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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
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 clearly 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.
Growth in knowledge and grace will happily tend, in the second place, to remove darkness and doubts
united with knowledge. It was knowledge that recommended the piety of Christ himself, and commanded the respect and admiration of his enemies. They exclaimed, “How knoweth this man letters!” They saw his perfect holiness united with his profound knowledge of those scriptures, which they allowed to be of divine Inspiration; and this evidence of the truth and importance of his religion they could not despise, nor resist. While the followers of Christ increase in spiritual knowledge and gracious affections, their good cannot be evil spoken of. They shine as lights in the world, and lead others to glorify their Father who is in heaven. They adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour, which reflects great honour upon their religion, and carries conviction to the consciences of sinners, that they are guilty of inexcusable folly as well as sin, in neglecting the one thing needful. Besides,
2. It is of great importance, that christians should grow both in knowledge and in grace, not only on the account of others, but on their own account. For, in the first place, their growth in these respects, will be the most effectual security against the gross and dangerous errours to which they are continually exposed in their present imperfect state. It is a good thing, that the understanding be enlightened with knowledge, and the heart be established with grace. Those who have a clear and extensive knowledge of the gospel, can easily distinguish its great and fundamental doctrines from every false sentiment and fatal errour. Scoffers and deceivers early appeared in the christian church, who wrested the Scriptures unto their own destruction. And it is in particular reference to such men, that the apostle Peter exhorts christians to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, “lest they should be led away with
clear to perform them. But when they grow in know). edge and grace, they intuitively see what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, which they ought to follow. Hence says Solomon, “A wise man's heart is at his right hand.” And again, “A wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment.” And again, “T'he wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way." This Solomon knew, by happy experience; for while he was growing in knowledge and grace, he prayed for a wise and understanding heart, and his request was abundantly answered. In consequence of having such a heart, he found less difficulty in knowing, and less reluctance in doing his duty. Growing saints are ready to hear the voice of God in his word and providence, and to run in the way of his commandments, with peculiar pleasure and delight. And the more readily they discern, and the more cheerfully they perform the various duties devolved upon them, the more sincere and acceptable are all their services in the sight of God.
It is, finally, of great importance that christians should make continual advances in knowledge and grace, to prepare them for the closing scene of life. They are every day drawing nearer and nearer to the time of their decease, when they must leave this world, and go the way of all the earth. If they neglect to improve their minds in knowledge and their hearts in holiness, they may expect to live in bondage, and die in darkness and distress; for christians commonly die very much as they live. But if they make it their business to perfect holiness in the fear of God, and to go from strength to strength in their journey towards heaven, they may humbly hope to triumph over death and the grave, and be able to say, “O death! where is sting? O grave! where is thy victory?" It appears from the sacred history of growing şaints, that their hopes
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