apostle’s reply is, “He,” our God, “giveth more grace.” And He gives it in answer to prayer. The apostles when bidden by their Lord often to forgive the offending and injurious, prayed, “Lord, increase our faith.” Repeat the petition. For its teacher yet lives to be its answerer.

3. Above all, be in communion, much and habitually, with Christ. (W. R. Williams.)


Now let us look at this matter fairly. Jesus Christ does not want to put us, as His disciples, in an artificial world. He has thought for us in the future and also in the present. He takes up the conditions of our life here, He takes up all the powers of our nature; and the truth which He reveals so asserts itself that when fully grasped and acted out the powers of our nature are most fully ordered and developed, the conditions of our life are most perfectly met. We are placed in certain circumstances, and Christ knows them. Christ would so teach us, so mould our nature, that we fulfil all the conditions of our earthly course in such a way as to be best prepared for entering on the fuller realities of the heavenly and eternal life. Patience, then, power of endurance, power of perseverance, is a necessary part of Christian character. Take one or two simple reminders and this will appear clearly enough. Men are in a condition of suffering in this world. Account for it as you may, expound the purpose of it as you may, the fact remains. Somehow or other we seem to be always playing at cross-purposes with ourselves. Who ever formed a plan and found no hindrance to the carrying of it out? And is it not in these smaller matters that our chief causes of discomfort lie? The big, thick clouds that altogether shut out the light from a man’s life only gather once or twice perchance in his history. Yet all men have to suffer, and to suffer severely, from minor trials every day; and to meet these some firm, abiding principle regulating the life is needed. Does it not also suggest itself to you that the position in which Christianity puts a man in relation to God, to himself, wen, to things present and things future, is such as to require that he, at all events, of all men should be possessed of this grace of “patience,” this energy of quiet perseverance. If it be a necessity in every-day life apart from Christianity, it is all the more a necessity to the Christian. He sees things to which other men are blind; he has burdens laid upon him which other men know nothing of; and he of all men must be specially strengthened to endure. A man takes a piece of rough iron and fines and hardens it into steel. It is sterner and stronger than it was in some respects, but is more susceptible in others. It will glitter with brilliant polish, but a breath can dim and tarnish it. The finely tempered sword must be kept ensheathed, or it will lose its lustre. So Christianity takes a man in his rough, natural state and refines his nature. He is stronger and yet more susceptible than he was before. It comes, then, to this alternative: he must be moved from the risk of danger, taken, in a word, out of the world, or he must have a new power of endurance given to him which will enable him to resist contaminating influence. A gardener takes a flower root; what it has of beauty is wild and fitful, it has many rough defects. He cultures it, and by care and scientific appliance he makes the same life bring forth more beautiful blossoms. But the plant has a fragile beauty; it cannot now weather the storm, it must be guarded against the nipping frost and the rude wind. So Christianity takes a man and puts such grace into his heart that his life bears flowers and fruit “unto holiness”; but he cannot bear unconsciously what he could before. It conies, then, to this alternative: that he must be removed from contact with the storms of this world’s experience, or else he must have what the gardener cannot give his cherished plant, special and increased power to withstand and to patiently endure. So you see this grace of which Peter speaks, and which at first sight seems rather incongruous with the rest, is really a necessary and inherent part of the Divine life in man. Christianity would deal cruelly and fatally with us if “patience “were not inalienably connected with the life which it cherishes. But there are other points in which such necessity as I have asserted is clearly seen besides that arising from the keener susceptibility of the Christian. We set out with a high ideal. Our whole nature thrills with the new life that has begun to stir within us. The sense of deliverance is precious. We feel that new motives, new aims, new desires have come to us. Sin and misery have fled away; hope and joy and peace will fill our heart. Such happy life is to be for our constant enjoyment. Are these not the thoughts which fill the soul when it first passes from death unto life? Has such experience, then, been an unchanging one with you? Have you never been thrust back from what you thought a sure and safe position of advance? Sin does not lose its hold upon us all at once. We are weak, and only by patient perseverance can we be made strong. We are subject to temptation, and only by patient watching can we hope to escape. We are ignorant, and only by patient learning can we attain unto knowledge. A war is carried on within us in which the good principles do not come scatheless from the conflict. These rebuffs and disappointments and failures are sure to meet us. Our Master had to contend with evil, and led the way by His example of faith and patience to the inheritance of the promises: so must we persevere and endure unto the end. (D. J. Hamer.)


The elements of a true Christian patience. The literal meaning of ὐπομονή is “remaining behind,” or “remaining in the house”; i.e., abiding--das zuruckbleiben, zuhausebleiben (Passow). Hence constancy, stability, steadiness. “Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding” (1 Chronicles 29:15). The Septuagint here uses ὑπομονη to denote stability, the opposite of that which is transitory and fleeting. In the text De Wette renders ὑπομονη by Standhaftigkeit, steadfastness. It is something more than submissiveness, by which Isaac Taylor defines it. Patientia denotes the quality of bearing or enduring. Cicero applies it to the endurance of hunger and cold. In analysing patience into its elements we must view it both upon the negative and the positive side.

1. Patience does not imply a want of sensibility to suffering, sorrow, or wrong. A North American Indian would think it unmanly or cowardly to betray a consciousness of pain, to utter a cry or shed a tear for any physical suffering. We may not seek for patience in an insensibility to suffering, whether natural or forced, nor in a sullen disregard of personal consequences in carrying out some proposed end or meeting an imagined fate.

2. And here we may note more particularly that patience does not argue indifference to the issue of the trials or labours which are upon us. The mind will forecast its own future, will have hopes, will have fears, will have a choice as to events affecting its own happiness; no logic or philosophy or schooling can destroy these essential qualities of the human soul; take away these, and man ceases to be a man. He who professes not to be troubled about events because he does not care what happens is not an example of the patient man. The true patient man does care what happens. The care-nothing spirit is not true Christian patience.

3. Neither is a do-nothing spirit to be identified with patience. There are times when patience counsels to inaction, when “the strength of Israel is to sit still.” But this patience of waiting is not the inaction of sluggishness nor of despondency. It is a watchful inaction, like-that of men sleeping upon their arms, with their camp-fires always lighted and the sentinels at their posts. The shipwrecked mariner in an open boat without oar or sail has nothing to do but wait for the appearance of relief. But if he has a compass and a paddle and knows himself to be within a hundred miles of land, then patience will be shown not in idle waiting or in praying for some chance relief, but in working on without murmuring and without despair, though the hand is weary and the head is faint, and neither sun nor star appears over the waste of waters.

Viewed, then, positively patience requires--

1. The consciousness of a right intent. This removes from within all disturbing causes which might irritate and unsettle the mind, and enables us to commit our way to the Lord in confidence. We shall grow patient under trials in proportion as we grow unselfish. And so too of labours; if we enter upon these with a pure intent, if we rise above all selfish feeling to the grandeur of working for mankind and for God, then shall we hold on by the attraction of the work itself, never ruffled by opposition nor disheartened by difficulty. Hence the exercise of a true Christian patience demands a conscience void of offence towards man and God.

2. The exercise of Christian patience demands implicit confidence in God and in our cause as approved by Him. Patience and faith go hand in hand. The main element in patience is Christian submission to the will of God. This rests upon confidence as its basis--confidence in the wisdom, the power, and the love of God.

3. Patience must have in it the element of hope. Patience is incompatible with despair. Patience under trial expects God’s appearing. Patience in labour awaits God’s help. The virtue of patience, by reason of its quiet and retiracy, commands but little notice and admiration from men. Men do not lay the stress of greatness upon the passive virtues.

The place and valve of patience in the Christian character.

1. This virtue of patience we need in all our labours for the cause of Christ and the good of men. In working against evil we are prone either to irritation or to despondency. Our weak natures are annoyed by the opposition we encounter in a good cause.

2. We need this patience under the afflictions and wrongs which we personally suffer--afflictions at the hand of God, persecution, calumny, wrong from our fellow-men. How sweet is patience under the hand of God! It is like sunlight and flowers in the chamber of sickness. But it is easier to bear great and prolonged afflictions which come directly and visibly from the hand of God than the petty vexations and wrongs which arise from untoward circumstances and evil men. Great occasions rally great principles and brace the mind to a lofty bearing, a bearing that is even above itself. But trials that make no occasion at all leave it to show the goodness and beauty it has in its own disposition.

3. We need patience with respect to the fulfilling of God’s plans of mercy for the world. God’s promises are like century plants. They grow silently, almost imperceptibly, through wind and storm, by day and night, and year by year. (Joseph P. Thompson.)



At first sight it appears strange to find “godliness” ranked among the special virtues of the Christian character, whereas it is a very much more general expression than any of these specific excellences which precede it in this list. Nor is it less singular to find it inserted in the midst of a catalogue of Christian graces, whereas we should rather expect it to stand as the all-inclusive foundation of them all. What do we mean by godliness? The fundamental idea is reverence toward God. That reverence expresses itself both inwardly and outwardly--inwardly by habitual communion with Him in spirit; outwardly by habitual service of Him in act. The word covers substantially the same ground as the Old Testament expression, “the fear of the Lord.” If, then, we take that for the meaning of the word, the singularity of its insertion in this catalogue may be found to be the means of teaching important truths.

The first lesson that I would gather is as to the root of real religion. We must never forget, in considering this series of Christian virtues, that faith is regarded ‘as the foundation of them all. It is the raw material, so to speak, out of which all these other graces and excellences are made. And this is especially the case with regard to the sense of reverence to God manifesting itself in habitual communion with Him and habitual service of Him which is meant by this word godliness. Some of us say that we believe in Jesus Christ and are living by faith. Does your faith lead you to this continual godliness? Are you brought by it into continual communion with Jesus Christ, and, through Him, with God? Do you constantly refer all your actions to Him?

We have here the other lesson that real religion is a thing to be cultivated by the strenuous exercise of Christian graces. No man becomes “godly” by mere desiring. The bridge between faith and godliness is made of manly strength, discrimination and discernment of duty, rigid self-control, patient perseverance. If you have these things your faith will effloresce into godliness; if you have not, it will not. You will want all these virtues and graces which precede godliness in my text. You will want manly strength--for a hundred reasons, because of the condition of things round about you, which is always full of temptations to draw you away, because of your own proclivities to evil. And you will want manly strength, because you can get no hold of an unseen God except by a definite effort of thought, which will require resolute will. Further, for godliness, we need to cultivate the habit of discrimination between good and evil, right and wrong, because the world is full of illusions, and we are very blind. And we need to cultivate the habit of self-control and rigid repression of passions, and lusts, and desires, and tastes, and inclinations before His calm and sovereign will, because the world is full of fire and our hearts and natures are tinder. And we need to cultivate the habit of patience in all its three senses of endurance in sorrow, of persistence in service, and of hope of the future, because the more a man cultivates that habit, the larger will be his stock of proofs of the loving-kindness and goodness of his God, and the easier and more blessed it will be for him to live in continual communion with Him. Exercise thyself into godliness, and do not fancy that the Christian life comes as a matter of course on the back of some one initial act of a long-forgotten faith in Jesus Christ.

Then another lesson to be gathered from this catalogue of graces is that true religion is the best preservative and strengthener of all these preceding excellences. Do not spend your time upon merely trying to cultivate special graces of the Christian character, however needful they may be for you, and however beautiful they may be in themselves. Seek to have that which sanctifies and strengthens them all. Faith is the foundation, godliness the apex and crown.

And the last thought is that this true religion or godliness unites in one harmonious whole the most dissimilar excellences of character. Notice that in this series all the excellences which precede my text are of the sterner, the more severe, and self-regarding kind, and that those which follow it are of the gentler sort and refer to others. If I might so say, it is as in some Alpine range, where the side that faces the north presents rugged cliffs and sparse vegetation, and close-knit strength to breast the tempest and to live amidst the snows, whilst the southern side has gentler slopes and a more fertile soil, a richer vegetation, and a sunnier sky. And in like manner the difficult problem of how tar I am to carry my own cultivation of Christian excellence apart from regard to others, and how far I am to let my obligations to help and succour others overcome the necessity for individual cultivation of Christian character, is best solved as Peter solves it here. Put godliness in the middle, let that be the centre, and from it will flow on the one side all needful self-discipline and tutoring, and on the other all wise and Christlike regard to the needs and sorrows of the men around us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


A religious man is he who practically makes his accountability to God the law of his life, who is bound to God with the sense of personal obligation for all that he receives, in all that he does. What, then, is that godliness which is capable of being nurtured as an addition to saving faith in Christ and to the several virtues before enumerated? Some understand the term in the old English sense of god-like-ness, a moral resemblance to God. But this does not express the objective sense conveyed in the original word. God ward-ness, if we might make such a term, would be nearer this than God-like-ness, a state of mind which is toward God as the sole object of its adoration and religious reverence, the central, supreme object of its trust and love, the final source of moral obligation and authority. One may have a certain faith in Christ who is yet wanting in a just and commanding reverence toward God. A mind that believes in Christ as historically revealed in the New Testament, accepts Him as a Divine Teacher, and even regards His death as in some way connected with the redemption of mankind, but which does not recognise a necessity for that death as an atonement between human guilt and Divine justice, is wanting in that godliness of which the apostle speaks. It has not attained to that reverence for God in the holiness of His Being and the purity of His law which makes the atonement at once a moral necessity for the soul itself and a legal necessity for the Divine government. A mind that looks to Christ as the author of a universal and indiscriminate salvation for the race, and admits no distinction in the results of probation between those who accept and those who reject the terms of that salvation, is surely wanting in this godliness. A just reverence for God as lawgiver and judge is wanting.

The essential characteristics of godliness.

1. That it is most inward in its seat and power. The Apostle Paul has in view this internal spiritual quality of true godliness when, writing to Timothy, he says, “Follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” Here godliness is distinguished from righteousness. Righteousness, as it stands in this catalogue of Christian qualities, denotes rectitude of action; godliness points to the inward spring of that action, and the ground of its righteousness, in a just sentiment of veneration toward God. True godliness has the soul for its seat and God for its object. “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”

2. This sentiment is equally compounded of love and fear. That veneration or reverence toward God which is true piety is grounded in a love of His holiness. There is a veneration whose chief element is awe; a reverence for dignity, station, greatness, power, which is cold and formal and distant. Such is the veneration which barbarian tribes manifest for the mysterious powers of Nature. But the veneration of the Christian mind for God is not a dim awe of invisible power, a dread of that Almighty force which heaped up the mountains, but is a reverence for that which is greater than physical force, however sublime and terrible, even the greatness of a good and just and holy character. The poet Shelley disowned a personal God; yet what one has aptly styled “the atheistic hunger of his soul” caused him to fill the universe with invisible powers to which he paid that credulous homage which atheism always pays to mystery. But with this love and adoration of the character of God should mingle always a salutary awe of His majesty. “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.”

What are the modes of its expression?

1. We should cherish this reverence for the being of God when we approach Him in prayer. Abraham and Moses, and Samuel and David, with all their importunity in supplication, were filled with reverence and godly fear when they drew nigh to God in prayer.

2. We should cherish reverence for the name of God.

3. True godliness implies a reverence for the law of God as the supreme and final rule of moral action. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”

4. We should cherish also a profound reverence for the will of God as manifested in His providence. “I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it.” The godly mind rises above all secondary causes in nature and all intermediate human agencies to perceive and acknowledge the hand of God in its afflictions.

Guard against its counterfeits.

1. We are cautioned not to confound gain with godliness. The Apostle Paul warns Timothy against “men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness.” At first view this seems a strange and almost incredible form of heresy. But call to mind the fact that under the Old Testament dispensation temporal prosperity was promised to godly living, and you will readily see hew the idea might arise, as it did, that outward prosperity was always a mark of inward piety. This substitution of gain for godliness is one of the most subtle and depraving devices of the enemy of souls. It is making a calf of gold under the very brow of Sinai, and setting aside the Holy One of Israel for an image of Mammon.

2. The other error is thus characterised by Paul. He speaks of men who are “lovers of their own selves; lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,” who yet have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Manifold are the forms under which such godliness appears. There is a poetic form of godliness, a sentiment which takes the air of reverence and breathes the name of the Divinity when singing of the grander forms of nature. The old Greek and Latin poetry peopled the invisible with gods, whose presence and agency it represented in all the mysteries of nature and in all leading events of human experience. The machinery of Homer’s great epic lies within the supernatural; the gods played their part in every Greek tragedy. Indeed, we know the religion of Greece and Rome mainly through their literature. But while true godliness is true veneration for God, not all veneration is godliness. It may lead the soul to God, or it may not lie deeper than the sentient and the imaginative. There is an artistic or aesthetic form of godliness. The Greek mind, which under the fairest clime and the most liberal government was stimulated to the highest culture in taste and art, expressed its devotion through artistic forms, especially in sculpture. But taste and art, however subsidiary to the expression of devotion, can never be of the essence of godliness. There is a dogmatic form of godliness, a creed-worship, a veneration for dogmas and authorities in religion. Wherever the creed is put before the life as evidence of piety, the profession of the lips before the confession of the heart, there the form of godliness is substituted for its power. There is a mechanical work-form of godliness. This puts all the religious energy of the soul into such outward visible acts as seem to be deeds of piety, but which may be only deeds of self-righteousness. The methodical and laborious Southey was once describing to a friend his minute allotment of time for his diversified labours in reading and writing--such an hour being given to French, the next to Spanish, the next to a Review, the next to classics, the next to history, etc. “But pray, Mr. Southey,” interrupted the friend, “at what time do you think?” Might it not be asked of some who abound in the drill-work of religion, “At what time do you pray?”

The motives for cultivating a true godliness.

1. That God is as He is. Could we but form a conception of God as revealed in the Scriptures, surely we must bow reverently and walk softly before Him.

2. The blessedness of godliness both here and in the hereafter.

3. The fact that we shall soon meet God face to face. (Joseph P. Thompson.)


The term εὐσέβεια, here translated godliness, is used in the New Testament to denote that reverence toward God which is a spontaneous feeling of the heart in view of His character (see in Robinson). Cornelius was “a devout man (εὐσεβής), and feared God.” The prevailing use of εὐσέβεια by classic writers gives to it this same objective sense. Plato, Thucydides, Desmosthenes, use it to express veneration toward the Deity (πρὸς Θεοὺς). See in Stephanus, Suidas, and Passow ed. Rost und Palm. In the “Definitions” sometimes ascribed to Plato, εὐσέβεια is defined to be Δικαιοσύνη περὶ Θεοὺς, that which is just, fitting, meet, as toward the gods. The Stoics defined it to be ἐπιστήμη Θεο͂ν θεραπείας--the appreciative or becoming service of the gods. Stephanus defines it by religiositas, thus expressing the same idea of reverence toward God. De Wette, in his note upon 2 Peter 1:6, says “Ehrfurcht und Liebe gegen Gott”--veneration and love toward God. This use of the word precludes the idea of God-like-ness, and favours the less euphonious, but more expressive term, God-ward-ness. It denotes also something deeper than a formal outward reverence for the demands of God, and refers directly to the reverence of the soul toward God. (Joseph P. Thompson.)

Of godliness

Wherein godliness consists. It takes in all those dispositions of mind with the proper expressions of them which are due to the high perfections of the Deity, and which result from the relations we bear to Him. As He is eternal, independent, infinitely excellent, powerful, wise, holy, and good, the light of nature itself teaches us to glorify Him by our praises, to esteem, love, and fear Him, and to obey His will in all things as far as it is known to us. As He is the almighty Creator of all things visible and invisible, the preserver and governor of the world, from hence arises the obligation to gratitude, confidence in His mercy, submission and resignation to His providence. The inward affections which naturally arise comprehended in godliness are, first, fear, a reverence for His majesty, a serious affecting sense of all His glorious attributes, not a confounding terror and amazement. Secondly, the fear of God, as the Scripture explains it, which is an essential part of godliness, and of the respect He claims from us, doth not exclude love. His goodness naturally excites love. Gratitude is a kind of love which naturally arises in the mind to any being who discovers kind intentions towards us. The exercise of love and respect seems especially to consist in an entire acquiescence in the order He has appointed, with confidence in His wisdom and goodness and submission to His will. When I speak of resignation to God, I do not only mean that we should be satisfied with the occurrences of life, but that we should approve and actively obey His precepts, submitting to His moral as well as providential government. This doctrine has been always taught in the true Church, and care taken to prevent men’s falling into that fatal error of placing the all of religion in acts of devotion, while they neglected that much more substantial proof of respect to the Deity, the imitating of His righteousness and mercy. Yet the external acts of adoration and homage to the Deity are not to be left undone, and the performing of them according to His institution is a part of godliness. Not that there is any value in the outward performance, as separated from the affection, but supposing first the sincerity of good principles and disposi tions in the soul, they ought to be exerted in external acts of worship for two reasons. First, because that has a tendency to increase them. The body and the mind in our present constitution have a mutual influence on each other. Secondly, another reason for outward acts of adoration and homage to God is that thereby we may glorify Him.

The reasonableness and necessity of adding godliness to all other virtues. First, if we consider godliness in itself abstractedly, it will appear to be a very eminent and important branch of our duty. Not only is it so represented in the Holy Scriptures, but if we attend to the reason and nature of the thing, we must be convinced that, as God is the most excellent of all beings with whom we have to do as our ruler and constant benefactor and our judge, our first respects are due to Him. It is the distinguishing privilege of mankind to be capable of religion. Secondly, it ought therefore to be added to all other virtues, because it is the chief support and security of them, and where it prevails has a great influence on men to practise them. The efficacy of godliness, strictly so called, to the production of all other virtues appears from the nature of it already explained, for it imports a disposition to obey all God’s commandments and to do everything which He approves. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)


It was a beautiful saying of one of the old Fathers when, addressing himself to God, he exclaims, “Thou hast formed man. Thy creature, for Thee, and he cannot be at rest until he have come again unto Thee.”

What is the godliness here commended? Looking to the sense of the term here employed in the Greek original, it is piety or the fear of God--that veneration of the Most High which leads to homage and obedience. Godliness has its three sides. It is communion with God, for the society of our Maker is enjoyed in true worship of Him. It is intellectual and spiritual assimilation to Him, in the cordial admission and love of His truth; and practical assimilation to Him, in the endeavour to reflect on the world the lustre of His graces and some broken, distant beams, at least, of His moral excellences. To make this possible--to raise the fallen and rebuild the down trodden and polluted shrine--God Himself has come amongst us.

There are foul semblances of godliness, mere idols, that delude many. Let us keep our selves from them.

1. It is a mistake to suppose that mere veneration for some higher existence, however imaginary and false our views of this existence--that such vague veneration is godliness; that God hears alike with delight those who call Him Jehovah and receive the Bible and those who call Him Juggernaut and who swear by the Hindoo Shaster. In this vague and unscriptural sense of the term the atheistic poet, Shelley, and the pantheistic philosopher, Spinoza, have been called men of piety, because of a spirit of tenderness and awe that was attributed to them. But atheism--the ungrateful and irrational dethronement and denial of any God--is that to be by any apothecary’s art of liberalism made to coalesce with the love and worship of the true God, as forming the same incense of accepted adoration? As to pantheism, it is opposed to piety or true godliness radically and throughout. True godliness begins in humility and penitence, and is sustained by prayer and adoration. But pantheism begins in pride.

2. It is a mistake, again, to look, as some seem now disposed to do, upon the austerities and ceremonies of the Church of Rome, as the fairest exhibition of godliness.

IN what mode, then, may we safely and successfully attain the godliness which the apostle here enjoins? Far, then, as it is a life, God must give it. Far as it is a truth, He in His Scriptures and by the Spirit of His Son must teach it; and far as it is a communion, it must be sought in the one way, Christ. Daily and earnest and effectual supplication is necessary. This must, again, seek God’s teachings in the study of His revealed truth. Here He has manifested Himself, His purposes, and character; and this, His book, He delights to honour and to transcribe afresh into the experience and hearts of His devout people.

Every inducement of interest and duty, of honour and safety, of benevolence to man and piety towards God, requires each of us to become the friend and child and follower of the living God.

1. Remember that it is the highest style of human nature. The scholar, the sage, the discoverer, and the hero, what are they, before God, to the saint?

2. Holiness is, again, the master-key of the universe. Born to die, you are fated to travel hence. But whither? Become God’s charge and child. Be a renewed man by God’s grace, and you are gifted, virtually, with the freedom of the universe.

3. Remember, again, that it is the one thing needful. Send bread to the famishing, give sympathy to the oppressed, give healing remedies to those who are sick and ready to die, give education to the ignorant. But before the school, or political emancipation, or health, or even bread, the tribes of Adam need true godliness.

4. The last consideration is that as godliness is the bond and crown of all the virtues, so it is, on the other hand, the one sufficient remedy for the subjugation and removal of all the vices. (W. R. Williams.)


Let us trace the wisdom and necessity of the exhortation, and the wisdom and necessity of that which is thus commanded. It was a wise suggestion to men of every age that they should possess and develop this habit of pious reverence. It gives us the hint that the contrary was likely to be the tendency. It is no easy thing, under all circumstances, to look calmly and trustfully up to the throne of the living God, and cheerfully commit all our life to His fashioning and to His keeping: it is no easy thing at all times to trace the gentleness of His grace in the ways of providence. We see the necessity of the exhortation, then, because this reverence of heart in all purity and faith is hard of accomplishment. Our lot seems to be cast in what, generally speaking, may be called a thinking and reading age. Men are learning to observe, and to glory in observing. There is God’s great universe, spreading about us on all sides, and He who created it, and created us, knew that as men learned to read, they would aspire to acquaintance with the truths which unfold themselves to careful observation. The only thing I have to say about it is, that it makes a life of reverence, of piety, of “godliness,” harder to us than it was to men who lived in the time nearer to human intellectual infancy. By the discovery of what are called natural laws, and the secondary causes of the effects we see around us, do we not apparently lengthen the distance between ourselves and God? To the savage, the thunder is the voice of the Great Spirit, the lightning is the flash of His angry eye. He stands face to face with his deity in these things. To the Israelite, God, Jehovah worked directly in sending the plagues upon the obstinate king and his people, who would not let them go; in bringing streams of water from the rock, in sending manna for their food, in overthrowing their enemies, in establishing their greatness. They did not see, or care to see, the second causes, the long chain, it may be, of means by which these effects were accomplished. They seemed to stand ever in the immediate presence of their God. Is it not true that the advancement of science and acquaintance with natural laws has removed you to a lengthened distance from Him, who works through all things by the word of His power; and that, as there is a wider interval for you to overpass, it is harder for you, than it was, say for Abraham, or Noah, to live a life of reverence and the fear of God? Thus much concerning the necessity for the exhortation. One word on the necessity of that which is thus commanded. Because the thing is harder there is the more credit in its accomplishment. If the man has a larger interval over which to look, the stronger must be his sight, if he is able to see clearly through all the intermediate second causes, the great first Mover in all things, working out His purpose. The more thickly the “clouds and darkness” roll around God, the truer man does he assert himself, who is able to trace His loving intention through the mystery. If we are ever to come to the full stature of manliness in Christ, we must possess in active exercise this disposition of “godliness.” (D. J. Hamer.)

Of the practice of godliness

1. The amiableness of a truly pious temper, and the importance of it in religion.

2. It will have a most happy influence to make us holy and righteous in our whole conversation in the world.

3. It will tend exceedingly to our own interest and happiness. The exercise of it will afford us the most sincere and high pleasure and satisfaction.

The proper methods of raising and cultivating a temper of rational piety and devotion.

1. Let us be at pains to acquire just notions of the Deity; for the opinions which we form of Him will have the greatest influence on our temper and behaviour towards Him.

2. Let us keep up a lively sense of the excellence and the goodness of God in our minds by serious attention to them, and frequent reflections upon them.

