(Owen. The Glory of Christ, Part 2. File 3) 
(... continued from File 2) 
    4. Remember that the Scripture confines you unto the present  
day, without the least intimation that you shall have either another  
day, or another tender of grace and mercy in any day, 2 Cor. 6: 2;  
Heb. 3: 7, 13; 12: 15. Take care lest you come short of the grace of  
God, miss of it by missing your opportunity. Redeem the time, or you  
are lost for ever.  
    5. As unto the pretence of your occasions and business, there  
is a ready way to disappoint the craft of Satan in that pretence, -  
namely, to mix thoughts of Christ and the renovation of your  
resolutions either to come or to cleave unto him with all your  
occasions. Let nothing put it utterly out of your minds; make it  
familiar unto you, and you will beat Satan out of that stronghold,  
Prov. 7: 4. However, shake yourselves out of this dust, or  
destruction lies at the door.  
    Fourthly, It is the language of the hearts of some, that if  
they give up themselves unto a compliance with this exhortation, and  
go seriously about this duty, they must relinquish and renounce all  
their lusts and pleasures; yea, much of their converse and society,  
wherein they find so much present satisfaction, as that they know  
not how to part with them. If they might retain their old ways, at  
least some of them, it were another matter; but this total  
relinquishment of all is very severe.  
    Ans. 1. The Jesuits, preaching and painting of Christ among  
some of the Indians, concealed from them his cross and sufferings,  
telling them only of his present glory and power; so as they  
pretended to win them over to faith in him, hiding from them that  
whereby they might be discouraged; and so preached a false Christ  
unto them, one of their own framing. We dare do no such thing for  
all the world; we can here use no condescension, no compliance, no  
composition with respect unto any sin or lust; we have no commission  
to grant that request of Lot, "Is it not a little one? let it be  
spared;" nor to come to Naaman's terms, "God be merciful to me in  
this thing; in all others I will be obedient." Wherefore, -  
    2. We must here be peremptory with you, whatever be the event;  
if you are discouraged by it, we cannot help it. Cursed be the man  
that shall encourage you to come to Christ with hopes of indulgence  
unto any one sin whatever. I speak not this as though you could at  
once absolutely and perfectly leave all sin, in the root and  
branches of it; but only you are to do it in heart and resolution,  
engaging unto a universal mortification of all sin, as by grace from  
above you shall be enabled; but your choice must be absolute,  
without reserves, as to love, interest, and design; - God or the  
world, - Christ or Belial, - holiness or sin; there is no medium, no  
terms of composition, 2 Cor. 6: 15-18.  
    As unto what you pretend of your pleasures, the truth is, you  
never yet had any real pleasure, nor do know what it is. How easy  
were it to declare the folly, vanity, bitterness, poison of those  
things which you have esteemed your pleasures! Here alone - namely,  
in Christ, and a participation of him - are true pleasures and  
durable riches to be obtained; pleasure of the same nature with, and  
such as, like pleasant streams, flow down into the ocean of eternal  
pleasures above. A few moments in these joys are to be preferred  
above the longest continuance in the cursed pleasures of this world.  
See Prov. 3: 13-18.  
    Fifthly, It will be said by some, that they do not see those  
who profess themselves to be believers, to be so much better than  
they are, as that you need to press us so earnestly to so great a  
change; we know not why we should not be accounted believers  
already, as well as they. I shall in a few words, as well as I am  
able, lay this stumbling-block out of the way, though I confess, at  
this day, it is weighty and cumbersome. And I say, -  
    1. Among them that profess themselves to be believers, there  
are many false, corrupt hypocrites; and it is no wonder that on  
various occasions they lay the stumbling-block of their iniquities  
before the faces of others; but they shall bear their own burden and  
    2. It is acknowledged, it must be bewailed, that some whom we  
have reason to judge to be true believers, yet, through their  
unfortified pride, or covetousness, or carelessness in their  
conversation, or vain attire and conformity to the world, or  
forwardness, do give just occasion of offence. We confess that God  
is displeased herewith, Christ and the Gospel dishonoured, and many  
that are weak are wounded, and others discouraged. But as for you,  
this is not your rule, - this is not proposed unto you; but that  
word only is so that will never fail you.  
