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tions for the Divine mercy in Christ, and so continue to the last day and hour of life, if consciousness be then granted."

Let every reader uniformly remember, that, if he trifle with life: if he neglect its duties, throw away its opportunities, and despise its high responsibilities, he does it at his peril-peril that may be awful, irremediable, eternal.

August, 1846.

"How ought I then on earth to live,
While God prolongs the kind reprieve,
And spares
this house of clay!
My sole concern, my single care,
To watch and tremble, and prepare,
Against that awful day !""


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, in any degree, to court the applause of men in the performance of good works; nor do real believers allow themselves to do it. 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, must be well-pleasing in his sight. We are consecrated" a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ," 1 Pet. ii. 5; "and herein our heavenly Father is glorified, when we bring forth much fruit," John xv. 8. This consideration leads us to inquire more particularly into the reasons which induced the apostle to pray thus for his people; and on what account that growth in grace" which has been described is so greatly to be desired.


It is observable that no petitions are offered by the apostle, in the passage referred to, for prosperity, deliverance from persecutors, or even for spiritual consoÎation. In general, it is not proper to pray unreservedly for temporal comforts, in behalf of ourselves or others; for they are of so ambiguous a nature, that we cannot tell whether they would prove blessings or not. John indeed wishes his beloved Gaius may "be in health, and prosper, even as his soul prospered.' A singular example, and a petition which

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must be reversed to suit the case of many professed Christians. No doubt St. Paul prayed that his people might be delivered from "the tribulations and persecutions which they endured," and that "their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love;" but when he expressly set himself to point out the things which he principally requested in their behalf, in order to direct them in seeking the best blessings for themselves, he was silent on these topics. We may therefore observe,

1. That growth in grace is necessary in order to the believer's abiding consolation and assurance of hope. It may probably have occurred to the reader, that assurance of an interest in Christ, and of everlasting life through him, has not been expressly mentioned as essential to growth in grace, or strength of faith; but as we are exhorted "to give all diligence, that we may make our calling and election sure," 2 Pet. i. 10; and "that we may possess the full assurance of hope unto the end," Heb. vi. 10-12; we may properly consider genuine confidence as the effect of increasing faith and sanctification. Without a measure of holiness there can be no warranted comfort or assurance of hope. Strong cordials, indeed, given to a man in a high fever may produce a transient exhilaration, while they increase the disease; but proper medicines tend to restore health, which will be accompanied with pleasing sensations of a superior and a more permanent nature. Now sin is the distemper of the soul. So long as pride, malice, lust, covetousness, or any other vile passion, prevails in the heart, no salutary comfort can be derived from the promises or privileges of the gospel, except as they allure a man from his present seducing and destructive pursuits, by showing him

that far greater blessings are attainable. But when a humble, meek, pure, and heavenly disposition is produced-when knowledge, love, submission, and spirituality diffuse their benign influence, subjugating every corrupt passion, and moderating every attachment to earthly objects, the believer consequently feels peace and comfort, while the joys which on some occasions fill and transport the soul, in an extraordinary manner, are chiefly reserved for times of sharp conflict, heavy trials, or hard services.

All our genuine consolations spring from the influences of the Holy Spirit, opening to us the treasures of redeeming love, applying to our consciences the blood of sprinkling, exciting holy affections in our hearts, and giving us earnests of heavenly felicity. They are therefore inseparably connected with the exercise of repentance, faith, love, hope, and gratitude, and indeed almost wholly consist in them; while every kind or degree of sin, even in our tempers or desires, "grieves" and "quenches the Spirit of God," and interrupts our comforts, till renewed humiliation, and application for mercy through the blood of Christ, restore our peace. It must therefore be evident that "growth in grace" powerfully tends to establish peace, hope, and joy in God; a" peace of God which passeth understanding," a "joy unspeak.. able and glorious." We ought to value these consolations above all the riches and pleasures of the world, and to desire the abundant enjoyment of them from day to day; but we should not expect, or allow ourselves to wish for it, except through the medium of increasing sanctification and fruitfulness. Upon the most mature deliberation, the prudent Christian will not hesitate to pray that the loss of wonted consolations may chastise his folly, if he grow lukewarm, careless, or worldly; and that if the only wise God see that withholding present comfort will promote his "growth in grace," he may be sanctified and not comforted, rather than comforted and not sanctified. Present joys are of short continuance, but increasing holiness is the recovery of health, and the preparation for future and eternal felicity. Our Lord hath Our Lord hath commanded us to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," and then "all other things will be added to us;" but numbers by inverting this order come short of salvation, and soon lose their idolized worldly objects. In like manner, many professors of the gospel

