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our Lord Jesus Christ,” seeking “ that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man :"—that thereby you may practically find, to your unspeakable comfort, that when you are weak in yourselves, then are you
strong in the Lord :"—that thereby you may find, in every
trial and temptation of life, “his grace sufficient for you;"—“sufficient” not only to “stablish your hearts by faith,” but to “make you also perfect in every good word and work.”
THINGS LOVELY AND OF GOOD REPORT, THE
SUPERSTRUCTURE OF FAITH.
2 PETER 1. 5, 6, 7. — “ Add to your faith virtue ; and
to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance ; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
In a regular and beautiful gradation, St. Peter here enumerates the principal qualities which complete the character of a true Christian. These qualities are finely arranged and connected, as links in an extensive chain, descending from the very throne of God, to every order and relation in human society. The first in order, in this list of Christian graces, is faith ; declared by the Apostle to be the principle upon which all that follow, in regular succession, necessarily depend. But, as we ought to be very
cautious in establishing a principle that is in truth the foundation of all Christian duties, so it deeply concerns us to avoid all erroneous notions in our estimation of it.
That our minds, therefore, may be “stablished-strengthened-settled,”—on this important point, let us, with all humility, and in firm reliance on “the God of all grace,” consider the nature of true faith ;—and that we may proceed the more safely in our investigation, the Apostle himself shall be our guide. In the first verse of the chapter from whence the text is taken, St. Peter mentions the faith that distinguishes all true Christians; to whom, he
says, it is “alike precious," as it equally entitles them to its valuable privileges ;—not through their own righteousness, but “through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ." The objects of this faith, he informs us, are “ the exceeding great and precious promises” assured to us “through Jesus Christ ;" by which “we are called, says he, to glory and virtue,” being thereby“ made partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption" that so generally prevails in the world, through the lust which men are prone to indulge, to the peril and ultimate destruction of their immortal souls. He then enumerates the duties which are dependent upon this leading principle ; and exhorts his converts to “use all diligence to make their calling and election sure,” by the practice of those duties, the “great reward” of which will
be “an entrance” ministered unto them abundantly, “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” The joys of heaven then, are here represented to be the grand object of the Christian's hope. But as hope hath its foundation in faith, the objects of both must be the same, and they must stand on the same sure and eternal basis, the resurrection of Christ. The Apostle also, in another place, expressly declares “the end of our faith to be the salvation of our souls.” By this it is evident, that the faith which, as the foundation of all virtue, is productive of unfeigned love and obedience, is a sure reliance through grace, upon the precious promises of God, for the enjoyment of a blessed immortality, purchased for us by the death, and assured to us by the resurrection, of our only Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This is the true faith of a Christian ; to which appertain all the great and precious promises of the Gospel. All other intermediate acts of faith must be regarded as subordinate to this, which is the ultimate end of the Gospel; and they are in fact, only estimable according as they lead to, and centre in this vital principle of religion. For although we should believe Jesus to be the very Messiah, foretold in the ancient prophets,— although we should believe him to be the eternal Son of God, whose power was manifested in signs and wonders, and mighty works,-although we should receive the Gospel as an authentic relation of his incarnate life, his words, and his actions,—yet if these acts of faith did not (by the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit) open to us the prospect of everlasting glory, and direct our views and hopes towards the happiness of heaven, to be obtained only through Him, our faith would be a mere speculative matter, from which we could derive no possible comfort or advantage. The vital faith of a Christian, therefore, is that which terminates in the promises of God through Christ Jesus, and in the glory which is hereafter to be revealed.
Having thus laid the firm foundation of Christian hope in faith, the Apostle then directs us how to raise upon it the structure of moral virtue :—“Add to your faith virtue.” The connexion between faith and the general practice of goodness needs no illustration. For since faith is a holy reliance upon the promises of God, for the future possession of a blessed immortality, procured for us poor sinful creatures, by the free mercy of our Heavenly Father, through the merits and atonement of his dear Son Jesus Christ ;-and since his Gospel declares holiness and virtue to be the express requisites upon which the promises of God in Christ Jesus depend;it is evident that faith cannot be separated from them:--for that is not the faith of the Gospel,