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communications of his grace to help your infirmities? Can you, at the close of your most religious, exemplary, and useful days, blush before God for the deficiencies of them, while others perhaps may be ready to admire and extol your conduct? And while you give the glory of all that has been right to him, from whom the strength and grace has been derived, are you coming to the blood of sprinkling, to free you from the guilt which mingles itself even with the best of your services? Do you learn to receive the bounties of providence, not only with thankfulness as coming from God, but with a mixture of shame and confusion too, under a consciousness that you do not deserve them, and are continually forfeiting them? And do you justify providence in your afflictions and disappointments, even while many are flourishing around you in the full bloom of prosperity, whose offences have been more visible at least, and more notorious than yours?
§. 10. Do you also advance "in zeal and activity for the service of God, and the happiness of mankind?"--Does your love shew itself solid and sincere, by a continual flow of good works from it? Can you view the sorrows of others with tender compassion, and with projects and contrivances what you may do to relieve them? Do you feel in your breast, that you are more frequently devising liberal things," and ready to wave your own advantage or pleasure that you may accomplish them? Do you find your imaginations teeming (as it were) with conceptions and schemes, for the advancement of the cause and interest of Christ in the world, for the propagation of his gospel, and for the happiness of your fellow-creatures? And do you not only pray, but act for it; act in such a manner, as to shew that you pray in carnest, and feel a readiness to do what little you can in this cause, even though others, who might, if they pleased, very conveniently do a vast deal more, will do nothing?
§. 11. And, not to enlarge upon this copious head, reflect once more "how your affections stand, with regard to this world, and another ?"-Are you more deeply and practically convinced of the vanity of these things which are seen, and are temporal‡ ?—Do you perceive your expectations from them, and your attachments to them, to diminish? You are willing to stay in this world, as long as your Father pleases; and it is right and well: but do you find your bonds so loosened to it, that you are willing, heartily willing, to leave it at the shortest
*Rom. viii. 26.
+ Isai. xxxii. 8.
2 Cor. iv. 13.
warning; so that if God should see fit to summon you away on a sudden, though it, should be in the midst of your enjoyments, pursuits, expectations, and hopes, you would cordially consent to that remove; without saying, "Lord, let me stay a little while longer, to enjoy this or that agreeable entertainment, to finish this or that scheme?" Can you think with an habitual calmness and hearty approbation, if such be the divine pleasure of waking no more when you lie down on your bed, of returning home no more when you go out of your house? And yet, on the other hand, how great soever the burdens of life are, do you find a willingness to bear them, in submission to the will of your heavenly Father, though it should be to many future years; and though they should be years of far greater affliction than you have ever yet seen? Can you say calmly and steadily, if not with such overflowings of tender affections as you could desire, Behold thy servant, thy child, is in thine hand, do with me as seemeth good in thy sight*! My will is melted into thine; to be lifted up or laid down, to be carried out or brought in, to be here or there, in this or that circumstance, just as thou pleasest, and as shall best suit with thy great extensive plan, which it is impossible that I, or all the angels in heaven, should mend."
§. 12. These, if I understand matters aright, are some of the most substantial evidences of growth and establishment in religion. Search after them: bless God for them, so far as you discover them in yourself; and study to advance in them daily, under the influences of divine grace, to which I heartily recommend you, and to which I intreat you frequently to recommend yourself.
The Christian breathing earnestly after Growth in Grace.
“O THOU ever blessed fountain of natural and spiritual life! I thank thee, that I live, and know the exercises and pleasures of a religious life. I bless thee, that thou hast infused into me thine own vital breath, though I was once dead in trespasses and sinst; so that I am become, in a sense peculiar to thine own children, a living soul. But it is mine earnest desire, that I may not only live, but grow; grow in grace, and in the knowledge of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christs, upon an acquaintance with whom my progress in it so evidently depends! In this view I humbly intreat thee, that thou wilt form my mind
§ 2 Pet. iii. 18.
2 Sam. xv. 26.
† Eph. ii. 1.
+ Gen. ii. 7.
to right notions in religion, that I may not judge of grace by any wrong conceptions of it, nor measure my advances in it by those things, which are merely the effects of nature, and probably its corrupt effects!
"May I be seeking after an increase of divine love to thee, my God and Father in Christ, of unreserved resignation to thy wise and holy will, and of extensive benevolence to my fellow creatures! May I grow in patience and fortitude of soul, in humility and zeal, in spirituality and a heavenly disposition of mind, and in a concern," that whether present or absent I may be accepted of the Lord," that whether I live or die it may be for his glory! In a word, as thou knowest I hunger and thirst after righteousness, make me whatever thou wouldst delight to see me! Draw on my soul, by the gentle influences of thy gracious spirit, every trace and every feature, which thine eye, O heavenly Father, may survey with pleasure, and which thou mayest acknowledge as thine own image.
"I am sensible, O Lord, I have not as yet attained: yea, my soul is utterly confounded to think, how far I am from being already perfect but this one thing (after the great example of thine apostle, and the much greater of his Lord) I would endeavour to do; forgetting the things which are behind, I would press forward to those which are beforet. O that thou wouldst feed my soul by thy word and spirit! Having been, as I humbly hope and trust, regenerated by it, being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, even by thy word which liveth and abideth for evert; as a new-born babe I desire the sincere milk of the word, that I may grow thereby§. And may my profiting appear unto all men, till at length I come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ¶; and after having enjoyed the pleasures of those that flourish eminently in thy courts below, be fixed in the paradise above! I ask and hope it through him, of whose fulness we have all received, even grace for grace**: to him be glory, both now and for ever++!”
2 Cor. v. 9.
+ Phil. iii. 12, 13,
1 Pet. i. 23. **Johni. 16.
§ 1 Pet. ii. 2.
The advanced Christian reminded of the Mercies of God, and exhorted to the Exercises of habitual Love to Him, and Joy in Him.
An holy Joy in God, our Privilege as well as our Duty, §. 1. The Christian invited to the Exercise of it; §. 2. (1.) By the Representation of Temporal Mercies, §. 3. (2.) By the Consideration of Spiritual Favours, §. 4. (3.) By the Views of Eternal Happiness, §. 5. And, (4.) Of the Mercies of God to others, the Living and the Dead, §. 6. The Chapter closes with an Exhortation to this heavenly Exercise, §. 7. and with an Example of the genuine Workings of this grateful Joy in God.
1.I WOULD WOULD now suppose my reader to find, on an examination of his spiritual state, that he is growing in grace, And if you desire that this grace may at once be acknowledged and promoted, let me call your soul to that more affectionate exercise of love to God, and joy in him, which suits and strengthens, and exalts the character of the advanced christian; and which I beseech you to regard, not only as your privilege, but as your duty too. Love is the most sublime, generous principle of all true and acceptable obedience; and with love, when so wisely and happily fixed, when so certainly returned, joy, proportionable joy, must naturally be connected. It may justly grieve a man that enters into the spirit of christianity, to see how low a life even the generality of sincere christians commonly live in this respect. Rejoice then in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness*, and of all those other perfections and glories, which are included in that majestic, that wonderful, that delightful name, The Lord thy God! Spend not your sacred moments merely in confession, or in petition, though each must have their daily share: but give a part, a considerable part, to the celestial and angelic work of praise. Yea, labour to carry about with you continually an heart overflowing with such sentiments, warmed and inflamed with such affections.
§. 2. Are there not continually rays enough diffused from the great Father of light and love, to enkindle it in our bosom? Come, my christian friend and brother, come and survey with me the goodness of our heavenly Father. And Oh that he would give me such a sense of it, that I might represent it in a suitable manner; that while I am musing the fire may burn in
* Psal. xcvii. 12.
my own heart*, and be communicated to yours!. And Oh that it night pass with the lines I write, from soul to soul; awakening in the breast of every christian that reads them, sentiments more worthy of the children of God, and the heirs of glory: who are to spend an eternity in those sacred exercises, to which I am now endeavouring to excite you!
§. 3. Have you not reason to adopt the words of David, and say, How many are thy gracious thoughts unto me, O Lord! How great is the sum of them! When I would count them, they are more in number than the sand†. You indeed know where to begin the survey; for the favours of God begun with your being. Commemorate it, therefore with a grateful heart, that the eye which saw your substance, being yet imperfect, beheld you with a friendly care, when you were made in secret, and have watched over you ever since; and that the hand, which drew the plan of your members, when as yet there was none of them; not only fashioned them at first, but from that time has been concerned in keeping all your bones, so that not one of them is broken §: and that, indeed, it is to this you owe it, that you live. Look back upon the path you have trod, from the day that God brought you out of the womb, and say, whether you do not (as it were) see all the road thick set with the marks and memorials of the divine goodness. Recollect the places where you have lived, and the persons with whom you have most intimately conversed; and call to mind the mercies you have received in those places, and from those persons, as the instruments of the divine care and goodness. Recollect the difficulties and dangers, with which you have been surrounded; and reflect attentively on what God hath done to defend you from them, or to carry you through them. Think, how often there has been but a step between you and death; and how suddenly God hath sometimes interposed to set you in safety, even before you apprehended your danger. Think of those chambers of illness, in which you have been confined, and from whence perhaps you once thought you should go forth no more; but said, with Hezekiah in the cutting off of your days, I shall go to the gates of the grave, I am deprived of the residue of my years. God has, it may be, since that time, added many years to your life; and you know not how many may be in reserve, or how much usefulness and happiness may attend cach. Survey your circumstances in relative life; how many kind friends are surrounding you daily, and studying how they may contribute to
Psal. cxxxix. 15, 16.
Psal. xxxix. 3: § Psal. xxxiv. 20.
Psal. cxxxix. 17, 18,