    3. The world does not know, nor is able to make a right  
judgement of believers; nor do you so, for it is the spiritual man  
alone that discerneth the things of God. Their infirmities are  
visible to all, - their graces invisible; the King's daughter is  
glorious within. And when you are able to make a right judgement of  
them, you will desire no greater advancement than to be of their  
society, Ps. 16: 3.  
    These few instances of the pretences wherewith unbelief covers  
its deformity, and hides that destruction wherewith it is  
accompanied, may suffice unto our present purpose; they are  
multiplied in the minds of men, impregnated by the suggestions of  
Satan on their darkness and folly. A little spiritual wisdom will  
rend the veil of them all, and expose unbelief acting in enmity  
against Christ under them. But what has been spoken may suffice to  
answer the necessity of the preceding exhortation on this occasion.  
Chapter 2.  
The Way and Means of the Recovery of Spiritual Decays, and of  
Obtaining Fresh Springs of Grace.  
    The application of the same truth, in the second place, belongs  
unto relievers, especially such as have made any long profession of  
walking in the ways of God and the gospel. And that which I design  
herein, is to manifest, that a steady spiritual view of the glory of  
Christ by faith, will give them a gracious revival from inward  
decays, and fresh springs of grace, even in their latter days. A  
truth this is, as we shall see, confirmed by Scripture, with the  
joyful experience of multitudes of believers, and is of great  
importance unto all that are so.  
    There are two things which those who, after a long profession  
of the gospel, are entering into the confines of eternity do long  
for and desire. The one is, that all their breaches may be repaired,  
their decays recovered, their backsliding healed; for unto these  
things they have been less or more obnoxious in the course of their  
walking before God. The other is, that they may have fresh springs  
of spiritual life, and vigorous acting of all divine graces, in  
spiritual-mindedness, holiness, and fruitfulness, unto the praise of  
God, the honour of the gospel, and the increase of their own peace  
and joy. These things they value more than all the world, and all  
that is in it; about these things are their thoughts and  
contrivances exercised night and day. Those with whom it is  
otherwise, whatever they pretend, are in the dark unto themselves  
and their own condition; for it is in the nature of this grace to  
grow and increase unto the end. As rivers, the nearer they come unto  
the ocean whither they tend, the more they increase their waters,  
and speed their streams; so will grace flow more freely and fully in  
its near approaches to the ocean of glory. That is not saving which  
does not so.  
    An experience hereof - I mean of the thriving of grace towards  
the end of our course - is that alone which can support us under the  
troubles and temptations of life, which we have to conflict withal.  
So the apostle tells us, that this is our great relief in all our  
distresses and afflictions, "for which cause we faint not; but  
though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by  
day," 2 Cor. 4: 16. If it be so, that in the daily decays of the  
outward man, in all the approaches of its dissolution, we have  
inward spiritual revivals and renovation, we shall not faint in what  
we undergo. And without such continual renovations, we shall faint  
in our distresses, whatever other things we may have, or whatever we  
pretend unto the contrary.  
    And ordinarily it is so, in the holy, wise providence of God,  
that afflictions and troubles increase with age. It is so, in an  
especial manner, with ministers of the gospel; they have many of  
them a share in the lot of Peter, which our Lord Jesus Christ  
declared unto him, John 21: 18, "When thou wast young, thou girdedst  
thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be  
old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird  
thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." Besides those  
natural distemper and infirmities which accompany the decays of  
life, troubles of life, and in their affairs, do usually grow upon  
them, when they look for nothing less, but were ready to say with  
Job, "We shall die in our nest," Job 29: 18. So was it with Jacob,  
after all his hard labour and travail to provide for his family,  
such things fell out in it in his old age as had almost broken his  
heart. And oft times both persecutions and public dangers do befall  
them at the same season. Whilst the outward man is thus perishing,  
we need great supportment, that we faint not. And this is only to be  
had in an experience of daily spiritual renovations in the inner  
    The excellency of this mercy the Psalmist expresseth in a  
heavenly manner, Ps. 92: 12-15, "The righteous shall flourish like  
the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be  
planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our  
God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be  
fat and flourishing; to show that the LOBD is upright: he is my  
rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."  
