Untitled Sermon (5)
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, gthrough the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).
By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature.
For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence),
And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety),
And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love.
Meaning either the power of God the father, to whom belong eternal power and Godhead; and he is sometimes called by the name of power itself; see Matt. 26:64 being all-powerful and mighty; or rather the power of Christ, since he is the next and immediate antecedent to this relative; and who, as he has the fulness of the Godhead in him, is almighty, and can do all things; and is El-shaddai, God all-sufficient, and can communicate all things whatsoever he pleases, and does, as follows: for he hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness; referring not so much to a temporal life, though he gives that and preserves it, and furnishes with all the mercies and comforts of it; and which come to his, from him, in a covenant way, as his left-hand blessings, and in great love; but rather a spiritual life, which he is the author and maintainer of, all the joys, pleasures, blessings, and supports of it, being given by him; as also eternal life, for that, and every thing appertaining to it, are from him; he gives a meetness for it, which is his own grace, and a right unto it, which is his own righteousness; and he has power to give that itself to as many as the father has given him, and he does give it to them; and likewise all things belonging to godliness, or internal religion; and which is the means of eternal life, and leads on to it, and is connected with it, and has the promise both of this life, and of that which is to come; and every thing relating to it, or is in it, or it consists of, is from Christ: the internal graces of the spirit, as faith, hope, and love, which, when in exercise, are the principal parts of powerful godliness, are the gifts of Christ, are received out of his fulness, and of which he is the author and finisher; and he is the donor of all the fresh supplies of grace to maintain the inward power of religion, and to assist in the external exercise of it; all which things are given through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. The call here spoken of is not a bare outward call, by the ministry of the word, but an internal, special, and powerful one, which springs from the grace, and is according to the purpose of God, and is inseparably connected with justification and glorification; and is either of God the father, who, as the God of all grace, calls to eternal glory by Christ; or rather of Christ himself, who calls by his spirit and grace; and hence the saints are sometimes styled, the called of Jesus Christ, Rom. 1:6 what they are called unto by him is, glory and virtue; by the former may be meant, the glorious state of the saints in the other world, and so answers to life, eternal life, in the preceding clause; and by the latter, grace, and the spiritual blessings of grace here, and which answers to godliness in the said clause; for the saints are called both to grace and glory, and to the one, in order to the other. Some render it, by glory and virtue; and some copies, as the Alexandrian and others, and so the Vulgate Latin version, read, by his own glory and virtue; that is, by his glorious power, which makes the call as effectual, and is as illustrious a specimen of the glory of his power, as was the call of Lazarus out of the grave; unless the Gospel should rather be intended by glory and virtue, which is glorious in itself, and the power of God unto salvation, and is the means by which persons are called to the communion of Christ, and the obtaining of his glory: so then this phrase, him that hath called us to glory and virtue, is a periphrasis of Christ, through a knowledge of whom, and which is not notional and speculative, but spiritual, experimental, fiducial, and practical, or along with such knowledge all the above things are given; for as God, in giving Christ, gives all things along with him, so the spirit of Christ, which is a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, when he makes him known in the glory of his person, grace, and righteousness, also makes known the several things which are freely given of God and Christ: and this is what, among other things, makes the knowledge of Christ preferable to all other knowledge, or any thing else.
Ver. 4. Whereby are given unto us, &c.] Or by which, that is, glory and virtue; by the glorious power of Christ, or by the glorious and powerful Gospel of Christ; and so the Arabic version renders it, by both of which; or by whom, as the Vulgate Latin version reads; that is, by Christ; for as in him are all the promises of God, so they are at his dispose, and by him are given unto the saints: exceeding great and precious promises; meaning the promises of the new and everlasting covenant, of which Christ is the Mediator, surety, and messenger; and which are exceeding great, if we consider the author of them, who is the great God of heaven and earth, and who was under no obligation to make promises of any thing to his creatures; and therefore must arise from great grace and favour, of which they are largely expressive, and are like himself; are such as become his greatness and goodness, and are confirmed by his oath, and made good by his power and faithfulness: and they are also great, as to the nature and matter of them; they are better promises than those of the covenant of works; they are not merely temporal ones, nor are they conditional and legal; but as they relate to things spiritual and eternal, to grace here and glory hereafter, so they are absolute, free, and unconditional, and are irreversible and unchangeable; and they answer great ends and purposes, the glory of God, and the everlasting good and happiness of his people; and therefore must be precious, of more value and worth than thousands of gold and silver, and to be rejoiced at more than at the finding of a great spoil, being every way suited to the cases of God’s people, and which never fail. The end of giving them is, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature; not essentially, or of the essence of God, so as to be deified, this is impossible, for the nature, perfections, and glory of God, are incommunicable to creatures; nor hypostatically and personally, so as the human nature of Christ, in union with the son of God, is a partaker of the divine nature in him; but by way of resemblance and likeness, the new man, or principle of grace, being formed in the heart in regeneration, after the image of God, and bearing a likeness to the image of his son; and this is styled, Christ formed in the heart, into which image and likeness the saints are more and more changed, from glory to glory, through the application of the Gospel, and the promises of it, by which they have such sights of Christ as do transform them, and assimilate them to him; and which resemblance will be perfected hereafter, when they shall be entirely like him, and see him as he is: having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; not the corruption and depravity of nature, which is never escaped by any, nor got rid of so long as the saints are in the world; but the corrupt manners of the world, or those corruptions and vices which are prevalent in the world, and under the power and dominion of which the world lies; and particularly the sins of uncleanness, adultery, incest, sodomy, and such-like filthy and unnatural lusts, which abounded in the world, and among some that called themselves Christians, and especially the followers of Simon Magus. Now the Gospel, and the precious promises, being graciously bestowed, and powerfully applied, have an influence on purity of heart and conversation, and teach men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; such are the powerful effects of Gospel promises, under divine influence, as to make men inwardly partakers of the divine nature, and outwardly to abstain from and avoid the prevailing corruptions and vices of the times.
