"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." 2 Peter 1.10.
As already intimated, it would be preposterous, as well as sinfully presuming, in us to attempt to make our calling and election more sure in God's act and purpose than is already done. The eternal standing in, and indissoluble union with Christ, being settled facts, proved to be such by former quotations from the scriptures, there must be other senses in which we are to make them so. The first and important lesson for us to learn is, to make our calling and election sure or manifest to ourselves; and secondly, to our brethren.
"Am I his, or am I not?" is a question of deep and vital interest to the christian. Let us, therefore, place the book before our eyes, and in the presence of the Teacher, who is always at hand, (see Heb. xiii. 5,) and with fervent desire look to and ask of him (for he will be sought unto by the house of Israel) to open our understandings, afford us light - for it is only in his light we see light - supply us with the requisite wisdom, which he giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and then candidly, carefully and impartially search the divine record, and examine ourselves whether we be in the faith, "prove our own selves," and we may rest assured that what he has written once he will write again; not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart. Then every particular item wherein the two records correspond with each other affords an evidence of our calling and election.
Let us repair "to the law and to the testimony," and compare notes. In the first place, the Lord, as before remarked, has inspired holy men of God, and those men have spoken and recorded facts "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," and under his supervision it is written with ink that God is holy, just and good, and that he has given to man a law like himself, and that we have rebelled against him, transgressed his law, and thereby became sinners, and wandered far off from him. Our God is the God of truth, and says his people shall know the truth, and therefore commences a record in the fleshly tables of the heart corresponding with the one written with ink; and thus by the Spirit of the living God, his holiness, goodness and justice; the justice of his holy law, and our rebellion and sinfulness in the transgression of that law, are indelibly impressed upon our hearts. It is written with ink, "They shall mourn, weep, lament, and be sorrowful." The elected and called of God have witnessed these sensations, and they only. There are two sources of grief and lamentation connected with this condition of the child of God. One, a sense of our ingratitude and rebellion against him whose goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our lives; the other, a conviction of our justly condemned state by a righteous and holy law.
Now it is written in our hearts, as it was with ink, that we are sinners far off from God, "without strength;" and then comes the mourning, weeping, lamentation and sorrowing. How could it be otherwise? The Spirit that dictated the book is making us feel the force of its truth; and we can fully endorse the language of the poet:
"My lips with shame my sins confess,
Against thy law, before thy face;
Lord, should thy judgments grow severe,
I am condemned, but thou art clear.
Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce thee just in death;
And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well."
But the corresponding record goes on. We feel that we are "without strength;" our formerly supposed powers are all prostrated, and we could as easily call a world like this out of chaos, as prepare ourselves for heaven.
It is written that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Now we feel it written again. It is suggested in the book that the Ethiopian can change his skin or the leopard his spots, as easily as we can do good or make ourselves so. The writing in our hearts confirms the fact. It is written in the book that no man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him. We feel the incontrovertible fact impressed deeply in our hearts, as by the power of the living God of Israel. It is written in the book that his people "believe according to the working of his mighty power." Engraven upon the heart is the same truth, as with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever. It is written in the book that, "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," but the name of Jesus. The same sentiment is indelibly stamped in our hearts by the Spirit.
It is written, too, in the book, that ours is "the faith of the operation of God." We are taught by the same Spirit to know that the record is true, and adopt the words of the poet:
"O could I but believe,
Then all would easy be,
I would, but cannot; Lord, relieve,
My help must come from thee."
The book testifies that we are "an afflicted and poor people," and that many are the afflictions of the righteous. Now we are sensible of it, while we writhe under the handwriting of the Spirit. It is further written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them;" and while the Spirit impresses our total failure upon the heart, we quail before the anathemas of Sinai. This people is represented in the book as hungering and thirsting after righteousness; they labor and are heavy laden, and are poor in spirit, &c. Here are holy desires, a restlessness and sensibility of the magnitude of our numerous transgressions and exceeding sinfulness, and conviction of our innate poverty in relation to spiritual things, all penned down in the heart by the same Spirit, that dictated them in the former record.
We have exhibited some of the many features of the dark side of the picture, and although not so pleasant to witness, yet it is as essentially necessary that we should know them, and they present as clear and incontestable evidences of our calling and election, as do the brighter and more pleasant features.
It is needful that we pass through these trying ordeals, that we may know the depth of our thralldom, and be the better qualified to appreciate the power and riches of grace in our salvation. And therefore, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." And the Savior said, "Ye now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." Let us then peruse the sacred record, and be assured that a brighter picture gilds the heaven-inspired pages; and instead of the bitter waters of "Marah," and the temptation and strife of Massah and Meribah, streamlets sweeter than nectar shall flow from the soul-soothing river, to gladden and replenish the downcast and weary pilgrim. And if the dark lines of our sinfulness, the gloomy portrait of our apostasy, and the sable cloud of indictive wrath have lowered round our pathway, as delineated in the faithful pages, and impressed in the fleshly tables of the heart by the Spirit, have caused our sinking spirits to wail and wither within us; on the other hand the lucid light of Zion shall loom up in the highway to gild the holy oracles, whereby we may behold the righteousness of God imputed to his people - their sins and sorrows laid upon the Redeemer, who by a timely and all-sufficient offering and satisfactory sacrifice met all the claims of inflexible justice, buried all the sins and removed the curse forever from his bride, and caused this soul-ravishing truth to be written out in lines of living brilliancy, for a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Nor are they written on the sacred pages alone, or in vain. They must hallow and illuminate the hearts of his children; for the Light of Zion has said, "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth." He will, therefore, put his laws in the minds, and write them in the hearts of his children.
