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DILIGENCE IN THE SPIRIT
Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge temperance; and in your temperance patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness love of the brethren; and in your love of the brethren love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins.
IN our previous meditation we were considering the vast resources which are the inheritance of every believer in Christ Jesus. “We gazed upon our bullion in the bank. We reverently contemplated the “exceeding great and precious promises,” and we bowed in awe before the overwhelming ministry of God’s redeeming grace. And now what shall we do with these stupendous resources? “We must not allow the Divine wealth to soothe us into slumberous and perilous impotence. If the Lord makes us to “lie down in green pastures,” it is only that by the gracious renewal wo might be 228enabled to walk in “the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Therefore “for this very cause add on your part all diligence.” [Verse 5] It is a demand for business vigilance in the realm of the spirit. “We are not to close our eyes and allow our limbs to hang limp, in the expectancy that the Lord will carry us like blind logs. He made us of clay, but he formed us men, and as men He purposes that we shall live and move and have our being. And so He calls for “diligence.” It is a word which elsewhere is translated haste, carefulness, business. It is very wonderful how commonly the New Testament takes its similes from the commercial world. “Trade ye herewith till I come.” “Look therefore carefully how ye walk, buying up the opportunity.” “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman.” In all these varied passages there is a common emphasis upon the necessity of businesslike qualities in our spiritual life. We are called upon to manifest the same earnestness, the same intensity, the same strenuousness in the realm of spiritual enterprise as we do in the search for daily bread. And yet how frequent and glaring is the contrast between a man’s religious life and his life in the office or upon the exchange. His life seems to be lived in separate compartments; the one is suggestive of laxity and a waiting 229upon happy luck; the other is characterised by a fiery ardour and keen sagacity. There is method in the office; there is disorder in the closet. But here, I say, is a demand that men should be as businesslike in winning holiness as in seeking material wealth. We must bring method into our religion. “We must find out the best means of kindling the spirit of praise, and of engaging in quick and cease less communion with God, and then we must steadily adhere to these as a business man adheres to well-tested systems in commercial life. We must bring alertness into our religion; we must watch with all the keenness of an open-eyed speculator, and we must be intent upon “buying up every opportunity for the Lord.” We must bring promptness into our religion. When some fervent impulse is glowing in our spirits we must not play with the treasured moment; “we must strike while the iron is hot.” “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” We must bring boldness into our religion. Timid men make no fine ventures. In the realm of religion it is he who ventures most who acquires most. Our weakness lies in our timidity. Great worlds are waiting for us if only we have the courage to go in and possess them. “Why are ye fearful, ye of little faith?” And we must bring 230persistence into our religion. We must not sit down and wail some doleful complaint because the seed sown in the morning did not bring the harvest at night. We must not encourage a spirit of pessimism because our difficulties appear insuperable. We must go steadily on and wear down every resistance in the grace-fed expectancy that we shall assuredly win if we faint not. Such are the characteristics of common diligence which we are to bring into co-operative fellowship with the forces of grace. “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”
Assuming, then, that these business qualities and aptitudes are being brought into the ministry of the Spirit, we must now address ourselves to the expansion of our spiritual traffic, to the enrichment of our souls, and the enlargement of our spiritual stock. “In your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge temperance; and in your temperance patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness love of the brethren; and in your love of the brethren love.” [Verses 5-7] It is surely the addition of ever new departments to the wealthy interests of the soul! But let us mark that the endeavour after enlargement must have precise and distinctive aim. It is one of the 231perils of the religious life that we so frequently lose ourselves in vague and pointless generalities. Our confessions of sin have no pertinence, and our aspirations after holiness have no shining peaks. We must define our ambitions, and let them glow before us as distinct and radiant goals. It was a wise old monk who wrote, “We must always have some fixed purpose, and especially against those sins which do most of all hinder us.” The principle is equally effective and applicable in the pursuit of virtue. What do I lack? Let me examine myself. It will probably be found that the things which most displease me in others are just the things which most characterise myself. Am I impatient? Let me supply it. Do I lack self-control? Let me supply it. Is my love of the brethren wanting in range? Let me supply it. But can we supply these additions at will? Ah, but the writer of this Epistle is not beginning with ethical counsel. He began by taking us round the bank and showing us the mighty resources on which we can draw. And then, after the contemplation of our wealth, he assumes that we are taking possession of it by faith, and that in the strength of that faith we are translating our strength into holy attainment in common life. It is a will that is rooted in God, and from God is drawing the strength it needs, which is 232engaged in this active ministry of adding to its moral and spiritual treasures. And a will so set can attain unto anything, and can become clothed in the superlative beauties of the likeness of Christ.
