"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.
We now propose examining the second point in our proposition, which is, To make our calling and election sure to the brethren. With this is connected the whole of our intercourse as christians, while on our earthly pilgrimage, as well as the enjoyment, reciprocity and perpetuity of the social fellowship, union and communion, the mutuality of which is so consoling and interesting to the children of Zion; and it is a matter of deep regret in this day of darkness and lukewarmness, that so many of the Lord's redeemed and regenerated children should pay so little regard to a duty that is so essential to their comfort and edification, and at the same time, so easily performed; while the neglect of it exhibits so much disrespect toward that dearest friend, who sticketh closer than a brother. But, alas! Too many of such, we fear, are to be found, both in the church and out of it.
My dear brethren, I would to God that this feeble effort of mine could reach, and touch, and stir up your minds, and influence you for the sake of Him who has loved you, and washed you from your sins in his own blood, "to show yourselves," exhibit the testimonials of your calling and election, and thereby encourage and comfort your brethren who love you, and mourn about the neglected streets and desolated courts of Zion, in consequence of your absence and backwardness by which you fail to make your calling and election sure to your brethren, and force them to stand in doubt of you, lest there has been "labor bestowed upon you in vain."
But are you ready to ask the question, How are we to make our calling and election sure? We answer, briefly, by giving a reason of the hope that is in you, by producing the "fruits of the Spirit," by walking in the ordinances, and obeying the commandments of the Lord, and thus prove your relation to your Father, your loyalty to your King, your devotion to his cause, and your love to your brethren.
As before observed, the apostle has shown us from whom the gift of all things that pertain to life and godliness proceeds. Faith is pointed out in the scriptures as being one of those important gifts. The gift and the power to exercise it being bestowed, we are to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity. Now, where we see those heavenly fruits portrayed, we have evidences of the implantation of a heavenly root, or principle, from whence they proceed, and hence a testimony of the election of the possessor. We are not, therefore, to content ourselves with the bare possession of the gifts of the Spirit, (much less with the naked profession,) but we must prove that we have them - show them by our works. The first Baptist that ever was on earth, required fruits before he would baptize; and the most conspicuous Baptist that ever heaven or earth knew, chose and ordained his disciples, that they should go and bring fruit, and that their fruit should remain. It is only by the fruit that we can judge correctly of the quality of the tree, whether good or bad, "By their fruits shall ye know them."
But why are these fruits, or evidences, of our calling and election withheld from the church? Why so many candles placed under a bushel? There certainly can be no justifiable reason for it.
Is it because it is a day of darkness, and the love of many wax cold? That affords us no plea for a dereliction in our duty. It is a matter beyond our control. The Lord "maketh darkness and it is night," and night it will and must be, until it pleases him to dispel the mental gloom. But, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." And although every approximation we make toward the practice of will-worshipers in kindling fires, and compassing ourselves about with sparks of our own kindling, shall result in our lying down in sorrow, is it possible that the highly favored children of grace can rest contented, sitting down in supineness, and withholding every evidence of their calling and election from the family of the faithful, neglecting the solemn duties, and disobeying the positive commands of the King of Zion, by forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, and sinfully disregarding the ordinances of God's house, which is so wisely constructed, so abundantly furnished, and so suitably adapted every way for the accommodation and comfort of ourselves and brethren?
Brethren, suppose the curtains of darkness are closed around you, and no cheering beam from the Sun of Righteousness appears to penetrate the mental gloom, or illuminate the lower hemisphere? Is it reasonable to suppose that by absenting yourselves from your Father's house at any time, you will enhance your own enjoyment, or that of your brethren? You will find yourselves miserably mistaken if you think so. I cannot conclude that the children of God feel best while neglecting their duty, but have thought that no one circumstance has been attended with more gloomy and discouraging prospects to the church of Christ, than that of her children forsaking her in dark and cold seasons. How trying to the faithful few who frequent her neglected courts at such a time! Then it is that the enemy pours contempt upon her apparently languishing cause, and tauntingly asks, "Where is their God?" Surely, brethren, our presence is most needed at such a time. O that we could feel more of the love and sympathy that the captive children of Israel felt when they sat by the rivers of Babylon, and wept when they remembered Zion, saying, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."