Ver. 5. And besides this, giving all diligence, &c.] Or upon this, as the Syriac and Arabic versions read, bestow all your labour, diligence, and care; namely, on what follows, and that from the consideration of what goes before; for nothing can more strongly animate, and engage to the diligent exercise of grace and discharge of duty, than a consideration of the high favours, and free-grace gifts of God, and the exceeding great and precious promises of his Gospel: add to your faith virtue; or with your faith, so the Arabic version renders it, and the like, in the following clauses. They had faith, even like-precious faith with the apostles, not of themselves, but by the gift of God, and which is the first and principal grace; it leads the van, or rather the chorus, as the word rendered add signifies; and though it is in itself imperfect, has many things lacking in it, yet it can’t be added to, or increased by men; ministers may be a means of perfecting what is lacking in it, and of the furtherance and joy of it, but it is the Lord only that can increase it, or add unto it in that sense, and which is not the meaning here: but the sense is, that as it is the basis and foundation of all good works, it should not stand alone, there ought to be virtue, or good works along with it, by which it may be perfected, not essentially, but evidentially, or might appear to be true and genuine; for by virtue may be either meant some particular virtue, as justice towards men, to which both the grace and doctrine of faith direct; and indeed pretensions to faith in Christ, where there is not common justice done to men, are of little account; or, as others think, beneficence to men; and so the Ethiopic version renders it, proceed to bounty by your faith; and faith does work by love and kindness to fellow-creatures and Christians; but this seems rather designed by brotherly kindness and charity, in ver 7 or boldness, courage, constancy, and fortitude, which ought to go along With faith. Where there is true faith in Christ, there should be a holy boldness to profess it, and constancy in it, and courage to fight the good fight of faith, and firmness of mind to stand fast in it, notwithstanding alt difficulties and discouragements; or virtue in general is here meant, not mere moral, but Christian virtues, which are the fruits of the spirit of God, and of his grace; and differ from the other, in that they spring from the grace of God, are done in faith, by the assistance of the spirit of Christ, and by strength received from him, and in love to him, and with a view to the glory of God; whereas moral virtues, as exercised by a mere moral man, spring from nature, and are performed by the mere strength of it, and are destitute of faith, and so but splendida peccata, splendid sins, and proceed from self-love, from sinister ends, and with selfish views: and to virtue, knowledge; not of Christ, mentioned ver. 8 and which is included in faith, for there can be no true faith in Christ, where there is not knowledge of him; but of the will of God, which it is necessary men should be acquainted with, in order to perform it; or else though they may seem zealous of good works, their zeal will not be according to knowledge; they ought to know what are virtues or good works in God’s account, and what are the nature and use of them, lest they should mistake and misapply them; or of the Scriptures of truth, and of the mysteries of the Gospel, which should be diligently searched, for the increase and improvement of knowledge in divine things, and which has a considerable influence on a just, sober, and godly living; or by knowledge may be meant prudence and wisdom, in ordering the external conversation aright towards those that are without, and in shewing good works out of it, to others, by way of example, and for the evidence of the truth of things, with meekness of wisdom.
Ver. 6. And to knowledge, temperance, &c.] Avoiding all excess in eating and drinking, and all impure and unclean lusts; for it signifies nothing what a man knows, or professes to know, if his life is a scene of intemperance and debauchery: this seems to be levelled against the followers of Simon Magus, who as certained salvation to knowledge, though the life was ever so impure. Moreover, this may include abstinence, not only from hurtful lusts, but from the use of things indifferent, when the peace and comfort of a weak brother are endangered; for then to knowledge must be added love, otherwise that knowledge will not be right, at least not rightly used; see 1 Cor. 8:1, 2, 7, 10, 11 and to temperance, patience; which is necessary to the running of the Christian race, which is attended with many difficulties and exercises; and under affliction from the hand of God, that there be no murmuring nor repining; and under reproaches and persecutions from men, that they faint not, and are not discouraged by them; and in the expectation of the heavenly glory: this is proper to be superadded to the former, because there may be intemperance in passion, as well as in the use of the creatures; a man may be inebriated with wrath and anger, and overcome with impatience, as well as with wine and strong drink: and to patience, godliness; either internal, which is distinguished from bodily exercise, or outward worship, and lies in the inward and powerful exercise of grace, as faith, hope, love, fear, &c. and the Syriac version here renders it, the fear of God; or rather external, and intends the whole worship of God, as prayer, praise, hearing of the word, and attendance on all ordinances.
Ver. 7. And to godliness, brotherly kindness, &c.] Without which, godliness, or external worship, or a profession of religion, is a vain shew; for this is both the evidence of regeneration, and of the truth and power of real godliness; and also the beauty, comfort, and security of Christian society and worship, and without which they can’t be maintained with peace, profit, and honour: and to brotherly kindness, charity; or love; that is, to all men, enemies, as well as to the household of faith; and to God and Christ, to his house, worship, ordinances, people and truths. Charity is more extensive in its objects and acts than brotherly kindness or love. As faith leads the van, charity brings up the rear, and is the greatest of all.