3. Let us consider God as always present with us, and the Witness and Inspector of our behaviour. The lively consideration of this cannot but make us exceedingly careful to treat Him with all possible respect and honour, and to do everything which we apprehend will be pleasing and acceptable to Him.

4. Let us attend carefully upon the positive institutions of religion, and the outward duties of devotion. These have been appointed on purpose to maintain in us a lively sense of God and His excellences, to recall to our minds the several considerations which have a tendency to improve and strengthen our good dispositions towards Him, to instruct us in the duty which we owe to Him, and to make us serve Him with the greater zeal and cheerfulness. And if we attend to them for these ends, we shall find them means every way fitted to answer them. (J. Orr, D. D.)

Brotherly kindness.--

Brotherly kindness

Observe how in the very name of this grace there lie lessons as to its foundation and as to its nature. The word is all but a coinage of Christianity, and the thing is entirely so. The gospel bridged over all the divisions, and brought bond and free, Jew and Gentile, man and woman, into a great unity, so deep, so real, that all antagonism vanished. “The mystery hid from ages” was revealed--that a common relation to a Divine Father made all the men who partook of it one. But let us think of what instruction this word contains in reference to the foundation of this Christian unity. We go deep down into the very heart of Christianity when we talk about all Christians being “brethren.” It is not a mere sentimental expression to convey the idea that they ought to love one another, but it is a declaration of the deep reason why they ought thus to love one another; and it links on to that great truth, that in Jesus Christ all they that love Him and trust to Him do receive direct from God a real communication of a new and supernatural spiritual life, which makes them no more merely sons of God by creation and after the flesh, but sons of God through the Spirit. The lonely pilgrim travels to the Cross, and when he comes there he finds that he is “come unto the general assembly and church of the firstborn which are written in heaven.” This unity is a far deeper thing than mere identity of opinion. Christ’s Church is no voluntary association into which men may pass or not, as they please, but you are born into it, if you are Christian people, as much as you are born into your mother’s house. And you can no more denude yourselves of your relationships to the other men who possess the same life, than you can break the tie of brotherhood which hinds you to all them that have received corporeal life from the same source as you.

Observe that the place which this virtue holds in the series teaches us the one-sidedness of a character without it, however strong and self-controlled. Unless the rock be crowned with a coronet of wild flowers it is savage and black. And unless to our strength that fronts the world, to our quick discernment of duty that looks through illusions and clearly sees duty, to our self-control, that is severe to ourselves, and to ourselves alone; to our patient persistence that bears and does and hopes on and ever, we add the supreme beauty of sympathetic gentleness and Christlike tenderness, all these other lovelinesses will lack their last touch of poignant exquisiteness that makes them complete. On the other hand, it is a very real danger in earnest Christian culture, that we shall concentrate our attention far too much on the self-regarding virtues, and too little upon those which refer to others. The place which this brotherly kindness occupies in our series, may further teach us that it is a great mistake for good men to cultivate the gentler graces at the expense of the sterner and the stronger. Christian love is no mere feeble emotion, but a strong and mailed warrior, who beareth all things, and can do all things.

The occurrence of this grace in our series teaches us the lesson that it is a duty to be won by effort. It is just as much your duty to cherish brotherly love to all professing Christian people as it is to govern your own passions, or to do any of these other things that are enjoined upon us here. The introductory clause of this whole series covers them all. “Giving all diligence, add to your faith.” The hindrances are strong and real enough to make effort to overcome them absolutely essential. There is our own selfishness. That is the master-devil of the whole gang that come between us and true Christian charity to our brethren. And then, besides that, there is in our day a wide distinction among Christian people, in station, in education, in general outlook upon life, in opinion. In addition there is that most formidable hindrance of all, our wretched denominational rivalries.

The place which this grace holds in our series teaches us the best way of making it our own. “In your godliness supply brotherly love.” The more we realise our dependence upon God the more we shall realise our kindred with our brethren. The electric spark of love to Christ will combine the else separate elements into one. Cleaving to the one Shepherd, the else scattered sheep become one flock, held together, not by the outward bonds of a fold, but by the attraction that fastens them all to Him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Brotherly kindness

The connection. The apostle joins brotherly kindness to godliness.

1. Because brotherly kindness is the daughter of godliness. The river of charity springs from the fountain of piety.

2. Because brotherly kindness is the moderator of godliness. God loves not such mad zeal, that so fixeth the eyes on heaven that it despiseth to look on their poor brother on earth.

3. Because godliness is proved by brotherly kindness (1 John 2:9).

The definition. It is a love to the faithful; to such as possess the same faith with us, and by that faith are adopted heirs to the same God, through the brotherhood of the same Christ. It is distinguished from charity by nearness and dearness. By nearness, I mean not local but mystical. Charity hath a great latitude, and is like the heaven that covers all; brotherly kindness like the sun that shines upon the one half at once. The firmament sends influence to more than the sun, but the sun comes nearer to that object it blesseth than the firmament. By dearness; for the bond of nature is not so strong as the bond of grace. Our creation hath made us friends; our redemption, brethren.

The distinction. There are three sorts of brethren.

1. By race; and that either by birth, or by blood.

2. By place, such as are of the same nation.

3. By grace.

The conclusions.

1. The necessity is great.

(1) It is worthy in itself; that virtue which is ranked with godliness must needs be honourable.

(2) We are apt to neglect it; therefore St. Peter urges it several times (1 Peter 1:22; 1Pe 2:17; 1 Peter 3:8, and here); St. Paul thrice (Rom 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1).

2. The practice.

(1) What it forbids as opposites to it, and murderers of it.

(a) Contentious litigation (1 Corinthians 6:6-7; Proverbs 6:19; Genesis 13:8).

(b) An inveterate hatred. God loves all His children; wilt thou hate him that God loves? (1 John 2:11; 1 John 3:15).

(c) Even anger itself is a traitor to this virtue; for as hatred is a long anger, so anger is a short hatred; malice is nothing else but inveterate wrath (Matthew 5:22).

(d) Oppression (1 Thessalonians 4:6).

(e) A proud contempt of one’s brethren (Psalms 50:20).

(2) Positively.

(a) This brotherly kindness is shown in reprehending those we love (Leviticus 19:17).

(b) Helping their poor estates.

(c) Praying for them. (Thos. Adams.)

Brotherly kindness

This same apostle has, in his earlier epistle, enjoined ii upon the disciples of Christ to “love the brotherhood.” And whom has the Saviour taught us to regard as being thus our kindred and our brethren? We turn to the Gospels for the needful light in interpreting the Epistles.

1. When our Lord was celebrating with His apostles, the last religious ordinance of His life on earth, He said to them, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). This law was new in its authorship. The Decalogue on Sinai had been given through Moses. The Son Himself was now come to speak, face to face, that law of Love which crowned and solved all the earlier commandments. It was, again, novel in its motives. To intimate His equal Deity, the Son here makes love to Himself, the motive of holy obedience. As it was new, too, in its evidence. It would become, before the world, the badge and public pledge of Christian discipleship.

2. But whilst I am required to cherish a brother’s warm regard for these, are none but these my brethren? We answer to this question: Spiritual ties, whilst overriding, do not annul all natural bonds. And who are our brethren, by these earlier and human ties? We suppose all who are near to us--those attached and grappled to us by the domestic charities; those, again, with whom we are united of our free choice by the bonds of friendship; and those, lastly, who are our countrymen, one with us by the law of patriotism.

How, then, is it that godliness needs the addition of brotherly kindness?

1. Far as the range of worldly brotherhood extends, in our relations to the home, to the circles of friendship, and to our countrymen generally, godliness should be guarded by this grace of human sympathy, to counteract an unjust, but common imputation against true piety. The monk, fleeing to the wilderness; the spiritualist, overlooking his engagements to society and the household, in the care of the closet and his soul, are answerable for an error here. Their godliness lacks brotherly kindness. So, too, the hostility of the worldly to true piety, venting itself of old by statutes and penalties; venting itself in our times, rather in derision and cruel mockery, may easily provoke in the minds of the truly godly an alienation that would, unchecked, issue in utter isolation. But this is rather natural than justifiable. It is not so much the strength of the Christian’s godliness, as the human weakness intermingled with, and diluting that piety, which thus teaches him to withdraw, because he has cause of complaint.

2. But not only may the bonds of worldly and human brotherhood, thus, with or without the Christian’s fault, be seemingly sundered by his godliness; a man’s piety may seem to hinder his recognition at times of the ties of spiritual brotherhood also. If it be asked, how this can be, let it be remembered in reply, that a man of eminent devoutness may easily become absorbed and abstracted in manner.

3. But a more disastrous barrier to this brotherly kindness is the existence and range of controversy among Christians.

We now reach that division of our subject in which we consider now the Christian grace of brotherly kindness is to fill up the sphere of worldly brotherhood, embracing as that does, friendship, kindred, and country.

1. As to the power of religion to adorn and cement friendship, the history of the Church speaks emphatically.

2. As to the effects of religion on those who are our brethren because our countrymen, the topic of Christianity in its relations to the nation is too vast and complicated to be at this time discussed. It is evidently a duty of Christian patriotism, to urge thoroughly the work of Home Missions, and to send the Bible and Sabbath-school and ministry on the very crest of the westward waves of emigration.

The manner in which the Christian grace, which the apostle here enjoins, should be displayed in the distinct sphere of spiritual brotherhood.

1. Within the same church, then, the disciples of our Saviour need to be more and more given to mutual intercession.

2. Christians in this day need, again to ponder the warnings of James as to social and terrestrial distinctions, unduly dwelt upon in the intercourse of fellow-disciples. Fraternity among Christians, again, requires that we do not abandon merely to the care of the State, the poor and dependent of our fellow-disciples. (W. R. Williams.)

Brotherly kindness

Now, one of the first impulses of the heart when men are thrown together is to lay hold at once of points of contact, to recognise identity of interests, community of feeling, to get rid, as far as possible, of those things which are exterior and accidental, or else to pierce through these and find how, in all essential and unalterable things, the human heart is at one with its kind. I know that society, and commercial society not least, manifests contending interests, that the motto seems to be--“Every man for himself, and (sometimes not very reverentially added, by the way) God for us all”; that it appears almost necessary that a man should harden his heart against consideration for his brother man; that he is afloat upon an angry sea; that the struggles of others often dash the water in his face, and threaten his own existence, and that even if he abstain from retaliation, he scarcely dare reach out a hand to help a brother for fear of being dragged down. I know these things from present observation; but still it is true that all such circumstances are an after-growth, and that under the earliest, simplest conditions of human society, “brotherly kindness “is an instinct, an irresistible impulse. You may see it, if you like, springing forth again, with all its early strength and freshness, on occasions such as when men, few in number, and with all differences of position destroyed, have to form among themselves society anew; in any case of shipwreck, say, when some are cast upon uninhabited land. The brotherly instinct is at work again at once, and only expires when simplicity is corrupted, and artificialism blots it out. Now, is it not the wish of the best moments of every man, that this feeling could be maintained, that all contending interests should sign a truce of brotherhood? And I suppose the best of men, as they find the hopes which their fancy had kindled die away in the light of fact, say, “The thing is impossible: while I have to deal with such men as so-and-so, I can afford little room for the exercise, in this relation, of such a virtue as ‘brotherly kindness.’ We must be living under a different condition of things from the present, all society must be made afresh before this can be.” Exactly so, and that is the root of the whole matter. Men must be renewed, redeemed, and then “brotherly kindness” may have its full and perfect exercise. Is not this announced as the mission of gospel truth in this world? It reveals our own nature to us; it shows us in what points we are akin one to another. And now another question meets us; the answer to which will engage our attention. Peter is writing to Christians, “to those,” he says, “who have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Why does he think it needful to insist upon the exercise of this virtue, “brotherly kindness”? Is not this the message that we “have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another?” What need, then, for special exhortation as to the mingling of this with the other elements of Christian character? If we think for a moment, the answer to such question will readily occur. Christianity, the religion of faith and love, is the law of the heavenly life, but it is sent to us here, and now, for the ordering of this earthly life. I shall now point out what seem to me the grounds on which the seclusive, meditative, form of piety might be judged likely to manifest itself unduly, and then remind you of one or two facts which show that such judgment is well founded. Gospel truth teaches us this one thing of all most clearly--the individual relation between each human heart and God--personal, not representative, nor corporate religion--the impossibility of vicarious love, of deputy service. Personal susceptibility, personal action are necessary if the soul is to make any way toward heaven. This revelation gives him not only new light concerning his own nature, it gives him new ideas of God. This Infinite Being is revealed as standing in near relation to our spirit, as having made sacrifice for our soul’s redemption, so that our life is lifted out of all its appearance of littleness, sublimed by the ordering of His perfect will, sanctified by the might of His Holy Spirit. May not a man, when thoughts like these possess him, when his godliness takes its truest, intensest form, well be wishful to stand in some “quiet place” apart from interruptive society, where he may fathom, in some measure, the vastness of what has been revealed. But there is more; this Divine relation is to be an abiding one: death is no destroyer of it, but rather a caster down of what has been a hindrance to the closer union. These highest delights are, in one sense, solitary ones, we can communicate no idea of them in words, and we are tempted to leave that society in which none can fully know us and have sympathy in our joy, and wait in communion with Him who sees all and knows all, and accepts the silent homage of our hearts. Now, such tendency as this towards seclusion has manifested itself in time past, and it is seen to this day. We know it in the experience of those who are called Mystics, men of the German school like Tauler, men of the French school like Gerson. We see it in the seclusion of hermits, and monks, and nuns. But has the idea no force with us? We are social, but is it Christian or worldly sociality that we practise? Do we not seclude our religious life too much within ourselves? (D. J. Hamer.)

Brotherly kindness

The characteristics of brotherly love.

1. This love is based upon the evidence of a Christly character, and is prompted by love to Christ Himself. It is not the doctrine of a universal fraternity which the text inculcates, but brotherly love between the members of the body of Christ. This brotherly love rests primarily upon a character recognised and approved as the basis of fellowship; it is the love of a friend of Christ for another in whom also he discerns a friendship for, and a likeness to Christ. The profession of love to Christ is not enough to command this brotherly love. We do not then bestow this brotherly affection indiscriminately upon all who call themselves by the name of Christ. We must have evidence that they are His disciples. But, on the other hand, we may not withhold this love from any who show truly the spirit of Christ. The love of Christ will prompt to this. That love is the most potent of moral affinities. Not more surely does the magnet search out and draw to itself particles of steel in a heap of sand, than does the love of Christ in the heart draw to itself, by its sweet and potent magnetism, whatever has a real affinity for Christ. It is not an external and formal fellowship, not the spirit of sect or party, not alliance in a particular Church, which generates and feeds this love; but an inward affection for Christ Himself, which causes us to delight in whatever is like Christ or is pleasing to Christ. Our very love for Christ forbids that we should love as brethren those who do not, above all errors and faults, clearly evince their love for Him.

2. This brotherly love does not require in Christians an entire agreement in opinion or coincidence in practice.

3. This brotherly love does not forbid Christians to controvert the opinions or reprove the faults one of another.

4. True brotherly love does not require the same marks of outward consideration toward all Christians. This love is neither a vague sentimentalism nor a levelling radicalism.

The grounds or reasons of this mutual affection of the followers of Christ. We have seen that this brotherhood of believers is founded originally in their common relations to Christ. Descending now from this general survey, we may note more particularly--

1. That brotherly love is the only real bond of union in a Church of Christ. What is a Church? A body of professed believers in Christ, associated under a covenant for mutual watchfulness and help in the Christian life, and for maintaining the ordinances of the gospel. Its basis is a covenant. A covenant differs herein from a constitution. A constitution is a system of rules and principles for the government of persons united under it. But a covenant, as the term is used in Church affairs, is “a solemn agreement between the members of a Church, that they will walk together according to the precepts of the gospel, in brotherly affection.” Now it is obvious that this covenant cannot Stand one moment without love. Love is its essence; its vital element. In the normal structure of out churches, we have nothing to hold us together but the simple bond of love.

2. Brotherly love is the truest evidence of a regenerated and sanctified heart. The heart of man is by nature selfish and proud. It careth for its own things and not for the things of others. The gospel makes the soul and its interests paramount $o all temporal distinctions; it puts the spiritual infinitely above the physical; it honours character above all rank, and station, and wealth, and power; it honours all men as the offspring of God; and it looks upon the renewed man in Christ as the image of Christ, to be received and loved for His sake. “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.”

3. This law of Christian brotherhood declared by our Lord, not only secures to each and every disciple the same rights and privileges in His kingdom; it forbids any relation between Christians which is inconsistent with their absolute equality before Him, and their fraternal love for each other.

4. The fraternal love of Christians gives to the world the highest and most convincing proof of the reality and the power of Christian faith, and is the necessary condition for the advancement of Christianity in the world. For the spread of Christianity, therefore, it is not enough that we found schools and colleges, build churches, establish missions, multiply tracts and Bibles; all this apparatus is needed for the work; but they who would reform and save the world, must above all things have fervent charity among themselves.

How shall this love be developed and cherished?

1. Wherever this is possible, Christians must cultivate a familiar acquaintance with each other. How often a Church is rather an aggregation of independent units than the coalescing of congenial fervent hearts!

2. We must cherish brotherly love by dwelling in our thoughts and speech upon the excellences of brethren rather than upon their infirmities and defects. (Joseph P. Thompson.)



We have now reached the last bead on this rosary of Christian graces. As the apostle uses it here, this love is the crown and consummate flower of all Christian excellence; the last result of discipline and self-culture, the very image of God.

“charity” is the sum of all duty to all men. We hear it urged--and there is a truth in the saying--“we want less charity and more justice.” Yes! but we want most the charity which is justice; the love which every man has a right to expect from us. You do not do your duty to anybody, however you may lavish gifts upon them, unless this Christ-like sentiment dwells in your hearts. The obligation has nothing whatever to do with the character of the object on which that ray is to fall. The sun is as much bound to shine upon a dunghill as upon a diamond. Our obligation to love our fellows has a far deeper source than the accidents of their character. Now let me remind you that all this is an intensely practical exhortation. People curl their lips at the fine words that Christian teachers talk about universal love, and say, “Ah! a pretty sentiment. It does not mean anything.” Well! let a man try for a week to live it, and the want of practicalness in the exhortation will be the last thing that he will complain of. Fine emotion is all very well, but even Niagara is going to be turned to practical use now-a-days, and made to work for its living. And all the rush of the deepest and purest emotion is nought unless it drives the wheels of life.

Notice how this same grace or virtue is represented as being attainable only as the outcome of godliness. There is only one thing that can conquer the selfishness which is the great enemy of this universal charity, and that is that the love of God poured into a man’s heart shall on its bright waves float out the self-regard which is central and deep almost as life itself.

This grace is the last result of all Christian culture and virtue. The man that is simply righteous, strong, self-controlling, patient, has not yet touched the highest apex of possible development. All these cold and stern graces need to be lit up, like the snow of the glacier, with the gleam of this sweet, solemn light, in order that they may glitter with their serenest whiteness. Add to virtue, love; to knowledge, gentleness; to all the graces which regard our own self-development, the supreme consecration of the excellence that forgets itself, and stretches out loving hands, laden with tender sympathies and large gifts towards the weary, even if it be the hostile world. Further, this Divine charity, not only completes these sterner graces, but it needs them for its development and its perfecting. Our love to our fellows will never be noble, deep, Christlike, unless it be the child of severity to ourselves. And still further let me remind you that this wide, expansive, all-comprehending charity is the child of an intensely personal faith. It is when the love of Christ to me dawns on my heart that I am brought to the broad charity that grasps all the men whom Christ has grasped, and can-not but love in its poor measure, them whom He so much loved that He died for them. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Of brotherly kindness and charity

The principle itself is easily understood, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The proper expressions of this inward good affection in the mind are as various as the necessities of mankind, and the abilities and opportunities of others to relieve them. To instruct the ignorant, to reclaim the disobedient, to convert sinners, to strengthen the weak, comfort the feeble-minded, to encourage the sincere; these are the noblest offices we can possibly perform to our brethren, because they serve the highest ends, and produce the best and most lasting effects. But, besides these offices of charity, there are others enjoined by the natural law of benevolence, and which the gospel, so far from overlooking, peculiarly enforces. The wise and sovereign providence of God has so ordered that there is a diversity in the state of men; some are indigent, others in a capacity of relieving. In all these, and other cases of a like nature, reason and a compassionate heart will readily suggest to a man how he ought to show his charity.

The obligations we are under to the practice of this excellent duty.

1. And the first thing I shall mention is taken from the consideration of ourselves. Let any one look into the workings of his own heart when a pitiable object is presented to him, and try whether he does not feel something within which calls him to stretch forth his hand for the relief of the distressed? if it is not with violence to himself that he can harden his heart, and hide himself from human misery? The greater ability, therefore, which Divine providence gives any man of diffusing the effects of his virtue far and wide by relieving multitudes of his fellow-creatures, the larger occasion he has of enjoying the purest pleasure, even like that of God Himself, whose happiness is in communicating good, for the absolute perfection of His nature raises Him above the possibility of receiving any.

2. Another obligation to the practice of brotherly kindness and charity arises from the object of it, our brethren and neighbours, their condition, and the relation we stand in to them. Do we acknowledge God the Author of our being? He is equally the Author of theirs, which should inspire us with tender compassion towards each other. But the Christian religion has super-added special obligations to those general ones which the common ties of humanity lay upon us, by establishing a new and intimate relation among the disciples of Christ.

3. In the third place, we are, with respect to God, under great and indispensable obligations to the exercise of brotherly kindness and charity. This is clearly insinuated in the text, for the apostle exhorts us to add charity to godliness. The principles of the fear and love of God will naturally determine us to exercise good-will and beneficence to our brethren. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)


We are now got to the roof of this spiritual house, charity. This is the highest round of the ladder: there be eight steps, this is the uppermost, as nearest to heaven.

The motives to charity.

1. The necessity of it--

(1) In respect of God. He charges us with it, both in the law and in the gospel (Leviticus 19:18; John 13:34).

(2) In respect of thyself. Things of greatest use should be of greatest estimation. Thou wouldst know if thou breathest, Christian; the sign of it is thy charity. This is the pulse of faith (James 2:18).

2. The dignity of it. It is a royal office; yea, a Divine practice. Mercy and charity is the sole work communicable to man with God. The Lord is content to acknowledge Himself the charitable man’s debtor (Proverbs 19:17).

3. The commodity of it. It secureth all, increaseth all, blesseth all.

4. The danger of neglecting it (Matthew 25:41-43; Proverbs 21:13; James 2:13).

The materials wherein this external and practical part of charity consists.

1. Who must give charitably (1 Timothy 6:17; Luke 12:21; 1Ti 6:18; 2 Corinthians 8:12; Ephesians 4:28; Luke 3:11).

2. What must be given: not words, but deeds; a charitable heart hath a helpful hand.

3. To whom extends our charity: this munificent part of it to the poor (Luke 14:13-14; Luke 6:33).

4. Whereof must we give: not evil-gotten things, but our own. When the oppressor hath built his almshouse, and hopes by his perfunctory devotions to be admitted to heaven, the curses of the undone wretches knock him down to hell.

5. How we must give--

(1) Cheerfully.

(2) Discreetly.

(3) With a right intention; for God’s glory, not thine.

(4) Opportunely. The more delay in giving, the less honour in the gift.

(5) Before giving thy goods to the poor, give thyself to God. (Thos. Adams.)


The place charity occupies. It is brought forward last in our text, not as being in itself independent of, and in order of time, subsequent to those which the apostle has before recounted; but it is exalted, because of its power to keep in unison all the other graces, as the knot completes and holds together the garland. The regenerate soul loves God in the first pulsations of his new-found spiritual life; and gratitude to the Redeemer who has bought him, prompts, early and continually, all his acts of obedience to God, and all his acts of kindly service to his fellow-man. But how is it related to, and distinguished from brotherly kindness? Whilst the latter regards mainly the principle of fraternal obligation to human nature, the former finds its chiefest scope and its highest object, in the filial ties binding man to his Father and God. The love of God subordinates and regulates all the outgoings of attachment in the renewed heart.

We must now discuss the true nature of Christian charity, as distinguished from the semblances that usurp wrongfully its titles and honours. It is not, then, as the popular usage of the word would often make it--bare almsgiving. Neither is this grace a mere magnanimous disregard of all doctrinal variances, and a baseless assurance that all forms of faith are, if sincere, equally acceptable to God. No: the charity of the Scriptures loves the true God; and as He is the God of Truth, it loves, ardently and without compromise, His truth, unmitigated and unadulterated. Nor is evangelical charity connivance with sin. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him, but in any wise rebuke it,” said the law. “Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth,” is Paul’s language in his matchless portraiture of this grace. And, as in the nature of God, love to truth and holiness, is an attribute, having as its opposite pole, hatred to falsehood and unholiness; so, in each other true servant of God, the love of piety is necessarily detestation of impiety, and hatred for the workers of iniquity--not indeed detesta tion of their persons and souls, but of their practices, and principles, and influences. For the charity of the Scriptures is, first, love to God, the Creator and Source of all goodness--to the good amongst men, as bearing His regenerate image--and to the evil of our race it is a charity, that seeks to reclaim and restore.

And now let us dwell upon some of the fruits which Christian charity might and should display in the field of human society. Its root is, then, in another world. It is, first, filial towards God; and then fraternal towards man as the creature of God. (W. R. Williams.)


Christianity inculcates charity, universal love. This religion of Jesus implies a love that is unrestricted in its exercise, but the implication lies a little farther from the surface than that which teaches social feeling among Christians themselves. You cannot conceive of a man who loves Christ not having the impulse to exercise kindness of feeling towards those who hold the Same “precious faith and promises” with himself. Fellowship, more or less close, is implied in the very nature of the case. But you can conceive of a man who has strong feelings of brotherly kindness, and, in one sense, because such feelings are strong within him, not expanding his love to include those who are not one with him in matters of faith. Conceive of such a thing, did I say? The possibility has become a fact over and over again. Think of the market-place at Smithfield, where Protestants and Romanists were burnt as each adverse party came into power; and why all this? Was it not because men had “brotherly kindness “of so strange and strong a kind, that they had no “charity” at all? We see it in all regions of thought. In politics men are banded into cliques and parties, and because of the very strength of the bonds that hold them together, they find it hard to exercise charity towards opponents. Even in the cold region of philosophy, where there is so much that is abstract, so much that seems unfruitful and uneventful, any acquaintance with the history of the rise and growth of rival schools will remind us that fierce persecution-spirit has not been wanting. As we see this lack of charity manifesting itself in every branch of thought, we need not be surprised that, and in this matter of religion, we find sectarianism rampant, and charity lacking. I have said that the inference from the genius of Christianity is universal love, but that it is not so obtrusive, not so readily reached, as the duty of “brotherly kindness.” It shows itself clearly, though, after a little thought. It springs from the fact that Christianity is a religion for the whole earth, and that it teaches us how to strike away all that is accidental in the condition and surroundings of men, and to find under these outward differences of nation and caste, of position and intellect, the heart that throbs with the same passionate impulse as our own. The gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims its mission to be to unite once more all the children of men into one Divine family. Now the fact that charity and love for all men, irrespective of class, or creed, or circumstance, love for them because they are men, created and redeemed by the one God and Father of us all, is so rarely and so imperfectly exercised, presents itself as something for which we should be able to account. Not to excuse it, but to find out the reason of it. Persecution, in its most virulent, in its fiercest form, has well-nigh disappeared now-a-days. But are there not three kinds of relation in which we may stand to men: one of active opposition, one of neglect and apathy, one of active sympathy and hearty co-operation? We may in some measure have shifted from the first to the second in our dealing with those who do not agree with our system of thought, and belief, and action, but that we have not advanced to the third is an unquestionable fact. I do not plead for sympathy with error and sin, but this I say--that we shall be striving after imitation of God Himself if we still love the sinner and the wanderer, not because of, but in spite of their being such, and try to reclaim them from that which has a tendency to interrupt our charity in its full, free, Divine flow. A man with any spark of enthusiasm about him, a man of strong conviction, having settled views of truth, is, by the very force of his own nature, made impatient of dissidence and contradiction. He thinks that all men ought to see with his eyes, and to speak with his tongue. It seems then to follow from this, that the more that intelligent holding of Christian truth obtains among men, the more difficult will the exercise of this grace of charity become! The exercise of charity, universal love, demands an effort; so does everything that is worth having; and this is perhaps the highest form of religious feeling to which we can aspire. Retaining our own moral convictions, not sacrificing our individualism of nature, to look abroad upon others, who, conscientiously as ourselves, have laboured their way towards the attainment of the truth, and, as the result, see it in a different light, and speak of it in a different language--to look abroad upon all these, and love them. Heaven’s light shines down upon the world, and some things cast up the red ray, others the green, others the blue, or yellow. Let them not become bitter one against the other, because individuality so asserts itself. It is the same holy light, it touches them, they live in it. Let them rejoice and love one another. (D. J. Hamer.)


