« PreviousContinue »
customed to receive. Thus his growth in grace is connected with proportionable simplicity in the exercise of faith: and our Lord plainly declares, that the habitual simplicity and energy of faith in him, secures the growth of grace, when he says, “ he that abideth in me, the same bringeth forth " much fruit."
The consistent believer learns likewise to consider every object that surrounds him, in its relation to the providence, the moral government, gr the salvation of God; and this induces a constant dependence on him even in the common affairs of life. He“ acknowledges God in all his ways:" he relies on him to incline the hearts of those with whom he is concerned to act properly towards him ;' to succeed his undertakings, to protect him in danger, to supply his wants, and to comfort and deliver him in trouble. He depends on the perfections and providence of God to fulfil his promises in these respects, as far as conducive to his good; being assured that not a sparrow falls to the ground without his Father's notice and design. He considers the power of God as engaged to restrain the malice and rage of Satan, to moderate his trials, and to preserve him from circumstances of overwhelming temptation; as well as his
grace to strengthen holy affections and give energy for resistance. Thus he passes through one difficulty after another; conscious of his weak
1 Neh, i, 11.
ness, but relying on the Lord for strength and protection; he casts his care on him, and “ in every
thing, by prayer and supplication with thanks
giving, makes his requests known to God:" while his experience of the Lord's faithfulness and attention to his prayers tend to increase his faitlı, to encourage his expectations, and to exclude anxious alarms or distrustful solicitudes. And this prepares him for at length passing through the valley of the shadow of death “ without fear
ing any evil;" trusting that the Lord will then be with him, as bis Guide, Guard, and Comforter, and at last receive him to his eternal glory.
The increase of faith in this respect must be a nost important part of growth in grace, as it produces a calm submissive spirit in the most perilous and distressing seasons; when the hearts of unbelievers, and even of the weak in faith, " are shaken “ like the trees by the wind :” it induces an habitual intercourse, in the spirit of adoption between the redeemed sinner and his reconciled God and Father; as he now walks with God in humble confidence, and reverential fear. It likewise secures a man from seeking relief in trouble by indirect means; and renders him watchful against every thing that would interrupt his communion with God, by which his present comfort and hopes of future felicity are principally maintained. And, on the other hand, as he grows in grace he will attain to greater simplicity of dependence on God, which will render him less dependent on men and on second causes; he will be less affected by the fluctuating appearances of external affairs, “bis “ heart being fixed trusting in the Lord :” and will more uniformly consider all creatures as his instruments of judgment or of mercy, of correction, or of comfort; and remember that “ all
things work together for good to them that love “ God.” Thus it appears, that growth in .grace, , as to the various particulars comprised in the apostle's prayer for the Philippians, will certainly be accompanied with deeper humility, stronger faith, and more entire reliance on God in all things pertaining to this life, and to that which is
It cannot, therefore, be doubtful to any impartial enquirer in what a believer's growth in grace consists. When a man abounds more and more in all the varied exercises of holy love; when this love is directed and regulated by increasing know, ledge, wisdom, and judgment; when he acquires by exercise, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the habit of prudently examining and accurately distinguishing between things that differ, abhorring the evil, and cleaving to the good, more entirely and heartily from day to day; when he grows more known and approved for sincerity and integrity in all his professions and engagements, and more singly devoted to God, as he advances in years; when he becomes more and more
circumspect in his words and works, that he
may neither inadvertently fall himself, or cause others to stumble, and more fervent in prayer to be preserved from bringing any reproach on the gospel to the end of his course; when he grows more abundantly fruitful in the works of righteousness, while at the same time he lies lower before God in deep humility, and is more willing than ever to be abased among men; when he acts more and more habitually with the invisible God and the eternal world before his mind, and relies more entirely on the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who thus becomes more precious to his soul; and when his dependence on the providence of God is more uniform, and accompanied with greater composure, submission, and constancy in the path of duty: when this is the case, nothing material to the christian character seems wanting; the various holy dispositions and affections, resulting from regeneration, are advancing to maturity in just proportion and coincidence, and the believer is evidently ripening for the work, worship, and joy of heaven,
The apostle having prayed that the Philippians
might be filled with the fruits of righteousness, subjoined, according to the uniform language of the New Testament, " which are through Jesus “ Christ to the glory and praise of God.” Our fruitfulness is utterly insufficient to justify us, or recommend us to the divine favour; and we are not allowed to court the applause of men, in the performance of good works. But “the fruits of " the Spirit,” produced by his sacred influence from the hearts of fallen creatures, as the happy effects of the incarnation and redemption of Christ, presented through his intercession, and as it were sprinkled with his blood; and as conducive in all respects to the glory of God, they must be well pleasing in his sight. We are thus consecrated “an holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sa“crifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ;" “and hereby he is glorified, when we bring forth “ much fruit."-This consideration leads us to enquire more particularly into the reasons which induced the apostle to pray thus for his people: and on what account that growth in
which has been described, is so greatly to be desired.