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day enter has been set apart as a period for special recollection, self-examination, and self-humiliation before God. The design of such a season is clearly to promote the growth in grace of those who will apply themselves to its appointed duties. Hence, in leading your thoughts to a practical consideration of the various means of grace,
I shall be adopting a course in perfect harmony with the end and design of the present solemn season. May the result be to each one of us a practical growth in grace ; may we each have to reflect hereafter upon this period of Lent with thankfulness and praise, as a period during which we can trace in ourselves an evident fulfilment of the Apostle's injunction, “ Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Before entering, then, minutely upon the consideration of our proposed subject, it may be well to define clearly what we understand by the means of grace ; and in
what sense and to what extent those means are really instrumental to the spiritual welfare of the recipient.
Upon the term grace, in itself, there need be no difficulty. It is an expression which, in Scripture phraseology, denotes generally that help and assistance of God the Holy Spirit whereby a soul is quickened from spiritual death, made alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, and qualified for an abundant entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Where this grace operates, the effect will appear in a conformity of mind and disposition, of heart and life, to the example of Jesus ; the subject of such grace will be led from the renunciation of the world, the flesh, and the devil, to the
pursuit after holiness: holiness will be the marked and visible fruit. There will be separation from the world, the abandonment of its maxims, its pleasures, its customs, and its follies; there will be the fixing of the affections upon things above;
the influence of earthly things will give place to the influence of those things which are unseen and eternal; there will be a daily increasing consciousness of the value of that honour which comes from above, of the blessedness and the dignity of being permitted (were it to ever so humble an extent) in any measure to advance the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom and the glory of His great Name. The subject of this grace will realise more and more the truth of the Apostle's description,—“For our conversation [or, in other words, our citizenship], is in heaven ;" heavenly things will have a more real and intense hold
the mind. There will be a perceptible growth in assimilation to the Saviour, till at length the spiritual life of grace upon earth shall issue in the life of unclouded and eternal glory above.
From the foregoing definition it will be seen at once that the work of
pro1 Philip. iii. 20.
gressive; and, indeed, the testimony of God's work is given with such clearness and frequency upon this point, as to do away entirely with all doubt upon the matter. Hence it is that the kingdom of heaven is compared by our blessed Lord to seed cast into the earth,' which by slow degrees gradually advances to the full maturity of growth. Hence Christians are resembled by the inspired Apostle to children, and to young men, and to fathers ; the several periods of natural life being used as emblems of the different stages of spiritual experience or growth.
There is such a thing, then, as growth in grace. All true believers are not of one uniform standard ; they present, on the contrary, endless varieties of spiritual knowledge, attainment, and perfection.
I observe next, it is of the utmost importance to the believer that he should
grow in grace; i.e. that he should acquire more and more of the help of the Divine Spirit, i Mark, iv. 26.
2 1 John, ii. 12, 13.
and experience more and more of the practical effects of His quickening and sanctifying grace.
Next to the importance of ascertaining whether or not we have been in truth made the subjects of Divine grace, I know of nothing more important than to attain satisfactory evidences of our growth or advancement in grace. For let it be observed, that progress in the divine life is in itself one of the surest evidences to the reality of conversion; advancement in godliness is the very law and condition of real piety. Where there is no evidence of growth in grace, there is much cause for apprehension lest the evidences we seem to have should be unsubstantial and deceitful. More need not be said to indicate the extreme importance of the question, whether or not we are in truth exhibiting the progress to which St. Peter alludes in the exhortation, “ Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”