    The promise in the 12th verse respects the times of the  
Messiah, or of the New Testament; for so it is prophesied of him,  
"In his days the righteous shall flourish," Ps. 72: 7, - namely,  
through the abundance of grace that should be administered from his  
fulness, as John 1: 16; Col. 1: 19. And herein consists the glory of  
the gospel, and not in outward prosperity or external ornaments of  
divine worship. The flourishing of the righteous, I say, in grace  
and holiness is the glory of the office of Christ and of the gospel.  
Where this is not, there is no glory in the profession of our  
religion. The glory of kings is in the wealth and peace of their  
subjects; and the glory of Christ is in the grace and holiness of  
his subjects.  
    This flourishing is compared to the palm-tree, and the growth  
of the cedar. The palm-tree is of the greatest verdure, beauty, and  
fruitfulness, and the cedar of the greatest and longest growth of  
any trees. So are the righteous compared to the palm-tree for the  
beauty of profession and fruitfulness in obedience; and unto the  
cedar for a continual, constant growth and increase in grace. Thus  
it is with all that are righteous, unless it be from their own  
sinful neglect, as it is with many in this day. They are hereon  
rather like the shrubs and heaths in the wilderness, which see not  
when good comes, than like the palm-tree or the cedars of Lebanon.  
And hereby do men what lies in them to obscure the glory of Christ  
and his kingdom, as well as disquiet their own souls.  
    The words that follow, verse 13, "Those that be planted in the  
house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God," are not  
distinctive of some from other, as though some only of the  
nourishing righteous were so planted; but they are descriptive of  
them all, with an addition of the way and means whereby they are  
caused so to grow and flourish. And this is, their implantation in  
the house of the Lord; - that is, in the church, which is the seat  
of all the means of spiritual life, both as unto growth and  
flourishing, which God is pleased to grant unto believers. To be  
planted in the house of the Lord, is to be fixed and rooted in the  
grace communicated by the ordinances of divine worship. Unless we  
are planted in the house of the Lord, we cannot flourish in his  
courts. See Ps. 1: 3. Unless we are partakers of the grace  
administered in the ordinances, we cannot flourish in a fruitful  
profession. The outward participation of them is common unto  
hypocrites, that bear some leaves, but neither grow like the cedar  
nor bear fruit like the palm-tree. So the apostle prays for  
believers, that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith, that they  
may be "rooted and grounded in love," Eph. 3: 17, - "rooted, built  
up, and established," Col. 2: 7. The want hereof is the cause that  
we have so many fruitless professors; they have entered the courts  
of God by profession, but were never planted in his house by faith  
and love. Let us not deceive ourselves herein; - we may be entered  
into the church, and made partakers of the outward privileges of it,  
and not be so planted in it as to flourish in grace and  
    That which on this occasion I principally intend, is the grace  
and privilege expressed, verse 14, "They shall still bring forth  
fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing." There be three  
things which constitute a spiritual state, or belong to the life of  
God. 1. That believers be fat; that is, by the heavenly juice, sap,  
or fatness of the true olive, of Christ himself, as Rom. 11: 17.  
This is the principle of spiritual life and grace derived from him.  
When this abounds in them, so as to give them strength and vigour in  
the exercise of grace, to keep them from decays and withering, they  
are said to be fat; which, in the Scripture phrase, is strong and  
healthy. 2. That they flourish in the greenness (as the word is) and  
verdure of profession; for vigorous grace will produce a flourishing  
profession. 3. That they still bring forth fruit in all duties of  
holy obedience. All these are promised unto them even in old age.  
