By T.M. Anderson
"Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue."
Virtue stands at the head of the list of those basic elements of holiness. It is a word of strong meaning. It embraces the thought of purity as a quality. To be virtuous means not only to be negatively pure, but to be positively pure. Virtue is the beauty of holiness. It possesses all those qualities which make a holy person lovable and pleasing in every trait of character. Virtue is saintliness It is that which makes the sanctified glorious unto Christ.
To add virtue to faith implies the necessity of intensifying its usefulness by permitting it to shine out unhindered. It is the light of holiness which must be undimmed in its shining. The quality of virtue cannot be improved upon because it is the very essence of purity; but it can be so applied in the course of a holy life that it will be intensified and enlarged. It can be put to the most practical uses in living out a sanctified life. It will win against the greatest opposition, and break through the worst prejudice, as nothing else can possibly do.
Holiness as expressed in the quality of virtue is invincible against the foes of Christ. With it the people of the Lord can put to silence the quibblings of foolish men.
The very fact that virtue is to be added to faith shows that it is an active quality of holiness rather than passive. The fact that it is in the sanctified is not sufficient; it must be in them and abound to save them from barrenness and unfruitfulness in that perfect knowledge of God.
Virtue is not an ostentatious display of holiness which parades itself before men as a Pharisee; neither will it hide its light under a bushel with a pretended humility which is moral cowardice. One cannot possess holiness of heart without feeling that he must do something to help mankind and glorify God. A pure people are a people zealous of good works.
This means that holiness must be expressed in activity through the quality of virtue. The thoughts, words, and deeds of a holy people are to show forth in virtue. Nothing must ever be done through strife or for vainglory; but all things must be done without murmurings and disputings, either among themselves or with the world, that they may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a perverse world.
To bring virtue into play in the living out of a holy life will greatly enhance the value of holiness in the estimation of all men. It cannot be spoken against. None can gainsay it. Virtue will be the key that will unlock every door closed against Christianity. It can create opportunities. It can open the way for the preaching of holiness in any place on earth. Virtue is the answer to every man who asks for the reason of the hope within us.
To add virtue to faith one must be aggressive in religion and yet not be forward. He must evangelize without being considered a proselytizer. He must witness without contradiction from sinners. Virtue robs the holiness fighter of all ammunition. Even Satan cannot furnish an excuse that will justify a criticism of holiness when virtue is in evidence. The fiercest fire cannot burn it, and savage lions cannot devour it. Virtue needs no trumpeters to herald its going forth. It needs no peculiar dress or garb to mark its possessor. It rises and shines in the beauty of holiness like the sun. It blesses the world with its beneficent rays. It has the fragrance of the rose, the glory of the lily, and the purity of a sunbeam.
Virtue is too humble to feel its worth; yet its price is above the ruby. Virtue has the luster of the pearl and the scintillations of the diamond. Virtue is a crown jewel of the King of Kings set in the heart of the sanctified.
Witnessing to holiness is adding virtue to faith.
God has woven into the scheme of world evangelization and redemption the human factor. The sanctification of the believer results in his having a share in this scheme of things. God has limited himself to the human agency in many respects. He depends on His people to perform certain duties, which can never be done without them. To say that God can get along without the human element in the work of bringing the gospel to the world is to misrepresent facts. Jesus is the Vine, and His saints are the branches. The fruit which He, the True Vine, bears must be borne of these branches.
Witnessing is done by word of mouth and example of life. A true witness is so to speak and do as to show forth Christ's virtues, which are provisional in Him for all men and reproduced in His people as a witness to all men.
In Him is life for all men. His witnesses must bear witness to this fact. Also, His life is the light of men: His witnesses must reproduce the life of Christ in their own lives, which becomes the light of men. When He was in the world, He was the Light of the World. Now that He has made atonement for the world in His death, ascended to the right hand of the Father as High Priest, and will return from thence to judge the world; He hath not left the world without light. His people are the light of the world, shining forth in holy living. By word of mouth this world must know that He is the only Saviour from sin. By example of life; this world must see the evidence of this in the lives of His people. Virtue gives authority to the word spoken; and virtue gives power to it by the life which backs it. Diligence to add virtue to faith in witnessing is the wisdom of the sanctified.
In witnessing, the sanctified must be careful lest they fail to show forth virtue. The real self must be holy; but the manner in which the witnessing is done may obscure that fact, and dim the shining of holiness, and discredit the Lord in the eyes of the world.
The essential elements of witnessing by word of mouth and example of life are courage, kindness, humility, and courtesy. To show virtue these must combine in a unit in witnessing.
Sanctified persons may impair their usefulness unless they give careful heed to combine these elements in their witnessing. To fail to do this may not be due to carnality, but rather to a lack of watchfulness and proper poise. Most sanctified persons can look back with regrets to times when they failed to show their best self because they were not so thoughtful of these things as they should have been. Advancement in spiritual knowledge of ways and means of better witnessing will result in a finer and more perfect show of holiness.
Courage is fundamental. It is back of all witnessing. It is always in demand. Moral courage has placed missionaries in the remotest parts of the earth. It has constrained men to undertake what seemed the impossible. Courage underlies all phases of the responsibility of witnessing. Courage, sweetened with kindness, balanced with courtesy, and proceeding with humility, constitutes true witnessing to Christ. Many sanctified persons suffer from timidity. They are hindered by a form of stage fright which greatly impairs their usefulness. Timidity is not due to carnality. It is not moral cowardice. It is due to several causes, other than moral.
Sanctification does not rid all persons of a timid and shy spirit. They may be persons who are naturally timid and retiring in disposition. It is constitutional with them, and not moral lack. No seeking at an altar will overcome it. Yet this robber of the saints must be overcome. Courage must master this infirmity. Practice will make perfect in witnessing. Timidity will only pass with the holy exercise of giving testimony at every opportunity.
