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barren, but will be filled with “ the fruits of righteousness, wbich are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”
This watchful state of mind will prepare you for these and for other means of grace, which would swell this work to too great a size, and which I shall therefore only mention, and pass on. Such as the Lord's supper, visiting the sick, relieving the necessitous, fasting, or abstinence, on particular occasions, &c.: all these, like the former, when duly at. tended to, produce the sanie beneficial effect, and in the very nature of things increase holiness in all that use them aright, and lead the soul into full conformity to the will of God.
PROGRESS OF HOLINESS, OR SANCTIFICATION.
Remarks on this Subject-Temptations concerning ilm
It has been hinted already that there are those who consider this state of mind as both unscriptural and impracticable, though perhaps there are none who are led by the Spirit of God, but who admit that believers may and ought to grow in grace as long as they remain in the body. Not that they are uniform in their views; for they greatly differ. They may indeed agree to call it gradual sanctification, which is true in part, but not wholly so, as shall be shewn hereafter. Now, should they agree to call what they term growing in grace by this name, the ideas attached to it are so widely different, that it is difficult to understand their meaning.
Some seem to convey the idea that sin in a believer is like the roots of a tree, and that the Lord's method is gra. dually to loosen the soil, and to cut off, or pull up the fangs, at successive periods, till the whole is separated from their souls.
Others speak as though their souls grew and vegetated regularly and insensibly as a plant; and some of their declarations suppose that neither the “ sin that dwelleth in them, " nor any other cause whatever, can impede their growth.
Again, there are individuals who speak of the influence of grace as a divine seed sown in their hearts, to increase and expand itself according to that degree of attention which they and the Divine Husbandman are pleased to pay to it, till all the fruits of righteousness are found and perfected in them.
There are others who appear to expect such a succession of smaller blessings as shall in time increase, as it were, to a flood, large enough to break down all the banks of sin, and wash the soul from all its defilements.
Many such similes are adopted, to set forth a growth in grace; but, without attempting either to justify or censure these modes of expression, whether as applied to a decay of sin or a growth in holiness, it is sufficiently clear that the using of them in too literal a sense tends more to confuse and perplex, than to explain or make known their proper meaning, either to our own satisfaction or that of others.
It is true the scripture abounds with such like figures, especially when speaking of what relates to the increase of Christ's government on earth; but must they be adopted without the least restriction, or shall the growth of an immortal spirit in þoliness be absolutely restricted to the progressive life of a vegetable? If this blessing must be received in conformity, for instance, to the growth of corn, there can be no material objection to it, provided with the manner we may also bave the time, and why not? Only let it be allowed that God can and does in general, where it is sought for aright, cleanse his people's hearts, and fit them for his service, in as few months only as are required to ripen and perfect corn; and I know not why it should not be received. And yet there is a sense in which this must be, objected to; for when the corn is ripe, and has attained to a. certain point, it can proceed no farther, whereas the soul of man may increase in the knowledge and love of God for ever.
But while the propriety of adopting these similitudes, with proper restrictions, is admitted, to set forth what is gradual in sanctification, there are others employed to illustrate the same blessing, whose operations are much more sudden ; as stripping off filthy garments, and putting on change of raiment: “ Take away the filthy garments from him.” And then it is added, “ I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment,” Zech. iii. 4. “ Put off the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness,” Ephes. iv. 22–25. By purification from ceremonial defilement: “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean : from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you,” Ezek. xxxvi. 25. “ Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean," Num. viii. 6, 7. As the refining of gold and silver from their dross by fire, and the washing of cloth, Mal. iii. 2, 3. Hence we should be cautious in the application of scriptural metaphors to the divine life in believers.
As the Holy One of Israel always acts worthy of himself, we should take great care not to limit him, as it respects either his power or the quickness of its operations. If he speaks, it is done. If he commands, it stands fast; producing those effects in the mind which prepare it for doing bis will with all its ransomed powers. Look at the dying thief: he longed for heaven: and Jesus said, “ To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” And who doubts the preparation of his soul for it, or his actual possession of a place in the promised inheritance ? : I have been rather more particular in this matter, because
of its importance, and if possible, to set aside the false notion of growth in those that are declining; for there are too many who profess to grow in grace who in reality do not, that is, their love, zeal, gratitude, and joy, are no greater, months or years after, than they were at their conversion, and, in numerous instances, not so great. Now whatever refreshings they have received from the presence of the Lord, though it manifests his compassion, it discovers their unfaithfulness. This instability prevents their progress in holiness and conformity to God. To conquer and be conquered by their inward corruptions alternately, if it does not allow us to say that there is no grace, it leads us to believe that it is very feeble. A man is not blamable for being born with bad tempers, but for giving way to them, especially in frivolous cases, because it principally arises from unwatchfulness, and neglect of requesting Divine aid in the moment of temptation. Such are perpetually throwing hinderances in their own way, and darkening their prospects of entire sanctification. What, shall the warnıth of our tempers, the pride of our hearts, the lightness and trifling of our lives, gain ground upon us, and shall we say, because we are now and then favoured with sensible comfort, that we are growing in grace? Are such likely to attain the summit of christian holiness, love? Or sink into its depth, humility? It is a melancholy truth, and no breach of christian charity, to say, that some who have been professors of religion for many years, bave less inclination to be thus holy, are more easily irritated and offended, are less serious and heavenly minded, and afford less probability of being wholly given to God, than those who are but newly converted to him.
There is, therefore, no impropriety in saying that it is both gradual and instantaneous; that is, it is gradual, when we speak of a due preparation of mind for its reception, and in the improvement of it after it is received. It is instanta neous, if we speak of the destruction of the body of six, by the purifying fire or powerful baptism of the Holy Ghost. With respect to what is gradual in the preparation for it
, we may observe, that those who would enter into this glorious liberty, must not only be convinced that such a state of grace is attainable, but must also be made sensible of the absolute need of it, without which they are not likely to seek this great salvation.
They must also see it as a special gift of God, and one of the greatest privileges they can possibly enjoy. They that do not consider it in this light, are but little prepared to receive so great a favour. “A full soul loatheth an honeyconib, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."
They must beware of backsliding, even in heart; for such, if they are any way prepared for the Lord, are only prepared to have their backslidings healed : and no one ought to think that this is the true conviction of the Spirit for inbred sin. The best way to be convinced of our want of greater conformity to our Lord's image, is to follow increasing light, as much as possible; and such will soon discover the true state of their souls without backsliding.
Again, As a person about to build, wisely removes the rubbish, and digs a proper foundation; so he that would be built up on his most holy faith, in the fulness of christian love, must take up his cross, deny himself of every sin, cast aside every weight, give up every idol, renounce every false maxim, forego trifling and lightness, check every foolish and hurtful desire; in a word, be willing to make a sacrifice to the Lord of every thing oftensive in his sight.
He must also request the Lord, in earnest and importunate prayer, both in secret and among them that call upon his name out of a pure heart, that he would most graciously cleanse his heart from all unrighteousness; bring in the mind of Christ, and save him to the uttermost, according to the effectual working of his mighty power.
He should also seek to converse with those who have ceased from the works of sin, and have entered into this rest. They will strengthen and encourage him by their united testimonies, that the blood of Christ so cleanseth from all sin, that it can wash his nature white as snow: on the other