are so eager to obtain assurance, that they seek it in the first place; instead of first seeking to grow in grace, and to bring forth the fruits of righteousness, leaving it to the Lord to give them comfort, and to cause them to "abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost," in his appointed time and way: and thus many are buoyed up in vain confidence, or amused with delusive joys, and others continue feeble, sickly, and dejected, during the greatest part of their lives. Various methods have indeed been devised to afford them relief and consolation, but they have merely a transient effect; for the child who does not grow is not healthy, and being unhealthy will be uncomfortable, whatever may be done to cheer its spirits by cordials, to quiet it by opiates, to feast it with delicacies, or to amuse it by toys and finery.

2. "Growth in grace" is most desirable, in order that the Lord Jesus may be glorified in us and by us. When Christ appeared on earth, all those who saw the men whom he had restored to the use of their senses and limbs, recovered to health, or raised from the dead, would have reason to exclaim with astonishment, "See what Jesus of Nazareth hath done! how wonderful is his power! how great his love! how many, how stupendous, how beneficent his miracles!" While the monuments of his Divine compassion, and authority over all nature, would be ready to say to all around them, He whom the rulers and scribes despise, and seek to destroy, restored my limbs, my understanding, or my life." Thus would he be honoured by them and in them.


When they who profess the doctrines of the gospel, and avouch Christ to be their God and Saviour, make it incontestably evident that their tempers are sanctified, their evil propensities mortified, their selfish hearts enlarged, and their characters sound, pure, and holy, all who knew them before will be constrained to notice the change, to wonder at the effects, and to inquire into the cause. "What hath transformed the brier into a myrtle, the lion into a lamb, or the swine into a sheep?" And the persons who have experienced this change, by professing their faith in Christ, give him all the glory. Thus the nature and tendency of the gospel, and the excellency of its fruits, are manifested: the Lord, as it were, challenges men to come and examine the work which he has wrought, and to say whether it be not worthy of

admiration and honour. This is by far the best and most effectual method of confuting infidelity, and constraining iniquity to stop her mouth; and "the fruits of righteousness" which believers abundantly produce, prove, "through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God," as they tend to make known his glorious perfections, and promote the cause of his holy religion among man


But 66 woe to the world because of offences;" and "woe to him by whom the offence cometh!" The crimes of professed Christians render our holy religion odious and contemptible to millions in all the quarters of the globe, and give infidels their most plausible arguments against it. The crimes of hypocrites, who contend for the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, prejudice the minds of vast multitudes in every part of this land; and, alas! the misconduct of true believers, who do not feel sufficiently the necessity of growing in grace, produces in a measure the same lamentable effects. We ought therefore to pray more frequently and earnestly, for ourselves and each other, that the Lord, who hath set us apart for himself, would make us to be "unto him for a name and a praise;" "that our conversation may be such as becometh the gospel of Christ;" "that we may walk worthy of God, who hath called us to his kingdom and glory;" and that we may "put those to shame" and silence "who would speak against us as evil-doers."

The apostle instructs Titus to "exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, and to please them well in all things, not answering again, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" and the same argument is equally cogent in respect of every instance of good behaviour in relative life, and in all the transactions of life, in those who profess the gospel. Nothing indeed. can add to the beauty and glory of Divine truth, as it is in its own nature; but this glory and beauty can be discerned by the spiritual mind alone; to the world in general it appears foolish and absurd, and the misconduct of such as profess evangelical truth confirms despisers in their proud contempt of it. There is, however, an excellency in a truly Christian temper and conversation, which they are not hardy enough to deny, and of which they frequently have the fullest demonstration, in the advantage or

comfort which they themselves derive from it.

One talkative, imprudent, and inconsistent zealot for the doctrines of the gospel, who neither knows nor practises the duties of his station, but is habitually guilty of manifest crimes or glaring improprieties, will expose the cause of truth to the contempt of a whole family, a village, or even a neighbourhood. But a single Christian matured in grace according to the sketch here given, notwithstanding incidental failures and manifold infirmities, of which he is humbly conscious, will obtain a testimony in the mind of all his connections, and win upon their hearts; he will soften the prejudices, silence the reproaches, and live down the contempt of the circle in which he moves; and evangelical truth will acquire such a respectability in a neighbourhood where consistent Christians are numerous, as none can properly conceive who have not actually witnessed it.

3. The same tenor of good behaviour must be allowed to have a powerful tendency to make known the salvation of Christ. All who love the gospel desire to promulgate it; but many attempt it in a very improper manner, thinking that they ought to dispute for the truth with every one to whom they have access, or that at all events they must become preachers of the word. No doubt it is very commendable to contend earnestly for the truth; and what zealous Christian does not pray that the Lord would increase a hundred-fold the faithful ministers of the gospel, how many soever they be? But perhaps the cause of truth would be no loser if we had much less disputing, and even rather less preaching of some kinds; provided we had more of those who preach to all around them in the silent energy of a holy life, after the manner in which Peter exhorts wives to preach to their unbelieving husbands, 1 Pet. iii. 1-6. Every word that persons of this character drop, whether of serious reproof and exhortation, or in ordinary discourse, and every persuasion to read a book, or hear a sermon, would have great weight, and in some instances success; whilst" Physician, heal thyself," is a sufficient answer to the most zealous unholy disputer. Nay, it may reasonably be supposed that a faithful minister of very slender talents, who lives consistently with the holy doctrine which he delivers, and is attended by a few persons whose conduct do credit to the gospel, will in the event be more solidly and durably

useful than the most popular speaker, who is either remiss and inconsistent in his own conduct, or surrounded by admirers who are a reproach to his doctrine. It pleases God, on some occasions, to revive religion by numerous apparent conversions, or in a very rapid manner; yet this will soon die away, or continue, at most, only for a single generation, if holiness do not shine in the lives of those concerned. But more commonly, the cause of God diffuses its influence like the leaven, and like the grain of mustardseed, almost insensibly, from small beginnings to a great increase. When the work is genuine, and the profession accords to the specimens given in the New Testament, the holy flame kindles from heart to heart in families and neighbourhoods, and one after another is won over, even "without the word, by the conversation" of friends and relatives, while they behold and benefit by their consistent conduct. This we should desire and pray for in our several circles; and would we adopt the right method of succeeding in it, we must let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our heavenly Father."

4. It is also most desirable that the knowledge of the gospel should be continued to our posterity. Holy men of God have always paid a great regard to the religious interests of succeeding generations, and with this view redoubled their diligent and zealous endeavours when they were about to leave the world. Thus Moses, Joshua, David, Paul, and Peter had "the same mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus." The true believer longs especially that his children and children's children, with those of his relatives and friends, may from generation to generation be the supports and ornaments of the gospel. In condescending regard to such desires, the Lord hath mentioned these blessings in the covenant which he makes with us, assuring us that it is intended “for our good, and for that of our children after us;" yet none but such Christians as have been described can reasonably expect to be thus favoured. Their example and instructions, their testimony for God and his truth, living and dying, and the reputation which they often acquire after death, however slighted before, plead powerfully in behalf of religion in the consciences of those whom they leave behind. As they have "honoured God," he thus "honours them," by answering their prayers and prospering their endeavours; and if they leave any

of their children or beloved relatives in an unconverted state, they may even at their departure possess a peaceful hope that the Lord will yet think upon them for good, and at length gather them into his fold, perhaps by means of their dying exhortations. In general, however, it is certain that Christianity of this kind is not easily or speedily eradicated; the fruit produced by such believers as have here been imperfectly described will remain in its effects from generation to generation; and indeed, in one respect or another, to the end of the world, and to all eternity. "All the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him," saith the Lord concerning Abraham; "for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him," Gen. xviii. 18, 19.

5. Growth in grace is peculiarly desirable, in order that we may possess an assured hope and strong consolation at the approach of death. This last enemy is indeed "the king of terrors," in his original nature and consequences; and, though he is disarmed of his sting, when he approaches as a friend, to release the believer from his uneasy situation in this evil world, and convey him to his Father's house, yet our nature is apt to recoil: and when faith and hope waver, we cannot but look forward to the solemn season with trembling anxiety. Indeed, were we sure of having one day of spiritual light and comfort, and no more, during our continuance on earth, it would be very desirable to reserve that cordial for this last season of conflict. But a remiss, inconsistent, and slothful conduct, even if gross sins are avoided, prepares distress for the closing scene; and the Christian who habitually yields to indolence, or, in other words, does not " grow in grace, makes, as it were, an assignation with terror to meet him on his death-bed; while, on the other hand, evangelical principles, a "conversation becoming our profession," and diligence in our proper work, and in the great business of religion, constitute an habitual and actual preparation for that solemn scene. Our loins are thus girded, our lamps burning, and we are like men who are waiting for the coming of their Lord." We may not indeed beforehand be able wholly to discard our apprehensions, nor ought we to perplex ourselves on that account; but we are indisputably safe, and at


whatever time, or in whatever manner, we may be summoned hence, "that day will not overtake us as a thief," with terrible surprise, or fatal consequences, but we shall be graciously addressed in these most condescending words: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

It would be wholly superfluous to speak particularly concerning the day of judgment in this inquiry; but we may very properly close it with the apostle's words to the Philippians: "Be blameless and harmless, as the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom shine ye as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain," Phil. ii. 15-19.

If the things we have considered be indeed the principles of the gospel reduced to practice, and accord to their genuine tendency, what an excellent religion is Christianity! how base must they be who oppose, insult, and reproach it, for the faults of some who profess it! and how inexcusable are those persons who give them such an occasion! It is indeed a most palpable mistake to suppose that the doctrines of grace diminish our obligations to obedience, or supersede the necessity of good works; and the accusation is often a wilful calumny: but the holy lives of those who embrace and profess those doctrines is the best, and in fact the only effectual confutation of this slander. If, then, the advantages and consequences of growth in grace be so important, and the nature of it so evident, little need be said concerning the way in which we ought to seek so great and desirable a blessing. The motives and encouragements of the gospel are abundantly sufficient to animate those who duly attend to them; we have free access to the throne of grace; "exceedingly great and precious promises" to plead with our merciful God and Father; and an inexhaustible fulness from which to draw all things "pertaining to life and godliness." We are directed and commanded to "ask and receive, that our joy may be full;" God has appointed various means, which he hath engaged to render effectual to all those who diligently attend on them in humble faith; and every person may soon learn for himself, if he duly watch and keep his own heart, what employments or companions prove helps or hinderances to his soul in this grand con

cern. Could we therefore succeed in convincing professed Christians that it is possible, even in this world, to arrive at degrees of spirituality, fruitfulness, and stability, far beyond what is commonly attained; that it is their bounden duty to "press forward-forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth to the things which are before;" that they have great cause for deep humiliation on account of their unfruitfulness in times past, and yet ought not to be discouraged from expecting more effectual help in their future endeavours;-if, I say, men could be thus induced heartily to set themselves to seek and pray for more abundant growth in grace, as the most important and desirable of all blessings; there can be no doubt that they would make greater progress than they generally do. Yet Christians would not on that account become better satisfied with themselves or their attainments. Perhaps, through self-acquaintance, tenderness of conscience, and deep humility, they might not be sensible of making any advances in grace; and assuredly they would more and more "hunger and thirst after righteousness," till they come to the fountain above, when they shall drink, and thirst no more for ever. But to such persons the words of the apostle are peculiarly suitable and encouraging: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord," 1 Cor. xv. 58. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Heb. xiii. 20, 21.


By the late W. M'Gavin.

"O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy," Hab. iii. 2.

THE work of God then appeared in one nation, and among one people only. Gentiles were not excluded from the church of Israel; but in order to being members of it, and enjoying its privileges, it was necessary that they should come and dwell in the land, and be in

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