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which is never wanting to those, who SERM. alk it with Faith, and employ it with II. Diligence. And now it only remains,
IV. and Lastly, THAT I consider, by what Means, by what Signs and Marks, we may best discover the Condition of our own Souls, and know assuredly whether we grow in Grace, or not,
Now those, who have treated on this Subject, have set down many Rules to direct us how to discover our Growth and Proficiency in Grace ; such as these, to examine whether our Hatred against Sin is increased? Whether we are more zealous and affectionate in our Devotions? Whether our Passions are reduced into better Order ? If we can suffer the Word of Reproof more contentedly? Whether our Love to Religion increaseth daily ? Whether we can bear Afflictions more patiently ? And, grapple with Temptations more courageously? And many more such like; but all these I shall pass by, as being attended with very great Uncertainty, and apt to raise many Doubts in the Minds of well meaning and sincere, though weak Christians; and I shall pitch upon one Mark, by which (if we will but be faithful to ourselves) we may certainly come to the Knowledge of our Proficiency in Grace,
SERM. and whether we go forward or backII. ward in the Paths of Virtue and Holi
nefs : To know this, let us but satisfy ourselves whether we yield a more ready, fincere, and universal Obedience to the Laws of God? Whether we perform our Duty with more Pleasure and Delight than formerly we have done ? Whether we bear a greater Respect to all God's Commands ? And, if so, then we may conclude for a Certainty, that we grow in Grace, and that our Souls are in a very safe and flourishing Condition.
This is the Rule which our Saviour Christ laid down, to try our Love to God by, If ye love me, says he, keep my Commandments. If we try our Love to God, or our Growth in Grace by other Marks, we may easily be mistaken; we may take the Form for the Power of Godliness, we may be very zealous in the devotional Parts of our Religion, and very remiss in the Practical ; and therefore, the best Way to make our Judgment of our Growth in Grace, and that which is most plain and visible, is, by considering, whether our virtuous Habits grow stronger, whether our Sobriety, Justice, and Charity are more and more evident to ourselves and others; if we are more desirous to
do all the Good we can ; more ready to SERM. forgive Injuries ; more inclined to love II. our Enemies ; more exact and punctual in our Dealings ; more conscientious in the Discharge of the Duties of our several Callings; more exactly sober and temperate in the Government of ourselves ? These are sure and certain Signs by which we may satisfy ourselves that we grow in Grace, and that we are acted by the Principles of a lively and vital Religion ; be that doth Righteousness is righteous, faith St. 1 Joh. iii. John; but this must be understood of do- 7. ing Righteousness habitually, not of any one Act of Righteousness; for a wicked Man may do some brave and heroic Acts, which may proceed from a Principle of Generosity; and yet neither Religion, nor Grace, may have the ruling and commanding Power in his Soul.
Nor must we expect, that, even in good Men, every religious Act should exceed those they performed formerly; or, that our Proficiency in Grace should be so speedy, that it may be discerned in every Act, and measured by the single
Instances of our Duty; no, our Improvement in Goodness proceeds, by flow Steps and insensible Degrees; like the Shade upon a Dial, it is always in Motion, but its Motion is not presently visible to the
SERM. Sense; nay, sometimes seems to go backII. ward ; a good Man has not, at all Times,
the same Disposition of Mind, nor Temper of Body, nor can he be always equally intent upon the Performance of his Duty ; and, therefore, the general Course and Tenor of a Man's Life is to be considered, and we must take a more particular Account of our Improvement in those Graces which we have had Occasion to exercise and, if we do this carefully, and are but faithful to ourselves in the Enquiry, this will plainly discover to us the Condition of our own Souls; and we shall evidently perceive whether we grow in Grace, or not.
To conclude then, let us go on from one Degree of Grace to another : Let us improve in all Manner of Christian Virtues and Habits, and demonstrate, to ourfelves and others, the Reality of our Grace by the Growth of it; as the Fruitfulness of a Tree appears by sending forth more strong Boughs, and bringing forth more more fair and greater Plenty of good Fruit. Let us not, therefore, with the Fig-tree, in the Gospel, fatisfy ourselves with producing Leaves, and making a bare Profession of Religion, but let us proceed to abound in every good Work, yea, more and more 47 to abound; growing every Day more piousSerm. towards God, more careful in the Govern- II. ment of ourselves, and more charitable towards our Neighbour ; considering that he that doth not love his Neighbour, whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen ; nor will he grow in Grace, and in the practical Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be Glory, both now and for ever. Amen.