    Even trees, when they grow old (the palm and the cedar), are  
apt to lose of their juice and verdure: and men in old age are  
subject unto all sorts of decays, both outward and inward. It is a  
rare thing to see a man in old age naturally vigorous, healthy, and  
strong; and would it were not more rare to see any spiritually so at  
the same season! But this is here promised unto believers as an  
especial grace and privilege, beyond what can be represented in the  
growth or fruit-bearing of plants and trees.  
    The grace intended is, that when believers are under all sorts  
of bodily and natural decays, and, it may be, have been overtaken  
with spiritual decays also, there is provision made in the covenant  
to render them fat, flourishing, and fruitful, - vigorous in the  
power of internal grace, and flourishing in the expression of it in  
all duties of obedience; which is that which we now inquire after.  
    Blessed be God for this good word of his grace, that he has  
given us such encouragement against all the decays and temptations  
of old age which we have to conflict withal!  
    And the Psalmist, in the next words, declares the greatness of  
this privilege: "To show that the LORD is upright; he is my rock,  
and there is no unrighteousness in him." Consider the oppositions  
that lie against the flourishing of believers in old age, the  
difficulties of it, the temptations that must be conquered, the  
acting of the mind above its natural abilities which are decayed the  
weariness that is apt to befall us in a long spiritual conflict, the  
cries of the flesh to be spared, and we shall see it to be an  
evidence of the faithfulness, power, and righteousness of God in  
covenant; - nothing else could produce this mighty effect. So the  
prophet, treating of the same promise, Hos. 14: 4-8, closes his  
discourse with that blessed remark, verse 9, "Who is wise, and he  
shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for  
the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them."  
Spiritual wisdom will make us to see that the faithfulness and power  
of God are exerted in this work of preserving believers flourishing  
and fruitful unto the end.  
    Having laid the foundation of this illustrious testimony, I  
shall farther declare and confirm my intention, so to make way for  
the application of the truth under consideration unto this case, -  
manifesting that the way whereby we may be made partakers of this  
grace, is by a steady view of the glory of Christ, as proposed to us  
in the Gospel.  
    There is a latter spring in the year, a spring in autumn; it  
is, indeed, for the most part, but faint and weak, - yet is it such  
as the husbandman cannot spare. And it is an evident sign of barren  
ground, when it does not put forth afresh towards the end of the  
year. God, the good husband man, looks for the same from us,  
especially if we had a summer's drought in spiritual decays; as the  
Psalmist complains, Ps. 32: 4. Had we not had a latter spring the  
last year, the land had greatly suffered under the drought of the  
summer. And if we have had such a drought in the course of our  
profession by spiritual decays, as God, the good husband man, looks  
for a latter spring in us, even in old age, in the vigorous acting  
of grace and fruitful obedience; so without it we can neither have  
peace nor joy in our own souls. If a man, therefore, has made a  
great appearance of religion in his former or younger days, and when  
he is growing into age becomes dead, cold, worldly, selfish, - if he  
have no fresh springs of spiritual life in him, it is an evidence  
that he has a barren heart, that was never really fruitful to God. I  
know that many stand in need of being excited by such warning unto a  
diligent consideration of their state and condition.  
    It is true, that the latter spring does not bring forth the  
same fruit with the former. There is no more required in it but that  
the ground evidence itself to be in good heart, and put forth that  
which is proper unto the season. It may be, such graces as were  
active and vigorous in men at their first conversion unto God, as  
were carried in a stream of warm, natural affections, may not so  
eminently abound in the latter spring of old age; but those which  
are proper for the season - as namely, spirituality,  
heavenly-mindedness, weanedness from the world, readiness for the  
cross and death - are necessary, even in old age, to evidence that  
we have a living principle of grace, and to show thereby that God is  
upright; He is our rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.  
    What is farther to be insisted one shall be reduced unto these  
four heads: -  
    I. That the constitution of spiritual life is such as is meet  
to thrive, grow, and increase unto the end, and will do so, unless  
it be from the default of them in whom it is.  
    II. That notwithstanding this nature and constitution of  
spiritual life, yet believers are subject unto many decays, partly  
gradual, and partly by surprisals in temptation, whereby the growth  
of it is obstructed, unto the dishonour of the gospel and the loss  
of their own peace with joy.  
    III. I shall show that such at present is the condition of many  
professors, - namely that they are visibly fallen under spiritual  
decays, and do not evidence any interest in the blessed promise  
insisted on.  
    IV. On the confirmation of these things, our inquiry will be,  
how such persons may be delivered from such decays, and by what  
means they may obtain the grace here promised, of spiritual  
flourishing in old age, both in the strengthening of the inward  
principle of life and abounding in fruits of obedience, which are to  
the praise of God by Jesus Christ; and then we shall make  
application unto this case of that truth which is the subject of the  
preceding discourse.  
    I. The constitution of spiritual life is such as is meet to  
grow and increase unto the end. Hereby it does distinguish itself  
from that faith which is temporary; for there is a temporary faith,  
which will both flourish for a season and bring forth some fruit;  
but it is not in its nature and constitution to abide, to grow and  
increase, but rather to decay and wither. It is described by our  
Lord Jesus Christ, Matt. 13: 20, 21. Either some great temptation  
extinguishes it, or it decays insensibly, until the mind wherein it  
was do manifest itself to be utterly barren. And, therefore, whoever  
is sensible of any spiritual decays, he is called unto a severe  
trial and examination of himself, as unto the nature of the  
principle of his profession and obedience; for such decays do rather  
argue a principle of temporary faith only, unto which they are  
proper and natural, than that whose nature it is to thrive and grow  
to the end, whereon those that have it shall, as it is in the  
promise, still bring forth fruit, and, without their own great  
guilt, be always freed from such decays.  
    That this spiritual life is in its nature and constitution such  
as will abide, thrive, and grow to the end, is three ways testified  
unto in the Scripture.  
    1. In that it is compared unto things of the most infallible  
increase and progress; for besides that its growth is frequently  
likened unto that of plants and trees well watered, and in a  
fruitful soil, which fail not to spring, unless it be from some  
external violence; it is likewise compared unto such things as whose  
progress is absolutely infallible, Prov. 4: 18, "The path of the  
just is, as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the  
perfect day." The path of the just is his covenant-walk before God,  
as it is frequently called in the Scripture, Ps. 119: 35,105; Isa.  
26: 7; Ps. 23: 3; Matt. 3: 3; Heb. 12: 13; and it compriseth the  
principle, profession, and fruits of it. This, saith the wise man,  
is as the shining light; that is, the morning light. And wherein is  
it so? Why, as that goes on by degrees, and shineth more and more  
unto the high noon (though it may be interrupted sometimes by clouds  
and storms); so is this path of the just, - it goes on and  
increaseth unto the high noon, the perfect day of glory. It is in  
its nature so to do, though it may sometimes meet with obstructions,  
as we shall see afterward; and so does the morning light also.  
    There is no visible difference, as unto light, between the  
light of the morning and the light of the evening; yea, this latter  
sometimes, from gleams of the setting sun, seems to be more glorious  
than the other. But herein they differ: the first goes on gradually  
unto more light, until it comes to perfection; the other gradually  
gives place unto darkness, until it comes to be midnight. So is it  
as unto the light of the just and of the hypocrite, and so is it as  
unto their paths. At first setting out they may seem alike and  
equal; yea, convictions and spiritual gifts acted with corrupt ends  
in some hypocrites, may for a time give a greater lustre of  
profession than the grace of others sincerely converted unto God may  
attain unto. But herein they discover their different natures: the  
one increaseth and goes on constantly, though it may be sometimes  
but faintly; the other decays, grows dim, gives place to darkness  
and crooked walking.  