Let us not forsake our beloved Zion, in the hour of adversity, but rally to her standard and link our destiny with hers, as hers is with her Savior's. If her children rejoice, we will rejoice with them, and if to the contrary, let us "weep with them that weep." There is a mournful and solemn sweetness in the commingling of our sympathetic tears in the gloomy and sorrowful night.
How consoling would it be, when visiting her courts, to see all her members present, faithfully filling their places in her temples, and thereby, manifesting their love to her cause and King, their brotherly kindness to each other, being knit together in that love which constitutes one of the strongest proofs of our calling and election; "For love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God;" and again, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." And the Savior has said, "By this shall all know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
But how are all to know that we are his disciples, unless we prove that we love one another by our actions. Then, brethren, let me beseech you, for the sake of your own enjoyment, and the encouragement of your brethren, to step out from your hiding-places, regardless of the coldness and darkness that is complained of; for if it is night, and a cold night, it appears not to be a tempestuous one. If the warring elements were all in commotion, and the raging tempest rocking our bark over the furious billows, or war raging to an alarming extent in the kingdom, it would not seem marvelous that timid ones should seek some quiet retreat from the storm, or leave the ranks to shun the battle. But, even in those cases, they would betray a great lack of courage, or an unjustifiable cowardice. And what would make the matter of fear still worse, a want of courage and a cowardice when they have the most infallible evidences of complete safety, and a final and triumphant victory.
O, brethren, don't be driven from your posts by the lowering cloud, the howling tempest or the invading foe. They are all completely under the sovereign control of your Deliverer, and all work for your good. There is no darkness or gloom so thick or dross that can remain when the Light of Zion shall loom around you. Don't be discouraged then, but wait patiently for your Lord's coming, and with all confidence submissively sing,
"Are darkness and distress my share?
Give me to trust thy guardian care;
Enough for me, if love divine,
At length through every cloud shall shine,"
and rest assured, he will come and will not tarry. Fear not the raging tempest, though the earth be removed, and the mountains carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, till the mountains shake with their swelling; your God is omnipotent, and can shut up the winds in the chambers of his power, and hold the waters in the hollow of his hand; therefore, you can still sing,
"'Tis by thy strength the mountains stand,
God of eternal power;
The sea grows calm at thy command,
And tempests cease to roar."
What though the enemy come in like a flood, never fear; your uniform and armor will shield you from all danger in that case. "Stand, therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God," and with this panoply, one can chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.
In conclusion, the apostle tells us, "For if ye do these things; ye shall never fall." And what if we do not? Why, then, we may expect to fall, of course. I have had quite a good many falls myself, and been pretty badly hurt sometimes, and have known others to fall, and receive severe wounds and bruises, and suffer much; and generally by leaving the track, and getting out among the rubbish, especially when it is somewhat dark, and they are not willing to "wait upon the Lord." Others undertake to "kindle a fire" and "walk in the light" of that, and in the sparks they have kindled; and they have to lie down in sorrow. Others again take after a "Will-o'-the-wisp," or some other false light, or "dark lantern," and receive hard falls that way, and quite serious injuries. Sometimes, perhaps, the Lord orders our steps so that we fall for our good. But in all the falls of christians that I have ever known or read in our old school book, not one has proved fatal, nor ever will, for the Teacher has said, they, "shall never die." I would not aggravate the wounds of those who fall, but purpose a remedy and conclude. An excellent one is found in the 7th chapter, 8th and 9th verses of Micah. "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; for when I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me; he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness."
Most truly, your brother,
J. F. JOHNSON.
P. S. In looking over the third number, present volume, of the SIGNS, I see that my esteemed brother, Elder J. W. Thomas, of Indiana, has requested my views on Col. i. 28. As I fear that I am occupying more space in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES than is justly due me, or profitable to the readers, I must crave his indulgence for a short time, after which, (although I feel more like asking instruction of Eld. Thomas than giving,) I am willing to give such views as I may have.
J. F. J.