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SERMON XLI.

GROWTH IN GRACE.

II. PETER III. 18.

But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

AN advancement in piety and religion is one of the benefits flowing from justification and sanctification. To be making progress in the christian life, is of high consequence to our peace, comfort, usefulness and hope in the world, and it raises the growing soul to greater degrees of felicity in the future state. To be possessed of saving grace, reconciled to God, interested in Christ, and washed in any measure from our sinful pollutions, is such mercy as cannot be expressed, but by an eternity of gratitude. Yet glory to the Most High, this pre-eminent favour is conferred upon some of our guilty race. This acquisition all ought to give diligence to make, and when acquired, it must not only be maintained, but care must be taken to progress therein; a direct counsel on this point is admininistered to us in the words of our text. "Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord "and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Allow me here to introduce one observation in support of divine revelation; that no book but the bible, recommends and establishes every virtue, from the lowest to the highest, that

reason can pronounce. Did I say every virtue? I say every decency, from the lowest grade to the most exalted heights of the love of God. From neatness in our persons, cleanliness in our dwellings, and propriety in our deportment, to all the glories of eternity, through natural, common, relative, civil and religious life, are stated before us in the scriptures. There is not, among the millions of books in existence, there never was, and never will be, such another book as the bible. Hence this extraordin ary book comprehending all things in a compendious view, econ omical, political, philosophical, and pious towards God and man, must surely be supernatural, and of divine inspiration..

Passing this, let us attend to the exhortation in our text. The recommendation is to grow in grace and christian knowledge, The plain intention of which is, that we should advance in holy exercises, godly experiences, and to a greater acquaintance with divine things,.

All that shall detain your attention at present, will be only,

First, To some observations and remarks respecting this spirit nal growth.

Secondly, To some reasons or motives why we should feel the force of this precept, and strive after the holy advances here re quired.

First, In regard to observations and remarks on this spiritual growth.

We observe

First, In respect to this spiritual growth, or progress in religion. It is a matter that requires time and reflection to judge of the advancement. Conversion may take place in a short space, like that of St. Paul and the jailor. The former made a distinguishing figure in the christian world, and the latter we never heard of, only in the occurences of a single night. But to judge

of progression, some portion of time seems to be necessary. It is not to be discerned by single acts and particular exercises, so much as by habits and a tenor of conduct. We cannot so easily decide how we grow by every prayer and every sermon, as by ta king a considerable portion of time to examine the bias of our souls.

Secondly, Let it be remarked in the growth of saints there is much difference. All the plants in the garden of Christ, are no equally flourishing. Some have five talents, and others two or one. It is recorded of the Thessilonian christians, that their "faith "grew exceedingly." And others are represented as weak and slow in the production of fruits. "We all, as St, Paul affirms, 86 grow according to the measure of a part." "To every one of "us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." No one expects a finger to grow to the magnitude of an arm. All the members of the body grow, but not equally; thus it is with all the members of Christ's mystical body. Our Lord requires all his disciples to improve the talents entrusted to them, but he no where requires of them to whom he hath given two, to gain ten. His demands are ever of the most rational kind. And his requisitions are only in proportion to his gifts. Where only one talent is conferred, all that is required is an improve ment and encrease of the same.

Thirdly, Observe, an encrease of grace is ever accompanied with progress in christian knowledge. The injunction is, "we ❝should follow on to know the Lord." The first request of Moses to God was, " tell me thy name," yet afterwards his desires of knowledge so encreased, his prayer was "shew me thy glory." The christian, however various his feelings may be, though he sometimes takes backward steps, yet upon the whole he progresses in virtue, and goodness. He becomes more meek, humble, heavenly minded; more diffident of himself, harmless and uniform in his conversation. They see and know more af

God, of themselves and divine things. The apostolic benediction on christians is, "grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through "the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." Young converts sometimes feel a new light break in upon their minds; with this new light satanical influence often enters, and infuses and blows up a spiritual pride, that in a few days they conceive them. selves to be the foremost christians in the world. Nothing more common than smatterers in sciences to suppose themselves superior to their instructors. Where there is sincere grace, this is soon corrected; where delusion and hypocrisy become the substitutes of religion, these people become the plague of the church, and the nuisances of society, and after a while, like other meteors, they go out into stench and darkness. But true grace is au encreasing light; its light shineth more and more." The real christian grows in the knowledge of God, of Christ, and of himself. He sees more the vanity of the world, the odiousness of sin, the corruption and deceitfulness of his own heart. Hereby he grows in love, humility, meekness, goodness, charity and every grace.

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Of all the graces we should principally make advances in love, faith, humility, and charity are the chief. These are a compre hension of the gospel virtues. These are the things in which we are commanded to make progress. And when we are required to advance in one, all are comprehended. Hence the gospel prayer is, "Lord encrease our faith; Lord, I believe, help mine unbe"lief." The evidences of this growth in grace are, becoming more sober, judicious, humble, self-denied, and diligent in duty; our hearts more elevated to the glory of God, and the enjoyment of more of a spirit of devotion. The true christian resists sin from the feelings of love to God, and a respect to purity and holiness. He has an abhorrence of his moral corruptions, with which none but God can be acquainted. A Botanist contemplates a garden, in its flowers, roots, and beauties and utility; so a christian views all the glories of the gospel in their utmost

extent, as transcendently amiable, and of the highest usefulness to himself, and comprising every blessing to the children of men. Cultivating humility and self-denial, is a distinguished way of growing in grace. It is an observation of one of the ancients upon the students at Athens; that when they had been there a little while, they felt themselves exceeding wise; after some time, they supposed themselves only lovers of wisdom; and last of all after spending studious years, they looked upon themselves as rude and ignorant and knowing nothing. In all sciences the knowables increase much faster than acquisition. Thus the new entrants upon religion are too apt to suppose they have obtained a world of piety; when they have been under its direction for years, their pride, folly and vanity are in a measure subdued. They see inore of God, of their vileness and sinfulness; their spiritual knowledge is encreased and the tenderness of their consciences; hance you will often hear old and eminent christians say, "We "are poor creatures, less than the least of all saints; if we should

get to heaven, we will be wonders there and miracles of grace.” Thus a progression in humility evidences an advancement in every grace, virtue, and duty, and in a meetness for the abodes of the blessed. "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and "Saviour Jesus Christ."

Secondly, We are to bring forward some reasons to promote in our souls a feeling of this precept, and that we should strive after the holy advances here required.

Now where life is, there will be growth. Where grace is, it must encrease. A painted flower is still the same; a painted child is as little an hundred years hence, as the day it was drawn. Hypocrisy and enthusiasm never make advances only in pride and heat, in vice and impudence. But true grace flourishes in sweetness, charms like luxuriant plants, and captivates the heart like tender infants. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, he "shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that are planted in "the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.

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