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 command is that we enlarge ourselves; that we pass up by graduation from one class to another class in the great school of life, of action, of understanding. The injunction pre supposes that we are capable, that we have faculties susceptible of being disciplined and trained. It pre-supposes that we are intelligent and ambitious after good, and desirous of higher attaimnent. The germ idea contained in the word "education" is that of leading forth the natural capacity of the man. An educated person is a person who has been led forth, or brought out, or developed from what he was into something larger, and fuller, and more complete. Moral education is, there fore, the leading forth of the moral capacity of man. Human nature is a nature of capacity; it is susceptible of great development in any direction and toward any state of being. It can be led out toward the good or toward the bad; can be made to seek its affinities among the high or the low. It can be influenced toward heaven or it can be influenced toward hell. As far as we can see, there is no limit to this development of man's capacity. The whole human machinery impresses one in its every part with the idea of motion, and the assertion that the mind and soul will ever come to a dead standstill, whether here or in the hereafter, is one repugnant to the very genius of their construction. The endless activity of God, according to its capacity to receive it, seems to have been imparted to His last and finest creation, man. Now, this marvellous being, whose capacity of growth is endless, is located in the midst of a thousand incentives of growth. Regard him simply as an animal, and what that he needs does the earth and the air refuse him for food? Look at him, as a student, as an embodiment of mental faculties, and behold how multitudinous are the objects that elicit his inquisition. The earth on which he walks swells with problems that challenge' solution; the air he breathes is charged with forces and combinations of elements which provoke him to analysis. Contemplate him as a social being, and see in the midst of what quickening and vital associations he lives. Love, sympathy, tenderness, mercy, pity — each through its own channel sends down its crystal stream to swell the tide of his ever-widening life. Or examine him in his spiritual connections. What capacity of moral discernment do we not find in him? What magnificent equipment of sensibilities is his; what profound depth of life he has; what energy to aspire, what power to feel, what force to execute, what ability to acquire impressions distinguish him? The education of such a being must be, to every thoughtful mind, one of the gravest subjects within the whole range of human inquiry. The worst thing that any man can do is to think of himself as a creature of little value. I care not how ordinary you may be in your own eyes; I care not how little gifted you may be as others might judge, still I beg you to remember that you are of the highest dignity in the eye of your Maker. It is safe to say that there is not a creation of God, there is not a combination permitted by Him, the object of which is not man's education. You are to look upon the whole world in all its growths, in all its ever-revolving changes, as ordained for your instruction and assistance. There is not a tree, there is not a spire of grass, there is not even a daisy-head that you passed this summer in the fields, that was not created and put in growth and bloom for you. Wisdom as to these is wisdom as to God, and he is wisest as regards the Creator who comprehends most clearly all the use and relation of created things. Now, bearing these things which we have suggested in mind, we submit to you, if the appliances for the leading forth of your nature, in all manner of admirable ways, is not a matter of wonder and gratitude. If you will put yourself in connection with all these helps, so bounteously given; if you will only co-operate with the agents and agencies devised in your behalf, how can your natures fail to be daily enlarged by what is about you? Who can say what knowledge a babe gets out of its mother by feeling with its little hands about the mother's face? This we must remember also, that we are not educated along one line or by a single contact with men, but along many lines and by means of association with many. Hence God groups us. Like stars, men are clustered in constellations, and move on in systems, mutually attracting, mutually repelling each other. There is no education equal to that which a man or woman can get in the sweet school of family life. It is the school in which love should be master and mistress. In it the only law known should be that of affection; the highest privilege, that of serving. This family life may be lived in humble circumstances, as men count surroundings; but its influence on your soul may be as precious, and the results as happy, as if you had lived within the sentinel-guarded doors of a palace. As Christianity enlarges the domain of its sovereignty over men, this family principle gets wider and wider application. The ties of blood cease to bound the limits of affectionate regard, and a spiritual brotherhood unites you to a larger circle. Ultimately the whole race will be kin to each member of it. In order that this education of human nature may go forward unto its complete triumph, it is necessary that every organisation, every form of government, and the entire social structure, should be of a pro, per kind. There is no pressure that can be brought to bear upon a man more potent than that of organisation. If the organisation of the family be wrong in its spirit, in its tone and temper, then will each member of the family be wrong in his or her tone and temper. A. family whose government rests on the principle of force, of authority that speaks only by the infliction of punishment, will make children in it cowardly, hypocritical, and brutal. A Church whose organisation rests on a bigoted foundation will make its members bigoted. The influence of its pulpit, and even of its prayers, will educate men and women into narrowness of thought and harshness of opinion. You cannot base a Church of Christ on anything less wide, less liberal, less sympathetic, than the heart of Christ. Education is thus for ever progressive, and the human mind at the dawn of each generation goes in search of the undiscovered as birds go forth from their groves with the coming of every morning to canvass the fields for their food, and feel in the movement of their flight the joy of a fresh experience. Thus you see that education includes the idea of growth. The educated man is the grown man. He has grown out of old forms of thought into new ones. He has left one plane of feeling and been lifted to a higher plane. That which was difficult for him to understand has become plain. He walks as those who walk in the light. Christianity, as measured by its effect on humanity, if properly interpreted and understood, is movement. It builds no permanent encampment for its followers. Its army is for ever on the march, and every night finds them in a new camp-ground. We must remember that we are all school-children in spiritual education. We are not far advanced — we are on the lower benches, and are sitting at the feet of the Master. We are not studying the high sciences of God. We are not able to fathom the "deep things" of His will. We are only being instructed in the first lessons of good manners. We are only being taught, here and now, how to behave. By and by, when we have learned how to behave, when we have become obedient, cheerful, patient, and good; by and by, when our spiritual senses have become organically so developed as to create a hunger for finer knowledge, and have begun to long to see the things that eye hath not seen, and to hear the things that ears have never heard, God will lift us and honour us with higher seats where the older scholars sit, and we shall begin to be wise as well as good. For this education of which I am talking, this leading out of man's moral faculties, is a thing not of to-day, nor a movement of time as men count time; it is a thing of the ages. It is a movement which rolls itself on into eternity. As to extent, there is no end to it. I close with this word of cheer. The theme suggests it. Whatever your state spiritually may be, you need not remain in it. You can grow out of that state into a better one. You who have failed can grow out of your failure into success. You who are despondent can grow up into the condition of hopefulness. You who are sad God will lift into joy. You who are in the midst of sin can be redeemed out of that sin, and become upright. You who are weak in the structure of your virtue can be braced with the bands of everlasting power. The heavens are full of attractions, and by their sweet might you can be lifted until you stand higher than the stars.
(W. H. H. Murray.)
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.