    This, then, is the nature of the path of the just; and where it  
is otherwise with us in our walk before God, we can have no evidence  
that we are in that path, or that we have a living, growing  
principle of spiritual life in us. And it is fit that professors of  
all sorts should be minded of these things; for we may see not a few  
of them under visible decays, without any sincere endeavours after a  
recovery, who yet please themselves that the root of the matter is  
in them. It is so, if love of the world, conformity unto it,  
negligence in holy duties, and coldness in spiritual love, be an  
evidence of such decays. But let none deceive their own souls;  
wherever there is a living principle of grace, it will be thriving  
and growing unto the end. And if it fall under obstructions, and  
thereby into decays for a season, it will give no rest or quietness  
unto the soul wherein it is, but will labour continually for a  
recovery. Peace in a spiritually-decaying condition, is a  
soul-ruining security; better be under terror on the account of  
surprisal into some sin, than be in peace under evident decays of  
spiritual life.  
    And, by the way, this comparing of the path of the just unto  
the morning light minds me of what I have seen more than once. That  
light has sometimes cheerfully appeared unto the world, when, after  
a little season, by reason of clouds, tempests, and storms, it has  
given place again to darkness, like that of the night; but it has  
not so been lost and buried like the evening light. After a while it  
has recovered itself unto a greater lustre than before, manifesting  
that it increased in itself whilst it was eclipsed as to us. So has  
it been with not a few at their first conversion unto God: great  
darkness and trouble have, by the efficacy of temptation and  
injections of Satan, possessed their minds; but the grace which they  
have receded, being as the morning light, has after a while  
disentangled itself, and given evidence that it was so far from  
being extinguished, as that it grew and thrived under all those  
clouds and darkness; for the light of the just does in the issue  
always increase by temptations, as that of the hypocrite is  
constantly impaired by them.  
    Again, as it is as the morning light, than which nothing has a  
more assured progress; so it is called by our Saviour "living  
water," John 4: 10, yea, "a well of water, springing up into  
everlasting life," verse 14. It is an indeficient spring, - not a  
pool or pond, though never so large, which may be dried up. Many  
such pools of light, gifts, and profession, have we seen utterly  
dried up, when they have come into age, or been ensnared by the  
temptations of the world. And we may see others every day under  
dangerous decays; their countenances are changed, and they have lost  
that oil which makes the face of a believer to shine, - namely, the  
oil of love, meekness, self denial, and spirituality of converse;  
and instead thereof, there is spread upon them the fulsome ointment  
of pride, self-love, earthly-mindedness, which increaseth on them  
more and more. But where this principle of spiritual life is, it is  
as the morning light, as an indeficient spring that never fails, nor  
can do so, until it issue in eternal life. And sundry other ways  
there are whereby the same truth is asserted in the Scripture.  
    2. There are sundry divine promises given unto believers that  
so it shall be, or to secure them of such supplies of grace as shall  
cause their spiritual life to grow, increase, and flourish unto the  
end; such as that in the psalm which we have considered. For these  
promises are the means whereby this spiritual life is originally  
communicated unto us, and whereby it is preserved in us; by them are  
we made partakers of this divine nature, 2 Pet. 1: 4; and through  
them is it continued in us. Now [as to] promises of this nature, -  
namely, that by the dispensation of the Spirit of Christ, and  
supplies of his grace, our spiritual life shall flourish, and be  
made fruitful to the end, - I shall briefly call over one of them  
only at present, which is recorded, Isa. 44: 3, 4, "I will pour  
water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I  
will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine  
offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows  
by the water-courses."  
    Although this promise may have respect unto the gracious  
dealing of God with the people of the Jews after their return from  
the captivity, yet has it so only as it was typical of the  
redemption of the church by Jesus Christ; but it belongs properly to  
the times of the gospel, when the righteous were to flourish, and it  
is a promise of the new covenant, as is manifest in that it is not  
only given unto believers, but is also extended unto their seed and  
offspring; which is an assured signature of new covenant promises.  
And here is, - 1. A supposition of what we are in ourselves, both  
before and after our conversion unto God, - namely, as thirsty, dry,  
and barren ground. We have nothing in ourselves, no radical moisture  
to make us flourishing and fruitful. And as it is before, so it is  
after conversion: "We are not sufficient of ourselves; our  
sufficiency is of God," 2 Cor. 3: 5. Being left to ourselves, we  
should utterly wither and perish. But, - 2. Here is the blessed  
relief which God in this case has provided; he will pour the  
sanctifying water of his Spirit and the blessing of his grace upon  
us. And this he will so do as to cause us to spring up as among the  
grass, as willows by the water-courses. There is nothing of a more  
eminent and almost visible growth than willows by the water-courses.  