Its essential elements and conditions.

1. As an essential element of this love there must be the full recognition of a common humanity in all men, whatever their country, their colour, their language, their birth, or their condition.

2. But the doctrine goes farther, and recognises in all mankind not only the brotherhood of a common physical descent and of like physical characteristics, but a higher relationship as the common offspring of God.

3. And hence again, this love for man which the gospel enjoins, must flow primarily from love to God.

4. The Scriptures always trace this love to a renovated heart.

Its practical sphere and effects.

1. We may trace the practical working of this spirit, in charity for the opinions of others in matters of religion.

2. Another application of this law of love is to the faults of others.

3. This spirit of love should be viewed in its application to the necessities of our fellowmen.

4. This spirit of love will prompt also to all wise and beneficent measures of philanthropy and reform.

Hindrances to its expression.

1. These hindrances lie in the want of consideration. A candid allowance for the circumstances of others would almost always mitigate that severity of judgment which fastens upon the outward act, or makes one an offender for a word.

2. In the want of intercourse. If travel enlarges the mind, it expands the heart also to a kindlier judgment of men, and sympathy toward them.

3. In some lurking selfishness, which invents excuses for not loving others.

The methods of developing this affection.

1. By rightly estimating its power. Power does not lie in noisy demonstration or in visible force. The power that again melts down these barriers and unlocks the frozen earth, can you hear that, though it makes the trees clap their hands and wakes all the birds to song? And can you hear love; or weigh it, or measure it? But in that little word lies a power greater than philosophy, diplomacy, or arms, to rule and mould the world.

2. By the constant and studious practice of love.

3. By elevated communion with God. “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” And so we are urged to cultivate this love.

4. By its own dignity and blessedness. The Scriptures place love before all things, in the enumeration of Christian graces. “Charity never faileth.” (Joseph P. Thompson.)


The glory of love. We might conclude its surpassing glory from its position in the exhortation. By a sort of spiritual rhetoric it is the word of the climax. It is love which, like the sunlight, giving the landscape its sublimest glories, transfiguring it with something like the lustre of “the golden city,” gives to all the landscape of character if.s beauty. It is love which, like the Shekinah that glorified the temple, alone glorifies the structure of a character built on faith, and consisting of virtue, temperance, etc., is an empty shrine till it glows there. It is love that crowns manhood.

The power of love. It is--

1. The spring of a true character. Supplying the constant and sufficient motive to lead men to live the right life. It is--

2. The sign of a true character. As in their search for nightingales, controversial naturalists discover them by their song, so in their search for Christians, men discover them by their deeds and life of love. It is--

3. The sceptre of a true character. We conquer by love.

The duty to love.

The way to love. How can this glory be attained, this power exercised, this duty discharged?

1. Cherish lovingness. Banish pride, malignity, envy, uncharitableness.

2. Exercise love.

3. Have fellowship with Christ. (U. R. Thomas.)

Verses 8-9

2 Peter 1:8-9

Ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful.

Fruits of the knowledge of Christ

Among the most beautiful emblems of the Christian life in Scripture are those employed to shadow forth its fruitfulness. The choicest and noblest trees, the majesty and gracefulness of whose form delight our eye, or whose fruits regale our taste, are the Divinely chosen types of saved and sanctified men.

The supreme importance of Christian fruitfulness. It was not that your leaves might idly wave in the sun, be fanned with the pleasant breath and sprinkled with the refreshing dews of heaven, that you were taken from the wild forest of nature and planted in the garden of God; but that you might reward the husbandman’s care with abundance of the fruits of righteousness. And, if this result is not realised, you may read His deep sorrow and anger in the words pronounced over Israel (Isaiah 5:6). Fearful is the doom of barrenness (Hebrews 6:7-9).

Fruitfulness--in what it consists. It is in a man’s works and words and influence that, according to the view of the apostle, we are to find the fruits of the Christian life. Do not tell us of feelings and experiences, of qualities and graces, of which you say you are conscious; unless these inward impulses and affections make your life fertile in holy and loving purposes and performances. It is by what a man does that it becomes known what he is. The fruit proceeds from the tree, but is distinct from it. It is elaborated by the tree from the juices that circulate through root and stem and branch. The air, and light, and moisture, and nutritious elements of the soil contribute the materials; but the tree, out of these, by the power of its wondrous life, forms a product altogether new. And so, like the bounteous fruit-tree, every man who rightly fills his place in God’s vineyard is not a consumer only but a producer. The world is the better for him. What has been taken into his own soul from above and from around--the doctrine of God’s Word--the influences of God’s Spirit--the lessons of nature and Providence--mingles with his being, and is changed and elaborated into holy thoughts, which may refresh thousands of hearts--into precious words of truth and power to become the germs of life in others, and into deeds of holiness and love.

The degree in which fruitfulness is attainable. “Barren and unfruitful”--are not two terms to express the same idea. A fallow field, which yields nothing for the reaper’s sickle, is “barren” in the sense here meant. A field which rewards the husbandman’s toil with only a scanty crop would be appropriately designated “unfruitful.” He is far from exhibiting the perfection of the Divine life, who, like the bleak patch beside the lonely cottage on the side of some stony bill, produces but a poor and precarious harvest, although he has made a great and happy transition from the desert barrenness of an unregenerate state. Maturity in grace, with its rich and mellow clusters, is a spectacle as lovely as it is rare. Where it does exist, it is often hidden from the view in many a humble home, in many a sequestered path. It is by our bearing “much “fruit, our Saviour tells us, that His Father is glorified in us. It is His continual aim that the fruitful branch may become more fruitful still.

The productive energies of the life of faith. To be fruitful, all the functions of a tree must be in a healthy, vigorous state, its roots drawing nutriment from beneath, its leaves drinking in the dew and sunshine, the sap stirring through trunk and branch and leaf. If all its activities are in full and healthy play, its energies will not be wasted in excessive growths of foliage and useless sprays, but it will in its season bring forth fruit. What qualities must our souls possess in order to secure fruitfulness? They are virtue, knowledge, self-restraint, patience, godliness, brotherliness, charity. They impart to the soul a stamina and vigour, which not only preserve its life in the drought of summer and amid the icy winds of winter, but load the boughs with fruit. (W. Wilson, M. A.)

The choir of graces

In ancient Athens there was a class of officers called chorus-leaders, who represented the various tribes and at public festivals or religious rejoicings for a victory, brought out a chorus to lead the songs of the people. These leaders were not always singers or practical musicians, but they equipped the chorus and paid the cost of marshalling it upon public occasions. Hence the term which denoted their office came to mean in general, “one who provides supplies,” and, therefore, as in the text, add to or supply to faith, virtue, and the whole train of graces. Faith is the leader of this choir; virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly-love, and charity are marshalled under faith as their leader, to swell the praises of Christ from an obedient and loving soul. Faith is the clef which gives the key in which these seven notes of the perfect scale are sounded. Faith organises and sustains the chorus and has a place for each in its well-trained band. When all are assembled faith drills them into harmony. But if any one be wanting faith itself appears defective, and the soul is out of tune. It is as if the first violin were wanting at a Philharmonic concert, or the trumpet obligate should fail to sound in the resurrection scene of Handel’s “Messiah.”

1. That one who is wanting in these graces and takes no pains to cultivate them has no warrant to believe himself a Christian. Every one of these virtues being thus inward and spiritual, and having an intimate and necessary relation to faith in Christ, where these are wanting there can be no living germinating faith. I do not understand the apostle to teach that completeness in each of these virtues, and the exact proportion and harmony of the whole are essential to a Christian character; but are not these graces themselves, each and all of them, so essential to that character that if any one of them is wholly wanting, neither possessed nor sought after, he who is thus deficient is blind and destitute as to the Christian character and life? A true Christian may betray a lack of moral courage in certain emergencies, as did Peter after the arrest of Jesus. But suppose Peter had continued to deny Christ at every approach of danger, should we not have classed him with the apostate Judas? One may be a true Christian whose knowledge of Christian doctrine is meagre, and who makes frequent mistakes in practice. But if, after five, ten, twenty years, one knows no more of the Bible and has no more heart-knowledge of Christ, shall we continue to regard his experience of conversion as genuine? A Christian may sometimes neglect a call of charity, or set aside a real claim upon his love. But if he never heeds such a call, can he be a child of our Father in heaven? Moreover, since all these graces may be imitated, the positive and entire lack of one proves the rest to be counterfeit or superficial.

2. A full and symmetrical development of these graces is the most satisfactory evidence and the most beautiful exhibition of Christian faith. The mind delights its symmetry. The symmetrical development of the human form, in which each member and feature, perfect in itself, is well proportioned to every other, is our ideal of beauty. This symmetry of form and feature, extending to every line of the countenance and every muscle of the anatomy, is the life-like perfection of the statue; proportion is indispensable to beauty in architecture; symmetry and perspective to the harmony of colours, to the effect of painting; chord and harmonies, preserved even in the most difficult combinations of sound, are the highest charm of music; rhythm, the measured and regular succession of sounds, is essential to good poetry; the proportion of numbers and of mathematical laws enters into every science which aims at completeness. But in nothing is this symmetry so strenuously insisted upon as in moral character. The sharp and sometimes carping criticism of men of the world upon the faults and even the peccadilloes of professed Christians shows the demand of conscience for completeness of character, and does homage to Christianity itself as a complete system of morality. Hence the New Testament lays much stress upon completeness of Christian character; for the word “perfection” signifies not so much the absolute sinlessness of a sanctified nature, as the completeness, the full symmetrical development of the renewed man in all the graces of the Christian life. This conscious, steady, visible growth in all the graces is the best evidence of a renewed heart. This full and symmetrical development of the Christian graces makes to the world a most beautiful and convincing exhibition of the Christian faith. A perfect Christian character is one in enumerating whose graces you can always say and, and never interpose a but. The average Christian character is sadly marred by that little disjunctive conjunction--He is a very good man--but; He is kind and charitable at heart--but rough and irritable in manner; he is temperate and patient--but lacking charity; he is reverent and devout--but lacks moral courage.

3. The abounding of these graces in the soul will make it fruitful in the knowledge of Christ--will insure for it a progressive and rewarding piety. The relation of heart-culture to the enjoyment of religion is like that of good agriculture to a good crop. You cannot have a garden by merely purchasing a place. The soil may be of excellent quality, and the situation most favourable; the title may be well secured, and the party of whom you buy may make most abundant promises as to the fertility and beauty of the ground; but unless you give all diligence to make and stock the garden, unless you dig and plant, and weed and trim, your title, deed, and promises will not give you a single shrub or flower. If well-selected fruits and flowers are in your garden and abound, they will make you fruitful in the knowledge of its capacities and in the enjoyment of its pleasures. Two reflections are obvious here.

1. If Christians find no enjoyment in religion, it is because they have failed to cultivate its particular and combined graces.

2. The highest fruitfulness of a Church is to be secured by the perfecting of personal character in its members. (Joseph P. Thompson.)

Two sorts of Christians

The bright picture of what every christian may and should be.

1. Every Christian may have for his own in assured possession that whole series of lustrous beauties of character (2 Peter 1:5-7). You may be strong and discerning and temperate, etc. It is a prize within your reach; is it in any sense a prize within your possession?

2. We may each have an increasing possession of all these graces. “If these things be yours and abound,” or, as the word ought more accurately to be rendered “and increase.” The expression suggests that if in any real sense they are in you, they will be increasingly in you. The oftener a man lavishes the treasures of his love the richer is the love which he has to lavish. The more rigidly he schools and disciplines himself the more complete becomes his command over his unruly nature.

3. We may all, if we will, have these graces making us diligent and faithful. The meaning of the word rendered “barren” is, as the Revised Version and the margin of the Authorised give it, “idle.” Well, that seems a little thing, that all that aggregation of Christian graces has only for its effect to make men not idle, not unfruitful. And it seems, to some extent, too, illogical, because all these graces are themselves the result of diligence, and are themselves fruit. But the apparent difficulty, like many of the other anomalous expressions of Scripture, covers deep thoughts. The first is this--Look after your characters and work will look after itself. The world says, “Do! do! do!” Christianity says, “Be! be! be! “If you are right, then, and only then will you do right. So learn this lesson, do not waste your time in tinkering at actions, go deeper down and make the actor right, and then the actions will not be wrong. The highest exercises of these radiant gems of Christian graces is to make men diligent and fruitful, Again, it takes the whole of these Christian graces to overcome our natural indolence. The pendulum will be sure to settle into the repose that gravitation dictates unless the clock be kept wound up, and it needs all the wheels and springs to keep it ticking for its four and twenty hours. The homely duty of hard work, the prosaic virtue of diligence, is the very flower and highest product of all these transcendent graces. Then, still further, there is a lesson here in the collocation of the words before us, namely, an idle Christian is certain to be a barren one. And now the last point in this picture of what all Christian people may be is--by the exercise of diligence and fruitfulness attain to a fuller knowledge of Christ. Literally rendered, the text reads, “towards the knowledge.” There be two measures of knowledge of Christ. There is that initial one which dawns upon a heart in the midst of its sin and evil, and assures it of a loving friend and of a Divine Redeemer; and there is the higher, constantly expanding, deepening, becoming more intimate and unbroken, more operative on the life and transforming in the character, which is the reward and the crown of earth, and the crown and heaven of heaven. And it is this knowledge which the apostle here says, will follow if, and only if, we have striven to add to our faith all these graces, and they have made us strenuous in service and fruitful in holiness.

The contrasted outlines of the black picture of what some of us are.

1. It is possible for a man to be purged from his old sins and yet not to be growing. It is a case of arrested development, as you sometimes see a man with the puny limbs of childhood; or, as you sometimes see a plant, which you cannot say is dead, but it has not vitality enough to flower or to fruit.

2. Further, such a one is “blind,” or, as the apostle goes on to explain, or, if you like, to correct himself, “he cannot see afar off.” The apostle employs a unique word to express “cannot see afar off,” which, if you will pardon the vulgarism for the sake of the force, I would venture to translate “blinks.” There was a time when you had clear vision. The smoky roof of your cabin was rent, and you saw through it up to the Throne, but your eyes have gone dim because you have been careless to develop your faith; and where there is no development of faith there is retrogression of faith. Therefore, all the far-off glories have faded, and the only things that you see are the things that are temporal, the material, the pressure of present cares, and the like.

3. Let me remind you of the last point in this sad picture. “He hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” Yes! These idle unfruitful Christians have in their memories, if they would only open the cupboard door and look, a blessed gift long ago given that might, and that ought to stimulate them. They are their own worst condemnation. There was a time when they felt the burden of sin upon their consciences when they hated it and desired to be free from it. And what has it all come to? The sins forgiven have come back; the sins hated have reasserted their dominion; Pharaoh has caught them again. The moment’s emancipation has been followed by a recrudescence of all the old transgressions. So they contradict themselves and their own past and contravene the purpose of God in their pardon, and, with monstrous ingratitude, are untouched by the tender motives to growth in holiness which lie in the pouring out of the blood which cleanses from all sin. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.--

Our Lord Jesus Christ

As He is “Lord” He can, as He is “Jesus” He will, as He is “Christ “He doth, as He is “Our” He shall save us. “Lord”; consider His righteousness. “Jesus”; consider His sweetness. “Christ”; consider His willingness. “Our”; consider His goodness that gives us interest in Himself and vouchsafes us to challenge His mercy. “Lord,” in regard of His dominion (Psalms 99:1). “Jesus,” in regard of His salvation (Psalms 68:20). “Christ,” in regard of the promise (John 7:26; John 7:41). “Our,” in regard of His appropriating Himself unto us (Hebrews 2:16). “Lord,” in His power, His works declare Him to be the Lord (Psalms 135:6). “Jesus,” in being made (Galatians 4:4; John 1:14). “Christ,” in being sacrificed and crucified for us (1 Corinthians 11:24). “Our,” in respect of the covenant (Hebrews 8:10). Infinite mercy! The Lord’s Christ is become our Jesus (Luke 2:26). (Thos. Adams.)

Verse 9

2 Peter 1:9

He that lacketh these things is blind.

The miserable state of barren professors

Penury. It is a received maxim that God and nature have wrought nothing in vain; no part or faculty of the body can be well spared. We can spare nothing for this world; but for heaven we can quietly lack things that conduce to our eternal peace! What is the reason? A man never misses what he cares not for. A man may lack outward things yet come never the later to heaven; yea, the sooner the surer; but woe to him that lacks “these things! “This is the want now least feared, and this shall be the want most lamented. Grace is solid and real (Proverbs 10:22). Whatsoever we lack let us not lack “these things.”


1. Satan blinds the intellectual eye (2 Corinthians 4:4).

2. Lusts darken the mind.

3. The dust of this world makes many blind.

Apostasy. “Hath forgotten”: the original implies one that did voluntarily attract forgetfulness to himself; the author of his own mischief.

1. The corruption of the heart.

2. The danger of that corruption. “Old sins”--sins that he hath done of old. Long nurture is another nature.

3. The deliverance from that danger. “He was purged.” Salvation may be said to belong to many that belong not to salvation.

4. The unthankfulness for that delivery. “Forgotten.” The defect of corporal sight hath often mended the memory; but it is not so for spiritual (Mark 8:18). A carnal mind is blind to conceive, ready to forget.

(1) Chrysostom says, “Nothing more helps us forward in a good course than the frequent recognition of our sins.”

(2) As we remember our sins to repentance, so we must forget them in respect of continuance. Otherwise the memory of them doth not reduce us to life but forward us to death. (Thos. Adams.)

Religious nearsightedness

The man to whom these grave defects are imputed is supposed to possess an elementary degree of faith and to have once felt the purifying power of God in his dark and guilty spirit. He has received into him self the graft of a Divine life, but through some unhealthy condition of the stock that life has not become active, pulsating, fruitful. The life can only reach the true measure of its excellence through earnest self-cultivation. In the spiritual world there are wasted seeds, stunted developments. This disastrous turning back of God’s spring in our hearts starts in our own neglect. To know what these deficiencies that maim a man’s religious life are, we must turn to the category of qualities needing cultivation that Peter gives us. “Giving all diligence, in your faith supply virtue.” That faith may be brought to bear its perfect fruit of virtue and strength, we must cultivate all the ethical branches of the faith that had been Divinely implanted within us. There is no true beginning for us before the beginning of faith, and that must be created within us by the very power of God. Do we not, however, say sometimes that the religious life not only begins but also ends in faith? So it does; just as when you go to London, if you get into a through carriage, your journey begins and ends in the same compartment. But the compartment rolls through many belts of varying country before you step out of it into the streets of London. And so, though all religious life begins and ends in faith, the faith moves in the meantime through a very wide range of virtues. “In your faith supply virtue.” Here man’s part in the cultivation of religion begins. Virtue implies the tone and strength of religious life. “And in your virtue supply knowledge.” Religious life that has virtue without knowledge is on pretty much the same level as aerial navigation. The balloon may be made to rise into the pathway of forces that will sweep it on with unapproachable speed, but there is no known apparatus by which its course can be accurately directed. Delicate regulating power from within is wanted. So with the character to which virtue has been added without the further complement of knowledge. The lack always makes void much of the grace of the past. “And in knowledge supply temperance” or self-restraint. Strength of character must never make us reckless. Our temperance must be united with “patience.” Under the crosses, disappointments, and sufferings of our daily life there must be steadfastness and untroubled hope. Murmuring and petulance are symptoms of subtle spiritual disease. “And in your patience supply godliness.” Our resignation to the cross-influences of our life must not begin and end in stoicism. It would be a very poor end to all our tribulations, if they ossified our sensibilities and qualified us for the defiance of pain. And then to the temper we cherish towards God there must be joined a right attitude of mind towards our fellow-believers. “In your godliness supply brotherly kindness.” And to “brotherly kindness” there must be joined a world-embracing charity. Narrow tempers are inconsistent with religious life. A true faith will always bring with it, if duly cherished, a generous breadth. Where there is the lack of this you have religious defect, limitation, shortsightedness. Let us just glance at these qualities again, and see how each quality connects itself with some important part of man’s nature. “To faith add virtue.” Virtue, or inward strength, connects itself with the will, for it is through the will it works. That is the first thing God claims for Himself in His purifying work of grace. “To virtue knowledge.” It is through all the channels of the intellectual life that knowledge is received and treasured. When God washes a man from the defilements of the past, He demands the consecration of intelligence to His service. “And to knowledge temperance.” Temperance is concerned with the government of the passions; and God, in cleansing a man from his past pollutions, seeks the subjection of well-ruled passions to His service. “To temperance patience.” Patience connects itself with the sensibilities through which we are made to suffer. In cleansing a man, God seeks the after-harmony of all his sensibilities with the Divine will. “And to patience godliness.” In separating a man from evil, God seeks for the response of all the religious faculties to His operations. “And to godliness brotherly kindness and charity.” These qualities link themselves with the sphere of the affections. In cleansing a man from his old sires, God seeks to bring about the healthy exercise and benevolent direction of his affections. The whole range of man’s powers is indirectly specified, the powers through which a man enters into relationship with his fellow-men, as well as the powers through which he knows God and enters into relationship with the Eternal. God cleanses a man to make him holy in all these relationships, holy by the putting on of all these high graces. “For if these things are yours and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” An imputed possession of these excellences will give us no high place in the scale of spiritual being. The stinted, spasmodic possession of these graces will not ennoble us very much more than the mere fiction of an imputed possession. These things are in some people as rare plants are in particular sections of country. You may come across them if you are very lucky and search long enough. A true believer’s life should be as full of them as the banks and hedgerows of mid-May are full of the glint and perfume of flowers. Faith oftentimes lies dormant like hibernating insects. A book of Chinese fables tells of a country where the people wake once in fifty days, and take the dreams of their sleep for realities, and the things they see in their waking moments for dreams. The imaginative author might have been describing some believing Christians. The power of innate faith rarely breaks out into moral movement. Now faith is not a fruit-bearing stock, but so much dead lumber within us, unless it lead by the way of these practical graces up to the perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is to be the grand issue of all these excellences. The end has not been reached when they have regulated our present life and beautified our present relationships. The apostle describes the lack of these things, first, under the metaphor of a grave defect in one of the leading physical senses; and, secondly, under the figure of a lapse in the working of the intellectual powers.

1. He who is wanting in one or all of these high qualities lacks the primary organ of perfect spiritual perception. “He is blind.” The stagnant and unprogressive believer is blind, no less than the purely natural man who discerns not the things of the Spirit of God. How many of us have inadequate views of what salvation means! Some people see nothing in salvation but deliverance from wrath and tempest and everlasting fire. A miserably defective view that is! God does not save us to put us on to some secure level of moral mediocrity and to leave us there, but to bring us into fellowship with Himself. A shipwrecked sailor has been helped by a timely hand on to a raft or floating spar. He has not been put there that he may live on a keg of rain-water and a cask of biscuits, and spend the rest of his days on a few square feet of planking. That is but a passing means to a larger and a better end. If you watched him drifting on the raft, and saw that he made no effort to secure the larger and better end, you would say he was either blinded by the sea-spray, struck by the lightning of the storm, or driven insane by his misfortunes. He drifts close under the beetling cliffs. Now he is within an arm’s length of some fissure in the cliffs. Through that fissure rock-cut steps lead up and out into a land of springs, and cornfields and orchards, and noble cities, and breadths of summer sunshine, and all the precious fellowships of men. He drifts away as though it were his will to live and die on the raft. Voices call to him from the shore, but he seems careless of the benign destiny to whose threshold he has come. The man, you would say, is blind. So with those of us who, saved by the forgiving grace of God, neglect to enter into that region of privilege and fellowship and ennobling spiritual experience to which virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity are the successive steps for the loyal and believing soul. “He that lacketh these things is blind.” And now Peter softens the expression and substitutes a somewhat milder term.

2. At best the blindness is half-blindness. If the man who neglects the cultivation of these qualities is not as dark as an unregenerate man, he at least labours under a most serious disability. He suffers from spiritual myopia, for the word used in the text is precisely the same Greek word the medical man of to-day uses to describe short-sight. “He cannot see afar off.” He discerns the near, but is quite at fault when he comes to deal with the distant. Foregrounds are clear, but all the backgrounds are sheer haze. The shortsighted man can see the puddle at his feet as he crosses the desert, but not the river of crystal, with belt of green, that flows for his refreshment on the far away edge of the desert. And so with the unprogressive believer who is afflicted by this spiritual shortsightedness. In the absence of the knowledge to which these graces lead he does not discern the complete character of the Benefactor who has washed and purified him; nor does he discern the heavenly ideal to which the washing and the purification were to point his aspirations and direct his footsteps. He sees, perhaps, a little of what God converts from, but scarcely anything of what God converts to. He has no perception of the largeness of his own destiny.

3. Again, St. Peter describes the lack of these higher Christian excellences under the figure of an intellectual lapse. “Having forgotten the cleansing from his old sin.” When some Lady Bountiful takes pity on a gutter child, and washes it from its nauseous accumulations of filth, it is that having put it into better clothes, she may introduce it to a more genial and generous life. If the child begins to dress itself in its old rags and patches, or stands shivering in the cold, neglecting to wrap itself about in the better raiment that has been made ready for it, it is because the child has forgotten, if it ever understood, the purpose for which the Lady Bountiful took it from the streets and washed it. She wanted to make it her own, and give it a place on her hearth and at her table. God washed us from the guilt and contamination of the past, not that we might stand lounging for ever at the starting-point of our first faith, or possibly go back to our old defilements, but that we might put on Christ and be clothed in these excellences that are summed up in the glorious character of Christ, and stand in His presence, chosen friends and companions for ever. If the new life is not delighting the eye with its inimitable grace, and filling the air with its reviving freshness, it is because there has been some untimely and disastrous arrest. The past cleansing and its Divine motive of perfect life and attainment have been overlooked and forgotten.

4. These words imply that the memory of past grace will be a living and effectual inspiration to us at each successive step of our perfecting. When God first touches our spirits with His cleansing power, that act has in it the potentiality of complete Christian excellence. The sustained remembrance of your conversion will keep fresh and forceful the motive that will stimulate you to the attainment of these various moral and spiritual excellences. You might as well try to grow a cedar tree without roots as seek to cultivate these qualities without the peculiar type of motive supplied by the act of God’s gracious cleansing from sin. (T. G. Selby.)

Verses 10-11

2 Peter 1:10-11

Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.

Diligence in making our calling sure


1. An induction.

(1) “Wherefore.” This word infers a consequence on the premises, or is a reason of the precedent speech. The apostle had formerly shown the danger of such as forget their own purging. But there are many who forget not that they were purged by the redemption of Christ, but remember it too much; and from this derive encouragement of a licentious life, quitting themselves from all sins by His passion. He that thus spells Christ, hath but small literature of religion (Romans 6:1; John 5:14; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Peter 1:17). The end of our conversion is to amend our conversation.

