2 Peter 1:5-7
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;…

In common speech every moral excellence is called a virtue. We also give the name "virtue" to that outward conformity to the law of God which constitutes a good moral character. Thus honesty is a virtue; veracity is a virtue; chastity is a virtue, etc. It is evident, however, that the text does not use the word in either of these significations. It cannot intend by virtue moral excellence in general, since it goes on to enumerate several particular moral excellences, such as temperance, patience, godliness, and charity, which must be added to virtue in order to complete the Christian character. It cannot intend any one in particular of those moral traits which we sometimes call virtues, since in addition to virtue it specifies most of these by name. For the meaning of the apostle we must go back to the primary idea of virtue — which is, manhood, manly vigour, a courageous tone of mind. The old martial Romans, from whom our word virtue is directly inherited, used this term to denote primarily the sum of all corporeal or mental excellences in their ideal of a man. The use of virtue in the sense of power or energy is common in old English; and there are some traces of this elsewhere in our version of the Scriptures, which help to determine the meaning of virtue in the text. The Greek word here translated virtue occurs but four times in the New Testament. As used by Paul in Philippians 4:8, it has the sense of moral excellence. But as used by Peter with respect both to God and to man, the word clearly denotes force, energy, power. There is another word (δύναμις) whose primary meaning is power, which our translators, following Wiclif, sometimes render by virtue, thus showing that they attached to virtue the old Latin sense of energy or force (Luke 8:46; Luke 6:19). Here virtue denotes not moral goodness, but miraculous healing power. Wiclif uses virtues as the equivalent of miracles. Where our version speaks of the "mighty works" done in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, Wiclif styles these "virtues." Again, "He could there do no mighty work"; Wiclif reads, "He must not do there any virtue (Mark 6:5). Milton applies the phrase celestial virtues to the fallen powers and dominions" of heaven, risingMore glorious and more dread than from no fall.Here the word "virtues" conveys no idea of moral excellences, but is the equivalent of potentates. It is obvious, then, that in old English and in the first English version of the Bible the word virtue had its primitive Latin sense of manliness, a vigorous or energetic spirit, and that it sometimes retains this meaning in our version and also in good poetry. This is the meaning which most fitly renders the original term in the text. It is almost impossible to express this idea of virtue by any one English synonym. Isaac Taylor paraphrases it as "manly energy, or the constancy and courage of manly vigour." The one word which comes nearest to it, while it has the abundant sanction of good English writers, is hardly domesticated in the pulpit; yet both the word and the thing were strikingly expressed by an honoured foreign missionary, when urging upon the American Board the immediate and thorough occupation of Turkey, with men and means for the service of Christ. Said Dr. Schauffler, "After all the discouragements and disasters of the Crimean campaign, official mismanagement, army jealousies, camp sickness, and the discomforts of winter, the soldiers held on and took Sevastopol, not by science but by pluck" — and what we need is Christian pluck to take possession of Turkey in the name of Christ. This is the virtue which all Christians are expected at all times to cultivate. "Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue. The apostle speaks to those whom he fully recognises as one with himself in Christ. The faith that bringeth salvation is already theirs. But they are not to rest in that faith as the whole of the Christian character and life. Add to your faith, virtue; as followers of Christ cultivate a true Christian manhood.




1. The virtue of which the apostle speaks — boldness, vigour, courage, manhood — is not to be confounded with rashness. In his earlier experience as a disciple, Peter was sadly deficient in the very virtue which he here recommends, though he was by no means wanting in a rough physical vigour, and the courage which that inspires.

2. This manly virtue should not be confounded with wilfulness. Stubbornness of will is not strength of character. It is doggedness or mulishness, not manliness. If wilfulness were a virtue, then Pharaoh was the most virtuous of men. A resolute, unfaltering purpose to do right, a will to honour God and to stand by truth and duty, a will which cannot be broken upon the wheel, nor relaxed by the fires of martyrdom, but like steel grows more firm and inflexible under pressure and heat — such a will is, indeed, a manly virtue. But will-worship," the magnifying of self-will, adherence to a position or course, not because it is known and felt to be right, but because it has been taken, and pride forbids to change — this wiifulness is as far from Christian manliness as a spoiled child is from an angel.

3. But the virtue of which we speak, while it is neither rash nor wilful, is always bold, firm, and determined in maintaining truth and performing duty: it is a manly and energetic tone of mind.

(1) An obvious constituent of this state of mind is an intelligent conviction of truth and duty. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Steadfastness in purpose is impossible where the mind is doubtful as to the object in view. A purpose springing from mere feeling is apt to prove unstable, since feeling is a variable quantity. Manly resolve rests upon intelligent conviction. Strength of conviction gives courage to resolution.

(2) But in order to this manly virtue, the principle of obedience to God must be established in the soul as final, above all personal interests, above all earthly goods, above all merely human custom or law, above whatever would obtrude itself between the personal soul and a personal God, its Creator, Ruler, and Judge. You cannot cower down a soul that rests implicitly on God. When Luther stood before that court of the German empire which held his life in its hands, it is said that he was the only person in the assembly who was perfectly undisturbed. Luther was ready to die fox" the doctrine of justification by faith, since he himself had added to faith — virtue, a manly courage, a holy energy of soul — proceeding from an intelligent and principled obedience to God.

(3) One other constituent enters into this manly virtue — that is, frankness or sincerity in avowing one's convictions of truth and duty. He who would be manly must be open. Frankness is not forwardness; it does not require that one should be always thinking aloud; neither is it bluntness; but it does forbid one from a selfish motive, to conceal his convictions when truth and duty are in question. When the Jewish Sanhedrin threatened Peter and John, and forbade them to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, the apostles fell back upon conscience and the law of Christian obedience, and said, "Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken to you more them to God, judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things which we hi, ye seen and heard." That was Christian manliness. Peter had now learned to add to his faith, virtue.

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS VIRTUE TO COMPLETENESS OF CHARACTER IS EVIDENT WITHOUT ARGUMENT. There call be no sterling character without this. The annals of Christian martyrdom often exhibit this manly virtue grafted upon child-like faith.


1. Study the examples of those who have manifested virtue. Look at Noah, standing up against the cavils of an apostate world to do the command of God a preacher of righteousness. Look at Abraham, with firm tread walking trackless wastes to Unknown lands, his courage rooted in faith. Look at Moses confronting the stubborn will of Pharaoh. Look at Paul, ready to face a Jewish mob, or the prejudiced Sanhedrin, or pagan governors and Roman captains, or the wild beasts at Ephesus, or the dungeon at Rome, and to stand in Caesar's palace as a witness for Christ.

2. To attain the full vigour of Christian manliness, you must exercise this virtue whenever you have opportunity. Virtues will not come to serve us upon great occasions unless they are trained and developed day by day. The young Christian should begin early to cultivate this holy courage — learn to say "no" to every solicitation of evil; learn to say "yes" to every call of duty.

3. Since virtue rests upon faith, you can strengthen and develop it by increasing faith as a living power in the soul. Much as we may discipline ourselves to virtue, our strength must lie not in ourselves and our purposes, but in God our Saviour. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength." A living faith secures a manly piety.

(Joseph P. Thompson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

WEB: Yes, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence; and in moral excellence, knowledge;

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