Such shall be the spiritual growth of believers under the influences  
of these promises; that is, they shall be fat and flourishing, and  
still bring forth fruit. And other promises of the same nature there  
are many; but we must observe three things concerning them, that we  
may be satisfied in their accomplishment. As, -  
    (1.) The promises of the new covenant, as unto the first  
communication of grace unto the elect, are absolute and  
unconditional; they are the executive conveyances of God's immutable  
purposes and decrees. And what should be the condition of the  
communication of the first grace unto us? Nothing that is not grace  
can be so. If it be said that this also is of God in us, which is  
the condition of the communication of the first saving grace unto  
us, then I would know whether that be bestowed upon us without any  
condition. If it be, then that is the first grace, as being  
absolutely free; if it be not, then what is the condition whereon it  
is bestowed? concerning which the same inquiry must be made, - and  
so for ever. But this is the glory of covenant promises, that, as  
unto the communication of the grace of conversion and sanctification  
unto the elect, they are absolutely free and unconditionate. But, -  
    (2.) The promises which respect the growth, degrees, and  
measures of this grace in believers are not so. There are many  
duties required of us, that these promises may be accomplished  
towards us and in us; yea, watchful diligence in universal gospel  
obedience is expected from us unto this end. See 2 Pet. 1: 4-10.  
This is the ordinary method of the communication of all supplies of  
grace to make us spiritually flourish and be fruitful, - namely,  
that we be found in the diligent exercise of what we have received.  
God does sometimes deal otherwise, in a way of sovereignty, and  
surpriseth men with healing grace in the midst of their decays and  
backsliding; as Isa. 57: 17, 18. So has many a poor soul been  
delivered from going down into the pit. The good shepherd will go  
out of his way to save a wandering sheep; but this is the ordinary  
    (3.) Notwithstanding these blessed promises of growth,  
flourishing, and fruitfulness, if we are negligent in the due  
improvement of the grace which we have received, and the discharge  
of the duties required of us, we may fall into decays, and be kept  
in a low, unthrifty state all our days. And this is the principal  
ground of the discrepancy between the glory and beauty of the  
church, as represented in the promises of the Gospel, and as  
exemplified in the lives and walking of professors, - they do not  
live up unto the condition of their accomplishment in them; howbeit,  
in God's way and time they shall be all fulfilled. We have,  
therefore, innumerable blessed promises concerning the thriving,  
growing, and flourishing of the principle of spiritual life in us,  
even in old age and until death; but the grace promised unto this  
end will not befall us whilst we are asleep in spiritual sloth and  
security. Fervent prayer, the exercise of all grace received, with  
watchfulness unto all holy duties, are required hereunto.  
    3. God has secured the growth of this spiritual life, by the  
provision of food for it, whereby it may be strengthened and  
increased; for life must be preserved by food. And this in our case  
is the Word of God, with all other ordinances of divine worship  
which depend thereon, 1 Pet. 2: 2, 3. Whatever the state of this  
life be, - whether in its beginning, its progress, its decays, -  
there is suitable nourishment provided for it in the good Word of  
God's grace. If men will neglect their daily food that is provided  
for them, it is no wonder if they be weak and thriftless. And if  
believers are not earnest in their desires after this food, - if  
they are not diligent in providing of it, attending unto it, - much  
more if, through corruptions and temptations, they count it, in the  
preaching of it, light and common food, which they do not value, -  
it is no wonder if they fall into spiritual decays; but God has  
herein provided for our growth even unto old age.  
    And this is the first thing which was proposed unto  
confirmation, namely, that the constitution and nature of spiritual  
life is such as to be in deficient, so as to thrive and grow even in  
old age, and unto the end.  
(continued in file 4... ) 
file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: owgch2-3.txt