(2) “Brethren.” (a) This word of relation declares in the apostle two virtues (i) His humility; he prefers not himself to the rest of God’s saints, but calls them all brethren. (ii) His policy; he desires to win their souls, and therefore insinuates himself into their love. This title ascribes to the people some dignity; that by faith in Christ they become brethren to the very apostles, and have the fraternity of the heavenly saints. This term is not without some requirable duty. Is the minister thy brother? hear him (Acts 3:22). But take heed lest God’s gentleness be abused by thy contempt; it is the word of thy Judge and Maker, though in the mouth of thy brother.

(3) “Give diligence.” Doth a man reap without sowing? You have not wealth from the clods without digging; and would you have blessing from the clouds without working? The labour of our bodies for this world was but a curse; the labour of our souls for heaven is a blessing. “Give diligence.” This exhortation presupposes no proper strength of our own to do this, for it is God’s work in us.

(4) “Rather.” Let not the goodness of God, which without your desert has chosen and called you to the profession of Christ, forgiving and purging your former sins, make you idle and careless. But rather strive to answer this mercy in your faithful conversation; lest you fall into that pit of destruction, from whence by His death He hath redeemed you. “The rather.” He seems to encourage this endeavour, partly by the benefit, partly by the danger, and partly by the reward: the first whereof incites our gratitude, the next our fear, the last our hope.

2. An instruction. “Make your calling,” etc.

(1) The matter expressed.

(a) For the order: the apostle puts vocation in the former place, which yet in propriety is the latter; for election is before all time, vocation in time. But this is a right form and method of speech, to set that last, which is worthiest and weightiest. Besides, we pass by things nearer to things more remote; first we must look to our calling, and by our calling come to assurance of our election.

(b) For dependence: we must know that our calling depends upon our election. The determinate counsel of God doth not take away second means, but disposeth those passages into order. These two, election and vocation, are like Jacob’s ladder, whereupon the saints ascend like angels to God: election is the top, vocation the foot.

(2) The manner: how this may be assured. There are but two ways for a man to know it; either by going up into heaven, or by going down into himself. In the one there is presumption and danger, in the other security and peace. In Romans 8:16 we have two testimonies: not God’s Spirit alone; there may be presumption: not our spirit alone; there may be illusion: both must witness together, concur to make up this certificate.


1. The qualification. “If ye do these things.”

(1) The condition--“if.” We must first do, and then have. Among men he first serves that deserves: for God, we can merit nothing by doing, yet we shall have nothing without doing (Matthew 20:8; Matthew 25:21; Revelation 22:12).

(2) The practice or fruitfulness in good works--“if ye do”; not think, or say, but do. Idleness never had the testimony of God’s acceptance; it is a vice that damns itself. There must be hearty love, lively practice, kindly thanks, costly service.

(3) The sincerity--“these things”: not what gain prompts, or lust suggests, but what God commands. Such things as pertain to knowledge, virtue, godliness.

2. The ratification. “Ye shall never fall.” Does the apostle here attribute something to our works, as if the merit of our doing should preserve us from falling? No, he speaks not concerning the cause of mercy, but the way of grace. Our own works do not uphold us, but assure us by a token that we are upheld by God; they are the inseparable effects of that grace, by which we are kept from falling. (Thos. Adams.)

Diligence in the Christian life

Do we not in worldly and intellectual circles observe men who deplorably fail to fulfil their election? We see those who in the largeness of their mental gifts are evidently predestinated leaders and ornaments of their generation; but yielding to temptation, they surrender themselves to inferior pleasures and pursuits, the magnificent promise of their nature comes to naught, and their career closes in melancholy failure. Others are born into privileged families, they inherit titles and wealth, they are called by the fortune of birth to be social princes, they are indisputably elected to high position and influence; and yet not infrequently do these predestinated ones manage by ill conduct to tarnish their coronet and finish on the dunghill. As in the intellectual and social life, so is it in the spiritual; souls called to immortal distinction fail through sloth and sin to make their election sure. We must be diligent to cast out the evil things we find in ourselves. Many roots of bitterness springing up trouble us, and it is not easy to cast them out. The Canadian thistle is one of the direst plagues with which the husbandman has to contend. It seems impossible to extirpate it. It is well-nigh proof against the most desperate efforts to get rid of it; fire, poison, and the knife have no more than a temporary effect upon its vitality. Neither the scythe, the hoe, nor the plough can destroy it. Dug up, burnt up, strewn with salt, treated with aquafortis, covered with lime, it springs and blooms and seeds anew. Nothing remains but to blow it up with dynamite. Our faults are so deep and inveterate that we must bend our whole strength to the task of their destruction. We must give diligence to bring into our life all good and beautiful things. The apostle in this passage enjoins us to add one virtue to another until we possess and display them in all their completeness and beauty. It is not enough to cultivate isolated patches of life, to raise this grace or that; we must bring in every virtue, every grace, and cover the whole ground of character and action. Most gardeners are content when their grounds include only a few specimens of the growths of various types and climes; if they can produce a fair show with these, they are satisfied. It is quite different, however, with the national gardeners at Kew; there the grand aim is certainly not display, it is not even to possess a profusion of floral treasures, but to make the grounds and conservatories widely representative, to make them comprehend as far as possible every shrub and tree and flower that grows upon the face of the whole earth. The paradises of God bear all manner of precious fruit, and if our heart and life are to be the King’s gardens we shall need to give all diligence. Having brought all good things into our life, it is only by diligence that we keep them there. “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall”--indicating the tendency and peril of our nature. Unless there is constant diligence and culture we cannot hold the heights we have scaled, the fields we have won, the ground we have re claimed. Neglect a beautiful garden for a while, and see how savage nature will avenge herself and spoil your paradise! As a French naturalist says: “There is in nature a terrible reaction against man; if we put our hand into our bosom, the garden is in revolt.” It is much the same with human nature. Slowly, painfully do we subdue our life to orderliness, to purity, to beauty; but how it springs back if we relax our vigilance I We need all diligence to cast out of our breast the bitter root, the wild grape, the poisoned gourd. Then, having brought good things into our life, we need all diligence to convert them into perfect things. “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” The original is very impressive and assuring: “Ye shall not fall by any means ever.” A man may do his best in the worldly sphere and fail, but no saint can do his best and fail. “For so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom.” “Give all diligence.” The character of life’s ending is much in our own power; we are now determining our end. The measure of our diligence shall be the measure of our victory. Every well-spent hour is another flower for our dying pillow; every earnest effort to please God is so much sunshine for the dark valley; every mastered temp tation brings another angel to sing in the chamber where the good man meets his fate. (W. L. Watkinson.)

On giving diligence in our election

That it is in every one’s power to make his calling and election sure.

the only way of making our calling and election sure is to live in the sincere and conscientious practice of all Christian virtues. This appears from the beginning of the chapter.

Those virtues and graces by which alone we can make sure to ourselves election and salvation, require the greatest pains and industry.

1. The main fundamental reason why religion is so very difficult is because of that natural propensity we have to sin.

2. Besides this unhappy degeneracy against religion, there are inveterate sinful habits to be rooted out, and these do strangely increase the difficulty.

3. The last reason to evince the difficulty of being religious is the uneasiness of planting Dew and opposite habits, in the room of our former vicious ones. (R. Warren, D. D.)

An exhortation to earnestness in religion

Four classes of motives are suggested by this passage urging the exhortation it contains.

The supreme importance of religion.

Another motive to diligence in religion urged by this exhortation is the value of an unequivocal character.

A third motive to diligence suggested by this exhortation is, that God deals with us on a system of reward. “Give diligence,” and you shall have these three things--assurance, stability, and an abundant entrance into heaven.

One other motive to diligence furnished by this passage, is the nature of the reward to be bestowed. How majestic the idea presented here! A kingdom! (Josiah Viney.)

From grace to glory

But do not our calling and election proceed from God? How then can these be made sure by any action of ours? Can we confirm Jehovah Himself in His purpose, or bring confirmation to any of His promises? The sureness to be attained is the sureness of evidences which men themselves can bring out, take note of, and increase beyond the possibility of a question.

The text presents God’s calling and election of His people as a motive to diligence on their part in the Christian life. The Bible never represents the fact that all believers are called of God by His Spirit as superseding in the least the necessity of personal effort for the attainment of holiness, but makes this fact a ground of exhortation to diligence and perseverance. The reason why many regard the purposes of God, even in the application of His grace, as in some way a barrier to their own effort, is that they conceive of all God’s purposes as being executed by physical and irresistible force. This objection is contradicted by our own consciousness. If God at any point comes in conflict with our free agency, it must be m carrying out His purpose, and not simply in having a purpose. “Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved.” God’s purpose was to be made sure by the agency of men accustomed to manage a ship.

The virtues and graces of the Christian character in a full and symmetrical development, give to their possessor the assurance of his personal call and election. No amount of technical knowledge of religion can certify our personal interest in Christ. No rapture of occasional experience can certify our calling and election. Assurance grows with the fruits of grace, is inseparable from these, is dry branch without these.

This complete Christian character attained is life assures peace and triumph in death, and a joyful entrance into eternal life. As Dr. Doddridge interprets the text, carrying out the figure of a choir of graces, “if you will lead on the virtues and graces here enumerated in their beautiful order, those graces will attend you in a radiant train to the mansions of immortal glory and blessedness.” He who matures these graces in life shall have victory over death. (Joseph P. Thompson.)

The gains of Christian diligence

Notice how very homely a virtue it is that takes all this motive to persuade lazy people to it--nothing more than hard work. Diligence is a very prosaic grace, extremely unlike the heated emotion and the idle sentimentality which some of us take to be religion, but it is the foundation of all excellence, and emphatically of all Christian excellence.

Diligence in the cultivation and nurture of the Christian character is the seal of our Christian standing. Exercise it, says Peter, to “make your calling and election sure,” to confirm your possession of these Divine, and, in themselves, unalterable facts. God does not choose men to a salvation, which consists of certain arbitrary privileges which they may possess whatever their character, but lie “calls us that we should be holy and without blame before Him.” If we are not carrying out His design in that choice, are we not invalidating it? On our faithfulness and Christian diligence depends our continued possession of the privileges which God has given us. There is another side to this thought, viz., that this same diligence confirms our Christian standing to our own consciousness. The real sign to a man that he is Christ’s is that he is growing like Christ.

This diligence in the culture of the Christian character becomes a staff to our else tottering steps. “For,” says Peter, “if ye do these things ye shall never fall.” So our Version has it; but the promise is even more emphatic--“Ye shall never stumble,” which comes before falling. Does that mean that if a man will only set himself diligently to try and cultivate these Christian graces he will thereby become immaculate and free from sin? Not so. Observe the language--“If ye do these things.” More literally and accurately we might read--“While ye do these things.” As long as a man is diligently occupied with the stress of his effort in adding to his character the graces that are here enjoined, so long will he stand firm in righteousness. We have no such efficient prophylactic or shield against the assaults of evil as the pursuit of good. Again, the way to keep ourselves from becoming worse is resolutely to aim at getting better. Again, such diligence, though it may not be crowned with complete success, will certainly secure from utter failure.

This diligence in Christian culture is the condition of the entrance abundantly ministered. There is a “being scarcely saved,” and there is an “entrance abundantly.” And the principle that lies here is plain, that the degree of our possession of the perfect royalty of Heaven depends on our faithfulness here on earth. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Your calling and election sure.--

The elect making sure of their election

There are many things in life about which we all desire to feel “sure.” For instance, the firmness of our health; the completeness of cure when we have been sick; the stability of the engagements by which you earn your daily bread; the fidelity of our kindred and friends; and the well-being and well-doing of loved ones who are absent. The marvel is that people who say they are “the called” and “the elect” are sometimes among the careless ones.

Certainty as to his position a most desirable object for the Christian--he ought to be “sure.” If he be not sure, one of two things must be true: either he doubts without cause, or he trusts with out cause. The latter, if it continue, will be fatal--he will be ruined by false confidence; and the former, if it abide, will be injurious. Look first at doubt without cause, which we say is injurious. Does it not cripple exertion? What can a man do who is ever questioning his chief responsibilities and capabilities, and who is not even sure as to his position? Doubt breaks up peace. There is no rest to the spirit that is unassured, and at the same time doubt must seriously lessen joy. Now peace and joy are not to be dealt with as religious luxuries, they are states of soul which are required for the most practical of uses. Peace is a holy keeper of the heart and mind, and joy is a Divine invigorator and refresher, for “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Ungrounded confidence, on the other hand, is most dangerous. Of the two, better doubt for ever, where there is eternal cause for confidence, than rely without cause. He who thinks he has found will not seek. But now what profit is there in being “sure”? To be “sure,” prevents the waste of energy in groundless doubt and in useless inquiry; for you will find that, in cases of groundless doubt, there is an immense waste of energy in constant introspection, and fearfulness, and foreboding. Moreover, to be “sure” sets the man free fop works of faith and labours of love; he can give himself to intercession and to prayer for others, his own case being settled. To be “sure” places a man at liberty to leave the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, and to go on unto perfection.

This is to be secured by diligent attention. “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” The word used is very expressive--strive, use all activity, strain every nerve. Now the following things must be done before we can be sure.

1. There must be a strict inquiry into God’s description of the “called” and the “elect.” God does not lay much stress upon the emotions; He lays chief stress upon the state of the will towards Himself. “For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

2. We require a close examination of our inner and outer life. In all cases of regeneration the change is thorough. It is not perfected at once, but it affects the whole nature. And, in connection with this, there should be a narrow search for unfavourable signs which might counteract the favourable signs, and a search for special favourable signs which should confirm the rest. We require also the continued pursuit of those attainments which, as made, will involve cumulative evidence. This is a matter which Christians sadly neglect. I see them dwelling on their conversion, instead of acquiring confidence from what is now going on within their souls. Yet, if you be a Christian, there is a glorious work going on now; yesterday it was, and it is now. Then, in connection with all this, I need not say there must be not only an anxious desire to recover any ground which you may have lost, but there must be direct appeal to God on this subject. (S. Martin.)

An assurance of salvation

Is the attainment of this moral certainty as to our calling and election really possible? We hesitate not for a moment to answer the question in the affirmative. If the object to which this exhortation unquestionably points be altogether beyond our reach, how are we to account for the importance thus manifestly attached to it? The prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 32:17), speaking of the happy consequences of the outpouring of the Spirit, expressly declares that “the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” St. John also (1 John 3:19)--“Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” St. Paul likewise (Hebrews 6:12) thus addresses the Jewish converts, “We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” Nor is the attainableness of this personal assurance, or moral certainty as to our calling and election, less clearly proved by the evidence of fact and experience.

Does the attainment of this moral certainty, as to our calling and election, belong essentially to a state of grace? While on the one hand it has been confidently asserted that assurance as to our personal interest in the blessings of Christ’s purchase bears presumption on its very face, not a few have confidently maintained that this assurance of salvation is of the very essence of faith, or, in other words, that without it we can have neither part nor lot in the redemption of the gospel. That this opinion is erroneous appears evident, we apprehend.

1. It is contrary to the nature of the Christian life. Still exposed to temptation, and not unfrequently overpowered for a time by its assaults, the progress of the genuine believer is ever chequered by the visitation of fear, of despondency, and of sorrow, as well as of the opposite emotions of hope, and confidence, and joy. Nay, indeed, such oppressive feelings are often necessary; they are subservient to his present advancement in his spiritual course and his final triumph over his spiritual foes.

2. While the doctrine, against which we are now contending, is thus in obvious contrariety to the nature of the Christian life, it is also, at the same time, very manifestly inconsistent with the general bearing of Scripture statement and exhortation. Nothing is more apparent in God’s holy Word than the encouragement that is there given even to those whose state of ,mind and of heart is just the very opposite to everything like security or confidence. The broken heart, the poor in spirit, are blessed.

3. But not only does the contrariety of the doctrine, against which we are contending, to the nature of the Christian life, and its inconsistency also with the general hearing of Scripture statement and exhortation thus clearly demonstrate its fallacy: the consequences likewise to which it naturally leads are sufficient to convince every candid inquirer that it is at the same time most pernicious and dangerous.

How is this assurance or moral certainty, in regard to our calling and election, really to be secured? The apostle, turning our attention to the virtues and graces of the Christian life, very distinctly points to the exercises of such virtues as the source of the assurance here more immediately referred to. Nor does this conclusion rest upon the language of the Apostle Peter alone. Our Lord Himself, exposing the false confidence of the Pharisees, expressly declares to them that the sincerity of the Christian’s faith, and consequently his spiritual safety, is to be discovered by its effects. “Either,” says He, “make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” (John Thomson.)


What does Scripture teach concerning election? At the outset let me remark that wherever the Bible speaks of the elect it speaks, not of God’s purpose to make men different, but of the fact that they do differ--a fact not only recognised by God, but determining His conduct towards us. And further, the view Scripture sets forth of the subject is intensely practical, whereas the view too commonly taken of the doctrine has made it one of pure speculation and of no practical value at all. Now, that a doctrine of election should be found in the Scriptures ought to present no difficulty, ought to surprise no one, for the simple reason that whatever the difficulties of the doctrine may be, it is confessedly founded on fact. Election in some shape or form meets us everywhere, wherever we observe the ways and doings of God. In the material world nothing can be clearer than that some objects have endowments which do not belong to others. Some attract us by their beauty of form, their fragrance, and so forth; while others repel us as being unsightly, offensive, noxious. Is not this of the will of God? Is not this His election, that some objects shall possess what is denied to others? In the heavens one star differs from another star in glory. Among the angels there are principalities and powers, elect angels. In fact, throughout the creation of God we nowhere find uniformity or equality of endowment; everywhere we find variety. And similarly amongst men: compare the poet with the ploughman. And similarly amongst races: compare the Anglo-Saxon with the Hottentot. What gifts are lavished on the one that are denied the other! And we find no difficulty in believing that these differences are of God. We ought not to be surprised, therefore, on opening the Bible, to find in it a doctrine of election. And, as a matter of fact, the whole substance of the Bible is a series of elections made by God Himself. Noah was elected of God to be the second father of the race; Abraham to be the father of the elect people; Moses to be their legislator; Samuel to be their prophet; David to be their king; Christ to be their hope; the apostles to be His witnesses. The fact therefore meets us wherever we turn. The only question is, as to the significance of the fact, as to how we are to interpret it. Have we the key? I believe we have, and in the history of Israel I conceive God would have us understand what the Divine election means. First of all, the election of Israel was an arbitrary act of God. The ground of it was not any foreseen excellence in the people, for, as a matter of fact, this they never possessed. A more troublesome, murmuring, rebellious, disobedient, faithless people the annals of history do not know. Then, again, as to the persons elected. The election was national, not personal; of the whole body, not of the individuals. The election, moreover, was not to a blessing absolutely--certainly as regards the individuals of the race--but to the offer of one conditionally. In other words, it was not an election to final salvation; not to the enjoyment of the promised land as a possession, but only to a condition of privilege, the result of which might be the ultimate possession, but only of individual choice. The evidence of this is the simple fact that entrance into Canaan was denied to all but two: a blessing was placed within the reach of the people; whether it should be theirs or not depended on themselves. As the vocation and privilege of Israel were higher than those of other nations, so, too, were they subjected to severer discipline. A high standard of national life was set before them, and they were trained to it by a stern and exceptional process. So that their election of God implied sharp discipline. There was, further, a deep purpose in their discipline which we must not overlook, or we shall misunderstand the whole. It was this: that the blessings they were to reap as the result of their fidelity were not for themselves alone.. They were to be the instruments of blessing to mankind. The face of God shone on Israel that His way might be known on earth, His saving health to all nations. Israel mistook its vocation, wrapt itself in the cloak of exclusive privilege, and affirmed, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we.” If, then, we apply these principles, what shall we expect to find? We shall expect to find that the election will be of the sovereign will of God, unaffected by any foreseen conduct. The former part of this statement is denied by none: the latter part is implied in the Saviour’s description of the day of judgment, in the universal declaration of the gospel that this life is a state of trial, and in such positive assertions as those of Paul, that God will render to every man according to his deeds, that God is no respecter of persons, and the like. We shall expect to find several other things. As to the persons elected, except as regards individuals called to some special work, Scripture tells us nothing. We are all sure that they are the elect of God who prove their election by the loftiness and excellence of their spiritual life, and that this is the only proof that can be given or that could be accepted as reasonable. And as to the election itself, if it is to eternal life at all, surely it is to eternal life as a present possession and experience, and not simply to something to be received in the future. But the analogy of Israel would lead us to say that the election is not to eternal life at all, but to a condition of privilege, the result of which may be the possession of a spiritual life, which links men on to the Eternal God, and is eternal life; but this only where there is choice; otherwise the election to privilege does not secure to men eternal life, as belonging to the Israelitish people did not secure entrance to the promised land. Again, if this fact be clearly apprehended, that the knowledge of God is eternal life, and that this is the life to which the elect are called--not a future so much as a present good, and this good a very lofty level of life, the privilege of aiming higher, working harder, sacrificing more, suffering more keenly than any others in the world--this will explain the fact which has often perplexed men, that the path of the noblest saints has been a path of sternest discipline. Their summons is to a nobler, loftier, more self-sacrificing life, a life of self-forgetting, absorbing, loving service to Christ, and it is as they live this life nobly and well that they make their calling and election sure. (R. V. Pryce, M. A.)

Particular election

When Mr. Whitfield was once applied to to use his influence at a general election, he returned answer to his lordship who requested him that he knew very little about general elections, but that if his lordship took his advice he would make his own particular “calling and election sure,” which was a very proper remark.

First of all, then, there are the two important matters in religion--secrets, both of them, to the world--only to be understood by those who have been quickened by Divine grace: “calling and election.” It will be asked, however, why is “calling” here put before “election,” seeing election is eternal, and calling takes place in time? I reply, because calling is first to us. The first thing which you and I can know is our calling: we cannot tell whether we are elect until we feel that we are called. We must, first of all, prove our calling, and then our election is sure most certainly. And this is a matter about which you and I should be very anxious. For consider what an honourable thing it is to be elected. In this world it is thought a mighty thing to be elected to the House of Parliament; but how much more honourable to be elected to eternal life; to be elected to “the Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven”! Election in this world is but a short-lived thing, but God’s election is eternal. It is worth while to know ourselves elect, for nothing in this world can make a man more happy or more valiant than the knowledge of his election. “Nevertheless,” said Christ to His apostles, “rejoice not in this, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven”--that being the sweetest comfort. And this, too, makes a man valiant. When a man by diligence has attained to the assurance of his election you cannot make him a coward. “Was not I ordained by God to be the standard bearer of this truth? I must, I will stand by it, despite you all.” He saith to every enemy, “Am I not a chosen king?”

Come, then, here is the second point--good advice. “Make your calling and election sure.” “How, then,” says one, “am I to make my calling and election sure? “Why, thus: If thou wouldst get out of a doubting state, get out of an idle state; if thou wouldst get out of a trembling state, get out of an indifferent, lukewarm state; for lukewarmness and doubting, and laziness and trembling, very naturally go hand in hand. Be diligent in your faith. Take care that your faith is of the right kind--that it is not a creed, but a credence. Take care that your faith results from necessity--that you believe in Christ because you have nothing else to believe in; and give diligence to thy courage. Labour to get virtue; plead with God that He would give thee the face of a lion, that thou mayest never be afraid of “my enemy. And having, by the help of the Holy Spirit, obtained that, study well the Scriptures and get knowledge, for a knowledge of doctrine will tend very much to confirm your faith. Try to understand God’s Word; get a sensible, spiritual idea of it. And when thou hast done this, “Add to thy knowledge temperance.” Take heed to thy body: be temperate there. Take heed to thy soul: be temperate there. Be not drunken with pride. Be not passionate: be not carried away by every wind of doctrine. Get temperance, and then add to it by God’s Holy Spirit patience; ask Him to give thee that patience which endureth affliction, which, when it is tried, shall come forth as gold. And when you have that, get godliness.

The apostle’s reasons why you should make your calling and election sure. I put in one of my own to begin with. It is because, as I have said, it will make you so happy. Men who doubt their calling and election cannot be full of joy; but the happiest saints are those who know and believe it. But now for Peter’s reasons.

1. Because “if ye do these things ye shall never fall.” “Perhaps,” says one, “in attention to election we may forget our daily walk, and like the old philosopher who looked up to the stars we may walk on and tumble into the ditch! Nay, nay,” says Peter, “if you take care of your calling and election, you shall not trip; but, with your eyes up there, looking for your calling and election, God will take care of your feet, and you shall never fall.”

2. And now the other reason. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Just one thought more. It is said that the entrance is to be “ministered to us.” That gives me a sweet hint. Christ will open the gates of heaven; but the heavenly train of virtues--the works which follow us--will go up with us and minister an entrance to us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The nature, possibility, duty, and means of the assurance of one’s effectual calling

It is not only possible, but a duty in Christians, to endeavour after an assurance of their effectual calling and election.

1. When we say a believer may and ought to be assured of his calling and election, we do not mean as if of his own self he could have this Divine persuasion. As it is with the colours that are the object of the sight, though they be never so good and visible, yet if there be no light the eye cannot see them. Thus it is here: though there be never such excellent graces, and though God hath wrought a wonderful change in thee, yet thou art not able to see it till the Spirit of God enable thee.

2. The soul of a man, being a rational and spiritual substance, hath two kinds of acts. There are, first, the direct acts of the soul, whereby it is carried out immediately and directly to some object. And there are, secondly, reflex acts, whereby the soul considers and takes notice of what acts it doth. It is as if the eye were turned inward to see itself (1 John 2:3). So that when we believe in God, that is a direct act of the soul; when we repent of sin, because God is dishonoured, that is a direct act; but when we know that we do believe, and that we do repent, this is a reflex act. Now, whether this certainty or assurance be a certainty of faith, or of sense, or rather mixed of both, I shall not dispute.

3. This assurance is a privilege which may be had, and it is our sin if we breathe not after it, or do anything that may justly fill our hearts with doubts and diffidence. Yet it is not of absolute necessity to salvation.

4. Neither yet is this assurance the apostle presses us unto such as admits of no doubts, no temptations or oppositions by Satan.

Consider what are those effects of grace which, if a man walk in, he may be partaker of this privilege; not but that God by His absolute sovereignty, and for holy ends, may leave the most circumspect Christians in darkness, without any light, as it was in Job. And the prophet intimateth, “Who is among you that feareth God, and hath no light, walking in darkness?” (Isaiah 1:10.)

1. We must give all diligence and heed to the obtaining of this privilege. We must make it our business; it must be importunately begged for in prayer.

2. The way to obtain this assurance is a fruitful, fervent, and active walking in all the ways of holiness. “If these things be in you and abound,” saith the apostle. The sparks that are ready to go out do hardly evidence there is any fire. We doubt of life when we feel scarce any breath. And thus it is here. The more negligent and lazy thou art in the ways of godliness, the less certainty must needs be in thee. And the reason is plain; for if graces exercised be the sign or seal, then the more these appear, the more thriving and flourishing they are, the surer testimonies there will be of thy calling and election.

3. Another way to preserve or obtain this assurance is humility and meekness, going out of ourselves, avoiding all presumption, all self-righteousness (Philippians 2:12).

4. This assurance is obtained and preserved by a tender watchfulness against all known sin. For it being sin only that separates between God and the soul, this only raiseth up the great gulf, there fore all witting and willing allowing of this is a direct destroyer of all assurance.

5. Another way to obtain this is to take heed of grieving the Spirit of God or quenching the motions of it. For seeing it is the Spirit of God that witnesseth, and it is the Spirit that feeleth, if we would have assurance, we are to nourish it, to do nothing that may resist and repel it.

6. If thou wouldst attain to this assurance, acquaint thyself well with the covenant of the gospel, with the precious promises revealed there, with the gracious condescensions of God’s love in Christ. Many of the children of God are kept in a doubtful and perplexed estate because they consider not the riches of Christ’s grace revealed in the gospel. (Anthony Burgess.)

