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fu? influence is diffused over the life. All the happy efforts derived from the preceding source, flow therefore from this with a more intense and controlling efficacy.
But, above all, the dispensations of God to himself and to his family are the most strongly realized, and most regularly directed to his own spiritual improvement, by the renewed man. These are all more perfectly understood, come more immediately to the heart, and operate with a more commanding influence on the life. In these he is taught by the finger of God, as a child trained to his service, and fitted by degrees for eternal glory. • Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.'
It will be remembered, that to both these sources of improvement in the divine life the heart of the Christian is opened by the disposition which he receives in regeneration. It will be remembered, that he regards them all with a taste, a relish, congenial to them; that be beholds them with enlightened eyes; that he applies himself to them with unceasing diligence; that he considers this application to them as his indispensable duty, and his pre-eminent interest. All of them, therefore, operate upon his understanding, affections, and life, in a manner unknown by other men; and, where sinners would experience nothing but dulness, distrust, murmuring, and opposition, he cannot fail to find, for these reasons, the most efficacious means of rendering him wiser, and better, and happier.
III. The process of sanctification may be summarily exhibited in the following manner:
1. It is progressive through life.
The first sanctifying act of the Spirit of God is employed in regenerating the soul. Succeeding acts, of the same nature, are employed in purifying it, through all the successive periods of life. All these acts are, I apprehend, of exactly the same nature; and differ from each other in no other respect, except that the regenerating act is first, and the sanctifying acts, as they are termed, are successive to it. All united constitute that which in the Scriptures, and often in the common use of language, is called “ the work of sanetification." But as there is frequent occasion to distinguish the first act from the others, we customarily term this the renewing, or regenerating act ; and sometimes regeneration, and renovation ; and denote the succeeding acts by the words sanctifying, and sanctification. All, however, are, in my view, exactly of the same nature. The agent is the same; his
agency is the same; and the effects are the same. The reason why the first act is thus distinguished is, that the change from sin to holiness is an event so remarkable, so wonderful, so new in the providence of God. The future changes from one degree of holiness to another, although really wonderful, are less so; and less contrary to rational hope. They are therefore grouped together in the Scriptures, and in common language, under the one general name of sanctification. These acts, as I have observed, continue through life. Under the influence of them, and with the aid of those means which are appointed for this purpose in the divine government, the Christian grows in wisdom and in grace, to the end.
To aim at this progress is accordingly made the duty, and described as the character, of a good man, throughout the Scriptures. This one thing I do,' saith St. Paul, 'forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,' Phil. iii. 13. • Beware,' says St. Peter, lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, , Jesus Christ,' 2 Pet. iii. 18. • Besides this,' says the same apostle, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue, knowledge, to knowledge, temperance, to temperance, patience, to patience, godliness, to godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity.—For, if ye do these things, ye shall never fall,' 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7, 10.
2. This process is not uniform.
By this I intend, that it is not the same in manner or degree every day, month, or year. In the religious life of St. Paul, as we are informed, the law of the members' prevailed at times; and, at times, the law of the mind.' In that of David, and that of Hezekiah, as well as in that of Solomon, sin, at particular seasons, appears evidently to have triumphed throughout considerable periods.
When we remember the nature and circumstances of men,
this fact will be far from appearing wonderful. The nature of man is in many respects various. From whatever cause it arises, our views are at times brighter, our vigilance more active, our resolution stronger, our temper more serene, and our energy more vigorous, than at other times. This is visible in all that we speak, or think, or do, whatever may be the objects of our attention. That a state of things in us, which so materially affects ourselves, in our very nature, should have an important influence on our religious interests, is to be expected of course. The changes are here wrought in ourselves; and we, the persons thus changed, are those whose religion is concerned. As we are changed, therefore, the state of our religion must, in a greater or less degree, be cha also. When our minds are bright, and prepared to take bright views of any subject of contemplation, their views of religion will naturally be bright. When our affections are in a general state of ardour, our love to divine things will naturally be vigorous, as well as our hatred to sin and temptation. When our resolution is generally firm, we shall naturally be stedfast and immoveable in the work of the Lord.' On the contrary, when our apprehension is dull and heavy, our spirits low, and our resolution timid and wavering, all our efforts will be poor, feeble, and in a great measure fruitless. Our views will be obscure, our affections will lag, and our progress will either not exist at all, or be slow, heavy, and discouraging
Sometimes also we are beset by more numerous and more powerful temptations. Snares are set for us with greater art and secrecy. Sophistry more plausible and seducing is employed to warp our principles, affections, and conduct. Obstacles, apparently insurmountable, block up our way. Discouragements terrifying, and at seasons overwhelming, daunt our resolution. The inducements to backsliding come upon us suddenly, find us off our guard, and overpower us before we summon either our understanding or our principles to our aid.
At the same time, our advantages for improvement in the Christian life are at some times far less, and less productive of safety and improvement, than at others. Our peculiar and most useful friends, those who best understand our character, wants, and dangers, are sometimes removed from us to such a
distance, that we cannot enjoy their counsels, reproofs, consolations, or example. We are prevented from uniting with them in the public or private ordinances of the Gospel, and are deprived of the peculiar blessings of intimate Christian communion.
At times also we are peculiarly unfaithful to ourselves and to God; are less watchful, less prayerful, less strenuous in our opposition to temptation, and in the performance of our duty. The world lays stronger hold on our affections. We venture on forbidden ground, draw near to the objects of seduction, become fascinated with charms before undiscovered, and overpowered by combinations of harmony, fragrance, beauty, and splendour, of sprightliness, gaiety, and joy; or alarmed by an assemblage of enemies, dangers, and terrors, of contempt, shame, and ridicule ; so as to be enticed to sin on the one hand, and terrified into it on the other.
At other periods most of these things are reversed. Time at these seasons rolls on to us with brighter mornings, with more unclouded days, with more serene evenings, and nights with more undisturbed tranquillity and peaceful repose. At such seasons our views of all divine subjects are clearer and more just. Our affections are more alive ; our aims more noble, unmixed, and heavenly; our resolution more vigorous and uniform ; our conduct more approved in its progress, and followed in review by purer peace and self-approbation. God also, for reasons wholly unknown to us, or imperfectly comprehended by us, sometimes withdraws the light of his countenance, and the blessings of his Spirit; sometimes communicates these and other blessings more uniformly and abundantly; and generally regulates his providence towards us in such a manner, that we are greatly improved and prospered in some instances, and in others are afflicted, brought to a stand, or suffered to decline.
But with all these inequalities in the course of the Christian, his holiness, like the house of David, waxes stronger and stronger ;' and his corruption, like the house of Saul, becomes weaker and weaker.'
3. The process of sanctification is universal.
By this I intend, that it affects the whole man: his views, affections, purposes, and conduct, and those of every kind. It extends alike to his duties of every kind; towards himself,
his fellow creatures, and his Maker. It affects and improves, indiscriminately, all the virtues of the Christian character: Love to God and to mankind; faith, repentance, justice, truth, kinuness, humility, forgiveness, charity, generosity, public spirit, meekness, patience, fortitude, temperance, moderation, candour, and charitableness of judgment. It influences ruling passions and appetites; habits of thought and affection, of language and practice. It prompts to all the acts of piety : to prayer, praise, attendance upon the sanctuary and its ordinances, our sanctification of the sabbath, Christian communion, and Christian discipline.
Generally: It affects every part of the Christian's character and life, and all it affects with continual advantage. Yet, as has been already remarked, the operation is not uniform. All the Christian virtues increase, yet they do not all increase alike ; nor does any one of them increase in the same manner at all times. In the Scriptures the improvement of the mind in the Christian character is, with great beauty and correctness, compared to the growth of children. Children grow from their birth, and may be truly said to be always growing ; yet the increase is not always alike, nor always visible. They grow also in every part of their frame, increasing upon the whole both in size and stature throughout all the members. Yet at some times, and in some of the members, they cannot be seen to grow at all; while at other times, and in other members, the increase is rapid, and easily discernible. The means of growth also are very various, and variously operative. From day to day, from week to week, and sometimes from year to year, the progress cannot be perceived. And, in some instances, one part is found to increase, another to be at a stand, or even to diminish ; and thus the symmetry, proportion, and beauty of the frame to be sensibly injured. In all these particulars, the parallel between the growth of Christians and the growth of children is exact.
4. The progress of sanctification is conspicuous in the life.
From the commencement of Christianity in the soul, the Christian course is that of a general reformation. The religion, that brings not forth fruit meet for repentance,' is not the religion of the Scriptures. It is not the beginning of spiritual life. It is not the beginning of immortal life. The virtue of the Gospel is a living principle, producing every good fruit ;