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Grace Tends to Holy Practice

Though Charity and Its Fruits is collectively one of Edwards' best known works, the individual sermons in the the middle of the series are often overlooked. There are fifteen sermons in all. The first and the last are the best known: Love the Sum of All Virtue and Heaven Is a World of Love. Reproduced here is Sermon 10, Grace Tends to Holy Practice (also available at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University with helpful footnotes).

Edwards preached these sermons in 1738, shortly after the amazing awakenings in the Connecticut River Valley (1734–1735) had waned. He had hoped that the people of Northampton would continue in their strong interest in the things of God, but instead the people reverted to their usual mode, which included fairly severe bickering about local politics. Their pastor made every attempt to instill in them a desire for the love of God, which evidences itself in love for neighbor. George Marsden, in his excellent biography (Jonathan Edwards: A Life), provides ample background information of the time period, giving readers a much better understanding of Edwards' motive in composing and preaching the Charity and Its Fruit series.

The entire tenth sermon has been presented below with minor aesthetic edits for an online environment. The highly-praised print version, edited by Kyle Strobel, is also available.



1 Corinthians 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.

THE Apostle having mentioned many good fruits of charity, and shown how it tends to an excellent behavior in many particulars in the two foregoing verses, in this verse sums up those and all other good tendencies of charity. It rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth. That is as much as if the Apostle had said, I have mentioned many excellent things to which charity has a tendency, and shown how it is contrary to many ill things; but I need not go on to multiply particulars, for in short charity is contrary to everything in life and practice which is bad, and tends to everything which is good; it rejoiceth in no iniquity whatsoever, but it rejoiceth in all truth. By "iniquity" seems to be intended everything which is sinful in life and practice; and by "truth" is meant everything which is good in life, or all Christian and holy practices. The word "truth" seems to be of various import. Sometimes by "truth" in Scripture is meant the true doctrines of religion; sometimes, the true knowledge of those doctrines. Sometimes by "truth" is meant veracity or faithfulness. But sometimes the word is used to signify all virtue and holiness, as in the third epistle of John at the third verse: "For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth."


All true Christian grace tends to holy practice.

By that iniquity which is here mentioned is meant all sin or wickedness of life and conversation; and by the truth all holiness of life, as is confirmed by that place in Romans 2:8 where the same Apostle mentions "the truth" and "unrighteousness" together, as here he mentions "the truth" and "iniquity." And there it is evident by the truth he means walking in holy practice, or well-doing; and by iniquity, wickedness in men's deeds or practice. This will appear if we observe how the words come in, beginning with the sixth verse. "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." And also by the antithesis in the tenth verse: "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." So this seems to be the design of the Apostle here, to show that charity is opposite to all unrighteousness, or evil doings or practice, and that it tends to all holy practice. And charity being here spoken of by the Apostle as the sum of all true and sincere grace, the doctrine which has been observed, viz. that all true Christian grace tends to holy practice, is fully contained in the words [of the text]. If any have a notion of grace that it is something put into the heart there to be confined and lie dormant, and that its influence does not govern the man as an active being, or that the alteration of the heart which is made when grace is infused, though it indeed mends the heart, yet has no tendency to a proportionable emendation of life, they have a quite wrong notion of it. I would endeavor to make this clear

I. By mentioning some things which are arguments of it;

II. By showing it with respect to particular graces.

I. I would mention some things which argue that it is so; viz. that all true Christian grace tends to practice.

And here—

First. It is an argument of it, that practice is the aim of that eternal election which is the first ground of the bestowment of all true grace. Good practice is not the ground of election, as the Arminians suppose who imagine that God elects men upon a foresight of their good works. But Christian practice is the scope and end of election. Though God does not elect men because he foresees that they will live holy, yet he elects them that they may live holy. Thus God in the decree of election ordained that man should walk in good works.

Ephesians 2:10, "Created unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." God hath chosen the elect before the foundation of the world to this end, as Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."

So Christ tells his disciples that he had chosen them for that end, that they might go and bring forth much fruit. John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you that ye should go and bring forth fruit."

Now God's eternal election is the first ground of the bestowment of saving grace. Some have saving grace and not others, because some are from eternity chosen of God and not others. And seeing that holy practice is the scope and aim of that which is the first ground of the bestowment of grace, it is doubtless the tendency of grace itself; otherwise it would follow that God makes use of a certain means to attain an end which is not fitted for that end, and has no tendency to it.

