Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

partake of that Spirit, but by Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the lift? The falling dew thall as foon make its way through the flinty rock, as influences of grace shall come from God to finners, any other way, but through him whoin the Father has constituted the head of influences, Col. i. 19. “ For it pleased the Father, that in him should “all fulness dwell?" and, chap ii 19.“ And not holding the head, “ from which all the body, by joints and bands having nourilhment “ ministred, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” Hence see how it coines to pass, that many fall away from their seeming sanctification, and never recover: it is because they are not branches truly knit to the true Vine. Meanwhile, others recover from their decays, becaute of their union with the life-giving stock, by the quickening Spirit, 1 John ii. 19.“ They went out from us, but they were « not of us: for if they had been of us, they would rio doubt have « continued with us."

A Fifth benefit is growth in grace. “ Having nourishment ministred, they increase with the increase of God,"Col. ii 19. “The righteous “ Thall flourish like the palm-tree, he shall grow like a Cedar in « Lebanon,” Pfal. xcii. 12. Grace is of a growing nature :. in the way to Zion they go from strength to strength. Though the holy man be at first a little child in grace yet at length he becomes a young Man, a father 1 John ii. 13. Though he does not but creep in the way to heaven sometimes; yet afterwards he walks, he runs,

he mounts up with wings as eagles. Ifa xl. 31. If a branch grafted into a stock never grows, it is a plain evidence of its not having knit with the ftock.

But some may perhaps say, " If all true Christians be growing ones. what shall be said of thefe, who instead of growing, are going back?" I answer. Fiift, Tiere is a great difference between the Christiąn's growing simply, and his growing at all times. All true Christians do grow, but I do not say, they grow at all times. A tree that has life and nourishment, grows to its perfeétion, yet it is not always growing; it grows not in the winter. Christians also have their winters, wher:. in the influences of grace, necelsary for growth, are ceased, Cant. v. 2. I feep. It is by fait), the believer derives gracious influence from Jesus Christ; likeas each lamp in the candlestick, received oil from the bowl, by the pipe going betwixt thern, Zech. iv. 2. Now, if that pipe be stopt, if the saints faith ly dormant and unađive; then all the rest of the graces will become din, and seem ready to be extinguished. In consequence, whereof, depraved nature will gather strength, and become active. What then will become of the soul? Why there is still one sure ground of hope. The faint's faith is not as the hypocrite's, like a pipe laid short of the fountain, whereby there can be "no conveyance: it still remains a bond of union betwixt Christ and the foùl; and therefore, because Christ lives, the believer shall live also, Johu xiv. 19. The Lord Jesus puts in his hand by the hole of the door, and clears the means of conveyance: and then influences for growth low, and the believer's graces look freth and green again, Hof xiv.7.


[ocr errors]

They that dwell under his shadow shall return: they shall revive

as the corn, and grow as the vine.". In the worst of times, the faints have a principl of growth in them, : John iii..9. His feed ree maineih in him. And therefore after decays they revive again: namely when the winter is over, and the Sun of righteoufefs returns to them with his warm influences. Mud thrown into a pool may ly there at éase ; but if it be cast into a fountain, the fpring will at length work it out, and run clear as formerly. Secondly, Christians may miftake their growth, and that two ways. (1:) By judging of their cafe according to their present feeling. They observe themselves, and cannot perceive themselves to be growing: but there is no reason thence to conclude they are not growing, Mark iv, 27. “ The feed ► fprings and grows up, he knoweth not how.” Should one fix his eye.ever so ftedfastly, on the fun running his race, or on a growing tree; he would not perceive the fun moving, or the tree growing: but, if he compare the tree as it now is, with what it was some years ago; and conlider the place in the heavens, where the fun was in the morning; he will certainly perceive the tree has grown, and the sun has moved. In like manner may the Christian know, whether he be in a growing or declining state, by comparing his present with his former condition, (2.) Christians inay miftake their case, by meafur. ing their growth by the advances of the top only, not of the root. Though a man bę not growing taller, he may be growing stronger. If a tree be taking with the ground, fixing itself in the earth, and spreading out its roots; it is certainly growing, although it be nothing taller than formerly. So, albeit a Christian may want the sweet confolation and Aalhes of affection, which sometimes he has had ; yet if he be growing in humility, self-denial, and sense of needy depend. ence on Jesus Christ, he is a growing Christian, Hof. xiv. 5. “ I will “ be as the dew unto Ifrael, he mall cast forth his roots 'as Lebanon.'

Queft. “But do hypocrites grow at all? And if so, how shall we

distinguish betwixt their growth, and true Christian growth?” Anf. To the first part of the question, hypocrites do grow The turès have their growth, as well as the wheat: and the feed that fell among thorns did spring up, Luke viii

. 7. only it did bring no fruit to perfection, ver. 14 Yea, a true Christian may have a false growth. James and John seemed to grow in the grace of holy zeal, when their fpirits grew so hot in the cause of Christ, that they would have fired whole villages, for not receiving their Lord and Master, Luke ix. 54: “ They laid, " Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down fron heaven, “ to consume them, even as Elias did?". But it was indeed no such thing; and therefore he turned and rebuked them, ver. 55. " and " said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." To the second part of the question, it is answered, that there is a peculiar beauty in true Christian growth, distinguishing it from all falfe growth: it is univerfal, regular, proportionable. It is a “ growing up to him in all things, which is the head,” Eph. iv. 15. The growing Christian grows proportionably, in all the parts of the new nian. | Under the kindly influences of “the Sun of righteousness, believers

“ grow up as calves in the stall, Mal. iv. 2. Ye would think it a monftruous growth, in these creatures, if ye saw their heads grow, and not their bodies, or if ye faw one leg grow, and another not: if all the parts do not grow proportionably. Ay, but such is the growth of many, in religion. They grow like rickety children, who have a big head, but a slender body: they get more knowledge into their heads, but no more holinefs into their hearts and lives : They grow very hot outwardly, but very cold inwardly; like men in a fit of the ague. They are more taken up about the externals of religion, than formerly ; yet as great strangers to the power of godliness as ever. If a garden is watered with the hand, fome of the plants will readily get much fome little, and sone no water at all ; and therefore some wither, while ochers are coming forward: but after a fhower from the clouds, all com forward together. In like manner all the graces of the Spirit grow proportionably, by the special influences of divine grace. The branches ingrafted in Chrift, growing aright, do grow in all the feveral ways of growth at once. They grow inward, growing into Chrift, (Eph. iv. 15.} uniting more closely with him; and cleaving more firmly to him, as the head of influences, which is the fpring of all other true Christian-growth. They grow outward, in good works in their life and conversation. They not only, with Naphtali, give goodly words; but like Jofoph, they are fruitful boughs. They grow upward in heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the world; for their conversation is in heuven Philip. iii 20. And finally, they grow downward in humility and self. lothing. The branches of the largest growth in Christ, are in their own eyes, less than the least of all paints, Eph. iii. 8 The chief of finners, i Tim i 15. More brutis than any man, Prov. xxx, 2. They see, they can do nothing, no not so much as to think any thing, as of themselves, 2 Cor iii 5. that they deserve nothing, being not worthy of the least of all the “ mercies shewed unto them," Gen. xxxii. 10. and that they are nothing, 2 Cor. sii: 2

A Sixth benefit is Fruitfulness. The branch ingrafted into Christ,is not barren, but brings forth fruit, John xv. 5. * He that abideth “ in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” For chat very end are fouls married to Chriit, that they inay bring forth * fruit untu God,” Rom. vii 4. They may be branches in Chrilt, by profeffion, but not by real implantation, that are barren branches. Whosoever are united to Chrift, bring forth the fruits of go pela obedience and true holiness. Faith is always followed with good works, The believer is not only come out of the grave of his natural state ; bue he has put off his grave clothes, nainely, reigning lusts. " in the * which he walked fometime,” like a ghost: being dead while he "lived in them, Col iii 7,8. For Chriit has said of hiig as of Lazarus, “ Loose hirn, and let him go." And now that he has put on Chrift;

he personates hin (fo to speak) as a beggar, in borrowed robes, represents a king on the stage, walking as he also walkeď” Now “ the fruit of the Spirit in him is in all goodness.” Eph v 9 The fruits of holiness will be found in the hearts, lips, and lives of those who are united to Chrut. The hidden man of the heart, is not only a temple built for God, and consecrated to him; but used and employed for him ; where love, fear, trust, and all the other parts of unseen religion are exercised. Phil iği 3 “ For we are of the circumcision, s which worship God in the Spirit” The heart is no more the devil's common, where thoughts go free; for there even vain thoughts are hated, Psal cxix 123 But it is God's inclosure, hedged about as a garden from him, Cant. iv 16 It is true, there are weeds of corruption there, because the ground is not yet perfectly, healed: but the man, in the day of his new creation, is set to dress it, and keep it. A live-coal' from the altar has touched his lips, and they are purified, Pfal. xv 1, 2, 3