How many hearts have been made to leap with joy, and swell the gentle, lovely and melodious song of praise to God and the Lamb, while the Comforter, "the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive," penned the consoling truth in the hearts of Zion's children; thus demonstrating, beyond the power of successful contradiction, their calling and election.
It is written with ink, "He shall save his people from their sins;" and while the blessed Spirit is writing the same fact in the heart, the enraptured child can exclaim with Isaiah, "Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation." It is written in the book, "By grace are ye saved." And when again inscribed in the heart, we cheerfully endorse the language of Kent, and say:
"He needs no creature power or skill,
His finished work to mend;
But works his own eternal will,
As wisdom did intend."
It also is written with ink, that those who mourn, weep, lament and are sorrowful, shall rejoice and be comforted. And when the joy-inspiring theme is recorded in the heart, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. "Our tongues break out in unknown strains, and sing surprising grace." It is further written, that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. And when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us, we receive the consoling impress there, and are taught to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.
"Love divine, all love excelling,
Joy from heaven to earth came down."
Those who are reported in the book as being far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ, and it is further recorded, "They shall come with weeping, and with supplication will I lead them." How precisely are these records rewritten in the hearts of the Lord's called and chosen ones, and with mingled notes of melody and united songs of harmony they hymn the high praises of their great Deliverer when brought to the banqueting house, where they behold the banner of his love over them. It is written with ink, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In the handwriting of the Spirit of this record upon the fleshly table, the subjects find themselves blessed indeed; blessed with life - eternal life - and all the sensitive powers and faculties of life. Hence they feel their malady, and the healing efficacy of the "fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." They see their sinfulness, the justice of their condemnation, and the glorious way in which the ungodly are justified. They hear the awful denunciation of Sinai, and the joyful sound of the gospel, while it proclaims in heavenly accents the salvation of the sinner. They taste the bitter dregs of affliction, and drink refreshing draughts from the wells of salvation, while they taste, also, that the Lord is very gracious. "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This fact, also, is impressed in the hearts of the called and chosen. The love we have for the children of the kingdom proves to us that it is OUR kingdom. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." O that we could feel more of the seraphic flame, we would, with the poet, sing:
"I love her gates, I love the road,
The church adorned with grace,
Stands like a palace built for God,
To show his milder face."
Dear brethren, in this scanty scribble we can but touch upon a few of the very many parallel passages as they stand penned down in the two places of record. May these important sketches encourage you to take your precious schoolbook, and give diligence to make your calling and election sure. Do be careful to be found at the "building" in the time of school hours. Do not mistake the place: it is "a building of God - a house not made with hands - diverse in all particulars from the brick-and-slime Babel towers built up by the hands of work-mongers, and filled with the relicts of Mystery, Babylon. If you will carefully consult your schoolbook and preceptor, you can easily discriminate between the two houses. One requires, in the first place, many principals or instructors - yes, "legions," and many laborers, and much toil in traveling to hunt up and prepare materials for the building, and large funds to qualify and equip the travelers for their respective missions, some on horseback, some in chariots, some in galley-boats, and some in gallant ships; for they compass sea and land to find and prepare the materials of which it is composed, for they have been now almost six thousand years at "indefatigable labor," and it is not done yet. Somehow or other a misunderstanding in language, or some other unforeseen obstruction, impedes the progress of the building.
The other house requires but one Principal, but one Builder, "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, his hands shall finish it." "He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, unto it." He requires no laborious toil in preparing the materials, nor wearisome journey to find them. "He speaks, and it is done, he commands, and it stands fast." He says to the north, Give up, and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth, and lo, they come with weeping, and with supplication he leads them. He teaches to them a pure language, that they may call upon his name and serve him with one consent. His watchmen lift up the voice, with the voice together they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, so that when the materials are brought together there need not be heard the sound of a tool among them, for the Master Builder displays the superior workmanship in preparing all the materials to fit and fill their respective places in the building.
"What though the gates of hell withstood,
Yet must this building rise;
'Tis thy own work, Almighty God,
And wondrous in our eyes."
In concluding our remarks for the present, let me suggest to you, brethren, that by attending to the few corresponding records brought to view in the foregoing communication, and the many that you will find by consulting your school-book, and then giving the witnesses an impartial hearing, you will discover abundant testimonials by which you may make your calling and election sure to yourselves; and when that is done an important point is gained, and we are then prepared to proceed to the next item.
J. F. JOHNSON.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)