Excerpts from the book by Thomas Watson: Body of Divinity
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True grace is progressive—of a spreading and growing nature. It is with grace as with light; first, there is the daybreak; then it shines brighter to the full meridian. A good Christian is like the crocodile—which continues to grow as long as it lives. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light—but to trees for their growth. Isa 61:3, and Hos 14:5. A good Christian is not like Hezekiah's sun, which went backwards, nor Joshua's sun that stood still—but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing with the increase of God.
In how many ways may a Christian be said to grow in grace?
(1.) He grows in the exercise of grace. His lamp is burning and shining; therefore we read of a living hope. I Pet 1:1. Here is the activity of grace. The church prays for the blowing of the Spirit, that her spices (that is—her graces) might flow forth. Cant 4:16.
(2.) A Christian grows in the degree of grace. He goes from strength to strength, from one degree of grace to another. Psalm 84:7. A saint goes from faith to faith. Rom 1:17. His love abounds more and more. Phil 1:9.
What is the right manner of a Christian's growth?
(1.) It is to grow less in one's own eyes. "I am a worm, and no man." Psalm 22:6. The sight of his corruption and ignorance, makes a Christian grow into a dislike of himself; he vanishes in his own eyes. Job abhorred himself in the dust. Job 42:6. It is good to grow out of conceit with one's self.
(2.) The right manner of growth is to grow proportionately, to grow in one grace as well as another. 2 Pet 1:5. To grow in knowledge—but not meekness, brotherly love, or good works—is not the right growth. A thing may swell and not grow; a man may be swelled with knowledge—yet may have no spiritual growth. The right manner of growth is uniform, growing in one grace as well as another. As the beauty of the body consists in a symmetry of parts, in which not only the head grows—but the arms and legs. Just so, spiritual growth is most beautiful, when there is symmetry and proportion, and every grace thrives.
(3.) The right manner of growth is, when a Christian has grace suitable to his several employments and occasions. When corruptions are strong—and he has grace able to give check to them. When burdens are heavy—and he has patience able to bear them. When temptations are fierce—and he has faith able to resist them. Then grace grows in the right manner.
Whence is it, that true grace must grow?
(1.) It is proper for grace to grow; it is an enduring seed, the seed of God. I John 3:9. It is the nature of seed to grow: grace does not lie in the heart, as a stone in the earth—but as seed in the earth, which will spring up, first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.
(2.) Grace must grow—from its sweetness and excellence. He who has grace is never weary of it—but would have more. The delight he has in it causes thirst. Grace is the image of God, and a Christian thinks he can never be enough like God. Grace instills peace; a Christian, therefore, strives to grow in grace, that he may grow in peace.
(3.) Grace must grow—from a believer's ingrafting into Christ. He who is a scion, ingrafted into this noble, generous stock, cannot but grow. Christ is so full of sap, and vivifying influence, that he makes all who are grafted into him, grow fruitful. "From me is your fruit found."
What MOTIVES or INCENTIVES are there to make us grow in grace?
(1.) Growth is the end of the ordinances. Why does a man lay out cost on ground, fertilize and water it—but that it may grow? The sincere milk of the word is given, that we may grow thereby. 1 Pet 2:2. The table of the Lord is on purpose for our spiritual nourishment and increase of grace.
(2.) The growth of grace—is the best evidence of the truth of it. Things that have no life will not grow: a picture will not grow, a stake in the hedge will not grow; but a plant that has a vegetative life grows. The growing of grace shows it to be alive in the soul.
(3.) Growth in grace is the beauty of a Christian. The more a child grows, the more it comes to its maturity, and looks more ruddy. Just so, the more a Christian grows in grace, the more he comes to his spiritual maturity, and looks fairer. Abraham's faith was beautiful when in its infancy—but at last it grew so vigorous and eminent, that God himself was in love with it, and crowned Abraham with this honor, to be the "father of the faithful."
(4.) The more we grow in grace—the more glory we bring to God. God's glory is more worth than the salvation of all men's souls. This should be our design—to raise the trophies of God's glory; and how can we better do it, than by growing in grace? "Hereby is my Father glorified—if you bring forth much fruit." Though the least grain of grace will bring salvation to us—yet it will not bring so much glory to God. "Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory." It commends the skill of the farmer—when his plants grow and thrive; it is a praise and honor to God—when we thrive in grace.
(5.) The more we grow in grace—the more will God love us. Is it not that which we pray for? The more growth, the more God will love us...... to be continued