by Jonathan Edwards
1. It is manifest that the Scripture supposes that if ever men are turned from sin, God must undertake it, and he must be the doer of it, that it is his doing that must determine the matter, and that all that others can do will avail nothing without his agency. This is manifest by such texts as these: Jer. 31:18-19 , “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; Thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh,” etc. Lam. 5:21 , “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.” Psa. 80:3 , “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.” The same in Psa. 80:7 , 19 ; Jer. 3:14 .
2. According to Dr. Whitby’s notion of the assistance of the Spirit, the Spirit of God does nothing in the hearts or minds of men beyond the power of the devil, nothing but what the devil can do, and nothing showing any greater power in any respect than the devil shows and exercises in his temptations. For he supposes that all that the Spirit of God does, is to bring moral motives and inducements to mind, and set them before the understanding, etc. It is possible that God may infuse grace, in some instances, into the minds of such persons as are striving to obtain it in the other way, though they may not observe it, and may not know that it is not obtained by gradual acquisition. But if a man has indeed sought it only in that way, and with as much dependence on himself, and with as much neglect of God in his endeavors and prayers, as such a doctrine naturally leads to, it is not very likely that he should obtain saving grace by the efficacious, mighty power of God. It is most likely that God should bestow this gift in a way of earnest attention to divine truth, and the use of the means of grace, with reflection on one’s own sinfulness, and in a way of being more and more convinced of sinfulness, and total corruption and need of divine power to restore the heart, to infuse goodness, and of becoming more and more sensible of one’s own impotence, and helplessness and inability to obtain goodness by his own strength. And if a man has obtained no other virtue than what seems to have been wholly in that gradual and insensible way that might be expected from use and custom, in the exercise of his own strength, he has reason to think, however bright his attainments may seem to be, that he has no saving virtue.
3. Great part of the gospel is denied by those who deny pure efficacious grace. They deny that wherein actual salvation and the application of redemption mainly consists, and how unlikely are such to be successful in their endeavors after actual salvation!
Turnbull’s explanation of Phil. 2:12 , 13 , “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure,” is this (Christian Philosophy, p. 96, 97), “Give all diligence to work out your salvation, for it is God, the Creator of all things, who, by giving you, of his good pleasure, the power of willing and doing, with a sense of right and wrong, and reason to guide and direct you, has visibly made it your end so to do. Your frame shows that to prepare yourselves for great moral happiness, arising from a well cultivated and improved mind, suitably placed, is your end appointed to you by your Creator. Consider, therefore, that by neglecting this your duty, this your interest, you contemn and oppose the good will of God towards you, and his design in creating you.”
4. If we look through all the examples we have of conversion in Scripture, the conversion of the apostle Paul, and of the Corinthians (“Such were some of you, but ye are washed,” etc.) and all others that the apostles write to, how far were they from this gradual way of conversion, by contracted habits, and by such culture as Turnbull speaks of! Turnbull, in his Christian Philosophy, p. 470, seems to think that the sudden conversions that were in the apostles’ days, were instances of their miraculous power, as in these words, “They appealed to the works they wrought, to the samples they gave of their power to foretell future events; their power to cure instantaneously all diseases of the body; their power to cure, in the same extraordinary manner, all diseases of the mind, or to convert bad into good dispositions; their power to bestow gifts and blessings of all sorts, bodily and spiritual.” See again to the like purpose, p. 472.
Now I would inquire whether those who thus had the diseases of their minds cured, and their bad converted into good dispositions, had any virtue, or whether those good dispositions of theirs were virtues or anything praiseworthy, and whether, when they were thus converted, they became good men and the heirs of salvation? As Turnbull himself allows, all that are not good men, were called the children of the devil in Scripture. And he asserts that nothing is virtue, but what is obtained by our own culture: that no habit is virtuous, but a contracted one, one that is owing to ourselves, our own diligence, etc. He also holds that none are good men but the virtuous; none others are the heirs of future happiness.
5. What God wrought for the apostle Paul and other primitive Christians, was intended for a pattern to all future ages, for their instruction and excitement, Eph. 2:7 ; 1 Tim. 1:16 . It is natural to expect that the first fruits of the church specially recorded in history, and in that book which is the steady rule of the church in all things pertaining to salvation, should be a pattern to after-ages in those things, those privileges, which equally concern all. Or if it be said that as soon as men take up a strong resolution, they are accepted and looked upon by God as penitents and converts, it may be inquired, “Is there a good man without good habits, or principles of virtue and goodness in his heart?”
6. Turnbull speaks of good men as born again, i.e. changed by culture: Christian Philosophy, p. 282. Is there a good man without such principles as love to God and men, or charity, humility, etc.? How comes that resolution to be so good, if no principle of virtue be exercised in it?
If it be said, Paul was a good man before he was converted, it may be answered that he did not believe in Christ, and therefore was in a state of condemnation. Besides, he speaks of himself as being then a wicked man.
7. Concerning the supposition advanced by Bishop Butler, and by Turnbull in his Christian Philosophy, that all that God does, even miracles themselves, are wrought according to general laws, such as are called the laws of nature, though unknown to us. And the supposition of Turnbull, that all may be done by angels acting by general laws, I observe, that this seems to be unreasonable. If angels effect these works, acting only by general laws, then they must do them without any immediate, special interposition at all, even without the smallest intimation of the divine mind, what to do, or upon what occasion God would have anything to be done. And what will this doctrine bring inspiration to, which is one kind of miracle? According to this, all significations of the divine mind, even to the prophets and apostles, must be according to general laws, without any special interposition at all of the divine agency.
8. Acts 12:23 . God was so angry with Herod for not giving him the glory of his eloquence, that the angel of the Lord smote him immediately, and he died a miserable death: he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But if it be very sinful for a man to take to himself the glory of such a qualification as eloquence, how much more a man’s taking to himself the glory of divine grace, God’s own image, and that which is infinitely God’s most excellent, precious, and glorious gift, and man’s highest honor, excellency, and happiness, whereby he is partaker of the divine nature and becomes a God-like creature? If God was so jealous for the glory of so small a gift, how much more for so high an endowment, this being that alone, of all other things, by which man becomes like God? If man takes the glory of it to himself, he thereby will be in the greatest danger of taking the glory to himself that is due to God, and of setting up himself as standing in competition with God, as vying with the Most High, and making himself a god and not a man. If not giving God the glory of that which is least honorable, provokes God’s jealousy, much more must not giving God the glory of that which is infinitely the most honorable. It is allowed, the apostle insists upon it, that the primitive Christians should be sensible that the glory of their gifts belonged to God, and that they made not themselves to differ. But how small a matter is this, if they make themselves to differ in that, which the apostle says is so much more excellent than all gifts!
9. How much more careful has God shown himself, that men should not be proud of their virtue, than of any other gift! See Deu. 9:4; Luke 18:9 , and innumerable other places. And the apostle plainly teaches us to ascribe to God the glory, not only of our redemption, but of our wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification; and that no flesh should glory in themselves in these things, 1 Cor. 1:29-31 . Again, the apostle plainly directs that all that glory in their virtue should glory in the Lord, 2 Cor. 10:17 . It is glorying in virtue and virtuous deeds he is there speaking of, and it is plain that the apostle uses the expression of glorying in the Lord, in such a sense, as to imply ascribing the glory of our virtue to God.
10. The doctrine of men’s being the determining causes of their own virtue, teaches them not to do so much as even the proud Pharisee did, who thanked God for making him to differ from other men in virtue, Luke 18.
See Gen. 41:15-16 ; Job 11:12 ; Dan. 2:25 , etc.; 2 Cor. 3:5-6 ; 2 Cor. 4:7 ; 2 Cor. 10:17 .
Pro. 20:12 , “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made, even both of them;” compared with many parallel places that speak about God’s giving eyes to see, and ears to hear, and hearts to understand, etc.
11. The Arminian doctrine, and the doctrine of our new philosophers, concerning habits of virtue being only by custom, discipline, and gradual culture, joined with the other doctrine, that the obtaining of these habits in those that have time for it, is in every man’s power, according to their doctrine of the freedom of will, tends exceedingly to cherish presumption in sinners, while in health and vigor, and tends to their utter despair, in sensible approaches of death by sickness or old age. 12. Observe that the question with some is whether the Spirit of God does anything at all in these days, since the Scriptures have been completed. With those that allow that he does anything, the question cannot be whether his influence be immediate. For if he does anything at all, his influence must be immediate. Nor can the question be whether his influence with regard to what he intends to do, be efficacious. The questions relating to efficacious grace, controverted between us and the Arminians, are two: First. Whether the grace of God, in giving us saving virtue, be determining and decisive. Second. Whether saving virtue be decisively given by a supernatural and sovereign operation of the Spirit of God; or whether it be only by such a divine influence or assistance, as is imparted in the course of common providence, either according to established laws of nature, or established laws of God’s universal providence towards mankind; i.e. either, (1.) Assistance which is given in all natural actions, wherein men do merely exercise and improve the principles of nature and laws of nature, and come to such attainments as are connected with such exercises by the mere laws of nature. For there is an assistance in all such natural actions, because it is by a divine influence that the laws of nature are upheld, and a constant occurrence of divine power is necessary in order to our living, moving, or having a being. This we may call a natural assistance. Or (2.) That assistance, which though it be something besides the upholding of the laws of nature (which take place in all affairs of life), is yet, by a divine, universal constitution in this particular affair of religion, so connected with those voluntary exercises which result from this mere natural assistance, that by this constitution it indiscriminately extends to all mankind, and is certainly connected with such exercises and improvements, as those just mentioned, by a certain, established, known rule, as much as any of the laws of nature. This kind of assistance, though many Arminians call it a supernatural assistance, differs little or nothing from that natural assistance that is established by a law of nature. The law so established is only a particular law of nature, as some of the laws of nature are more general, others more particular. But this establishment, which they suppose to be by divine promise, differs nothing at all from many other particular laws of nature, except only in this circumstance, of the established constitutions being revealed in the Word of God, while others are left to be discovered only by experience. The Calvinists suppose otherwise. They suppose that divine influence and operation, by which saving virtue is obtained, is entirely from, and above common assistance, or that which is given in a course of ordinary providence, according to universally established laws of nature. They suppose a principle of saving virtue is immediately imparted and implanted by that operation, which is sovereign and efficacious in this respect, that its effect proceeds not from any established laws of nature. I mention this as an entirely different question from the other, viz. Whether the grace of God, by which we obtain saving virtue, is determining or decisive. For that it may be, if it be given wholly in a course of nature, or by such an operation as is limited and regulated perfectly according to established, invariable laws. For none will dispute that many things are brought to pass by God in this manner, that are decisively ordered by him, and are brought to pass by his determining providence.
The controversy, as it relates to efficacious grace, in this sense, includes in it these four questions. 1. Whether saving virtue differs from common virtue, or such virtue as those have that are not in a state of salvation, in nature and kind, or only in degree and circumstances?
2. Whether a holy disposition of heart, as an internal governing principle of life and practice, be immediately implanted or infused in the soul, or only be contracted by repeated acts, and obtained by human culture and improvement?
3. Whether conversion, or the change of a person from being a vicious or wicked man, to a truly virtuous character, be instantaneous or gradual?
4. Whether the divine assistance or influence, by which men may obtain true and saving virtue, be sovereign and arbitrary, or whether God, in giving this assistance and its effects, limits himself to certain exact and stated rules, revealed in his Word and established by his promises? 13. Eph. 1:19-20 , “What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, according to the working of his mighty power,” or the effectual working, as the word signifies — These words, according to the effectual working of his power, we shall find applied to conversion, to growth in grace, and to raising us up at last. You have them applied to conversion, Eph. 3:7 , “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, given to me, by the effectual working of his power.” So likewise to grow in grace, Eph. 4:16 , “The whole body increaseth with the increase of God, by the effectual working in the measure of every part.” — And to the resurrection to glory at the last day, Phil. 3:21 , “He will change our vile bodies, according to the effectual working of his might power, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.”
