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Hector MacKinnon, A Memoir
The Christian's growth in Grace


"Grow in the grace . . . of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.".-2 Peter iii. 18 (R.V.).

According to the teaching of the New Testament, and according to the teaching of this epistle, there are only two alternatives of spiritual development possible for Christian men and women—either progress or retrogression. They are either going forward or they are going backward. The alternatives are put in this passage in this way. The apostle encourages those to whom he writes to grow in the grace, i.e., to increase their hold by faith of the things freely given to us by God in Jesus Christ. Or, if they do not grow in grace, they are in danger of falling from their steadfastness. As a ship drifts from her moorings, so are men and women who profess to believe in Christ, and do not grow in the grace which Christ gives, in danger of forfeiting their faith and their life.

Now, brethren, it is easy to see which alternative of these we ought to covet; and I take it that the presence of so many at this Convention is an indication that we all covet the better alternative, growth in grace; and it is because of the conviction that this is the desire of everybody present in this tent this evening that I venture, by God's help, to dwell, and to seek that you should dwell, in thought, upon the suggestions that may be made to our minds by these verses.

Beloved friends, it is impossible to overestimate the importance of growth in grace. To healthy life growth is absolutely necessary. Indeed it may be questioned whether there is real, true life at all where there is no growth. It is true in other spheres than the spiritual, whether it be in plant life or animal life, or any other kind of life you choose to mention that—unless there be growth and development there are decay and destruction.

The Christian life is no exception to this rule, so that all Christians should aim at what St. Paul calls also in Ephesians iv. 13 "full growth." The author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in chapter v. verse i, also refers to it as "full growth" - "leaving behind us the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go forward to full growth."

Without growing it is evident that we cannot serve. If we are not being helped ourselves, we cannot help other people; and we are not being helped ourselves as we ought to be helped unless we are growing in grace. There are a great many people who are far more concerned about the vineyards of other people than their own. But, brethren, we cannot keep the vineyards of other people unless we keep our own to begin with; and our own vineyards cannot be kept unless the love of God is flowing into these vineyards day by day. Without growth, again, the purpose of our salvation cannot be realized. The ultimate purpose of our salvation is the glory of God, the revelation of God's nature and perfections in His creatures ; and unless we grow, not only will it be impossible for us to manifest God's glory here upon earth, but it will be impossible for us to reveal God's glory unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, as St. Paul indicates we were meant to do.

You will agree with me, I am sure, when I now say that growth in grace will manifest itself specially along the line of holiness. Indeed it is to promote growth in grace along the line of holiness that this Convention has been called together. I remember when 1 was a student at Edinburgh University my Professor of Divinity used to tell us that the love of God was not a separate attribute of the Godhead, but a Divine force binding together all the attributes of the Godhead. It seems to me that holiness instead of being a characteristic of Christian men and women, a single, separate characteristic, is rather the element which gives colour and tone to every characteristic and every virtue. Holiness ought therefore to pervade every department of thought, and every line of activity in which we are engaged. So growth in holiness implies growth in every Christian virtue.

Now I come to refer to the conditions on which this growth will be possible for you and for me, beloved. I venture to draw your attention to what St. Paul says on the subject of Santification in Romans vi. I do not wish you to turn it up. You know that what Paul says in Romans upon Sanctification is the classic upon the subject. In Scotland we used to hear and be taught that what the Epistle to the Romans was concerned with was justification by faith: but when you go to the epistle, and go through it, you will find that there is as much of it concerned with Sanctification by Faith as there is with Justification by Faith. Whereas Paul starts by setting forth the doctrine of Justification by Faith, he follows on to indicate how men are not only justified by Faith, but sanctified by Faith as well.

How does this come to pass? St. Paul tells us that as Christ died unto sin we are to be dead unto sin. The implication is that in order to live death is necessary, and that is true. St. Paul refers to this in i Corinthians xv., where he says, "That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die." Death precedes life in relation to resurrection. But death precedes life also in relation to holiness. "Christ died to sin." I am not quite sure that I am able to express all that is meant by these words, but I do feel that Christ, in a true sense, was done with sin for ever when He made atonement for it on the Cross, and emerged out of the conditions that limited His Divine personality in the sphere of His human nature during the course of His earthly ministry. He was subject to temptation when He went about upon the earth; after His death He was subject not even to temptation any longer. When He rose from the dead He could no more be tempted. There was now no liability, in the remotest degree, in relation to sin connected with the personality and with the character of our blessed Lord. Now, brethren, let us grasp this, that we who believe on Christ, that we, as far as the commission of sin and the indulgence of sin are concerned, died in Christ when Christ died unto sin upon the Cross. As St. Paul says in Romans, we have been "baptized into His death." There is a sense in which His death is to cover us in relation to holiness and the practice of purity. "We are buried with Him . . . unto death." When we speak of our going down with our Lord into the grave, that is correct, if we mean by it that we have gone previously with our Lord to the Cross, and died upon the Cross along with Him. Then by faith we may be associated with Him as His body was placed in the grave. That is what I consider St. Paul has in view when he goes on to say to the Romans, "Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin."

Now, brethren, when you think of it, are we not dead unto sin as far as the penalty of sin is concerned ? Is there a justified man or woman within this tent this evening who is not ready to say, "I am dead to the penalty of sin because my Saviour and Lord bore the penalty, the consequence of sin in a mysterious sense, which I may be unable to understand, but yet a real sense. I am done with the penalty of sin because Christ bore my sins Himself in His own body on the tree? ' I believe that all believers here this evening would say that. But, brethren, it is by the same faith, or by a like faith to that which we exercise in relation to justification, we grasp the blessing of being dead unto sin as a tower in our lives. We become dead to the power of sin by the exercise of the same faith by the exercise of which we become dead to the penalty of sin. It comes about by faith upon the same Object, the same Person.

And we become dead also to the persistency of sin. You know that it is not taught in this Convention that sin can be eradicated from human nature. I do not think that doctrine is countenanced in the Book, which is the Law and the Testimony for us here. But we do teach this, beloved brethren, that while sin may persist in manifesting its force and power inhuman nature, it is possible for us to exercise in the Lord Jesus Christ a faith by which we shall be dead to sin in spite of its persistency and have victory over sin whenever it tries to lift its head in our nature from time to time. Or, to put the thing in another way, we died unto sin through Christ by going back in faith and thought to the Cross and passing sentence upon our own sins there, executing our sin upon the Cross, and in the light of that execution renouncing it and being done with it for ever. The practical consequence of dying in Christ is renunciation of sin, of the felon, and thus being done with it for ever.

But that is only the negative side of the conditions to which I am referring. There is a positive side. "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord," or "in Christ Jesus," to be more correct, as the Revised Version puts it, and as the better readings have it also. "Alive unto God." What does that mean? It means, for one thing, that we are alive to the reality of God's being and presence. It means that we are alive to the attractiveness of God's nature; that we are alive to the claims of God upon us as redeemed men and women. It means, beloved, that we have a vision of God, a heavenly vision. We see God; although He is invisible to the eye of sense, we see Him by the eye of faith. We have communion with God, and we rejoice in the attractiveness of the Divine nature. We listen to God as He advances His claims, and we accede to those claims. We yield to them, i.e., we dedicate ourselves unto God according to the claims which He asserts over us in the Gospel.

I have now indicated, so far, how the conditions are to be fulfilled, by which we may grow in grace; but I must add this, and emphasize that it is "in Christ Jesus." "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus." If you will examine the epistles of St. Paul you will find that when the Apostle uses the term " Jesus Christ" he means Jesus Christ in the course of His earthly life before He died, and before He rose from the dead. But when he says "Christ Jesus" he means the risen, ascended, glorified Lord, the Lord invested with all authority and power in heaven and earth, in possession of all the gifts of the Spirit and all the possibilities of spiritual development which that Spirit may achieve and accomplish in the hearts and lives of those who trust Rim. Well, now, here the phrase is, "in Christ Jesus." What does that mean? That as we go back in faith and resolution to die with Christ upon the Cross, and as we are alive unto God, we have at our disposal, in order that that may come about, all the spiritual forces now in the keeping of our exalted Lord and Saviour. We have all the grace which the Father has committed to Him as the Dispenser. We have all the powers which God gives authority to Him to communicate unto us, as the Mediator of God's energy, God's Divine dynamic; and he bestows that Divine dynamic upon us by the Holy Spirit of His grace. That is sufficient to enable us to renounce sin and to cleave unto God.

