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rendering the man wiser, and his life and conversation better, unto the end. The natural passions and appetites of some Christians are indeed strong, and their evil habits, antecedently to regeneration, have become powerful. The temptations of others are peculiarly great, and they labour under peculiar disadvantages for resisting them, as well as for making progress in the Christian life.
As the work of sanctification itself proceeds, according to the exhibition which I have made of this subject, in irregular and very various gradations; so the external fruits of it, seen in the life of the Christian, are subject to the same gradations.
The wind bloweth,' not only where, but in what manner, . it listeth ;' and no particular description can be satisfactorily given of its progress.
The varieties of this work, which I have all along referred to the life of a single person, become far more numerous and diversified when referred to Christians in general. Here, both the original and incidental differences are multiplied almost without end, and it is impossible to mention even a small part of them in the compass of a single Discourse. Still the same general doctrines are applicable and useful to all Christians; because all have a common nature, and a common interest.
1. The considerations suggested concerning this important religious subject, furnish every professing Christian with an interesting rule for the examination of his own character.
It has been here exhibited, as the true process of sanctification, that this work is carried on through the whole of human life; as the continual, though not uniform, state of the Christian character, to be advanced, under the influence of the divine Spirit, towards the stature of the perfect man.' With this scheme in view, it becomes every professor of religion faithfully to inquire, whether he perceives in his own mind such a progress. It will readily be seen, that Christians, who have lately become such, must have fewer and more im-' perfect means of making this inquiry, and determining the point satisfactorily, than those who are farther advanced. The
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longer children have been growing, the more perceivable will be the change of their stature. The longer Christians have been Christians, the greater advances in religion will they have had opportunity to make. The child may have grown in reality, through a short period; while yet his growth is incapable of being perceived. The young Christian may, in like manner, find less proof of his advancement, or doubtful proof, or even no proof at all, and yet have no sufficient reason for discouragement. Still he ought to make the inquiry, and to make it with persevering diligence. If he be faithful in this duty, he will, in all probability, and at no great distance of time, find comforting evidence of his growth in grace ; and usually the sooner, the more faithful he is in pursuing this examination.
The professor, who has longer declared his devotion to God, is bound still more earnestly to make this inquiry. One, at least, of the best proofs which can be furnished of the existence of grace in the soul, is evidence of its growth ; and one of which we ought never to lose sight even for a day. on from month to month, and from year to year, without any improvement in the Christian life, our case must be dark and distressing indeed. Much more distressing must it be, if, instead of advancing, we sensibly decline. Christians may and will fall into temptation and sin, and sometimes into sins which are great and peculiarly dreadful. Thus did David, thus did Solomon, thus did Peter. These are fearful grounds of humiliation and sorrow; but even these, when followed by contrition and amendment, are far less discouraging and hopeless than that slow, regular decline, that chilled, perishing state, which admits of no intervenings of warmth, no returns of health and vigour. The pleurisy or the gout may kill, and often greatly alarm and endanger; but they frequently, nay most usually, terminate their violence speedily, and give place to returning strength. The consumption, on the other hand, although its attacks are gentle, gradual, and scarcely perceivable, insinuates itself with a fatal progress into the constitution, and, if not exterminated in season, regularly ends in death. I will not say that a hectic in religion is hopeless; but it must be allowed on all hands to be terrible. Let it be observed in this place, however, that Christians sometimes are really advancing when they do not perceive it; and when their progress, although hidden from themselves, is visible to those around them. This, together with other mysteries, God will unfold hereafter; and will show them that the dispensation has been the means of his glory, and of their own final good. All Christians ought to learn from this fact, to consult their fellow-christians, as well as themselves, on this great subject, and not to depend entirely on their own investigation.
If, on the other hand, professors of religion find themselves advancing in faith, repentance, and holiness ; if God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is more and more an object of delightful contemplation to their minds; if they take more and more delight in prayer and praise, in the Sabbath, the sanctuary, and their ordinances ; if the word of God seems more and more preferable to the most fine gold ;' if they love more and more to do good unto all men; if they find an increasing delight in the character, company, conversation, and prosperity of their fellow-christians : then they may, indeed, 'sing of mercy;' and enjoy a lively hope that they are fast overcoming the world, and preparing for the glories of the heavenly kingdom.
2. The same considerations furnish abundant encouragement to the Christian.
Think how much God has done to accomplish this work, and you can find no room for despondency. I well know, I readily confess, how prone all men are to yield to temptations; to love the world, to indulge appetite and passion, to embrace error, to cherish self-justification, to find ways of sinning which in their own eyes are safe and blameless, to reconcile and unite virtues to their counterfeit vices, and thus, in a great variety of modes, to backslide, and sin, and fall. How hopeless, with these things in our view, would seem final, persevering holiness, and a safe arrival in the heavenly kingdom !
But the agency of the Spirit of God in our sanctification puts all these terrible evils to 'flight; and assures us, tható he, who hath begun a good work in us, will perform it unto the day of Christ.' He is everywhere present to every Christian, knows every want, and danger, and is ever ready to do all that is necessary and useful for the followers of Christ. No evil can escape his eye, no enemy resist or elude his power. With infinite benignity and tenderness he dwells within and
without us, to guard, relieve, heal, sanctify, and save; to give us strength to endure, and power to overcome. Under his influence and direction, we shall successfully fight the good fight, keep the faith, finish our course with joy, and receive that crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to all them that love his appearing • Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift. Amen.
HAVING examined the Nature of adoption and sanctification, I shall now proceed to consider another consequence of this change in man, viz. evangelical peace.
These words are a part of Christ's first discourse to his apostles after the institution of the Lord's Supper. He was now about to leave the world. His death he had often predicted to them in the plainest language ; yet so strong were their expectations of a reigning, conquering Messiah, that they seem never to have believed these predictions. So far as they were able, they appear to have interpreted them in any manner rather than the true one ; and, when they could not misinterpret them, to have concluded, that they involved some mystery which it was beyond their power to unriddle.
However, as the time drew near, and the events which led to this great one began to thicken, they became apprehensive and alarmed. What evils were before them they seem not to have realized; but they appear to have been fully sensible that something terrible was at hand, and to have become deeply discouraged by loose and undefined forebodings.