Sanctification does not produce a veteran at one stroke of saving grace. It requires experience to produce veterans who can stand in the heat of a battle without trembling. Courage is an element of sanctification, and when it is brought into action it will master all phases of timidity, and speak boldly for the Lord.
The graces of the sanctified are a marvelous combination. Courage must approach almost to the place of becoming forwardness; yet humility applies the brake at the proper moment. To witness, one must also approach to boasting; yet to fail is to suffer spiritual loss.
Witnessing makes demands upon the sanctified as nothing else can do. To them it means something more than mouthing words, or uttering catchy phrases to provoke levity. It is a serious matter demanding serious reflections. It is the approach to a crisis moment where souls may be saved or lost as the result of it In addition to this, they are conscious of a deep sense of unworthiness; yet they are rejoicing in deliverance from sin.
The cynic and the critic are present to sneer and find fault Yet with courage and love the sanctified give humble testimony to saving grace; and, backed by a holy life, they are unafraid of contradiction. For this the Lord pays them witness fees which enrich their own lives beyond all compare. They develop in all graces, growing in stature and in favor with God and men.
Kindness must never be overlooked by those who would show virtue in witnessing to holiness. There may be certain persons present who are prejudiced against this truth. The combative spirit will not emphasize true holiness. Darkness cannot be driven out of a mind with a club; it will take light to banish it. Many have failed as witnesses because they did not sweeten their testimony with kindness after they had courage to give it. Display holiness by showing virtue in kindness. Do not obscure it by the lack of this.
Courtesy must keep to the front in witnessing to give poise to a holy life. It is easy to get off balance and topple over into the error of being personal in testimony. It is not best to testify at the folks. Give testimony before them, but not at them. To be discourteous and not respect their personal rights and opinions will discredit the life of holiness. The enemy may suggest that now is the time to skin the opposition. Not many persons appreciate the skinning. Holiness is not an acid; it is a sweet. It is not a caustic; it is a balm. Respect for the opinions of others is not a compromise of holiness. It is Christian courtesy to do it.
Christian courtesy is too considerate of the rights of others to overstep its own rights and infringe on the rights of others. Witnessing is not always done by preaching and exhorting. It is often done by reporting the present experience. There is a time to preach, if one is called to do so. There is a time to exhort, if it is in order. But to become the center of attraction and take most of the time which belongs to others is not always the best way to exemplify virtue in applied holiness. To curb zeal is not quenching the Spirit. The fact that a failure to do so often dampens a meeting proves it is not always pleasing to the Spirit. Hundreds may be present whose spiritual lives would greatly develop if they had an opportunity to give their testimony, but are denied the right because someone failed to consider them and took more time than necessary.
Personal sacrifices and thoughtful consideration for others in these things will increase the value of a holy life, and intensify the shining of the white light of true holiness.
The personal life cannot be separated from the personal testimony. It often speaks louder than the words. One had better live more than he professes than to profess more than he lives. For, after all, the life is back of all like the gold in the bank is back of the currency without which it is of no value. To keep the lowest level of life above the highest word of profession is true virtue. The terms used to express sanctification in testimony must be explained by the manner of living.
The attitude which some opposers of holiness have taken toward this doctrine has been made such by the manner of living of some who have professed higher than they lived. This creates a situation most difficult to overcome. A sanctified man should command the same respect among any people that Jesus would command among the same people. They should accept or reject such a one upon the same grounds they would accept or reject Jesus. The virtuous life of Christ and the virtuous lives of His people are the same; for virtue is an evidence of holiness, whether in Him or in His people.
The wise man said that it was the little foxes which spoiled the vines, for the vines had tender grapes. It requires a closer watch over ourselves to guard against the little things than it does to guard against the larger. An allowance is always made for mistakes; but wanton acts, be they small or great, are inexcusable in the sanctified.
The scope of every man's life has at least three phases, namely, his business life, his social life, and his home life. If one will live according to holiness in these three departments of life, he will have covered the whole of life in this world as it relates to others.
Scrupulous honesty in every line of business, promptness in meeting all obligations involving finance, making the word as good as the bond, freedom from miserly proclivities and close bargaining, will enhance the estimate of holiness among right-thinking persons
Purity in every social relation becometh a virtuous person. The name, the reputation, the family of any person is safe from all harm at the hands of one that is holy.
Social laws and customs may be observed until they conflict with conscience based on holiness of heart. But a good conscience is paramount. This applies to all social customs and fashions in dress and behavior. The dress question is creating a serious problem in the holiness movement of the day. Little headway is made against checking its entrance into the church. It bids fair to stay, notwithstanding all the preaching and legislation against it. There is a solution of the problem for all who will accept it. Let virtue be added to faith in refusing to cater to any social custom, no matter what the cost may be, and it will be solved. The grace of God solves all social problems arising in any age of the world. If holiness be paramount in the purpose of life, then all who have it will dress accordingly. Those who are otherwise minded have something to learn.
Holiness of life extends to every intricate problem of the home and family. An acid test of it is often made in the common events of everyday life in the home. It is true that one is different when at home from what he is anywhere else. The tension and restraint are dropped when one crosses the threshold of the home. The true self is seen in this humble place. There is no "put on" at home. No one to see but the family; but who are they but those for whose salvation God has made us responsible? Think on these things, and give diligence to the manner of life among all persons, in all places, and under all conditions. There was One whose life emanated an influence for good which this world has not forgotten. He touched every phase of life among men. Virtue was shown by Him in every department of the world where men traded, associated, and dwelt. Make Him the example of virtue, and you will have nothing to fear before man and God. "Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue."