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1. They must exercise grace more constantly. It is generally and justly supposed, that the best of christians in their present state of imperfection, are not always in the actual exercise of grace. Whether there can be any such thing as grace, without exercise, I shall not stand to consider; but supposing the common opinion to be true, that christians are not always in the exercise of grace, it must be allowed, that they ought to exercise grace more constantly, which is actually growing in grace. For the more constantly and uninterruptedly they exercise purely holy affections, the more they conform to the divine will, and do really advance in the divine life. They follow the example of the apostle Paul, while growing in grace and pressing forward towards the mark of sinless perfection. So far as they fail in the constancy of their gracious exercises; just so far they fall short of that moral perfection, which is their indispensable duty. If they let their thoughts wander with the fool's eyes to the ends of the earth, their gracious affections will certainly be interrupted, and vain thoughts and evil affections will creep into their hearts. Some christians, who are circumspect and watchful, and keep their hearts with diligence, have many more right affections than others, who are in a low and declining state of religion. They carry about with them the spirit of the gospel, and pursue their secular concerns, as well as perform their religious duties, with gracious sincerity. Whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, they mean to do all to the glory of God. They live as seeing Him who is invisible, and endeavour to keep themselves in the fear of the Lord all the day long. This is what all christians ought to do, to grow in grace, and make progress in a holy and devout life,

pertinent and important inquiry, why knowledge is necessary to the spiritual edification of christians. Here it may be observed,

1. That knowledge tends to increase their obligations to grow in grace. The knowledge of duty always increases an obligation to do it. Christ said to those who heard his instructions, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.” The apostle asserts, that “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." The truth of these declarations is founded upon the tendency of knowledge, to oblige every person to act as well as he knows. The more christians know of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the greater is their obligation to be conformed to his character and will. And could they have a clear, connected, and comprehensive view of all that he has done, and will do, for the glory of God, the salvation of sinners, and the good of the universe, their obligations to grow in grace would be in exact proportion to their extensive knowledge. All christians know by their own experience, the tendency of knowledge to increase their moral obligation to duty. The more knowledge they receive from the word or the providence of God, the more they feel morally bound to live in the constant exercise of grace. Peter, Paul, and the other aposties were under higher obligations to grow in grace, than common christians, because they had higher degrees of knowledge. All the inhabitants of heaven are under higher obligations to make continual advances in holiness, than any of the saints here on earth, because they dwell in superior light. As knowledge, therefore, has a direct tendency to increase the obligations of christians to perfect holiness in the fear of God, so it is necessary that they should grow in knowledge in order to


grace. 2. Divine knowledge not only increases the obligations of christians to grow in grace, but actually increases the holiness of all their holy affections. One exercise of love to God may be more holy than another. The degree of holiness in every exercise of love to God, is always in proportion to the light or knowledge, which the person has, at the time of exercising that particular grace. A christian has a much clearer and more extensive view of God, at one time, than at another, and his love is always virtuous in exact proportion to the degrees of his present knowledge. One exereise of faith is more virtuous than another, because the believer may have much greater knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, at one time, than he has at another. The same holds true of submission, joy, gratitude, and every other christian grace. The virtue of every holy affection bears a due proportion to the magnitude of the object towards which it is exercised. It is more virtuous to love Christ, than to love a friend of Christ, because he is a far greater and nobler object, than any individual christian. It is more virtuous to love God, than to love any created being, because he is a far greater and nobler object, than any created intelligence. The celebrated HOWARD, who spent his property and his life, in relieving the objects of charity in Britain and in various other parts of Europe, was a man of benev. olence, and his benevolence was in proportion to his knowledge. As he had a far more extensive view of the miseries of mankind, than christians in general, so his exercises of kindness and compassion were much more virtuous, than theirs towards similar objects. God is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; and of consequence, there is more virtue in one


exercise of his benevolence towards mankind, than in all the benevolent exercises of all his benevolent creatures. They never have had, and never will have, such a full and perfect view of the whole creation, as he has every moment; and their virtue can never exceed their knowledge, but only increase as that increases. Suppose an American prisoner should be converted in Algiers, and have no opportunity to read the Bible, to hear a sermon, or to converse with a single christian, after his conversion; he might, by meditation and prayer, grow in grace all his days till he died: but he could not grow in.grace so fast, as if he enjoyed all the means of light and instruction, which he once enjoyed in his native land. He might, indeed, have as many holy exercises, as if he had been planted in the house of the Lord, and lived in the circle of the most lively christians; but his holy exercises would terminate upon fewer and less important objects, than theirs, and consequently be much less virtuous. The more real christians become acquainted with their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the better they understand the great and essential truths of the gospel, and the more they attend to the great things, which God has done, is doing, and has promised to do, to accomplish the glorious design of redeeming love, the more gracious exercises they will probably have, and it is certain, that the virtue of all their gracious exercises will increase, as their knowledge increases. The virtue of their desires to promote the glory of God, will be in proportion to their knowledge of God. The virtue of their desires for the spread of the Gospel, will be in proportion to their knowledge of the truths and importance of the gospel. The virtue of their desires for the enlargement of the Redeemer's kingdom, will be in proportion to their knowledge of the present and promised extent of his kingdom, and all the good contained in it. In a word, the increase of knowledge will tend to increase both the number and the virtue of all their holy affections; and for this reason, it is necessary, that they should grow in knowledge, in order to grow in grace.

III. It now remains to show the importance of their growing in both these respects. Christians do not generally realize the importance of growing in grace and making continual advances in holiness. Many imagine, that they may safely rest satisfied with the lowest degree of grace, because this will certainly secure their final salvation. But though the weakest christians shall eventually obtain eternal lite; yet it is of very great importance, that true believers should become strong in faith and every other christian grace, by using the proper means to obtain this desirable end. Here, then, I would observe,

1. That the honour of religion requires christians to grow in knowledge and grace. Though the men of the world are disposed to hate and despise religion, yet they are constrained to respect it in those professors, who

appear to be both knowing and growing christians. When they find professors, who are deficient in knowledge, they ascribe all their apparent sanctity to ignorance, superstition, or enthusiasm. Or when they find professors, whose knowledge surpasses their apparent sanctity, they then ascribe all their apparent religion to hypocrisy. But when they find christians, who understand the gospel, and are able to give a reason of the hope that is within them, they are constrained to believe and to acknowledge, that their religion is a divine reality. Grace adorns knowledge, and knowledge adorns grace; and both united highly recommend true religion to the world. No man can despise knowledge united with grace, nor despise gracę

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