And that the power of God in conversion, or in giving faith and the spiritual blessings that attend it, is here meant, may be argued from the apostle’s change of phrase, that whereas in the foregoing verse, he spoke of the riches of the glory of Christ’s inheritance in the saints, he does not go on to say, “and what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards them,” (i.e. the saints), which surely would have been most natural, if he still had respect only to the power of God in bestowing the inheritance of future glory. But, instead of that, we see he changes the phrase, “and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe;” plainly intimating some kind of change of the subject, or a respect to the subject of salvation with regard to something diverse. Whereas before he spoke of saints in their future state only, now he speaks of something that the saints, we that dwell in this world that believe, are the subjects of. And as the apostle includes himself, so it is the more likely he should have the mighty power of God in conversion in his thought: his conversion having been so visible and remarkable an instance of God’s marvelous power. Again, the apostle, in praying that they “knowing the exceeding greatness of God’s power,” etc. prays for such a knowledge and conviction of the power of God to bring them to life and glory, which was a most special remedy against such doubts as the church in the then present state was most exposed to, viz. that their being preserved to glory and salvation through all their trials, persecutions, and the great opposition that was made by the enemies of Christ and their souls. Therefore, after mentioning the glory of their inheritance, he, for their comfort and establishment, mentions the power of God to bring them to the possession of this inheritance, as the apostle Peter does, 1 Pet. 1:4-5 , “To an inheritance incorruptible — who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” He speaks to their hearts, for here was their difficulty and temptation to doubting. But if the keeping them in faith showed such great power, much more did the first bringing them from heathenism and the power of sin, darkness, and spiritual death and ruin, into a state of faith and salvation quickening them when dead in trespasses and sins: as it is a greater instance of divine power to raise the dead, than to maintain life that is exposed to danger, and it is a greater work to reconcile us being enemies, than to keep us friends being reconciled. It was natural for the apostle to put them in mind of the power of God manifested in their conversion as he would strengthen their faith in his power to raise them at the last day, and glorify them to eternity. Dr. Goodwin says, he finds most of the Greek fathers ran this way in interpreting the place. He mentions Theophylact and Chrysostom, and cites these words of Chrysostom: “The apostle’s scope is to demonstrate by what already was manifested in them, viz. The power of God in working faith, and to raise up their hearts to believe what was not manifested, viz. the raising of them from death to life. It being (saith he) a far more wonderful work to persuade a soul to believe in Christ, than to raise up a dead man, a far more admirable work of the two.” Besides, what the apostle says in the continuation of his discourse, explains his meaning, and puts the matter of his intending to include the power of God manifested in their conversion, out of all doubt, as in the very next sentence, “and you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” and every word that follows to the end of the second chapter, confirms the same thing. I shall mention a few of them: Eph 2:2 , “Wherein in time past ye walked — according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh effectually in the children of disobedience.” This shows the exceeding greatness of power in their being delivered from such a state, wherein they were held by the great power of so strong an enemy. Eph 2:5-6 , “Even when we were dead in sin, hath quickened us together in Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” These things tend to show how the power of God in their conversion, and the happy, honorable, and glorious change of their state by it, was according to the power that wrought in Christ when he was quickened, raised up, and made to sit in heavenly places, as Eph. 1:19-21 . Now to back this with a parallel place, as here in this place the apostle speaks of the greatness of God’s power in working faith, and parallels it with the power that raised up Christ from the dead, so we find he says the very same thing in Col. 2:12-13 , “Ye are buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” In that text in Ephesians the apostle speaks of faith, “the power that works in us that believe.” So in this text in Colossians, “ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Again, secondly, in Ephesians, together with what there follows in chap. 2, he compares believing to a rising from the dead. So here in Colossians, “ye are risen with him through faith.” Thirdly, as in Ephesians the apostle speaks of the work of God in giving faith, as parallel with his work in raising Christ, so he does here in Colossians, “Ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Fourthly, as we in Ephesians are said to believe, according to the efficacious working of God, the word ενεργειας is also used here in Colossians. It is called faith of the operation, or effectual working of God. And as there God is said to be the author, the same that raised up Christ, and to work faith in them, so here it is the faith of the operation of God who raised Christ from the dead, so that, every way, one place is parallel with the other. Some pretend that in that expression, through the faith of the operation of God, there is no respect to God’s operation as the efficient cause of faith, but only to the operation of God that raised Christ as the object of faith, which believes that power and operation as it was manifested in raising Christ, and which is believed to be sufficient to raise us up also. But that the apostle means the operation of God in giving faith, appears by Col. 2:11 , which introduces these words, where the apostle says, “In whom ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” The phrase, made without hands, in Scripture, always denote God’s immediate power, above the course of nature, and above second causes. Thus, when he speaks of heaven, 2 Cor. 5:1 , he calls it “a house not made with hands,” and in Heb. 9:11 , the human nature of Christ, which was framed by so wonderful and supernatural a power of the Holy Ghost, is said to be a “tabernacle made without hands.”
Note — The foregoing remarks, concerning the texts in Eph. 1:19-20 , and in Col. 2:11-13 ; are taken chiefly from Dr. Goodwin’s Works, vol. 1, p. 298, etc. 14. It is a doctrine mightily in vogue, that God has promised his saving grace to men’s sincere endeavors in praying for it and using proper means to obtain it, so that it is not God’s mere will that determines the matter, whether we shall have saving grace or not, but that the matter is left with us to be determined by the sincerity of our endeavors. But there is vast confusion in all talk of this kind, for want of its being well-explained what is meant by sincerity of endeavor, and through men’s deceiving themselves by using words without a meaning. I think the Scripture knows of but one sort of sincerity in religion, and that is a truly pious or holy sincerity. The Bible suggest no notion of any other sort of sincere obedience, or any other sincerity of endeavors, or any doings whatsoever in religion, than doing from love to God and true love to our duty. As to those that endeavor and take pains (let them do ever so much), that yet do nothing freely, or from any true love to or delight in God, or free inclination to virtue, but wholly for by-ends, and from sinister and mercenary views, as being driven and forced against their inclination, or induced by regard to things foreign: — I say, respecting such as these, I find nothing in Scripture that should lead us to call them honest and sincere in their endeavors. I doubt not but that the Scripture promises supernatural, truly divine, and saving blessings, to such a sincerity of endeavor as arises from true love to our duty. But then, as I apprehend, this is only to promise more saving grace to him that seeks it in the exercise of saving grace, agreeably to that repeated saying of our Savior, “to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.” Persons, in seeking grace with this sincerity, ask in faith. They seek these blessings in the exercise of a saving faith, the great condition of the covenant of grace. And I suppose, promises are made to no sincerity, but what implies this. And whoever supposes that divine promises are made to any other sincerity than this, I imagine he never will be able to make out his scheme, and that for two reasons:
I. On such a supposition, the promises must be supposed to be to an undetermined condition. And, II. Even on the supposition that the promises are made to some other sincerity than a truly pious sincerity, the sovereign grace and will of God must determine the existence of the condition of the promises, and so the whole must still depend on God’s determining grace. I. On the supposition that the promises of saving grace are made to some other sincerity of endeavor than that which implies true and saving piety of heart, they must be made to an undetermined condition, and so be in effect no promises at all. If there be anything else worthy to be called sincerity in endeavors after holiness, but a free, pious inclination, or true regard or love to holiness, nothing better can be mentioned than this, viz. endeavors after holiness, from a real willingness of heart to put forth those endeavors for the agent’s own sake, yet for such ends as prudence and self-love would propose: such as his own eternal interest, salvation from everlasting misery, etc. So that by sincerity here, is not meant any holy freedom or virtuous disposition or desire, but it signifies no more than reality of disposition and will to endeavor for some end, only provided the end be subservient to self-preservation. But the thing that truly in this case denominates the endeavor sincere, is the reality of the will or disposition of heart to endeavor, and not the goodness of the will or disposition. Now if this be the sincerity of endeavor which is meant, when men talk of its being the condition of peremptory and decisive promises of saving grace, then it never has (as I know of) yet been told, and I suppose never will or can be told, what the condition of the promise is. The thing that needs to be determined, in order to know this condition, is how great a degree of this sort of sincerity, or real willingness of heart to endeavor that a man must have to be entitled to the promise. For there can be no question but that multitudes that live in gross wickedness, and are men of a very debauched, flagitious behavior, have some degree of it, and there are none, even of those that are the most strict and painful in their endeavor, but have it in a very imperfect degree, and, in many things, fail of this sincerity of endeavor. For it must be kept in mind that the sincerity of heart we are speaking of, attending religious duties, is only a reality of willingness to use endeavors. And every man whatsoever, that uses any endeavor at all for his salvation, or ever performs any religious duty, to the end that he may go to heaven and not to hell, has this sincerity. For whatever men do voluntarily for this end, they do from a real willingness and disposition of heart to do it. For if they were not willing to do it, they would not do it. There surely are no voluntary actions performed without men’s being willing to perform them. And is there any man that will assert that God has absolutely or peremptorily promised his saving grace to any man that ever stirs hand or foot, or thinks one thought in order to his salvation? And on the other hand, as to those that go farthest in their endeavors, still they fail, in numberless instances, of exercising this kind of sincerity, consisting in reality of will. For such are guilty of innumerable sins, and every man that commits sin, by so doing, instead of being sincerely willing to do his duty, sincerely wills the contrary. For so far as any actions of his are his sin, so far his will is in what he does. No action is imputed to us any further than it is voluntary, and involves the real disposition of the heart. The man, in this painful endeavor, fails continually of his duty, or (which is the same thing) of perfect obedience. And so far as he does so, he fails of sincerity of endeavor. No man is any further defective in his obedience, than as he is defective in sincerity, for there the defect lies, viz. in his will, and the disposition of his heart. If men were perfect in these, that would be the same thing as to be perfect in obedience, or complete in holiness. Nothing ever of omission or commission is sin, any farther than it includes the real disposition and will, and therefore, no men are any farther sinful, than as they are sincere in sinning, and so far as they are sincere in sinning, so far they are deficient of sincerely endeavoring their duty. Now, therefore, where are the bounds to which men must come in order to be entitled to the promise? Some have a faint sincerity of endeavor, who none do suppose are entitled to the promise. And those that have most sincerity of endeavor, do greatly fail of that degree of sincerity that they ought to have, or fall short of that which God requires. And there are infinite degrees between these two classes. And if every degree of strength of endeavor is not sufficient, and yet some certain degree of it, greatly short of that which God requires, is sufficient, then let it be determined what that degree is.
Some have determined thus, that if men sincerely endeavor to do what they can, God has promised to help them to do more, etc. But this question remains to be resolved, whether the condition of the promise be, that he shall sincerely endeavor to do what he can, constantly, or only sometimes. For there is no man that sincerely endeavors to do his duty to the utmost constantly, with this sort of sincerity consisting in reality of will so to do. If he did, he would perfectly do his duty at all times. For, as was observed before, nothing else is required but the will, and men never fail of their duty or commit sin, but when their real will is to sin.
But if the condition of the promise be sincerely doing what they can sometimes, then it should be declared how often or how great a part of the time of man’s life, he must exercise this sincerity. It is manifest that men fail of their duty every day, yea continually, and therefore, that there is a continual defect of sincerity of endeavor in the practice of duty. If it should be said that the condition of the promise of saving grace is that, take one time with another and one duty with another, the sincerity of their will should be chiefly in favor of their duty, or, in other words, that they should be sincere in endeavors to do more than half their duty, though they sincerely neglect the rest. I would inquire where they find such promises as these in the Bible? Besides, I think it can be demonstrated that there is not a man on earth that ever comes up half way to what the law of God requires of him, and consequently, that there is in all more want of sincerity, than any actual possession of it. But whether it be so or no, how does it appear that if men are sincere in endeavors with respect to more than half their duty, God has promised them saving mercy and grace, though through a defect of their sincerity, the rest be neglected?
But if we suppose the sincerity to which divine promises are made, implies a true freedom of the heart in religious endeavors and performances, consisting in love to God and holiness, inclining our hearts to our duty for its own sake, here is something determinate and precise, as a title to the benefit promised does not depend on any particular degree of sincerity to be found out by difficult and unsearchable rules of mathematical calculation, but on the nature of it: — This sincerity being a thing of an entirely distinct nature and kind from anything that is to be found in those men who have no interest in the promises. If men know they have this sincerity, they may know the promises are theirs, though they may be sensible they have very much of a contrary principle in their hearts, the operations of which are as real as of this. This is the only sincerity in religion that the Scripture makes any account of. According to the Word of God, then and then only, is there a sincere universal obedience, when persons love all God’s commands, and love all those things wherein holiness consists, and endeavor after obedience to every divine precept, from love and of free choice. Otherwise, in scripture account, there is nothing but sincere disobedience and rebellion, without any sincerity of the contrary. For their disobedience is of free choice, from sincere love to sin, and delight in wickedness. But their refraining from some sins, and performing some external duties, is without the least degree of free choice or sincere love. If here it should be said that men who have no piety of heart in a saving degree, yet may have some degree of love to virtue, and it should be insisted that mankind are born with a moral sense, which implies a natural approbation of and love to virtue. And therefore, men that have not the principle of love to God and virtue established to that degree as to be truly pious men, and entitled to heaven, yet may have such degrees of them as to engage them, with a degree of ingenuous sincerity and free inclination, to seek after farther degrees of virtue, and so with a sincerity above that which has been mentioned, viz. a real willingness to use endeavors from fear and self-interest. — It may be replied that if this be allowed, it will not at all help the matter. For still the same question returns, viz. what degree of this sincerity is it that constitutes the precise condition of the promise? It is supposed that all mankind have this moral sense, but yet it is not supposed that all mankind are entitled to the promises of saving mercy. Therefore the promises depend, as above noticed, on the degree of sincerity, under the same difficulties, and with the same intricacies, and all the forementioned unfixedness and uncertainty. And other things concerning this sincerity, besides the degree of it, are undetermined, viz. how constant this degree of sincerity of endeavor must be; how long it must be continued; and how early it must be begun. Thus, it appears that on the supposition of God’s having made any promises of saving grace to the sincere endeavors of ungodly men, it will follow that such promises are made to an undetermined condition. But a supposed promise to an undetermined condition, is truly no promise at all. It is absurd to talk of positive determinate promises made to something not determined, or to a condition that is not fixed in the promise. If the condition be not decided, there is nothing decisive in the affair. If the master of a family should give forth such a pretended promise as this to his servants. “I promise that if any of you will do something, though I tell you not what, that I will surely give him an inheritance among my children:” would this be truly any promise at all? I proceed now to observe, II. On the supposition that the promises of saving grace are made to some other sincerity of endeavor, than that which implies truly pious sincerity, the sovereign grace and will of God must determine the existence of the condition of the promises. And so the whole must still depend on God’s determining grace, and that, of whatever kind this sincerity (short of truly pious and saving sincerity), is supposed to be: whether it consists only in a reality of will, arising from foreign motives for a certain degree of endeavors or use of means, or whether it be a certain sincerity or reality of willingness to use endeavors, arising from a natural love of virtue. For all suppose the sincerity, to which the promises are made, to be that in which some are distinguished from others: none supposing that all mankind, without exception, have this sincerity which is the condition of the promises. Therefore, this sincerity must be a distinguishing attainment. And how is it that some attain to it, and not others? It must be in one of these two ways: either by the sovereign gift of God’s will, or by their endeavors. To say the former, is to give up the point, and to own that the sovereign grace and will of God determines the existence of the condition of the promises. But if it be said that this distinguishing sincerity of endeavor is obtained by men’s own endeavor, then I ask, what sort of endeavor is it attained by? Sincere endeavor or insincere? None will be so absurd, as to say, that this great condition of saving promises is attained to by insincere endeavors. For what tendency, either natural or moral, can the exercise of insincerity have, to produce or attain to sincerity? But if it be said that distinguishing sincerity of endeavor is attained to by distinguishing sincere endeavor, this is to run round in a ridiculous circle, and still the difficulty remains and the question returns: how the distinguishing sincerity that first of all took place in the affair came to have existence, otherwise than by the determining grace of God? And if it be said that there is no need of supposing any such thing as any previous, habitual sincerity, or any such sincerity going before, as shall be an established principle, but that it is sufficient that the free will does sincerely determine itself to endeavor after holiness: — I answer, whether we suppose the sincerity that first entitles to the promises, to be a settled habit or established principle, or not, it does not in the least remove the difficulty, as long as it is something, in which some men are distinguished from others, that precedes the distinguishing endeavor which entitles to the promises, and is the source and spring of those endeavors. This first distinguishing sincerity, which is the spring of the whole affair, must have existence by some means or other. And it must proceed either from some previous sincere endeavor of the man’s own, which is a contradiction, or from God, which is the point required, or it must be the effect of chance, in other words, of nothing. If we suppose that distinguishing sincerity of endeavor by which some men are interested in the promises of saving grace, and not others, to be some certain degree of love to virtue, or anything else in the disposition or exercise of the heart, yet it must be owned that all men either are alike by nature, as to love to virtue, or they are not. If they are not, but some have naturally a greater love to virtue than others, and this determines some, rather than others, to the requisite sincerity of endeavor after saving grace, then God determines the affair by his sovereign will. For he, and not men themselves, determines all distinguishing qualifications or advantages that men are born with. Of if there be no difference naturally, but one man is born with the same love to virtue as another, then how do some men first attain to more of this love to virtue than others, and so possess that distinguishing sincerity of endeavor which consists in it? To say it arises from a previous, distinguishing sincerity of endeavor, attempt, desire, or will, is a contradiction. Therefore, it must proceed from the determining grace of God; which being allowed, the great point in dispute is allowed. 15. Eph. 2:8 , “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Mr. Beach observes, “this text does not mean that their faith is so God’s gift, as not to be of themselves, as is most evident to any who reads the original.” This is certainly a great mistake. What I suppose he means is that the relative that, being of the neuter gender, and the word πιϚις of the feminine, they do not agree together. But if he would translate the Greek relative that thing, viz. the thing last spoken of, all the difficulty vanishes. Vid. Beza in Loc. Such Scriptures as these, 1 Cor. 15:10 , “Not I, but the grace of God that was with me;” Gal. 2:20 , “Not I, but Christ liveth in me;” prove efficacious grace. The virtuous actions of men that are rewardable, are not left to men’s indifference, without divine ordering and efficacy, so as to be possible to fail. They are often in the Scripture the matter of God’s promises. How often does God promise reformations! How often does God promise that great revival of religion in the latter days! Dr. Whitby seems to deny any physical influence at all of the Spirit of God, on the will; and allows an influence by moral suasion and moral causes only, p. 344. This is to deny that the Spirit of God does anything at all, except inspiring the prophets, and giving the means of grace, with God’s ordination of this in his providence. If God do anything physically, what he does must be efficacious and irresistible. Such an assistance Dr. Whitby maintains, and, concerning it, says the following things — p. 221, 222. “First. Then I say it must be granted that in raising an idea in my brain by the Holy Spirit, and the impression made upon it there, the action is truly physical. Second. That in those actions I am wholly passive: that is, I myself do nothing formally to produce those ideas, but the good Spirit, without my operation, does produce them in me. Third. That these operations must be irresistible in their production, because they are immediately produced in us without our knowledge of them, and without our will, and so without those faculties by which we are enabled to act.” Though it should be allowed that God assists man with a physical assistance, and yet an obliged and promised assistance only, then God does not do, or effect, or give the thing assisted to, any more than if he operated and assisted men only according to the established laws of nature, and men may as properly be said to do it of themselves and of their own power. The doing of the thing, is in the same manner in their power. The assistance by which God assists a drunkard that goes to the tavern, and there drinks excessively, or by which he assists an adulterer or pirate in their actions, is that he upholds the laws of nature; the laws of the nature of the human soul, whereby it is able to perform such and such acts in such order and dependence; the laws of the union of soul and body, and moves the body in such a stated manner in consequence of such acts of the soul; and upholds the laws of motion and causes that there shall be such and such effects in corporeal things, and also of men’s minds in consequence of such motions. All the difference is that the assistance which he grants in the duties of religion, is according to a newer establishment than the other, according to a method established a little later, and also that the method of assistance, in the one case, is written and revealed by way of promise or covenant, and not in the other. But if it be said that though God has promised assistance, yet he has not promised the exact degree, as, notwithstanding his promise, he has left himself at liberty to assist some, much more than others, in consequence of the very same endeavor. — I answer, that this will prove a giving up of their whole scheme, and will infallibly bring in the Calvinistical notion of sovereign and arbitrary grace: whereby some, with the very same sincerity of endeavor, with the same degree of endeavor, and the same use of means, nay, although all things are exactly equal in both cases, both as to their persons and behavior, yet one has that success by sovereign grace and God’s arbitrary pleasure, that is denied another. If God has left himself no liberty of sovereign grace in giving success to man’s endeavors, but his consequent assistance be always tied to such endeavors precisely, then man’s success is just as much in his own power, and is in the same way the fruit of his own doings, as the effect and fulfillment of his endeavors to commit adultery or murder, and indeed much more. For his success in those endeavors is not tied to such endeavors, but may be providentially disappointed. Although particular motions follow such and such acts of will, in such a state of body, exactly according to certain laws of nature, yet a man’s success in such wickedness is not at all tied to his endeavors by any divine establishment, as the Arminians suppose success is to man’s endeavors after conversion. For the Spirit of God, by assisting in the alleged manner, becomes not the efficient cause of those things, as the Scriptures do certainly represent him. If God be not the proper bestower, author, and efficient cause of virtue, then the greatest benefits flow not from him, are not owing to his goodness, nor have we him to thank for them. “Christ upbraids the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, that they were worse than Sodom, etc. and the Jews of that generation, that they were worse than the men of Ninevah; and the Pharisees, that the publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of God before them. But why did he do this, if the only reason was that the one was brought to repent by effectual grace, and the other not?” (See Whitby, p. 169, 170, 171.) I answer, the unbelief and impenitence of those cities, of that generation, and of those Pharisees, when, on the contrary, the publicans and Nineveh repented, and the men of Sodom would have repented, was an argument that they were worse, more perverse, and hard-hearted than they. Because, though repentance is owing to special, efficacious assistance, yet in his ordinary methods of proceeding with men, God is wont much more rarely to bestow it on those that are more perverse, hard-hearted, and rooted in evil, than others. So much the more as their hearts are hardened, so much the less likely are they to be brought to repentance. And though there be oftentimes exceptions of particular persons, yet it still holds good as a general rule, and especially with regard to societies, nations, cities, and ranks of men: so that Christ might well, from the fact that he mentions, draw an argument of the greater perverseness and stubbornness of those societies and ranks of men that he spoke of. 16. A command and a manifestation of will are not the same thing. A command does not always imply a true desire that the thing commanded should be done. So much at least is manifest by the instance of Abraham commanded to offer up Isaac. That command was not such an effect of the divine will, as the commands to believe and repent, etc. 17. Either the stronger the habitual inclination to good is, the more virtuous, and the stronger the disposition to evil, the more vicious. Or if it be otherwise, then indifference or want of inclination is essential to both virtue and vice. 18. Dr. Whitby’s inconsistency appears in that one while, when he is disputing against the decree of election, he maintains that the epistles, where the apostle speaks to the elects, are not written to the converted only, because then it suits his turn that the persons addressed should not be converted. But afterwards, when disputing against efficacious grace, he maintains that where the apostle says, “God worketh in you both to will and to do,” etc. Phil. 2:13 , he speaks only to them that are converted, p. 228. Again, when it suits the Doctor’s turn, when writing about perseverance, then all whom the apostles write to are true saints. As particularly those the apostle Peter writes to, that had precious faith, p. 399. And the Galatians addressed in Paul’s epistle, p. 401, 402. 19. When the psalmist prays, “Make me to go in the way of thy statutes;” is it indeed meaning that God would give him the general grace which he gives to all, and which is sufficient for all if they will but improve it? And is this all? 20. Arminians argue that God has obliged himself to bestow a holy and saving disposition, on certain conditions, and that what is given in regeneration, is given either for natural men’s asking, or for the diligent improvement of common grace because otherwise, it would not be our fault that we are without it, nor our virtue that we have it. But if this reasoning is just, the holy qualities obtained by the regenerate, are only the fruits of virtue, not virtues themselves. All the virtue likes in asking, and in the diligent improvement of common grace.
21. Pro. 21:1 , “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will.” This shows that the Arminian notion of liberty of will, is inconsistent with the Scripture notion of God’s providence and government of the world. See also Jer. 31:18 , “Turn me, and I shall be turned.” Mat. 7:18 , “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Let us understand this how we will, it destroys the Arminian notion of liberty, and virtue, and vice. For if it means only a great difficulty, then so much the less liberty, and therefore so much the less virtue or vice. And the preceding verse would be false, which says, “every tree bringeth forth good fruit,” etc. Rom. 8:6-9 , “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace: because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But we are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” The design of the apostle in this place overthrows Arminian notions of liberty, virtue, and vice. It appears from Scripture that God gives such assistance to virtue and virtuous acts, as to be properly a determining assistance, so as to determine the effect, which is inconsistent with Arminian notions of liberty. The Scripture shows that God’s influence in the case is such, that he is the cause of the effect. He causes it to be: which shows that his influence determines the matter, whether it shall be or not. Otherwise innumerable expressions of Scripture are exceedingly improper, and altogether without a meaning.
22. Dr. Whitby’s notion of the assistance of the Spirit is of the same sort with inspiration. Whereas that which I suppose is the true notion, is entirely different. Consequently their notion is much more enthusiastical, does much better agree with, and much more expose to pernicious enthusiasm, than ours. Hence we find that the grossest enthusiasts, such as Quakers and others, are generally Arminians in the doctrines of free will, etc.
23. Scripture expressions are everywhere contrary to the Arminian scheme, according to all use of language of the world in these days. But then they have their refuge here. They say, the ancient figures of speech are exceedingly diverse from ours, and that we in this distant age cannot judge at all of the true sense of expression used so long ago, but by having a skill in antiquity (being versed in ancient history and critically skilled in the ancient languages), not considering that the Scriptures were written for us in these ages on whom the ends of the world are come. Yea, they were designed chiefly for the latter age of the world, in which they shall have their chief, and comparatively almost all their effect. They were written for God’s people in those ages, of whom at least ninety-nine in a hundred must be supposed incapable of such knowledge, by their circumstances and education, and nine hundred and ninety-nine in a thousand of God’s people that hitherto have been saved by the Scriptures. It is easy, by certain methods of interpretation, to refine and criticize any book to a sense most foreign to the mind of the author.
24. If God be truly unwilling that there should be any moral evil in the world, why does not he cause less moral evil to exist than really does? If it be answered, as is usual to such kind of objections, that though God is unwilling there should be moral evil, yet he will not infringe on man’s liberty, or destroy his moral agency to prevent it: — Then I ask that if this be all, why does God cause so much less to exist at some certain times; on the contrary, causes virtue gloriously to prevail? Other times are spoken of and promised, wherein it shall prevail yet vastly more. And this is spoken of as of God’s effecting, and is abundantly so spoken of and promised, as what God would do, and none should hinder, etc.
The Arminian principles, denying the efficacious, determining grace of God, as the cause of men’s virtue and piety, are wholly inconsistent with the promises and prophecies of the future flourishing of religion and virtue in the world, and never can be made consistent therewith. This flourishing of religion is spoken of as what God will effect, and is made the matter of his abundant promise. It is spoken of as his glorious work and the work of his almighty power, and as what he will effect and none shall hinder and what he will effect against all opposition, removing and overcoming the wickedness of men, etc.
25. Dr. Stebbing says, p. 104, “So much grace as is necessary to lead us to that obedience which is indispensably required in order to salvation, God will give to every one, who humbly and devoutly prays to him for it; for this is the condition, and the only condition prescribed by our Savior, Luke 11:9-13 , ‘And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. If then ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?’ — where the promise of the Spirit is made.” Here humility and devotion are mentioned as the condition of that obedience which is indispensably required in order to salvation. By that obedience which is required in order to salvation must be meant, either: 1. That sort of virtue and obedience that is requisite, or, 2. Perseverance in it. If he means that sort of virtue which is requisite in order to salvation, then I would ask what sort of humility and devotion is that, to which God has promised the grace which is necessary to their obtaining that virtue which is the condition of salvation? Must it not be real, sincere humility and devotion? Surely if God has promised so great a gift to any humility and devotion, it must be to that which is sincere and upright. Because that which is not sincere is nothing. It is hypocritical: a mere show of that which is really wanting. And it would be very unreasonable to suppose that God promises such infinite rewards to hypocrisy, which he has often declared to be abominable to him, and which only provokes him the more. But if it be true, sincere, upright humility and devotion, it is unreasonable to suppose that God makes this the condition of that grace which is necessary to his obtaining that kind of virtue which is requisite to salvation. Because he, who has this humility and devotion, has that kind of virtue already. The Scripture everywhere speaks of uprightness and sincerity of heart, as that virtue that is saving. He that sincerely asks for grace to obey, has that sincerity and uprightness of heart that is exercised in sincere obedience. For he that sincerely asks this, is sincerely willing to obey, or sincerely desirous of obeying. Or, 2. If the Doctor, by that obedience that is indispensably required in order to salvation, means perseverance in sincere virtue, and this be promised to devoutly and sincerely asking it, then hereby must be meant, either devoutly and sincerely asking it once, or final perseverance in this sincere asking, or a certain limited continuance in that asking. If a final perseverance in asking be the condition of grace to lead us to persevere, saving virtue is, as said before, the condition of itself. For persevering sincerity is the condition of obtaining persevering sincerity. If it be only once asking, or asked a limited number of times, or a limited continuance in asking, this is contrary to the Arminian doctrine about perseverance. For it supposes a person in this life, on a past condition, to be already, before the end of the day of his probation, so confirmed in obedience that it is impossible for him to fall away.
26. One danger of these Arminian notions is that they strongly tend to prevent conviction of sin.
27. The vast differences of Arminians to an accurate and clear view of the scope and design of the sacred penmen, and a critical knowledge of the original, will prove forever vain and insufficient to help them against such clear evidence as the Scripture exhibits concerning efficacious grace. I desire it may be shown, if it can be that ever any terms that are fuller and stronger are used more frequently, or in greater variety, to signify God’s being the author, efficient, and bestower of any kind of benefit, than as to the bestowment of true virtue or goodness of heart: whether concerning the deliverance out of Egypt, or the manna that was rained down from heaven, or the bestowment of the blessings of Canaan, or saving Noah and his family in the ark, or the raising any from the dead, or Christ’s giving health to the sick, or sight to the blind, or bread to the hungry in the wilderness, or anything else whatsoever. There also is: the giving being to mankind in their creation; the giving reason to them with their other natural faculties; the giving them life and breath; the giving them the beautiful form of their bodies; the giving them life at the general resurrection; the giving them their glory and happiness in heaven; the prophets and the Word of God by the prophets and others; the giving the means of grace and salvation; and the giving Christ and providing means of salvation in him. Yea, I know of no one thing in Scripture wherein such significant, strong expressions are used, in so great variety, or one half so often, as the bestowment of this benefit of true goodness and piety of heart. But after all, we must be faced down in it with vast confidence, that the Scriptures do not imply any more than only exhibiting means of instruction, leaving the determining and proper causing of the effect wholly with man, as the only proper, efficient, and determining cause: — and that the current of Scripture is all against us, and that it is because we do not understand language, and are bigots and fools for imagining any such thing as that the Scriptures say anything of that nature, and because the divines on our side do not understand Greek, and do not lay the Scripture before them, nor mind the scope of Scripture, nor consider the connection, etc. etc. Perhaps it will be said that every one of those Scriptures, which are brought to prove efficacious grace, may have another interpretation, found out by careful and critical examination. But, alas! Is that the way of the Most High’s instructing mankind: to use such a multitude of expressions, in different languages, and various different ages, all which in their natural and most common acceptation, in all languages, nations, and ages, must undoubtedly be understood in a particular sense? Yea, the whole thread and current of all that God says, according to the use of speech among mankind, tends to lead to such an understanding, and so unavoidably leads his people in all ages into such thing; intending only that the true meaning should not be found out, but by the means of acute criticism, which might possibly hit upon the strange, unusual, and surprising meaning?
28. Instead of persons being the determining and efficient causes of their own virtue and piety, after all the moral means God uses with man, let us suppose some third person between God and the subject of this gift of virtue, to be in the very same manner the sovereignly determining cause and efficient of virtue; that he had power to bestow it in us, or cause us to be the subjects of it, just in the same manner as the Arminians suppose we ourselves have power to be the causes of our being the subjects of virtue; and that it depended on this third person’s free will, just in the same manner as now they suppose our having virtue depends on our own free will; and that God used moral means with that third person to bestow virtue on us, just in the same manner that he used moral means to persuade us to cause virtue in ourselves, and the moral means had the like tendency to operate on his will as on ours. But finally, it was left entirely to his free will to be the sole determining cause whether we should have virtue, without any such influence on his will as in the least to insure his sovereignty, arbitrary disposal, and perfectly free self-determination, and it should be left contingent, whether he would bestow it or not. And in these circumstances, this third person should happen to determine in our favor, and bestow virtue: — Now I ask, would it be proper to ascribe the matter so wholly to God, in such strong terms and in such a great variety; to ascribe it so entirely to him as his gift; to pray to him beforehand for it; to give him thanks; to give him all the glory, etc.? On the contrary, would not this determining cause (whose arbitrary, self-determined, self-possessed, sovereign will, decides the matter), be properly looked upon as the main cause, vastly the most proper cause, the truest author and bestower of the benefit? Would not he be, as it were, all in the cause? Would not the glory properly belong to him, on whose pleasure the determination of the matter properly depended?
29. By regeneration, being new creatures, raised from death in sin, in the New Testament, is not meant merely persons’ being brought into the state and privileges of professing Christians, according to Dr. Taylor. When Christ says unto Nicodemus, John 3:3 , “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;” he does not mean merely, that unless a man be brought to a participation of the new state and privileges of the Christian church, he cannot enter on the possession and privileges of the Christian church. For that would be nonsense, and only to say, unless a man be born again, he cannot be born again, or unless a man enter into the new state of things, as erected by the Messiah, he cannot enter on the new state of things as erected by the Messiah. Nor can he mean that unless a man be a professing, Christian, he cannot see the future and eternal privileges of the kingdom of heaven, for he supposes many heathens will see the kingdom of God in that sense.
And how unreasonable would it be to suppose that Christ would teach this doctrine of the necessity of being instated in his new-modeled church, as such a great, important, and main doctrine of his!
Taylor, to make out his scheme, is forced to suppose that by being born of God is meant two things in the New Testament (see p. 127 of his Key, and on Original Sin, p. 144, etc.). So he is forced to suppose that by the kingdom of God is meant two things (p. 125 marginal note, and other places), and so he supposes two senses of our being of the truth, our being of or in God, and knowing God (see p.127 marginal note). He is forced to suppose that many of the expressions, signifying antecedent blessings, are to be taken in a double sense (see p. 138. No. 243, etc.). See how evidently being born of God signifies something else than a being brought into the state of professing Christians, 1 John 2:29 , “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doth righteousness is born of him.” Chap. 3, “Whatsoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Chap. 4:8, “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” 1 John 5:4 , “Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world.” Verse 18, “We know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself; and that wicked one toucheth him not.”
So it is exceeding apparent that knowing God, and being of God, and in God, having this hope in him, etc. mean something beside our Christian profession, and principles, and privileges. 1 John 2:3 , etc. “Hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him.” Chap. 3, “Every one that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” Chap. 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Chap. 4:12, “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us.” Taylor supposes that this same apostle, by being born of God, means being received to the privileges of professing Christians. John 1:12 (p. 49); 1 John 5:1 and verse 18 (p. 48); 1 John 3:1 (p. 49).
30. Why does the apostle say, concerning apostates, “they were not of us: if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not at all of us:” — if it be, as Dr. Taylor supposes, that professing Christians are indeed of the society of Christians to all intents and purposes, have all their privileges, are truly the children of God, members of Christ, of the household of God, saints, believers that have obtained like precious faith, are all one body, have one spirit, one faith, one inheritance, have their hearts purified and sanctified, are all the children of light, are all of the household of God, fellow-citizens with the saints, have all fellowship with Christ, etc.?
31. It is true, the nation of the Jews are in the Old Testament said to be elected, called, created, made, formed, redeemed, delivered, saved, bought, purchased, begotten. But particular Jews are no where so spoken of, at least with reference to the same thing, viz. their national redemption, when they were brought out of Egypt, etc.
David, in the book of Psalms, though he is so abundant there in giving thanks to God for his mercies, and is also so frequent in praising God for God’s redeeming his people out of Egypt, and the salvation God wrought for the nation and church of Israel at that time, yet he never once blesses God (having respect to that salvation) that God had chosen him and redeemed him, bought him, regenerated him. He never (having reference to that affair) speaks in the language of the apostle, “He loved me, and gave himself for me:” though he often speaks of the blessedness of those men God had chose, and caused to come nigh unto him, agreeably to the language of the New Testament, and often blesses God for redeeming and saving him in particular. But never, in any of these things, has he respect to those national privileges, nor indeed any other of the penmen of the Psalms, which is very strange, if the privilege of being bought, made, created, etc. as applied in the New Testament applies to himself in particular, and which this and the other apostles applied to many other particular persons.
32. That professing Christians are said to be sanctified, washed, etc. does not argue, that all professing Christians are so in fact. For Taylor himself says, “it should be carefully observed, that it is very common in the sacred writings to express not only our Christian privileges, but also the duty to which they oblige, in the present or preterperfect tense; or to speak of that as done, which only ought to be done, and which, in fact, may possibly never be done: as in Mat. 5:13 , “Ye are the salt of the earth,” that is, ye ought to be. Rom. 2:4 , “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance;” that is, ought to lead thee: Rom. 6:2 ; chap. 8:9; Col. 3:3 ; 1 Pet. 1:6 , “Wherein ye greatly rejoice;” i.e. ought to rejoice. 2 Cor. 3:18 , “We all with open face (enjoying the means of) beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are (ought to be, enjoy the means of being) changed into the same image from glory to glory.” 1 Cor. 5:7 , “Ye are unleavened,” i.e. obligated by the Christian profession to be. Heb. 13:14 , “We seek (i.e. we ought to seek, or according to our profession, we seek) a city to come.” 1 John 2:12-15 ; 3:9 ; 5:4-18 , and in other places. (See Taylor’s Key, p. 139. No. 244 and p. 144. No.246.) This overthrows all his supposed proofs, that those which he calls antecedent blessings do really belong to all professing Christians.
33. The case was quite otherwise in the Christian church with regard to election, redemption, creation, etc. from what it was with the Jews. With the Jews, election, their redemption out of Egypt, their creation, was a national thing. It began with them as a nation, and descended, as it were, from the nation to particular persons. Particular persons were first of the nation and church of the Jews, so, by that means, had an interest in their election, redemption, etc. that God wrought of old. The being of the nation and church of Israel, was the ground of a participation in these privileges. *31* But it is evident it is contrariwise in Christians. With regard to them, the election, redemption, creation, regeneration, etc. are personal things. They begin with particular persons, and ascend to public societies. Men are first redeemed, bought, created, regenerated, and by that means become members of the Christian church, and this is the ground of their membership. Paul’s regeneration, and Christ’s loving him and giving himself for him, was the foundation of his being of the Christian church, that holy nation, peculiar people, etc. — whereas, David’s being one of the nation of Israel, is the proper ground of his participation in Israel’s redemption out of Egypt, and of that birth and formation of the people that were at that time. It is apparent the case was thus. It cannot be otherwise. It is evident that the new creation, regeneration, calling, and justification, are personal things, because they are be personal influences; influences of God’s Spirit on particular persons, and personal qualifications.
Their regeneration was a personal thing, and therefore, it is not called simply an entering into the creation, or obtaining a part in the new world or new Jerusalem, etc. but a putting off the old man, and putting on the new man. They are first raised from the dead, and by that means come to belong to the church of Christ. They are first lively or living stones, and by that means come to belong to the spiritual house, and the holy temple. By being lively stones, they come to be parts of the living temple, and capable of it. So that their being alive is prior to their belonging to the Christian church. The Christian calling is represented as being the ground of their belonging to the church. They are called into the church, called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ. Their spiritual baptism or washing, is prior to their being in the church. They are by one spirit baptized into one body. They put on Christ, and so become interested in Christ, and sharers with those that had a part in him. By such a personal work of the Spirit of God, they were first made meet to be partakers with the saints in light, before they were partakers.
34. It will follow from Taylor’s scheme, that Simon the sorcerer had an interest in all the antecedent blessings. Yet the apostle tells him he was at that time in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. If he was really justified, washed, cleansed, sanctified, then how was he at that time in the bond of iniquity? Justification, forgiveness, etc. is a release from the bond of iniquity. If the heart be purified by faith, it does not remain in the gall of bitterness.
35. Saving grace differs from common grace, in nature and kind. To suppose only a gradual difference, would not only be to suppose that some in a state of damnation are, within an infinitely little, as good as some in a state of salvation (which greatly disagrees with the Arminian notion of men’s being saved by their own virtue and goodness), but this, taken with the Arminian notion of men’s falling from grace, will naturally lead us to determine that many that are once in a state of salvation, may be in such a state, and out of it, scores of time in a very short space. For though a person is in a state of salvation, he may be but just in it, and may be infinitely near the limits between a state of salvation and damnation. And as the habits of grace are, according to that scheme, only contracted and raised by consideration and exercise and the exertion of the strength of the mind, and are lost when a man falls from grace by the intermission or cessation of these and by contrary acts and exercises, and as the habits and principles of virtue are raised and sunk, brought into being and abolished by those things, and both the degree of them and the being of them wholly depend on them: — the consequence will naturally be that when a man is first raised to that degree of a virtuous disposition, as to be in a state of salvation, and the degree of virtue is almost infinitely near the dividing line, it will naturally be liable to be a little raised or sunk every hour, according as the thoughts and exercises of the mind are: as the mercury in the thermometer or barometer is never perfectly at rest, but is always rising or subsiding, according to the weight of the atmosphere, or the degree of heat.
36. First. The main thing meant by the word efficacious is this: it being decisive. This seems to be the main question. Second. Its being immediate and arbitrary in that sense, as not to be limited to the laws of nature. Third. That the principles of grace are supernatural in that sense, that they are entirely different from all that is in the heart before conversion. Fourth. That they are infused, and not contracted by custom and exercise. Fifth. That the change is instantaneous and not gradual. These four last heads may be subdivisions of a second general head, so that the divisions may be thus: I. The main thing meant is that it is decisive: II. That it is immediate and supernatural. The four last of the heads mentioned above, may be subdivisions if this last.
So that there are two things relating to the doctrine of efficacious grace, wherein lies the main difference between the Calvinists and Arminians as to this doctrine. I. That the grace of God is determining and decisive as to the conversion of a sinner, or a man’s becoming a good man, and having those virtuous qualifications that entitle to an interest in Christ and his salvation. II. That the power, and grace, and operation of the Holy Spirit in or towards the conversion of a sinner is immediate: that the habit of true virtue or holiness is immediately implanted or infused, that the operation goes so far, that a man has habitual holiness given him instantly wholly by the operation of the Spirit of God and not gradually by assistance concurring with our endeavors, so as gradually to advance virtue into a prevailing habit. And besides these, III. It is held by many of late, that there is no immediate interposition of God, but that all is done by general laws.
The former is that which is of greatest importance or consequence in the controversy with Arminians (though the others are also very important), and this only is what I shall consider in this place, perhaps the others may be considered, God willing, in some other discourse.
37. Concerning what the Arminians say, that these are speculative points: all devotion greatly depends on a sense and acknowledgment of our dependence on God. But this is one of the very chief things belonging to our dependence on God: how much stress do the Scriptures lay on our dependence on God! All assistance of the Spirit of God whatsoever, that is by any present influence or effect of the Spirit, anything at all that a person that is converted from sin to God is the subject of, through any immediate influence of the Spirit of God upon him, or anything done by the Spirit since the completing and confirming the canon of the Scriptures, must be done by a physical operation, either on the soul or body.
The Holy Spirit of God does something to promote virtue in men’s hearts, and to make them good beyond what the angels can do. But the angels can present motives, can excite ideas of the words of promises and threatenings, etc. and can persuade in this way by moral means: as is evident, because the devils in this way promote vice.
38. There is no objection made to God’s producing any effects, or causing any events, by any immediate interposition, producing effects arbitrarily, or by the immediate efforts of his will, but what lies equally against his ordering it so, that any effects should be produced by the immediate interposition of men’s will, to produce effects otherwise than the established laws of nature would have produced without men’s arbitrary interposition.
I beg the reader’s attention to the following quotations — “That otherwise, the world cannot be the object of inquiry and science, and far less of imitation by arts: since imitation necessarily presupposes a certain, determinate object, or fixed ascertainable relations and connections of things; and that, upon the contrary supposition, the world must be absolutely unintelligible. Nature, in order to be understood by us, must always speak the same language to us. It must therefore steadfastly observe the same general laws in its operations, or work uniformly, and according to stated, invariable methods and rules. Those terms, order, beauty, general good, etc. plainly include, in their meaning, analogy; and constancy, uniformity amidst variety; or in other words, the regular observance of general settled laws, in the make and economy, production, and operations or effects, of any object to which they are ascribed. Wherever order, fixed connections, or general laws and unity of design take place, there is certainty in the nature of such objects, and so knowledge may be acquired. But where these do not obtain, there can be nothing but unconnected independent parts. All must be disorder and confusion, and consequently such a loose disjointed heap of things must be an inexplicable chaos. In one word, science, prudence, government, imitation, and art, necessarily suppose the prevalence of general laws throughout all the objects in nature to which they reach. No being can know itself, project or pursue any scheme, or lay down any maxims for its conduct, but so far as its own constitution is certain, and the connection of things relative to it are fixed and constant. For so far only are things ascertainable, and therefore, so far only can rules be drawn from them.” Turnbull’s Mor. Phil. Part. I. Introd.
“The exercise of all moral powers, dispositions, and affections of mind, as necessarily presuppose an established order of nature or general laws settled by the author of nature with respect to them, as the exercise of our bodily senses about qualities and effects of corporeal beings do with regard to them. We could neither acquire knowledge of any kind, contract habits, or attain to any moral perfection whatsoever, unless the author of our nature had appointed and fixed certain laws relating to our moral powers, and their exercises and acquisitions.” Ibid. p. 13, 14. Yet this Turnbull strenuously holds a self-determining power in the will of man. Such like arguments, if they are valid against any interposition at all, will prevail against all interposition of God or man, against the interposition of God ever to bring the world to an end, or amend it; and prove that all shall be according to general laws. And they might as well argue that the making of the world too was by general laws. If it be said that it is of great importance and absolute necessity that God should at last interpose and rectify the course of nature — I answer, this is yielding the point, that in cases of great importance, it is reasonable to suppose there may be an interposition that may be arbitrary, and not by general laws.
39. It is not necessary that men should be able, by the connections of things, to know all future events, nor was this ever in the Creator’s designs. If it had been so, he could have enabled them to know the future volitions of men, and those events that depend upon them, which are be far the most important.
40. The nature of virtue being a positive thing, can proceed from nothing but God’s immediate influence, and must take its rise from creation or infusion by God. For it must be either from that, or from our own choice and production, either at once or gradually, by diligent culture. But it cannot begin or take its rise from the latter, viz. our choice or voluntary diligence. For if there exist nothing at all of the nature of virtue before, it cannot come from cultivation. For by the supposition there is nothing of the nature of virtue to cultivate, it cannot be by repeated and multiplied acts of virtuous choice, till it becomes a habit. For there can be no one virtuous choice unless God immediately gives it. The first virtuous choice, or a disposition to it, must be immediately given, or it must proceed from a preceding choice. If the first virtuous act of will or choice be from a preceding act of will or choice, that preceding act of choice must be a virtuous act of choice, which is contrary to the supposition. For then there would be a preceding act of choice before the first virtuous act of choice. And if it be said the first virtuous act of choice is from a preceding act of will which is not virtuous, this is absurd. For an act of will not virtuous, cannot produce another act of will of a nature entirely above itself, having something positive in it which the cause has nothing of, and more excellent than it is, — any more than motion can produce thought or understanding, or the collision of two bodies can produce thought, or stones and lead can produce a spirit, or nothing can produce something.
41. As to man’s inability to convert himself — In them that are totally corrupt there can be no tendency towards their making their hearts better, till they begin to repent they still approve of it, and that tends to maintain their badness and confirm it. But they cannot begin sincerely to repent of the badness of their hearts till their hearts begin to be better, for repentance consists in a change of the mind and heart. So that it is not men’s repentance that first gives rise to their having a better heart, and therefore it cannot be any tendency in them to make their hearts better, that gives rise to it. The heart can have no tendency to make itself better, till it begins to have a better tendency, for therein consists its badness, viz. its having no good tendency or inclination. And to begin to have a good tendency, or, which is the same thing, a tendency and inclination to be better, is the same thing as to begin already to be better. And therefore the heart’s inclination to be good, cannot be the thing that first gives rise to its being made good. For its inclination to be better is the same thing with its becoming better.
42. It there be any immediate influence or action of the Spirit of God at all on any created beings, in any part of the universe since the days of the apostles, it is physical. If it be in exciting ideas of motives, or in any respect assisting or promoting any effect, still it is physical, and every whit as much so, as if we suppose the temper and nature of the heart is immediately changed. And it is as near akin to a miracle. If the latter be miraculous, so is the former.
43. Who ever supposed that the term irresistible was properly used with respect to that power by which an infant is brought into being; meaning, irresistible by the infant? Or who ever speaks of a man’s walking out of a sound sleep irresistibly, meaning that he cannot resist awaking? Or who says that Adam was formed out of the dust of the earth irresistibly? See what I have said of the use of such terms as irresistible, unfrustrable, etc. in my Inquiry about Liberty.
44. The opponents of efficacious grace and physical operation, may be challenged to show that it is possible that any creature should become righteous without a physical operation, either a being created with the habit of righteousness, or its being immediately infused. See what I have written in my book of Original Sin, in those sections wherein I vindicate the doctrine of original righteousness, and argue, that if Adam was not created righteous, no way can be invented how he could ever become righteous.
45. As to that, Mat. 7:7 , “Seek and ye shall find;” it is explained by such places as that, Deu. 4:29, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” And by Deu. 30:2-6, “If thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice with all thy heart and with all thy soul; the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul;” which is very parallel with that, “to him that hath shall be given.”
46. The Scripture teaches that holiness, both in principle and fruit, is from God. “It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” And Pro. 16:1 , “The preparation of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.” Comparing this with other parts of the book of Proverbs, evinces that it is a moral preparation, and the answer of the tongue in moral regards, that is meant.
47. Reason shows that the first existence of a principle of virtue cannot be from man himself, nor in any created being whatsoever, but must be immediately given from God, or that otherwise it never can be obtained, whatever this principle be: whether love to God, or be a habit contracted be repeated acts. But it is most absurd to suppose that the first existence of the principle of holy action, should be preceded by a course of holy actions. Because there can be no holy action without a principle of holy inclination. There can be no act done from love that shall be the cause of first introducing the very existence of love.
48. God is said to give true virtue and piety of heart to man: to work it in him, to create it, to form it, and with regard to it we are said to be his workmanship. Yea, that there may be no room to understand it in some improper sense, it is often declared as the peculiar character of God, that he assumes it as his character to be the author and giver of true virtue, in his being called the Sanctifier, he that sanctifies us: “I am he that sanctifieth you.” This is spoken of as the great prerogative of God, Lev. 20:8 and other parallel places. He declares expressly that this effect shall be connected with his act, or with what he shall do in order to it. “I will sprinkle clean water, and you shall be clean.” What God does is often spoken of as thoroughly effectual; the effect is infallibly consequent. “Turn us, and we shall be turned.” Jesus Christ has the great character of a Savior on this account, that “he saves his people from their sins.” See Rom. 11:26-27 , “And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, there shall come out of Zion a deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” God says, “I will put my law into their heart; I will write my law in their inward parts, and they shall not depart from me; I will take away the heart of stone, and give them a heart of flesh; I will give them a heart to know me; I will circumcise their hearts to love me; oh, that there were such a heart in them!” And it is spoken of as his work: to give, to cause, to create such a heart, to put it in them. God is said to incline their hearts, not only to give statutes, but to incline their hearts to his statutes.
Moses speaks of the great moral means that God had used with the children of Israel to enlighten them and convince and persuade them, but of their being yet unpersuaded and unconverted, and gives this as a reason: that God had not given them a heart to perceive, as Deu. 29:4, “Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” The Scripture plainly makes a distinction between exhibiting light, or means of instruction and persuasion, and giving eyes to see, circumcising the heart, etc.
49. Why should Christ teach us to pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” if it is not God’s work to bring that effect to pass, and it is left to man’s free will and cannot be otherwise, because otherwise it is no virtue, and none of their obedience, or doing of God’s will, and God does what he can oftentimes consistently with man’s liberty, and those that enjoy the means he uses, do generally neglect and refuse to do his will? He does so much that he can well say, what could I have done more? And yet almost all are at the greatest distance from doing his will. See Col. 1:9-10 .
50. If it be as the Arminians suppose, that all men’s virtue is of the determination of their own free will, independent on any prior determining, deciding, and disposing of the event; that it is no part of the ordering of God, whether there be many virtuous or few in the world, whether there shall be much virtue or little, or where it shall be, in what nation, country, or when, or in what generation or age, or whether there shall be any at all: — Then none of these things belong to God’s disposal, and therefore, surely it does not belong to him to promise them. For it does not belong to him to promise in an affair, concerning which he has not the disposal.
And how can God promise, as he oftentimes does in his Word, glorious times, when righteousness shall generally prevail, and his will shall generally be done; and yet that it is not an effect which belongs to him to determine; it is not left to his determination, but to the sovereign, arbitrary determination of others, independently on any determination of him; and therefore surely they ought to be the promisers? For him to promise, who has it not in his hand to dispose and determine, is a great absurdity, and yet God oftentimes in promising, speaks of himself as the sovereign disposer of the matter, using such expressions as abundantly imply it. Isa. 60:22 , “I the Lord do hasten it in its time.” Surely this is the language of a promiser, and not merely a predictor. God promises Abraham that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed in him.” God swears “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess.” And it is said to be given to Christ, that every nation, etc. should serve and obey him, Dan. 7 . After what manner they shall serve and obey him is abundantly declared in other prophecies, as in Isa. 11 , and innumerable others. These are spoken of in the next chapter, as excellent things that God does.