Second. That redemption by which grace is purchased, is to that end. The redemption of Christ, or that purchase which he has made, is the next ground of the bestowment of grace to election. Christ, by the great things which he did and suffered in the world, has purchased grace and holiness for the elect.

John 17:19, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." And Christ thus redeemed the elect and purchased grace for them to that end, that they might walk in holy practice. He has reconciled them to God by his death to redeem them from wicked works, that they might be holy and unblamable in their lives.

Colossians 1:21–22, "And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight."

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, Christ's reputed father, he told him that he should call his name Jesus because he should save his people from their sins, Matthew 1:21.

And holy practice is declared to be the end of his redemption in Tit 2:14, "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

So we are told Christ died for us to this end, 2 Corinthians 5:15, "And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."

And for this end Christ is said to have offered himself without spot to God. Hebrews 9:14, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works to serve the living God?"

The most remarkable type of redemption which we have in all the history of the Old Testament was the redemption of the children of Israel out of Egypt. But the holy practice of his people was the end of that redemption, as God often signifies to Pharaoh, as he says from time to time to him, "Let my people go, that they may serve me"; as Exodus 4:23; 7:13, 16, 20; 8:1; 9:1; 10:3.

And we have a like expression concerning Christ's redemption in the New Testament in Luke 1:74–75, "That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our lives."

Third. Effectual calling, or that saving conversion in which grace is infused, is to this end. God converts them and infuses grace into them for that end, that they might exercise themselves in holy practice. Ephesians 2:10, "We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works." The Apostle tells the Christian Thessalonians that God had not called them to uncleanness, but to holiness [1 Thessalonians 4:7].

Fourth. That spiritual knowledge and understanding, which are the immediate foundation of all true grace in the heart, tends to practice. A true knowledge of God and divine things is a practical knowledge. As to a speculative knowledge of things of religion, there are some wicked men who have attained to great measures of it. Men may be men of vast learning, and their learning may consist very much in their knowledge in divinity, their knowledge of the Scripture, and other things appertaining to religion, and they may be able to reason very strongly about the attributes and works of God, and doctrines of Christianity; but herein their knowledge fails of being a saving knowledge, that it is only a speculative and not a practical knowledge. He who has a right and saving acquaintance with divine things sees the excellency of holiness, and of all the ways of holiness, for he sees the beauty and excellency of God which consist in his holiness. And so he sees the hatefulness of the ways of sin. And if a man knows the hatefulness of the ways of sin, certainly this tends to his avoiding those ways. And if he sees the loveliness of the ways of holiness, this tends to incline him to walk in them. He who knows God sees him to be worthy to be obeyed. Pharaoh did not see why he should obey God, because he did not know who he was; and therefore he says, Exodus 5:2, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord."

And this is signified to be the reason why wicked men work or practice iniquity, and carry themselves so wickedly, that they have no spiritual knowledge.

Psalms 14:4, "Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord?"

And when God would describe the true knowledge of himself to the people of Israel, he does it by this fruit of it, viz. an holy practice. Jeremiah 22:16, "He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him; was not this to know me? saith the Lord."

So the apostle John informs us that the keeping of Christ's commands is an infallible fruit of knowing him, and stigmatizes him as a gross hypocrite and liar who pretends that he knows Christ and does not keep his commands. 1 John 2:3–4, "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

If a man has spiritual knowledge and understanding, it tends to make him of an excellent spirit. Proverbs 17:27, "A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit." And so it tends to make him of an excellent behavior.

Fifth. The same appears by the more immediate consideration of the principle of grace itself. This also will show that the tendency of all Christian grace is to practice. And

1. It appears that all true Christian grace tends to practice, because the faculty which is the immediate seat of it is the faculty of the will, which is the faculty that commands all a man's actions and practice. The immediate foundation of grace lies in the understanding; but the immediate seat of it is in the will or disposition. This shows that all true grace tends to practice; for there is not one of men's actions which is properly said to belong to, or to be any part of, his practice in any respect but what is at the command of the will. When we speak of men's practice, we have respect to those things which they do as [under] counsel, or as voluntary agents; or which is the same thing, those things which they do by an act of their wills. So that the whole of a man's practice is directed by the faculty of the will. All the executive powers of the man, whether of body or mind, are subject to the faculty of the will, by the constitution of him who hath made man, and is the Author of the frame of our nature. The will is the fountain of the practice, as much as the head of a spring is the fountain of the stream which flows from it. And therefore, if a principle of true grace be seated in this faculty, it must necessarily tend to practice, as much as the flowing of water in the fountain tends to its flowing in the stream.

