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fruits, the graces of the sanctifying Spirit; and God walks in it, communicating the sense of his love.
Are not life and light, and liberty, productive and preservative of joy? And consequently, as the natural life, the more lively and vigorous, the more pleasant it is; so the spiritual. The more we are like God, the more we are loved of him, and the more clear revelations of his love are communicated to us. The more we are freed from the chains of sin, and bondage of satan, the more joyful and glorious is our liberty. Indeed, the saints are sometimes in darkness, but their sorrows are from their defects in holiness; from their not improving the means of grace, wliereby they might rise to perfection : for as when sadness oppresses us, the vital spirits retire to the heart, and are shut
in their springs, that nature does not perform its operations with delight; so when the Holy Spirit, the eternal Comforter, is grieved, by our quenching his pure motions, he withdraws his comforting influences, and the soul is left desolate. The experience of all the saints is a demonstration, that religion the more it fastens us to our duty, and to God, by the bands of love, the happier we are; and that the state of a renewed christian, is so far from being gloomy and melancholy, that it is the joyful beginning of heaven.
By excelling in holiness, our future glory will be increased. The life and order of government consists in the dispensing rewards and punishments. God will recompense the wicked according to the rule of justice and their desert; and the future happiness of the saints will be in degrees, according to the de-, grees of their holiness.
Not as if there were any merit in our works to procure the eternal reward, which is the gift of his most free love; but his love rewards us according to his promise, that “they who sow bountifully, shall reap bountifully;” and in proportion, as the graces of the saints are exercised here, their glory will be in heaven. In this the goodness of God is admirable, he works all in us, and rewards his own work : his service is the best; for he that commands, works; and he that obeys, reigns. If we respect the glory of God and our own, let us endeavour to be complete in holiness.
It is true God bestows his favours as a free Lord, and liberal benefactor, variously; but he distributes rewards in the next life as a governor, according to the inviolate rule established by his
wisdom in his word. As the quality of the reward is according to the kind of our works, so the degrees are according to the measure of them. To imagine that a carnal man may be saved without holiness, is as unreasonable, as to think that a man may be made miserable without sin. It is to attribute an irregular clemency to him. We must distinguish between the desert of the reward, and the order of dispensing it. There is no possibility or shadow of merit; for the grace of obedience is antecedent to the grace of the reward.
The effectual means to rise to perfection in holiness. Unfeigned faith in our
Saviour, who is the efficient and exemplary cause of inherent holiness, Prayer a means to obtain an increase of holiness. Frequent and attentive hearing, reading and meditation of the word, a means of growth in grace. The word must be mixed with faith, and an earnest desire to improve grace by it. It must be laid up in the mind and memory. It must be sincerely received. The religious use of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, an excellent means to increase grace. Repentance, faith and love are improved by it. The renewing our covenant with Christ in that ordinance, is of great use for the advancing of grace. The religious observation of the Lord's Day, makes us more holy. The frequent discussion of conscience is very instrumental to increase holiness. It must be distinct in comparing our actions with the rule, serious and sincere as previous to divine judgment, with resolution to reform what is amiss, and frequent.
I will now proceed to declare the means that are effectual for our obtaining holiness in degrees of eminence.
1. Unfeigned faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the meritorious, efficient and exemplary cause of inherent holiness, and actions flowing from it.
(1.) Chirst is the meritorious cause of our holiness. The death of Christ was our ransom, not only to release us from the curse of the law, but the dominion of sin : these were inseparable in the design of our Redeemer; and are in the accomplishment of it; none are pardoned, but they are sanctified. If the reimpression of the image of God in us, had been only requisite for the restoring us to his favour, our Saviour's dying had been unnecessary; his instruction and example, with the sanctifying Spirit's operations, had been sufficient; but till our guilt was expiated, the fountain was sealed, no emanations of divine grace flowed forth. “ Christ gave himself for us, that he night redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
(2.) Christ is the efficient cause of our holiness. We receive from God, the author of nature, the natural life, with all its faculties; and by the concurrence previous and conconitant of his powerful providence, we act in the order of nature : but the supernatural life is conveyed to us from the Son of God, the Mediator; “Of his fulness we receive grace for grace :” our increase is from our head, the fountain of spiritual sense and action. The Holy Spirit, who inspires us with the divine life, confirms and improves it, was purchased by his sufferings, and is conferred in his exaltation. As in the operation of the sensitive faculties, though the eye be clear and qualified for sight, yet it is necessary there be a supervenient light to irradiate the air, and actuate the visive spirits, that there may be a discovery of objects: thus after the soul is renewed by habitual grace, there is necessary, the exciting assisting grace of the Spirit, to draw it forth into exercise every hour. The sun is the heart of the world, from which all vital cherishing influences are derived; thus from “the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings," continual influences proceed: without which, the life of grace would languish and decay. In this there is a disparity between the visible sun, and the spiritual: though the fruitfulness of every plant is from his vital heat, and descending influences, yet the quality and kinds of the fruits, are from the sap that distinguishes them: grapes are from the vine, and peaches and apples are from several trees; but every grace in the saints is from the descending influences of Christ. Now faith is the means by which we receive the emanations of grace from Christ. The apostle tells us, “ The life that I live in the flesh, is by faith in the Son of God." The first plantation of holiness, and the highest perfection of it attainable in the present life, is by faith, that unites us to Christ. A sincere reliance on him for continual supplies of grace, gives virtue and efficacy to the means prescribed in the word. We are commanded to “ grow in grace, and in the experimental) knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” the effectual means to obtain it.
(3.) Contemplate our Saviour as the exemplary cause of our holiness. His pattern is not only a powerful one (which is considered before) but a means to bring us to perfection. We are directed to “ look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, that we may run the race set before us,” till we come to its period and perfection. In the gospel there is a divine representation of the obedience and sufferings of our Saviour, wherein every grace that adorns the children of God, is exactly represented, and all the afflictions and tender trials, wherewith God exercises them in order to their glory, were consecrated by his example. This is not a dead object proposed to our view, but has a vital efficacy to transform us into his likeness; as the sight of the brazen serpent conveyed a healing virtue to the wounded Israelites. The apostle tells us, that “we all with open face, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3. 18. The gospel is the glass, wherein there is a permanent image of Christ in his life and death, a full manifestation of all his virtues; and this sight, by the operation of the Spirit, changes us into his likeness, “ from glory to glory;" that is, by several degrees of grace to a full conformity to him in glory. As a painter often fixes his eye upon the object, to form in his imagination the idea, that guides his hand in the designing and colouring the face, that the copy may resemble the truth of nature in the original: so we should consider the holiness and perfection of our Saviour's actions, and draw the first lines of resolution to imitate him, and every day endeavour to fill and complete them in actions, till Christ be formed in us. Let us often compare our lives with the life of Christ, that we may see our imperfections in his excellencies, which will discover them, and how to correct them.
Now, as particulars are most instructive, I will consider two examples of our Saviour for our imitation, in duties of difficult practice. The first is, the duty of admonition, wherein great prudence is requisite, mixed with tender love, lest the reproof be taken for a reproach, and the person be provoked and not reformed; and with zeal that may give efficacy to our counsel. A reproof must be managed like binding of a wounded part, which must be neither too strait, nor too slack, lest it should oppress and exasperate the wound, or lest there be not a close application of the medicine. Of this mixture of affections we have a clear discovery in our Saviour's carriage towards his enemies. It is related in the gospel, “ that a man with a withered hand was present in the synagogue; and some watched whether our Saviour would heal him on the sabbath-day, that they might accuse him of profaning it: and when he propounded the question, whether it were lawful to do good or evil on the sabbath-day ? They maliciously held their peace : which occasioned his looking on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” Mark 3. 5. This exact pattern we should follow, joining mild severity with melting compassion, in reproving offend
The other instance is, how to compose our spirits, and resign our wills to God, in the approaches of very afflicting evils. Our Saviour in the apprehension of his impending suffering, expressed a great perplexity, “ now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say?” The fearful expectation of the just and heavy punishment due for our sins, perplexed his holy and human nature : he addressed a request to God, “ Father save me from this hour," but it was with a revocation, “ but for this cause came I to this hour:" it was subordinate to his main desire, “ Father, glorify thy name.” When he was seized by his bloody enemies, and Peter struck with his sword one of them, he repressed his rash zeal with that consideration, “ the cup which my Father has given, shall I not drink of it ? John 12. 27, 28. * He regarded his sovereign will in giving it, and with submission drank of the dregs of it. How instructive is this to us, to take the hottest and bitterest potion that God our Father and physician prepares for us?
2. Prayer is an effectual means to obtain an increase of spiritual blessings. It is the law of heaven, that blessings are to be obtained by prayer, for this is most honourable to God, and beneficial to us.
It is the supreme act of religious worship, dis
* Qui in se non habuit quod ab illo calice sanaretur, ne tu dediguavis bibere, cui opus est ut bibas. Aug.