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as to be imperceptible, even by the most careful examination.
Generally, however, the progress of growth in grace is proportioned to Christian diligence. As God has instituted means for promoting its advancement, so it is only by the conscientious use of these moans, that any child of God is warranted to expect this attainment. They who too much neglect them, or employ them with langour and formal indifference, cannot reasonably hope to prosper. But they who are active and earnest in improving them, and that not merely by an occasional and extraordinary effort, but in the general tenor of their conduct, will commonly be found in a thriving state. In this respect it is in sacred things, as in the secular concerns of life : “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich." *
What a powerful incentive is this to diligence in improving the means of grace ! God has graciously been pleased to put, in a great measure, our advancement in holiness in our own pow wer. If we truly value it, and sincerely desire it, he has told us that it is to be obtained only by the active and persevering observance of these means; and that both our present and our future reward shall be prourtioned to our conscientious exertions.
« Be not deceived ; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap
* Prov. x. 4,
life everlasting. And let us not be weary in welldoing ; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint
11. Growth in grace is a blessing which is promised, and after which every Christian is both commanded and inclined to aspire.--Among many promises to this effect which might be mentioned, I shall specify only the few following. Speaking of the godly man, the Psalmist says, 6 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season : his leaf also shall not wither.” And in another place, to the same effect he declares, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall fourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age ; they shall be fat and flourishing.” The patriarch Job thus testifies : “ The righteous shall hold on his way; and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.” The prophet Hosea, after earnestly exhorting God's backsliding people to repentance, encourages them by the promise of an ample increase in grace ; “I will be as the dew unto Israel ; and he shall grow as
. the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine ; the scent thereof shall be 'as the wine of Lebanon.”+ * Gal. vi. 7–9. + Psalm i, 3; xcii. 12-14; Job xyii. 9. Hosea xiv. 5; If any
Encouraged by these precious promises, the obvious duty of every child of God is, in the exercise of prayer for their accomplishment, and in the use of these means which are divinely appointed, daily to endeavour to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Advancement in it is not only attainable, but made sure by the promise of Him who cannot lie. of his people for a season come short of it, the fault is their own.
In this case, they have failed in their attention to duty, otherwise their growth in grace would have been according to God's word.
Besides, growth in grace is not only a blessing promised, but its attainment is made our positive duty. We are expressly commanded to “grow in grace." And to the same purpose are all these passages of holy writ, which inculcate progressive holiness; such as the following :-“ Sanctify yourselves, , therefore, and be ye holy : for I am the Lord your God:”—“ Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord :"_“ Giving all diligence, add to
. your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they shall
shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”* Listening with holy reverence to these divinely authoritative precepts, we ought diligently to pursue this invaluable attainment. Believing that “this is
* Levit. xx. 7; Heb. xii. 14; 2 Peter i, 5, 6.
the will of God, even our sanctification;" and that .by this we shall promote at once his glory, and our own present and eternal happiness; we must view it as the principal business of life, and direct all our energies to this end.
Nor is it possible that any genuine Christian can be habitually unconcerned about growth in grace, and averse to exert himself for its attainment. Indisposed for duty as the best of them may sometimes be; not a solitary individual in whom the divine seed is implanted, can be always indifferent about its increase. The gracious principles imparted to them in regeneration, natively and powerfully incline them to aspire after conformity to the lovely image of Christ. They do not coldly calculate with how little grace it is possible for them to obtain admission into heaven ; and then determine to seek nothing more than this. No! Their ambition is to reach the full amount of the blessing promised, and to grow up in all things to him who is the Head, even Christ. In accordance with Paul's prayer for the saints at Philippi, their earnest desire and endeavour is, “that they may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that they may approve things that are excellent ; that they may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
EVIDENCES OF GROWTH IN GRACE.
1. That Christian is growing in grace, who finds himself becoming more dead to the world.-2. More alive to the importance of his salvation, and more sensible of the difficulties with which it is attended. 3. More humble under a sense of his weakness, and more dependent on Christ.-4. More victorious over depraved propensities.-5. More self-denied.-6. More lively in his relish for religious duties, and more spiritual in their observance.7. Increasing tenderness of conscience, and watchfulness against sin.-8. A lively concern for the prosperity of Christ's church.-9. Meekness under injuries, and a spirit of forgiveness.—10. Receiving with calmness and love the reproofs of good men.-11. A grateful spirit for even common and small mercies.-12. Resignedness to the will of God under trials.-13. A habitual sense of the presence of God, and a desire to act for his glory,
In attempting to set before you some of the evidences of growth in grace, I might revert to the same particulars already mentioned in Chapter Fifth, as marks of a gracious state ; and point out how increase in these attainments furnishes sure proof of advancement in holiness. But as the field is so very extensive, and some characteristics of God's children are, to a great degree, peculiar to those who are somewhat matured in the divine life, rather than what may be expected in them who have but lately entered on it; I choose to fix on new ground. And here I shall select these features of Christian character which are properly indicative of an advanced state of sanctification. 1. That Christian is growing in grace who finds