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SKETCHES OF ORIGINAL SERMONS
BY THE REV. ROBERT HALL.
For the Christian Observer. Christ. They inculcate an internal
renovation of the heart, of a spiritual nature and character, as well as a
state of pardon and acceptance before (Continued from p. 262.)
God. They teach, not only that men
must be interested in the merits of SERMON v.*
Christ, but also that“ if any man be 2 Peter üi. 18: But grow in grace, thus in Christ he is a new creature ;
and in the knowledge of our Lord old things having passed away, and and Saviour Jesus Christ.
all things having become new. These words are recommended to It is hardly necessary for me to our regard by the solemn circum- recall to your recollection, that our stances under which they were re
Lord represents the growth of grace corded. They were written by the in the human heart by the blade, the Apostle Peter when he was about to ear, and the full corn in the ear ; and put off the tabernacle of the body. by the grain of mustard-seed, which, They were written by him when he when it is sown, is the least of all was desirous that after his decease seeds, but which becomes, by a prohis converts should have his doctrine gressive growth, the greatest of herbs : always in remembrance. They were
which comparison, indeed, may be the Apostle's dying testimony; and interpreted of the manner in which he thought there was nothing with the Gospel was first propagated in which he could better close his mi- the world, but ought not to exclude nistry, so far as his inspired writings religion as an internal principle in formed a part of it, than by this in- every heart. T blessed Redeemer junction.
compares the kingdom of heaven But some persons venture to say,
to “ leaven, which a woman took and grace is impossible ;
hid in three measures of meal, till that there is no such thing; that all the whole was leavened ;”—a repretrue holiness is in Christ, and is made sentation which implies progression, ours by imputation ; and that, as this successive improvement, and advances grace is equal in all, we cannot grow in inward piety. Tlie Apostles likein it. But the Scriptures speak a wise use the same language. St. Paul very different language. They speak says to the Thessalonians, after comof an internal holiness communicated mending their love, in order to exhort to the soul, as well as of a righteous- them to go forward in it still more, ness imputed for justification; of the and cultivate a higher degree of the necessity of a new birth, as well same principle, As touching broas of justification by the merits of therly love, brethren, ye have no need
that I write unto you ; for ye yourDelivered Feb. 18, 1827, selves are taught of God to love one Christ. OBSERV. No. 354.
and are tof
that growth in
another: and indeed ye do it toward the image of Christ, and the culti-
of the more." And again, he prays, “ And Spirit. The child in health expethe Lord make you to increase and riences an expansion of all the parts abound in love one towards another of the body, till it arrive at the fuland towards all men." And in the ness of the stature of mature age. Second Epistle he thanks God always One part is not invigorated whilst for them, because their “ faith grew others decay. The arm, for example, exceedingly, and the charity of every does not grow whilst the rest of the one of them all toward each other body remains stationary. As every abounded.”
part of a healthy tree fourishes and The same Apostle proposes himself grows alike, partaking equally of the as an example of the progress which life which is in the root, so does the Christians ought to make in grace : Christian. Where there is real growth “ Brethren, I count not myself to in grace, no duty is neglected, no have apprehended; but this one thing virtue is cultivated to such an extent I do ; forgetting the things which are as to overshadow other virtues; there behind, and reaching forth unto those is no systematic disregard of any things which are before, I press single part of the Divine will : “ he toward the mark.” These and other has respect to all God's commandpassages intimate the progression of ments, and all false ways he utterly religion in the heart, the necessity abhors." of growth in grace.
Let us now give some indications If there be no growth in grace, it of what growth in grace is. is difficult to conceive in what prac I. We may judge of it by the tical religion consists. For what increased disinterestedness of our room can there be for watchfulness, religious emotions. Whether we can effort, prayer, humiliation, if there
ever be completely disinterested in be no danger? and what danger can religion, is a matter of doubt. Perthere be, if grace can neither be im- haps we can never be quite free from poverished nor increased ? What
a regard to our own interests : but reason can there be, in such a case, there may be an approach to this for guarding against evil or aspiring disinterestedness. after good ? Nay, how can either When the mind of man is first of these be possible? A state fixed illuminated to see the danger arising and stationary cannot be the object from sin and apostasy from God, his of lively anxiety and care.
religion turns almost entirely on his But the Apostle teaches us a very personal fears and hopes. Repentdifferent doctrine in the passage ance is the religion of fear : faith the before us. Let us, then, point out religion of hope. These are persome indications of the growth in sonal : these confine and absorb his grace which he recommends.
attention. He is conscious of nothing But let me premise a remark. but a desire to escape the wrath to Growth in grace is what I may call come ; deepened by a conviction that proportionate. It is a growth in he merits that wrath, together with every part of religion in its due place some hope that he may escape, through and proportion. It is not growth in the redemption and grace of the knowledge, without practical piety. Lord Jesus. Speculative knowledge, however it But as he advances in his relimay advance, is not growth in grace: gious course his fears subside. His it makes men contentious, high- own interests have been provided minded, and less edifying to others. for: he can look more abroad, and Growth in knowledge, if it be with he can see things of a spiritual naout a proportionate conformity to ture as they are. He now begins
to discover the excellency of the in this world be wholly disinterested, moral character of God. He sees so, on the other, there is no degree the excellency of the Saviour, and of grace, probably, which has not discovers the peculiar glory and something of this disinterested spirit. beauty of his character : he sees The Holy Ghost, in the first prinwhat draws his affections, and fixes ciples of the new nature, gives some his admiration on the Redeemer, perceptions of the excellency of the apart from the sense of safety. He Divine character. “God, who comhas a delectation, a pleasure, in the manded the light,” says the Apostle, contemplation of Christ, distinct describing the conversion of the from the first emotions of joy at de- Corinthians, “ to shine out of darkliverance. The character of the ness, hath shined into our hearts, to great Redeemer rises upon him in give the light of the knowledge of its loveliness, as well as absorbs his the glory of God in the face of faith from the necessity of his inter- Jesus Christ.” position. He says, with the spouse,
II. Growth in grace will be in. "His name is as ointment poured forth. dicated by a greater predominance This is my beloved, and this is my of spirituality, and a greater sepafriend. Thou art fairer than ten ration from the pollutions of this thousand, and altogether lovely."
“ To be spiritually He sees also the true character of minded is life and peace." If ye live God, beholding as in a glass his after the flesh, ye shall die ; but if glory. His religion is not only the ye through the Spirit do mortify the elevated raptures of adoration, but deeds of the body, ye shall live.” “ To is accompanied with complacency, be carnally-minded is death :” it is with rest in God, as satisfying all the distinguishing mark of the unrethe desires of the soul. This more generate. A progress, therefore, in approaches the temper of heaven; spirituality, is a mark of growth in this is religion of a higher character; grace. Every advance in real relithis resembles more the adoration, gion must imply a proportionate dethe employment, the delight in obe- gree of spirituality. The Christian's dience for its own sake, which cha- sinful adhesions hang less closely racterize the heavenly inhabitants. about him. He lays aside more the Then he has a clearer discernment old man, and puts on more the new; of the beauty of holiness; and in he becomes more disengaged from proportion to this, as well as in the the passions and affections which preceding particulars, is his growth distinguish worldly men. in grace. At his first conversion he not, indeed, be indifferent altogether broke off his sins from fear of eter. to outward things : he is in a cornal death ; but now he hates them poreal form ; he partakes of the joys as much as he did then, and even and sorrows of humanity ; he feels more, from views of the defur- pain and grief, and experiences loss mity of sin in itself, its opposition and disappointment, if not so acutely, to the Divine nature, its resistance yetas really, as others. But as he grows to the infinite authority of God. This in grace he is more moderate and temsets his whole soul against it. He perate as to earthly things. He uses now delights in the path of holiness the world as not abusing it; he has for its own sake. He sees a charm, a superiority over it as his portion ; a beauty, in conformity to the will the losses connected with it affect
His motives to obedience him with less agony; he rejoices are higher and purer; they are con
and he sorrows more in the temper nected more with gratitude for past of a pilgrim and stranger. There is mercies and delight in present duty. a greater ascendancy of spiritual He takes God as his heritage for things in his heart; they occupy ever. He says, “ Oh how I love thy more of the sphere of his attention, law! it is
my meditation all the day,” and dictate more the resolutions of As, on the one hand, man cannot his mind. He is better prepared
for heaven ; for passing from an lapses into sin are more rare. Using earthly to a heavenly state ; for the his weapons, he acquires the art of enjoyment and pursuit of things employing them better, and with spiritual, permanent, holy, eternal. more success; he learns to stand in
In these indications of growth in the evil day, and, having done all, to grace it is necessary just to observe, stand. It would be strange if one that we are not to expect to discover who was only putting on his armour them in the very act, and at the very could understand the use of his weatime of growing The vegetable pons, and stand against his enemies, creation cannot be traced in the mo and detect the wiles of an artful foe ment itself of growth, as it actually as an experienced veteran. We canis taking place : but if we look at it not expect from a new convert that at different periods, and those not steadiness, that consistency, that revery remote from each other, we sistance of temptation, which mark see that the growth has taken place; the mature Christian. Those who we see the different space which the are advanced in grace inspire a just tree occupies, and the expansion of confidence in the minds of others, all the parts. Thus Christians at the which cannot be the case as to new time cannot perceive the advance converts, however high their zeal of grace in their characters. But let
or promising their character. We them look back upon different points ought not to commit young converts of their past progress, and they will to the assay of great temptations : discover a visible improvement: they their graces are tender, their habits will see that their graces have now are fresh, the combat between the greater force, that their knowledge two principles of grace and nature and love and spirituality are more ele- has but just commenced : they are vated, more pure, more heavenly, more not confirmed. By the very law of humble. I appeal to all the Chris- habits they are in greater danger tians before me, whether they do than the advanced and establishnot find, as they go on, that spiri- ed Christian : every achievement tual things have a greater ascendancy strengthens his resolution, and inover their hearts; and whether they vigorates his hopes, and diminishes cannot discern this growth, when the relative power of temptation, looking back on themselves and The joy of the Lord is his strength. their past history.