2. It is the definition of grace that it is a principle of holy action. What is grace but a principle of holiness? or a holy principle in the heart? But the word "principle" is relative; it relates to something of which it is a principle. If grace be a principle, of what is it a principle but of action? Principles and acts are correlates which necessarily have respect one to the other. Thus the meaning of a principle of life is a principle of life which acts. So when we speak of a principle of understanding we mean a principle whence flow acts of understanding. So by a principle of sin is meant a principle whence flow acts of sin. A principle of hatred is a principle whence flow acts of hatred. And a principle of love is a principle whence flow acts of love. So when we say a principle of grace we mean a principle whence flow gracious actions. A principle of grace has as much a relation to practice as a root has to the plant. If there be a root, it is a root of something, either a root of some plant which grows from it, or which tends to bring forth some plant. It is absurd to say of a root that it is a root of nothing. So it is absurd to talk of a principle that it does not tend to practice.

3. One chief thing by which that which is real and substantial is distinguished from that which is only a shadow or appearance is that it is effectual. A shadow or a picture of a man, though it be ever so well drawn, and ever so lively a representation, and though it be the picture of a very strong man, yea, of a mighty giant, yet it can do nothing; there is nothing brought to pass by it, because it is not real, but a mere shadow or image of a thing. But at the same time the substance and reality is something which is effectual. So it is with what is found in the hearts of men; that which is only an appearance or image of grace, though it looks like great and eminent grace, is not effectual because it wants reality and substance; but that which is real and substantial is effectual, and does indeed bring something to pass in life and conversation.

4. The nature of a principle of grace is to be a principle of life, or a vital principle. This we are everywhere taught in Scripture. There natural men who have no principle of grace in their hearts are represented as dead men; but those who have grace are represented as being alive, as having a principle of life in them. But it is the nature of a principle of life to be a principle of action and operation. A dead being does not act and move, and work, or bring anything to pass. But in living persons their life appears by a continued course of action from day to day. They move and walk and work, and fill up their time with operations which are the fruits of life.

5. We are taught that true Christian grace is not only a principle of life, but an exceedingly powerful principle. Hence we read of the power of godliness, 2 Timothy 3:5. We are taught that there is divine power in it, some of that power which wrought in Christ when he was raised from the dead. But the more powerful any principle is the more effectual it is to produce those operations and that practice to which it tends. I proceed now

II. To show this of particular Christian graces.

And here—

First. It is thus with respect to a true and saving faith in Jesus Christ. This is one thing which very much distinguishes that faith which is saving from that which is only common. A true faith is a faith which works, whereas a false faith is a barren and unoperative faith. And therefore the Apostle describes saving faith as he does, Galatians 5:6, "Faith that worketh by love." And therefore the apostle James says, James 2:18, "I will show thee my faith by my works."

Second. That conviction of the understanding and judgment which there is in saving faith tends to practice. He who has true faith is convinced of the reality and certainty of the great things of religion. But he who is convinced of the reality of these things will be influenced by them as real things in the government of his actions and behavior. If men hear of great things which, if they are true, nearly concern them, and do not believe them, they will not be much moved by them, nor will they much alter their conduct for what they hear. But if they really believe what they hear, if they look upon it certain, they will show regard to it, they will be strongly influenced by it in their actions, they will alter their conduct upon it, and will do very much otherwise upon account of it, from what they would if they had heard nothing. We see it to be in all things of great concern which appear to be real to men: if they hear great news which concerns themselves, and we do not see that they alter for it in their practice, we at once conclude that they do not give heed to it as true; for we know the nature of man is so, that he will govern his actions by what he realizes and is convinced of.

