by Edward Polhill
HAVING passed over redemption, I come to conversion; there we had Christ formed in the womb, here we have him formed in the heart; there we had Christ coming in the flesh and working miracles on men's bodies, here we have him coming in the Spirit, and working miracles in men's souls; there we had Christ pouring forth his blood and reconciling us to God's justice, here we have him pouring forth his Spirit and reconciling us to God's holiness. Now in my discourse touching conversion, I shall reduce all to three queries.
1. What is man's state before conversion?
2. What is the nature of the work?
3. Who is the worker thereof?
In the first we shall meet with the extreme necessity of the work; in the second with the intrinsical excellency thereof; and in the third, with the power and grace of the great agent.
1. What is man's state before conversion? I mean man fallen, for man standing needed no conversion; and this I shall consider two ways.
1. What it is in general, in relation to the whole man?
2. What it is in particular, in relation to the several parts of man?
1. What it is in general? and this I shall open in two things.
1. It is a state of estrangement from God.
2. It is a state of enmity against God.
1. It is a state of estrangement from God: a natural man is estranged from the womb, (Psalm 58:3), without God in the world, (Eph. 2:12). God is all round about him in the witnessing creatures, and yet he is without God in the world. God is in him, in the lamp of conscience, and yet he is without God in his heart, for there he saith, There is no God, (Ps. 14:1.) Which way soever God comes forth to meet him, whether from Mount Sinai in the fiery law, or from Mount Sion in gospel charms of free grace, still he flies away from God's presence; and if God pursue after him, he will say to God in plain terms, Depart from me, (Job 21:14), and if any relics of light will not depart, but stay behind in his heart, he shuts them up in the prison of unrighteousness, (Rom. 1:18.) His ubi is with Cain in Nod, the land of wandering and demigration, and with the prodigal in a far country, where he is far off from God, (Psa. 73:27), and God far off from him, (Prov. 15:29); and if ever he be saved, he must be brought from far. (Isa. 43:6.) Now upon a distinct view, this is a deplorable condition, for.
1. A natural man being estranged from God, the fountain of life, must needs be a dead man, dead in sins and trespasses? (Eph. 2:1), because alienated from the life of God; he is not only as the man in the gospel, half dead, (Luke 10:30), who is there set forth not as a figure of original corruption, but as an object of charity, as is very evident by the scope of the parable, which is ushered in with that question, And who is my neighbour? (v. 29), and at last closed up with the like, Which of the three was neighbour to him? (v. 36), but he is altogether dead in spirituals; there are no true vital spirits of faith in him, no true motions of obedience, no pulse of heavenly affections, no breath of spiritual prayer, no taste of the gospel wine and marrow, no feeling of all that massy sin and wrath which lies upon him; all his life is a death wandering, all his rest is in the congregation of the dead, (Prov. 21:16). Give him all the statures of natural excellencies, strew him over with the flowers of sweetest morality, and spangle him with the notions of sublime theology, yet still he is but a dead man, his soul a dead soul, his faith a dead faith, his works dead works, and his hopes and comforts but as the giving up of the ghost. But you will say, Is not man a living creature? Hath he not a reason and relics of light in it? Hath he not a free will and seeds of moral virtue in it? And why then do you call him dead? I answer; man is a living creature, alive in naturals, but dead in spirituals; he hath a reason, but, because there is no light of life in it, it is but a dead reason; his relics of light argue no more spiritual life in him, than knowledge doth in devils; he hath a free will, but for want of the freedom indeed, it is only free among the dead, I mean, to this or that carnal or natural work, and not to the will of God: he hath some seeds of moral virtue in him, but alas! these are of too low an extraction to be any particles of spiritual life. Mere moral virtues are by God's blessing on human industry struck as sparks out of natural principles, but spiritual life is a fire dropped down from heaven into the heart; mere moral virtues descending but from natural principles never ascend up to God as their end, but spiritual life as it is originally born of God, so it is ultimately terminated in him. Wherefore, a man may be naturally, nay, morally alive, and yet be spiritually dead.
2. A natural man being estranged from God, who is an infinite Spirit, must needs be flesh. Thus, God calls the men of the old world flesh, (Gen. 6:3); thus our Saviour sets out regeneration by its opposite, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John 3:6). As the body separate from the soul is flesh, such as moulders into dust, and putrifies into worms, so the soul separate from God is flesh too, such as turns into the dust of earthly things, and rots in those lusts which breed the never-dying worm in hell; neither is this flesh only in the lower rooms of the soul, but in the upmost faculties of reason and will. In the reason there is the cankered flesh of errors and heresies, and in the will there is the dead flesh of impotency, and the proud flesh of obstinacy against the will of God. Hence the apostle tells us of a νοῦς σαρκὸς, a mind of flesh, (Col. 2:18); and of θελήματα σαρκὸς, wills of flesh, (Eph. 2:3). And therefore the true circumcision is in the heart and in the spirit, (Rom. 2:29), even in the highest faculties and powers of the soul.