The more we yield, the weaker we III. Growth in grace is indicated become : our power of resistance by a more steady and successful re is lost. And, on the other hand, sistance to temptation. There is the longer the Christian walks in often a higher impulse of passion the paths of holiness, the more he in the young than in the expe- is capable of doing, and the faster rienced Christian. There is a no he makes his way towards perfecvelty in the great discoveries of tion. religion, when they first break upon And here we may easily try ourthe conscience of the unconverted : selves as to the question of our this the habit of contemplating them growth in grace. Ask yourselves necessarily diminishes and impairs. only, how do you conduct yourselves There is a fervour of love and affec- under temptation ; how do you
meet tion, which is rarely carried into the provocations to malevolence, impumore mature exercises of after-life.rity, pride, arrogance, covetousness, But the Christian, as he grows in anger, wrath, selfishness ? Do you grace, resists temptation with far keep your guard when in slippery more steadiness and success than paths ? When you look back, as to the young convert. His conduct is your conduct in critical situations, more equal, his character more con can you rejoice in the testimony of sistent; there is more of peace and your conscience, that in simplicity repose in it; the heart is more go- and godly sincerity, not with fleshly verned by the Spirit of God ; rc wisdom, but by the grace of God,
you have had your conversation in pectation. He is in a strait betwixt the world ? If obedience is more two; having a desire to depart, and entire; if the flaws and imperfec- be with Christ; and yet he is willing tions are fewer; if you keep your- to continue and abide in the flesh, selves from your iniquity; if tempta- for the purposes of usefulness to the tion loses its power; if you can say church, if it be God's will. If there with Nehemiah, “This did not 1, be- be any principles which connect the cause of the fear of God;"—if this is Christian with another world ; if there your case, you have a proof that you be any attraction from that upper grow in grace.
state; the nearer we approach that IV. The Christian may further state, the more powerfully will it judge of his growth in grace, by the draw us. The nearer we approach degree of complacency with which he to heaven, the more influential will contemplates the prospect of death be its attractive virtue : the nearer and eternity.--Religion, the religion our journey is to its close, the more of Christ, will never permit us to shall we feel a contempt for all think little of our last hour. That earthly things, and a superiority over religion is not the religion of the death. Heaven increases upon conBible which is not habitually go- templation : the more we mediverned by the consideration of death. tate upon it, the more we feel the We must soon appear before God. poverty and nothingness of all in This contemplation is never long comparison with it. absent from the mind of a Christian. Let me now, in application, exhort When we, then, can contemplate you to comply with the exhortation death with complacency, and desire of the Apostle, which we have thus to depart and be with Christ, which explained. is far better; when we rise to the 1. Grow in grace; because this full assurance of hope, in conse is the only way to be certain that quence of the diligence given in you have any grace at all. If we making our calling and election sure; aim not at growth in grace, we have when we can discern that our names never been converts to goodness. He are written in the book of heaven; that is satisfied with his attainments, when we behold the fulness of grace has attained nothing. He that sees and truth of that Saviour to whom so little of the promises of the inward, we have entrusted our eternal inte- transforming, elevating influences of rests; when, by conversing with the grace, as to think that he has atobjects of faith, we can appreciate tained all he can desire, has never them aright, so
that they over understood the first elements of the balance in our practical judgment Christian life. No: we are begotten the impression of sensible objects; to a life which aspires after perfecwe then
grow in grace: these are in- tion; we have desires awakened dications of an advance in religion. which nothing but complete holiThe more the Christian feels the ness will satisfy. He who says he emptiness of the world, its unsatis- is content with his present progress, factory nature, its falsehood, its de- has never set out to heaven. ception of all his hopes; the more 2. Grow in grace; because, he is weary of it, not from misan- though Christians in fact attain at thropy, but from those principles last to very different degrees of perwhich connect him with a better fection, yet it does not follow that world; the more he may conclude any will be saved, if they dare to set n in grace.
limits to their obedience; if they perTo live, is, with the matured severe to aim at a lower mark than Christian, matter of resignation ; to that of perfection ; if they venture to die, matter of choice. Death, in- set before themselves any less standstead of being the king of terrors, is ard than the whole will of God. It viewed with calm and joyful ex- is a proof of hypocrisy, of insincerity
that he has grown