« PreviousContinue »
in the natural faculties of the foul, viz. the understanding, memory, and will; which is an umbrage of a trioity in ucity; but it rather consists in the renovation of the faculties by grace ; for in this we bear the divide image upon our fouls, and that image or resemblance of God ig holiness is the beauty and ho. nour of our souls.
It is their beauty : " How fair, and how pleasant art thou, " O love, for delights !” faith Chrift of his people, Capt. vii. 6. Natural beauty consists in the symmetry and comely pra. portion of parts cach with the other ; fpiritual beauty in the harmony or agreeableness of our souls to God: and as it is our chiefest beauty, fo certainly it is our highest honour; for it gives us access go to God, who is the fountain of honour and glory; and this makes the righteous more excellent than his neighbour ; let his neighbour be what he will, though the blood of pobles ruo in his veias, the righteous is more excel, lept than he, except laying grace be also diffuled into his soul.
3. Thirdly, Consider it in its recipient subject, and you will find its value Aill to increase ; for the precious oil of favinggrace is never poured into any other than an elect vefsel.
Hence faith, one braoch of fanctification, is, with respect to its subject, filed The faith of God's elect, Tit. i. 1. Whosoever finds true grace in his soul, may (during the evideoce thereof) from it strongly conclude his election, looking backward, and his salvation, looking forward, Rom. viii. 30. It marks and feals the person in whom it is, for glory, “God hath set apart “ him that is godly for himself," Psal. iv. 3.
4. Fourthly, View the precious worth of grace in its excel, lept effects and influences upon the soul in which it inberes.
(to) It adorns with iocomparable oroainepts, which are of grcat price in the fight of God, i Pet. iii. 4. Yea, it reflects such beams of glory in the soul where its seat is, that Chrift himself, the author, is also the admirer of it; Capt. iv, 9. “ Thou hast ravished my heart, my Gfter, my spouse! thou " haft ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one of " the chains of thy deck !" aod as one overcome with its excelling beauty, he faith, “ Turn away thine eyes from me, for
they have overcome me," Cant. vi. 5.
(2.) It elevates and enobles a man's fpirit beyood all other principles in man; it sets the heart and affections upon heaven, and takes them up with the glory of the invisible world, Phil.
“ Bot our conversation is in heaveo, from whence we look for the Saviour " Whillt others are trading for coro and wipe, for sheep and oxen, for feathers and trifics, the graciou
foul is trading with God for pardon and peace, for righteouf nefs aod life, for glory and immortality : Truly our fellow" thip is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ," Jobo i. 3.
(3.) It doth not only raise the spirit by converfing with God, and thiogs above, but transforms the foul, by that converse, into the likeness of those heavenly objects it converseth with; “ It changes them into the same image," 2 Cor. iii. 18. So that though the sanctified man still remaias the who he was, yet Dot the what he was before; the very temper of his fpirit is altered.
(4.) It doth not only transform the soul in which it is, but preserves the subject in which it is: it is a fingular preservative from fin; so that though sin be in them ftill, and works in them still, yet it cannot prevail in them ftill to fulfil the lusts of it, as it was wont to do, Gal. v. 17. Sia conceives, but cannot bring forth fruit upto death; this gives a miscarrying womb.
(5.) It doth not only preserve it from fin, but grace establisheth the loul, in whom it is, far beyond any other arguments without, or any other principles withio a man.
“ It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace," Heb. xiii, 9. This is that which the apostle calls our owa stedfastness, or that ballast we have within ourselves; which keeps us right and ftable. O the excellency of grace!
(6) To conclude; it is the root of all that precious froit which we bring forth to God in this world : it is the root of every gracious word in our lips, and of every gracious work in our haods : be the matter of our gracious thoughts Dever fo excellent, the matter of our heavenly discourfes and prayers Dever fo sweet, fill grace is the root of the matter, Job xix. 28. O theo what a precious thing is grace !
5. Fifthly, View it in its properties, and you will fooner om cover its transccodent excellencies: the richest epithets are no hyperboles here; we feak bot beyond the value of it, when we call it fupernatural grace, for so it is : it comes down from above, from the Father of lights, Jam. i. 7. Nature can bever be improved to that height, how much foever its admirers boalt of it: vor do we strain too high, when we call it immor. tal grace; for fo hath God made it. This is mhar water which springs up in the fanctified foul upto eternal life, Jobp iv, 14. It will not die when thou dielt, but ascend with the foul from which it is jo separable, and be received up with it ioto glory, Rom. viii. 10, You may eutlive your friends; you may out
live your estates ; you may outlive your gifts; but you can pot optlive your graces.
Shall I say it is the most sweet and comfortable thing that ever the soul was acquainted with in this world, dext Jesus Christ, the author and fountain of it. Sure, if fol.fpeak, I have as maoy witnesses to atteft it, as there be gracious souls in the world: nothing is more comfortable than grace, except Chrift; and yet without grace ao foul can feel the comforts of Chrit, in the troubles of life, or in the Straits of death. This is a foring of comfort !
6. Sixthly, Consider it in its design and scope ; and you will Nill discern more and more of its precious excellency: for what is the aim and end of God in the infusions and improvements of grace, but to attemper and mould our fpirits by it, into a meetness and fitness for the enjoyment of himself in the world to come ? Col. I. 12. “ Giving thanks to the Father, who “ hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the * saiots in light." Compare this with 2 Cor. v. 5. “Now he " that bath wrought us for the self-fame thing is God."