51. If God is not the disposing author of virtue, then he is not the giver of it. The very notion of a giver implied a disposing cause of the possession of the benefit. 1 John 4:4 , “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (i.e. have overcome your spiritual enemies), because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world;” that is, plainly, he is stronger, and his strength overcomes. But how can this be a reason, if God does not put forth an overcoming, effectual strength in the case, but leaves it to free will to get the victory, to determine the point in the conflict? 52. There are no sort of benefits that are so much the subject of the promises of Scripture, as this sort: the bestowment of virtue, or benefits which imply it. How often is the faith of the Gentiles, or their coming into the Christian church, promised to Christ in the Old Testament, Isa. 49:6 and many other places, and he has promised it to his church, chap. 49:18-21 and innumerable other places. See Rom. 15:12-13 . What a promise have we, Isa. 60:21 , “Thy people also shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hand, that I may be glorified” — compared with the next chapter, 3rd verse, “That they may be called the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” See also verse 8th of the same chapter. Likewise Isa. 60:17-18 , “I will make thy officers peace, and thy exactors righteousness; violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy border, but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates praise.” Here it is promised that the rulers shall be righteous, and then in the 21st verse following, it is promised that the people shall be so. The change of men to be of a peaceable disposition is promised, as in places innumerable, so in Isa. 11:6-11 , “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,” etc. Isa. 55:5 , “Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not of thee shall run unto thee, because if the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel, for he hath glorified thee.” Jer. 3:15 , “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” This implies a promise that there should be such pastors in being, and that they should be faithful to feed the people with knowledge and understanding. Jer. 10:23 , “The way of man is not in himself.” Stebbing owns that on Arminian principles, conversion depending on the determination of free will, it is possible, in its own nature, that none should ever be converted (p. 235). Then all the promises of virtue, of the revival of religion, etc. are nothing. Jer. 31:18 , “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned,” — compared with Jer. 17:14 , “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for thou art my praise.” Which shows the force and meaning of such a phraseology to be, that God alone can be the doer of it, and that if he undertakes it, it will be effectually done. Jer. 31:32-35 , “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to being them out of the land of Egypt (which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord); but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saving, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” The prophet elsewhere tells what is connected with knowing God, viz. doing judgment and justice, and showing mercy, etc. Jer. 22:16 ; Jer. 32:39 , 40 , “And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them and their children after them; and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good. But I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me.” Jer. 33:2 , “Thus saith the Lord, the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it.” Verse 8, “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me.” Eze. 11:18-20 , “And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof, and all the abomination thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statues, and keep mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”…. Zec. 12:10 to the end, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grave and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced,” etc. So in the next chapter at the beginning, “I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall be no more remembered;” and also, “I will cause the prophets, and also the unclean spirits, to pass out of the land.” Mal. 3:3 , 4 , “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in the former years.”…. 53. We are told, Job 28:28 . That “the fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” The same is also abundantly declared in other places. But it is equally declared that God is the author wholly and only, which is denied of other things. It is also abundantly declared in this 28th chapter of Job, that it cannot be obtained of any creature by any means, and it is implied in the end of the chapter that it is God that gives wisdom, is asserted Pro. 2:6 : “out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” ….It is the promise of God the Father, Psa. 110:2-3 , “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Psa. 119:35 , “Make me to go in the way of thy commandments.” Verse 36, “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies.”…. 54. We are directed earnestly to pray and cry unto God for wisdom, and the fear of the Lord for this reason: that it is he that giveth wisdom, Pro. 2 at the beginning. Compare Job 28 with Pro. 21:1 , “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Here it is represented that the will of God determines the wills of men, and that when God pleases to interpose, he even directs them according to his pleasure, without failure in any instance. This shows that God has not left men’s hearts so in their own hands, as to be determined by themselves alone, independently on any antecedent determination. Pro. 28:26 , “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” A man’s to be commended for making a wise improvement of his outward possessions, for his own comfort, yet this is the gift of God. Ecc. 2:24-26 , “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw that it was from the hand of God.”…. John 1:12-13 , “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; which were born, not of the will of man, but of God.” Thus also we read, Luke 3:8 , “God is able of these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” John 3:3 , “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Verse 5, “Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Verse 8, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Jam. 1:18 , “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” What Christ meant by being born again, we may learn by the abundant use of the like phrase by the same disciple that wrote this gospel, in his first epistle. He doubtless learned his language from his Master and particularly from those sayings of his concerning the new birth, which he took more special notice of, and which left the deepest impressions on his mind, which we may suppose are those he records, when he writes the history of his life. Mat. 4:19 , “I will make you fishers of men.” So Mark 1:16 , 20 , together with Luke 5, “From henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Compared with the foregoing story of Christ’s giving them so great a draught of fishers, which was wholly his doing, and ascribed to him. Mark 6:10 , “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done.” Mat. 11:25-27 , “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” So Luke 10:21 , 22 ; John 6:37 , “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me.” Verse 44, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”…. John 10:16 , “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” Verse 26-29, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you; my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands. My Father which gave them me,” etc…. Acts 15:3 , 4 , “Declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: — and they declared all things that God had done with them.” Verse 9, “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Therefore it is not probable that the heart is first purified, to fit it for faith. John 14:12 , “Greater works than these shall he do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The meaning of it is confirmed from John 12:23 , 24 , 28-32 , and John 17:1-3 ; Isa. 49:3-5 , and 26:15 , and Isa. 16:14 ; Isa. 17:3-5 (especially Isa. 55:4-5 ), Jer. 30:19 ; Rom. 9:16 , “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” By such an expression in the apostle’s phraseology, from time to time, is meant the use of endeavors, whereby they seek the benefit they would obtain. So what he here says, is agreeable to what he says in Rom. 11:4-7 , where he particularly shows that it is God that preserves the remnant, and that it is of the election of his grace and free kindness, and not of their works, but in such a way of freedom, as is utterly inconsistent with its being of their works. And in verse 7, that it is not determined by their seeking, but by God’s election. The apostle here, as Dr. Taylor says, has respect to bodies of men, to the posterity of Esau and Jacob, etc. Yet this he applies to a distinction made in those days of the gospel, and that distinction made between those that were in the Christian church, and those that were not, and particularly some of the Jews that were in the Christian church, and others of the same nation that were not: which is made by some believing and accepting Christ, and others rejecting him; by that faith which they professed to exercise with all their hearts; that faith which was a mercy and virtue, and the want of which was a fault; as appears by the objection the apostle supposes, Rom. 9:19 , “Why doth he yet find fault?” The want of which faith argued hardness of heart, verse 18 exposed them to wrath and destruction, as a punishment of sin, Rom. 9:22 , and exposes persons to be like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, verse 29. Rom. 11:4-7 , “But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so at this present time, there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” 2 Tim. 2:9 ; Eph. 2:9 ; Tit. 3:5 , “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” Rom. 11:17-18 , “If some of the branches are broken off, and thou, being a wild olive-tree, wert grafted in amongst them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree; boast not against the branches.” Rom. 11:25-27 , “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved. As it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” Together with verses 35, 36, “Who hath first given unto him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” 55. That expression, Rom. 1:7 and 1 Cor. 1:2 and elsewhere, called to be saints, implies that God makes the distinction. Compare this with what Christ says, John 10:27 , “My sheep hear my voice.” Verse 16, “Other sheep have I, which are not of this fold; them also must I bring; and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” 1 Cor. 1:26-28 , to the end: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of, etc. That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus,” etc. Rom. 11 latter end. Heb. 13:20-21 ; 1 Cor. 3:5-9 , “Who then is Paul, or who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, and Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. — We are labourers together with God, ye are God’s husbandry; ye are God’s building.” According to the Arminian scheme, it ought to have been: I have planted and watered more especially. For we have done it only as his servants. But you yourselves have given the increase: the fruit has been left to your free will. This is agreeable to what the Arminians from time to time insist on, in what they say upon the parable of the vineyard which God planted in a fruitful hill, etc. and looked that it should bring forth grapes, and says, “What could I have done more unto my vineyard?” 2 Cor. 3:3 , “Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the heart.” They were the epistle of Christ, as the effect of the Spirit of God in their hearts held forth the light of truth, of gospel truth with its evidence to the world, as the church is compared to a candlestick and called the pillar and ground of the truth. This is agreeable to those scriptures in the Old Testament, that speak of writing God’s law in their hearts, etc. Add to this, 2 Cor. 4:6 , “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. 5:14-18 , “If one died for all, then were all dead; that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new; and all things are of God.” 2 Cor. 8:16-17 , “Thanks be to God who put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation. But being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.” So the next chapter speaks of the Corinthians’ forwardness and readiness in their bounty to the poor saints, not as of necessity, but with freedom and cheerfulness, according to the purpose of their own hearts or wills. But it yet speaks of their charity as just cause of much thanksgiving to God, and speaks expressly of thanksgiving to him for such a subjection of them to the gospel, and liberal distribution to them. Gal. 1:15-16 , “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles,” compared with 2 Cor. 4:6-7 and the account which he gives himself of his conversion, Acts 26:16-18 . Gal. 2:19-20 , “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Gal. 5:22-23 , etc. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” 56. The apostle, in Eph. 1:18-20 speaks of some exceeding great work of power, by which they that believe are distinguished. But a bodily resurrection is no such distinguishing work of power. See the words: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ Jesus, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his right hand in heavenly places.” The apostle repeats the same thing in substance again in Eph. 3:14 and following verses, and tells us what sort of knowledge he desired, and so earnestly prayed that they might receive, and what is the power that he speaks of: “That they may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” And tells us by what means God would dwell in their hearts by faith, etc. Eph. 3:16-17 . And he tells us in verse 20 what is the power of God he speaks of. See Rom. 15:13 ; 1 Pet. 1:3-5 , and 2 Thes. 1:11-12 . See also what the apostle speaks of as an effect of God’s glorious power, Col. 1:11 . Eph. 1:18-20 is to be taken in connection with the words which follow in the beginning of the next chapter, which is a continuation of the same discourse, where the apostle abundantly explains himself. In those words, there is an explanation of what had before been more figuratively represented. He here observes that those that believe are the subjects of a like exceeding greatness of power that Christ was, when he was raised from the dead, and set at God’s own right hand in heavenly places. And then in the prosecution of this discourse he shows how, viz. in our being raised from the dead, being dead ourselves in trespasses and sins, and raised as Christ was, and made to sit together with him in heavenly places (and this he speaks of, not only as the fruit of the exceeding greatness of his power, but of the riches of his mercy, and exceeding riches of his grace: by grace in opposition to works), that it is by faith, which is the gift of God. The apostle repeats it over and over, that it is by grace, and then explains how: not of works; and that our faith itself, by which it is, is not of ourselves, but is God’s gift; and that we are wholly God’s workmanship; and that all is owing to God’s foreordaining that we should walk in good works. I know not what the apostle could have said more. See Eph. 2:1-10 . 57. In Eph. 3 it is spoken of as a glorious mystery of God’s will, contrived of old, and determined from the foundation of the world, and his eternal purpose, etc. that God would bring in the Gentiles as fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. Which confirms the promises of the Old Testament; shows that they were not foretold only as foreseen, but foredetermined, as what God would bring to pass. This is also spoken of elsewhere, as the fruit of God’s eternal purpose, his election, etc. as our adversaries acknowledge. 58. Sincerity itself is spoken of as coming from God. Phil. 1:10 , “That ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence in the day of Christ.” And elsewhere God is represented as “creating a clean heart, renewing a right spirit, giving a heart of flesh,” etc. The apostle “gives thanks for the faith and love of the Colossians, their being delivered from the power of darkness, etc. and prays that they may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and might, agreeable to their knowledge, being fruitful in every good work; and for their perseverance, and that they might be made meet for the reward of the saints.” Col. 1:3 , 4 , 9-13 . This argues all to flow from God as the giver. Their first faith and their love that their faith was attended with, and their knowledge and spiritual wisdom and prudence, and walking worthy of the Lord, and universal obedience, and doing every good work, and increasing in grace and being strengthened in it, and their perseverance and cheerfulness in their obedience, and being made meet for their reward, all are from God. They are from God as the determining cause; else, why does the apostle pray that God would bestow or effect these things, it they be not at his determination whether they shall have them or not? He speaks of God’s glorious power as manifested in the bestowment of these things. Col. 2:13 , “And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him.” Col. 3:10 , “Have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” See how many things the apostle gives thanks to God for in the Thessalonians, and prays for them. 2 Thes. 1:3 , 4 , 11 , 12 ; 1 Thes. 1:2 to the end, and chap. 2:13, 14, and chap. 3:9-13; chap. 5:23, 24; 1 Thes. 3:12 , “The Lord make you to increase and abound in love,” etc. 1 Thes. 4:9-10 , “But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I should write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it towards all brethren.” 1 Thes. 5:23-24 , “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, by preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that hath called you, who also will do it.” 2 Thes. 1:3-4 , “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.”…. The apostle thanks God for his own prayers, and for others, 2 Tim. 1:3 . If they are from God, then doubtless 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. 8 , as being the language of the Spirit: not that I suppose that the very words are indited, but the disposition is given. 2 Tim. 1:7 , “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim. 1:9 , “Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”…. Heb. 13:20-21 , “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.” See Eph. 1:19 , 20 , and 1 Cor. 1 , latter end. Heb. 12:2 , “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” compared with Phil. 1:5 . Jam. 1:5-8 , “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, that giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea, driven of the wind and tossed. For let not that man think he shall obtain anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” So that in order to a man’s having any reason to expect to be heard, he must first have faith, and a sincere heart. And what that is which the apostle calls wisdom, may be learnt from Jam. 3:17 , 18 , “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace to them that make peace.” In Jam. 1:5 , etc. above cited, God is spoken of as the giver of this wisdom, and in the following part of the chapter, he is spoken of as the giver of this and every benefit of that kind, everything that contains anything of the nature of light or wisdom, or moral good, and this is represented as the fruit of his mere will and pleasure. Jam. 1:16-18 , “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.” See John 1:13 , and 3:8 . The scope of the apostle, and connection of his discourse, plainly show 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, and 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. What he says is plainly parallel to what the apostle John says, when he would signify God’s perfect holiness without any sin; 1 John 1:5 , 6 , “This, then, is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” 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. 1 Pet. 1:2-5 , “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope,” (or a living hope, i.e. from the dead; to be begotten from the dead, in the phrase of the New Testament, is the same as to be raised from the dead. See Col. 1:18 ; Rev. 1:5 ) “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” See Eph. 1:18-20 and Eph. 2 at the beginning. Phil. 2:13 , “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The plain meaning of this 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 plain meaning of this text, after this sort of gentlemen have worked upon it a thousand years longer, if any of them shall remain on earth so long. It will be the indisputable meaning of it, notwithstanding their criticisms on the word ενεργων, etc. 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. See the English Concordance. 59. By the disposing or determining cause or 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 or withdrawing 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 the fruit of the bounty of the giver. The thing given is virtue, and this consists in the determination of the will is the gift of God. Otherwise virtue is not his gift, and it is an inconsistency to pray to God to give it to us. Why should we pray to God to give us such a determination of will, when that proceeds not from him but ourselves? 60. Everything in the Christian scheme argues that man’s title to, and fitness for, heaven, depends on some great divine influence, at once causing a vast change, and not any such gradual change as is supposed to be brought to pass by men themselves in the exercise of their own power. The exceeding diversity of the states of men in another world argues it. 61. 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 everywhere in the manner of expression, as the Scriptures must be to make them consistent with Arminian opinions, by whatever means 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 this be true then how unequal and unfit is the provision that is made! How improper to answer the end designed! If men will take subterfuge in pretenses of a vast alteration of phrase, through diversity of ages and nations, what may not men hide themselves from under such a pretense! 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.
