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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. 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 from the minds of christians. They often meet with these inward trials, which greatly depress their spirits and enfeeble their exertions, as well as disturb their peace and comfort. Grace is the evidence of grace, and knowledge discovers this evidence. It is always owing to some kind of ignorance, that real christians are involved in darkness and doubts, respecting their good estate. But by growing in knowledge and grace, they will take the proper and effectual method, to dissipate all the clouds which hang over their minds, and to regain that peace, which the world cannot give, nor take away. Declining christians may expect to be troubled with darkness and perplexity of mind, and the fiery darts of the great accuser of the brethren, because they lay themselves open to both external and internal temptations, and provoke God to withdraw his Spirit and the light of his countenance from them. This he threatens to every backslider. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see, that it is an evil and bitter thing, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God. of hosts." But repenting, returning, growing saints may confidently hope, that God will graciously return to them, and give them the joy of his salvation.
Furthermore, growth in knowledge and grace will prepare christians for the delightful and acceptable performance of every duty. While they are declining in religion and their hearts are departing from God, they are apt to stand, and hesitate, and try to reason themselves into doubts about both the revealed and providential will of God. They endeavour to excuse themselves for the neglect of disagreeable and selfdenying duties, because they do not see their way the errour of the wicked, and fall from their own steadfastness.” Knowledge and grace united, enable christians to detect, expose, and reject the various errours which the enemies of the gospel are zealous and artful in propagating. While true believers cleariy understand and faithfully practise their own religion, they are able to meet and refute every false doctrine, which may be proposed and recommended to their belief. This the apostle John suggests to those christians, who were exposed to fatal errours in his day. “Little children it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us, but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth: but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” It is as important and necessary now, that christians should grow in knowledge as well as grace, to guard themselves and others against those, who lie in wait to deceive. Christians-never had a louder call to grow in knowledge and grace, that they may be able to contend earnestly and successfully for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. They are surrounded by false teachers, who are zealously en deavouring by art and subtilty, to bring in damnable heresies; and nothing but a zeal according to knowledge will prepare them to discover and refute such fatal errours, and to repel the attacks of all their spiritual enemies.
and prospects grew brighter and brighter, the nearer they approached to the confines of death and eternity. Hear the last words of David. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.” Hear also the language of Paul, whose growth in grace enabled him to say, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” The more christians grow in knowledge and grace, the better they are prepared to perform their last great act on the stage of life, to the glory of God, to the honour of religion, to their own joy, and to the benefit and consolation of those whom they leave behind,
IMPROVEMENT. 1. If knowledge be necessary to promote the growth of grace; then the most instructive preaching must be the most profitable. Many are fond of making a distinction between sentimental and practical preaching, and consider the latter as much more useful than the former. They insinuate, that christians at this day, do not need to be instructed in the doctrines of the gospel, but only to be quickened and animated to the practice of the duties of religion and morality. But there is reason to believe, that saints as well as sinners, at this day, stand in great need of being instructed in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This knowledge lies at the foundation of all true devotion, and true devotion lies at the foundation of all