Of effectual calling

I now come to show the great advantage of this certainty. Where the godly heart hath this holy assurance and persuasion wrought by God’s Spirit, there it hath many helps which the tempted soul wanteth.

1. Where there is certainty of this heavenly privilege, there the soul is more inflamed and enlarged to love God.

2. Certainty of our calling and election will breed much spiritual strength and heavenly ability to all graces and duties, to go through all relations with much holiness and lively vigour.

3. This certainty and assurance of grace would exceedingly keep up the heart under all afflictions and outward miseries.

4. This certainty of grace is a strong and mighty buckler against all those violent assaults and temptations that the devil useth to exercise the godly with.

5. This certainty is a special means to breed contentment of mind, and a thankful, cheerful heart in every condition.

6. This certainty of grace is a sure and special antidote against death in all the fears of it. This makes the king of terrors a king of all consolations; for seeing that by grace we are the members of Christ, death hath no more sting on us than on Christ our Head. These are the advantages.

But the godly heart may inquire, how shall i know this holy certainty and persuasion by God’s spirit from my own persuasion, from the self-flattery that is in me?

1. Holy certainty is kept up in all exercises of grace and constant tender avoiding of all known sin; but presumption will agree with the practice of all these.

2. Presumption is unwilling to be searched and tried. It flieth from the light, it cannot abide the touchstone; but this holy certainty loveth a deep search.

3. Presumption beareth up a man’s heart till a man come to some great and extraordinary calamities, and then this bubble vanisheth away. Dross will melt in the fire, but gold will be the more refined. The wind makes chaff fly away, but leaveth the corn more purified.

4. Presumption is not opposed nor assaulted by the devil. Satan doth not tempt and labour to drive people out of it, but nourisheth them in it. But out of this holy certainty the devil’s main scope is to drive them.

5. It is the sure character of presumption that it divideth the means and the end. It hopes for such privileges, though it never do the duties. Now this is not assurance, but a presumptuous delusion, whereas you see this text is, to give all diligence to make your calling sure.

6. Presumption is but a self-deceiving, false logic that a man deceiveth himself with. Whereas you heard this certainty is a knowledge wrought by God’s Spirit in us.

7. The presumptuous man is full of haughty arrogance and proud preferring of himself, contemning and undervaluing others. Thus that Pharisee, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men,” etc. Whereas true assurance is accompanied with deep humility and a pitiful respect to others.

In the next place it may be questioned what that godly person should do who hath not this assurance? Though grace be in him, he knoweth it not, yea, he thinketh the clean contrary. Now to such as one we say, let him walk in a faith of adherence and dependence when he hath none of these evidences. This the Scripture calls trusting, rolling, leaning, and staying of the soul upon God, And this dependence of faith is far more noble than the assurance of faith.

1. In assurance, there I go on in holy duties and love of God, because of the sensible sweetness and delight that I have; but in dependence, there I trust in God when I have no sense or feeling.

2. To depend and wait on God though darkness be in thy soul, argueth thy faith more firm and strong. It was an high expression in Job, “Though He kill me I will trust in Him.” Do not then give over thy constancy in holy duties; be not discouraged in waiting on God for assurance, for He will at last cause the sun to arise, and the dark night to fly away. (Anthony Burgess.)


One may be a believer in Christ and not have attained to a full assurance of salvation. Faith has a beginning and an end. It may be weak or strong, partial or complete. Believers are enjoined to make their calling and election sure. The distinction is an important one. “Many are called, but few chosen.” The calling we regard as simply the Word of God, or the truth of God, as objectively put before the mind. To make that sure is to make perfectly certain to ourselves that the Bible is the Word of God. More particularly, that Word sets before us the whole true character of God, the whole true condition of man, and the whole truth as to the way of salvation. One must understand the message, or comprehend to some extent the terms of the invitation. He must be sure that it is really addressed to him, and that he is entitled to accept it as such. Having satisfied himself of that, he must give himself to the more complete understanding of it. How long, then, does it take one to know the truth of the call, objectively considered--the truth concerning God, one’s self, and the way of salvation? It will take him to the end of time, neither more nor less. The holiest man that ever lived could not spare a single moment of the whole time given to him by God from the work of making his calling sure. The way of salvation is simply the life-long process of getting into the truth, and, ever as we realise that, the corresponding process of bringing it forth into the life again. It is here that the calling glides into the election. To make one’s election sure is the additional matter of attaining to perfect certainty as to one’s individual and personal acceptance with God. This is the subjective aspect. It brings into view the living and growing relation of one’s own spirit and character to the truth. It is an axiom that tile Word of God is true. It is also a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. But it is quite another question as to whether a given individual is among the elect or no. The elect are those whom God chooses as His own, and the only way by which we can either be among the elect or know that we are, is the way of choosing from day to day the will of God as our will or rule of life. The faith that saves and leads to assurance is declared in Scripture to have two aspects. It is “the substance “or fundamental condition of a great and manifold hope; the hope of the ultimate triumph of good over evil and of truth over error; the hope of the personal appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; and the hope of our individual acceptance in His sight. It is also “the evidence” in the present, that these hopes will be realised. As the substance, it is a life-long thought, and as the evidence, a life-long work. As both in one it is an ever-growing spiritual reality, identical with the lifelong duty of making our calling and election sure. (F. Ferguson.)

An entrance shall be ministered.--

Entrance into the kingdom

The passage.

1. The sureness.

(1) The reason--“for.” As if to say: There are some blind, and forget the way of truth: what then? Therefore make your election sure. Why? For if ye do so ye shall never fall. How are we sure that we shall not fall? For so you have a full entrance to blessedness.

(2) The means--“so.” Make your election sure; and by living soberly and righteously endeavour the ascertaining to your own “hearts, that God hath decreed you to salvation; for so you shall have a free entrance into the kingdom of Christ.

2. The readiness--“an entrance,” without trouble.

(1) The entrance to grace and mercy is open, and ready to entertain all entering feet (Revelation 3:7).

(2) The removal of such impediments as might hinder this passage.

(a) The world is none of the least; and in this there is a double opposition; on the left hand indigence, on the right opulence.

(b) The flesh steps in next to bar up our entrance. There is no man hath a worse friend than he brings from home.

(c) The devil is a master antagonist, a watchful and wrathful enemy.

(d) Death is the last enemy, but not the least. Yet to the faithful that fiend is a friend (Philippians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

(3) The matter of this entrance. It consists in two things.

(a) Our union with Christ. If the Head be entered, the members cannot be denied.

(b) Our communion with the Holy Ghost.

3. The fitness, or preparation. We are not beholden to ourselves for this entrance: it is “ministered” to us.

(1) The means, is ministered, therefore it is called the ministry of the Word, the ministration of the sacraments.

(2) The apprehension of this means is ministered, for it is given to us to believe (Philippians 1:29).

(3) The object of this apprehension is ministered, eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).

4. The easiness--“abundantly.” The gate is not narrow in itself, but only in respect of unqualified enterers. It is too low for lofty and aspiring ambition, too narrow for pride, too straight for covetousness; but to faith it is broad. If the worldling would untwist his riches by charity, and the sinner untwist his sins by repentance, they may abundantly enter.

The palace.

1. Its royalty. It is the Lord’s own “kingdom.”

2. Its immutability. The honour of earthly princes is often laid in the dust; but this is an eternal kingdom. The royalty of Christ is absolute, independent, universal, and everlasting (Luke 1:33). It is fit that He should be so honoured who was so humbled. Our sin brought Him exceeding low, let His own righteousness exalt Him exceeding high.

(1) The supremacy of the King. By comparing earthly things with heavenly, we may observe the excellency of that regiment in which we stand: it is a kingdom; and the dignity of the Governor: He is an eternal King (1 Timothy 1:17). All inferior kingdoms are derived from Him, and subordinate to Him (1 Timothy 6:15).

(2) The security of the subjects. We have a King to rule us; a King of majesty, a King of mercy; one who can protect us from all evil, and supply us with all good.

(3) The felicity of this kingdom, whose law is truth, whose King is the Trinity, and whose bounds are eternity. (Thos. Adams.)

The abundant entrance

The first thing the apostle would have them keep in remembrance is the glorious state of a Christian in eternity.

1. One reason why the glorious state of a Christian, either in time or eternity--in one case the kingdom of grace, and in the other the kingdom of glory--is called “the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” is that it is the purchase of His blood; it is a purchased possession.

2. Then this kingdom may very properly be called “the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” because it is the work of His hands.

3. We shall see then what we do not understand now--the nature, the office, the order, and the actions of angels.

4. We see the glory of “the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” in the act of His own exaltation.

5. But there are other peculiarities in this kingdom. There are peculiar privileges, which the inhabitants, and kings, and priests, and subjects of this kingdom enjoy. One of these privileges is this: whatever we see increases our happiness; not only from its own excellency, but it increases our happiness because it is mine. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.” There is another thing which will finish heaven’s happiness, and that is that every object is mine for ever. It is not only “the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” but it is “the everlasting kingdom.”

We come now to the grand work of a Christian is time. What is that?

1. To make sure work for heaven, we must get a clear title to heaven.

2. Again, in order that we may make our calling and election sure, we must get a personal meetness for heaven, not merely a title.

How must we do this work?

1. Here is the grand work; all you are to do is to enter into that work with all your hearts--“Give diligence.” Exercise your given power and improve your given opportunity in removing impediments.

2. Again, exercise your given power, and improve your given opportunity, in an immediate application to the blood of the Lamb.

3. And then we must yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit; for without that we can do nothing.

The motives to engage us in the work and support us under it.

1. The all-important ground of this duty, and the all-important argument to engage us in this duty, is eternity.

2. Another argument is, the inestimable privileges in life. What are the inestimable privileges in life? Absolute security from apostacy. Give diligence, and you shall “never fall.”

3. Then there is present happiness in making our calling and election sure.

4. There are, therefore, inestimable privileges in life; and there are inestimable advantages in death. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (W. Dawson.)

Entrance into Christ’s kingdom

Somewhere in the universe of God Christ has a glorious kingdom.

An entrance into this kingdom is the highest destiny of mankind. Here he obtains--

1. The most perfect freedom.

2. The most exalted fellowships.

3. The most blessed progress. In knowledge, power, dignity, usefulness.

The more moral virtues we attain, the more abundant will be our entrance. (Homilist.)

Getting into harbour

There is land ahead, and the spiritual mariner knows that when that land is reached his toils will cease for ever. The picture which Peter here had before his mind’s eye was purely nautical. His idea was that of a ship which, after a prosperous voyage, was entering with full sail into her destined haven. All on board are hopeful and joyous. Nothing has happened to maim either the vessel or the crew. The crowds on the beach seem to be almost within hail.

The country to which we are bound.

1. It is gloriously governed. It is a “kingdom”; and it is “the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”; that is, He reigns and rules in it.

(1) He reigns by right of Divine authority.

(2) He reigns by right of irresistible conquest. What a glorious victor is our King!

(a) He conquered for us. Sin, death, and hell, allied against Him for our hurt, were completely routed by His almighty arm.

(b) He conquered in us. The old rebel heart resisted Him to the utmost, but He ultimately overcame. The day of our subjugation was one of the happiest we ever knew.

(3) He reigns by right of universal suffrage. Loyalty to the King is, in the kingdom of Christ, a rule that knows not a single exception.

2. It is permanently established. It is a “kingdom” in which there are no republicans, and it is an “everlasting kingdom,” in which there are no revolutions.

3. It is unspeakably blessed. The King is “our Saviour”! The term is very comprehensive. In every conceivable sense King Jesus is the Saviour of His people.

The welcome we may anticipate there.

1. We may expect an entrance. Apart from the common contingencies of ordinary navigation, there are two sources of danger sometimes experienced on the sea. The first is that, in sailing to the port, enemies may be met with on the voyage; and secondly, in attempting to get to the shore, enemies may oppose the landing.

2. We may expect an entrance ministered. And as ships cannot pass unchallenged into our national harbours, so there is no getting into heaven by stealth. Each entrance is “ministered.” Out here, on the ocean, you may feel that you are so mixed up with all the rest, that by and by there will be a chance of sailing in with the crowd. But it is a fearful mistake. Do not be deceived! Ships do not enter that harbour thus. The narrow entrance, which you are so fast approaching, will only admit “one by one.” Each soul must encounter the Divine scrutiny.

3. We may expect an entrance ministered abundantly. Some months ago a large ship was observed, under full sail, making for Kingstown harbour. Her crew had discovered a fire in her hold, and after exhausting themselves in attempts to get it under, they managed, as a last resource, to run the vessel straight for the port. To the amazement of the people on the shore, she came on, without slackening sail, until she had reached the mouth of the harbour, and then, the sailors being, through exhaustion, unable to control her course, she came dashing right through all the shies that were lying at anchor, and running burning on the beach, she became a total wreck. She reached the port, but none could say she had “an abundant entrance.” If he could possibly avoid it, no sailor would care to finish a voyage like that. But I fear that many people content themselves with a prospect of thus getting into heaven. Of course, the poor fellows on board the burning vessel were glad to escape even though they were “saved so as by fire”; but they would have been far happier had they succeeded in bringing safely home their vessel and her cargo. The ship that receives the most abundant entrance is not the one that runs away from every foe, lest she should receive a scratch or lose a little gilt from her figure-head; but the vessel that receives abundant honour is she which, having carried the thunders of her country’s guns into the very strongholds of the foe, returns amid the plaudits of the nation--like Nelson’s immortal Victory--covered with glory. Think of the other shore! What welcomes await the voyager within the harbour! How “abundantly” will he be received by those who have gone before!

The conditions by which it is secured.

1. Faith in Christ.

2. Life for Christ. The apostle says, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,” etc.

3. Glory with Christ. This is the fruit of which faith is the root, and of which life for Christ is as the tree. The sailor often meets with the heaviest gales just before he reaches the port; and the Christian sometimes finds the tribulation keener as he approaches the kingdom. But the weather is not always stormy. It is sometimes sweetly calm, and at such times many get into port. Their entrance is equally blessed, for they have passed through all their dangers and fears during the early portion of the voyage. (W. H. Burton.)

Happiness in death

The apostle urges the manner of our dying--he would have us die not only in a state of salvation, but of peace--and triumph.

The state to which the Christian looks forward--“the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

1. Christians, we know very little of “the hope which is laid up for us in heaven”: it is “the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Two things are spoken of this kingdom which deserve remark.

1. The first concerns its permanency and duration--it is “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour.” “The fashion of this world passeth away.” The Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, Roman Empires arose, astonished mankind for a season, and disappeared.

2. It is “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And what means this relation? It is surely designed to distinguish Him from a mere possessor, and to intimate peculiar prerogative, residence, administration. It is His by claim. As the Son of God He is “Heir of all things.” He acquired it as the reward of His obedience and sufferings. He has now the disposal of the offices and privileges of the empire among His faithful followers. This was surely the idea of the dying thief when he prayed, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” He is the Sovereign; and there He rules--not, as here, “in the midst of His enemies”--no treason, no sedition, no disaffection there. There He reigns immediately, always in view, and accessible to all.

The desirable mode of admission. And here we read of an entrance--ministered--abundantly. What is this entrance? Unquestionably--Death. But you should remember that your entrance into the invisible world is administered. Not only is the will of God concerned in the general sentence of mortality pronounced upon us, but death always receives a particular commission from Him. The circumstance of time is fixed by Him: “the number of our months is with Him.” The place is determined by His purpose. The means and the manner of our removal are disposed by His pleasure. The death of some is distinguished by honours not vouchsafed to all: and this is what the apostle means by an entrance ministered unto us abundantly. For all do not enter alike. Some, shipwrecked, are washed by the surge half-dead on the shore, or reach it clinging terrified to a plank; others, with crowded sails and with a preserved cargo of spices and perfumes, beautifully, gallantly enter the desired haven. A triumph was not decreed to every Roman general upon his return to the capital. We may observe a remarkable diversity even in the deaths of common believers. Some die only safe; while their state is unknown to themselves, and suspected by others. In some, hope and fear alternately prevail. Some feel a peace which passeth all under-standing--while some exult with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. And in these is fulfilled the language of the promise, “With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the King’s palace.” They will need it themselves. It is a new, a trying, and an awful thing to die. They will find dying to be work enough, without having doubts and fears to encounter. You should long for this also on the behalf of others. This is the last time you can do anything in serving God in your generation; but by this you may be rendered peculiarly useful. Your dying looks and your dying words may make impressions which shall never be erased.

To examine the condition upon which this privilege is suspended, and which is obviously here implied--“For so an entrance,” etc. This course requires--That you should habituate yourselves to familiar thoughts of death. This will dissipate the terrors which arise from distance and imagination. This will break the force of surprise. And the less powerfully you are attached to earthly things, the more easy will be your separation from them. It requires that you should obtain and preserve the evidences of pardon; without these you cannot be fearless and tranquil in the near views of eternity, since “after death is the judgment?” Is he in a condition to die who has lived in the practice of some known sin, and in the omission of some known duty? It requires an attention to religion in your families. I pity that father who will be surrounded when he dies with children whose minds he never informed, whose dispositions he never curbed, whose manners he never guarded. In a word, it requires you to live in the strenuous cultivation of practical and progressive religion. “And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,” etc. If there be such differences among Christians in dying, we may be assured that there will be inequalities in heaven. What preparation have you made for a dying hour? (W. Jay.)

An abundant entrance into heaven

He had prayed for a triumphant death. One day, when speaking about heaven, some one said, “I’ll be satisfied if I manage somehow to get in.” “What!” said Robert, pointing to a sunken vessel that had just been dragged up the Tay, “would you like to be pulled into heaven by two tugs, like the London yonder? I tell you I would like to go in with all my sails set and colours flying.” (Life of Robert Annan.)

Verses 12-15

2 Peter 1:12-15

To put you always in remembrance.

Pastor and people

The pastor’s informing.

1. His piety; desirous to bring them to the forementioned kingdom.

2. His vigilance; admitting no neglect of their souls, what discouragements soever affront him.

3. His modesty; professing that he doth rather remind than teach them.

4. His fidelity; he will do it “always,” without weariness of that which may tend to their edification and comfort.

5. His sincerity; he doth not incite them to vain and unnecessary things, but “these things” that build them up to salvation.

The people’s proficiency.

1. Their illumination.

2. Their confirmation. No man runs so fast but he may need some spurring. There is still something that he would teach and they should learn. The horse that would run well of his own mettle doth yet mend his pace by the rider’s encouragement. (Thos. Adams.)

The writer’s diligence and his feeders’ obedience

The writer’s diligence.

1. “Wherefore.” Because the foundation of eternal life is to be laid here, and in this life an entrance must be made to that everlasting kingdom, or there will be no fruition hereafter; therefore I will take all possible pains to prepare your souls for it. The state future follows the former, as the upper building follows the foundation.

2. “I will not be negligent.” His diligence is well furthered by his sedulity.

3. “To put you in remembrance.” We must often be stirred up, line upon line, etc.

4. “Always.” This duty of assiduity cannot be performed by any minister of the gospel without a constant abiding among his people.

5. “Of these things”--i.e., such as may save your souls. The minister must labour neither for praise nor for purse, but for conscience; he must fish for souls, not for riches. There are too many that seek the Church goods rather than the Church’s good.

The people’s obedience.

1. The apostle takes for granted that they understood these things already, and were constant in the assurance of the truth of them. A happy progress! If your mind be established in understanding, your heart in affecting, your life in obeying, blessed are you; your minister shall praise you, the Church will praise you, the angels praise you, yea, you shall be praised of Christ Himself.

2. This concession makes way for a further imposition. Though you know these things, and be established, yet you must admit a further confirming (Romans 15:14-15). The cessation of remembrancing may easily lapse us to forgetfulness. (Thos. Adams.)

Constant remembrance

A satisfactory position. They are commended--

1. For proper knowledge. “Ye know them,” i.e., the practical bearings of the Christian religion.

2. For genuine faith. “Established--settled--in the truth.”

A hazardous condition. The higher a man rises, the more Satan desires to sift him.

1. The natural tendency of fallen nature.

2. The many and urgent temptations to leave even what we know.

A judicious precaution. “I will … put you always in remembrance.”

1. The necessity for this course ought to reconcile us to the constant repetition of even the most elementary truths of religion.

2. Christianity consists of two parts--faith and practice. Both are easily forgotten or neglected. Other things absorb the mind. (Homilist.)

Ministers as remembrancers

The very inwardness of the principal truths of religion makes our being frequently reminded of them so much the more necessary, and renders the ministrations of a Christian pastor so essential to our spiritual welfare. Nay, further, our very familiarity with Christian truths makes the office of the minister as a remembrancer not less necessary. Even the more we know of them, the more we need to be reminded of them. But why is this continual remembrance of religious truths so essential to the Church, that Christ has not only appointed a special order of remembrancers, but has also instituted holy mysteries as sacraments of commemoration? Because only as truths live within the mind can they be influential on the heart and conduct. And only as we are continually reminded of them do they gain this life within us. It is not enough to have received truths, we must feel them. We are living daily in a world of sense; we need to be transferred continually into the world of spirit. We see around us the vanities of time; we need to have heaven opened to our gaze, that we may behold the grand realities of eternity. The grand obstacle to all religion and holiness is sense--the living in the present and the visible, and therefore for the present and the visible. The grand method of deliverance, therefore, from this obstacle is faith. I put you in remembrance that you are the creatures of the one living and true God. I put you in remembrance that before this God, to whom you are thus accountable, you stand charged by His most righteous law as guilty sinners. I put you in remembrance that this same God, whom yon have thus displeased, and before whom you stand guilty, is very holy and yet very merciful. I put you in remembrance that in consequence of this compassion this same God--so holy, yet so merciful--sent down His only-begotten Son into the world to take your place, to bear your sins. I put you in remembrance that this pursuit of personal moral excellence and holy character can be successfully begun, continued, and completed by you only as you obtain the influence and help, the life, the love, and the power of God’s Holy Spirit. (T. Griffith, M. A.)

Established in the present truth.--

Present truth

The gospel speaks of a present reconciliation of God to man.

Christians have a present life in Christ.

Present reconciliation in the present life means present confession.

We have a present heaven. (A. J. Gordon, D. D.)

Shortly I must put off this my tabernacle.

The shortness of our life

From this notion of putting off our bodies it will appear that--we do in reality consist of body and soul, which is the foundation of all religion. If we were all body, the pleasures and interests of the body would be our supreme happiness; but since we have a soul to govern the motions of the body, it must be our wisdom and our interest to take diligent heed of that soul, and not suffer the body to engross all our care. A creature that is made of two distinct parts cannot be completely happy by providing for one part only. Our care of the life of the soul will oblige us to take care of any hurt or mischief that may befall it, as we see it does in our bodies. Again, do we bestow much time and labour upon adorning our bodies, it is abundantly more for our interest that we spare a portion of them to the soul, in exalting that with wisdom and holiness.

This observation that we are to put off our bodies will instruct us in the dignity and superiority of the soul above the body. The soul herself suffers nothing by this separation, but is made more glorious by it. The soul is the seat of knowledge and sensation, and the body is very insignificant without it. The soul, therefore, is the best part of us. The body has no life without the soul, but the soul has life though it be stripped of body. How, then, can we justify our neglect of the soul and our unmeasurable, our most unreasonable affection for the body?

Are we constantly apprehensive that we must leave our bodies? This should teach us not to value ourselves upon any bodily accomplishments and qualifications, nor to allow too large a snare of our pains and time in searching after them, But to purify both soul and body, and to prepare them for a happy reception into the other world. It is absurd to boast or grow proud of things which we are soon to part with, or be very eager to obtain what we are sure we cannot hold for a long time. The ornaments of sobriety and temperance, humility and meekness, charity, wisdom, and holiness, will stand us in greatest stead when our bodies have left us. And nothing but they will do us service. (R. Warren, D. D.)

The shortness of human life

1. “I know”--not perhaps precisely the day, or the place, or the manner. But death is not a stranger to my thoughts; my account is cast up, I am ready.

2. “That I must put off,” or lay down; willingly, not on compulsion; not pulled down, but laid down. It is a metaphor drawn from a wager; the faithful man doth wager, and pawn his soul to God.

3. “This my tabernacle”--not my castle, or strong tower, or standing house; but a tent, a movable, a tabernacle.

4. “Shortly.” The time is not so far off that I dream not of it; not likely to happen in another age, and creeping on by slow degrees. The sun is not descending, but ready to set; the messenger knocks at the door; the clock runs upon the last minute; the epilogue is on the stage; the taper at the last glimpse; the oak falling under the latest blow of the axe.

5. “As the Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.” It is a shame for me to be unprepared when such a Prophet hath certified me, both in prediction and example showing the way.

A resolution. “Knowing.” The assurance of unavoidable death is a doctrine well known. Make a virtue of necessity; offer God that for a gift, which you are bound to pay as a debt.

A dissolution.

1. Personal. “I”--though a preacher, an apostle, etc. These singular deductions out of universal propositions, are profitable to men, and acceptable to God.

(1) Seeing we must die, do you pray for us, that we may do your souls good while we live (Ephesians 6:18-19).

(2) Seeing our life is so short, do you apprehend the means while it lasteth (Hebrews 3:15).

2. Necessary. “I must.” If heaven were to be had upon earth, saints should not dwell in tabernacles.

3. Voluntary. “Put off.” The apostle calls himself a depository, that hath a jewel committed to him on trust, which he is willing to surrender.

4. Instant. “Shortly.”

(1) The less space a man hath allowed for his business, the more he should ply it. The fewer days, the fruitfuller lessons.

(2) The words of dying men have been most emphatical, most effectual. The last words of good men are best, as the last glare of the sun going down most clear. An admonition uttered by such a teacher, at such a time, to such an auditory, challenges good attention, great devotion.

A revelation. “Even as our Lord,” etc.

1. Those who refer it to the manner, conceive this revelation to be given him (John 21:18-19).

2. They that refer it to the time of his dying, understand it thus: That Peter should die, he knew in general; that he should die a martyr, he knew in particular; but that he should die shortly he could not know, except by some later revelation, in special. It is probable that where Peter wrote this Epistle, even there he received this revelation.

3. Now howsoever an apostle had some special premonstrance of the nearness of his end, yet this is not common, though old age and consumptions be certain forewarners of approaching death. We, too, have the more preparation, by how much we have the less revelation concerning the time and circumstances of our death. (Thos. Adams.)

Putting off the bodily tabernacle

1. His exemplary industry and diligence in his ministerial work.

(1) The quality of his work, which was “to stir them up by putting them in remembrance,” to keep the heavenly flame of love and zeal lively upon the altar of their hearts. He well knew what a sleepy disease the best Christians are troubled with, and therefore he had need to be stirring them up, and awaking them to their duty.

(2) The constancy of his work, “As long as I am in this tabernacle.” The body is called a tabernacle, in respect of its moveableness and frailty, and in opposition to that house, “eternal in the heavens.” And it is observable how he limits his serviceableness to them. Death puts an end to all our ministerial usefulness; but till that time he judged it meet to be aiding their faith; our life and labour must end together.

2. The motive stimulating him to this diligence; “knowing that I must shortly put off this tabernacle, even as the Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me,”

(1) He reflects upon the speediness or near approach of his death. “I must (shortly) put off this my tabernacle “(2 Timothy 4:6).

(2) The necessity of his death: It is not I may, but I must put off this my tabernacle.

(3) The voluntariness of his death; for voluntariness is consistent enough with the necessity of the event. He saith not, “I must be torn, or rent, by violence from it”; but “I must depose, or lay it down.” The law of mortality binds all, good and bad, young and old, the most useful and desirable saints whom the world can worst spare, as well as useless and undesirable sinners (Romans 8:10).