3. A natural man being estranged from God, who is the beauty of holiness, must needs be very impure; he is filthy or stinking, (Psalm, 14:3); an unclean thing, (Job, 14:4); he lies polluted in his blood, with a leprosy in his head, and a plague in his heart, clothed m filthy rags of sin, and rolling in the mire and vomit of corruption; so great is his filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, that he taints whatsoever he touches; his very prayers are an abomination, and his services as dung before God. Neither is this pollution only in the sensitive soul, but also in the rational; there is filthiness of spirit, (2 Cor. 7:1), and defilement in the very mind and conscience, (Tit. 1:15); there is no sound part, but all over wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores.
4. A natural man being estranged from God, who is Jehovah or beingness, must needs be a very nullity in spirituals. If a creature be separate from the God of nature, it is a nullity in naturals; and if a rational creature be separate from the God of grace, he is a nullity in spirituals. Sure, if he were anything at all, he might speak or think, but he can do neither. As running a fountain of words as his tongue is, he cannot say, Jesus is the Lord, (1 Cor. 12:3); and as swarming a hive of thoughts as his heart is, he cannot think anything as of himself, (2 Cor. 3:5). The great apostle gives a double account of himself, an account what he is in himself, "I am nothing," saith he, (2 Cor. 12:11); and an account what he is by grace, "by the grace of God I am what I am," (1 Cor. 15:10); all his nothingness is in and of himself, and all his spiritual essence is in and of grace. A mere natural man is nothing in spirituals, his eyes are on that which is not, (Prov. 23:5); his joy is in a thing of nought, (Amos 6:13); and all the false gods in his heart are אֱלִילִים nihilitates, nothingnesses, (Psalm 96:5). As they are creatures in the world, they are beings; but as they are idols in his heart, they are nothing,—nothing to make a God of; and he who makes them such, is like unto them, even nothing in spirituals.
2. It is a state of enmity against God; he is not only a stranger, but an enemy, too, (Col. 1:21); nay, which is more, his carnal mind is enmity against God, (Rom. 8:7). Enmity is irreconcileable, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, not unless the enmity be slain in it; nay, further, the apostle calls the Gentiles θεοσυγεῖς, haters of God, (Rom. 1:30); and hatred is enmity boiled up to the height. Hatred, saith the philosopher, seeks in μὴ εἶναι, the not-being of the thing hated; and such is man's wickedness that strikes as it were at the life and being of God, it had rather that God should not be, than that lusts should be restrained. The scripture sets out some grand enemies as opposing God openly and upon the stage of the world, and by what they did openly, we may discern what spirit and mystery of iniquity is working in every natural man's heart secretly; there is in him some of the corrupt flesh of the old world; somewhat of Pharaoh's spirit, which secretly saith, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? Somewhat of the bloody Jew, which is ready to crucify the Son of God afresh, and trample his precious blood under foot; somewhat of the proud antichrist, the man of sin, which exalts itself above God, its own reason above the wisdom of God, and its own will above the will of God. The very same venom and poison of enmity which the grand enemies of God pour out openly, privily lurks and works in every natural man.
Thus, in general, man's state is estrangement and enmity. But to proceed.
2. What is man's state in particular, in relation to his several parts? Now, here the same estrangement and enmity shews forth itself according to the nature of each part.
1. As for the understanding, it is turned away from God, the first and essential truth, and so become a forge of lying vanities; it is turned away from God, the first and essential light, and so becomes a dark place, nay, darkness itself, (Eph. 5:8); and if the light be darkness, how great is that darkness? So great it is, that a natural man sets a higher estimate on the follies of time than on the blessedness of eternity, and rates the broken cisterns above the fountain of living waters. Ψυχικὸς ἄνθρωπος, the souly man, who hath nothing but a rational soul, the spirit of a mere man in him, οὐ δέχεται, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, (2 Cor. 2:14). One would think that all truths should be welcome to a rational soul, and above all, the mysteries of heaven; but he receiveth them not. And this the apostle lays down distinctly; The spirit of man knows the things of man, because they are within his own line: but the things of God are only known by the Spirit of God, because they are above the sphere of natural reason, As the things of man are above the sphere of sense, so the things of God are above the sphere of reason; and yet as if they were below it, the natural man counts them foolishness, which evinces an extreme foolishness in his own heart; he is not a man, not an understanding creature in spirituals. Agur is a brute in his own eyes, I have not the understanding of a man, saith he, (Prov. 30:2). The apostle proving all under sin, asserts that there is none that understandeth, (Rom. 3:11). Millions of rational creatures in he world, and yet there is none that understandeth; and his proof is invincible,—there is none that seeketh after God; which sure would be done, if there were any spark of spiritual understanding in him. It is true there may be a mass of notions in a man unconverted, but not a dram of spiritual knowledge. Seeing he sees not, he sees the things of God in the image or picture of the letter, but he sees them not in their liveliness and inward glory. Just as the carnal Israelites, who saw their manna and sacrifices only in the outside, but saw not Christ in them; or as those false seekers, of whom Christ saith, "Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled," (John 6:26). There was a miracle in those very loaves, but they saw only the carnal and grosser part of the miracle, and not the glory and power of Christ's deity sparkling out in it. An unconverted man knows nothing as he ought to know it; no, not in the midst of his notions, there is no savouring, tasting or practical knowledge in him, nothing but a husk, shell or form of knowledge, and in the midst thereof, a real enmity against the things known. Whilst the light of truth shines only in the notion; he likes it well enough; but if it waken conscience, check lust, press duty, or any way offer to assume its supremacy in his heart or life, he instantly hates it as an enemy.
2. As for the will, the principle of freedom, it is turned from God the primum liberum, and from his service the vera libertas; and so it is become servum arbitrium, an arrant slave, bound in the bonds of iniquity, and, which is the height of slavery, it is in love with its bonds; and, which is the intenseness and intimateness of that love, when Christ comes to break these bonds, it is loth to be made free indeed, the iron is so entered into his soul; the bondage is so intimate in the forlorn will, that it looks on God's service as bondage, and sin's bondage as freedom: and hence it is dead and lame to God's ways, but runs and flies in sins. Again, the natural will is turned away from God the holy One, and so it is become desperately wicked, (Jer. 17:9); a fountain of blood, out of which "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies naturally proceed," (Matth. 15:19); a forge of iniquities. כָל־יִצֶר All the forming or framing of the heart; every purpose and desire effigated there is only evil continually, (Gen. 6:5), all is marred upon the wheel of man's corrupt will. Nay further, the natural will is turned from God who is being, and so it is become a nullity in spirituals. What God says of Israel, he may well say of every natural man, לֹא־אָבָה לִי, he hath no will to me, (Psal. 81:11); the object of the will is good, and yet all the fontal goodness in God moves it not. Nay, lastly, there is an enmity in the will against God; every natural man, as a part of the corrupt world, lies ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ, in the devil, (1 John, 5:19), and his heart, as a hell, sets his tongue on fire, (James 3:6). Deum ipsum (quantum in ipsâ est) perimit voluntas propria, saith one; clearly, it would, if it could, abrogate God's holiness, blindfold his omniscience, and chain up his justice in order to the fruition of its lusts.
3. As for the affections, there is nothing but monstrous ataxy in them. Love in a natural man dotes upon abomination, and hatred breaks out against goodness itself; hope hangs upon a broken reed, and fear starts and trembles at its fellow mortal; joy triumphs in the pleasures of sin, and therein virtually sports itself with the flames of hell; and sorrow, which should wait upon sin, pours out itself over worldly crosses; all the affections are out of frame and place. At first they were born subjects to the kingdom of reason, but the rational faculties (which are the man) rebelling against God, in the first Adam, the affections (which are the brutal part) mutiny and rise up in arms against reason, and by an unnatural violence depose it, and so unman the man. Hence he becomes ὡς τά ἄλογα, as the unreasonable beasts that perish. What Asaph was in his envy at the foolish, that is every man in his inordinate affections; he is בְּהֵמוֹת a great beast before God. (Ps. 73:22.) Here Dinah, that is the judgment, is deflowered by the son of Chamor, that is an ass (as the name imports.) A generation of brutish lusts ravish the soul. Here are the πάθη ἀτιμίας, the vile affections, which debase the immortal soul to the dust of the earth. Here the גִדּוּלִים Dii stercorei, those dungy gods of sensual lusts, carnal profits, and worldly honours, ascend up into the heart, and as gods assume the throne of it, command the power of it, and by a kind of omnipresence fill the whole circumference thereof. Here is the troubled sea of passions and affections, where Satan, the great leviathan, raises up the winds and waves of all inordinate motions, making the heart boil as a pot, and sporting himself in the sinful tossings thereof.
4. As for the members of the body, they are ὅπλα ἀδικίας, weapons of unrighteousness. (Rom. 6:13.) The law of sin issues out its commands in the soul, that speeds them to the members of the body, and these are ready to put them in execution.
Thus, deplorable is man's state before conversion, which if duly weighed, is enough to make every one cry out, Oh! what shall I do to be saved? Wherefore, I proceed to consider the second query.
2. What is the nature of the work? And here I shall unfold two things:
1. What are the preparatives to conversion?
2. What is the work of conversion itself?
1. What are the preparatives to conversion? For as God makes a way to his anger in punishing, so he makes a way to his mercy in converting sinners. First, the fallow ground of the heart must be broken up before the seed of God be cast into it: first, Moses must hew the tables of the heart, and then God writes the law upon them. Manasseh will not humble and turn unto the Lord, till he be in chains. Every natural man is a Manasseh, a forgetter of God (as that name imports), and will not remember and turn unto the Lord, till the spirit of bondage lay him up in chains, under deep convictions of sin and wrath. As when Christ came in the flesh, John the Baptist prepared his way by the doctrine of repentance. So when Christ is formed in the heart, John, that is God's grace, prepares his way by legal humiliations. Now the preparatory works to conversion are these:—
1. There is a conviction of sin; the Spirit ἐλέγξει shall convince the world of sin, (John 16:8); not only of sin in general, but in particular. The law, as it is in the letter, only operates little, but as it is in the Spirit's hand it is ἐντολὴ ἐλθοῦσα, (Rom. 7:9); it comes home to the heart, and gives it a full charge, as Nathan to David,—"Thou art the man." These are sins, saith the law, and these hast thou done, saith conscience; and from particular sins, the Spirit leads up the sinner to the fountain of blood in his nature, it shews him a seminary of corruption in his own heart, it makes him smell the sink of sin in his own bosom; neither is this conviction only rational and notional, but real and intuitive. Sin with all its hosts is as it were mustered and set in order before his eyes, (Ps. 50:21). Nay, it takes hold upon him, and he is made to possess it as his own, which forces him at last to cry out, guilty, guilty.
1. There is a conviction of wrath. When Satan gave man his first fall, he instilled this principle into him, Thou shalt not surely die, (Gen. 3:4). No, though thou eat the fruit, thou shalt not. On the contrary, when God comes to recover a soul out of its fall, he speaks in the same language as to Abimalech, "Behold, thou art but a dead man," (Gen. 20:3). "The wages of sin is death;" and because such sins are found in thee, thou hast the sentence of death in thyself. In conviction God sets up a judgment-seat in the heart; and there, after law-accusations and conscience-proofs, the sinner is sentenced to death, and after sentence, he is drawn into the valley of Achor, or trouble, to be stoned with the curses of the law, and scourged with scorpions of wrath; he hangs by the thread of his life over the bottomless gulph of perdition, and out of the fiery law hell doth as it were flash in his face.
3. Out of these convictions there ariseth legal fear. God's judgments, which before were far above out of his sight, now approach near unto him; qualms come over conscience, and hell-pains begin to seize the soul: this fear hath torment, a kind of hell in it, and out of this legal fear issues a flood of legal sorrows for sin, as procurative of wrath; God's arrows stick fast in the soul; and hence men are pricked in heart, (Acts 2:37), and which is more, wounded in spirit, (Prov. 18:14), and these wounds stink and are corrupt, till the balm of Christ's blood be poured into them. Such is the weight of these fears and sorrows, that it presses the soul into a self-weariness, and by degrees breaks it all to pieces, that there is scarce left a shard thereof to take a little fire from the hearth, or water out of the pit of any creature comfort.
4. In the midst of these fears and sorrows, some glimmerings and appearances of mercy in Christ offer themselves to the soul, and the soul begins to have some velleities and imperfect wouldings after mercy; anguish and bitterness make it cry out, Oh! "What shall I do to be saved?" The scorching flames of God's wrath leave a thirst in the heart after the coolings and refrigerations of pardoning mercy, and in proportion to these wouldings and velleities, there are some light touches and tastes of free grace, some flashes of joy in the word, and Christ the marrow thereof; and yet all this while there is no root of spiritual life in the heart. These are the preparatories of conversion, only we must not conceive them to be such formal immediate dispositions as infallibly infer conversion after them; for such prepared ones, though not far from the kingdom of heaven, may yet possibly never enter into it: neither must we look on these preparations, though God's usual method, as necessary on God's part; for if he please to use his prerogative, he can make even dry bones to rattle and come together again, without any previous dispositions. He can say unto men, even when they are in their blood, Live; and that word, as with child of omnipotency, shall instantly bring forth the new creature.
2. What is the work of conversion itself? I answer, It is that inward principle of grace, whereby a man is made able and willing to turn from all creatures unto God in Christ. Conversion is a motion of the soul, and, therefore, there must be an inward principle, called in scripture a root. The root of the matter is in me, saith Job, (Job 19:28). Friends, you look upon me as if I were nothing but leaves of hypocrisy, but the inward root of holiness is in me. Conversion is a supernatural motion, and, therefore, there must be an inward principle of grace, called by the apostle the divine nature, (2 Peter 1:4); the human nature cannot elevate itself so high as conversion, but the divine nature can do it. By this inward principle of grace man becomes able, he hath an active posse convertere, and which is more, a velle too, he becomes able and willing to turn. Conversion is called in scripture תְּשׁוּבָה a returning unto God. Man's natural state wants a turn, and God's supernatural grace effects it. Motion is between two terms; the terminus à quo in conversion is all creatures. Creatures as creatures are the footsteps of God's power and goodness; and so we must not turn from a worm, but see God in it: but creatures as they are deified and idolized in the heart, become lying vanities and empty nothings, and so in conversion we turn from them all. The world without us is a glass of the divine wisdom and goodness, and so conversion gives a sanctified use of it: but the world within us, the world in the heart, is nothing but a lust, (1 John 2:16), sitting in the place and throne of God, I mean, the chief and uppermost seat of the soul, and so conversion casts it out of the heart. The soul in conversion moves towards God as its true centre, and, therefore, must leave all the world behind its back. The terminus ad quem in conversion is God. A man before conversion, walks in an image, (Ps. 39:6); he thinks that he moves towards happiness in this or that creature, but all the while he is but in an image or picture of happiness; but in conversion he moves really to God the centre and Sabbath of souls. Lastly, in conversion there is a turning unto God in Christ. To turn to God is a most rational act, for he is the only true end of the soul; and to turn to God in Christ is a most regular act, for he is the only true way to that end. The way into the holy of holies is only through the vail of Christ's flesh. If we go to God out of Christ, we go to a consuming fire; but if we go to God in him, we go to a reconciled Father, who is ready to fall upon our necks, and kiss and welcome us with his love, revealed in the face of Christ.
Now in conversion there are two instants or moments to be distinctly considered.
1. The first instant is habitual conversion, or the habits or vital principles of grace, which incline and dispose the soul to actual conversion.
2. The second instant is actual conversion, or the actuation and crowning issue of those principles in an actual turn to God.
1. As to the habits or vital principles of grace, I shall do two things.
1. I shall demonstrate that there are habits or principles of grace.
2. I shall particularly unfold what they are.
1. I shall demonstrate that there are such things. The Remonstrants mince the business; There is, say they, potentia supernaturalis concessa voluntati ad hoc ut credere et bene agere possit; but as for any habitual grace, they tell us, Scholasticorum figmentum est, et eorum qui simul et semel optant infundi omnes illos habitus, quos actibus crebris comparare nimis laboriosum esse arbitrantur. Now there is a vast difference between a mere posse convertere, and those habits or principles of grace which dispose and incline the soul to actual conversion. A mere posse convertere doth not include in it any inward disposition or inclination in the soul to turn to God, no more than the posse peccare in innocent Adam did include in it an inward disposition or inclination in the soul to depart from God; but the habits or principles of grace do incline and dispose the soul to actual conversion. Again; a mere posse convertere doth not denominate a man gracious, no more than the posse peccare in innocent Adam did denominate him sinful; but the habits or principles of grace do denominate a man gracious. And the reason is, a mere posse may be abstract from the nature or essence of the thing into which it is reducible, but the habit or vital principle hath something of the nature or essence of the thing in it; nay, it is virtually and seminally the thing itself. A mere posse peccare in Adam before his fall did not denominate him sinful, because it had nothing of the nature of sin in it; but the habits and seeds of corruption after the fall did denominate him very sinful, because they were virtually and seminally all sin. A mere posse convertere doth not denominate a man gracious, because it is abstract from the nature and essence of the thing; but the habits or principles of grace do denominate him such, because they were virtually and seminally all grace. Now that there are such habits or principles of grace, and not only a naked power, I shall thus demonstrate.
1. Out of the scriptures, which do elegantly and emphatically decypher out those habits or principles to us. Wonderful is the variety of expressions to this purpose. These habits or principles are called, the new heart, and new spirit, (Ezek. 36:26); the new man, (Eph. 4:24); the new creature, (2 Cor. 5:17); the hidden man of the heart, (1 Pet. 3:4); the good treasure of the heart, (Matth. 12:35); the glory within, (Psal. 45:13); eternal life abiding in us, (1 John, 3:15); a well of water springing up into everlasting life, (John 4:14); the teaching and abiding anointing, (1 John, 2:27); the renewing of the Holy Ghost, (Tit. 3:5; the seed of God remaining in us, (1 John, 3:9); the life of God, (Eph. 4:18); and, which is the sublimest word of all, the divine nature, (2 Pet. 1:4). And is all this glory of words poured out upon a mere posse, which doth not so much as incline to conversion? Are not here the noblest and highest inclinations set forth unto us? Hath not the new heart, which hath eternal life in it, a propensity to acts of spiritual life? Will not the new creature renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sweetened by the holy unction, have some odours and fragrancies breaking forth from it? Can the hidden man be ever hid, the good treasure ever sealed, and the glory within ever shut up? Must not the well of life break forth, the seed and life of God spring up, and the divine nature show forth itself? And do not these denominate him gracious in whom they are? What doth a new heart speak him? How doth the good treasure enrich him, the glory within illustrate him, the holy unction perfume him, the life and seed of God quicken him, the renewing of the Holy Ghost alter him, and the divine nature glorify him? Here are pregnant denominations indeed, but there is not a tittle of this in a mere posse convertere; wherefore, these expressions are of a nobler emphasis than so. You will say, It is true, these expressions show forth habits or principles of grace, but not such as go before the actual consent of the will to God's call, but such as follow after it, nay, after frequent acts thereof.
Unto which I shall answer two things:
1. The habits and principles of grace deciphered in the scriptures aforesaid, are there set out as the royal acts of pure free grace, and not as pendents upon man's will; and for this I shall give two eminent instances, omitting others: The first is in that famous place, (Ezek. 36), where God promises a new heart, (v. 26), and his own Spirit, (v. 27); but withal he enters a double protestation, one before the promise, "Thus saith the Lord, I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine own holy name's sake," (v. 22); and another after it, "Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you, be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel," (v. 32). What could be more said to exalt God and his free grace, and to annihilate man and his works? How could the true God enter such protestations, if the great promise of a new heart hang in suspense upon man's actual consent? When a man without the new heart gives that actual consent, there is something, which instead of shame and confusion, is worthy to be noted as a matter of praise and glory. But you will say, these protestations respect not the way or order of working these gracious habits, but exclude man's worth or dignity in the business. Now albeit God do not give the new heart for man's consent, yet he may do it upon or after man's consent; I answer, these protestations shew, that before the new heart there is nothing in man but what is matter of shame and confusion, and by consequence the actual consent of the will, which is a matter of praise and glory, cannot so much as in order exist before the new heart. The second instance is that, (Tit. 3:5), where the apostle opens the fountain of regeneration: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. We are saved by washing and renewing, but in what way or method is this wrought? The apostle tells us, not by works of righteousness, but of mere mercy. Surely, if there be any righteousness in man, it must be in his will, and if any work of righteousness be in the will; an actual consent to God's call must be such a work. Yet the apostle asserts, that our regeneration was not by works of righteousness, but of God's mercy. Again, it is observable, that the apostle doth not say, Not for works of righteousness, as only excluding the meritorious dignity thereof; but he saith, Not by works of righteousness, as denying the very existence thereof in order to regeneration.
2. If the actual consent of the will to the calls of God do indeed precede the habits or principles of grace, then what is that which gives an actual consent to God's call? What else but the stony heart, the old creature, the wisdom of man, and the human nature? For the mere posse convertere doth not include in it a heart of flesh, a new creature, a holy unction, or divine nature; therefore, the consent precedent to these gracious principles must be given by the stony heart, old creature, human wisdom and nature, which is very incongruous. Let us hear Anselm's determination in this case, Voluntas non rectè vult nisi quia recta est: sicut non est acutus visus, quia videt acutè, sed ideò videt acutè quia acutus est; ita voluntas non est recta, quia vult rectè, sed rectè vult, quoniam est recta. To the same purpose is that of our Saviour; "A corrupt tree οὐ δύναται cannot bring forth good fruit," (Matt. 7:18), that is, whilst it is corrupt, it cannot. A corrupt tree may become a good tree, but whilst it is corrupt, it cannot bring forth good fruit; as when the apostle saith, "The carnal mind cannot be subject to God's law," (Rom. 8:7), the meaning is, that whilst it is carnal it cannot; and how then can the will, whilst it is a corrupt tree, bring forth so precious a fruit as an assent to God's call? How can such a grape of heaven grow upon the thorns of an unregenerate heart? You will say, I must not call the will a corrupt tree, when there is a posse convertere supernaturally poured into it; but if that posse do not denominate it gracious, surely it is as yet but corrupt, and whilst it is such, it may be so called.
