And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end:…
The principle of imitation which is spoken of in our text (for The word "followers " ought to have been " imitators ") has an imperial influence on man. It is almost impossible to define its range. Imitation begins in early childhood, long before either our moral perceptions or our reason have become developed; and the infant is often, though its parents may be unconscious of it, hearing and watching and making its little efforts to imitate their doings and sayings. It is imitation which is both the creative principle and the preserving bond of society. The moralists of every age have shown their deep insight into human nature and their just appreciation of the value of the principle of imitation by enforcing their precepts with suitable examples. Aristides has been cited and pressed upon the young as an example of justice; and Solon as an example of wisdom; and Socrates as an example of goodness. Nor has the Word of God been less alive to the importance of a similar course. There is not a book in the whole compass of literature which has so extensively availed itself of examples as this; nor is there one which has such examples to present, whether of vice or virtue. And so our text exhorts us not to be slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
I. WHAT IS INHERITED? The promises. What promises? These must be the final promises which are embodied in the one word — heaven. Many promises are fulfilled to us on our way there; but these are promises whose fruition is postponed until death. What promises are fulfilled then in heaven?
1. This is one thing — freedom from sin. This at least. This, if there be nothing more; and this will be a great and glorious heaven in itself; for it will be a soul brought into harmony with itself, and with its God and Saviour.
2. Another promise assures us of the end of sorrow. End of sorrow?. you may say. Can that be? Life begins with a cry and ends with a sigh, and suffering is sown like seed from cradle to grave. Can sorrow have an end? It seems incredible to the reason but not to faith, and it is to faith that these promises are made. Oh I what a gathering shall be there, when brother shall meet sister; husband, wife; parents, their children. They will dwell together in love; jealousy and envy will be alike unknown. Selfishness will not disturb the common interest by seeking its own. Holiness will produce peace, and peace will fill every breast with unutterable joy.
II. THE CONDITIONS upon which the inheritance is secured. "By faith and patience." By faith. This is the key which opens the door of salvation to every one of us. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." We begin to live when we begin to believe. The first act of faith is like the first throb of the heart, or the first heaving of the lungs; it shows that there is life. But if faith unlock the door of salvation, it is not to be thrown away when once the door is opened. It is not merely a key; it is a principle which must abide with us for ever. You may have sharp lessons given to you in Providence — lessons that may make you speak sorrowfully of the vanity of all things here. But you will still be unweaned from the world, unless your faith attach itself to higher powers, and surrender itself to more pure and enduring fascinations. There are times when the invisible seems nearest to us; when earthly interests sink back and we feel as if we dwelt amid the light of eternal things. Faith gets a view of the hills from whence cometh all her help. She sees the redeemed walking in the heavenly city, and then she can bear all things and endure all things. But faith must have as her companion patience. This we must have, for as yet the blessing tarries. But if we have faith, we can well afford to have patience; for the end on which our heart is set is sure. How patient the mariner can be amid storm and calm, if he knows that he will reach the haven at last! How patient the sufferer on his sick-bed, if he knows that recovery will come at the end of all his pangs! And the Christian has a certainty before him. And if he hopes for it, then doth he with patience wait for it. Be not slothful then, but followers. Let the devil's servants sleep, but sleep not, ye sons of God!
(E. Mellor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: