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The Holy Ghost, by the mouth of St. Peter, exhorts believers, not to be mere believers ; but with "all diligence" to superadd to their faith every mental and moral adorning. And with reason ; for if Faith joins together God and man what ought not, and what may not, man become ? Faith is the commencement in a fallen creature of the Life of God. The faith therefore which is “of the operation of God” will espouse, through its own affinities, every excellence, and grow unto universal charity.
* Beside this, giving all diligence,
1.-"Add to your faith, Virtue.”—It is the glory of the Gospel that it not only apprehends persons of no character, but multitudes who have a decidedly bad character. The lowest and the worst may find “peace and joy in believing.” But let none think that to leave off their old sins and to believe in Christ, are the whole calling of
God. Their faith is all-important, but let them take heed to add thereto moral excellence. Virtue comprehends every element and constituent of an unblemished and manly character. Faith relates the soul to God, Virtue, to God and to the world. Faith is both too simple and too hidden for human appreciation: Virtue commands the reverence of all. Christ teaches the children of faith that they should clothe their hidden life with “good works” that the world may see, admire and give glory to God. Add to your faith, sterling worth. Be men of principle, and of strong principle. Combine correctness and strength. Sacrifice every thing to truth ; sacrifice truth to nothing. Virtue is both valor and habit in right-doing. It abhors evil, and cleaves to that which is good. By a noble instinct, it observes the utmost distance from all vice and dishonor, and walks in indissoluble bonds with Purity, Honesty and Goodness. The spirit of uncleanness often lurks under worldly purity, and the spirit of fraud under legal, or worldly honesty. But true Virtue will be chaste and honest from an inward necessity, and not for the sake of a reputation. Virtue turns away with disgust from every species of deceit as from the slimy trail of that old serpent, the devil. Virtue would rather suffer for sincerity, candour, openness, than win a throne by
It is a very
dissimulation. Virtue disdains to employ base and questionable means to secure a good end. It abhors the maxim that “the end justifies the means.” Virtue is more than worldly justice: it is like Divine Justice, full of all Goodness. cold thing simply to respect the rights of others. Virtue will render to all their due; and, beside that, will find her own joy in working, or even in suffering for their happiness.
It is notorious that, so called, Christians often fail to associate full-orbed Virtue with their Faith, and thereby expose Christianity to the contempt of the world. Christians should attest the genuineness of their Faith, by the splendour of their Virtue; and shew the world that where Faith is, there also all excellences will cluster and flourish. As Faith conjoins them with the Lord of men and of angels, they should certainly conjoin with their Faith every human and heavenly grace. Hear St. Paul, as well as St. Peter: "Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report ;if there be any Virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” In other words, "giving all diligence add to your Faith” every Virtue, every thing that God commands, or that men praise.
2.—To Virtue add Knowledge.—Let your newborn soul be like a flower opening to the light. What is your loyalty worth if you are not concerned to honor and glorify your King ? If by faith you are the Lord's, can your heart be too pure, can your character be too noble, can your soul be too full of light? Many books are not necessary to spiritual enlargement. Think more than you read. Thinking expands the soul from within. Laborious readers stuff, cram and cumber their souls, and rob them of all their elasticity. To eat more than is digested hurts the eater. Great readers, often, only confuse their minds; and are like bats wandering to and fro in their own dusky element. Immortal authors, whose books are as fresh for this generation as for the century in which they were written, were not themselves great devourers of books. They soliloquized much. They interrogated nature, and nature's own réplies arose in their souls. They conversed with streams and clouds, with trees and birds, with night and morning. They were observers. Nature rewards the love and patience of her observers, by enriching them with her own variety. Should Christians be less observant of nature than other men? Who was it said: “Consider the lilies?”
Nature is a great book, but human nature is a greater. Read men.
What novelty, variety and
mystery are here! It is an endless book. Rather, every individual man is a new volume with a new title page, a new table of contents, a new arrangement and a new development of nature and humanity, of heaven, earth and hell. A duplicate man you will not find. Acquire the habit of reading men, and you will never be without a new book.
Your books, like your trusty friends, should be well-selected and few. In reading the books of master-spirits, enter into the spirit from which they were written, and more will be given to you than the book expresses. The purest wisdom refuses to be imprisoned in words. Yet as visible sacraments help you to apprehend things invisible; so do the words of the wise help you by what is expressed, to apprehend the inexpressible. Above all is the Book of God. Many worlds meet thee there,
. a past world, a future world, a demon-world, an angel-world, and the awful World of the Divine Nature. Come to the Book with penitence, humility, wonder and worship. Come not to judge it, but to be judged. Come to it not for words only, but for life, for the Book is insphered in a universe of “spirit and life.” a
The Book of God will lead you to the book of your own soul. Study your own invisible world.