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as our object, gaining the victory by virtue-spiritual courage-over all the enemies that we find in our path. It is not a law given to a people already gathered together, but glory proposed, in order to be reached by spiritual energy. Moreover, we have divine power, acting according to its own efficacy, for the life of God in us, and for godliness.
How precious it is to know that faith can use this divine power, which is realized in the life of the soul, directing it towards glory as its end. What a safeguard from the efforts of the enemy, if we are really established in the consciousness of this divine power acting on our behalf in grace. The heart is led to make glory its object, and virtue, the strength of spiritual life, is developed on the way to it.
Now, in connection with these two things—namely, with glory and with the energy of life, very great and precious promises are given us; for all the promises in Christ are developed either in the glory or in the life which leads to it. By means of these promises, we are made partakers of the divine nature; for this divine power, which is realized in life and godliness, is connected with these great and precious promises that relate either to the glory, or to virtue in the life that leads to it—that is to say, it is divine power which develops itself in that which characterises its own nature. We are thus made morally partakers of the divine nature. Precious truth! Privilege so exalted, and which renders us capable of enjoying God Himself, as well as all good.
By the same action of this divine power, we escape the corruption that is in the world through lust; for the divine power delivers us from it. Not only do we not yield to it, but we are occupied elsewhere, and the action of the enemy upon the flesh is kept off; the desires from which one could not cleanse oneself are removed; the corrupt relationship of the heart with its object cease. It is a real deliverance; we have the mastery over ourselves in this respect; we are set free from sin.
But it is not enough to have escaped by faith from even the inward dominion of the desires of the flesh: we must add to faith-to that faith which realizes divine
power, and the glory of Christ that shall be revealed :we must add to faith, virtue. This is the first thing: it is, as we have said, the moral courage
which overcomes difficulties, and governs the heart by curbing all action of the old nature: it is an energy by which the heart is master of itself, and is able to choose the good, and to cast aside the evil, as a thing conquered and unworthy of oneself
. This, indeed, is grace; but the Apostle is here speaking of the thing itself, as it is realized in the heart, and not of its source. I have said that this is the first thing, because, practically, this self-government—this virtue, this moral energy, is deliverance from evil, and renders communion with God possible. It is the one thing which gives reality to all the rest, for without virtue we are not really with God. Can divine power develop itself in the laxity of the flesh?
And if we are not really with God—if the new nature is not acting-knowledge is but the puffing up of the flesh; patience but a natural quality, or else hypocrisy; and so on with the rest.
But where there is this virtue, it is very precious to add knowledge to it. We have, then, divine wisdom and intelligence to guide our walk: the heart is enlarged, sanctified, spiritually developed, by a more complete and profound acquaintance with God, who acts in the heart, and is reflected in the walk. We are guarded from many errors--we are more humble, more sober-minded: we know better where our treasure is, and what it is, and that everything else is but vanity and a hindrance. It is, therefore, a true knowledge of God that is here meant.
Thus walking in the knowledge of God, the flesh, the will, the desires, are bridled, all their practical power diIninishes, and they disappear as habits of the soul; they are not fed: we are moderate; we do not give way to our desires; temperance is added to knowledge. The Apostle is not speaking of the walk, but of the state of the heart in the walk. Self, being thus governed, and the will bridled, one bears patiently with others; and the circumstances that must be passed through, are, in all respects, boine according to the will of God, be they what they may. We add patience to temperance. The
heart, the spiritual life, is then free to enjoy its true cbjects—a principle of deep importance in the Christian life. When the flesh is at work, in one way or another (even if its action is purely inward), if there is anything whatever that the conscience ought to be exercised about, the soul cannot be in the enjoyment of communion with God in the light, because the effect of the light is then to bring the conscience into exercise. But when the conscience has nothing that is not already judged in the light, the new man is in action with regard to God, whether in realizing the joy of His presence, or in glorifying Him in a life characterised by godliness. We enjoy communion with God; we walk with God; we add to patience godliness.
The heart being thus in communion with God, affection flows out freely towards those who are dear to Him, and who, sharing the same nature, necessarily draw out the affections of the spiritual heart: brotherly love is developed.