O bleđed deligo ! how precious must that work be, which is wrought for fo high and glorious a purpose as this is ? No work more excellent, no end more aoble.
7. Seventhly, Consider the means and instruments, both priocipal and fubordioate, employed in this work: many blessed inftruments are fer on work to beget, conserve, and improve it in our souls; and these all speak the precious worth of it. No wise man will dig for a base and worthless metal with golden mattocks. The blood of Christ was shed to procure it, Heb. xiii. 12.
The Spirit of God is seor forth to form aod create it; foc it is his own workmanship, Ephef. ii. 10. his fruit, Gal. v. 22.
The ordinances and officers of the gospel were at first instituted, and ever since coptioued in the church, for this work's fake, Joha xvii 17. and Eph. iv. 12. It is the fruit of Christ's blood; yea, and it hath cost the sweat and blood of the dispensers of the gospel. too.
Nay, all the works of providence look this way, and aim at this thiog, Rom. viii. 28. What is the errand of all God's rods,' but to make us partakers of his holioess? Heb. xii. 10.
8. Eighthly, The high value that the most high God sets upon grace, Thews it to be an excellent thing indeed : " It is of
great price in his fight," Pet. iii. 4. Do service finds accep. tation with God, bot what is performed by grace: None but fanctified vessels are meet for the master's ofe." The end of the
“ commandment is charity out of a pure heart," i Tim. i. §.
The weakest performances of grace find acceptance with him, chongh clogged with many fioful weakoesses and iofirmi. ties, Heb. xi 31, 32. If God so prize it, well may we : He that made the jewel, belt understaods the value of it.
9. Ninthly, The hypocritical pretences made to it all over the professiog world, thew wliat a most precious and desireable thing it is: If there were not fome fingular glory in it, why doth every one covet to be reputed gracious ? Nay, the devil himlelf baits many of his hooks of temptation with a hew of grace ; for he koows' lin hath no native beauty of its owo to eatice, and therefore he borrows the paint and pretence of ho. linels to cover it : but, oh! what a dilemma will the hypocrite be pored with at last? And how can he answer it when God thall demaod ?
If grace were evil, why didst thou affect the name and repú. tation of it? And if it were good, why didst thou fatisfy thị. self with the empty name and shadow of it only?
10. Tenthly, To cooclude: the incomparable csteem that all good men have for it, shews it to be a thiog of inestimable price.
Grace is the sum of all their prayers, the scope of ail their endeavours, the matter of their chief joy, the reward of their afflictions and füfferings ; their chief joys and sorrows, hopes and fears in this world, are taken up about it. By all which it appears that its price is above rubies; and all the gold and file ver in the world are but duog and drofs ia comparison with it.
Infer. 1. Is faving grace more precious than gold? Let them that have it, bless God for it, and not boaft. Mens hearts are as apt to puff up and swell with spiritual, as with material gold: It is hard to be an owner of much of this gold, and not be lifted up with it. To keep dowo thy heart, and preserve thine eyes from being dazzled with these thy glorious excellencies, it will be deedful for thee, Christian, fometimes to consider,
That although grace be one of the most excellent things that ever God created, yet it is but a creature, a dependent thing,
i Cor. v. 17.
Yea, it is agt only a creature, but a very imperfect creature get in thy soul, labouring under many weaknesses, Phil. iii. 12. and sometimes ready to die, Rev. iii. 2.
Practical Inferences from the preciousness of Grace. 137 Though it can do many things for you, yet it cannot justify you before God: You cannot make a garmeot of it to cover your guilt, nor plead the digoity of it ac God's bar for your discharge: It is not your inherent, but Christ's imputed righteoulocís mult do that for you, though in other respects it be very necessary.
Nay, remember how excellent foever it be, it is not the Da tive growth and product of your hearts; all the grace you have is foreign to your natures; and what you have is received, I Cor. iv. 7.
And, laitly, remember he that is most proud and conceited of his own graces will be fouod to be the owner of least grace, and hath most cause to question whether he hath aay or do. It is the nature of grace io humble, abase, and empty the foul ; aod it is the strength of our corruptions which thus puffs us up with vain conceits.
Infer. 2. Is faving grace more excellent than gold? What cause then have the poorest Christians to be woll satisfied with their lot? To others God hath given Ishmael's portion, the fatness of the earth ; to you Ifaac's, the graces of the covenant: Their portion is paid in brass, yours in gold. Many of you are poor io she world, but “ rich io faith, and heirs of the kingdom " which God hath promised," Jam. ii. 5. What is the dust of the earth to the fruits of the Spirit ? You are troubled that you have ao more of the world : It may be if you had more gold, you would have less grace. You consider not how many are poor and wretched in both worlds, moneyless and Chrillefs too : You do not consider you are bear come to that ftate, in which all your wants will be fully supplied; where you shall aut Deed the treafures of the earth, and have your defires fatisfied ont of the treasures of grace and glory.
Infer. 3. Is faving grace gold ? yea, infinitely more precious thao gold? Then surely declining Christians are great losers, and have cause to be great mourners. The remission of the lealt degree of grace; is more to be lamented than the loss of the greatest fum of gold.
Though the habits of grace be not loft, yet the acts of grace may be fuspeoded, 2 Sam. xii. 31. The degrees of grace may be remitted, Rev. iii. 3. The evidences of grace may be clouded, and consequently the comforts of grace may be suspended, Ila. I. 10. and the least of thefe is such a loss, as all the treasures of the earth cannot repair. Well therefore may declined ChriVOL. VII.