So if men are really convinced of the things they hear in the gospel about an eternal world and that everlasting salvation which Christ has purchased, it will influence their practice; they will regulate their behavior according to such a belief; they will act so as tends to their obtaining this eternal salvation. If men are convinced of the certain truth of the promises of the gospel, which promise eternal riches and honor and pleasure, that they are immensely better than all the riches and honors and pleasures of this world, if they will forsake the things of the world and sell all and follow Christ, if they are fully convinced of the truth of these promises, viz. that Christ will bestow such things which are so much better and of so much longer continuance, if this appears real to them, it will have influence upon their practice; it will induce them to sell all to follow Christ; they will actually do it in their practice. The nature of men will not allow them to do otherwise. If a man be promised by another that if he will part with one pound he will give him a thousand, and he is fully convinced of the truth of his promise, and is fully satisfied that the thousand pounds will be a thousand times better to him upon all accounts than that one pound, he will part with that one pound. So he that is convinced of the sufficiency of Christ to deliver him from all evil, and to bring him to the possession of all good which he needs, if he be truly convinced, it will have influence on his practice. Such a man, while he actually has such conviction, will not be afraid to cleave to Christ in things in which he otherwise would seem greatly to expose himself to great calamity; for he is convinced that Christ is sufficient to deliver him. So he will not be afraid to forego other ways of seeking happiness, because he is convinced that Christ alone is sufficient to bestow all needed happiness.

Third. So that act of the will which there is in justifying faith tends to practice. He who by the act of his will does truly accept of Christ as a Savior accepts him as a Savior from sin, and not only as a Savior from the punishment of sin. But it is impossible that anyone should heartily receive Christ as a Savior from sin and the ways of sin, if he is not one who sincerely has a mind to part with all the ways of sin; for he who has not a mind that sin and he should be separated cannot have a mind to receive a Savior to part them. So he who receives Christ by a saving faith closes with him as a Lord and King, and not only as a Priest to make atonement for him. But to close with Christ as a King is the same thing as to close with subjection to his laws, and obedience to his commands. But he who closes with those commands lives a life of holy practice.

Fourth. All true trust in God tends to practice. And in this a true trust in God differs from false trust. A trust in God in a way of negligence is what in Scripture is called [tempting] of God; and a trust in God in a way of sin is what is in Scripture called presumption, which is a thing horribly threatened in God's Word. But he who truly and rightly trusts in God trusts in him in a way of diligence and holiness, or, which is the same thing, in a way of holy practice. The very notion of trusting in God is resting or having an acquiescence of mind in a persuasion of another's sufficiency and faithfulness, so as to run the venture of it in our actions. But they who do not practice or act upon the persuasion of another's sufficiency and faithfulness run no venture; they forbear to act anything in such a consideration, and so venture nothing, and therefore cannot be said truly to trust God. He who really trusts in another ventures on his confidence. So it is with those who truly trust in God; they rest in it that God is sufficient and faithful, so as to proceed on such a consideration to follow God, and to undergo difficulties and hardships for him, because he has promised that they shall be no losers by such things. They have such a confidence of it that they run the venture of it. But it is apparent that they who dare not run this venture dare not trust God. They who have a true spirit of trust in God will not be afraid to trust God with their estates. It is so with respect to trust in men. If those men in whom we put confidence desire to borrow of us, and promise to pay us again, and to pay us an hundredfold, we are not afraid to venture and do actually venture it. And so those who do put full confidence in God are not afraid to lend to the Lord. So they are not afraid to venture labor and fighting and wrestling and suffering for God, who has been so abundant in his promises of rewarding those things with that which will infinitely more than make up all the sorrow and difficulty. And therefore they who do really fully trust God will actually run this venture.

Fifth. True love to God tends to practice. Love is an active principle. It is a principle which is found to do so in other things. Love to creature objects, we see, does powerfully influence men in their actions and practice. Yea, what is it which chiefly keeps the world of mankind in action from day to day, and from year to year, but love of some kind or other. He who loves money is influenced by his love of that enjoyment in his practice, and kept in continual pursuit of it. And he who loves honor is governed in his practice by that. His actions through the course of his life are regulated by such a principle. And so lovers of carnal pleasures; how they pursue after them in their practice! And so also he who truly loves God is influenced by that in his practice; he earnestly seeks God in the course of his life, seeks his favor and acceptance, and seeks his glory.