2. I argue from the glory of free grace; one of its crown-jewels is, that it makes gracious principles where there were none before; it new creates in Christ, and so gives principles of spiritual being; it quickens the dead, and so gives principles of spiritual life: thus free grace is blessed from the fountain of Israel, from the fontal principles of the new creature. But those who deny gracious principles, darken free grace in that which is its prime lustre. But here I shall be asked, whether that posse convertere be not such a principle? I answer, No! a principle is more than a bare posse. There was in Adam in innocency a posse peccare, and yet there was no principle of sin in him; after the same manner there is, say the Remonstrants, a posse convertere given to fallen man, but this is no principle of grace in him. But not to strive about words; suppose it might be called a principle, yet what a grand disparagement to free grace is it to say, that there was as much of principle in innocent Adam by nature towards his sinful transgression, as there is in fallen man by grace towards his actual conversion! Such as deny gracious habits, and grant only a naked power, must say so.
3. I argue from the sweetness of providence. As it is the glory of free grace that there are gracious principles made, so it is the sweetness of providence that those principles are made first; and then congruous acts issue from thence. The only wise God disposes things in the sweetest method. In the body of nature, first a sun, and then a beam; first a fountain, and then a stream; first a root, and then a fruit. In the soul of man, vegetative faculties precede acts of life, sensitive acts of sense, and intellectual acts of reason. Hence those acts issue forth in an easy connaturalness to their principles. And can there be less of the beauty of providence in the spiritual world than in the natural? Should there not be as sweet an order in the new creature as in the old? Ought not supernatural acts to issue forth in as great connaturalness to their principles as natural? If so, then there must be habits of grace to precede the acts; if not, then those acts, which are above nature in facto esse, as to their essential excellency, must be below it in fieri, as to their procedure from causes; nay, it is hardly imaginable that those acts should at all come forth into being without gracious principles. If the will be not changed by regenerating grace, how is it constituted in ordine agentium, supernaturalium? And if not, how can it actually turn to God, seeing that is actus ordinis supernaturalis? "Every one that doth righteousness is born of God," (1 John. 2:29). To turn unto God is a prime act of righteousness, and how then can it be done before regeneration? Wherefore the scripture method is clear; first a good tree, and then good fruit, (Mat. 7:17); first a good treasure in the heart, and then good things out of it, (Mat. 12:35); first we are created in Christ, and then we walk in good works, (Eph. 2:10). And thus spiritual acts are done in the easiness of the new creature, because in a way connatural to spiritual principles.
4. If there be no habits or principles of grace, what is that that makes the grand difference between a godly and an ungodly man? Surely, either it must be the acts of faith and other graces, or else the habits and principles thereof. It is not the acts of faith and other graces, for two reasons:—
1. Because that which makes the difference must be somewhat permanent; such was Caleb's other spirit, which differenced him from the murmuring congregation, (Numb. 14:24). Such was Job's root, which differenced him from the leafy hypocrite, (Job, 19:28). But the acts of faith and other graces are transient; wherefore, if these be all the difference, what becomes of a godly man in his sleep or frenzy, wherein no such acts are put forth? Doth he drop out of the state of grace without any apostacy, or continue in it without any differencing quality? neither is possible; he backslides not from God, and how can he be out of the state of grace? he is but as other men are, and how can he be in it? It remains, therefore, that the habits of grace make the difference; for by reason of these he is not as other men are, no, not when the acts of grace are suspended, because he hath another spirit in him.
2. All men being by nature ungodly, that which chiefly makes the difference must denominate a man changed. Now in every change, the terminus is somewhat permanent; in alteration it is a permanent quality, in augmentation it is a permanent quantity, in generation it is a substantial form, and in regeneration it is "a new creature, born of the incorruptible seed of the Word," (1 Pet. 1:23). The terminus of this gracious change is set out in scripture as a permanent thing; sometimes it is called light; "Ye were darkness, but now light in the Lord," (Eph. 5:8); sometimes life; "this my son was dead and is alive again," (Luke 15:24); sometimes the new man; "old things are passed away, behold all things are become new," (2 Cor. 5:17); still it is somewhat permanent. Hence it appears, that the acts of faith and other graces, (which are transient) do not so properly denominate a man changed, as improve the change already made. The wild tree is changed by the graff, and not by the after-fruit; the natural man is changed by the ingrafted word, and not by the fruits of faith and other graces, which naturally grow upon the root of habitual grace. That a corrupt tree is made good, is a great change; but that a good tree brings forth good fruit, is altogether connatural.
If there be no habits or principles of grace, how can the natural man's deadly wound, I mean original corruption, ever be healed? Habitual corruption cannot be healed but by habitual grace, the plague of the heart cannot be healed but by the holy unction; instead of the old heart there must be a new one, or else there is no healing, and without healing, how can such a sound act as conversion come forth? It remains, therefore, that there are habits or principles of grace.