" Lord, who thall abide in thy tabernacle? Who " thall dwell in thy holy hill? fie that speaketh the truth in his heart. “ He that backbiteth not with his tongue nor taketh up a reproach “ against his neighbour ” There may be indeed a smooth tongue where there is a false heart.' The voice may bę Jacob's, while the hands are Efuu's. But, “ If any man among you seem to be religious, “ and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's

religion is vain," James i. 26. The power of godliness will rule over the tongue, though a world of iniquity. If one be a Galilean, his speech will bewray him, he'll not speak the language of Ashdod, but the language of Canaan. He will neither be dumb in religion ; nor will his tonglie walk at random, seeing to the double guard nature hath given the tongue, grace hath added a third : The fruits of holiness will be found in his outward conversation, for he hath clean hands, as well as a pure heart, Pfal. xxiv. 4. He is a godiy man, and religionsly discharges the duties of the first table of the law : he is a righteous nian, and honestly performs the duties of the second table. In his conversation he is a good Christian, and a good neighbour too. He carries it towards God, as if men's eves were upon him; and towards men, as believing God's eye to be upon him. These things which God hath joined, in his law, he dare not, in his practice, put afunder.

Thus the branches of Christ are full of good fruits. And those fruits are a cluster, of vital a&tions, whereof Jelus Christ is the principle and end: the principle: for he lives in them, and the life they si live, is by the faith of the Son of God," Gal. i. 20. The end, for they live to hin, and to them to live is Chrift, Phillip i.-21. The duties of religion are in the world, like fatherless children, in rags : fome will not take thoni in, because they never loved them nor their Father:-(ome take them in, because i hey may be serviceable to them: but the saints take them in for their Father's lake; that is, fór Christ's sake; and they are lovely in their eyes, because they are like him, O! whence is the new life of the saints ! surely it cruld never lave been hammered out of the natural powers of their fouls, by the united force of all created power. in eternal barrenness should their womb bjave been thut up;, but that being married co Christ they “ bring forth fruie unto God.'Rom. vii. 4.

If you aik me, How your 09:rishment, growth and fruitful fs nay be forwarded? I offer these few advice's. (1.) Make sure work, as to your knitting with the stock, by faith unfeigned; and beware of, hypocrify: a branch that is not found at the heart, will certainly wither. The crees of the Lord's planting are treis of righteousness, lla. Ixi. 3. So when others fade, they bring forth fruit. Hypocrisy is a direale in the vitals of religion, which will consume all at length, It is a leak in the thip, that will certainly sink it. Sincerity of grace will make it lafling, be it never fo weak: as the smallest twig, that is found at the heart, will draw nourishment from the stock, and grow, while the greatest bough that is rotten, can never recover, because it receives no nourishment. (2) Labour to be stedfast in the truths and way of God. An unfettled and wavering judgment is a great enemy to Chriftid growth and fruitfulness, as the Apof, tle reaches, Eph. iv. 14, 15.

66 That we henceforth be no more “ children, tofled to and fro, and carried about with every wind “ of doctrine. But speaking the truth'in love, may grow up unta " him in all things, which is the head, even Chrilt." A rolling Atone gathers no fog, and a wavering judgment makes a fruitless life. Though a tree be never so found, yet how can it grow, or be fruitful if ye be still removing it out of one foil into another? (3.) Endeavour to cut off the fuckers, as gardeners do that their trees may chrive. These are unmortified lults. There!ore 16 mor“ tify your members that are upon the earth,” Col. iii. 5. When the lfraelites got meat to their lufts, they got leanness to their souls., She that has many hungry children about her hand, and must be fill putting into their mouths, will have much ado to get a bio put into her own. They must refuse the craving of inordinate affections, who would have their souls to prosper. Lastly, Improve, for these ends, the ordinances of God. The courts of our God are the place, where the trees of righteousness flourish, Psalm xcii. 13. The waters of the sanctuary are the means appointed of God, to cause his people grow as willows by the water courses. Therefore drink in with " delire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby, i Per. ii. 2. Come to these wells of salvation; not to look at them only, but to draw water.out of them. The facrament of the Lord's topper is in a special manner appointed for thele enuis. It is not only a folemn pupliek profrffion, and a seal of our union and communion with Chrift; but it is a means of most intimate communion with him; and strengthens our union with him, our faith, love, repentance, and other graces, 1 Cor. x 26. " The

cup of blessing which we blefs, is ir not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the Co

is com

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »