Taken and adapted from “A Body of Divinity: Wherein the Doctrines of the Christian Religion are Explained and Defended, being the Substance of Several Lectures on the Assembly’s Larger Catechism.” Written by Thomas Ridgley. Edited for thought and sense.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;…”
–1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (ESV)
Let us inquire, whether the life we live in the flesh…
…be by the faith of the Son of God, be under the influence of his Spirit, with great diffidence of our own righteousness and strength, and firm dependence upon Christ…
If we have ground to hope that the work of sanctification is begun, let us inquire, whether it be advancing or declining. Whether we go from strength to strength, or make improvements in proportion to the privileges we enjoy. Many have reason to complain that it is not with them as in months past; that grace is languishing, the frame of their spirits in holy duties stupid, and they be destitute of that communion with God,” which they have once enjoyed. Such ought to remember from whence they are fallen, and repent, and do their first works; and beg of God, from whom alone our fruit is derived, that he would revive the work, and cause their souls to flourish in the courts of his house, and to bring forth much fruit unto holiness, to the glory of his own name, and their spiritual peace and comfort.
As for those who are frequently complaining of, and be-wailing their declensions in grace, who seem, to others, to be making a very considerable progress therein; let them not give way to unbelief so far as to deny or set aside the experiences which they have had of God’s presence with them; for sometimes grace grows, though without our own observation. If they are destitute of the comforts thereof, or the fruits of righteousness, which are peace, assurance and joy in the Holy Ghost, let them consider, that the work of sanctification, in this present state, is, at best, but growing up towards that perfection which is not yet arrived to.
If it does not spring up and flourish, as to those fruits and effects thereof, which they are pressing after, but have not attained; let them bless God, if grace is taking root downward, and is attended with an humble sense of their own weakness and imperfection, and an earnest desire of those spiritual blessings which they are laboring after. This ought to afford a matter of thankfulness, rather than to have a tendency to weaken their hands, or induce them to conclude that they are in an unsanctified state because of the many hindrances and discouragements which attend their progress in holiness.