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* As new born babes, they desire the sincere milk of the word, “that they may grow thereby.” The holy commandment is, “Let us go on to perfection.” Waste and consumption are the sure attendants of the non-improvement of grace. We are either going forward or backwards, there is no stay in religion. The active nature of man is always growing worse or better. To rest in present attainments, is a dangerous condition. St. Paul left the things which were behind, and pressed after those that were before. All the angels on Jacob's ladder, were either ascending or descending. Spiritual things are not like sensual ; they cloy not in the enjoyment. He who hath tasted and experienced the power of special grace, hungers and thirsts after more. Every degree of holiness encreases the desire of a greater measure.
Again an advancement in grace ought to be sought after ; because there can be no such thing here as an overgrown estate. You cannot acquire too much divine knowledge, too much love to God, faith in Christ, or sorrow for sin. You cannot cultivate too holy, humble, and righteous a temper. The Apostolic affirmation is, “We must give all diligence, that an abundant en“trance may be administered unto us into the everlasting king“dom of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” O that it could feelingly be impressed upon the heart of every christian, that spiritual things cannot exceed measure.
To this Solomon's maxim will be objected, “Be not righte“ous overmuch.” Hardly any scriptural assertion has been less understood, or more perverted than this. The licentious profligate, the gross debauchee, and the careless and formal liver, if he could not repeat another text in the bible, will be stunning you with this. The obvious meaning, which reason, scripture, religion and common sense place upon it, is this : “Be not too good “in thine own opinion, too righteous in thine own conceit ; be “not foolish in thy zeal, or self-willed, hasty and censorious in “thy decisions. Be as thou thinkest righteousness requires, and “attend to thine own spirit, temper and practice, more than to *« others." If this explication be jost and accurate, then the text is a condemnation of spiritual pride, self-righteousness, and every fain imagination that stands in opposition to a humble and christian heart. The disciples were righteous over-much, when they called for fire from heaven to consume the unkind Samatitans.
Moreover, those who grow in grace, God hath provided for them a more ample reward. According to the measures of grace they imbibe and exercise, so will their measures of glory be.—. They who have much to them, much will be given. "He that "soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly, and he that soweth boun"tifully shall reap bountifully."
The state of true converts is illustrated by an increasing light. "The path of the just is as a shining light, which shineth more "and more unto the perfect day." This doctrine was afterwards given in an injunction by the Apostle. "We beseech you "brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have * received of us how you ought to walk and.to please God, so yo« "would abound more and more." Remember, O christian, yoa tan never exhaust the treasures of grace, or bankrupt the exchequer of heaven. Christ is infinitely sufficient, and the Holy Ghost is a rich and unfailing effusion, and with the eternal Jehovah there is no lessening or expending hisgoodnes.
To grow in grace is not only our duty, but it is also an ex« pression of grateful acknowledgment. If we would wish for mercy to be multiplied unto us, we should be careful that peace and love be encreased in our souls. The divine prayer, wish, and precept is: "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the "knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ; and besides this, givo ** all diligence; add to your faith virtue, and to your 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 make you, that you shati "neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord "Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things, is blind and "cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from ** his old sins." Our blessed Saviour grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Thus christians ought to progress in every moral virtue, holy qualification, and pious duty, till they grow up to the stature of men in Christ Jesus. Had christians half the disposition for encreasing'their spiritual, which carnal men possess for the advancement of their temporal interest, how blessed and happy would be their condition. They join house to house, and field to field, and are never satisfied—so christians ought to be filled with insatiable desires. They ought to add virtue to virtue, obedience to faith, and one degree of. grace to another, until they shall be filled with all the fulness of God. The covetous man maketh the encrease of his wealth the main business of his life. He rises early, sits up late, and eats the bread of vexation, to gather white and yellow dust i so the acquisition of religion and heavenly riches ought to command the main attention of our lives. The carnal man's desires become more eager as the world flows in upon him; thus the fervent desires of the christian ought to be, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
A word or two of reflection and counsel, shall finish this discourse.
First, We ought to lift up our hearts m sentiments of praise and gratitude to heaven, that such an astonishing provision is made for fitting and preparing the renewed souls, and rendering them meet for eternal felicity; that they should not only be sanctified, but that their sanctification should grow up to perfection. The length, breadth, height and depth of the wisdom of God in the salvation of man, will be the theme of joy, thanksgiving and praise to the saints forever and ever. The ambition in heaven will be, if any such thing as is termed ambition can "enter there, whose heart is most filled with gratitude, and whose tongues can express the highest Hallelujahs. But pause, methinks I hear the growing christian say, “ Instead of growing better, I grow worse “ and worse. O my corruptions, my passions and Perverse tem“pers.” You all know something of the disposition of the worldling, either by experience or hearsay. As he encreases in riches, he feels poor; and you will hear him daily declaring himself a poor man, when every body sees the world filling his coffers with every tide. Still he cries he is poor, he fears a writ of bankruptcy, and at present, he has nothing to give to any religious, charitable or public use. This affords a shadow of illustration for the comfort of the poor growing christian. His corruptions dispose him to cry, “I am a poor creature, I thought years ago, I had some religion; I cannot yet give up all hope, from past feelings in the change of my temper, from the views of divine glories, and from past experiences, from the abhorrence of sin, and the abasement of myself, I often hang trembling on the beam containing the weights of hope and despair. I have no oil in my vessel to share to foolish virgins.” Remember this thought, O christian, the poorer you feel in grace, the richer you grow. I cannot enlarge upon this idea. It is a precious and experimental one. The more you grow in the sense of your corruptions, ignorance and lusts, and in a disesteem and abhorrence of yourselves, you rise higher in the favour of God. The prayer and praise of the true convert is, “Open thou my lips, and my mouth “shall shew forth thy praise. Praise ye the Lord, and give “ thanks unto the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endureth “forever. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus “Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in hea“venly places in Christ.” Let christians believe, and proceed in their heavenly course rejoicing. Be not afraid, Christ is sufficient for you ; hope against hope; and grow in grace to the end.
our advances in religion. The great question here should be, do we grow in grace, make progress in spiritual knowledge? Do WC abhor sin more, love God more, cleave to Christ more i
Let us be fervent in prayer for an abundance of the riches and sweetness of grace to be poured into our souls. Let those who have fallen backward, awake to repentance, prayer and amendment. Let such as have never entered upon religion, begin the divine life. And may this life begin, and grow in us all, to all eternity*.