“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
The subject of the text which heads this page is one which I dare not omit in this volume about holiness. It is one that ought to be deeply interesting to every true Christian. It naturally raises the question, “Do we grow in grace?” Let us consider the marks by which growth in grace may be known.
One mark of growth in grace is increased humility. The man whose soul is “growing,” feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness more every year. He is ready to say with Job, “I am vile,” and with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips.” The nearer he draws to God and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfections, the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless imperfections.
Another mark of growth in grace is increased faith and love toward our Lord Jesus Christ. The man whose soul is growing finds more in Christ to rest upon every year and rejoices more that he has such a Savior. He sees a thousand things in Christ which he never dreamed of at first. He discovers a suitableness in Christ for the needs of his soul of which the half had not been known.
Another mark is the increased holiness of life and conversation. The man whose soul is growing gets more dominion over sin, the world, and the devil every year. He becomes more careful about his temper, words, and actions. He is more watchful over his conduct in every relation of life. He strives more to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things and to follow him as his example. He is not content with old attainments and former grace. He thirsts and longs to have a will more entirely in unison with God’s will.
Another mark is increased spirituality of taste and mind. The man whose soul is growing takes more interest in spiritual things every year. He does not neglect his duty in the world, but the things he loves best are spiritual things. The way, fashion, amusements and recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as downright sinful nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell. He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes. Spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, and spiritual conversation appear of ever-increasing value to him.
Another mark is increased, love. The man whose soul is growing is more full of love every year–love to all men, but especially toward the brethren. His love will show itself actively in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, take trouble for others, be good-natured to everybody, be generous, sympathizing, thoughtful, tender-hearted, and considerate. It will show itself passively in a growing disposition to be meek and patient toward all men, to put up with provocation and not stand upon rights, to bear and forbear much rather than quarrel. A growing soul will try to put the best construction on other people’s conduct. There is no surer mark of backsliding and falling off in grace than an increasing disposition to find fault, pick holes, and see weak points in others.
One more mark of growth in grace is increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls. The man who is really growing will take a greater interest in the salvation of sinners every year. Missions at home and abroad, efforts of every kind to spread the Gospel, attempts of any sort to increase religious light and diminish religious darkness will have a greater place in his attention. He will not become weary in well-doing because he does not see every effort succeed. He will just work on, whatever the result may be, and count his work its own reward. – J. C. Ryle