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when they use the word grace, intend not the thing, is clear, as from all their writings, so more particularly from a late author, who, in this case, expresses his mind to this effect: that when he says, reason is able to comprehend and comply with the things of God, reason is not to be understood as abstracted and separate from the concurrence of God, but as seconded and assisted by it: as the sun is said to know the time of its rising and going down; not that the sun abstracted from God's concurrence can do this, but as directed by it. And he adds, that as this assistance never fails to direct the sun in his course, unless by a miracle, so neither does God ever fail to vouchsafe that assistance to reason, whereby it may be enabled to apprehend things spiritual. From hence it is clear, that the word grace is here used to express nature, as Pelagius used it, ad frangendam invidiam ; that an opinion equally venomous might appear the less odious. For according to this assertion, it is no more supernatural for a soul to believe, than for the sun to rise and set in his appointed time.
(2.) There are others who say indeed, that it is not in the power of man's will to believe; but they explain their meaning thus, that it is not in man's power to believe when he will; that is, a man engaged and hardened in a way of sin, cannot immediately in that condition advance into such a spiritual act as believing, till he has gradually disposed himself to it. So that they hold, that a man, in the most sinful condition, may dispose himself to be better, and from thence arise to be yet better; and so lay such a series or train of good dispositions, that shall at length end in belief. And I think it is apparent to any ordinary reason, that, to assert this, is to strike in with
the known enemies of God's grace, who, by pretending to enlarge it, do indeed really subvert it.
But now, beside the conviction that these men might meet with in the clear current of the scriptures, certainly their own experience may convince them, that a perceiving heart is a new and special gift of God : for although at present they may find it in their power to believe, yet, if they reflect upon the former part of their life, they will find a time when they lay bound hand and foot ; when they were no more able to get their heart throughly affected with the sense and hatred of sin, nor to believe and fasten their reliance upon Christ in the promises, than for a dead man to rise from the grave. And if they never found that it was thus with them, I believe there are few who understand these things, that for all the world would venture the eternal concernment of their souls upon such a faith. But if their own experience will afford them no light, let them view the condition of some of God's saints, who, when they have been in a state of grace, and the seed of faith has remained within them, yet, when God has hid his face, and suspended the fresh influence of his Spirit, they have been no more able to act, nor exercise that grace, nor excite their faith, when the promise has lain before them, than to remove mountains. Now hence we may argue thus : If holy men, endued with the principle and seed of faith, without a new gift from the Spirit, have lain as it were dead, not able to act suitably to that principle; how then will those, that are in a state of nature, and void of this principle, be able to hear or perceive the mind of God in the gospel ? Use 2. is of exhortation ; that in the enjoyment
A SERMON ON DEUT. XXIX. 4.
of the means of grace, we should not terminate in the means, but look up to God, who alone is able to give an heart to improve them. This should make us not only pray, but also hear, with our eyes lift up to heaven. The greatest persuasions, the most melting and affectionate expressions, that can drop from man, cannot give an heart; every such gift is a little creation. But certainly, when we have got our hearts wrought upon and heated by the external preaching of the word, then we should be chiefly importunate with God to preach the same word over internally, that then he would strike the stroke, then he would make such an impression as should abide. For without this, after the most powerful preaching of the word, nature will return to itself. Happy those, who do not only hear the report of the gospel, but to whom also the arm of the Lord is revealed. When we have heard the word, read the scriptures, and enjoyed the richest means of salvation, yet, in order to our believing, we should as much depend upon God, as if we enjoyed none of these at all. Still addressing ourselves unto him, as Jehoshaphat did upon another occasion ; Lord, as for us, we know not what to do, but our eyes are upon thee.
PREACHED AT WORCESTER-HOUSE,
JOHN XV. 26. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceed
eth from the Father, he shall testify of me. THESE words contain in them two general parts.
I. The promise of sending the Spirit.
II. The end of his being sent; which was to testify of Christ.
In the words containing the former of these, we have a full description of the Spirit; and that, 1. In respect of his
person. 2. Of his office or employment.
The account of his person we have in this, that he is said to proceed from the Father. And his employment, in these two things :
(1.) That he is the Comforter.
1. And first concerning his procession from the Father. There has been a long and a great controversy
between the Latin and the Greek church concerning this: whether the Holy Ghost proceeds equally from the Father and from the Son; which the Latins, and all the other western churches, hold: or whether he proceeds from the Father only by the
Son, which alone the Greeks admit; and for this cause stand utterly unchurched by the church of Rome, as erring in a prime and fundamental point of faith.
But here I cannot but think, that in articles relating to such things, of which the reason of man can frame no explicit apprehension, it is a daring, uncharitable, and perhaps a very irrational thing, to condemn any one for expressing the same thing in different terms. And that the Greek church does no more, seems probable from hence.
1st, That they deny not the Spirit to be consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
2dly, That they acknowledge that he is as properly the Spirit of the Son as of the Father.
And if, when we say, that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, we intend no more but that he is the Spirit of the Son, which they grant and profess; what is it more than a difference in the expression, where they seem to be very near a perfect coincidence as to the thing?
I am sure some of the most reputed authors in the Latin church avouch so much. Peter Lombard, in the first of the Sentences, 11th distinction, declares his mind thus : Sane sciendum est, quod licet in presenti articulo a nobis Græci verbo discordent, tamen sensu non differunt. And Scotus upon the same place of Lombard speaks to the same purpose: Antiquorum Græcorum a Latinis discrepantia in voce potius est, et modo explicandi emanationem Spiritus Sancti quam in ipsa re. The like is to be found in Aquinas, Bonaventure, and others, concerning this difference between the Greek and Latin church, in expressing this article.