"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." - 2 Pet. i. 10.
BROTHER BEEBE: - I feel disposed to pen some remarks on the foregoing Scripture, and place them at your disposal.
The preceding epistle of Peter was directed, "To the strangers (strangers and pilgrims, the world knowing us not) scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elect, according to the foreknowledge of God," &c. The one in which our text stands, "To them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ."
In fact, the whole New Testament is dedicated to the same characters; it is, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ" exclusively. Nor need we stop here; for "All scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." But in this particular epistle, the characters addressed have the petition of the apostle, that "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." Here, God the Father is brought to view, who is the original source of all blessings, and Jesus our Lord, the appointed Mediator, or the only medium through which all spiritual ones come to us. "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Hence, we discern that the fountain of all spiritual blessings, and the channel-way or medium through which we are to be made the recipients, are clearly set before us. How consistent, then, is the prayer for grace and peace, as grace "was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," and, as "He is our peace." Why it is that Arminians claim in Peter an advocate, or that he approximates nearer their imaginary work-system, than Paul and others, I cannot tell, unless it be in consequence of their utter blindness and ignorance of scriptural things. For after exhibiting God our Father and Jesus our Lord, as the fullness, and medium from and through whom all spiritual blessings flow, he says: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." Notwithstanding the world is constantly ringing with an incessant ding-dong of works; sinners, dead in sin, called upon to repent, believe, obey, pray, pay their money and use their means for the support of the Sunday Schools, Theological Seminaries, Tract Societies, Temperance Societies, Missionary Societies, and a host of other things are brought forward to purchase the blessings and procure the salvation of sinners; by one fell stroke of an inspired apostle it is all swept by the board; for "his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness."
Then, as faith is an important "gift of God," a fruit of the Spirit, "of the operation of God," and the Lord's children "believe according to the working of his mighty power;" and as that faith is a living and operating principle, ["see how faith wrought with his works,"] impelled by this divine power, which works in us mightily, we are to add to our 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. Here, then, is work for the christian; not that he may get life, or be saved, but because His divine power hath given unto us the ability and all those other things that pertain to life and godliness, as Isaiah saith, "The Lord will ordain peace for us, for he hath wrought all our works in us." Therefore, "If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren (idle, in the margin) nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Mark ye, these things must first be in you, and then abound; flow out in a clear manifestation or development of the things which God has wrought in you, and thus you are to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," as well as all other things that pertain to life and godliness, not forgetting that "it is God that worketh in you to will and to do, of his good pleasure." Then remember, brethren, that "God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound in every good work." 2 Cor. ix. 18. "But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
I have thus far dwelt upon the context and other connections in the scriptures, to show the principle upon, and the sense in which we are to make our calling and election sure; for certain it is, that we can make them no more sure in God's eternal act and unfrustrable counsel, than they already are, for we do know, "That the counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations."- Psalm xxxiii. 11; Prov. xix. 21; Isa. xlvi. 10, 11. "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love;" and this glorious object seems to have been "to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." In the development of that purpose, and in order to make known to the church that "manifold wisdom," "holy men of God" were inspired by the Spirit of the living God, and by the light and power of that Spirit, "spake (and wrote the scriptures) as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Hence, we have in the scriptures all that is necessary to instruct us in relation to doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. We have, therefore, placed before us, a fair record, a perfect school-book, written out in legible characters, and fraught with all the necessary instruction whereby we are to make our calling and election sure.
But thus far, it is written only on paper, and the child destitute of capacities to receive the necessary tuition, might rustle the sheets, and gaze upon the pictures and characters, until the whole would be obliterated, and yet be none the wiser. This is a record of spiritual things; and we by nature are not spiritual, and therefore, so far as spiritual capacities are concerned, "without understanding," we "see not, we hear not," see Jer. v. 21; Rom. i. 31, and iii. 11; are "without strength," Rom. v. 6; "past feeling," Eph. iv. 19; and "have not life," 1 John v. 12. Let us, for a moment, imagine a school-teacher, placing himself before a set of individuals situated naturally, as the above described ones are spiritually, presenting his books containing letters, words, sentences, rules, &c. He commences by saying to them, "Now look, that you may have eyes to see; listen, that you may have ears to hear; do as these rules direct you, that you may understand them; feel their force, that you may have sensitive powers; do as they command you, that you may have life."