Reason teaches that a man's actions are the most proper trial and evidence of his love. Thus, if a man professes a great deal of love and friendship to another, reason in such a case teaches all mankind that the most proper evidence of his being a real and hearty friend, as he professes, is his appearing a friend in his deeds, which he does; and not only in the words which he speaks, or his appearing ready time after time to lay out himself and deny himself for him, and to suffer in his private interest to do him a kindness. John 14:15, John 14:21, ["If ye love me, keep my commandments... He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me"]. If a man only professes a great deal of friendship, a wise man will not trust that profession so far as he will the proof and trial of his friendship in his behavior, wherein he has found him a faithful and constant friend, ready to do and to suffer for him. He will trust to such evidence of his love further than he will to the greatest professions and the most solemn oaths without them. So if we see a man who by his constant behavior shows himself ready to take pains and lay out himself for God, reason teaches that this is an evidence of love to God more to be depended on than if he only professes that he feels great love to God in his heart. So if we see a man who by what we behold of the course of his life seems to follow and imitate Christ, and greatly lay out himself for the honor of Christ and to promote his kingdom and interest in the world, reason teaches that this is a greater evidence of the sincerity of his love to Christ than if he only says that he loves him, and tells how his heart at such and such a time was drawn out in love to him; but at the same time seems to be backward to do much for Christ, or to put himself out of his way for promoting his kingdom; seems to be one who is apt to excuse himself whenever he is called to deny himself for Christ.

There are various ways of the exercise of sincere love to God, and they all tend to practice. One is in having an high esteem of God. Now that of which men have the highest esteem, they will naturally show the most respect to in their behavior. Another is making choice of God, choosing him above all other things. Now if men do sincerely choose God above all other things, then they will actually choose him above all other things when it comes to a trial in practice. When in the course of his life it comes to that, that God and his own honor, or God and his money, or God and his ease come to be set before him together so that he must cleave to one and forsake the other, if he really chooses God above those other things, it must be that it is his manner in such cases to cleave to God and forsake the other. Another way of the exercise of love is in desires after God. These also tend to practice. He who really has earnest desires after God will be stirred up by them earnestly to seek after him. He will apply himself to this business. For we see it so in all cases, when men have earnest desires of a good which is conceived of as attainable. Another way of the exercise of love is delighting in God and taking contentment in him. This also tends to practice. He who sincerely delights more in God than in other things and takes up his contentment in God will not forsake God for the sake of other things, for that shows that he is not contented. It is so in all cases. If a man has had any enjoyment in possession, and then afterwards forsakes it for something else, this is an evidence that he was not fully content with it, and that he did not delight in it above all other things.

Sixth. True and saving repentance tends to practice. The word in the original of the New Testament which is rendered "repentance" properly signifies a change of the mind, and men are then said to repent of sin when they change their minds with respect to sin; so that though formerly they esteemed it, and approved of it, now they utterly disapprove of it, and dislike it. But such a change of the mind tends to a change of the practice. We see it to be so universally in other things. If a man has heretofore been engaged in any pursuit, affair or business whatever, and then changes his mind, he will change his practice upon it; he will quit that pursuit; he will loose from that trade or business or way of life, and turn his hand to some other. Sorrow for sin is one thing belonging to saving repentance. But sorrow for sin, if it be thorough and sincere, tends to practice; it tends to a forsaking of sin. So it is in all things. If a man has gone on in any way or manner of behavior, and afterwards be convinced of the foolishness of it, and be heartily sorry and grieved for it, the natural and necessary effect of this will be that he will avoid it for the future. If he goes on as much as ever, and does just as he did before, nobody will believe that he is heartily sorry for doing so in time past.

Seventh. True humility is a grace which tends to practice. This is a grace abundantly recommended and insisted on in Scripture, and seems often to be spoken of as most distinguishing of true Christian virtue from that which is counterfeit. But this grace has a direct tendency to practice. A humble heart tends to a humble behavior. He who is sensible of his own meanness and nothingness, and exceeding unworthiness, will be disposed to carry himself before God and men agreeably to such meanness and unworthiness. He who used to be of a proud heart, and was under the dominion of pride, if he afterwards comes to have his heart changed, and to be made of an humble heart, will necessarily have an alteration made in his behavior. He will not now appear in his carriage as high-spirited and as scornful or as ambitious as ever, affecting as much to appear above others and striving as much after it, and as apt to contemn others, and to be enraged with those who seem to stand in the way of his earthly glory. For that from which such a behavior rose, before he was changed, was pride of heart. And therefore if there be now a great alteration with respect to this pride of heart, and that pride be mortified, and humility implanted in his heart in the room of it, surely there will be an alteration in the carriage and practice; for humility of heart is a principle which has as much tendency to practice as pride of heart has. And therefore, if the former be mortified, and the latter takes place in the room of it, the proud practice which proceeded from the former will proportionably cease, and the humble practice which is the natural fruit of the latter will take place. True Christian humility of heart tends to make persons resigned to the will of God, patient and submissive to his holy hand under afflictions, full of awful reverence towards the Deity, ready to treat divine things with great respect, and of a meek behavior towards men, condescending to inferiors and respectful towards superiors, gentle, easy to be entreated, not self-willed, not envious, but contented with his own condition, of a peaceable and quiet spirit, not disposed bitterly to resent injuries, but apt to forgive.

