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lest, being led away with the error of the ' wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness ! ' But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our lord and saviour, Jesus Christ!
Growth in grace, my brethren, is a very important feature in the christian life. The body never ceases to grow, till it has arrived at perfect maturity.
Plants and trees grow without intermission, till they have reached their proper height and breadth. The growth of a christian in faith and holiness is equally necessary: and it is analogous to these. What is it, that characterizes the growth of animals and of plants i That growth may be very small. It may be slow. It may be scarcely perceptible. But, whatever it be, if it be a healthy growth, it extends to every part of the plant, or animal. Every limb, every leaf, every fibre, receives its proportionate increase, and partakes in its proper measure of the general enlargement. So also, as the christian advances in the divine life, the understanding, the affections, the
practical habits, the disposition to self-inspection, watchfulness, and prayer, and whatsoever else is conducive to genuine godliness, all improve together; and, if any one of these be cultivated at the expence of the others, it is an unhealthy increase, and cannot properly be denominated growth in grace. This comparison is not fanciful. It is warranted by the authority of scripture. Thus, with regard to our allusion to the body, saint Paul represents it, as the design of Christ, that we may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together, and compacted by that, which every joint supplieth according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body. The apostle is there speaking indeed of the growth of the church by the advancement of its several members in faith and charity. But his words apply as well to the growth of individuals in different graces as to the improvement of the church by the growth of its individual members. And again in reference to the analogy of a tree or a plant, our saviour himself declares, speaking of individual disciples— I am the true vine; and father is 'the husbandman. Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every
branch, that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that ' it may bring forth more fruit.'
The work of sanctification then, my christian friends, is one, that should be always advancing. There should be a progress in all, who are christians, in every part of the christian character; and this progress should go on to the very end, even till perfect maturity is attained, and the same mind is in us in all respects, which was also in Christ Jesus. For This we desire,'—says an apostle-'even your perfection'-; and again- Leaving the principles of the gospel of Christ, let us go on unto perfection !'~: and again of himself he says— This one thing I do. Forgetting those
things, which are behind, and reaching forth • unto those things, which are before, I press - toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'
Lastly then, for the purpose of carrying forward this work of sanctification a faithful christian will always be referring his conduct and principles to the true standard. He will look to the law and to the testimony. A short summary of that divine law was appealed to
formerly ; and it was found, that even that short summary, comprehending the whole law in two commandments, injoining love to God, and to our neighbour, was abundantly sufficient to convince us of sin. It was at that time quite unnecessary to pursue the investigation further, because, being convinced of the law, as transgressors, we could have no further interest in enactments, by which we stood condemned. But now, being reconciled to God by the death of his son, being justified by faith, and having received of God the hope of complete sanctification through the spirit, the christian looks to the law of God for guidance in all the departments of duty. He now takes pleasure in it, and says_Lord, what love have I unto • thy law! All the day long is my study in it.' He does not look to it for justification. That, in the case of a true and faithful christian, has been already attained, and needs not to be again renewed. But he requires it for guidance from day to day: and the more he studies it, the greater depths he finds to explore, that so he may eventually and experimentally prove, what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Hence the apostles, though they are contented with one sentence of the law, as
- Cursed is every one, that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book
of the law, to do them'-, when their object is to shew, that all mankind are condemned by.it, yet, when they address themselves to renewed and justified christians, enter into further particulars, and teach us the duties of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of masters and servants, of pastors and people, of young and old, of rich and poor, thus holding forth the word of life, as a torch or lighthouse, amidst the storms and darkness of the world, and teaching us, how to pursue the straight course and difficult channel of sanctification.
And now, brethren, having said something to you of the necessity and nature of that sanctification, which is inculcated in the sacred volume, it remains, that I address a few words to you on the great agent, by whom it is carried on.
• Know ye not,' (says saint Paul in the text,) 'that ye are the temple of God, • and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you ?