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nor can it entertain any hope of its rewards, which is barren and unfruitful in the works of righteousness. But it should be remarked, that the word “ virtue" here, signifies more particularly, courage, and must be understood to imply that true fortitude and resolution of mind, which may enable us fearlessly to encounter any dangers with which faith may be attended :—it is therefore with great propriety that “knowledge” is next enjoined; that knowledge which may direct our heroic virtue aright ; for it is obvious that we must know and understand any duty before we can practise it. We must know the nature and object of our faith, otherwise it will be an uncertain guide ;-we must know its foundation, and the grounds upon which it is built ; otherwise it will not be sound and rational : we must know the inseparable connexion that subsists between faith and virtue, otherwise it will be vague and unsettled. Knowledge fixes that golden mean, where all the virtues arrive at their perfection ;-a perfection which alone can render them of sterling value ;-a perfection to which fallen, degenerate man can never, alas! hope to attain. The more therefore our minds are enlightened by that “knowledge” which is “from above,” the more plainly shall we seethe more deeply shall we feel our own unworthiness, and the more entirely shall we rest all our hopes of pardon and acceptance, on the free —the boundless mercy of our reconciled God. But, besides this self-debasing picture of our frailty and corruption, and our consequent dependence on a crucified Saviour, -- the knowledge which we derive from revelation, enlarges our views, and gives us a clear — a spiritual discernment in the contemplation of virtue. By thus laying the foundation of practical knowledge in religion, its obligation is strengthened, its nature refined, and its branches extended. It is, as it were, a beam of light from Him who is the great fountain of all wisdom ; guiding our steps along the pathway of life, and “shining more and more unto the perfect day.”
The Apostle, in this beautiful train of Christian virtues, does not omit the personal ones ; which he comprises under the general denomination of “temperance” and “patience.” The true knowledge of ourselves, and of our duty, will naturally lead to temperance, by shewing us the advantages, as well as necessity of the strict regulation and government of our passions, in the use and enjoyment of God's blessings : that so, should it please our beneficent Creator to try us with prosperity, the good things of this life may not prove a snare to us, nor the bounties of providence be abused, to the dishonour of God, and to our own destruction. This knowledge will indeed teach us, that it is self-government which gives us a real enjoyment of the comforts of life, and under the divine blessing, is the parent of health, and peace, and joy.
If this world were an unvaried scene of the continual enjoyment of God's blessings, “temperance,” in its most comprehensive sense, might be said to be almost the only virtue we should have occasion to practise. But the numerous troubles and misfortunes incident to our nature and situation, render “patience” also a necessary virtue. In that patience which is a test of faith, and derives its origin from the example of Christ and his followers, the Christian finds a healing balm for the many sorrows which he has in his heart. Yes, the patient Christian considers afflictions not merely as natural evils, but as the wise chastisements of his heavenly Father; inflicted for the correction of his sins, for the trial and improvement of his virtue, and to purify him through grace, for the attainment of everlasting felicity. And thus, while the irreligious and the wicked groan beneath them, as troubles and burdens grievous to be borne, he is enabled to draw from every afflictive visitation the joyous assurance, that all these things are working together for his good: since, with the Apostle, he feels that as “tribulation worketh patience; so patience worketh experience; and experience hope;" - a hope that “maketh not ashamed ; because the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which is given him.'
Having shewn the intimate connexion that subsists between patience and virtue, St. Peter next enjoins that to our patience should be added “godliness.” Even the dim light of reason had faintly discovered to those Heathens who submitted to its guidance, the being and attributes of God, whom they traced in his works, and acknowledged to be their Father, and Governor, Preserver, and Benefactor. But though they knew God, they honoured him not as God, neither obeyed him: nor did the wisest of them worship him according to the purity and holiness of his nature ; for “their foolish heart was darkened, and professing themselves to be wise, they became fools :" — being, as St. Paul expresses it, “ alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that was in them, because of the blindness of their heart."
How thankful then should we be that it hath pleased God to “call us out of darkness into his marvellous light !”—that the bright beams of the Gospel have been permitted to shine upon our minds :—that the Spirit of Truth hath taken of the rich treasures of Christ, and shewn them unto us :—and that he hath taught us (frail sinful creatures as we are,) to pay a “reasonable service” to our Maker, and to “worship him in spirit and in truth.” Never can we sufficiently adore that infinite goodness, which has so graciously made known to us the new and endear
ing relation in which we stand to God, as our Redeemer and Sanctifier : and surely, we are bound by every principle of affection and gratitude for such an amazing instance of divine mercy and love, to labour diligently faithfully to fulfil the various duties enjoined by the Gospel. Poor indeed would be the offering, were we to present our “whole spirits, and souls, and bodies," as a “ living sacrifice unto God :" yet, such is his condescending love to his rebellious children, that, if the sacrifice be offered in faith, and be sanctified by purity of heart, and fervour of devotion, we may have a “sure hope” that it will be “acceptable unto Him." Have we not then the strongest encouragement to follow after “godliness ?” Assured as we are by the Gospel of Truth, that it is “profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
With the sacred duties we have already considered, are connected those which conduce to the peace and happiness of society.
“To godliness add brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.” Now all these amiable virtues flow from true piety; for “he who loveth God must love his brother also.” If we are really Christians-not in name only, but “in deed and in truth,”--the children of God by adoption and grace, united by one spirit, under one common Lord and Master, partakers of the same redemp