Eighth. A true fear of God is another thing which tends to practice. The principal thing meant by the fear of God in Scripture is a holy fear to offend him by sinning against him. Now if men do truly fear to offend God, and have a dread upon their spirit of sin against him, this will surely tend to a man's avoiding sin against God. That of which men are afraid, they will shun. If a man professes that he is afraid and has a dread of any poisonous serpent, but at the same time is seen to take no care to shun him, but is very bold with him, who will believe him? Fearing God and observing to do all his commandments are joined together as necessarily arising the one from the other, in Deuteronomy 28:58, "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law, that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God." Joseph gives this reason of his righteous and merciful dealing towards his brethren, that he feared God. Genesis 42:18, "And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God." Proverbs 8:13, "The fear of the Lord is to depart from evil." And Job gives it as a reason why he avoided sin. Job 31:23, "For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure." And God himself, when he speaks of Job's eschewing evil, mentions his fear of God as the ground of it. Job 1:8, "And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"

Ninth. It is thus also with a spirit of thankfulness and praise of God. Sincere thankfulness to God tends to a rendering again according to benefits received. We look upon this as a proper evidence of a true gratitude or thankfulness towards men. If a neighbor does another a remarkable kindness, and he be really suitably thankful to him for it, he will be ready when occasion presents to do him as good a kindness. And though we cannot requite God's kindness by doing anything which shall be any profit to God, yet a spirit of thankfulness will dispose men to do what they can. Though they cannot profit God, yet, as far as in them lies,4 to do what shall be well pleasing and acceptable to God, and shall tend to his declarative glory. If one man should take pity on another who was in some great distress, and in danger of some terrible death, and he that had compassion should greatly lay out himself for his rescue and deliverance, and should undergo great hardships and sufferings in order to it, and by that means should deliver him; and he that was delivered should pretend a great deal of thankfulness towards his deliverer, but yet should in his carriage towards him oppose him, and dishonor him, and cast contempt upon him, and be exceedingly injurious to him, no one would believe his professions of thankfulness. Neither are men's professions of thankfulness to God for the dying love of Christ, and the infinite grace and mercy of God in him, to be regarded if men at the same time lead wicked lives.

Tenth. It is so also with respect to a Christian-mindedness and heavenly-mindedness. I put these two together, for they are very much the same. Not to be weaned from the world is the same thing as to be earthly-minded. But to have a truly Christian weanedness from the world is to be not earthly but heavenly-minded. This also is a grace which tends to practice. If the heart be taken off from the world, it will tend to take off a man's pursuits from the world; and if the heart be set on heavenly things, which are things that are not of the world, it will tend to cause a pursuit after those things. He who has his heart loose from the world will not keep the world close in his practice, as being exceedingly loath on occasion to part with any of it. If a man, talking of his experience, tells how he found his heart weaned from the world, how the world looked like nothing to him, and how he saw the vanity of it at such and such a time; but yet if he in practice seems to be violent after the world, much more earnest after it than he is after heavenly things, such as an increase of grace, and more knowledge of God, and a greater treasure in heaven; and when he has gotten the world keeps it close, appears exceedingly loath to spare a little of it for pious or charitable uses, though God promises him a thousandfold more in heaven for it; he wants the best evidence of his being truly weaned from the world, and of his pursuing heavenly things before earthly, and gives very great reason to fear that his profession is vain.

Eleventh. So it also is with a spirit of Christian love to men. If it be sincere it tends to a loving practice, or to deeds of love. That is a hypocritical and not a sincere love which appears only in word and in tongue. But that love which is love in truth is love not in word only, but in deed also.

1 John 3:18–19, "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. Hereby we know that we are of the truth."

No other love to brethren but that which shows itself in deeds of love will profit any man. James 2:15–16, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"

Experience shows that those for whom men have a sincere love, they are ready both to do and to suffer for. We are very ready to believe that men love their own children, because this is natural; and such a love generally prevails through the world. But as incredible as it is that a man should not love his own children, yet if we should see a father who beheld his child in suffering circumstances and would not put himself out of his way to help him, did not treat his child with commiseration and kindness, but seemed to conduct towards him through the course of his life as if he was regardless what became of him, we should scarcely believe that he had any great fatherly love to his child. Love to our neighbor will dispose us to all manner of good practice towards our neighbor, as the Apostle observes.

