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effectually grow upwards in holiness. In this last parti. cular, perhaps more than in any other, the faints are ena. bled to discern their growth in grace. They become in their own eyes more vile, more empty and helpless, while the grace of Christ proves sufficient for them, and his Strength is made perfect in their weakness.
Time would fail me to enumerate all the fruits of the Spirit, or descend to all the branches of duty in which a growth in grace is exemplified. Let it suffice to close this part of the subject, by saying in one word, which sums up the whole, that as far as our wills become conformable to the will of God, so far and no farther we grow in grace. To this we are exhorted in the text. This distinguishes the real Christian from the hypocrite, the living faint from the dead formalist. To this the principle implanted in regeneration will prompt us; and this the Redeemer expressly declares to be characteristic of his disciples. Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit. I am the vine, ye are the branches, be that abidet b in me, and I in him, the fame bringeth forth much fruit, for witbout me ye can do nothing. Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit, só fall ye be my disciples.
Having seen what is meant by GROWING IN GRACE, permit me now, in a few short observations, to shew you what is implied in this exhortation. And,
1. It is evident, to grow in grace, implies that a soul has received grace. The tree must be planted before it can grow. The Lord is to be fought and served after the due order. The exhortation indeed extends to all who read the word. It is the duty of all men to grow in grace. But the unconverted must obtain grace, they must first receive the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, before they can follow him ; the principle of holiness must be formed in the heart by regeneration, before it can possibly grow.
2. Growing in grace, implies an actual increase. It is not a mere nominal, but a real ; not a fi&itious, but a true and substantial advancement in holiness. Who ever has grown in grace, is become wiser and better than he was before. It is opposed to a stupid satisfaction with paft attainments, and especially to all backsliding. It has its own peculiar marks and evidences, by which it may be distinguilhed from all counterfeits, and is essentially different from the highest accomplishments which the natural man can possibly potless. Í
By study and attention, an extensive view not only of science in general, but of religion, may be obtained. The doctrines can be known, their connections observed, and the arguments by which they are supported, properly brought forward.“ Reason and revelation supply materials for vast erudition, and this, when joined to great gifts, may recommend a man to the world; but after all, that man may fail of the grace of God, and his knowledge only serve to puff him up. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as founding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Though I bave the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and have not charity, I am nothing. Thou believest there is one God, thou doest well, the devils also believe and tremble. A mere growth in knowledge or gifts, is not a growth in grace.
Education, connections and prejudice, may create a violent attachment to some particular doctrines and forms of worship; and in this it is easy to go great lengths; it is very easy to cry, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, without possessing the least degree of holiness
. .. or or love to the Lord of the Temple.To grow in bigotry, is not to grow in grace.
From a weakness of understanding, from passions liable to be quickly moved, and from unsettled principles, the human mind is fusceptible of strange impressions, and is often wrought up to most extravagant heights; but a ; growth in enthusiasm is no growth in grace.
Our holy religion is a most reasonable service. Its principles will bear the severeft scrutiny, and believers can give a reason of the hope that is in them. Nothing therefore that is dishonourable to God, unworthy of man, or that is not founded upon scripture, must be considered as genuine. To the law and to the testimony, if they Speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
3. The exhortation to grow in grace, implies, that bofiness is progresive ; that religion, when it first begins in the heart, is not so extensive ; not, if I may use the expreslion, so complete in all its parts, so distinguished in all its features, as it afterwards becomes. It is the usual way of God, in all his works, to rise from smaller beginnings to perfection; and we know it is so in religion. By progreflive steps his people are led, and they become gradually more and more prepared to glorify him on earth, and enjoy him in heaven. Hence, believers are compared to babes, to children, to young men, and to fathers. The very words imply very different degrees of knowledge, strength, usefulness, and perfection,
4. This exhortation implies a positive duty incumbent upon all believers, to desire and strive to grow in grace. It is their duty, because it is the express command of God-because it is promised to all his people--and because it has always been the with of the saints, their principal prayer and constant practice. The pasiages in scrip
tire which refer to each of these are so numerous, that to mention them would be almost to repeat the Bible. As a proof respecting the practice of the faints, let me only remind you of the Apostle Paul. “Do you know;' (to use the words of a very celebrated preacher *)' do you know a greater than Paul ? Can you conceive virtue in a more eminent degree? Behold a man fired with zeal, making what he thought the cause of God his own cause, God's enemies his enemies, the interest of God the interest of himself! Behold a man who turns his attention to truth, and the moment he discovers it, embraces and openly avows it! Behold a man, who not content to be an ordinary Christian, and to save himself alone, aspiring at the glory of carrying through the whole world, for public advantage, that ight which ad illuminated himself!Behold a man, preaching, writing !-What am I saying? Behold a man, suffering, dying, and fealing with his blood the truths he taught! An ardent zealot, a fincere convert, an accomplished minister, a bleeding martyr?--hew me in the modern or primitive church, a greater character than Paul! Let any man produce a Christian who had more reason to be satisfied with himself, and who had more right to pretend that he had discharged ail his duties! get this very man, this Paul, forgot those thing's which were behind! This very Paul was pressing forward! This is the man who feared he should be a cast away! And you smoaking flux, you bruised recd, you who have hardly taken root in the Christian soil, you who have. hardly a spark of love to God, do you think your piety lufficient? Are you the man to leave off endeavouring to make new advances?'
s. To add no more, this exhortation implies, that as it is our duty to attend to this one thing, so we may be asG
fured * Saurio Serm. I Cor. is. 26, 27.
sured that God has provided proper means for our obtaining the same. Sanctification, considered on the part of God, and as wrought by him in our souls, is one of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and inseparably follows after justification. But he deals with us as rational beings, and therefore, fanctification considered on our part, becomes an essential duty; and we must see to it, that we are faithful and diligent in the use of those means which God has appointed, and which are wisely calculated to produce a growth in grace. But what are those means? In what way, and by what method can this great end be best attained ? .. .
The reply to these enquiries was the SECOND thing I promised, and which I now intended to make :- But the subject is too important to be slightly passed over, and to do justice to it, will require more time than is allotted to our present exercise. I shall therefore reserve this, with an application to the whole, as the substance of another discourse. And shall now close, with only requesting you seriously to reflect upon the duty to which we have been exhorted.-GROW IN GRACE! How great, how folemn a charge! Like a voice from heaven, it addresses us with authority Divine, and love inexpressible: A voice, fimilar to that which called to the Apostle in the Apocalypse, Come up hither.
Adore, my brethren, the God of grace, and bless his holy name for providing a ransom !-What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God fending bis own Son in the likeness of finful flesh, and for fin condemned hon in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. A new and living way is consecrated for us, and we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. How sure the atoning efficacy of his death!