The continuance of these our tabernacles, or bodies, is short, whether we consider them absolutely or comparatively.

1. Absolutely. If they should stand seventy or eighty years, which is the longest duration (Psalms 90:10), how soon will that time run out!

2. Comparatively. Let us compare our time in these tabernacles.

(1) Either with eternity, or with Him who inhabits it, and it shrinks up into nothing (Psalms 39:5). Or

(2) with the duration of the bodies of men in the first ages of the world, when they lived many hundred years.

The reasons of putting off the earthly tabernacle so soon, are--

1. The law of God, or His appointment.

2. The providence of God ordering it suitably to this appointment. And both these in pursuance of a double design.

(1) By dissolving the tabernacles of wicked men, God pays that debt of justice owing to the first Adam’s sinful posterity (Romans 6:23).

(2) By cutting off the lives of good men, God pays to Christ the reward of His sufferings, the end of His death which was to bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).

Inference 1. Must we put off these tabernacles? Is death necessary and inevitable? Then it is our wisdom to sweeten to ourselves that cup which we must drink; and make that as pleasant to us as we can which we know cannot be avoided.

Inference 2. Must we put off these tabernacles of flesh? How necessary is it that every soul look in season, and make provision for another habitation?

Inference 3. Must we put off our tabernacles, and that shortly? What a spur is this to a diligent redemption and improvement of time? You have but a little time in these tabernacles; what pity is it to waste much out of a little!

Inference 4. Must we shortly put off these our tabernacles? Then slack your pace and cool yourselves; be not too eager in the prosecution of earthly designs.

Inference 5. If we must shortly put off these tabernacles, then the groaning and mourning time of all believers is but short; how heavy soever their burden be, yet they shall carry it but a little way.

Inference 6. Must you shortly put off those tabernacles? Then spare them not whilst you have them, but employ them for God with all diligence.

Inference 7. Look beyond this embodied state, and learn to live now as you hope to live shortly; begin to be what you expect to be. (John Flavel.)

Man’s earthly mode of being

Here is a felt duty connected with this mode of being. “I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up,” etc. The spiritual excitation of the Christian soul. He sought to put Christians in mind of five things which he refers to in the context: That spiritual excellence is the great end of Christianity (2 Peter 1:3-4); that spiritual excellence is progressive in its nature (2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:7); that it requires very diligent cultivation (2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:10); that it is the only guarantee of salvation (2 Peter 1:9); and that it will ultimately meet with a glorious reward (2 Peter 1:11). Now there are three important things implied in the apostle’s aim--

1. A paramount necessity for the Christian ever to feel these things. His own progress and the conversion of the world depend upon this.

2. A sad tendency in the Christian to forget these things.

3. An obligation which one Christian has to endeavour spiritually to excite others by these things.

A destined change that awaits this mode of being. “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle.”

1. The nature of the change. It is a putting off the tabernacle.

2. The nearness of the change. “Shortly.”

3. The assurance of the change. “Knowing.” It is not a subject of doubt.

A glorious cause that must outlive this mode of being. “More over I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.” Three things implied:

1. The necessity of Christianity to posterity. All generations require it; therefore it must be handed down.

2. The felt interest of the good in posterity. They are far more anxious to bequeath truth and godliness than estates or empires.

3. The capacity of men to help posterity. Through a holy life, and instructions oral or written. Properly estimate thy mortal mode of life. Thou art dwelling in a tabernacle. I would not have thee ascetically to despise thy body, for it is the workmanship of God; an exquisite instrument of the soul; the inlet of the material, and the outlet of the spiritual. But I would have thee to remember that it is not thyself, but a temporary habitation of that soul of thine, which is identified with a gospel in which the universe is interested, and upon which the salvation of thy race depends, Realise the vastness of the work thou hast to do while in thy frail tabernacle, and do it. (Homilist.)

That ye may be able, after my decease.--

A noble endeavor and desire

The apostle’s endeavour.

1. The first thing required to this endeavour is learning.

(1) They are dangerous teachers, that never were learners. While they will not be scholars of truth, they become masters of error. They must know their winds, ebbings and flowings, creeks and sea-marks, that will be fishers. Wherein consists this learning? Not in a theory of divers arts, but in the sober use and discreet application of divinity.

(2) Some think a minister hath no great need of learning, because he is to speak to the unlearned (Hebrews 5:11-12).

2. The next thing required to this endeavour is an honest and religious life. If this have been bad before thy calling, redeem it now. The minister that spends himself like a taper to light others, must not himself go out with an ill savour. An innocent life is a silent testimony of a good minister.

3. The last thing required to perfect this endeavour is constant labour. Pray the Lord to send forth labourers, not loiterers, into His harvest.

The apostle’s purpose.

1. “That ye may be able.” All is for your sakes, this preaching, this remembering, this writing, all for you.

2. “After my decease,” etc. The apostles did not only preach to us vocally while they lived, but even now also exemplarily by their former conversation, and still doctrinally by their holy rules. The words of a preacher die not with him, but live in the hearers’ hearts, and shall either convert them here, or convince them hereafter. (Thos. Adams.)

The Christian’s usefulness in and after death

It is worthy of remark how frequently the inspired writers insist on fundamental doctrines. They had, indeed, evidently no desire to tie down either themselves or their converts to any one set of truths, whilst there were others which God’s Spirit was ready to unfold. On the contrary, they speak reprovingly of that indolence or indifference which made men rest in first principles when it became them to go on to perfection; but nevertheless they had no idea of men abandoning the first principles, as though they were not necessary to the more advanced inquirer. Now, the first thing we wish to point out is the sincere desire for the glory of God in the salvation of sinners, which must have animated the man who could breathe the language of our text. We read in such language an entire forgetfulness of self, the indication of a pure zeal for the welfare of the Church. If carnal motives had actuated the apostle, he would probably have desired that his departure might be injurious to the Church. Suppose that, having been kept sound in the faith, so long as he ministered amongst them, numbers were afterwards to decline, what testimony would seem to be given to his power and faithfulness as contrasted with those of his successors in office! Something of the same kind is frequently occurring in the world. The felt injury which results from the loss of an individual causes him greater glory than even all the benefits which he may have been enabled to effect. When, for example, a statesman, who has guided with a master hand the vessel of the commonwealth through the breakers and shoals, is withdrawn from his post whether by death or intrigue, and the rudder is given into a feebler grasp, what, if he sought only his own reputation, would that statesman more desire than that dangers should threaten and shipwreck to the state seem inevitable? It would be by the proud inferiority of those who filled his place, that his own greatness would become most conspicuous. And we are not without examples off the same kind in regard of the ministers of Christ. Now, we have hitherto simply argued upon the evidence which we think is furnished by our text to the humility of the apostle, of the readiness of St. Peter to be counted nothing, and less than nothing, provided the cause of Christ might prosper and prevail. But now we wish to take a somewhat different view of the passage. We have already said, that in all probability the apostle was not reckoning upon what might be done by his successors towards preserving in his converts the remembrance of the truths he had taught. He appears rather to have calculated upon the permanence of his own instructions, when himself should have been withdrawn by death. This is very observable. He announces his determination of putting the Church in remembrance as long as he lived; arguing, manifestly, that it would never be safe for him to relax in his work; nevertheless he reckons on the Church retaining the remembrance, when death should have silenced his monitory voice. You will perceive there is here something like a contradiction. If it were necessary to be always putting them in remembrance whilst he lived, how could he hope that there would not be forgetfulness when he was dead? We think it possible that the apostle had reference to what was likely to be the power of his death; and if so, there is a beauty and a pathos in the passage which is not to be surpassed in the whole range of Scripture. There is often practically far more of power in the death than in the life of a religious individual. There is something so hallowed around the memory of the dead, something so spiritual and unearthly, that the most hardened are more touched by the remembered words of the departed than by all the utterances of the living. When memory syllables to us the admonitions of those who lie mouldering in the dust, it is almost as if a spectre spoke, and we start and shrink as if in contact with a messenger from the invisible world. Neither is this the only or the chief reason why death gives this impressiveness and this permanence to inculcated truth. It is in death that a man puts to the proof the worth of the principles which he has spent life in recommending and enforcing; and if he be enabled, during the taking down of the “earthly house of this tabernacle,” to give evidence of a joy and a peace of spirit which are to be accounted for only by the truth of what he has taught, why there is yet more in his tranquillity and assurance than in all the fervour and power which he may have thrown into his lessons to convince men that he has followed no cunningly devised fable. It is this which lays so great a weight of responsibleness upon those who are much with the righteous in the season of their sickness and death. Yes, more, far more, may be done by dying than has been effected by living. It is a blessed thought, and appears in no common degree to strip death of its repulsiveness, and even invest it with beauty. This is what I call victory in death. Even as the Captain of our salvation is said to have destroyed death, so may we, treading humbly in his footsteps, use it to undermine the empire of Satan. Of this the Church teems with proof. Thus was it that confessors and martyrs prevailed. Oh! it should mightily encourage us to persevere in enduring to the end, to know that when we shall be weakest then we may be strongest. In place of feeling when we lie down on our death-bed that all is over, and we can do nothing more, we may feel that if the dying statesman cannot benefit the state, nor the expiring warrior beat down the foe, the departing Christian may fight the battle of God, and speed the march of Christianity. We shall not die as teachers; we shall, God helping, teach in dying. The tears which are wept over us shall be from the fountains of the heart broken up by our removal. Our memory shall haunt the scene of our labours. Now, suppose we take another view of this text. It is not unlikely that St. Peter had respect to his writings when he announced that he would endeavour to instruct after death. He preached to one generation; he wrote for every future. It was his hope and endeavour, as announced in our text, to instruct after death. He did not wish to be forgotten, so that when he passed away from earth he might survive in his writings, and still be instrumental in winning souls to Christ. There is something very grand and ennobling about this ambition. It seems to me that the man who entertains and accomplishes the wish of doing the work of an evangelist after death, triumphs over death in the highest possible sense. I could almost dare to say that he never dies. There is many a private Christian who is long remembered and venerated, whose example is efficacious long after his decease, and whose lessons operate when the tongue which delivered them has mouldered into dust. And we call it the destruction, the abolition of death, when man may thus do good notwithstanding his decease. This is true immortality; for such as these the curse is wholly done away. They know no pause in the highest employments. And may it not be lawful to desire and to strive for the being thus held in remembrance after death? As Christians, we should pant to bring glory to God. We should not be willing to be circumscribed by life. The battle is to go on, and we should long to take part. The Church is to be edified, and we should crave for employment; yea, it might be as pure and as humble a wish as ever was breathed, though it might sound like that of one eager for human distinction, if it did not suffice us to be useful to others whilst we tabernacled amongst them, but if, throwing onwards our thoughts to yet distant days, we were to address our fellow-men in the words of the apostle: “We will endeavour that ye may be able after our decease to have these things always in remembrance.” Now, we cannot conclude without pointing out to you the exquisite composedness with which St. Peter speaks of death, and without breathing a prayer that when our last hour shall be near we may as placidly expect its approach. The apostle evidently contemplates without apprehension his dissolution, though he knew that he must die a cruel and ignominious death. And his only anxiety is for the welfare of those from whom he should be separated. It only argues terror of death when men shrink from making arrangements in anticipation of their dissolution. I love to hear the dying Christian speak calmly of the churchyard where he wishes to be buried, of the distribution of his property, of the place where his children are to live, I feel that he is ready for his last dread account, when he can thus, without flinching, direct all which has concern to his being numbered with the dead; but the noblest thing of all is when the dying Christian shows that his last thoughts are on the welfare of the Church and the glory of God. The wounded warrior, as the life-blood ebbs away, will sometimes kindle at the noise of the battle. He will half raise himself from the earth, listen to the distant shout, and forget his anguish as he fancies that he hears the triumph of his comrades in arms. Yes, chivalry has such stories to tell; but Christianity has nobler. The servants of Christ, when they can no longer join the war, will breathe out the soul in longings for its success. They will think on the yet vast powers of heathenism--on the aboundings of vice--on the spreadings of infidelity; and, though about to put off their armour and enter into rest, will give their last thought to the struggle, and their last prayer for the triumph of the hosts of the Lord. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

A good man’s endeavor to compensate for the limitations of a mortal life

It is one of the noblest protests of man against mortality. “I will endeavour that after my decease,” etc. Many have been the protests of man against mortality, or his efforts to modify its effect. One toils night and day life through to establish a reputation; another a business; another to bequeath a fortune; another, like Peter, to leave behind an influence which shall ennoble other lives (Genesis 11:4; Job 19:23-24, etc.).

1. Here observe the desire is not that after Peter’s decease people should remember him as much as “the things “he had taught them. To the true minister the message is of infinitely more importance than himself.

2. The ambition of Peter is that he should aid the memories of his brethren in the best direction and for the highest purpose.

3. There is another law which Peter recognises, namely, that by which the utterances of a teacher are not unfrequently best remembered when he is gone--“after my decease.” Peter himself had remembered his Lord’s words best at such a time (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:61; see also John 2:22; John 12:16, etc.). Now what are those things which Peter considers of such importance for men to remember? (See 2 Peter 1:8-10; 2 Peter 1:12.)

(1) The largeness of the Divine provision--“All things that pertain unto life and godliness.”

(2) The promise of its bestowal--“Exceeding great and precious promises.”

(3) The ultimate end of all--“That ye may become,” etc. Now we come to the bearing of all this upon human consecration--“Add to your faith virtue,” etc. Here is a summary of Divine grace and human duty. These are the things which he wishes them to remember. “These things” are the conditions of “fruitfulness,” vision, and steadfastness, and these are the things that make human life great. Now, he would not have them think that this progressiveness in the Divine life was an easy task. Again, observe that he who asks diligence of them pledges himself also in our text, “Yea, I will give diligence,” etc. Now, these are the words of an aged man--a man who during life has undergone much discipline, and, consequently, who has been matured and ennobled. How closely such lives are knitted with the lives of others, and how far-reaching their influence! This is one of the great redeeming features of the brevity of human life: that it projects its force into the ages, yea, into eternity. Death can do nothing to such a man except to transfigure him. (D. Davies.)

Verses 16-20

2 Peter 1:16-20

We have not followed cunningly devised fables.

From starlight to sunlight

The mythical mode. “In declaring the power and advent of the Lord Jesus, we were not as those who are familiar only with the popular myths which are deemed sufficient for the multitude; we were, rather, as the favoured few who are admitted to the secret mysteries, who are permitted to know the truths that underlie the fables and stories which fill the popular imagination.” What, then, were these “myths,” and what the “mysteries”? The myths, in their origin, were simply poetical conceptions of the processes and phenomena of Nature. Thus, for instance, the sun sinks, or seems to sink, every night into the sea; in the fervid East, moreover, it dries up the streams. But “sun,” and “sea,” and “streams” had, in the infancy of the world, masculine and feminine names, as, indeed, they still have in most of the languages spoken by men. These masculine and feminine names were soon turned into proper personal names by the vivid imagination of men to whom the world was fresh and wonderful; and hence, instead of saying “The sun sinks into the sea,” they said, “The Sun-God sinks into the lap of the Sea-Goddess, and rests until their child, the Dawn, wakes him from his slumbers.” Instead of saying “The sun dries up the stream,” they told a pretty story of a certain River Nymph whom the Sun-God dearly loved, and who would give him no peace till he came to her in all the glory of his heavenly pomp, beholding which she was forthwith consumed. All the great and many of the lesser processes of Nature were thus mythicized, turned into poems and stories--the succession of day and night, the dependence of men and cattle on the shining of the sun, on the fruits of the earth, on the sweet, fresh water of the mountain streams. Still, under all these freaks of fancy there lay concealed the germs of many religious truths, as, for example, these: that the Powers which ruled in heaven cared for the earth and blessed it; that God, or the gods, might take human form and dwell among men; and that there was a fair spiritual world, larger, brighter, happier than the world of sense, into which even man might pass and rise. As years and centuries elapsed, these truths were forgotten out of mind, as were many of the ethical maxims deduced from them. In order that they might not altogether perish from the memory and life of man, certain “mysteries” were founded and ordained. To be “admitted,” that is, to be initiated, into these mysteries, was an honour granted to comparatively few of the millions of antiquity; and it was granted only after they had passed through a probation which either was, or was affirmed to be, terrible to any but men of a brave and constant spirit. Their good faith was thus put to a severe preliminary test; tremendous oaths binding them to secrecy were administered to them; to divulge a mystery or to intrude upon it uncalled were offences punishable with death. Now, says St. Peter, when we made known to you the power and advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were telling you no pretty popular myth, no fable of a Divine person who came down and dwelt with men, such as you have often heard from your priests or rhapsodists, such as you may still hear from your heathen neighbours. We had been initiated into the very mysteries of truth; we had mastered their secrets, that we might divulge them to you. We spake of that which we ourselves had seen, and handled, and felt, of the Word of Life.

The miraculous mode. From the mythical St. Peter passes to the miraculous method of revelation. Where was that inner temple, that sacred and oracular shrine, in which, after their initiation, the apostles were admitted to the mysteries and stood to be eye-witnesses of the unclouded majesty of the Incarnate God? It was on “the holy mount,” on which the Lord Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. But why does the apostle select this scene in our Lord’s life--the Transfiguration--before all others? Simply, I suppose, because at that moment, in that scene, all that was most marvellous in the Lord Jesus Christ was shown forth in its most marvellous forms. The “advent” of Christ was a miracle; every word and deed that disclosed His Divine “power” was a miracle: but the miraculous element of His “advent and power” culminated in His Transfiguration.

The prophetic mode. After describing the honour and glory done to Christ, and the voice which came to Him from the glory that shone around Him on the holy mount, the apostle adds: “But we have something surer still--the prophetic word, whereunto ye do well that ye give heed,” etc. Why does he call it “something surer still”? First, because it is “as a lamp shining in a dark place.” Now, as we all know, we can find our way even on the darkest night, if only we have “a lamp to our feet”; and, moreover, we can see to do any necessary work, if only we have a lamp shining over our head. In plain words, the apostle’s argument is that miracles are not guides, or not safe guides; but that, on the contrary, we are under a guidance that is both good and safe when we follow the moral rules of the written Word. The Divine Word has another claim on our regard and preference. For this “lamp” which shines so helpfully on the activities of human life, has been lit and is fed by God Himself. “No prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation.” That is to say, the prophetic Word is not a mere logical deduction from the facts of life and Nature; nor is it a mere guess at things to come, based on a knowledge of what has taken place in the past. There was something higher than human wisdom in the prophetic utterances, something safer than the prognostics of human reason; for prophecy never came only from the will of man, but holy men, borne along by the Holy Ghost, as the ship is borne before the wind, spake the words that were given them from God. There is a Divine wisdom, therefore, an infallible wisdom; there is a Divine power, an almighty power, in the inspired Word, even when it is most human and imperfect in outward form. This was one contrast in the apostle’s mind: and the other was that the prophecies of Scripture were superior to the oracles uttered by the ministrants of heathen shrines. When these oracles were consulted, they gave “private interpretations.”

But, finally, the spiritual mode of revelation is even safer and better than the prophetic mode, as much better as sunlight is better than lamplight. When Christ is once with us, and in us, what further proof can we require of His “advent” or of His “power” to quicken and redeem? With Christ to teach us what He would have us do, we can dispense with all other teachers, all other aids. Myths! We have been initiated into the very mysteries of the faith, and are joyful eye-witnesses of His majesty. Miracles! He has wrought the great miracle upon us, bringing a clean thing out of an unclean, opening our blind eyes, unstopping our deaf ears, quickening us from our death in trespasses and sins. Laws and hopes! When once we have personally laid hold on Christ, we are a law unto ourselves, and move in the freedom of a glad obedience to His will; we have a hope already fulfilling itself in us, and yet opening up into widening vistas of light the hope of eternal life and service and peace. The morning star has risen in our hearts; the day has dawned; the darkness is over and gone, and, with the darkness, all our need of the lamps and stars which once made night tolerable to us. (S. Cox, D. D.)

Apostolic testimony

A disclaiming of all fabulous mixtures with the sacred truth.

A proclaiming of the virtue and excellency of Christ.

1. The manifestation itself. “We made known unto you.” The apostles did not hide the mysteries of salvation revealed to them (Romans 16:25-26).

(1) This doctrine makes to the conviction of them that conceal the way of the Lord (Matthew 23:13; Romans 1:18).

(2) This reproves them also that content themselves with their ignorances, and never labour for knowledge.

2. The matter manifested. “The power and coining of our Lord.” By this the apostle intends the sum of the gospel, and the full salvation that is given us by Christ, in whom are all the treasures of blessedness. Of this he makes two distinct parts.

(1) That Christ came in the flesh, suffered for our sins, and rose again for our justification.

(2) The virtue and efficacy of this in our hearts, when we manifest the fruit of it in our well living and well believing.

A testifying of this and that from the surest witnesses. In witnesses there are three things especially required.

1. That they be of good report and repute; for a bad and vicious life enervates their testimony. But these were holy men; He that sent them to give testimony did not deny them sanctimony (John 17:17).

2. That they be eye witnesses; so were these.

3. That they agree in their testimony. (Thos. Adams.)

Christianity not a cunningly devised fable

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables.” The infidel says we have. This is no new cry. It is as old as Christianity itself. The apostles themselves were said to have been imposed upon. Since that day the ground of attack has been changed. We are now told that the apostles were the impostors.

The statements that have been denounced as fables.

The persons who are said to have fabricated thess fables. Infidelity asserts that they were deceivers. Of this we might justly demand proof. They appear to be men of strict integrity. They do not hesitate to expose each other’s faults or to confess their own. They appear to be utterly destitute of the art of deception.

1. Is it pretended that these grand impostors were men of renown for their talents and influence, and that, therefore, they acquired an ascendancy over the public mind? This is at once disproved by the fact that, at the very outset of their career, the Jewish Sanhedrin perceived that they were “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13), whilst Gentile magistrates and governors regarded them as weak, demented enthusiasts, whose fittest treatment was scourging and imprisonment.

2. Will it be contended that in the construction of their scheme, they adapted their fables to the popular taste? This is at once denied. Their system was absolutely opposed to parties of every class, to men of every clime. How different was the system of Mohammed! and how different have been the schemes of more modern infidels! How careful have these impostors been to pander to the passions of those they have sought to delude, presenting or promising whatever has been adapted to the views and the tastes of the proud, the worldly-minded, the sensual, and the profane!

3. But it is said that they were fools and fanatics. This assertion is more easy than the proof. They were indeed, accused of folly and of madness, but they convinced their accusers that they spake the words of truth and soberness. Their writings certainly afford evidence that they were men of more than ordinary mental vigour. Their style is nervous and plain. Their story is simply and unaffectedly told.

4. But they were actuated by ambition, it is said. On what object was their ambition fixed? Worldly honour or worldly power is usually the great object of the ambitious. Besides, it was not their ambition to exalt themselves, though they had opportunities of doing so (Acts 3:14.). The entire history of the apostles is pregnant with proof that they sought not their own, but the things of Jesus Christ. What things might have been gain to them, those they counted loss for Him.

5. Impostors generally expect to get something by the impositions they practise; and the greater the risk of detection, or the danger of punishment, the greater is the gain, the hope of which is their animating motive. Now, what was the gain which prompted the apostles to devise and to execute their grand imposture? You must be aware, that so far as this world was considered, they had everything to lose, and nothing to gain. “Bonds and afflictions awaited them in every city.” Will it be said that all this was the obstinacy of contumacy? that rather than avow the cheat, they readily underwent privations and sufferings? The life of reproach and trial the apostles lived, and the death of torture that they died, incontestably prove their sincerity.

But who were the parties on whom these so-called fables were so successfully imposed?

1. If the evangelic history had been a fraud, of course the apostle- would have been most likely to succeed in the work of deception among the inhabitants of some barbarous clime; or, at any rate, among those who lived far away from the scenes where the plot was laid. Did they then travel into some remote or obscure region, where the inhabitants would have little inclination to suspect them, and less opportunity to detect their deceit? No; they began at Jerusalem.

2. Shortly afterwards, the apostles were induced to go unto the Gentiles; the one who was most active in this great missionary enterprise among the heathen, being a convert to the faith of Christ--not an original disciple of the Nazarene--and a convert, whose accession was one of the noblest triumphs of truth, of which the Church of Christ can boast. Do you not think that the disputer of that day would demand evidence before he gave credence to the statements of the apostles? Do you not think that the wise men of Greece, and the noble of Rome, would easily have detected the deceit of “Christ crucified,” had it been a cunningly devised fable, and would indignantly have denounced its abettors as worthless impostors had they not been the ambassadors of God?

The consistency of revealed truth with reason and with common sense. Let it, however, be remarked that those truths of Divine revelation, which it is necessary for us to understand in order to be saved, are so simple and plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, needs not to mistake respecting them. And therefore we argue that they are not cunningly devised fables.

1. To begin at the beginning--we mention first the existence of one great, supreme Being, whom the Bible denominates God. This great doctrine is everywhere assumed throughout the sacred volume, and forms the foundation of all religion, and of all morality too.

2. This Bible professes to be a revelation from God, designed to teach us His will, and to point out to us the path that leads to immortal blessedness. Is there anything unreasonable in this?

3. Let us now proceed to ascertain whether those truths which we call, by way of eminence, the truths of the gospel, are incredible or absurd. The first we notice is the entire and universal depravity of man. Go where you will, do you not find your fellow-creatures depraved as well as degraded? Is not the hand that God has filled with plenteousness lifted up in daring rebellion against Him?

4. Another great doctrine is the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. But it is objected that it is most unreasonable to suppose that the Divine Being should lavish so much love, as the doctrine of redemption supposes, on this insignificant world of ours, while there are so many worlds, and so many systems beside, filled with intelligent beings, all demanding the care of the Great Supreme as well as ourselves. We see nothing unreasonable in this supposition. Does the mother who watches and weeps over her sick or dying child, love her other children the less because her heart is so strongly drawn towards the afflicted one? Does it not magnify the Divine Being to know that when man had sinned and thereby excluded himself from the family of God, the Father of the spirits of all flesh spared not His own Son, in order that the banished ones might be restored?

5. And what inconsistency, either with reason or with common sense, can you find in the doctrines of justification or pardon righteously bestowed, because obtained by faith in the blood of Christ, and of the sanctification of the soul by the Spirit of Christ?

Among the results of this lengthened inquiry into the evidences of Christianity we trust will he--

1. The confirmation of the believer in the truth as it is in Jesus. You know what you have believed. You know whom you have believed. You will not sell your birthright for a mess of pottage.

2. Another result we hope will be the establishment of such as may be wavering.

3. A third result we anticipate from this inquiry is a clearer perception of the nature of Christianity, and a deepened conviction of its value, How vast are my obligations to the blessed God for having devised such a scheme for saving rebellious worms, and for having made it known to me. How necessary for me to avail myself of its privileges. (P. C. Horton.)

The certainty of the Christian faith

There was nothing about the apostles of wild enthusiasm. Before they staked everything, present life and life eternal, on the truth of Christianity, they had amplest proof that Jesus of Nazareth was the very Son of the Most High, the predicted Messiah.

1. The miracles wrought by Jesus were the capital proofs of His Messiahship.

2. The miracles of which Jesus Christ was the subject were among the signs of His glorious majesty by which the twelve recognised Him for the Redeemer. Of some of these prodigies, indeed, they were not spectators; not of the meteor star, which, on reaching His birthplace, hung over it. Nor yet, did they witness the sublime scene of His baptism.

3. The transfiguration, I observe, was that view of the Lord’s majesty to which holy Peter reverts with singular fondness.

Let us pass to a few marks of Christ’s power and majesty exhibited in His personal character.

1. The imperturbable temper of the Lord Jesus was among the shining proofs of His moral greatness and Divine nature.

2. His patient endurance of injuries has a further peculiarity about it, which denotes a more than human elevation of mind. For be it remembered that we are often debarred from revenging ourselves by want of power, or by fear of retribution. But Jesus was clothed with almightiness.