Romans 13:9–10, "For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

Twelfth. And this is the last instance which I shall mention. It is so also with a true and gracious hope. This also tends to holy practice. A false hope5 has a tendency which is the reverse. It tends to licentiousness, to encourage men's lusts, and flatter and embolden them in sin. But a true hope not only does not tend to harden men in sin, and make them more careless of their duty, but it tends to stir them up to holiness of life, to quicken them to duty, to make them more careful to avoid sin, and more diligent and strict in serving God. 1 John 3:3, "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." A gracious hope has this tendency from the nature of the happiness hoped for. The happiness which a gracious person wishes is that which consists in holiness. But the more a man seeks and the more he hopes for such a happiness, which consists in holiness, the more does it quicken and enliven a disposition to holiness. And it also has this tendency from the respect it has to the Author of the happiness hoped for; it hopes for it from God, as the [[fruit of his undeserved]] and infinite mercy; and therefore it stirs up thankfulness, and engages the heart to seek what to render for such a wonderful benefit promised. It has also this tendency by its regard to the means by which it hopes to obtain it. A true hope hopes to obtain happiness in no way but the way of the gospel, which is by a holy Savior and in a way of cleaving to and following him. It has also this tendency by the influence of that which is the immediate source of a gracious hope, which is faith in Jesus Christ; for a true Christian hope is the immediate fruit of faith. But faith tends to practice and works by love, as has been already shown.

Thus I have shown, first by general arguments, and then by an induction of practice wherein I have mentioned all the principal graces of a Christian, how every true Christian grace tends to a Christian life and walk; and it appears by these things that all grace has a direct relation to a holy practice, as a root has to the plant which springs from it, and as the head of a spring has to the stream, or as a light has to shining, or as a principle of life has to living.


[I. Use of instruction]

First. Hence we may see a principal reason why Christian practice and good works are so abundantly insisted on in Scripture as an evidence of sincerity in grace. Christ has given it as a rule to us by which we should judge of men, viz. that we should judge of them by their fruits. Matthew 7:16 and Matthew 7:20, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

And Christ insists on it in an emphatical manner as that which shows that a man loves him indeed, if he keeps his commands. Of such an one Christ says, "he it is that loveth me," John 14:21; and declares both ways, that if a man does sincerely love him, he will keep them, if he does not, he will not. John 14:23–24, "If a man love me, he will keep my words. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings."

Hence we may learn the reason why the apostle Paul so much insisted on this, intimating to those to whom he wrote that if any pretended to belong to the kingdom of God, and did not keep God's commandments, they were but vain words. Ephesians 5:5–6, "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words." Galatians 6:7, "Be not deceived." 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God." And he tells us that they who "are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts," Galatians 5:24. And he tells us that they who walk after the flesh shall die, Romans 8:13.

And this teaches us the reason why this is so much insisted on by the apostle James in places which you have often read and heard, and which I need not now mention. And so by the apostle John in his epistles this is abundantly insisted on more than all other signs in places too numerous now to be mentioned.

Second. This may teach us the reason why, when Christ comes to judge men at the last day, he will judge professors of religion according to their practice.

II. Use [of self-examination].

Let this put all who think themselves gracious upon examining themselves, whether they find that their grace is of this sort. You have now heard that if it be sincere and truly Christian, it is of this sort. Here it may be some truly godly persons may be ready to say that if they must judge themselves by their practice, they must condemn themselves, they find they fail so much, and are so often wandering out of the way. But to such I answer: persons who try themselves by their practice may find that they greatly fail every day, and are in many instances often wandering out of the way, and yet not see just cause to condemn themselves. For when we speak of a life of Christian practice, and when the Scripture speaks of holiness of life in Christians, that is not the meaning of it, that it should be a perfect life. Yea, a Christian's life may be attended with many and exceedingly great imperfections, and yet be a holy life, a truly Christian life. It may be such a life as does manifestly show that the grace which he has is of that kind which has a tendency to practice. His fruits may be such as to be good evidence of the nature of the tree, and his works may be such as may show his faith. And therefore of whatever imperfections and failings you are guilty, yet examine yourself whether there be these following evidences of your grace being of that kind which tends to practice.

First. Inquire whether your supposed grace has that influence as to render those things wherein you have failed to holy practice to be loathsome, grievous and humbling to you. Has it influence on your mind to render your past sinful practices hateful in your eyes, and has it made you a mourner for them? And does it render those things which have been in you since your supposed conviction, which are contrary to Christian practice, odious in your eyes? And is it the great burden of your life that you practice no better? Is it really grievous to you, and are you ready sometimes to loathe yourself for it after the example of Job? Job 42:6, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." The apostle Paul cried out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" [Romans 7:24].

Second. Are you one who carries about with you a dread of sin? Have you not only a mourning and an humbling for sins which are past, but have you a dread of future sin? Do you dread it because it is an evil so hurtful to your spirit? Do you dread it as a terrible enemy, by which you have often smarted, and which has been a grievous thing to you heretofore? Do you dread it as something by which you have been hurt, and wounded and stung? Do you stand on your watch against it, as a man would keep watch against something which he dreads? Such a dread had Joseph. Genesis 39:9, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"

Third. Are you sensible of the beauty and pleasantness of ways of holy practice? Do you see the beauty of holiness, the loveliness of the ways of God and Christ? It is said in the text, that charity rejoiceth in the truth; and that is given as the character of the godly that he rejoices and works righteousness, Isaiah 64:5. And how often does the Psalmist speak of the law of God as being his delight, and how he loves God's commandments [Psalms 1:2 and Psalms 119:6]?

Fourth. Do you find that you do particularly esteem and delight in those practices which may, by way of eminence, be called Christian practices in distinction from heathen morality, such as a humble, and meek, and self-denying, self-renouncing, and an heavenly walk and behavior? Many heathens were very eminent for many moral virtues, and wrote excellently of them; as of justice, and of generosity, and of fortitude and others. But they were far from a Christian poverty of spirit, and lowliness of mind; they sought their own glory, and gloried exceedingly in their virtue, and said nothing about such a walk as the gospel commands, a walking in self-emptiness, poverty of spirit, self-diffidence, self-renunciation. And they said little of meekness, and did not own love of enemies, and forgiveness to be any virtue. Therefore, these peculiarly Christian virtues are called Christian virtues by way of eminence; [[and of these it is that I ask, if you hold them in special esteem for your Savior's sake, and because they are fraught with his Spirit? If you are essentially distinguished and different in your spirit from the mere moralist, or the heathen sage or philosopher, you will have a spirit of special esteem for and delight in these virtues that do especially belong to the gospel.

Fifth. Do you hunger and thirst after a holy practice? Do you long to live a holy life, to be conformed to God, to have your conduct day by day better regulated, and more spiritual, more to God's glory, and more such as becometh a Christian? Is this what you love and pray for, and long for, and live for? This is mentioned by Christ as belonging to the character of true Christians, that they "hunger and thirst after righteousness" [Matthew 5:6]. Does this trait belong to you?

Sixth. Do you make a business of endeavoring to live holily, and as God would have you, in all respects? Not only can you be said to endeavor after holiness, but do you make a business of endeavoring after it? Is it a matter that lies with weight upon your mind? A true and faithful Christian does not make holy living a mere incidental thing, but it is his great concern. As the business of the soldier is to fight, so the business of a Christian is to be like Christ, to be holy as he is holy [Leviticus 11:44].1 Christian practice is the great work that he is engaged in, just as the race was the great work of the racers. Is this so with you? And is it your great aim and love to keep all God's commandments, and so far as known to neglect none? "Then," says the Psalmist, Psalms 119:6, "I shall not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments." Is this your serious, constant, and prayerful aim, that you may be faithful in every known duty? And once more,

Seventh. Do you greatly desire that you may know all that is your duty? And do you desire to know it that you may do it? With the patriarch Job, can you and do you pray to the Almighty, "That which I see not, teach thou me," adding, as he added, to the great Searcher of hearts, "If I have done iniquity, I will do no more"? [Job 34:32]

If you can honestly meet these tests, then you have the evidence that your grace is of the kind that tends to holy practice, and to growth in it. And though you may fall, through God's mercy you shall rise again. He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it on until the day of Jesus Christ. Though you may be, at times, faint, yet if pursuing, you shall be borne on from strength to strength, and kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.

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