62. In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, not 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, not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is out act and out duty. These things are agreeable to that text, “God worketh in you both to will and to do.”
63. Christ says that no other than those whom “the Father draws, will come to him;” and Stebbing supposes none but those whom the Father draws in this sense, viz. by first giving them a teachable spirit, etc. But this was false in fact in the apostle Paul and others. At least he did not give it in answer to prayer, as their scheme supposes and must suppose, else efficacious grace is established, and the liberty of the will, in their sense of it, is overthrown.
64. When Christ says, John 10, “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 difference, 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 10:29 , “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 12:32 , “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Acts 15:9 , “Purifying their hearts by faith.” Therefore we are not to suppose God first purifies the heart with the most excellent virtues, to fit it for faith.
The apostle says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Therefore, it is not possible that persons should have, before faith, those virtues that are peculiarly amiable to God, as Stebbing supposes.
65. The apostle James tells us that if we do not pray in faith, we have no reason to expect to receive anything, 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 everywhere 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 assistance 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 from ourselves.
66. Efficacious grace is not inconsistent with freedom. This appears by 2 Cor. 8:16-17 , “Thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you; for indeed he accepted the invitation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.” So that his forwardness being put into his heart by God, and his being forward of his own accord, are not inconsistent one with the other.
67. According to Arminian principles, men have a good and honest heart, the very thing that is the grand requisite in order to God’s acceptance, and so the proper grand condition of salvation, and which is often spoken of in the Scriptures as such, before they have the proper condition of salvation.
See Stebbing, page 48. — This good and honest, meek and humble, sincere heart, they suppose they have before they have faith, repentance, or obedience. Yea, they themselves hold this previous qualification to be the grand and essential requisite in order to God’s acceptance, and salvation by Christ; so that they greatly insist that if men have it, they shall be surely saved, though they live and die in ignorance of the gospel, and without faith, and repentance, and holiness, which are necessary in order for salvation, according to them. — (Stebbing, p. 13.)
68. 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 that 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 free will. 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 endeavor 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 endeavors without any assistance at all of the Spirit? This is contrary to what they pretend to hold, for they assert that without divine assistance 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 endeavors, I would inquire whether those endeavors that our first virtue partly arises from, be good endeavors, 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 endeavors preceding the first virtue. For that is to suppose virtue before the first virtue. If the answer be that they are no good endeavors, 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, then 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 heart?
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 a habit or act of benevolence, than nothing has a tendency to produce something.
69. 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, etc. and supposes that these effects of the Spirit are to be obtained by prayer. But he yet allows that the prayer must be acceptably made (page 106), which supposes that some degree of virtue must be exercised in prayer. For surely they do not suppose anything else beside virtue, in prayer or in any other part of religion, is acceptable to God. I suppose they will not deny that there must be at least some virtuous concern for the good of their own souls, to make any external act of religion in them at all acceptable to God, who is a Spirit, and 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. But they live in a total neglect of that duty. 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 all virtue 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, 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 is our seeking, etc. asking, etc. 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 anything toward it, without their so much as seeking or asking for it: which would be entirely to overthrow their whole scheme, and would, by their principles, make this virtue no virtue at all, because not at all owing to them, or any endeavors of theirs.
If they reply, they must in the first place consider: They are capable of consideration, and if they would consider as they ought and may, they would doubtless pray to God and ask his help, and every man naturally has some virtue in him, which proper consideration would put into exercise so far as to cause him to pray in some measure acceptably, without any new gift from God — I answer, this is inconsistent with many of their principles. It is so, that men should naturally have some virtue in them. For what is natural is necessary; is not from themselves and their own endeavors and free acts; but prevents them all, and therefore cannot be their virtue. If they say, No, consideration will not stir up any virtue that is naturally in them, to cause them to pray virtuously, but God has obliged himself to give virtue enough to enable them to pray and seek acceptable, if they will consider: — I answer, this is more than they pretend. They do not pretend that God has promised any new grace to any man, on any lower condition than asking, seeking, knowing, etc. and if they should think best at last to pretend any promise on lower terms, they had best produce the promises, and tell us what and where they are. If they say, serious consideration itself is some degree of seeking their own good, and there is an implicit prayer in it to the Supreme Being to guide them into the way to their happiness: — I answer, if it be supposed that there is an implicit prayer in their consideration, still they allow that prayer must be in some measure acceptable prayer, in order to its being entitled to an answer, and consequently must have some degree of virtuous respect to God, etc. And if so, then the same question returns with all the aforementioned difficulties over again, viz. How came the profane, thoughtless, vain, inconsiderate person by this new virtue, this new respect to God, that he ever exercises in this serious consideration and implicit prayer?
If they say there is no necessity of supposing any implicit prayer in the first consideration, and yet, if the wicked, profane, careless person makes good improvement of what grace he has, in proper consideration or otherwise, God has obliged himself to give him more, in that general promise, “to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance:” — then I answer, here is new virtue in his making a good improvement of what common assistance he has, which before he neglected, and made no good improvement of. How came he by this new virtue? Here, again, all the aforementioned difficulties return. Was it wholly from himself? This is contrary to what they pretend. Or is God obliged to give new assistance in order to this new virtue by any promise? If he be, what is the condition of the promise? It is absurd to say, making a good improvement of what assistance they have. For that is the thing we are inquiring after, viz. how comes he by that new virtue, making a good improvement of what he has, when before he had not virtue enough to make such an improvement?
Of whatever kind the assistance is, whether it be some afflictive dispensation of providence, or some other outward dispensation or inward influence, the difficulty is the same. How becomes God obliged to give this assistance, and what is the condition of the promise?
The answer must be that this new virtue is without any new assistance given, and is from God no otherwise than as the former neglected assistance or grace subserves it. But the question is, whence comes the virtue of not neglecting, but improving, that former assistance? Is it proper to say that a man is assisted to improve assistance by the assistance improved? Suppose a number of men were in the water in danger of drowning, and a friend on shore throws out a cord amongst them, but all of them for awhile neglect it. At length one of them takes hold of it and makes improvement of it, and any should inquire, how that man came by the prudence and virtue of improving the cord, when other did not, and he before had neglected it: would it be a proper answer to say that he that threw out the rope, assisted him wisely to improve the rope, by throwing out the rope to him? This would be an absurd answer. The question is not, how he came by his opportunity, but how he came by the virtue and disposition of improvement. His friend on shore gave him the opportunity, and this is all. The man’s virtue in improving it was not at all from him.
Would it not be exceedingly impertinent, in such a case, to set forth from time to time, how this man’s discretion, and virtue, and prudence, was the gift of his friend on the shore, his mere gift, the fruit of his purpose and mere good pleasure, and of his power; and yet that it was of his own will?
Man’s virtue, according to Arminian principles, must consist wholly and entirely in improving assistance: for in that only consists the exercise of their free will in the affair, and not in their having the assistance, although their virtue must be by their principles entirely from themselves, and God has no hand in it. From the latter part of the above discourse, it appears that according to Arminian principles, men’s virtue is altogether of themselves, and God has no hand at all in it.
70. When I say that the acts and influences of the Spirit determine the effects, it is not meant that man has nothing to do to determine in the affair. The soul of man undoubtedly, in every instance, does voluntarily determine with respect to his own consequent actions. But this determination of the will of man, or voluntary determination of the soul of man, is the effect determined. This determining act of the soul is not denied, but supposed, as it is the effect we are speaking of, that the influence of God’s Spirit determines.
71. The Scripture speaks of this as the reason that good men have virtue, that God has given it to them; and the reason why bad men have it not, that God has not given it to them. These two together clearly prove that God is the determining or disposing cause of virtue or goodness in men.
72. Dr. Stebbing insists upon it, that conversion is the effect of God’s Word, and supposes that therefore it is demonstratively evident that it must needs be the effect of men’s free will, and not the necessary effect of the Spirit of God. But I say that by their doctrine of self-determination it cannot be the effect of the Word of God in any proper sense at all. That it should be the effect of the Word, is as inconsistent with their scheme, as they suppose it to be with ours. Self-determination is utterly inconsistent with conversion’s being at all the effect of either the Word or Spirit.
73. They say that commands, threatenings, promises, invitations, counsels, etc. are to no purpose in our scheme. But indeed they can have no place in their scheme: for their scheme excludes all motives.
74. In many particulars their scheme contradicts common sense. It is contrary to common sense, that a being should continually meet with millions of millions of real, proper disappointments and crosses to his proper desires, and not continually lead a distressed and unhappy life. It is contrary to common sense that God should know that an event will certainly come to pass, whose non-existence he at the same time knows is not impossible. It is contrary to common sense that a thing should be the cause of itself, and that a thing not necessary in its own nature should to pass without any cause: that the more indifferent a man is in any moral action, the more virtuous he is, etc.
75. If the grace of God is not disposing and determining, then a gracious man’s differing in this respect from another, is not owing to the goodness of God. He owes no thanks to God for it, and so owes no thanks to God, that he is saved, and not others.
But how contrary is this to Scripture! Seeing the Scripture speaks of the gift of virtue, and of the possession of it, as a fruit of God’s bounty.
76. A man’s conformity to the rule of duty is partly owing to assistance or motive. If his conformity be to ten degrees, and it is in some measure, v.g. to the amount of five degrees, owing to sovereign assistance, then only the remaining five degrees are to be ascribed to the man himself, and therefore are but five degrees of virtue.
77. Dr. Stebbing says, “that a man is indeed both passive and active in his own conversion,” and he represents God as partly the cause of man’s conversion, and man himself as partly the cause, (p. 208.)
Again, Stebbing says, p. 254. “Faith and regeneration are our works, as well as his gifts, i.e. they arise partly from God and partly from ourselves.” But if so, on this scheme, they imply virtue so far only as they are our works.
Men’s salvation is attributed wholly and entirely to men in their scheme, and none of the praise of it is due to God, as will most evidently appear, if the matter be considered with a little attention. For, 1. They hold that man’s salvation is given as a reward of man’s virtue. So is pardon of sin, deliverance from hell, and eternal life and glory in heaven: all is for man’s virtue. 2. Rewardable virtue wholly consists in the exercise of a man’s own free will. They hold that a man’s actions are no farther virtuous nor rewardable, than as they are from man himself. If they are partly from some foreign cause, so far they are not rewardable. It being so, that that virtue which is rewardable in man, is entirely from man himself, hence it is to himself wholly that he is to ascribe his obtaining the reward. If the virtue, which is that thing and that thing only, which obtains the reward, be wholly from man himself, then it will surely follow that his obtaining the reward is wholly from himself.
All their arguments suppose that men’s actions are not farther virtuous and rewardable, than as they are from themselves, the fruits of their own free will and self-determination. And men’s own virtue, they say, is the only condition of salvation, and so must be the only thing by which salvation is obtained. And this being of themselves only, it surely follows that their obtaining salvation is of themselves only.
They say, their scheme gives almost all the glory to God. That matter, I suppose, may easily be determined, and it may be made to appear beyond all contest, how much they do ascribe to the man, and how much they do not.
By them, salvation is so far from God that it is God that gives opportunity to obtain salvation. It is God that gives the offer and makes the promise, but the obtaining of the thing promised is of men. The being of the promise is of God, but their interest in it is wholly of themselves, of their own free will. And furthermore, it is to be observed that even God’s making the offer, and giving the opportunity to obtain salvation, at least that which consists in salvation from eternal misery, is not of God, so as to be owing to any proper grace or goodness of his. For they suppose he was obliged to make the offer, and it would have been a reproach to his justice, he had not given an opportunity to obtain salvation. For they hold, it is unjust for God to make men miserable for Adam’s sin, and that it is unjust to punish them for that sin that they cannot avoid, and that, therefore, it is unjust for God not to preserve or save all men that do what they can, or use their sincere endeavors to do their duty. And therefore it certainly follows that it is unjust in God not to give all opportunity to be saved or preserved from misery, and consequently, it is no fruit at all of any grace or kindness in him to give such opportunity, or to make the offer of it. So that all that is the fruit of God’s kindness in man’s salvation is the positive happiness that belongs to salvation. But neither of these two things are in any respect whatsoever the fruit of God’s kindness: neither his deliverance from sin, nor from misery in his virtue and holiness. And when hereafter he shall see the misery of the damned, he will have it to consider, that it is owing in no respect to God that he is delivered from that misery. And that good men differ from others that shall burn in hell to all eternity, is wholly owing to themselves. When they, at the day of judgment, shall behold some set on the left hand of the Judge, while they are on his right hand, and shall see how they differ, they may and, as they would act according to truth, they ought to take all the glory of it unto themselves, and therefore the glory of their salvation belongs to them. For it is evident that a man’s making himself to differ with regard to any great spiritual benefit, and his not receiving it from another, but his having it in distinction from others, being from himself, is ground of a man’s boasting and glorying in himself with respect to that benefit, and of boasting of it. I say, it is evident by the apostle’s words, “Who maketh thee to differ? Why boastest thou, as though thou hadst not received it?” These words plainly imply it.