3. The condescension of this Man, so mighty in word and deed, to the mean and wretched and vicious whenever they craved His assistance, was another indication of a mind cast in a singular and heavenly mould. Nothing of this kind was found among the Pharisees and popular teachers of the day.

4. The wisdom of Jesus, so immensely beyond what His country, His years, His education gave reason to look for, must also have satisfied candid observers that He was from above. Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians tried their skill from morning to night, and were unscrupulous in the artifices they employed to entrap Him; but without effect. But there was a higher kind of wisdom in which Jesus stood alone. Who can peruse His discourses on moral and religious subjects; the Sermon on the Mount, the parables of the Ten Virgins, of the Prodigal Son, and not confess that no mere human mind of any age, least of all that of a Jew in an age so ignorant, corrupt, and superstitious, could possibly give birth to such pure and holy lessons?

5. The authority of our Lord’s diction and manner was another ray of His native grandeur, which penetrated the souls of His adherents and ranks high among the proofs of His divinity. He swept away the treasured notions that had come down from father to son, by the right which belonged to Him as the infallible interpreter of heaven. He debated nothing. He rarely deigned to offer reasons or proofs. He never suggested any doctrine doubtingly. You recognise the style of One quite aware that He is as much above other teachers as the heaven is higher than the earth; and that to put Himself upon a level with them were to belie His own character and mission.

6. Once more His devotedness to God, so pure, so noble, so fervent, so invariable, was it not of a kind to distinguish Him from ordinary saints, as the sun from twinkling stars? His zeal for God’s glory in a manner consumed Him. Whatever are the arrangements of Providence He rejoices in them precisely because they are the movements of God’s will. (J. N. Pearson, M. A.)

The credibility of Christianity

The Bible is no “cunningly devised fable.”

If it be a fable, it was not devised half cunningly enough. I allude to many apparent inconsistencies in the Bible. What wise man, in devising a fabulous history, would have loaded it with such difficulties as these?

If it be a fable, it is impossible to guess by what class of persons it was devised. “Kings,” perhaps, “invented the Bible in order to keep their subjects in awe of their authority.” “Priests,” exclaims another, “were no doubt the authors.” Yet there is a great deal written here against wicked priests also, which would scarcely have been inserted by them. Was it, then, the rich who devised this fable? Yet what is more common in the Bible than lessons on the worthlessness and vanity of riches? I need not ask whether the inventors of this fable are to be looked for among the poor. They are otherwise engaged than in writing books. “Some learned men, doubtless, compiled this book!” Still the same difficulty meets us. Learned men are often supposed to be proud of their wisdom; but here worldly wisdom is undervalued, and men are told that they must “become fools if they would be really wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18). Here, then, is a book, for which no probable author can be found, if it be a fable.

If it be a fable, it is unaccountable that it should have been so long and so extensively followed.

If it be a fable, the following of it has at least been beneficial to mankind.

If it be a fable, i must nevertheless follow it till you can show me some more excellent way. I want a guide in my ignorance; I want a comforter in my troubles. Is human reason that guide? Alas! I find cause to distrust that at every step which I take. Is self-gratification the better comforter? What! to follow the devices and desires of my own heart in spite of this forbidding fable? If the gospel be not a fable, it is truth, and truth of such a nature that you will be saved or lost, according as you believe or neglect it. It must be “followed”; it must affect your heart and influence your life. (J. Jowett, M. A.)

All true

Peter’s personal persuasion of the truth of his religion. “We have not,” etc. There are seasons when we all feel anxious to know on what ground we stand, just because we cannot go into eternity thinking and guessing about some peradventure. We must have certitude then.

Observe Peter’s repetition of the old truth once again before he dies. The testimony of an old man like Peter, who, in his review of the past, felt happy and satisfied in the conviction of the truth he had professed, is worth many a volume of evidences to the Christian religion.

The happiness Peter had in the recollections of the past. All aged people revert to the past with peculiar feelings of interest, if not enthusiasm. There is happiness in having good recollections--in having bright yesterdays to look back upon--in needing no desperate endeavours to forget.

The way in which Peter falls back on the word of God as the true ground of faith and peace. “We have a more sure word of prophecy,” etc. He had James and John, his companions, to think of. He had the glory of the mount and the transfiguration to dwell upon. But now he needed more. The friend may deceive you: the recollections of the past may be confused, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever. It is a sure word of prophecy. (W. O. Barrett.)

The value of world evidence

Moral reasons are sufficient to guide men in the affairs of the present life. A man will embark on board a vessel which he only knows by the report of others to be seaworthy. He trusts to the skill of a captain and the effectiveness of a crew of whom he knows only by report. He embarks to go to a place which he only believes on the testimony of others to exist. All this he does to obtain a probable good. He acts similarly to escape an apprehended evil. When sick, he will send for a physician of whose skill he has only heard. He takes medicine which he does not certainly know will cure him. In these cases he acts reasonably. It is clear that when, in relation to the life to come, he refuses moral evidence, he acts unreasonably. (C. Graham.)


The Christian revelation to be presumed divine

The existence of God admitted, another question at once suggests itself. Has this Divine Being directly revealed Himself and made known His will to man? We were taught in childhood that He has. We say, first of all, that the very existence of this alleged revelation, in the form in which we find it, affords a presumption of its truth.

1. The first thing that strikes one on glancing at the books of the Old and New Testament, in which what is called the Christian revelation is contained, is the exceedingly heterogeneous character of their contents. A little of all ages, of all sorts of men, and of all varieties of human thought! But on even a cursory reading of these writings, heterogeneous as they seem, you cannot fail to be equally impressed with a second fact about them, that they have, after all, a strange and most striking unity. One spirit breathes throughout the whole. The same conception of God, as the eternal, self-existent, and infinite Creator, of His natural government of the world, and of His moral government of rational creatures; the same general notions of right and wrong; the same views of the design of human existence, of the individual responsibility of men, of the blessedness of well-doing and of the miseries of sin, of the guilt and want of mankind, of the justice, the goodness, and the grace of God, and of the way of reconciliation with Him. Nor does this unity of sentiment, of spirit, and of general scope and purpose seem less, but rather greater, the more carefully and thoroughly these various compositions are examined. That these men have not been mere copyists from each other, the specific diversities, and the accessions and progressive development of thought afford decisive proof. Two questions meet us therefore, namely, How came they, any of them, by views at once so unique in themselves and so immeasurably superior in intellectual and moral elevation to those attained by the historians, the poets, and the sages of all the world besides? And then, how came they, writing separately and each for his own particular end, living also some of them centuries and even thousands of years apart, so to harmonise with and to supplement each other that, taken together, their writings form one grand and well-adjusted whole? We will not now assert that with these questions before us the conviction must arise that there is something supernatural in all this.

2. The presumption thus created by the existence of the Christian revelation in the form in which we find it, is greatly strengthened, we further observe, by the obvious and admitted fact that it has entered most profoundly into the life and thought of the world. Nor can it be said that other pretended systems of religion have done the same. There are no facts of history by which such an assertion can be justified.

3. Still further, a third fact lies before us in regard to the asserted Christian revelation, which, fairly considered, must predispose us to receive it. The effects which it has wrought, both on individual man and on society, have uniformly been salutary in a very eminent degree. These, too, are allowed to be the proper products of Christianity, and not things incidentally connected with it.

4. Not less significant is a fourth fact which presents itself at the outset to the inquirer about the Christian revelation. It has thus far stood secure against all assaults of those who have sought to overthrow it, although these assaults have been many, persistent, and often conducted with great ability and learning. The ancient prophets, each in his turn, encountered the resistance of unbelief. Then followed the long and mighty struggle between Christianity and the prevailing systems of philosophy and religion throughout the Roman empire. It was a contest of life and death. Yet, after all the Christian faith held on its way and triumphed. So it has been in the modern world. The wits, philosophers, and savants of France, in the last century assailed it with pungent satire, with the coarsest ribaldry. English Deism, in a higher style of thought, with greater strength of reasoning, with no little real learning, enlisting champions who, to great metaphysical acumen, added untiring patience and fixed determination, attacked the historical credit, the supernatural credentials, and the asserted revelations of the Christian Scriptures. There was no lack of will, or talent, or diligent endeavour.

5. It is a fact which no one tolerably informed as to the condition and movements of the religious world will question, that at no period of its history was Christianity more vital, more powerful, more expectant and progressive than at the present time. Can falsehood be imagined to have such vitality?

6. Consider, too, that if the Christian revelation, as it has been received for ages, is Divine, it must be the greatest of misfortunes to reject it as a fable. If it be indeed a sun kindled of God to illuminate the moral darkness of our world, it will shine on to cheer, and warm, and bless the happy multitudes who welcome it, though you shall avert your eyes and hide from its beams in the thick shades of unbelief. You have nothing--nothing--to gain if it be false. You have everything to hope for life, for death, for an immortality beyond, if, as you have been taught from childhood to believe, it is indeed a real utterance, a precious gift of the ever-living God to man. (R. Palmer, D. D.)

The power and coming of our Lord.

Christ’s power and coming manifested by the apostle’s doctrine and preaching

The office and ministry of the apostle. And that principally consisted in this: In making known the power and miracles, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this doctrine that the apostle preached consists of two heads:

1. The coming of Christ. By which is meant His incarnation and appearance in the flesh. This was that mystery that was hid from ages, but was made manifest in these last days.

2. The power of Christ, the apostle is said to make known, which indeed at first seemed much disguised. For who would have expected any miraculous discoveries of power from One whom they had seen poor and helpless Himself? And yet in this state of weakness He was made strong, grew bold and confident, despising the pride, trampling upon the bravery of this world, resisting temptations, triumphing over the powers and charms of riches. Now to make this power known to the world is to show how much all men may be benefited by the power of Christ, if they shall love Him and believe in Him. For to as many as receive Him gives He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe in His name.

The rules he observed in making known the power and coming of Jesus Christ. They used all honest and justifiable arts in preaching the gospel, but declined all ways of sophistry and deceit. As if they had said, Our cause is too plain and evident to need such poor artifices as lies and fables to support it.

1. The consideration of what hath been said should encourage us to embrace this article of our faith, Christ Jesus came in the flesh, and all others, with that zeal and love, as those who will live and die by them.

2. As we are to receive the doctrines of Christianity as most true and unquestionable, so we ought to take care that we build not upon this foundation, hay and stubble (2 Corinthians 3:12).

3. Let us bethink ourselves how much we are obliged to God for this signal mercy and blessing, the making known to us the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. Methinks our hearts should be all on fire, and burn within us while we are discoursing and talking of it. (R. Warner, D. D.)

The power and coming of our Lord

The coming of Christ was in power. If all the devils in hell could have hindered it, He had been stayed. The kings of the earth conspire and take counsel together; but neither their power nor their policy could withstand His coming. Neither was the glory of Christ wanting, though it conveyed itself in a less public form. He had a famous harbinger to go before Him and prepare His way. There was majesty in His humility.

The gospel is no weak thing, but comes in power. Christ came once unto men; He comes still unto men in the Spirit. The law came with more terror, but the gospel comes with more power. For that could not turn his heart that bare it in his hand; but the gospel is able to change the man (Romans 1:16).

The word of God hath more power than all men’s edicts.

The invincible power of the gospel is manifested in throwing down those bulwarks raised against it. (Thos. Adams.)

Eye-witnesses of His majesty.--

The majesty of Christ

In the midst of the darkest scenes of humiliation, a peculiar majesty was seen to accompany our Lord. These signs of heavenly greatness confirmed the faith of His disciples when sinking under the pressure of disappointment and affliction.

The apostles were witnesses of His majesty when they witnessed His matchless character.

1. He was made in the likeness of man, and He took on Him the infirmities of our nature; but He was unstained by our sins and imperfections.

2. But in Christ we not only see a character without sin, but perfect in its nature; manifesting the highest virtues in transcendent excellence.

3. With these celestial excellencies of character is joined an habitual and singular elevation above the world. His affections and labours are directed to spiritual and eternal objects. They elevate Him in the midst of ignominy; and give glory and majesty to His shameful death.

4. In Christ the various and seemingly opposite graces of character combine; and everywhere appear in their due place and on their proper occasion.

That in correspondence with the perfection of the character of Christ, is His manner while fulfilling the work which His Father had given Him to do. There was a calm and simple, yet deep solemnity, in His demeanour and words, suited to the truths which He declared, and the office which He sustained--which manifested also His sense of their infinite importance, and tended powerfully to affect the minds of those whom He addressed. Without the slightest tendency to haughtiness or pride, a Divine authority. He manifested the native greatness of His character.

There were extraordinary events and wonders in heaven and on earth, which in the midst of the deepest humiliation, gave indications of the majesty of Christ. (S. MacGill, D. D.)

He received from God the Father honour and glory.

The vision of Christ’s majesty

The person to whom this honor is given. “He received.”

From whom he received it. The Father gives, the Son receives. The Father speaks from heaven, the Son hears it.

What he received.

1. Christ would receive honour of His Father.

2. All honour and glory is Christ’s, as being delivered to Him by the Father (Luke 10:22).

3. All true and blessed honour comes from God, and is to be sought there.

The time when the apostles beheld, and their master received, this glory and majesty.

1. “When there came.” Why did the apostles single out the transfiguration, more than any other event, to exemplify Christ’s majesty, and the honour conferred on Him by the Father?

(1) Because Moses and Elias appeared to Him there: in all the rest of His miracles He had no company but men on earth, now He had a testimony from two glorious saints in Paradise.

(2) Because He was adorned with celestial glory. Nothing of earth was seen, but a Divine and heavenly majesty appeared.

2. “Such a voice.” This is the voice that shall one day be heard from one end of the world to the other.

3. “From the excellent glory.” There be glories in the world, but they are not excellent (Genesis 49:3-4). This glory is admirable.

(1) For dignity. It is a glory: and this hath been the scope of most men’s endeavours and reaches.

(2) For clarity. It is not a hidden, but a revealed glory (Colossians 3:4). Clear, both for condition, it shall be excellent; for cognition and apprehension, it shall be seen in the full excellency of it. It is an everlasting solstice; the length is interminable, the brightness unchangeable, the fulness unvariable.

(3) For verity. It shall be indeed, not in show only, but upon us.

(4) For the eternity. If it had an end, it were not excellent,

The matter and substance of the testimony.

1. “This”; the word shows Him to be that Messias, long before prophesied, and now manifested. This, singularly; not another, but this is He.

2. “My Son,” consubstantially, because begotten of Mine own substance. Originally Mine, by union of nature; though in Him others be made Mine also, by adoption of grace.

3. “Beloved, eternally; not in time accepted, but before all beginning begotten.

4. “In whom I am well pleased,” and never was offended: all other men were the children of wrath; I could not be pleased with them; but in this Son I rest. (Thos. Adams.)

The Father well pleased in the Son

It is very important that you have right thoughts of the Sonship of Christ, or of the sense in which Christ is affirmed to be God’s Son. It is clear from Scripture that Christ is the Son of God, in such sense as to prove Him Divine; for St. Paul argues from His Sonship, His superiority to angels, “Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?”

We are now to consider the statement, that in this beloved Son God “is well pleased.” We shall now regard the Son solely in His character of Mediator--that character which He was born to assume. The Father may be considered as “well pleased” in His Son, first, because Christ’s mediation magnified all the attributes of God, and secondly, because it met all the necessities of man. And now, having investigated the causes of the Father’s being “well pleased” in the Son, it becomes us to ask you whether, when Christ is displaying His character of a Saviour, you, too, are “well pleased” in Him. Judge your own restoration to God’s forfeited image, by deciding whether any of the like reasons operate to make you “well pleased” in Christ. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Graduated certification of gospel truth

The Divine revelation which he had on the holy mount was certifying.

The Divine revelation which he had in the inspired record was more certifying.

1. The written Word furnishes a greater variety of Divine manifestations.

2. The written Word offers opportunities to a larger number of witnesses.

3. The written Word supplies better conditions for the formation of a sound judgment.

The Divine revelation that he had in his own consciousness was the most certifying. Peter draws a comparison between the light of the Bible and the light of Christian consciousness, and implies that the latter is far more valuable than the former.

1. The one is a lamp, the other is a “day, or morning star.”

2. The one is without, the other is within.

3. The one is temporary, the other is permanent.

4. The one is the harbinger of everlasting day, the other is not necessarily so. (Homilist.)

Verses 19-21

2 Peter 1:19-21

A light that shineth in a dark place.

The Word of God a light shining in a dark place

In showing the correctness of this description, I would begin with reminding you that by the “dark place” we must understand this world in relation to its spiritual condition. But in the midst of all this darkness a light has still been shining, and that light is the Word of God.

To illustrate it by a reference to facts. Has it not uniformly come to pass that true religion has flourished or decayed in exact proportion to the degree in which the Bible has been disseminated or suppressed?

1. In practically applying the subject, the first inference which I shall deduce from it is that suggested by St. Peter himself in the text--seeing that there is such a light shining in a dark place, “ye will do well that ye take heed to it.” Bear in mind the purpose for which it was vouchsafed: not to gratify a vain curiosity, not to puff up with fleshly wisdom, but to make wise unto salvation, to enlighten, convert, and purify the soul. Bear in mind that it is not enough to live under the light; you must also walk in the light. It is not enough that the light is around you; it must be also in you. You may have your understanding enlightened with Scriptural truths, and yet your heart may be “a dark place.”

2. Seeing that there is such a light shining in a dark place, ye will do well to aid the diffusion of it. Having “taken heed to it” yourselves, let it be your care to extend the blessing of it to others. Can you, indeed, do otherwise? (E. Cooper, M. A.)

Unfulfilled prophecy a light provided for the Church of Christ

State some of the uses of unfulfilled prophecy.

1. One use, of course, is to prove the truth and faithfulness of God’s Word, establishing by implication His foreknowledge.

2. Another use of unfulfilled prophecy is guidance and direction.

3. Unfulfilled prophecy is also for warning both to the Church and to sinners--to the Church, that they may be found ready, with their loins girt, overcoming the evil, and waiting for the glory; to the world, that they may have opportunity to escape, or, if they refuse, be left without excuse in the rejection of the truth.

4. Hope is specially strengthened and sustained through the communication of what is to come.

5. Among many other uses of unfulfilled prophecy is the answer which it affords to the questionings of infidelity.

The principles on which prophetical language and its statements should be interpreted. To the question, “How can we certainly discover the right way of interpreting unfulfilled prophecy,” we answer at once, “By observing how God has interpreted prophecy in what has been fulfilled already.”

Let us now proceed to discuss in a few words the one pre-eminently great event of unfulfilled prophecy--the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the great focus of prophetic light, and all other events and circumstances are gathered in beautiful symmetry around it.

The events which we believe will be connected with the advent. (C. J. Goodhart, M. A.)

Scripture light the most sure light

It is possible that a good man may be in the dark. Was not David in the dark (2 Samuel 22:29)? Was not Job in the dark (Job 19:8)? A good man may live and dwell in a place or town where no means of grace are; in a poor, dark, and ignorant corner of the world. Did not Job dwell in the land of Uz? As a good man may be offended and stumbled, so he may stumble into some mistakes and errors; erroneous times are dark times: every error is darkness, as truth is light. Ye see how it is in a room where there are many pictures; though ye see some of them presently, yet others have a silken curtain drawn before them, which ye see not immediately: so here, though God do reveal much unto you, yet there is a silken curtain that is still drawn before some truths, and therefore even a good man may be much mistaken. And if a good man may be under some temptation and sin, then he may be in the dark.

Though a good man may be in the dark, yet he hath scripture light to walk by. God hath not left him comfortless, and without light, in obscure darkness. But have not even wicked men this light also of the Scripture, to walk by in their darkness? I answer, They have it as a blind man hath the sun. And though a wicked man doth hear and may read the Scripture, and know many truths which are therein contained, yet he doth not know the greatness of them. But may not a good man’s eyes be held from this Scripture light? When he is converted, then are his eyes said to be opened, then is he anointed with the unction of the Holy One, and doth know all things necessary unto his salvation. He doth not shut his own eyes against any Scripture light. He knows more than he is able to utter and he feels more than he can speak. And though some Scripture truths may be hidden from him sometimes, yet he hath his intervals of sight. And though a good man may be in the dark, yet God doth not leave him so.

This scripture light is the most excellent, safe, and sure light: it is the light of lights; the most excellent light of all under God in Christ. For--

1. It is a true light. There is God seen especially, and Christ seen; there also you see yourself and your own dirty face; there also you see the creatures that are in the room with you, and their emptiness; the emptiness of men, and of all comforts and relations.

2. As it is a true light, so it is an admirable and wonderful light. In other knowledges, the more ye know, the less ye admire; but in Scripture knowledge, the more light ye have, and the more ye know, the more you will lift up your hands and admire, at your own ignorance and God’s grace.

3. As it is an admirable light, so it is a safe and sure light. Other false lights do lead men into fens and bogs; but we have a more sure and safe light, and the more of it falls upon your eye, the more is your eye preserved.

4. As it is a safe and sure light, so it is a pleasant and satisfying light. Light is pleasant to the eye, and the eye ordinarily is not satisfied with seeing: but this is that light which doth bring men to rest; for when a man knows what shall be his portion for ever, then his heart is at rest, and not before.

5. As it is a pleasant, satisfying light, so it is a full and sufficient light, able to make the man of God perfect unto salvation. What state can you be in, but the Scripture will find a commandment for your rule, and a promise for your assistance and reward?

6. As it is a full and sufficient light, so it is a clear light, a light that shineth; it hath no thief in it, as many lights and candles have: not that there are no hard things therein, and difficulties. Yet what truth is in all the Scripture, which is necessary to salvation, but doth lie plain and clear? (Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Romans 10:6).

7. As it is a clear light, so it is the best light in the world, the most excellent light, a light beyond all other things which do pretend to light.

(1) Wherein doth this Scripture light exceed or go beyond revelations or visions, and the light thereof?

(a) This Scripture light, as you have seen, is a full light, a light which did shine forth at once in and by Jesus Christ. Revelations and visions are more particular; though God did sometimes speak in that way and manner, yet then He spake drop by drop; but now He hath, in these last days, spoken His full mind by His Son. These were but as the apples which did fall from the tree of wisdom; but in the gospel and Scripture, ye have the whole tree itself.

(b) Scripture light is the highest light; Scripture dispensation the highest dispensation: the dispensation of visions and revelations was of a lower rank.

(c) This Scripture light is a more sure and certain light: for if God should now speak unto you by visions, or visional revelations, how would you know that this were the voice of God, and not a delusion of Satan?

(d) There is no danger in tending upon and taking heed to this Scripture light. But if men do attend to revelations and visions, how easily may they be drawn to despise the Scripture, and such as do wait thereon!

(e) Why but, you will say, may not God speak by extraordinary visions and revelations, in these days of ours? Though God may thus speak to some of His servants, yet if I have an itching desire after visions and revelations it is ill.

(2) As for dreams and voices, the Scripture or the written Word of God, is more excellent than those; and the light of Scripture is the best light in compare with any light that may come from them.

(3) As for impressions made upon the soul, whether by a particular word or without it; the Scripture, or the written Word of God, is more sure than those; and the light thereof the best and most excellent light in comparison with the light of impressions. If I do make an impression the certain judge of doctrines, then am I much deceived.

(4) As for that light and law of grace which is in the saints, the light of the Scripture is beyond and more excellent than that. The light and law within us here is imperfect, for we see but in part, and know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9); but the Word of God written, the Scripture and the light thereof, is perfect (Psalms 19:1-14.). The law of grace within, and the light within, is not able to convince others. Though experience be a great help to our faith, yet, take it alone, abstracted from the Word, and it cannot heal our unbelief. But though experience be the parent of hope, yet it is not the ground of our faith; it is an help unto faith, but not the first ground of our faith.

(6) As for Divine providence, the Scripture is a more sure light than it. For God doth sometimes try us by His providence. So He led the children of Israel in the wilderness forty years to try them, and to know what they would do, and to humble them. But the Scripture is the rule of our doing, and therefore a more safe and sure light to walk by. And if the providence of God extendeth unto all our actions, good and evil, and to evil as well as unto what is good, then there is no certain rule or judgment to be made up from thence.

(7) As for human reason and the light thereof, Scripture light is more excellent than it. For though human reason be a beam of Divine wisdom, yet if it be not enlightened with a higher light of the gospel, it cannot reach unto the things of God as it should. And as mere human reason cannot make a sufficient discovery of sin, so it cannot strengthen against sin and temptation: temptations answered by reason will return again; it cannot convert the soul. “But the Word of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Though the light of reason be good, yet it is not a saving light. It is revelation light from the gospel that doth bring to heaven: mere human reason cannot do it. Is there then no use of reason and of the light thereof? Yea, much, not only in civil things but in the things of God, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

As Scripture light is the most excellent light, the best and most sure light, so it is our duty, the duty of all the saints and people of God, to take heed thereunto, and that especially in their dark times and places. Yet further, ye shall do well that ye take heed thereunto, for the doctrine of the gospel written is--

1. The Word of the Son of God. The more excellent the person is that speaks unto you, the more diligently ye will take heed unto what he saith.

2. As the Scripture is the Word of the Son, so it is the only rule of our lives. Now that which is the only rule of our lives, we are in special manner to take heed unto.

3. As the Scripture and the Word of God written is the only rule, so it is that salt which doth season all your enjoyments. It is the rule and measure of your worship; for if you do not worship according to the appointments of God in His written Word, your worship is but idolatry and superstition. It is the great relief of your souls in time of temptation. It is that which sanctifieth all your outward comforts, even amongst the creatures (1 Timothy 4:4). And shall the Word of God written be such a blessed treasure, and shall we not take heed thereunto?

4. As it is the salt of all your comforts, so it is, and shall be, your judge at the great day. But the text saith, “That we shall do well to take heed thereunto, until the day dawn, and day-star arise in our hearts”: but the day hath dawned on me, and the day-star hath arisen in my heart; and therefore now, what need I take heed to the Scripture or the written Word any longer? I answer, Yea, still you have need to do it: for did not the day dawn and the day-star arise on the hearts of the apostles and Christians in their days, according to your sense and meaning? yet they still attended on the written Word of God. But why are the saints and people of God to take heed unto the Scripture and the written Word of God especially in their dark times and seasons? I answer, Because they are then in most danger of stumbling and falling: he that walketh in the dark, stumbleth; and who is not then apt to fall? But by taking heed to this sure light, they shall be kept from the power of their darkness. What must we do, that we may take heed and attend unto Scripture? Ye must do three things--

Ye must attend to know and understand it.

Ye must attend to keep it. And--

Ye must attend to walk by the same. And--

I. For your knowledge in and understanding of the Scripture, and the written Word of God, ye must--

1. Observe, keep, and hold fast the letter of it; for though the letter of the Scripture be not the Word alone, yet the letter with the true sense and meaning of it, is the Word.

2. If you would have the true knowledge, and understand the Scripture, and so behold this great light in its full glory and brightness, you must diligently inquire into the true sense and meaning of it, for the true sense and meaning is the soul thereof.

But secondly, and more practically: if you would so understand the Scripture, that you may take heed thereunto, as to a light shining in your dark state, then--You must go to God for the Spirit; for without it ye cannot understand the mind of God in the Scripture: no man knows the mind of Paul but by the spirit of Paul; nor the mind of Peter but by the spirit of Peter; no man knows the mind of Christ but by the Spirit of Christ: stand therefore under gospel dispensations, where the Spirit breathes. Take heed of a worldly, fleshly mind; fleshly sins do exceedingly blind the mind from the things of God, and a worldly mind cannot savour them. Yet take heed that you be not too indulgent to your own condition, disposition, or opinion. It is a good speech of Hilary: He is the best interpreter of Scripture that doth rather bring his sense from the Scripture than carry his sense to the Scripture. If you do desire so to understand the Scripture, as it may be a light to all your paths; then be sure that you put nothing else in commission with it for your rule. It is with the Scripture in this respect, as with God, Christ, and the Spirit; if you come to God for help, yet if you join another god in commission with Him, He will not give down His help. And so here: though you come, and tend, and wait upon God in the Scripture, yet if there be anything else which you do make your joint rule with the Scripture, any light within you, or precept of man without you, it will not give down its light to you, but you will be left in the dark.

