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more and more in all the varied will perceive, that nothing can be exercises of holy love; when this selected as another distinct part of love is directed and regulated by growth in grace, which is not fairly increasing knowledge, wisdom, and reducible to some of the particulars judgment; when he acquires by ex- that have been recapitulated. ercise, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the habit of prudently examining and accurately distin
guishing between things that differ, THE apostle having prayed that the abhorring the evil, and cleaving to Philippians "might be filled with the good more entirely and heartily the fruits of righteousness," subfrom day to day; when he grows joined, according to the uniform more known and approved for sin-language of the New Testament, cerity and integrity in all his pro- "which are through Jesus Christ fessions and engagements, and more to the glory and praise of God." singly devoted to God as he ad- Our fruitfulness is utterly insufficivances in years; when he becomes ent to justify our persons, or recommore and more circumspect in his mend us to the Divine favour; and words and works, that he may nei- we are not allowed to court the apther inadvertently fall himself, or plause of men, in the performance cause others to stumble, and more of our good works: but when they fervent in prayer to be preserved are considered as "the fruits of the from bringing any reproach on the Spirit," produced by his sacred ingospel, to the end of his course:fluence on the hearts of fallen creawhen he grows more abundantly tures; as the happy effects of the infruitful in the works of righteous- carnation and redemption of Christ; while at the same time he lies as presented through his interceslower before God, in deep humility, sion, being as it were sprinkled with and is more willing than ever to be his blood; and as conducive in all abased among men; when he acts respects to the manifestation of the more and more habitually with the glory of God in the salvation of sininvisible God and the eternal world ners; we shall readily perceive that before his mind, and relies more they must be well pleasing in his entirely on the mercy and grace of sight. We are thus consecrated" a the Lord Jesus Christ, who thus holy priesthood, to offer spiritual becomes more precious to his soul; sacrifices, acceptable to God through and when his dependence on the Jesus Christ;" and "hereby he is providence of God is more uniform, glorified, when we bring forth much and accompanied with greater com- fruit."-This consideration leads us posure, submission, and constancy to inquire more particularly into the in the path of duty; when this is reasons which induced the apostle the case, nothing material to the to pray thus for his people; and on Christian character seems wanting; what account that growth in grace, the various holy dispositions and which hath been described, is so affections, resulting from regenera-greatly to be desired.
tion, are advancing to maturity in It is observable that we have just proportion and coincidence; met with no petition for prosperity, and the believer is evidently ripen-deliverance from persecutors, or ing for the work, worship, and joy even spiritual consolation. Indeed of heaven. We might easily branch it is not proper to pray unreservedly out the subject more diffusely: but for any temporal comforts in behalf it is presumed, the attentive reader of ourselves or others; for they are
of so ambiguous a nature, that we disease: but proper medicines tend cannot tell whether they would to restore health, which will be acprove blessings or not: though companied with more pleasing senJohn wishes his beloved Gaius may sations, and of a more permanent "be in health, and prosper, even as nature. Now sin is the distemper his soul prospered!" A singular ex- of the soul; and while pride, maample! and a petition that must be lice, lust, covetousness, or any other reversed to suit the case of many vile passion, prevails in the heart, professed Christians! No doubt no salutary comfort can be derived Paul did pray that his people might from the promises or privileges of be delivered from "the tribulations the gospel, except as they allure a and persecutions which they en- man from his present seducing and dured:" and that" their hearts might destructive pursuits, by showing be comforted, being knit together in him that far greater blessings are love:" but when he expressly set attainable. But when an humble, himself to point out the things meek, pure, and heavenly disposition which he principally requested in is produced; when knowledge, love, their behalf, in order to direct them submission, and spirituality diffuse in seeking the best blessings for their benign influence, subjugating themselves, he was silent on these every corrupt passion, and modetopics: knowing that he needed not rating every attachment to earthly to remind them to ask for temporal objects, the believer consequently deliverances or inward consolations feels peace and comfort: while the (if they indeed prayed at all); and joys which on some occasions fill that these latter would certainly and transport the soul in an extrafollow, if they obtained the bless-ordinary manner, are chiefly reings which he especially desired served for times of sharp conflict, for them. We may therefore ob-heavy trials, or hard services.