Brethren, are you prepared to do this this evening? You must renounce sin. There is no progress, no sanctification, for the person who will not, by faith in Jesus Christ, and relying upon the grace which Jesus Christ by His Spirit supplies, be done with sin. Yet I must condescend upon some further points here, because it will help, I think, if I mention special hindrances that come in the way of some in relation to the matter to which I am referring. What is hindering you now, brother or sister, in relation to this death and this life which I have referred to as the essential condition of growth in grace? Is there lust? I do not mean lust in the coarse, brutal sense at all; I mean lust in the sense in which Dr. Meyer referred to the matter last night. The Greek word for "lust" is epithumia and the epi seems to point to something over and above legitimate desire. Lust is the excess of legitimate desire, or the pursuit of a desire which is not legitimate according to the teaching of the New Testament. Is there, then, some excess in your life you do not want to give over, and which is coming between you and the blessing of this Convention? It may be the lust of the flesh or the lust of the eye. The lust of the eye might be interpreted in various aspects, but it will suffice for my purpose if I say that appearances are the thing from which we need to be specially saved in this day and generation, and even when we come to this Convention. I fear very much that the evil which will bring down the Church, as well as the State, is the evil of being satisfied with appearances, with looks, with things on the outside. There may be some appearance in the way of dress or fashion, which is standing in your way, beloved friend, this evening, that will have to be given over.

Or perhaps the hindrance in some cases is the attempt to live by laying down certain regulations for your own life. You imagine that if you attend to these regulations you will have the liberty associated with holiness in Jesus Christ according to the New Testament. Brethren, just as it is impossible for a man to obtain peace through an attempt at justification by the law, so it is impossible for a man to find peace in trying to secure sanctification by setting up for himself so many regulations and so many laws. Some say, "Well, I will read my Bible more when I go home from this Keswick Convention." Others say,
I will give up this habit, and that habit, and that other habit." That, of course, will have to be done if the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus is to obtain sovereignty in your life, but with all earnestness, and in all solemnity., I emphasize that the surrender of single things in this way will not be sufficient. You must go to the root of the matter; there must be an acceptance on your part of sanctification by faith in Jesus Christ, and then other things will come in due course. We have done with law, whether for justifying or for sanctifying purposes. It is the control, the yoke, the domination of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that makes us free from the law of sin and death.

Then, are you doubting God's Word? Are you doubting God's declaration that He will do the thing which He has promised to do? That is a hindrance. You. must believe, dear brother, dear sister. Or is there behind everything that self-will that has stood in the way of your surrender and presentation unto God all these years may be? Are you willing to surrender your will this evening unto God in Jesus Christ? Are you willing to say unto God in your heart, " 0 my God, this will of mine has stood in the way of the inflow of blessing into my soul and life for many a long day and year now, but I give it up to Thy will. I do not know the details of what I may meet in the future; I know nothing about the future. I know nothing of how things may develop and unfold in my experience, or what the unveilings of God's revelation may be in my life, but I give up my will to Thine evermore, as it may please Thee to reveal it by Thy Spirit, through the Word, from time to time, step by step, day by day. As Thy will is revealed unto me in answer to prayer, that will be the law of my life, the power to control my spirit and my soul, henceforward for ever."

There were other things to which I was going on to refer, but I forbear, because my time is about finished. But, dearly-beloved brethren, my message this evening is— and I believe that the Lord has given me the message— that if you are to grow in grace there must be this root and branch operation performed by faith to which I have referred, and there must be the casting aside of these hindrances. It is possible. Why? Because, as I have already said, it is all to be done in Christ Jesus, in- the ascended Lord, in the One whose love can flow into your soul and mine in such a fullness that victory will sit at our right hand from year to year, all through life; and we will at last go in victorious through the gates into the city. Amen.


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