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gently on the means of grace, he hopes speedily to rise superior to every temptation, and to feel himself advancing in holiness every day; and in this he 'commonly experiences a mortifying disappointment, even when actually growing in grace.
For he continually discovers evil in his heart and duties, which he did not at all suspect, and has painful experience of his own weakness and folly. Many a sharp conflict, and even undeniable relapses into evil, convince him that “ he can do
nothing of himself;" and he escapes well, if he be not so baffled by temptation as to act inconsistently in some degree before men, whilst the Lord“ humbles him, and proves him, and shews “ him what is in his heart, to do him good at the “ latter end."* In this way, however, after a course of years, when he has really grown in
grace, and is justly regarded as an established, honourable, and fruitful Christian; he is so far from feeling less need of supplies from the Saviour's fullness, that he depends on him more simply and explicitly for every thing, than he did at the first. He more entirely “counts all but loss, that he
may win Christ and be found in him," and in his righteousness; and continually seeks forgiveness of his daily sins, and the acceptance of his daily services, by faith in his blood He now considers the inclination, ability, and opportunity, to do good works, as so many gifts from the God of grace, increasing more and more his obligations; and is deeply conscious that he has not duly improved his talents. He is also entirely sensible,
Deut. viii. 2.
that he cannot perform any good work in future, or withstand the temptations which obstruct his progress, without supplies of wisdom and strength day by day, out of that same fulness, from which he has so long been accustomed to receive. Thus his growth in grace is connected with proportionable simplicity in the exercise of faith : and our Lord plainly declares, that the habitual simplicity and energy of faith in him effectually secures growth of grace, when he says, “ He that abideth “ in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth « much fruit."*
The consistent believer learns likewise to consider every object which surrounds him, in its relation to the providence, the moral government, or the salvation, of God : and this induces a constant dependence on him, even in the common affairs of life. He “ acknowledges God in all his
ways ;" he relies on him to incline the hearts of those, with whom he is concerned, to act properly towards him; to succeed his undertakings, to protect him in danger, to supply his wants, and to comfort and deliver him in trouble. He depends on the perfections and providence of God to fulfil his promises in these respects, as far as is conducive to his good ; being assured that “not a
sparrow falls to the ground,” without his Father's notice and design. He considers the power of God as engaged to restrain the malice and rage of Satan, to moderate his trials, and to preserve him from circumstances of overwhelming temptation; as well as his grace to strengthen holy affections,
• John xv. 5.
+ Ezra vii. 27, 28. Neh. i. 11, 2 Cor, viii. 16.,
and give energy for resistance. Thus he passes through one difficulty after another : conscious of his weakness, but relying on the Lord for strength and protection, he casts his care on him and “ in
every thing by prayer and supplication with “thanksgiving, makes his requests known to “ God :" while his experience of the Lord's faithfulness, and attention to his prayers, tends to increase his faith, to encourage his expectations, and to exclude anxious alarms or distrustful solicitudes. And this prepares him for at length passing through “ the valley of the shadow of death without fearing any evil ;” trusting that the Lord will then be with him, as his guide, guard, and comforter, and at last receive him to his eternal glory.
The increase of faith in this respect must be a most important part of growth in grace, as it produces a calm submissive spirit, in the most perilous and distressing seasons; when the hearts of unbelievers, and even of the weak in faith, “ are shaken “ like the trees by the wind :" it induces an habitual intercourse, in “ the spirit of adoption,” between the redeemed sinner and his reconciled God and Father; as he now “walks with God” in humble confidence, and reverential fear. It likewise secures a man from seeking relief in trouble by indirect means; and renders him watchful against every thing, that would interrupt his communion with God, by which his present comfort and hopes of future felicity are principally maintained. And, on the other hand, as he grows in grace he will attain to greater simplicity of dependence on God, which will render him less dependent on men and on second causes ; he will be less affected by the
fluctuating appearances of external affairs, “his “ heart being fixed trusting in the LORD :" and he will' more uniformly consider all creatures as instruments of judgment or of mercy, of correction or of comfort, in the hands of the great Ruler of the world ; and remember that “all things work “ together for good to them that love God.” Thus it appears, that “ growth in grace,” as to the various particulars comprised in the apostle's prayer for the Philippians, will certainly be accompanied with deeper humility, stronger faith, and more entire reliance on God in all things pertaining to this life, and to that which is to come.
It cannot, therefore, be doubtful to any impartial inquirer in what a believer's growth in grace consists. When a man “abounds more and more" in all the varied exercises of holy love; when this love is directed and regulated by increasing knowledge, wisdom, and judgment; when he acquires by exercise, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the habit of prudently examining, and accurately distinguishing between, things that differ, “ ab“ horring the evil, and cleaving to the good,” more entirely and heartily from day to day; when he becomes more known and approved for sincerity and integrity in all his professions and engagements, and more singly devoted to God, as he advances in years ; when he grows more and more circumspect in his words and works, that he may neither inadvertently fall himself, nor cause others to stumble, and more fervent in prayer to be preserved from bringing any reproach on the gospel to the end of his course ; when he grows more abundantly fruitful in the works of righteousness,
A TREATISE ON GROWTH IN GRACE.
while at the same time he lies lower before God in deep humility, and is more willing than ever to be abased among men; when he acts more and more habitually, with the invisible God and the eternal world before his mind, and relies more entirely on the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who thus at the same time becomes more precious to his soul ; and when his dependence on the providence of God is more uniform, and accompanied with greater composure, submission, and constancy in the path of duty : when this is the case, nothing material to the Christian character seems to be wanting: all the holy dispositions and affections, resulting from regeneration, are advancing to maturity in just proportion and coincidence, and the believer is evidently ripening for the work, worship, and joy of heaven.- - That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace, to hear meekly thy word, and to receive
it with pure affection, and to bring forth the 'fruits of the Spirit, we beseech thee to hear us, . Good Lord !