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possess a peaceful hope, that the Lord will yet think upon them for good, and at length gather them into his fold, perhaps by means of their dying exhortations. In general, however, it is certain, that Christianity of this kind is not easily or speedily eradicated: the fruit produced by such believers, as have here been imperfectly described, will “ remain,” in its effects, from generation to generation ; and indeed, in one respect or another, to the end of the world, and to all eternity. “ All “ the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him," saith the Lord concerning Abraham, “for I know
him, that he will command his children and his “ household after him, and they shall keep the way “ of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that “ the Lord may bring upon Abraham, that which “ he hath spoken of him.”*
V. Growth in grace is peculiarly desirable, in order that we may possess an assured hope and strong consolation at the approach of death. This last enemy is indeed “the king of terrors,” in his original nature and consequences : and, though he is disarmed of his sting, when he approaches, as a friend, to release the believer from his uneasy situation in this evil world, and convey him to his Father's house, yet our nature is apt to recoil : and, when faith and hope waver, we cannot but look forward to the solemn season with trembling anx-, iety. Indeed, were we sure of having one day of spiritual light and comfort, and no more, during our continuance on earth, it would be very desirable to reserve that cordial for this last season of conflict. But a remiss, inconsistent, and slothful
Gen. xvii. 18--19.
conduct, even if gross sins are avoided, prepares distress for the closing scene; and the Christian, who habitually yields to indolence, or, in other words, does not grow in grace,” makes, as it were, an assignation with terror to meet him on his death-bed : while, on the other hand, evangelical principles, a “conversation becoming our
profession,” and diligence in our proper work and in the great business of religion, constitute an habitual and actual preparation for that solemn
Our “ loins are thus girded, our lamps burning, and we are like men who are waiting “ for the coming of their Lord.” We may not indeed before hand be able wholly to discard our apprehensions ; nor ought we to perplex ourselves on that account: but we are indisputably safe ; and at whatever time, or in whatever manner, we may be summoned hence, “ that day will not “ overtake us as a thief,” with terrible surprise, or fatal consequences, but we shall be graciously addressed in these most condescending words, “Well “ done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into " the joy of thy Lord.”
It would be wholly superfluous to speak particularly concerning the day of judgment in this inquiry; but we may very properly close it with the apostle's words to the Philippians ; “ Be blameless " and harmless, as the sons of God, without re“ buke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse “ generation, among whom shine ye as lights in " the world ; holding forth the word of life; that “I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain, 'neither laboured in vain."*
Phil. ii. 15. 19.
If the things we have considered be indeed the principles of the gospel reduced to practice, and accord to their genuine tendency, what an excellent religion is Christianity! how base must they be who oppose, insult, and reproach it, for the faults of some who profess it! and how inexcusable are those persons who give them such an occasion ! It is indeed a most palpable mistake, to suppose that the doctrines of grace diminish our obligations to obedience, or supersede the necessity of good works; and the accusation is often a wilful calumny: but the holy lives of those who embrace and profess those doctrines is the best, and in fact the only effectual, confutation of this slander.-If then the advantages and consequences of growth in grace be so important, and the nature of it so evident, little need be said concerning the way in which we ought to seek so great and desirable a blessing. The motives and encouragements of the gospel are abundantly sufficient, to animate those who duly attend to them; we have free access to the throne of grace; “ exceedingly great and “precious promises” to plead with our merciful God and Father; and an inexhaustible fulness from which to draw all things “ pertaining to life and
godliness.” We are directed and commanded to “ ask and receive, that our joy may be full :" God has appointed various means, which he has engaged to render effectual to all those who diligently attend on them in humble faith ; and every person may soon learn for himself, if he duly watch and keep his own heart, what employments or companions prove helps or hindrances to his soul, in this grand concern.
Could we therefore succeed in convincing professed Christians, that it is possible, even in this world, to arrive at degrees of spirituality, fruitfulness, and stability, far beyond what is commonly attained; that it is their bounden duty to press forward-forgetting the “ things which are behind, and reaching forth to “ the things which are before;” that they have great cause for deep humiliation, on account of their unfruitfulness in times past; and yet ought not to be discouraged from expecting more effectual help in their future endeavours: if, I say, men could be thus induced heartily to set themselves to seek and pray for more abundant growth in grace, as the most important and desirable of all blessings; there can be no doubt that they would make greater progress than they generally do. Yet Christians would not on that account become better satisfied with themselves, or their attainments. Perhaps, through self-acquaintance, tenderness of conscience, and deep humility, they might not be sensible of making any advances in grace: and assuredly they would more and more “ hunger and thirst after righteousness," till they come to the fountain above, when they shall drink, and thirst no more for ever. But to such persons the words of the apostle are peculiarly suitable and encouraging : “Therefore, my beloved brethren, “ be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in “ the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your
labour is not in vain in the Lord.”*“ Now the God of peace, that brought again from
* Cor. xv. 58.
“ the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of “ the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting “ covenant, make us perfect in every good work “ to do his will, working in us that which is well “ pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to “whom be glory, for ever and ever: Amen!"*
* Heb. xii. 20, 21.