Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the uncircumcision of your flesh, bath he quickened together with him.” 1 Thess. v. 23, 24. “ And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that hath called you ; who, also, will do it.” 2 Thess, i. 3, 4. “ We are bound to thank God always for you, because your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; so that we glory in you—for your faith and patience in all your persecutions and tribulations." Verses II, 12. “ Wherefore we pray always for you, that God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

§ 44. The apostle thanks God for his own prayers, and for those of others; 2 Tim. i. 3. If they were from God, then, doubtless, also, our prayers for ourselves, our very prayers for the Spirit, are from him. The prophet ascribes persons' prayers to their having the spirit of grace and supplication. True acceptable prayer is spoken of, Rom. viii., as being the language of the Spirit; not that I suppose the very words are indited, but the disposition is given. 2 Tim. i. 7. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind." Philem. iïi. 4. “ I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus Christ, and toward all saints.” Heb. xii. 20, 21. Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, and to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen." Jam. i. 16–18. “Do not err, my beloved brethren: Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." The scope of the apostle, and the connex . ion of his discourse, plainly shows, that the apostle means to assert, that all moral good is from God. In the preceding verses, he was warning those he wrote to, not to lay their sins, or pride, or lusts, to the charge of God; and, on that occasion, he would have them be sensible, that every good gift is from God, and no evil; that God is the Father of light, and only of light; and that no darkness is from him, because there is no darkness in him ; no change from light to darkness ; no, not

the least shadow. But, if all moral good is from God, cometh down from him, and is his gift, then the very first good determination of the will, and every good improvement of assistance, is so.

$ 45. Philip, ii. 13. “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The plain meaning of the text is, that it is God, by his operation and efficiency, who gives the will, and, also, enables us to put that will in execution; or that he, by his efficiency, gives both the will and the deed. And this will remain the indisputable meaning of the text, notwithstanding criticism on the word svegyw, &c. I question, whether any word can be found, in all the Greek language, more expressive and significant of an effectual operation, Wherever the words effectual and effectually are used in our translation of the Bible, this is the word used in the original.

§ 46. By the disposing or determining cause of a benefit, I mean, a cause that disposes, orders, or determines, whether we shall be actually possessed of the benefit or not; and the same cause may be said to be an efficacious or effectual cause. That cause only can be said to be an efficacious cause, whose efficiency determines, reaches, and produces the effect. A being may be the determiner and disposer of an event, and not properly an efficient or efficacious cause. Because, though he determines the futurity of the event, yet there is no positive efficiency or power of the cause that reaches and produces the effect; but merely a withholding of efficiency or power.

Concerning the giver's being a disposer or determiner, let us consider that objection, that when a man gives to a beggar, he does but offer, and leaves it with the determination of the beggar's will, whether he will be possessed of the thing offered. In answer to this, I observe, that in the instance before us, the very thing given is virtue, and this consists in the determination of the inclination and will. Therefore the determination of the will is the gift of God; otherwise virtue is not his gift, and why should we pray to God to give us such a determination of will, when that proceeds not from him but ourselves ?

§ 47. Arminians make a great ado about the phrase irresistible grace. But the grand point of controversy really is, what is it that determines, disposes and decides the matter, whether there shall be saving virtue in the heart or not; and much more properly, whether the grace of God in the affair be determining grace, than whether it be irresistible. Our case is indeed extremely unhappy, if we have such a book to be our grand and only rule, our light and directory, that is so exceeding perplexed, dark, paradoxical, and hidden, every where in the manner of expression, as the scriptures must be, to make them consistent with Arminian opinions ; by whatever means Vol. VII.

59

this has come to pass, whether through the distance of ages, diversity of customs, or by any other cause. It is to be considered that this is given for the rule of all ages ; and not only of the most learned and accurate and penetrating critics, and men of vast inquiry and skill in antiquity, but for all sorts of persons, of every age and nation, learned and unlearned. If ihis be true, how unequal and unfit is the provision that is made! How improper to answer the end designed! If men will take subterfuge in pretences of a vast alteration of phrase, through diversity of ages and nations, what may not men hide themselves from under such a pretence! No words will hold and secure them. It is not in the nature of words to do it. At this rate, language in its nature has no sufficiency to communicate ideas.

§ 48. In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some, and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what he produces, viz. our own acts.

God is the only proper author and fountain ; we only are the proper actors. We are, in different respects, wholly passive, and wholly active.-In the scriptures the same things are represented as from God and from us. God is said to convert, and men are said to convert and turn. God makes a new heart, and we are commanded to make us a new heart. God circumcises the heart, and we are commanded to circumcise our own hearts; not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is our act and our duty. These things are agreeable to that text, “God worketh in you both to will and to do.”