Yet one thing more. If you would take heed to the Scripture, you must so heed the same, as you may walk thereby. Therefore prize it much: who takes heed to that which he does not prize? Therefore, also, get your heart affected with love to every truth which you know; for because men receive not the truth in the love thereof, therefore God doth give them up to strong delusions: men take heed unto what they love. And therefore that you may heed it so as to walk thereby, let it be your continual companion, going where you go; if you go into the fields, oh! let the Word go with you; if into your calling, oh! let the Scripture and the written Word of God be with you. Thus shall you take heed unto it, as to a light shining in a dark place. (W. Bridge, M. A.)

Until the day dawn.

The dawn of day

The words admit of two rather different meanings. They may refer to the light which sometimes breaks upon the heart after prayer or meditation. I would suppose that you are a real inquirer after truth. You have been searching for it long and earnestly, but the dark places in the Bible--those dark places which underlie all great truths--and the dark places in your own heart are many. You cannot see any light. Least of all can you see that you have yourself any part or lot in the matter. The day cometh and also the night, for the night is as much a part of the coming as the day. It will come in its own appointed time, and not a moment sooner. The day’s dawn will arise exact to its moment. Or it may be thus. You have lost the light which you once enjoyed. Something has come between your soul and God, and now all is dark. What shall you do? Pray on, repent on, confess on, plead on a little longer. It only wants your perseverance “until the day dawn.” Or perhaps you say, “I have never known any of the rapturous views which some speak of.” It is not given to everybody in the same degree, but to each as he needs it, or as he can bear it. The nights are as needful as the days to all the processes of nature. A brightened day of Christian experience may be yet waiting for you. Do not let hope, or faith, or courage fail until it dawn. Meanwhile, that “until” is a very important part of the blessing. Many a good thing has lost all its goodness simply because it came too soon. Do not hurry on the morning. God knows best how long your night shall be. But there is another interpretation which belongs to the text with equal or greater appropriateness. “The day.” The day of all days for this world is the Advent of Christ. That day which will throw over this earth a light never seen before, and clothe it with the most brilliant splendour. Of the exact period of that day’s dawn we have been most wisely and mercifully kept in ignorance. Is, then, this life all night? Why speak of the day dawning as if it is all now so very dark? It is all comparative. This life is a very happy life; this world is a beautiful world; but we all find that colour changes its hue under contrast. To-morrow’s exceeding joy may make a bright yesterday look dull, however pleasant it was. And when Jesus comes with His glory, and the heavens are new, and the earth is new, all that is now the holiest, and loveliest and best--tainted as it all is with sin and change and sorrow--it will all look like a shadow. Still it is not to disparage the present, but to exalt the future, that we are told to wait “until the day dawn.” To all the mysteries of our world and being, to the chaos of our thoughts, to the dark things within and around us on every side, the key, the true solution is “until the day dawn.” Bear that key with you, and it will unlock the whole year. Expect and be always looking for more and more light, till one by one the shadows flee away, and the whole orb of truth rises in his majesty, and “the day dawn.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The daystar arise.--

The rising of the day-star

There is a difference between “the dawn” and the “day-star.” The light of “the dawn” is general; the “daystar” gives the thought a focus and fixes it to one spot. “The dawn “is to the whole world; “the day-star “arises in our hearts. What “the day-star” is, is left without a shadow of a doubt. For Christ has singled it out as the last title which He claims in the whole Bible. “I am the bright and morning star.” As “the morning star “He comes to us in the night of waiting, doubt, and sorrow. “The day-star” is the morning close at hand. “The dawn” is the day begun. Yet they can never be divided. “The dawn” must soon be full day, and “the day-star” loses itself in the risen sun. Now trace, for a moment, the connection which lies in the allegory--between “the dawn” and “the day-star.” I will give one or two instances. You have been reading your Bible, and searching into some of the deep things there. You are a sincere inquirer after truth, but for a while it is all dark; and when it is the darkest, just before the light is going to break, a thought comes into your mind; it gives you a fresh view of the whole subject; it gets clearer and clearer; it spreads like “the dawn” over the hills; in another bound it unveils itself to you. Why? Whence comes this “dawn”? Is it from the head, or is it from the heart? Certainly from the heart. There is Christ in it. “The daystar” is in that “dawn.” You feel it. The day “dawned” when “the day-star arose in your heart.” And so Christ made the night of your ignorance turn into the day of your joy. I will take it thus. Some sin has gradually darkened your mind. It throws its deep shadow over everything. You cannot find forgiveness, and your whole life is wrapped in gloom. The night of your life becomes thicker and thicker. You pray; there is no answer. You repent; but there is no peace. When almost suddenly--as it seems to you--a hope seems to spring up, things begin to look brighter, despair ceases, praise and hope find their way to your thoughts. There is a “dawn”! But whence? Christ and His tender love has come nearer to you. He reveals Himself to you as your complete and all-sufficient Saviour. All is changed. Why? “The day-star” has “risen in your heart.” Or see what shall be presently. The second Advent of Christ is breaking upon this earth. A new day shall burst. This is wonderful. Are you frightened at the solemnities of that hour--the convulsions of nature--the rolling of the heavens up into a scroll--the sight of God! Do they appal you? No. You are calm; you rejoice. Why? For “the day-star” is there, and long before, He has been “the day dawn” in your soul. He is yours. You know Him. He has “risen in your heart,” and now has come the noontime of your joy! Now let us observe a little more concerning “the day-star.” And first I notice that it “ariseth” of its own free action, of the very necessity of its being; in its very nature it ariseth. It must “arise.” We do not make the day-star “arise”; neither do we make Jesus come into our poor dark hearts. He does it of His own free grace and favour. He comes of His own necessity. Such is His love He cannot but choose to come. He “arises” in your heart. The expression shows that it is gradual. “He arises.” He goes higher and higher. The light gets stronger, and we see Him more and more. And where the days are His, we know that there will be day--perfect day. The great question for every one of us is, “Is that day-star yet arisen in my heart? If not, why?” Are you wilfully hindering it? Are you turning away from it? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Christmas, or the two risings of the Day-star

(Luke 1:78-79; 2 Peter 1:19):--Christ has two incarnations--the one outside of man, the other inside; two births--the one in the manger, the other in the soul.

His objective birth or rising. “The day-spring from on high,” etc. This day-star arose in Bethlehem. First, the origin of this rising. “Through the tender mercy of our God.” God’s sovereign, compassionate, boundless love was the cause. Secondly, the purpose of this rising. “To give light to them that sit in darkness.” This was the condition of the world--in moral night, ignorant, polluted, miserable.

His subjective birth or rising. “The day-star arise in your hearts.” Christ is in His disciples

(1) as the dominant object of affection,

(2) as the dominant theme of thought,

(3) as the dominant motive of action.

His objective and subjective rising compared. Both agree in this. They are from the “tender mercy of our God.” But the following are points of difference: First, the objective rising exists independently of the subjective; but not the subjective without the objective. In other words, unless Christ had been born in the manger He would never have been born by faith in the human soul. Secondly, the objective rising may become a curse, the subjective never. The man who does not receive Christ into the heart, but continues to reject Him, is injured immensely by the fact of His outward revelation. Thirdly, the objective rising is independent of human choice or effort, but not the subjective. Fourthly, the objective rising is not a matter of consciousness; the subjective is. That Christ came into the world can only be proved by logic and dealing with known facts; consciousness, the strongest and ultimate proof, can yield no testimony to the fact. But the subjective rising is a matter of consciousness. Conclusion: Learn--first, what personal Christianity is; secondly, what the duty of the preacher is. Try to get Christ, and not creeds, into human souls. (Homilist.)

Verses 20-21

2 Peter 1:20-21

No prophecy … is of any private interpretation.

On the indiscreet application of Scriptural prophecy

As the term “prophecy “is here used without any limitation, it seems clearly designed to comprehend all those prophetical enunciations which have been vouchsafed by the Holy Spirit of God. All such prophecy is a light vouchsafed to man from the great Source of all light and all knowledge. But it is a light purposely shaded at first with some obscurity; it shines only as in a dark place until the day of its fulfilment shall dawn. The epithet here applied to prophecy is rendered in our translation “more sure,” but it would be more correctly rendered “more firm, more constant, more enduring.” Prophecy affords a more firm and enduring evidence than miracles, inasmuch as it has a slow and gradual development, unfolding its proofs more clearly and completely as ages roll on; its light shines forth to the eyes of men with a fuller and brighter lustre in proportion as the veil is withdrawn from futurity. When miracles are no longer vouchsafed for the confirmation of the truth, prophecy becomes, by the lapse of time, a more powerful and convincing head of evidence as it is proved, by the course of events, to be really prophecy. And thus may it be said that in the more clear and full development of one species of evidence we have a growing compensation for whatever may be conceived to be lost by the lapse of time to the strength, or clearness, or fulness of the other. To this “word of prophecy,” he says, “ye do well that ye take heed,” that ye pay the serious attention which it deserves; but he cautions them first, before they do so, to know, to recollect, to bear in mind that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” The apostle intends to caution his disciples against the hasty, fanciful, and inconsiderate interpretation of all Scriptural prophecy. Our attention then becomes directed by these words to a subject of great importance--the indiscreet application of the prophetical parts of Scripture. Now undoubtedly we may trace one fruitful source of this practice to the propensity which prevails with all of us to magnify and exaggerate everything that passes within the narrow sphere of our immediate observation. As in the objects presented to our bodily senses, that which stands immediately before us absorbs the greatest portion of our attention and precludes the sight of others that are more distant. Misled by these false and prejudiced views, individuals have been easily carried away with the notion that the occurrences of their own little day and contracted sphere of observation are of sufficient distinction to be made the specific subject of Scriptural prophecy. But operating in unison with this undue appreciation of the importance of events which are present have been an over-forward disposition to display superior penetration and ingenuity amongst those who interpret prophecy, and credulous superstition and prying curiosity amongst those who believe their interpretations. Now in the case of the prophecies contained in Scripture a peculiarly tempting field is opened for those persons who are given to these adventurous speculations. But it is of far less importance to inquire into the causes which have led to the indiscreet application of Scriptural prophecies, or to detail what has taken place in times past, than to endeavour to repress the practice by pointing out the injury which it must ever cause to the general interests of religion and to the authority of the Christian records. Now the principal evil which must with too great certainty be derived from this practice is that of exciting a general prejudice against the truth of all Scriptural prophecies. When different persons are found, many of sufficient credit for learning and acuteness, eagerly and confidently applying the prophecies to events widely different, what impression must be made on the public at large, on those who form their judgment of these matters at a distance and without paying close and accurate attention to them? The inference will too obviously be that the prophecies of Scripture may be turned to any sense at the will of the interpreter. Nor, if such an imputation be cast on the prophetical parts of Scripture, will the cause of revelation in general wholly escape. Or, if the credit of Scripture be saved, it will be saved only at the expense of the veracity and good faith of those who attempt these interpretations. While so much positive evil results from the licence, which has been too often assumed, of hazarding, on light grounds and hasty views, novel interpretations of Scriptural prophecy, the most powerful of all arguments is afforded by this consideration to induce all persons who feel the reverence due to the inspired Word of God to abstain most carefully from this indiscreet practice. Prophecy was not given to gratify the prying curiosity of men ever anxious to dive into the recesses of futurity, nor to exercise their forward ingenuity in searching out new interpretations which might arrest the attention of the public. It was designed for a more availing, a greater, and a nobler purpose--for the purpose of affording to the truth of Christianity its growing testimony, which might be unfolded by degrees and open fresh conviction on the mind as the revolutions of time should produce its gradual accomplishment. Consistently with this purpose, a certain degree of obscurity was unavoidable. Under these views of the real character and true intent of Scriptural prophecy, let it be hoped that the interpretation of it will never be attempted carelessly and lightly from any private motive of exhibiting penetration and ingenuity, but only from the deliberate consideration of what may conduce to the right understanding and elucidation of it. (G. D’Oyly, D. D.)

Holy men of God spake as they were moved.

The inspiration, conscription, and exposition of Scripture

The apostle had formerly commended reading of the prophets by the benefit of them; now in reading them he gives warning from the difficulty of understanding them. There often lies a deep and hidden sense under a familiar and easy sentence. Let not men rush into their exposition, like hasty soldiers into a thicket, without seeking direction from the captain. When we come to read them we must subject ourselves to the government of the Spirit.

The inspiration from God. It was not a vision of their own heads, but they “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

1. Consider the infallible completion of things long before prophesied in their due seasons (1 Kings 13:2).

2. Consider that their being hath continued from Moses unto this day. This is miraculous--that in so great hurly-burlies and alterations they should not be lost!

3. That the scope of it should be to build up no worldly thing, but only the kingdom of heaven, and to direct us to Jesus Christ.

4. That it should pass with credit through the whole world, and find approbation of all languages, nations, and places, and where it meets with oppositions should make way through them as thunder through the clouds.

5. That the Hebrew tongue, wherein the Old Testament was written, doth so excel all tongues, in antiquity, sanctity, majesty.

6. The majesty of the style, which yet is not only powerful in words, but effectual in working (Hebrews 4:12).

7. From the very baseness of falsehood, we learn to admire the lustre of truth. To disgrace and weaken the credit of the Scriptures Satan had his poets and fabulists, whose mythologies were obtruded for true reports.

8. This is an argument of the finger of God and supernatural power in Holy Writ, that the penners of it renounced all affectation and delivered the true message even against then” own reputations.

The conscription. Although not by the will of man, yet was it done by the hand of man.

1. “Men.” Why did not God choose some other nature of greater authority and credit?

(1) That no glory might be ascribed to the means (2 Corinthians 4:7).

(2) In commiseration of man’s weakness (Exodus 20:19).

(3) For the security of our souls. If our preacher were an angel, Satan could transform himself into that shape.

(4) In fit respondence to the work of our redemption (Acts 3:22).

2. “Men of God.” This is an ancient attribute (1 Kings 17:18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:17). But especially they are called men of God because their dispensation comes from God (1 Corinthians 2:13).

3. “Holy men.” The Lord who sent them qualified them.

The exposition, which is by no private spirit, but by the Holy Spirit’s illumination of man’s mind and directing the Church. He that expounds the Scripture upon the warrant of his own spirit only doth lay the brands of the fire together without the tongs, and is sure at least to burn his own fingers. (Thos. Adams.)

The Bible

That is the Scriptural way of stating the great doctrine that the Bible is inspired, that the Bible is the Word of God. And you remark the grand simplicity and directness of the statement. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in Holy Scripture: we can understand that; let us hold by that. How He does so is not revealed, and so we cannot tell. We are all well assured that the supernatural influences of that Divine Spirit do still, in every Christian man and woman, weave in with the natural workings of soul and mind, of heart and head. When the Blessed Spirit helps us to pray He avails Himself of our natural faculties--of our memory, of our perception of things which may befall us, of our capacity of feeling, trusting, and loving. The prayer is the prayer of the Holy Spirit; but it is also the individual and characteristic prayer of this man, of that woman, of that little child. It is exactly so with that rarer gift which we call inspiration, as with the sanctifying, comforting, prayer-prompting communications for which ordinary Christians ask and look day by day. You know how the inspired writers of the Bible retain their individuality. St. Paul does not write like St. John; St. Luke writes quite differently from either, and St. Peter from all three. And yet do you not feel that there is a something which belongs to all of the many men that wrote the Bible 9 One Breath has breathed upon them, one Hand has touched them all! In a certain loose way we may speak of the inspiration of the poet, the orator, the painter; and it would be mere pedantry to quarrel with s phrase so well understood in the main. But never forget that differing not in degree but in kind--differing essentially, vitally, altogether--is the true, holy, Divine inspiration of the men who wrote the Bible. And we are to distinguish likewise between the supreme inspiration thus described and the ordinary and still-continuing gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is a wide difference between that guidance which you and I may get for the asking and the true inspiration of those few among our race concerning whom St. Peter tells us that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And now, having said so much as to the nature of the inspiration of the Bible, let me suggest some thoughts upon God’s Word generally. The Bible, remember, is the Word of God. It not merely contains the Word of God, as in some sense all things do, for “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork”; it is the Word of God. It is the flower and crown of all God’s revelation to man: everything that we can read, or fancy we read, on the pages of Nature or Providence we find far more plainly stated in the Bible. And we find a vast deal more. We find there things most needful to salvation, about which earth and sea and stars are dumb. Even the lesser characteristics of the Bible are noteworthy. The very language of this blessed book is such as wonderfully suits its claim to be God’s message to all races and tongues. The Bible bears translation into other languages as no other book does. It is at home, and at its ease, in all languages. You hear it said that there is no more remarkable miracle of skill than the language of our English Bible, which is indeed the standard of perfection in our tongue. But there is something more in this than the industry, tact, scholarship of the translators. Surely it is that when the Holy Ghost used holy men of old to write God’s message to all human beings, He moved them so to write it in such tongues and in such words as would bear, as human words never did, to be rendered into the mother tongue of every being who has speech and reason. And then how this wonderful volume suits all men in matters more vital than its language! There are extraordinary national differences in ways of thinking and feeling, and extraordinary differences in such things between the people of different times and ages. And yet this wonderful book, dealing as it does throughout just with religious faith and feeling, suits man wherever you find him, comes home alike to Eastern and Western nations, never gets out of date, never is outgrown by the increasing intelligence of educated men, and expresses no feeling in which all Christian people cannot sympathise. How it suits all our moods, all our circumstances! In every state of thought and feeling we find what we want in the Bible. And just remember, too, what is the secret of the Bible’s so coming home to all. It is not a question, here, of those intuitions of moral truth which, when we read or hear them, make us say, “Now that is true,” or even say, “We have often thought that ourselves, though we never heard it expressed before.” The Bible comes home to all, because it treats of great facts which we never could have found out, yet which, when told, commend themselves, not to sensibility, not to taste, not even to intellect merely, but to our conscience and heart, to our deepest and most solemn convictions of what is Divine and right and true! Therefore it is that the little volume is the first prized possession of childhood, and old people have it in their hands to the last; therefore it goes into the soldier’s knapsack; therefore the aged statesman and judge would read it like a little child; therefore you find it under the pillow of the dying, wet with tears. (A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)

The plenary inspiration of the Scriptures

That the book which we emphatically call the Bible was written by the inspiration of suggestion.

Let us inquire what is to be understood by the inspiration of suggestion. Some suppose there are three kinds of inspiration, which they distinguish from each other by calling the first the inspiration of superintendency, the second the inspiration of elevation, and the third the inspiration of suggestion.

1. It was necessary that the sacred penman should be conscious of Divine inspiration all the while they were writing. It was not sufficient for them barely to know that they began to write under the influence of the Spirit. For nothing short of a constant realising sense of His motion and direction, could give them full assurance that what they wrote was the infallible Word of God, which they might honestly present to the world under the sanction of Divine authority.

2. The Supreme Being was as able to afford them the highest as the lowest kind of inspiration.

3. That the sacred penmen were utterly incapable of writing such a book as the Bible without the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost.

4. To suppose that they sometimes wrote without the inspiration of suggestion, is the same as to suppose that they sometimes wrote without any inspiration at all. The distinguishing of inspiration into three kinds is a mere human invention, which has no foundation in Scripture or reason. And those who make this distinction appear to amuse themselves and others with words without ideas.

5. That the sacred penmen profess to have written the Scriptures under the immediate and constant guidance of the Holy Ghost.

It may be proper to take particular notice of the most weighty objections which may be made against the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

1. It may be said there appears a great diversity in the manner and style of the sacred penmen, which cannot be easily reconciled with the supposition of their being equally and constantly guided by the inspiration of suggestion. It is true, indeed, we plainly discover some variety in the manner and style of the sacred writers. But this is easy to account for, by only supposing that God dictated to each sacred penman a manner and style corresponding to his own peculiar genius, education, and manner of living. But on the other hand, we find a much greater similarity in their manner and style than could be reasonably expected on supposition of their writing agreeably to their own genius and taste, without the suggesting influences of the Spirit.

2. It may be said that the mistakes and contradictions to be found in the Scriptures plainly refute the notion of their being written under the inspiration of suggestion. To this it may be replied in general, that most of the supposed mistakes and contradictions to be found in the Scriptures may be only apparent, and so might be fully removed, if we were better acquainted with the original languages in which the sacred books were written, and with the customs and manners of the different ages and places in which the sacred penmen lived. But the direct and decisive answer to this objection is that it operates with equal force against every kind of inspiration.

3. It may be said, since God originally intended that the Bible should be transcribed by different hands and translated into different languages, there was no occasion for His suggesting every thought and word to the sacred penmen; because, after all, their writings must be subject to human defects and imperfections. It is sufficient to observe here that every transcription and translation is commonly more or less perfect, in proportion to the greater or less perfection of the original. And since the Scriptures were designed to be often transcribed and translated, this made it more necessary, instead of less, that they should be written, at first, with peculiar accuracy and precision.

4. It may be said that the Apostle Paul seems to acknowledge, in 1 Corinthians 7:1-40., that he wrote some things in that chapter according to his own private opinion, without the aid or authority of a plenary inspiration. In one verse he says, “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” And in another verse he says, “To the rest speak I, not the Lord.” If we understand these expressions literally, then we must suppose that the apostle and all the other sacred penmen always wrote under a plenary inspiration, only when they gave intimations to the contrary. But we find no such notice given, except in the chapter under consideration; and therefore we may justly conclude that all the other parts of Scripture were written by the immediate inspiration of God. But if, in the second place, we understand the apostle as speaking ironically in the verses before us, then his expressions will carry no idea of his writing without Divine aid and authority. And there is some ground to understand his words in this sense. There is, how ever, a third answer to this objection, which appears to be the most satisfactory; and that is this: the apostle is here speaking upon the subject of marriage; and he intimates that he has more to say upon this subject than either the prophets or Christ had said upon it. Accordingly he says, “I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. To the rest speak I, not the Lord.” By these expressions he means to distinguish what he said from what other inspired teachers had said upon the same subject. On the whole there appears no solid objection against the plenary inspiration of any part of the Sacred Scriptures; but, on the other hand, every argument which proves them to be partly, equally proves them to be altogether, given by the immediate inspiration of God. Improvement:

1. If the Bible contains the very ideas and sentiments which were immediately suggested to the sacred pen men by the Divine Spirit, then great caution and circumspection ought to be used in explaining Scripture. The words of Scripture may not be lightly altered, nor expunged, nor supplied, nor wrested from their plain and obvious meaning according to the connection in which they stand.

2. If the Divine Spirit suggested every word and thought to the holy pemnen, then it is not strange that they did not understand their own writings. These the apostle tells us, in our context, they did not under stand. They might, by the aid of the Spirit, write precepts, predictions, promises, and theatenings, of whose import they were ignorant, that would be very intelligible and very useful in future ages. They wrote not for themselves, but for others; not for present, but future times. And this affords an additional evidence of the plenary inspiration of all the sacred writings.

3. If the Bible was written under the inspiration of suggestion, then it is an infallible rule of faith, and the only standard by which to try our religious sentiments.

4. If holy men of old wrote as they were moved by God, then it is reasonable to expect that the Bible should bear clear and strong marks of its Divine author. Accordingly, when we look into the Bible, we find the image and superscription of the Deity on every page. It displays all the perfections of God.

5. If the Bible be the immediate revelation of God’s mind and will to men, then it is a most precious book.

6. If the Bible contains the mind and will of God, then all who enjoy it may know in this world what will be their state in the next. It clearly describes both heaven and hell, and the terms upon which we may obtain the one and escape the other.

7. If the Bible be indeed the Word of God, then it is not strange that it has had such a great influence over the minds of men. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

An inspired definition of inspiration

“Men spake--from God” (R.V.). It is a definition of inspiration. A definition simple, precise, exhaustive. “Men spoke”--spoke, without ceasing to be men; spoke with all those characteristics of phrase and style, of thought and mind, of position and history which mark and make the man; yet “spoke from God,” with a message and mission, under an influence and an impulse, a control and a suggestion, which gave to the word spoken a force and a fire, a touch and a contact, a sight and an insight, unlike other utterances because of a breath of God in it, the God of the spirits of all flesh. “Men spake.” “Human beings,” St. Peter says--the “men” is emphatic. Shall we blame those who, first of all, would ask, Who? would busy themselves in the endeavour, by examination and comparison, to learn what can be learnt of the authorship of particular books; and would then go on to ask, What? in other words, to bring every appliance, of manuscript and version and ancient quotation, to bear upon the text of Scripture. Inquiries like these are only for the learned. But let us, who can but look on or listen, at least refrain from denunciations of a process for which we ought to have the deepest respect. Men spake. And does not St. Peter as good as say, And remained men in the speaking? Where is the authority for supposing that the inspiring Spirit levelled the intellects, obliterated the characteristics, overwhelmed the peculiarities, of the several writers? Men spake. And one of them has told us how. By a careful investigation of various writings going before, and an earnest endeavour to arrange in their true order the facts of the history which he was to chronicle. Men spake--and men wrote--and they were men still. Matters which toil and pains could ascertain--matters which lay in the province of intellect, whether in the way of research or in the way of discovery--matters for which God had provided the instrument of knowledge in the human being as by Him created, even though ages and generations might come and go before the actual knowledge was made his own--on these things inspiration was silent. Men spake, and in speaking were men still. Even their message, even the thing they were sent to tell, must be expressed in terms of human speech, through a medium therefore of adaptation and accommodation, Men spake--from God. “Moved by the Holy Ghost.” The two halves of the text are dependent upon each other. Not angels--or they had no sympathetic, no audible voice for man. Not machines--or speech (which is, by definition, intelligence in communication) had been a contradiction in terms. These human beings spake from God; for He had something to say, and to say to man. There is something which God only can say. There is something which reason cannot say, nor experience, nor discovery, nor the deepest insight, nor the happiest guessing, nor the most sagacious foresight. There is a world of heaven, which flesh and blood cannot penetrate. There is a world of spirit, impervious even to mind. There is a world beyond death, between which and the living there is an impassable gulf fixed. More than this--there is a world of cause and consequence, which no moralist can connect or piece together. There is a world of providence, which gives no account of itself to the observer. More yet than this. There is a fact of sin, inherited and handed on, working everywhere in hearts and lives, spoiling God’s work and ruining man’s welfare. Who can tell, concerning this, whether indeed there is any recovery from this deep, this terrible, this fatal fall? And yet man needs to hear of these things. And confess now, you who have gone with us thus far, how utterly beside the mark of such a work as this would have been an inspiration of science, or an inspiration of geography, or an inspiration of history, or an inspiration of geology, astronomy, botany, or chemistry. Men spake, and they spake from God. He had that to tell which men by searching could not find out. He set this human being to tell it to his fellows. But oh, trust God to do the right thing! Do not mistrust Him, and summon Him to the bar of your poor intellect every time that you cannot quite see what He was about. How can you account for a slaughter of twenty thousand men in one tiny battlefield in Beth-horon or on Mount Ephraim? how can you explain the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice, and Samuel coming up again at the bidding of the witch of Endor, etc. Say, if you are wise, with the three Israelites to King Nebuchadnezzar, “I am not careful to answer thee in this matter.” Men spake--and, while they spake, they were men still. But they spake from God--and what they said from Him was truth and nothing but truth, and in it, thus spoken, is the very light of my life. Never will I part with that light till I reach a world which no longer wants it, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the light thereof. (Dean Vaughan.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Peter 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/2-peter-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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