There is another principle which crowns, and governs, and gives character to all the others: it is charity-love, properly so called. This, in its root, is the nature of God Himself-the source and perfection of every other quality that adorns Christian life. The distinction between love and brotherly love, is of deep importance; the former is, indeed, as we have just said, the source whence the latter flows; but as this brotherly love exists in mortal men, it may be mingled in its exercise with sentiments that are merely human—with individual affection, with the effect of personal attractions, or that of habit, of suitability in natural character. Nothing is sweeter than brotherly affections: their maintenance is of the highest importance in the Church; but they may degenerate, as they may grow cool; and if love-if God-does not hold the chief place, they may displace Him-set Him aside shut Him out. "Divine love, which is the very nature of God, directs, rules, and gives character to brotherly love; otherwise, it is that which pleases us—i. e., our own heart—that governs us.
If divine love governs me, I love all my brethren; I love them because they belong to Christ: there is no partiality. I shall have greater
enjoyment in a spiritual brother; but I shall occupy myself about my weak brother, with a love that rises above his weakness, and has tender consideration for it. I shall concern myself with my brother's sin, from love to God, in order to restore my brother, rebuking him, if needful; nor if divine love be in exercise, can brotherly love or its name be associated with disobedience. word, God will have His place in all my relationships. To exact brotherly love in such a manner as to shut out the requirements of that which God is, and of His claims upon us, is to shut out God, in the most plausible way, in order to gratify our own hearts. Divine love, then, which acts according to the nature, character, and will of God, is that which ought to direct and characterize our whole Christian walk, and have authority over every movement of our hearts. Without this, all that bro. therly love can do is to substitute man for God.
Now, if these things are in us, the knowledge of Jesus will not be barren in our hearts. But if, on the con. trary, they are wanting, we are blind; we cannot see far into the things of God; our view is contracted; it is limited by the narrowness of a heart governed by its own will, and turned aside by its own lusts. We forget that we bave been cleansed from our old sins: we lose sight of the position Christianity has given us. This state of things is not the loss of assurance, but the forgetfulness of the true Christian position into which we are brought -purity in contrast with the ways of the world.
Therefore, we ought to use diligence, in order to have the consciousness of our election fresh and strong, so as to walk in spiritual liberty. Thus doing, we shall not stumble; and thus an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom will be our portion. Here, as throughout, we see that the Apostle's mind is occupied with the government of God, applying it to His dealings with believers, in reference to their conduct and its practical consequences. He is not speaking in an absolute way of pardon and salvation, but of the kingdom--of the manifestation of His power who judges righteously-whose sceptre is a sceptre of righteousness. Walking in the ways of God, We have part in that kingdom, entering into it with as
surance-without difficulty-without that hesitation of soul which is experienced by those who grieve the Holy Ghost, and get a bad conscience, and allow themselves in things that do not accord with the character of the kingdom, or who show by their negligence that their heart is not in it. If, on the contrary, the heart cleaves to the kingdom, and our ways are suitable to it, our conscience is in unison with its glory. The way is open before us: we see into the distance, and we go forward, having no impediments in our way-nothing turns us aside as we walk in the path that leads to the kingdom, occupied with things suitable to it. God has no controversy with one who walks thus. The entrance into the kingdom is widely opened to him, according to the ways of God in government.
The Apostle desires, therefore, to remind them of these things, although they knew them, purposing, so long as He was in his earthly tabernacle, to stir up their pure hearts to keep them in remembrance; for soon would he have to lay aside his earthly vessel, as the Lord had told him, and by thus writing to them, he took care that they should always bear them in mind.
It is very plain that he was not expecting other apostles to be raised up, nor an ecclesiastical succession to take their place as guardians of the faith, or as possessing sufficient authority to be a foundation for the faith of believers. He was to provide for this himself, in order that, on his removal, they might find something on his part that would remind the faithful of the instructions he had given them; for this purpose he wrote his epistles.
The divine importance and certainty of that which he taught were worthy of this labour. We have not, says the apostle, followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty.
The apostle is speaking, as his words plainly show, of the transfiguration. I notice it here, in order to mark more evidently that in his thoughts of the Lord's coming he does not go beyond His appearing in glory. For the moment, He was hidden from those who trusted in Him: this was a great trial of their faith, for the Jews were