2Pe_1:10-11. Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
IN the system of religion which the inspired penmen have transmitted to us, duty and privilege go hand in hand. It is “the Divine power alone which gives us all things which pertain unto life and godliness:” but we must exert ourselves in dependence on that power, to “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This plain and scriptural idea gives the true solution to many difficulties that occur in the sacred volume, and particularly so to those which arise from the words before us.
In the text are set before us,
Though all are agreed that our duty is here declared, the opinions of men differ widely respecting the precise nature of that duty. Our first point therefore is to fix the true meaning of the text—
[By our “calling and election,” is meant that effectual call which men receive when they are truly converted unto God [Note: This is manifest from 1Co_1:26.], and which both evinces, and results from, God’s eternal purpose to save their souls [Note: 1Th_1:4-5.].
Now those who deny the doctrine of election, argue thus. We are commanded to “make our election sure;” and, if we neglect to do so, we may “fall” and perish for ever: therefore there is no such thing as is generally understood by “election;” and that which is so called in Scripture, is nothing more than a designation of God to the enjoyment of outward privileges, or an acceptance of us upon certain conditions.
To avoid these consequences, many who hold the doctrine of election affirm, that the exhortation in the text means only that we should exert ourselves to get an assured sense of our election.
But there is no such ambiguity in the original, as there is in our translation. Whatever the text may prove or disprove, it can have but one meaning; namely, that we are to make our election firm, and, by diligence in good works, to secure the benefits to which God has elected us.
This however does not disprove the doctrine of election. The truth is, that God elects us to holiness as the means, as well as to glory as the end [Note: Eph_1:4.]: He elects us to the end by the means [Note: 2Th_2:13-14.]; so that the end can never be secured but by the means prescribed. Though therefore God does elect us unto salvation, we can never partake of that salvation, if we be not found in a diligent discharge of all our duties, and the constant exercise of all moral virtues [Note: Rom_2:7.]. Hence St. Paul, notwithstanding he was assured of his final enjoyment of heaven [Note: 2Co_5:1.], was careful to “keep his body under and bring it into subjection, lest, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away [Note: 1Co_9:27.];” and hence we also are commanded to “look to ourselves, lest we lose the things we have already wrought, and so come short of our full reward [Note: 2 John, ver. 8 and Heb_4:1.].” The truth lies, not in a simple affirming or denying of the doctrine of election, but in connecting the means with the end, as the joint objects which God, in his eternal purpose, has determined to accomplish.]
The meaning of the text being ascertained, the duty contained in it is clear—
[There is a connexion between all the graces of the Spirit: they are so many links in a chain, no one of which can be dispensed with. If we have faith, we must add to it “valour,” that shall encounter difficulties; “knowledge,” that shall regulate the whole of our deportment; “temperance,” that shall make us indifferent to the pleasures of sense; “patience,” that shall carry us through all hardships; “godliness,” that shall fill us with a delight in heavenly things; “brotherly-kindness,” that shall knit us to every member of Christ’s mystical body; and “charity,” that shall engage us in all offices of love even to our very enemies. All of these graces we should cultivate; and, having attained any measure of them, we should seek to grow in them daily; resting in no attainment “till we come to the measure of the full stature of Christ [Note: ver. 5–7.].”
In labouring after these things, we shall “make our calling and election sure:” we shall not only prove that we have been elected of God, and called by his grace, but shall “strengthen the things that remain,” and “make firm” the work that has been begun in our souls. Indeed the very pursuit of virtue must in itself tend (in proportion as we are diligent) to keep us from declension [Note: Pro_3:21-23.]: and it is certain, that God will prosper those who conscientiously labour to approve themselves to him [Note: 2Ch_15:2.].]
Here then is our duty, viz. to secure by unwearied diligence in good works the final enjoyment of those blessings to which God has elected us by his grace, and called us by his good Spirit. And, to aid us in the discharge of this duty, the Apostle sets promises before us for,
“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” But more particularly God engages to give his diligent and devoted people,
A steadfast life: “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall”—
[It too often happens that professors of religion are left to dishonour their holy calling by open and scandalous offences: nor have any of us any security against such falls, except as we are upheld in God’s everlasting arms. But this security shall be afforded to the zealous and faithful follower of Christ. My text says, “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” The diligent Christian doubtless will, even to his dying hour, have reason to acknowledge, that he is a poor imperfect creature: but he shall be kept from flagrant transgressions; and shall, in respect of them, “be preserved blameless unto God’s heavenly kingdom.” Numberless are the promises of God to this effect [Note: 1Sa_2:9. Psa_37:23-24.] — — — And O, what encouragement do they afford to those who know their weakness and their frailty! Surely the hope of being enabled to “do all things through the strength of Christ,” and of being made “more than conquerors through him that loved us, and of having “our strength in all respects proportioned to our day of trial,” may well stimulate us to exertion, and make us diligent in performing every thing which God requireth at our hands [Note: 1Co_15:58.].]
A triumphant death—
[A variety of things may occur to affect the mind of a dying saint, and to prevent him from displaying the full efficacy of his principles in his last hours: but, in the general, the peacefulness of his departure will be proportioned to the integrity and diligence of his life. Indeed, it may be expected by those who “abound in every good word and work,” that God will be peculiarly present with them in the time of their greatest need [Note: Psa_73:26.]: they may hope to be favoured with Pisgah-views of the heavenly Canaan, and, like Stephen, to behold their Saviour standing ready to receive them. Such was Paul’s departure, after a life of unremitting exertion in his Master’s cause [Note: 2Ti_4:6-8.]: and such “an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord shall be ministered to us” also, if we follow the steps of that distinguished Apostle.
Who that has ever seen the insensibility of some, or the terrors of others, would not wish to have this promise fulfilled to him in a dying hour? — — — Let us then live the life of the righteous, if we would die his death. Let us look to it, that we be daily ripening for glory: then shall we in due time be carried to it, “like a shock of corn” to the garner.]
You will naturally ask me, what directions I would give you for the attainment of this great object? I answer,
Let there be in you no allowed sin—
[The wisdom that is from above, is “without partiality and without hypocrisy [Note: Jam_3:17.].” One leak will sink a ship; and one allowed sin will destroy the soul [Note: Mat_18:8-9.]. If ever you would be saved at last, you must be “Israelites indeed, and without guile [Note: Joh_1:47.].” Faith in Christ must be laid as the foundation; but every Christian grace must compose the edifice that is built upon it.]
Cry mightily to God to perfect and complete his work within you—
[He who has been “the Author of your faith must also be the Finisher [Note: Heb_12:2.].” “Be strong only in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Eph_6:10.].” Commit your soul into the Saviour’s hands, and entreat him to “keep you from falling [Note: Jude, ver. 24.]:” so shall you “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Col_4:12.],” and “be kept by the power of God through faith unto everlasting salvation [Note: 1Pe_1:5.]”]