All our genuine consolations
I. That growth in grace is ne- spring from the influences of the cessary in order to the believer's Holy Spirit, opening to us the treaabiding consolation, and assurance sures of redeeming love, applying to of hope. It may probably have oc- our consciences the blood of sprinkcurred to the reader, that assurance ling, exciting holy affections in our of an interest in Christ, and of ever- hearts, and giving us earnests of lasting life through Him, has not heavenly felicity. They are therebeen expressly mentioned as essen-fore inseparably connected with the tial to growth in grace or strength exercise of repentance, faith, love, of faith but as we are exhorted "to hope, and gratitude: while every give all diligence to make our call-kind or degree of sin, even in our ing and election sure;" and "that tempers or desires, grieves and we may possess the full assurance of quenches the Spirit of God, and inhope unto the end:" we may there-terrupts our comforts; till renewed fore consider genuine confidence as humiliation, and application for merthe effect of increasing faith and cy through the blood of Christ, resanctification, 2 Pet. i. 10; Heb. store our peace. It must therefore vi. 10-12. Without a measure of be evident, that growth in grace is holiness there can be no warranted inseparably connected with estacomfort or assurance of hope. Strong|blished peace, hope, and joy in God; cordials, indeed, given to a man in a a "peace of God which passeth unhigh fever, may produce a transient derstanding;" a "joy unspeakable exhilaration while they increase the and glorious." We ought to value
these consolations above all the spirits by cordials, to feast it with riches and pleasures of the world, delicacies, or to amuse it by toys and desire the abundant enjoyment and finery. of them from day to day: but we II. Growth in grace is most desirashould not expect or allow ourselves ble, in order that the Lord Jesus to wish for it, except through the may be glorified in us, and by us.— medium of increasing sanctification When Christ appeared on earth, all and fruitfulness. Upon the most those who saw the persons that he mature deliberation, the prudent had restored to the use of their Christian will not hesitate to pray senses and limbs, recovered to that the loss of wonted consolations health, or raised from the dead, may chastise his folly, if he grow would have reason to exclaim with lukewarm, careless, or worldly: and astonishment, "See what Jesus of that, if the only wise God see that Nazareth hath done! how wonderwithholding present comfort will ful is his power! how great his promote his growth in grace, he love! how many, how stupendous, may be sanctified and not comfort- how beneficent his miracles !”ed, rather than comforted and not While the monuments of his divine sanctified. Present joys are of compassion and authority over all short continuance, but increasing nature would be ready to say to all holiness is the recovery of health, around them," He whom the rulers and the preparation for future and and scribes despise, and seek to deeternal felicity. Our Lord hath stroy, restored my limbs, my undercommanded us to "seek first the standing, or my life." Thus would kingdom of God and his righteous- he be honoured by them, and in ness;" and then "all other things them.
will be added to us;" but numbers When they, who profess the docby inverting this order come short trines of the gospel, and avouch of salvation, and soon lose their Christ to be their God and Saviour, idolized worldly objects. In like make it evident in a manner equally manner, many professors of the incontestable, that their tempers are gospel are so eager to obtain assur- sanctified, their lusts mortified, their ance, that they seek it in the first selfish hearts enlarged, and their place; instead of first seeking to character sound, pure, and holy : grow in grace and to bring forth the all who knew them before will be fruits of righteousness, leaving it to constrained to notice the change, to the Lord to give them comforts, and wonder at the effects, and to inquire to cause them to "abound in hope into the cause," What hath transby the power of the Holy Ghost," formed the brier into a myrtle, the to his appointed time and way; and lion into a lamb, or the swine into a thus many are bolstered up in vain sheep?"-while the persons who confidence, or amused with delusive have experienced this change, by joys: and others continue feeble, professing their faith in Christ, give sickly, and dejected, during the him all the glory; and thus the nagreatest part of their lives. Various ture and tendency of the gospel, methods have indeed been devised and the excellency of its fruits, are to afford them relief and consola- manifested; the Lord, as it were, tion; but they have merely a tran- challenges men to come and exasient effect for the child that does mine the work he hath wrought, not grow is not healthy; and being and to say, whether it be not worunhealthy, will be uncomfortable, thy of admiration and honour? This whatever may be done to cheer its is the best method of confuting infi
delity, and constraining iniquity to glory of divine truth, as it is in its stop her mouth; and the fruits of own nature; but this can only be righteousness which believers pro-discerned by the spiritual mind; to duce, prove, "through Jesus Christ, the world in general it appears foolto the praise and glory of God," as ish and absurd, and the misconduct they tend to make known his glori- of professors confirms despisers in ous perfections, and promote the their proud contempt of it. But cause of his holy religion among there is an excellency in a truly mankind. Christian temper and conversation, But "woe be to the world be- which they are not hardy enough cause of offences;" and "woe be to to deny, and of which they frehim by whom the offence cometh!" quently have the fullest demonstraThe crimes of professed Christians tion, in the advantage or comfort render our holy religion odious and they derive from it.
