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abhorrence, and humiliation before God for it, must bear proportion to the degree of his actual proficiency in holiness. No proof, that a sinner is become“ pure in heart,” is so unequivocal, as his groans and tears on account of his remaining pollution ; while it appears less and less in his external conduct : yet this often occasions discouragement, when not attended with a clear understanding of that sanctifying work, by which the “ Holy Spirit “ seals believers to the day of redemption :” and it would always produce this effect and even deep despondency, were it not for the discoveries made of the entire freeness and inexhaustible riches of divine grace, to all that "flee for refuge to lay hold on “ the hope set before them.” Thus, when holy Paul abounded in grace, and was “ fruitful in good “ works,” probably above any man on earth, he was more humbled before God than others; not only for his former rebellions as “ the chief of sinners,” but also in respect of his present character and services, he spake of himself as “ less than the " least of all saints.” It is not necessary tiate particularly on the well known examples of Job, Isaiah, Daniel, or the centurion whom our Lord so highly commended ;* as all, who diligently and seriously consider the subject, must perceive the vast disparity between their own judgment of what Christians, and of what they especially, ought to be and do, and their own actual attainments; and frequently dwell on the subject with deep regret, shame, and self-displacency.
This increase of humility never fails to produce
Matt. viii. 10.
a proportionable disposition to condescension, courteousness, and modesty; a willingness to take the lowest place,“ in honour preferring others to “ ourselves;" and a satisfaction of mind in obscure stations, or with ordinary services, if these be allotted to us. The believer gradually acquires such a view of himself, and of his mis-conduct during a succession of years, that he “ remembers " and is confounded, and never opens his mouth
any more for his shame, when the Lord is paci“fied toward him for all that he hath done."* This abates the propensity to boast, revile, censure, and complain; which is inseparable from our depraved nature, except by divine grace: and it produces lowliness, meekness, candour, resignation, contentment, and gratitude, in the habitual frame of his temper and the tenour of his conduct. If then any person's growth, in other respects, be accompanied with evident pride, ambition, ostentation, contention, arrogance, boasting, and bitterness; we must conclude his apparent graces to be counterfeits, and not the genuine fruits of the Spirit: for “ this wisdom is not from above, but is
earthly, sensual, and devilish.”of Indeed, unless such proficiency be accompanied with an evident increase in tenderness, modesty, and gentleness ; with a readiness to submit to conviction, and to be very sorry for every fault; and with a disposition to be more and more resigned under contempt and neglect; a man's growth in grace cannot be clearly ascertained. “ Be ye clothed with humility,” is an exhortation to the most arduous attempt, and the
Ezek. xvi. 63.
+ Jam, iii. 13-17.
most exalted attainment, to whieh man is capable of aspiring. Pride is the most offensive to God of all sins: a proud holiness is therefore self-contradictory; for no grace can subsist except by connexion with humility: and the idea, that exhortations to Christian tempers, and evangelical fruitfulness, tend to render men proud, arises from an entire misapprehension concerning the very nature of that “ holiness, without which no man
shall see the Lord."
The exercise of grace, or diligence in duty, may indeed prove an occasion of pride to a believer; and so may the knowledge of evangelical truth, or even self-abasement and contrition in a remarkable degree. But then true grace continually counteracts these emotions; and the root of pride is gradually weakened, even by occasion of these rank but unallowed buddings; as Hezekiah was “humbled for the pride of his heart.” The vigorous exercise, therefore, of holy affections must eventually produce deep humiliation : whereas splendid gifts, high and false affections, lifeless notions, ostentatious services, and an unholy zeal for evangelical truth, not only allow the branches of pride to shoot forth luxuriantly, but water and nourish the root of that hateful propensity.
II. The increase of faith, in all its varied exercises, is an essential part of growth in grace. Faith, in the more general view of it, is “ belief of “ the truth,” or “a disposition to credit implicitly 'the testimony of God in his word:' we must therefore easily perceive that all true religion begins and increases with it. Unless we thus believe the testimony of God, we can neither fear his
wrath, as revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;" nor regard his warnings; nor understand the nature and value of his salvation : we can neither accept of his invitations, rely on his promises, give up present objects for better things in reversion, nor render the willing obedience of grateful love. It is impossible therefore to be saved without faith ; because we shall certainly“ neglect the great salvation” revealed in scripture, if we do not believe the record of God concerning it: and indeed there is no conceivable way of deriving benefit from revelation, except by believing it. It is also manifest, that the more fully we are acquainted with revealed truths, and the more firmly we credit them, without vain reasonings or sceptical hesitations; and the more entirely we realize to our minds the awful and affecting scenes thus presented to our view; the greater degree of every holy affection, the more decided victory over the love of the world and the dread of the cross, the deeper compassion for perishing sinners, and the firmer attachment to the cause and people of God, will be produced. Faith, at first, often works principally by fear and hope, but afterwards by love: the increase of faith therefore must increase the energy of these active principles, and of every affection dependent on them.
On the other hand, growth in grace strengthens faith, and habituates the soul to a realizing contemplation of invisible objects; to a deep sense of their importance and of our intimate concern in them; and to a decided preference of eternal things above all the interests of this transient scene. Thus the believer faints not, for“ he looks
“ not to the things which are seen, but to the
things which are not seen.” He learns, with Abraham, to part with objects which nature most endears to him, when the will of God requires them ; believing him able to make up every loss : and, with Moses, he is enabled to “ count the re“proach of Christ greater riches than the treasures” of the world, and “ affliction with the people “ of God;" preferable to the momentary “ pleasures of sin :” “ enduring as one who sees him that is invisible."
If we consider faith as including the idea of dependence, or “committing” ourselves to the Lord's hands in credence and confidence: the increase of it is inseparable from growth in grace. , The convinced sinner discovers, perhaps gradually, that he has no resources in himself, and possesses no ability of escaping the wrath to come: but, hearing of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and of the encouragements and promises of the new covenant, he seeks for the grace of his salvation. As his views enlarge, he more expressly entrusts his soul, and all his eternal interests, into the hands of Christ, and expects the supply of all his wants from his unsearchable riches. Thus he learns “ to live by the faith of the Son of God," and, conscious that he deserves wrath alone, to expect every blessing through the atonement of his blood, and as the gift of his grace. He has not yet, however, obtained a very deep acquaintance with the evil of sin, the aggravations of his own iniquities, the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart, or his own helpless and exposed condition : so that, attending dili