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misery in the world, or increase that of true knowledge, wisdom, holiness, and felicity; in short, whatever does real good to mankind, in their temporal or spiritual concerns, is " good fruit:" all else should be counted but as leaves and blossoms. An upright, faithful, blameless, benevolent, peaceful, forgiving, pure, and holy conversation; a cheerful, thankful, resigned, and patient spirit; a reverential and stated attendance on the ordinances of worship; in public, and in the family; a conscientious regard to the will of God in our dealings with men, and in our behaviour towards all who are in any way related to us, even when they neglect their reciprocal duties; and an habitual moderation, in all the pursuits, interests, and pleasures of life, have a manifest tendency thus to adorn our profession, and benefit mankind. To these we may add a faithful improvement of the talents committed to our stewardship; that is, of whatever measure of authority, influence, abilities, learning, or riches, may be assigned to us by our common Master; for with such talents we may do proportionable good; provided we be influenced by evangelical principles, avail ourselves of advantages and opportunities, and ask wisdom of God to direct us in our endeavours. All those liberal acts of piety and charity, which Christians perform with that portion of their time, attention, or property, which others waste or misemploy, are "fruits of righteousness, acceptable to God through <f Jesus Christ." And when we connect with these things, a holy boldness in professing the truth; and constancy, cheerfulness, and meekness, in suf
fering for it; we have the general outline of Christian fruitfulness.
The good ground "brought forth fruit, some "thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred fold."* All believers are in some measure fruitful, when their principles have had time to produce the proper effect: but the apostle prayed for his beloved people, " that they might be filled with the fruits "of righteousness." He earnestly desired, that they might produce all " the fruits of the Spirit," in a degree fully adequate to their abilities and opportunities; that none of their talents might be buried or misemployed; nor any thing neglected, or left unattempted, by which they might glorify God and do good to men. We cannot think ourselves perfect in this life, without being justly chargeable with pride; nor can we neglect to pray for perfection, and follow after it, without criminal negligence, and toleration of sin in our hearts and lives.
Professors of the gospel too often resemble those trees which must be very carefully examined, before it can be determined whether they bear any fruit or not. But the apostle would not be satisfied with such ambiguous characters: he wished to see the people like those fruit trees which attract the notice and admiration of every traveller, while at one glance he sees all the branches loaded with the valuable produce. It must then be manifest that the increase of fruitfulness is one essential branch of the believer's "growth in grace:" nay, indeed, that all the
* Matt. xiii. 8—23. Gal. v. 22, 23.
308 A TREATISE ON GROWTH IN GRACE.
other particulars are principally important, because of their subserviency to this grand object. This might be more copiously proved and illustrated, but it seems too obvious to require it. Our Lord declares, he had " chosen and ordained his "apostles, that they should bring forth fruit, and "that their fruit should remain:" and whoever duly considers the instruction conveyed by the parable of the vine and the branches, will be ready to conclude, that no man is a living branch of that true Vine, who does not bring forth more and more fruit, during his continuance in this world, or aim to do it; and will at least determine, that, when the reverse takes place, the individual's state and character become proportionably ambiguous.
We have now followed the apostle through the several petitions of this important prayer; intending to reserve the concluding words to be considered in the application of the subject. We shall therefore here close this division of the treatise, with the words of the apostle to the same Philippians: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, "whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things "are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever "things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good "report,—if there be any virtue, if there be any "praise, think of these things. Those things, "which ye have both learned, and received, and "heard, and seen in me, do, and the God of "peace shall be with you." * * Phil. iv. 8, 9.
ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF GROWTH IN GRACE, AS DEDUCIBLE FROM OTHER SCRIPTURES.
While we attempt to inculcate those practical subjects, which have been enlarged on in the preceding part of this treatise, some may perhaps fear, lest we should draw men from the simplicity of dependence on free grace, and from faith in the righteousness and atonement of the divine Saviour. On this account, therefore, as well as for other reasons, it may be expedient to subjoin a few more particulars, in which " growth in grace" consists, and by which it may be ascertained, both in respect of its reality and degree.
I. Genuine growth in grace is always accomr panied with proportionable humiliation, and the habitual exercise of repentance. This has indeed been implied and intimated in every part of our progress: but it is a matter of so great importance, and creates so much difficulty to many persons, that a more explicit consideration of it seems necessary. An enlightened understanding, a tender conscience, with quick sensibility of sin, and abhorrence of it; a submissive will, and fervent spiritual affections; combine in what is here called grace, and the growth in grace. But clearer and more distinct views of the divine majesty and greatness must proportionably abate our sclf-importance, and render us little, and, as it were, nothing in our own eyes. Fuller discoveries of the holiness, justice, mercy, and truth of God, and of the glory and beauty of his harmonious perfections, as displayed in the person of Christ, must shew us more and more the intrinsic evil of sin, and the heinousness of our own numberless transgressions: and the same defects or defilements must give us proportionably greater uneasiness, than they did when we had less knowledge, sensibility, and spirituality. Thus self-abhorrence, on account of present sinfulness, must increase with our growth in holiness. The habit also of comparing every part of our temper and conduct with the perfect law of God and the example of Christ, instead of judging ourselves by other rules, tends to bring us more acquainted with the hidden evils of our hearts, and the sins of our lives which once were unnoticed, and even unsuspected; as well as to shew the imperfection of our duties. That intimate communion with God, which accompanies growth in grace, must make us more sensible of our sinfulness; and even the company of eminent Christians tends to abate our self-confidence, to cover us with shame, and to excite us to deep repentance, from the consciousness how far we fall beneath them. Every discovery of the glory of redemption by the cross of Christ, and of the immensity of our obligations to his love, tends to make us dissatisfied with our present measure of obedience, and to humble us under the consciousness, that in multiplied instances we have shewn base ingratitude to our Benefactor. So that, while there is any alloy of sin in the heart of a regenerate person, his selfo