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change, merely because they have been in great anxiety, and distress, and afterwards felt peculiar love, and joy, and peace. For love, and joy, and peace, may flow from an appropriating faith, or a belief, which has no evidence from scripture, sense, or reason, that Christ died for them in particular, and intends to save them. Such religious affections, which flow from such a false faith, afford no evidence of the renovation of the heart. But on the other hand, those have a right to hope, that they have passed from death to life, if they are conscious of having loved God for what he is in himself, of having hated sin because of its odious nature, and of having loved Christ for honouring God, and opening the door of mercy to perishing sinners. Such repentance and faith flowing from such supreme love to the divine character, afford good evidence of a sound conversion. For these are the love, the repentance, and the faith, which the holy Spirit always produces in those whom he renews and sanctifies. And such sanctification of heart is the only evidence of justification, and a title to eternal life. The Antinomian faith precludes all self examination. Those who place faith before love, hold that it is a sin for those who have once believed, that Christ died for them in particular, to doubt of their gracious state. The reason is obvious. If a faith before love, and without love, be a justifying faith; then assurance belongs to the essence of faith, and consequently, there is no occasion for sanctification, to prove a believer's justification. But let no man be deceived; for if he have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
ON THE GROWTH OF GRACE.
2 PETER, iii, 18.
in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
THE apostles were solicitous not only to convert men to the belief and profession Christianity, but to build them up in their most holy faith. They often visited the churches which they had planted, to look into their state, and to rectify whatever they found amiss in their sentiments, or practice. And when they could not consistently visit them, they frequently wrote them very friendly and occasional epistles, in which they meant to instruct them in some particular doctrines, or warn them against some particular errours, or solve some particular cases of conscience, or exhort them to constancy and perseverance in their christian course. But Peter, in writing to christians in general, seems to have but one great object in view, and that is, to urge upon them the importance of their growing in grace, which would afford them the best support under their trials, and the best security against all the snares and seductions of their spiritual enemies. The conclusion of this last epistle is agreeable to the whole tenor of both. "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the errour of the wicked, fall from your steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Christians are still in a state of moral imperfection, and exposed to the subtile devices of the great adversary of their souls, and to the snares and temptations of the present evil world. The in
junction in the text applies, with all its force, to the feeble and humble followers of Christ, at this day. They need to make continual advances in grace, and in that knowledge, which is conducive to their spiritual strength and edification. There is the same connexion between knowledge and grace, that there is between means and ends. It is not to be expected, that christians will grow in grace, unless they grow in the knowledge of Christ, as he is revealed in the gospel. This, therefore, will be the leading sentiment in the present discourse:
That christians must grow in knowledge, in order to grow in grace. I shall,
1. Consider what is meant by their growing in grace.
II. Consider why they must grow in knowledge in order to grow in grace.
III. Show the importance of their growing in both these respects.
I. We are to consider what is meant by their growing in grace. The word grace is used in various senses in Scripture. It sometimes signifies the love of God to all mankind in sending his Son to die for them. It sometimes signifies his peculiar love to those, whom he renews and sanctifies by the influences of his holy Spirit. And it sometimes signifies the love, the faith, the repentance, and all the holy affections of true believers or real christians. In this sense, the apostle uses the word grace in the text. He supposes, that all who have cordially embraced the gospel, have begun to live in the exercise of holy affections, and he exhorts them to grow in grace and press forward in their christian course. The question now is, How shall they perform this duty? This leads me to say,
1. They must exercise grace more constantly. It is generally and justly supposed, that the best of christians in their present state of imperfection, are not always in the actual exercise of grace. Whether there can be any such thing as grace, without exercise, I shall not stand to consider; but supposing the common opinion to be true, that christians are not always in the exercise of grace, it must be allowed, that they ought to exercise grace more constantly, which is actually growing in grace. For the more constantly and uninterruptedly they exercise purely holy affections, the more they conform to the divine will, and do really advance in the divine life. They follow the example of the apostle Paul, while growing in grace and pressing forward towards the mark of sinless perfection. So far as they fail in the constancy of their gracious exercises; just so far they fall short of that moral perfection, which is their indispensable duty. If they let their thoughts wander with the fool's eyes to the ends of the earth, their gracious affections will certainly be interrupted, and vain thoughts and evil affections will creep into their hearts. Some christians, who are circumspect and watchful, and keep their hearts with diligence, have many more right affections than others, who are in a low and declining state of religion. They carry about with them the spirit of the gospel, and pursue their secular concerns, as well as perform their religious duties, with gracious sincerity. Whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, they mean to do all to the glory of God. They live as seeing Him who is invisible, and endeavour to keep themselves in the fear of the Lord all the day long. This is what all christians ought to do, to grow in grace, and make progress in a holy and devout life,
2. Uniformity, as well as constancy, is implied in growing in grace. By uniformity is meant, the exercise of all the various christian graces. These are numerous, according to the vast variety of objects with which christians are surrounded, and the great variety of circumstances in which they are placed. Want of uniformity is a very great and common imperfection. of christians. They are often like Ephraim, "a cake not turned." They are sound in some respects, but unsound in other respects. Their beauties are mixed with blemishes. They may be devout in their religious performances; but not so serious and circumspect in their common intercourse with the world. They may be very conscientious in some points; but more lax and inconsiderate in matters of equal, or higher importance. Some seem to have more love to God, than to man; while others seem to have more love to man, than to God. Some shine in one grace, and some in another; while very few shine in all the beauties of holiness. But Christ was uniform as well as constant in the exercise of every species of holy affections. And his followers ought to have grace for grace, and be as uniform as he was, in exercising right affections on all occasions and under all circumstances. This the apostle Peter plainly intimates is necessary in order to grow in grace. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, ard to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherlykindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." The more uniform christians become in their holy affections, the more they grow in grace, and the nearer they approach