But here, now, is a vital principle; every added virtue strengthens and transfigures every other virtue. Every addition to character affects the colour of the entire character. In Ruskin’s great work of Modern Painters, he devotes one chapter to what he calls “The Law of Help.” And here is the paragraph in which he defines the law: “In true composition, everything else not only helps everything else a little, but helps it with its utmost power. Every atom is full of energy. Not a line, not a speck of colour, but is doing its very best, and that best is aid.” It is even so in the composition of character. Every addition I make to my character adds to the general enrichment. The principle has its reverse application. To withdraw a single grace is to impoverish every element in the religious life. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, is become guilty of all.” We cannot poison the blood in one limb without endangering the entire circulation. But it is the positive application of the principle with which we are now concerned. And the graces are a co-operative 233brotherhood, they are interpervasive, and each one lends energy and colour to the whole. We cannot possibly supply a new grace to the life without bringing wealth to all our previous acquirements. For instance, here is “godliness.” Godliness by itself may be very regular, and at the same time very icy and very cold. It is like a room without a fire. But now “in your godliness supply love.” And what a difference a fire always makes to a well-furnished room! Love brings the fire into the cold chamber, and godliness becomes a genial thing with a new glow upon it, and a new geniality at its heart. But the love thus supplied not only enriches godliness, but every other grace as well. What a tenderness it gives to patience, and what a soft beauty it brings to self-control! Take love away from the circle of the graces, and they are like a varied landscape when the sun is hid behind the clouds. “In your faith supply . . . love.” And so on, with never-ceasing additions, for ever enriching the entire life of the soul.
Men who bring such business-like qualities into the sphere of their religion, and who are continually enriching their spiritual stock, make a lasting contribution to the common weal. “For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the 234knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Verse 8] Such lives are “not idle,” they are active; they are not “unfruitful,” they are efficient. Surely one could not find two words more descriptive of a worthy and positive life; it is active and efficient. It is active and efficient on the side of reception, the whole life being gloriously open to the incoming of the Divine; it is active and efficient in the ministry of impartation, communicating itself in rich currency to the interests and affairs of the world. “We become the best and the most active and the most efficient citizens when we contribute to the common life the gift of sweet and perfected dispositions. A poor but sanctified life is a magnificent civic asset! Who can compute the value to a community of a character enriched by patience, by self-control, by brotherly kindness, and by love? Such characters are moral health centres; they bring ozone into the crowded thoroughfares of common life. That is the true efficiency, as indeed that is the true success, which makes an enduring contribution to the common wealth. Such things can never die.
What then? If we are businesslike, continually adding to our spiritual stock, and thereby contributing to the common weal, what will be the issue? The apostle expresses the 235issue in negation. “He that lacketh these things is blind.” [Verse 9] Then if a man possess these things he is consequently endowed with sight. Every supplied grace enlarges the spiritual vision. Every refinement of the disposition is the acquirement of an extra lens. And now I think of it, my text is like a vast drawn-out telescope, with lens after lens added, ever contributing to the intensity and extension of its range. See how it runs: “Add virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, and love of the brethren, and love!” What seeing power a man will gain with a telescope like this! But lacking these things I should only see things that are near, and there will be no distant alluring vision, and every thought will be of the immediate day. Lacking “these things,” bread is bread alone; let these things be added, and our daily bread becomes a sacrament through which we see the very beauty of the Christ. Without “these things,” affliction becomes a dark and a heavy deposit; let “these things,” be added, and we can see its issue in “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Drop “these things,” and life becomes a thing of purely transient import, a jostle and a squabble for a slice of bread. Let “these things” be added, and life becomes endowed with eternal significance, and 236every little duty becomes an open gate into the infinite world. And so the apostle concludes his exhortation by re-emphasising his kindly and urgent counsel. “Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence.” [Verse 10] Let every atom of energy be devoted to your holy cause. Never let your prayers be scrimped and niggardly! Do not enter into life maimed, and so escape corruption by the skin of your teeth! Seek to win life, and to win it well, “for thus shall be richly supplied unto you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”237
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