It is evident that it is God’s design to exclude man’s boasting in the affair of his salvation. Now let us consider what does give ground for boasting in the apostle’s account, and what it is that in his account excludes boasting, or cuts off occasion for it. It is evident by what the apostle says, 1 Cor. 1 latter end, that the entireness and universality of our dependence on God is that which cuts off occasion of boasting; as our receiving our wisdom, justification, holiness, and redemption; and not only so, but that it is of God that we have any part in Christ, Of him are ye in Christ Jesus; nay, further, that it is from God we receive those benefits of wisdom, holiness, etc. through the Savior that we are interested in.
The import of all these things, if we may trust to scripture representations, is that God has contrived to exclude our glorying, that we should be wholly and every way dependent on God for the moral and natural good that belongs to salvation, and that we have all from the hand of God, by his power and grace. And certainly this is wholly inconsistent with the idea that our holiness is wholly from ourselves, and that we are interested in the benefits of Christ rather than others, is wholly of our own decision. And that such a universal dependence is what takes away occasion of taking glory to ourselves, and is a proper ground of an ascription of all glory of the things belonging to man’s salvation to God, is manifest from Rom. 11:35 , 36 , “Or who hath first given unto him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and to him, and through him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
The words are remarkable and very insignificant. If we look into all the foregoing discourse, from the beginning of Romans 9 of which this is the conclusion, by not giving to God, but having all this wholly from, through, and in God, is intended that these things, these great benefits forementioned, are thus from God, without being from or through ourselves. That some of the Jews were distinguished from others in enjoying the privileges of Christians, was not of themselves: not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. It is of him who has mercy on whom he will have mercy. It is of God who makes of the same lump, a vessel to honor and a vessel unto dishonor. It is not of us, nor our works, but of the calling of God, or of him that calleth, Rom. 9:11 and verses 23-24. Not first of our own choice, but of election, chap. 9:11-27 and chap. 11:5. It is all of the grace of God in such a manner as not to be of our works at all, yea, and so as to be utterly inconsistent with its being of our works, Rom. 11:5-7 . In such a manner as not first to be of their seeking, their seeking does not determine, but God’s election, Rom. 11:7 . It is of God and not of man, that some were gathered in, that were wild olive branches in themselves, and were more unlikely as to anything in themselves to be branches, than others, verse 17. Their being grafted in, is owing to God’s distinguishing goodness, while he was pleased to use severity towards others, verse 22. Yea, God has so ordered it, on purpose that all should be shut up in unbelief, and be left to be so sinful, that he might have mercy on all: so as more visibly to show the salvation of all to be merely dependent on mercy. Then the apostle fitly concludes all this discourse, Rom. 11:35-36 , “Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and to him, and through him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
Again, in the apostle’s account, a benefit’s being of our works, gives occasion for boasting, and therefore God has contrived that our salvation shall not be of our works, but of mere grace, Rom. 3:27 ; Eph. 2:9 . And that neither the salvation, nor the condition of it, shall be of our works, but that, with regard to all, we are God’s workmanship and his creation antecedently to our works. And his grace and power in producing this workmanship, and his determination or purpose with regard to them, are all prior to our works and the cause of them. See also Rom. 11:4-6 .
And it is evident that man’s having virtue from himself, and not receiving it from another, and making himself to differ with regard to great spiritual benefits, does give ground for boasting, by the words of the apostle in Rom. 3:27 . And this is allowed by those men in spiritual gifts. And if so in them, more so in greater things, and more so in that which in itself is a thousand times more excellent and of ten thousand times greater importance and benefit.
By the Arminian scheme, that which is infinitely the most excellent thing, viz. virtue and holiness, which the apostle sets forth as being infinitely the most honorable and will bring the subjects of it to infinitely the greatest and highest honor; that which is infinitely the highest dignity of man’s nature of all things that belong to man’s salvation, in comparison of which all things belonging to that salvation are nothing; and that which does infinitely more than anything else constitute the difference between them and others, as more excellent, more worthy, more honorable and happy: — this is from themselves. With regard to this they have not received of another. With regard to this great thing, they, and they only, make themselves to differ from the power or grace of God.
Again, in the apostle’s account, this scheme will give occasion to have a great benefit that appertains to salvation, not of grace, but of works.
Virtue is not only the most honorable attainment, but it is that which men, on the supposition of their being possessed of it, are more apt to glory in, than in anything else whatsoever. For what are men so apt to glory in as their own supposed excellency, as in their supposed virtue? And what sort of glorying is that which, it is evident in fact, the Scriptures do chiefly guard against? It is glorying in their own righteousness, their own holiness, their own good works.
It is manifest that in the apostle’s account, it is a proper consideration to prevent our boasting, that our distinction from others is not of ourselves, not only in being distinguished in having better gifts and better principles, but in our being made partakers of the great privileges of Christians, such as being engrafted into Christ, and partaking of the fatness of that olive tree. Rom. 11:17-18 , “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in amongst them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches.”
Here it is manifest, it is the distinction that was made between some and others, that is the thing insisted on, and the apostle, Rom. 11:22 , calls upon them to consider this great distinction and to ascribe it to the distinguishing goodness of God only. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness.” And its being owing, not to them, but to God and his distinguishing goodness, is the thing the apostle urges as a reason why they should not boast, but magnify God’s grace or distinguishing goodness. And if it be a good reason and the scheme of our salvation be every way so contrived (as the apostle elsewhere signifies) that all occasion of boasting should be precluded, and all reasons given to ascribe all to God’s grace, then it is doubtless so ordered that the greatest privileges, excellency, honor, and happiness of Christians, should be that wherein they do not distinguish themselves, but the difference is owing to God’s distinguishing goodness.
Stebbing strongly asserts, God is not the author of that difference that is between some and others: that some are good, and others bad.
78. The Arminians differ among themselves. Dr. Whitby supposes what God does is only proposing moral motives, but that in attending, adverting, and considering, we exercise our liberty. But Stebbing supposes that the attention and consideration is itself the thing owing to the Spirit of God (p. 217).
79. Stebbing changes the question (pages 223, 224). He was considering who was the chief glory of our conversion, or of our virtue, and there, answering objections, endeavors to prove the affirmative of another question, viz. whether God is the author of that pardon and salvation, of which conversion and virtue are the condition.
80. Stebbing supposes that one thing wherein the assistance of the Spirit consists is the giving of a meek, teachable, disinterested temper of mind, to prepare men for faith in Christ (pages 217, 259), and that herein consists that drawing of the Father, John 6:44 , viz. in giving such a temper of mind.
This he calls the preventing grace of God, that goes before conversion. He often speaks of a part that we do, and a part that God does. And he speaks of this as that part which God does. Therefore this, if it be the part which God does, in distinction from the part which we do (for so he speaks of it), is wholly done by God. And consequently, here is virtue wholly from God, and not at all from the exercise of our own free will, which is inconsistent with his own, and all other Arminian principles. Stebbing speaks of these preparatory dispositions as virtue (p. 30-32), yea, as that wherein virtue does in a peculiar manner consist (p. 31). And he there also, viz. (page 259), talks inconsistently with himself. For he supposes that this meek and teachable temper is given by God, by his preventing grace, and also supposes that all that have this, shall surely come to the Father. He says (page 256), “It is certainly true of the meek, disinterested man, that as he will not reject the gospel at first, so he will not be prevailed on by any worldly considerations to forsake it afterwards.”
“He who is under no evil bias of mind, by which he may be prejudiced against the truth (which is the notion of a meek and disinterested man), such a one, I say, cannot possibly fail being wrought upon by the preaching of the Word, which carries in it all that evidence of truth which reason requires,” etc. and his words (page 259), are John 6:37-39 , “All that the Father giveth me, shall come unto me;” for to be given of the Father signifies the same thing with being drawn of the Father, as has been already shown. And to be drawn of the Father, signifies to be prepared or fitted for the reception of the gospel, by the preventing grace of God, as has also likewise been shown, in being endured with a meek and disinterested temper of mind. Those who are given of the Father, will be the same with Christ’s sheep. And the sense of the place is the same with the preceding, where our Savior says that his sheep hear his voice and follow him, i.e. become his obedient disciples. This text, therefore, being no more than a declaration of what will be certain, and (morally speaking) the necessary effect of that disposition, upon the account of which men are said to be given of the Father (to wit, that it will lead them to embrace the gospel, when once proposed to them).” By these things, the preventing grace of God, the part that God does, in distinction from the part that we do, thoroughly decides and determines the case as to our conversion, or our faith and repentance and obedience, notwithstanding all the hand our free will is supposed to have in the case; and which he supposes is what determines man’s conversion; and insists upon it most strenuously and magisterially through his whole book. Stebbing supposes the influence of the Spirit necessary to prepare men’s hearts (pages 15-18). He (pages 17, 18) speaks of this as what the Spirit does and as being his preventing grace, and speaks of it as always effectual, so that all such, and only such as have it, will believe. (See also pages 28-30.)
That these dispositions must be effectual (see pages 46-48).
This teachable, humble, meek spirit is what Stebbing speaks of everywhere as what the Spirit of God gives antecedent to obedience. He insists upon it, that God’s assistance is necessary in order to obedience. In pages 20, 21, he plainly asserts that it is necessary in order to our obedience, and declares that our Savior has asserted it in express terms in these words, John 15:5 , “Without me ye can do nothing;” i.e. as he says, no good thing. Hence it follows that this teachable, humble, meek disposition, and this good and honest heart, is not the fruit of any good thing we do in the exercise of our free will, but is merely the fruit of divine operation. Here observe well what Stebbing says concerning God’s giving grace sufficient for obedience, in answer to prayer. (Pages 103-106.)
81. No reason in the world can be given, why a meek, humble spirit, and sense of the importance of Christian things, should not be as requisite in order to acceptable prayer, as in order to acceptable hearing and believing the Word. It is as much so spoken of. A praying without a good spirit in these and other respects, is represented as no prayer, as ineffectual, and what we have no reason to expect will be answered.
82. If that meekness, etc. depends on some antecedent, self-determined act of theirs, and they be determined by that, then their being Christ’s, being his sheep, and therein distinguished from others that are not his sheep, is not properly owing to the Father’s gift, but to their own gift. The Father’s pleasure is not the thing it is to be ascribed to at all, for the Father does nothing in the case decisively. He acts not at all freely in the case, but acts on an antecedent, firm obligation to the persons themselves, but their own pleasure, undetermined by God, is that which disposes and decided in the matter. How impertinent would it be to insist on the gift of the Father in this case, when the thing he speaks of is not from thence!
83. He supposes that the assistance that God gives in order to obedience is giving this good and honest heart (see p. 46, 47, together with p. 40, 45), and therefore, this good and honest heart is not the fruit of our own obedience, but must be the fruit of assistance that precedes our good works, as he often calls it the preventing grace of God. And therefore, if this grace determines the matter, and will certainly be followed with faith and obedience, then all Arminianism and his own scheme, comes to the ground.
84. Stebbing interprets that passage, Luke 18:16-17 , which speaks of our being little children and receiving the kingdom of God as little children, of that meekness and humility, etc. that is antecedent to conversion, which it is apparent Christ elsewhere speaks of as consequent on conversion, at Mat. 18 .
85. It is manifest the power of God overcomes resistance, and great resistance of some sort. Otherwise there would be no peculiar greatness of power, as distinguishing it from the power of creatures, manifested in bringing men to be willing to be virtuous, which it is apparent there is, by Mat. 19:26 , “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
86. The Arminian scheme naturally, and by necessary consequence, leads men to take all the glory of all spiritual good (which is immensely the chief, most important, and excellent thing in the whole creation) to ourselves, as much as if we, with regard to those effects, were the supreme, the first cause, self-existent, and independent, and absolutely sovereign disposers. We leave the glory of only the meaner part of creation to God, and take to ourselves all the glory of that which is properly the life, beauty, and glory of the creation, and without which it is all worse than nothing. So that there is nothing left for the great First and Last: no glory for either the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, in the affair. This is not carrying things too far, but in a consequence truly and certainly to be ascribed to their scheme of things.
87. He may be said to be the giver of money that offers it to us, without being the proper determiner of our acceptance of it. But if the acceptance of an offer itself be the thing which is supposed to be given, he cannot, in any proper sense whatsoever, be properly said to be the giver of this, who is not the determiner of it. But it is the acceptance of offers, and the proper improvement of opportunities, wherein consists virtue. He may be said to be the giver of money or goods that does not determine the wise choice. But if the wise and good choice itself be said to be the thing given, it supposes that the giver determines the existing of such a wise choice. But now this is the thing that God is represented as the giver of, when he is spoken of as the giver of virtue, holiness, etc. for virtue and holiness (as all our opponents in these controversies allow and maintain) is the thing wherein a wise and good choice consists.
88. It is the common way of the Arminians, in their discourses and doctrines, which they pretend are so much more consistent with reason and common sense than the doctrines of the Calvinists, to give no account at all and make no proper answer to the inquiries made, and they do as Mr. Locke says of the Indian philosopher, who, when asked what the world stood upon, answered, it stood upon an elephant. And when asked what the elephant stood upon, he replied, on a broad-backed turtle, etc. None of their accounts will bear to be traced. The first link of the chain, and the fountain of the whole stream, must not be inquired after. If it be, it brings all to a gross absurdity and self-contradiction. And yet, when they have done, they look upon others as stupid bigots, and void of common sense, or at least going directly counter to common sense, and worthy of contempt and indignation, because they will not agree with them.