« AnteriorContinuar »
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 vir
tue, 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.""
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, by faith in the righteousness and atonement of the divine Saviour. On this account, therefore, as well as for other reasons,
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 it's reality and degree.
I. Genuine growth in grace is always accompanied with proportionable humiliation, and the habitual exercise of repentance. This hath indeed been implied and intimated in every part of our progress : but it is a matter of so great importance, and creates such 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 ab: horrence of it; a submissive will, and fervent spiritual affections, combine in what is here called grace, and the growth of grace. But clearer and more distinct views of the divine majesty and greatness must proportionably abate our self-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 show us more and more the intrinsick evil of sin, and the heinousness of our own transgressions: and the same defects or defilements must give us proportionably greater uneasiness, than they did when we had less 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 show 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 of multiplied instances of ingratitude to our Benefactor. So that, while there is any alloy of sin in the heart of a regenerate person, his selfabhorrence 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 dejection, when not attended with a clear understanding of that sanctifying work, by which the Holy Spirit seals believers to the day of redemption; and would always produce this effect, 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 to expatiate particularly on the well known examples of Job, Isaiah, Daniel, or the centurion whom our Lord commended : as all who diligently consider the subject, are well acquainted with their actual attainments and unaffected humility.
This increase of humility never fails to produce 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 they be allotted to us. The believer gradually acquires such a view of himself and his misconduct during à succession of years, that he “ remembers and is “confounded, and never opens his mouth any
more for his shame, when the LORD is pacified " to 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 produces lowliness, meekness, candour, resignation, contentment, and gratitude, in the habitual frame of his temper and tenor 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,
Ezek. xvi. 63.