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THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT DOES NOT SUPER
SEDE THE NECESSITY OF HUMAN EXERTION.
PHILIPPIANS, II. 12, 13. * Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both
to will and to do of his good pleasure." I have selected this admonition of the inspired apostle for the subject of this discourse, because it appears to establish as the doctrine of truth and Scripture, tenets equally confuting the opposite errors into which the predestinarians and Pelagians have fallen. It teaches (contrary to the predestinarians,) that our salvation depends in a certain degree on our own exertions co-operating with the divine aid, and therefore is not determined solely and totally by an eternal unalterable decree, uninfluenced by any regard either of foresight or retrospect to our own conduct or efforts--a decree effected by irresistible grace, infallibly securing ultimate success. And on the other hand, it teaches (in opposition to the Pelagians,) that all efforts we can make for our religious improvement, if attempted with a presumptuous reliance on our own strength, independently of the ever present aid of divine grace, will prove as abortive as they are impious ; since it is “ God which worketh in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” I shall endeavour to show, that this is the real tenor of scriptural truth ; which in this, as in every other instance, is found to agree with the dictates of experience, the analogy of nature, and the tenets of our truly apostolic church; tending to encourage on the one side, vigilance and activity in the service of our God, and on the other side, humble dependence on the “ grace of God by Christ, preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will."
The first position, that we are bound humbly and steadily to labour, as far as we can, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling," seems so plainly inculcated in Scripture, and in itself so obviously undeniable, as merely to require it should be clearly stated, to be instantly allowed. And it is assuredly established by the whole tenor of Scripture, which uniformly calls on us to be active and watchful, that we may avoid evil and pursue good, and that we may live “soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” This is the criterion of our love to our Saviour; “ If ye love me,” says our Lord, “ keep my commandments.”+ This is the only decisive proof that we improve our knowledge so as to secure our well-being. “If ye know those things,” says the same Divine instructor, happy are ye if ye do them.” While on the contrary, if knowledge is not attended with obedience, it will aggravate our condemnation ; for “that servant which knew his lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” This is also the necessary effect of true faith ; which where it exists with real efficacy, will be found" to work by love,"|| by producing the effects of love to God and man. Without this practical efficacy, all claim to faith is false and hollow; “faith without works is dead before God." At the great day of final retribution, no adherence to religious truth, no appearance of devotion, no observance of outward forms, will be accepted as atoning for vicious practice, or for omitted duty. “Many,” says the Son of God and Judge of man, “many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye' that work iniquity. And again, “not every one who saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
It is indeed the universal propensity of fallen man to rest his hope of pleasing God on the form of religion he professes
Tit. ii. 12. || Gal. v. 6.
+ John xiv. 15.
James ii. 17, 26.
† John xiii. 17.
§ Luke xii. 47. ** Matt. vii. 22, 23, 21.
rather than on that sincere and heartfelt obedience, which alone can prove its effective influence; on the outward observances which he ostentatiously exhibits, rather than on the internal principles and motives by which his practice is directed; and to admit with readiness that others may be excluded from salvation, while as to himself he is careless and fearless, or presumptuously self-confident and secure. How forcibly does our divine Lord expose and correct this fatal delusion in his remarkable answer to the inquiry, “ Lord, are there few that be saved ?"*. an inquiry originating probably more from the querist's curiosity as to the fate of others, than any doubt or anxiety as to his
How forcibly does the Searcher of hearts check such curiosity, and humble such presumption ; "he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” But is this inability to enter, stated to be in consequence of an arbitrary decree of exclusion, having no reference to the character of the person excluded ? No, it is on the contrary, imputed entirely to the guilt of the persons excluded ; in neglecting the calls of grace, and yielding to the seductions of vice. For our Lord adds, “when once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye began to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say, unto you, I know you not whence you are : then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I TELL YOU I KNOW NOT WHENCE YOU ARE, DEPART FROM ME ALL YE WORKERS OF INIQUITY. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And behold there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last." Surely the order of selection here described is not irrespective and unconditional.
Equally clear, as to the necessity of our own exertions in working out our salvation, is the great apostle of the Gentiles, both in his example and in his precepts. A remarkable instance occurs of this in his mode of exercising his apostolic powers, and discharging his ministerial duties amongst the Corinthians. He contends strongly for the right of a minister of the Gospel to marry, if he thought good, and for his claim to have his temporal wants supplied by those to whom he imparted religious instruction, “ The Lord,” saith he, “hath ordained, that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” But these privileges which he claimed for others, he chose to decline as to himself; in order to prove to his converts, the disinterestedness of his zeal in preaching the Gospel of Christ; and it is plain that by thus acting, he hoped to obtain a more certain and a more abundant reward. “I," says he, “ have used none of these things. Neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel! For if I do this thing willingly I have a reward ; but if against my will, a dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me.
* Luke xiii. 23-30.
What is my reward then ? Verily, that when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the Gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more: to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak : I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means
And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."*
In this remarkable description the illustrious apostle exhibits an admirable example of his own compliance with the precept he has delivered in the text; we see him “ working out his own salvation ;" not considering it as secured by a decree of irre
* 1 Cor. ix. 14--23,
spective election, or irresistible operation of divine grace ; but working it out by zeal the most ardent, labour the most incessant, prudence the most cautious, vigilance the most unremitting. And, what is equally conclusive in our present argument, notwithstanding all this vigilance, all this exertion, notwithstanding all his apostolic labours, his miraculous gifts and graces, all that he did and all that he suffered “ for the Gospel's sake, that he might be a partaker of it” in common with the Corinthians, whom he had converted by his labours, his preaching, and his miracles ; notwithstanding all this, we see he does not yet feel himself exempt from danger, secure from temptation and trial ; he does not yet declare his acceptance with God certain, his salvation finished, his perseverance indefectible. On the contrary, “ he still appears not only to “ work out his salvation,” but to work it out with fear and trembling." For he adds, “ Know ye not that they which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize ? So run that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things. Now, they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection : LEST THAT BY ANY MEANS when I have PREACHED TO OTHERS I MYSELF SHOULD BE A CASTAWAY.
Such is the example, such the doctrine of this great apostle. Can we conceive any example or doctrine, any feelings or language more directly repugnant to the scheme of Calvinistic predestination--more repugnant to the idea of salvation being secured to every human being altogether independently of his own concurrence, his own exertion, vigilance, care, perseverance—more clearly excluding the idea of a personal election according to a decree of predestination, fixed before the individual was born or had done any good or evil, totally independent of and unalterable by any thing in his power to perform, entirely irrespective and unconditional, which no working of ours would either annul or confirm, and attended with a security of salvation excluding “all fear and trembling," as impiously distrustful of the truth and sovereignty of God ?
• 1 Cor. ix. 24-27.