The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Ye therefore, beloved grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.
Men grow in stature, they know not how; they eat, they drink, they sleep, are nourished, they know not how; and so, day by day, and year by year, pass through the stages of life, through childhood, youth, to manhood and mature years. So should it be in our recreation. In Holy Baptism, He recreates us in His own image; passes His hand upon us, puts the first germ of spiritual life within us, to grow, be nourished, expand, flower, bear fruit, until it take into itself all our old nature, and we become wholly new. It is a spark from heaven, which should be fanned into a flame by the breath of charity, and burn within us, until it has consumed all low desires, all selfish thoughts, everything which oftendeth, and yield us pure, a holy acceptable sacrifice unto God. Such should our Christian course be; such is the blessed course; a gradual daily growth, from the first hour when we awake to the thought of God and of our own deathless being, to our final passage through death to endless life. By the grace of God alone can we grow; and that flows into us more largely or more scantily according to what we have ourselves become.
If we have allowed our hearts to grow cold or worldly, much more if defiled, we cannot at once love or serve God, or repent, or have that alacrity and energy of faith which is the blessing of His more faithful servants. We are not masters of our own faith or love. “We cannot expand ourselves to receive God. One step only is in our power,—the next. We cannot at once have great love, or deep humility, or intense penitence, or an active sold, or a reverent spirit, or a devout mind. We can neither at once unlearn evil habits wholly, nor learn great virtues. We can rarely bound in our
Christian course. Step by step is the toilsome ascent to be won. Single acts of virtue, wrought by the grace of God, are the steps to heaven. If in these we correspond to the grace of God, He will give larger increase. It may be He will bring us into some new trial, in which, if by His grace we conquer, He will make us other men. One decisive deed well done, solely for His glory and His love; one trial well surmounted by His grace, will often, through His mercy, lift men up at once far beyond their measure. On one heroic act He has wrought the whole living habit into the soul. A whole life may lie wrapped up in one single deed, which He hath given and crowneth. One fervent act of self-devotion to our Lord, giving ourselves for life or death, weal or woe, to His blessed and almighty will, surrendering ourselves and all which is ours wholly as He wills, and it may be we shall find His gracious hand on ours, leading us to follow His steps, although it be to Calvary. But as this deed or purpose of itself, so all is of grace. The morrow of grace is no more in our power than of time. The first act for which He gives us grace is ours; all beyond is God’s. But as we use the present, He will give the future.
Despair we not, then, when we see any grace of reverence or deep love or lowly humility or instant, fervent thankfulness, which we have not; nor yet must we attempt to transplant it at once, full-grown, into ourselves. Pray we for the grace of God to do each single act, as He shall will, to His glory; and He will lead us whither as yet we know not. All unseen the Master walketh By the toiling servant’s side; Comfortable words He speaketh, While His hands uphold and guide. Holy strivings nerve and strengthen. Long endurance wins the crown; When the evening shadows lengthen, Thou shalt lay thy burden down.
0 ETERNAL God who seest my weakness and knowest the number and strength of the temptations against which I have to struggle, leave me not to myself, but cover Thou my head in the day of battle, and in all spiritual combats make me more than conqueror through Him that loved me. Grant that I may continue steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and, by patient continuance in well doing, seek, and at last obtain, glory and honor and immortality and eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.