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History Column

Specifically, this historical article can be found in the November issue of 1923 “Christian Advocate” No.11. and also in our monthly magazines it will be divided into several parts. Growth in Grace is an extremely important topic that we Christians must not only be aware of, but also keep track of whether that growth has not stopped in us or even disappeared completely. Dr. Finney challenges us to think self-critically, because if we lose it, we can also lose faith. Doctor and Professor Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) was a preacher in the American Presbyterian Church, although his childhood and youth were spent in the Baptist Church. Dr. Finney initially studied law but later was wonderfully and even dramatically called to be a preacher. He was one of the most prominent preachers of the time. Hundreds, thousands of people in both places America and England have come to a living faith in Jesus Christ through his preaching, as well as through the writings he had written. His personal life story is a wonderful and living testimony of the mighty power and action of God that we hope to reveal to you in one of the editions.

Growth in Grace

Dr. Ch.Finney
Growth in Grace … 2.Peter 3:18

The term grace is used in the Bible in several different senses. When applied to God its meaning is not the same as when applied to man. Grace, in God, is synonymous with beneficence. It is undeserved favor. This is the sense in which the term is used by theologians in reference to God. In men, grace means holiness, that is the sense in which it is used in the text, and to grow in grace is the same as to grow in holiness, or to increase in conformity to God.

In discussing this subject, I design to pursue the following order:
I. Show what is meant by growing in grace.
II. Mention some things which are not evidences of growth in grace. 
III. What are some of the evidences of growth in grace.
IV. Show how it is to be done, or in what way Christians may grow in grace. 
V. Mention some of the evidences of a decline in piety or grace. 

I.What is meant by growing in grace?

To grow in grace is to increase in a spirit of conformity to the will of God, and to govern our conduct more and more by the same principles that God does. God has one great absorbing object that controls everything he does. It is the promotion of his own glory by seeking to fill the universe with holiness and happiness. He does this by exhibiting his own character. And our object should be the same, to exhibit the character of God more and more, to reflect as many rays of the image of God as possible. That is, we must aim constantly to be more and more like god. To do this more and more is to grow in grace. In other words, it is to obey more and more perfectly and constantly the law of God. That is growing in grace, becoming more holy, or obey God more fully and constantly. 
II. I will mention some things that are not evidences of growth in grace, although they are sometimes supposed to be such. 
1.It is not certain evidence that an individual grows in grace, because he grows in gifts.
A professor of religion may increase in gifts, that is, he may become more fluent in prayer, and more eloquent in preaching, or more pathetic in exhortation, without being more holy. We naturally increase in that in which we exercise ourselves. And if any person often exercises himself in exhortation, he will naturally, if he makes any effort or lays himself out, increase in fluency and pungency. But he may do all this, and yet have no grace at all. He may pray ever so engagedly, and increase in fluency and apparent pathos, and yet have no grace. People who have no grace often do so. It is true, if he has grace, and exercises himself in these things, as he grows in grace he will grow in gifts. No person can exercise himself in obeying God, without improving in those exercises. If he does not improve in gifts, it is a true sign he does not grow in grace. But on the other hand it is not evidence that he grows in grace, because he improves in certain exercises, for they will naturally improve by practice, whether he is a sinner or a hypocrite.
2.Growing in knowledge is not evidence of growth in grace. Knowledge is indispensable to grace, and growth in knowledge is essential to growth in grace, but knowledge is not grace, and growth in knowledge does not constitute growth in grace. A person may grow ever so much in knowledge and have no grace at all. In hell no doubt they grow in knowledge but never in grace. Their growth in knowledge constitutes hell. They know more and more of God and his law and their own guilt, and the more they know the more wretched they are. They have more and more experience of God’s wrath, but they never learn piety from it. 
3.It is not evidence that a person grows in grace, because he thinks he is doing so. A person may be favorably impressed with regard to his progress in religion, when it is evident to others that he is not only making no progress, but is in fact declining. An individual who is growing worse is not ordinarily sensible of the fact. It is common for both impenitent sinners and those who are pious to think they are growing better, when they are no better. This is so, from the nature of the mind, as any one who will attend to the philosophy of the mind can see. If a person is growing worse, his conscience will become more and more seared, and his mind more and more dark, as he stifles conscience and resists light. Then he may think he is growing better, just because he has less and less sense of sin, and while his conscience continues to sleep, he may continue under a fatal delusion. 

It is manifest that when a professor gets the idea that he is growing rapidly in grace, it is a suspicious circumstance. To grow better implies a more clear and distinct knowledge of the breadth of God’s law, and a growing sense of the sinfulness of sin.
But the more clean an individual’s views become of the standard, the lower will be the estimate which he forms of himself, because the clearer will be his views of the distance at which he still is from that pure and perfect standard of holiness to which God requires him to conform all his conduct. If he compares himself with a low standard, he will think he is doing pretty well.
This is the reason why there is such a difference in people’s views of their own state, and of the state of the church. They compare themselves and the state of the churches with different standards. Hence, when one complains of the church, and thinks his brethren are cold, another thinks it censorious, and thinks it strange that the other should find so much fault with the church, when they appear to him to be doing pretty well.–The reason why he does not think the church is cold is that he is cold himself, and he does not feel his own state because he does not judge by the right standard, for he does not look at his life in the light of God’s holy law.
If a person shuts his eyes, he does not see the defilement on his person, and may think he is clean while to all around he appears to be loathsome. I have always observed this to be true, that when persons are making, in reality, the most rapid advances in holiness, they have the most debasing views of themselves, and the humblest sense of their state. I do not mean that those who understand the subject, and who know what are evidences of growth in grace, may not by reasoning or by comparing their present with their former views, feelings, and character, come to the conclusion that they are growing in grace. But that, if they should determine simply by their present views of what they are, and what God requires, if they should not reason on the subject, they would come to the conclusion that they were growing worse and worse.
Individuals who were making rapid progress have often felt so, because they saw more and more clearly the standard with which they are to compare themselves. But yet, if they understand well what growth in grace is, and what are the evidences of it, when they set themselves down to reason about the matter, they may become convinced that they are growing in grace, although at the same time they will feel more and more humbled under a sense of their sins.

(To be continued)

Prepared by – Kristīne Rozefelde