2 Peter 3:18
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
The want of growth is the want, generally speaking, of organisation. Rocks do not grow, soil does not grow. Growth belongs to the higher stages of development, and as things grow, not by accretion, but by definite formation, by their growth we judge of their vitality. When anything ceases to grow its end is near. Any man that has ceased to grow is waiting for his undertaker, and the longer he has to wait the greater is the pity for everybody about him. There are, of course, in so compound a creature as man, several concentric circles of growth. There is bodily growth, but that usually takes care of itself, and needs no exercitation. Then there is physical culture, a growth not in dimensions alone, but in other ways. One may develop strength; it may be increased by his purpose. One may develop activity; one may develop skill of hand or alertness and quickness of foot. This is the lowest form of growth, and yet the lowest growth even of the body is a worthy one, and justifies our endeavour. A healthy and well-developed body is a chariot fit to carry a hero's soul. To grow up in good sound health, without violation of the great canons of morality, and with the law of moderation fixed upon every appetite and passion, is itself no insignificant ideal for a young man or woman. But, then, we are familiar, in this land where education is almost an atmosphere and a byword, with growth in intelligence and knowledge. These two things are very different. Intelligence implies a certain condition of the knowing faculties. Knowledge is the fruit of intelligence. There is just as much difference between them as there is between skill and the product of skill, or between husbandry and the harvests that husbandry can produce. A man may have intelligence and scarcely any knowledge. A man may have a good deal of knowledge and hardly any intelligence. But where one has both intelligence and knowledge, and is growing in them both, that is a transcendently noble thing. It is the direct tendency of intelligence and knowledge to produce morality. I declare that education, or the development of the knowing parts of a man, gives him so large a view of the field of life that he is more likely to see that morality is safety than if he were ignorant; and that the general fact stands proved that intelligence and knowledge tend, on the whole, by immense measure, toward goodness, respectability, virtue, and morality. So if we grow in aptitude for intelligence and knowledge we shall make a long stride away from animalism, and from the dangers that beset the passions and appetites of human life. Now, while bodily growth, intellectual growth, and growth in knowledge are to be esteemed, and are not to be thrown into the shade by any misconception of the value of grace and religion, I affirm that the highest growth, because it is the one that carries all these others with it more or less, or blesses them, is growth in grace. Self-sacrifice, that is one element of it. Meekness and humility are other elements of it. Good nature, which is called kindness in the text of Scripture, is another element of it. Easiness to be entreated is one of the elements of growth. In regard to that manhood which springs from the activity of our highest spiritual and moral functions, in regard to this eminent spiritual-mindedness, I must say that it does not belong to the cave nor to the cloister. The serene wisdom of love, and the guidance of God's presence with a man, will prosper him more, in the long run, in every relation of life, than the turbulent wisdom that springs from vanity, from pride, from avarice, from passion. Men adopt a lower form of power when they undertake to carry out the ends of life by the selfishness that prevails in human society. It requires more skill in the beginning to wield this higher power — to learn the trade, that is, of piety in its application to life. It also requires more time for reaping the fruit. Some harvests are sown in autumn, and the sun leaves them; but they come to ripeness next summer. Some things can be sown in spring and reaped before midsummer. In regard to moral and spiritual elements, it takes more time to develop them and procure their final results in secular wisdom than it does to take the lower and superficial forms and achieve success, but when once they are established they do not go back. A man that fears and loves God, and therefore stands intact under the temptations of life, men will give large premiums to get. It is ripening growth that is demanded. In other words, it is not enough for our religion that we have revivals of it; it is not enough that we have flashes of any or all of these spiritual feelings and experiences. What is wanted is, that they shall become steadily a part of us and abide in us, so that they constitute our character. Then growth in grace amounts indeed to a sure victory. The piety that comes and goes is better than nothing — scarcely more than that; but the higher spiritual qualities of a man's nature that abide with him, and grow stronger, and throw their roots deeper, and take hold on life with more multiplied hands, are the qualities that constitute the true man. When such things shall have been thoroughly developed, the stability and habitualness of the highest Christian experiences will work spontaneity. The mind's action in this channel will become automatic. Then, too, there will be harmony. It will not be simply a few feelings that will run in this line, but the whole soul. Like an orchestra well trained, it will be harmonious, and will increase in force from year to year. For while prophecy and teaching and knowledge do not abide, while we are in the childhood of the human race, and know everything only in fragments and parts, there are some things that death itself does not change. We are told that they are faith, hope, and love. These go on ineradicable and unchangeable. Such men walk with God. If you liken human life and development to a dwelling, the lower story is on the ground, and made of clay. How roomy and how full of men that live next to the dirt! Above that, however, is a story of iron. There are men of energy, and of a ruling purpose irresistible, seeking and gaining their ends at all hazards, and this story is populous too. The next story is dressed in velvet and carved wood, and here are they that dwell in their affections, and are brought together by the sympathy of a common gentleness and kindness, but on the lower levels of life. Above that is a room of crystal and of diamonds, and there are but few that dwell in it. From its transparent walls one may behold the heavens and the earth. Out of it men may see the night as well as the day — men who live a life so high, so pure, and so serene that they may be said to. dwell at the very threshold of the gate of heaven itself.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.