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Signs of Growing in Grace

Question: What are the signs of our growing in grace?

Answer: When we have a more spiritual frame of heart.

  1. When we are more spiritual in our principles; when we oppose sin out of love to God, and because it strikes at his holiness.
  2. When we are more spiritual in our affections. We grieve for the first rising of corruption, for the bubbling up of vain thoughts, and for the spring that runs underground. We mourn not only for the penalty of sin, but for its pollution. It is not a coal only that burns, but blacks.
  3. When we are spiritual in the performance of duty. We are more serious, reverent, fervent; we have more life in prayer, we put fire to the sacrifice. ‘Fervent in spirit’ (Romans 12:2): We serve God with more love, which ripens and mellows our duty, and makes it come off with a better relish.

—Thomas Watson
A Body of Divinity

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Excellent Pleasure Among Youth

Young people, by walking in the ways of Christ and Christian virtue, obtain pleasure of the most excellent kind. Walking in the ways of Christ and Christian virtue, doesn’t hinder young people’s enjoying pleasure in outward enjoyments, but promotes it. It not only gives them a far more excellent kind of pleasure, a more sweet and satisfying delight than the world can afford, but neither doth it rob young people of the enjoyment of pleasure in outward things, but helps it.

1. Christianity doesn’t forbid the use of outward enjoyments but only the abuse of them. It doesn’t forbid the enjoyment of outward good things, for they were made to be received with thanksgiving, but only forbids the vicious and irregular manner of enjoying them. The senses and physical appetites may be gratified in a manner religion allows of.

2. Outward enjoyments are much sweeter, and really afford more pleasure, when rightly used than when abused. Temporal good things are never so sweet, they are never taken with so good a relish, as when they are taken with innocency, and in the way of virtue. Vice destroys the sweetness of outward enjoyments; it mixes bitterness with them: as they go beyond the bonds of temperance and moderation in the enjoyment of them, so much is abated from the relish of them. Vice mixes a bitterness in enjoyments, and causes a sting to be with the honey. When we enjoy outward good things with innocence, and agreeably to the rules of God’s Word, we then enjoy them with peace in our minds; but when they are viciously used, the pleasure is attended with inward remorse. Such an one has not the approbation of his own conscience in what he enjoys: in order to his having any quietness, he must stupefy himself, and suppress the exercises of reason, and keep himself from reflecting; otherwise he can enjoy his pleasures with no peace. Besides, when a person that walks in the ways of holiness hath the pleasure of outward enjoyments, he hath this to give a sweetness and relish, that he hath it as the fruit of the love of God.

—Jonathan Edwards
Adapted from Works, “Sermons and Discourses,” 1734-1738, (Yale University Press, 2001), 85-86.

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Don’t Lose Life for the Sake of Living

On the whole, that security which ought to confirm the pious in the worship of God is opposed here to all those tortuous and mistaken counsels which some men adopt, and thus, for the sake of living, lose life itself, according to the sentiment of even a profane poet. For of what use is life except to serve God’s glory? but we lose that object in life for the sake of the life itself—that is, by desiring to live entirely to the world, we lose the very purpose of living!

—John Calvin
Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel, 221–222.

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Beware of Pride

Some see pride as only that which manifests itself in costly apparel and bodily ornaments, beyond the degree and rank of the person. Some look no further than the treatment of one man towards another. Now consider with me that the greatest pride in the world is man’s undue esteem of himself toward God, and this is in the heart of everyone by nature. Everyone by nature lifts up himself against God, goes about to dethrone God, and to crown himself. Everyone takes counsel in his heart against the Lord, saying, “Let us break His bands asunder, and cast His cords from us” (Psalm 2:3). This is the voice of everyone that dares willfully to sin. This is the working of the pride of a man against God, to thrust God out of the throne of His majesty, and to set himself in. For what is God’s glory and respect among His creatures? Is it not that He, being the beginning and Author of all, should be likewise the end of all?

This is the very purpose for which God made man, that having received himself from God, he should have what he might freely give up to God. All man is, and all that he has, is to be offered to God, as the end and center of all. But a sinning creature brings God under to serve him, to provide for him. And though this pride of man against God is not always so easily noticed, it is the very daring sin of the world. …

Consider how far man’s pride is from his true excellency in his union with God. We must therefore distinguish between the high esteem that man is to have of himself, and pride. For man to look on himself as a noble being, of rank above all the natural world, is not pride, for in this way he is (being a spiritual understanding agent) in a capacity of being acquainted with God and of being united to God.

—James Janeway
Heaven upon Earth (London: Dilbourn, 1673), 38-39.

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Grace to Glorify God Alone

Just so no one accuses me again of forbidding good works, let me say that one should with all seriousness be contrite and remorseful, confess and do good works. … After [the grace of God] we can do a lot of good [works]—to the glory of God alone and to the benefit of our fellow-men, and not in order that we might depend upon that as sufficient to pay for our sin. For God gives us his grace freely and without cost; so we should also serve him freely and without cost.

—Martin Luther
“Word and Sacrament I” in LW, 35:17.