What would we think of such a teacher? Would he not exhibit the most palpable insanity? And yet, not a particle more than do the whole posse of the work-mongrel priesthood, in calling upon sinners, who are "dead in sin," to see, hear, understand, feel and do, that they may get spiritual or eternal life, and go to heaven by it.
When such teachers undertake to inculcate the principles of the "Book of the generation of Jesus Christ," they commit most egregious errors, and no marvel. How can we expect a man to teach others correctly, what he does not understand himself? When they know not what they teach, or whereof they affirm, are "ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish a righteousness of their own," we need not wonder at their sad mistakes. It is as clear as the brilliant noonday, that they have not even learned their alphabet in that book. Hence, they mistake g for w; r for o; a for r; c for k; and e for s. Nor are they any better skilled in the pronunciation of words; hence, they pronounce, in their way of teaching, g-r-a-c-e - works. This leads to miserable mistakes in the construction of sentences; sometimes by placing wrong words in them, as "by works ye are saved, through the acts of the creature;" and then leaving out important ones, as, "and that of yourselves, it is the sale of God." And again, "By works of righteousness which we have done," and changing again, "Come unto me all ye ends of the earth," see Eph. ii. 8,9; Tit. iii. 5; Isa. xlv. 22. And then adding again, "work out your own souls' salvation;" and, “This is the true light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world.” “He tasted death for every man.” &c. Phil. ii. 12; John i. 9; Heb. ii. 9.
This is truly a "turning things upside down" with a vengeance; and, the generation of Jesus Christ should be very careful not to place themselves under the tuition of such teachers, for in so doing, they will be certain to learn bad habits in spelling, pronouncing, reading and understanding; and all good, practical teachers, have found out that it is easier to take children in the A B C, and teach them good habits than to disentangle them from bad ones, after they are once acquired.
Let us turn away, then, from those soul-sickening teachers, and repair to Him who "taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes;" who spake as man never spake.
He commences by giving his apostles eternal life; "the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." John xvii. 2; 1 Cor. ii. 12. He opens the eyes of the blind, and unstops the ears of the deaf, Isa. xxxv. 5; he opens the understanding that we may understand the scriptures, Luke xxiv. 45, and speaks unto us the words of instruction; he gives us feeling sensibilities, by which we are made to hunger and thirst after spiritual supplies, and then presents them to us; and of his fullness have all we received and grace for grace. John i. 16.
Having thus prepared the school-book, containing all the necessary lessons to be learned, the rules and regulations by which the school is to be conducted, and given us an introduction to the Teacher, with most convincing testimonials of his competency to manage the entire department, after furnishing a suitable building, with all the necessary articles of clothing, food, and drink, and all "without money and without price;" we having tasted that he is gracious in the introduction, by which taste we have been so charmed, and all our affections are set on things above, (the earthly, weak and beggarly elements, taught by those earthly teachers, in earthly theological departments,) and not on things of the earth.
The superiority and excellency of those things above, together with the superlative glory, beauty and loveliness of the Instructor, when contrasted with the remaining stock of earthly ones that we have on hand, and with the degradation, ugliness and hatefulness of the teachers that inculcate them, present to our minds an amazing difference.
In examining the contrast, while the earthly things hang as a heavy and wearisome load upon us, we sigh and groan, being burdened, and then pant for a larger supply, and more thorough knowledge of heavenly ones.
In that acceptable time, when our aspirations are all on the wing, the teacher is heard to say, "Learn of me." Now is the time to take our book, and "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure."
J. F. JOHNSON.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)