§ 49. When Christ says, John x. “ Other sheep have I which are not of this fold;" it is unreasonable to suppose he meant all in the world, that were then of a teachable disposition. Many of them would be dead before the gospel could be spread among the Gentiles ; and many of the Gentiles were doubtless brought in, that at that time were not of a teachable disposition. And unless God's decrees and efficacious grace made a differ. ence, it is unreasonable to suppose any other, than that multitudes in countries where the apostles never preached, were as teachable as in those countries where they did go, and so they never were brought in according to the words of Christ, “Those whom the Father hath given me, shall come unto me." Christ speaks of the Father's giving them as a thing past; John x. 29.“ My Father which gave them me." When Christ speaks of men being drawn to him, he does not mean any preparation of disposition antecedent to their having the gospel, but a being converted to Christ by faith in the gospel, revealing Christ crucified, as appears by John xii. 32. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." The apostle says, “ without faith it is impossible to please God." Therefore it is impossible that persons should have, before faith, those virtues that are peculiarly amiable to God, as Stebbing supposes.

$ 50. The apostle James tells us, that if we do not pray in faith, we have no reason to expect to receive any thing, and particularly not to receive divine wisdom. And therefore, it is unreasonable to suppose with Stebbing, that persons first pray, even before they have a spirit of meekness, and teachableness, and humility, faith or repentance, and that God has promised to answer these prayers. Christian virtues being every where spoken of as the special effect of grace, and often called by the name of grace, by reason of its being the peculiar fruit of grace, does not well consist with the Arminian notion of assistance, viz. that God is obliged to give us asssistance sufficient for salvation from hell, because, forsooth, it is not just to damn us for the want of that which we have not sufficient means to escape: and then, after God has given these sufficient means, our improving them well is wholly from ourselves, our own will, and not from God; and the thing wherein Christian virtue consists, is wholly and entirely ourselves.

§ 51. I would ask, how it is possible for us to come by virtue at first, according to Arminian principles; or, how we come by our first virtue : Is it natural? Is there some virtuous disposition with which we come into the world? But how is this virtue? That which men bring into the world is necessary, and what men had no opportunity to prevent, and it is not at all from our freewill. How, then, can there be any virtue in it, according to their principles! Or, is our first virtue wholly from the influence of the Spirit of God, without any endeavour or effort of ours, to be partly the cause of it? This, to be sure, cannot be, by their principles ; for, according to them, that which is not at all from us, or that we are not the causes of, is no virtue of ours. Is it wholly from our endeavours, without any assistance at all, of the Spirit ? This is contrary to what they pretend to hold; for, they assert, that without divine as. sistance there can be no virtue. -Stebbing, pages 27, 28, and pages 20, 21, and other places. If they say it is partly from the influence of the Spirit of God, and partly from our own endeavours, I would inquire whether those endeavours that our first virtue partly arises from, be good endeavours, and at all virtuous? If the answer be in the affirmative, this contradicts the supposition. For I am now inquiring what the first virtue is. The first virtue we have, certainly does not arise from virtuous endeavours preceding that first virtue. For that is to suppose virtue before the first virtue. If the answer be, that they are no good endeavours, they have nothing at all of the nature of the exercise of any good disposition, or any good aim and intention, or any virtuous sincerity ; I ask, what tendency can such efforts of the mind, as are wholly empty of all goodness, have to produce true moral goodness in the hcart ?

Can an action, that in principles and ends has no degree of moral good, have a tendency to beget a habit of acting from good principles and for good ends ? For instance, can a man's doing something purely to satisfy some sensitive appetite of his own, or to increase his own worldly profit, have any kind of tendency to beget a habit of doing something from true disinterested benevolence, or to excite to any act from such a principle? Certainly an act perfectly void of benevolence, has no more tendency to produce either an habit or act of benevolence, than nothing has a tendency to produce something.

§ 52. Stebbing supposes the assistance God gives, or the operation of the Spirit in order to faith, is to give a good and honest heart, prepared to receive and well improve the word ; as particularly, meekness, humility, teachableness, &c. And supposes that these effects of the Spirit are to be obtained by prayer ; but yet allows, that the prayer must be acceptably inade, (page 106.) which supposes that some degree of virtue must be exercised in prayer. And it may be presumed that they will allow, that there are multitudes of men, who at present are so wicked, so destitute of virtue, that they have not virtue enough for acceptable prayer to God. They have not now so much respect to God or their own souls, as to incline them to pray'at all. Now, I would inquire, how these men shall come by virtue, in order to acceptably praying to God? Or how is it within their reach by virtue of God's promises? Or how can they come by it, save by God's sovereign arbitrary grace? Shall they pray to God for it, and so obtain it? But This is contrary to the supposition. For it is supposed, that they now have not virtue enough to pray acceptably, and this is the very thing inquired, how they come by the virtue necessary in order to their making acceptable prayer? Or shall they work the virtue in themselves wholly without God's assistance ? But this is contrary to what they pretend, viz. that allģvirtue is from God, or by the grace and assistance of God, which they allow to be evident by that scripture, “ without me ye can do nothing." Or, is God obliged to give it, or to assist them to obtain it, without their praying for it, or having virtue enough to ask it of him? That they do not pretend. For they suppose the condition of our obtaining the heavenly Spirit our seeking, asking, &c.; and besides, if God gives it without their first seeking it, that will make God the first determining efficient, yea, the mere and sole author of it, without their doing any thing toward it, without their so much as seeking or asking for it ; which would be entirely to overthrow

« AnteriorContinuar »