contemptible to millions in all the One noisy, imprudent, and inquarters of the globe; and give in- consistent zealot for evangelical fidels their most plausible arguments doctrines, who neither knows nor against it. The crimes of hypocrites, practises the duties of his station, who contend for the peculiar doc- but is habitually guilty of manifest trines of the gospel, prejudice the crimes or glaring improprieties, will minds of multitudes in every part expose the truth to the contempt of of this land: and, alas! the mis- a whole family, village, or neighconduct of true believers, who do bourhood. A single Christian, manot feel sufficiently the necessity of tured in grace, according to the growing in grace, produce in a mea- sketch here given, notwithstanding sure the same lamentable effects. incidental failures and manifold inWe ought therefore to pray more firmities, of which he is humbly for ourselves and each other, that conscious, will obtain a testimony in the Lord, who hath set us apart for the consciences of all his connexions, himself, would make us to be "unto and win upon their hearts; he will him for a name, and a praise;" soften the prejudices, silence the "that our conversation may be such reproaches, and live down the conas becometh the gospel of Christ;" tempt of the circle in which he "that we may walk worthy of God, moves; and evangelical truth will who hath called us to his kingdom acquire such a respectability in a and glory;" and that we may put neighbourhood, where consistent those to shame and silence, "who Christians are numerous, as none would speak against us as evil- can properly conceive, who have doers." not actually witnessed it. Every The apostle instructs Titus to observer, however, knows, that suexhort servants to be "obedient to perficial disputers about doctrines, their own masters, and to please misbehaving themselves in families them well in all things, not answer- and neighbourhoods, furnish numing again, not purloining, but show-bers with a plausible objection to the ing all good fidelity; that they may gospel; and that the prudent, kind, adorn the doctrine of God our Savi- and circumspect believer often our in all things." And the same checks the progress of opposition, argument is equally cogent in re- and disposes his relatives and acspect of every holy disposition and quaintance to judge more favourinstance of good behaviour, in those ably of the truth.
who profess the gospel. Nothing III. This must be allowed to have indeed can add to the beauty and a powerful tendency to make known
the salvation of Christ. All that sors. But more commonly the cause love the gospel desire to spread it: of God diffuses its influence like the but many attempt it in a very im-leaven, and like the grain of musproper manner, thinking that they tard-seed, almost insensibly from ought to dispute for the truth with small beginnings to a great increase. every body to whom they have ac- When the work is genuine, and the cess, and that at all events they profession accords to the specimens must become preachers of the word. given in the New Testament, the No doubt it is very commendable holy flame kindles from heart to to contend earnestly for the truth; heart, in families and neighbourand what zealous Christian does not hoods; and one after another is won pray, that the Lord would increase over, even without the word, by the a hundred fold the faithful minis- conversation of friends and relatives, ters of the gospel, how many soever while they behold and benefit by they be?-But perhaps the cause their consistent conduct. This we of truth would be no loser, if we should desire and pray for in our had much less disputing, and even several circles; and would we know rather less preaching of some kinds, the right method of succeeding in provided we had more of those, it, we must "let our light shine who preach to all around them in before men, that they may see our the silent energy of a holy life; good works, and glorify our heaafter the manner in which Peter venly Father." exhorts wives to preach to their un- IV. It is also most desirable, that believing husbands. 1 Peter, iii. the knowledge of the gospel should 1-7. Every word that persons of be continued to our posterity. Holy this character drop, whether of se- men of God have always paid a rious reproof and exhortation, or in great regard to the religious interordinary discourse, and every per-ests of succeeding generations; and suasion to read a book, or hear a with this view redoubled their dilisermon, would have great weight, gent and zealous endeavours, when and in some instances success: they were about to leave the world. whilst, "Physician, heal thyself," Thus Moses, Joshua, David, Paul, is a sufficient answer to the most and Peter, had the same mind in zealous unholy professor. Nay, it them, which was also in Christ Jesus. may reasonably be supposed, that a The true believer longs especially, faithful minister of very slender ta- that his children, and children's lents, who lives consistent with the children, with those of his relatives holy doctrine he delivers, and is and friends, may from generation to attended by a few persons, whose generation be the supports and orconduct do credit to the gospel, will naments of the gospel. In condebe more solidly and durably useful, scending regard to such desires, the than the most popular speaker, who Lord hath mentioned these blessis either lax in his own conduct, or ings in the covenant he makes with surrounded by admirers who are alus, assuring us that it is intended reproach to his doctrine. "for our good, and for that of our It pleases God on some occasions, children after us ;" yet none, but to revive religion by numerous ap- such Christians as have been deparent conversions, and in a very scribed, can reasonably expect to be rapid manner: yet this will soon thus favoured. Their example and die away, and continue at most only instructions, their testimony for God for a single generation, if holiness and his truth, living and dying; and do not shine in the lives of profes-the reputation they often acquire