2. Having proved that there are such habits or principles, I come to unfold what they are; and this I cannot better do, than by showing what they are in the several faculties. Wherefore,
1. As to the understanding, there is a principle of excellent knowledge; I say, excellent, not only in respect of the matter of it, being heavenly mysteries, but also in respect of the nature of it; it is too high for a fool; nay, it is a story higher than the knowledge of all the unregenerate rabbies in the world: it is not a mere literal knowledge, a knowing of Christ after the flesh, but a spiritual, a revealing spiritual things in their spiritual glory; it is not a dead knowledge, called by the apostle, μόρφωσις γνώσεως, a form of knowledge, (Rom. 2:20), such as is but a lifeless figure or appearance, but it is a lively knowledge, called by the wise man, "a well-spring of life," (Prov. 16:22), and by our Saviour, "the light of life," (John 8:12). It is not a knowledge without sense, but such as hath sense, nay, all the senses of the inward man in it; it is a seeing of the just one, (Acts 22:14); a hearing and learning of the Father, (John 6:45); a smelling and savouring the sweet odours of the gospel, (2 Cor. 2:14); a tasting how good and gracious the Lord is, (Psa. 34:8); a tactual knowledge, a spiritual touching and handling of the word of life, (1 John 1:1); here are seminally and virtually all those spiritual senses which discern good and evil. It is not a dark and duskish knowledge, but clear and lightsome; it is seeing with the veil off and face open, (2 Cor. 3:16, 18); it is the day dawning and the day-star arising in the heart, (2 Pet. 1:19). Here God shines into the heart, and things are seen eye to eye, as the expression is, (Isai. 52:8), that is, in a clear evidence of the truth. It is not a knowledge at a distance and afar off, as Dives saw Abraham, and as every natural man sees the things of faith, but a near and intimate knowledge. It is wisdom in the hidden parts, (Psa. 51:6); it is wisdom entering into the heart, (Prov. 2:10); it is a reason delivered over to the power of holy truths, (Rom. 6:17); it is λόγος ἕμφυος, the word engrafted or innaturalized in the mind, (James 1:21). Hereby the truth approaches and presentiates itself to the soul in so clear and near a manner, as that it works a firm assent and persuasion thereof, and that upon the divine authority shining and sparkling out in the same. This principle saith amen to all the truths in scripture; by it we come to know truths in ourselves, (Heb. 10:34), and to carry the witness thereof within us, (1 John 5:10). As Jesus Christ is the amen, the faithful and true witness, who sealed the truths of the gospel outwardly by his blood, so the holy unction dropping down from Christ is an amen, a faithful and true witness sealing up those truths inwardly in the heart. And this clear and near knowledge, as it assures and persuades a man of those truths, is faith in the understanding; for this sets to its seal that God is true in them, (John 3:33). It is not a mere notional knowledge floating in the brain, vaunting in the tongue, or flourishing in a leafy profession; but it is a practical knowledge influxive into the will, inflammative to the affections, and directive to the whole life. This is that principle of excellent knowledge whereby the soul is enabled to see God as the only supreme end, Christ as the only true way, and sin as the only great obstacle thereunto.
2. As to the will, there is a principle of holiness and rectitude, such as makes the heart pure and right, such as sets the will into a right frame and posture in a threefold respect.
1. In reference to the true end of man.
2. In reference to the right means.
3. In reference to the grand obstacle.
1. It sets the will into a right posture in reference to man's true end. Man's true end is God alone, for he is fontal goodness, allness of perfections; the primum amabile, and ultimus finis, the great alpha and omega of spirits, perfectly able to still all the desires, and fill all the crannies thereof. Now this rectifying principle in the will, as respective to this supreme end, shows forth itself three ways.
1. In that it is a desiring principle. Desire is the first-born of the will, the first opening of the rational appetite, and this principle sanctifies it and sets it apart for God, as its supreme end; it inclines and disposes the will to pant and thirst after God, to faint and cry out for him, to enquire and seek after him with all the heart. Before, the will, Cain-like, did go out from the Lord's presence: but now David-like it desires to dwell in his house, and behold his beauty. Before, the will lay dead in the grave of creature-comforts, but now it hath the life of God in it quickening it to holy breathings after him: before, there was such a gravedo liberi arbitrii, such talents of carnality upon the will, that it could in no wise lift up itself, but lay among the pots, and embraced dunghills; but now it hath the wings of a dove to elevate itself to God. Here is the first resurrection of the will; here are the ἀναβάσεις ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ, ascensions in the heart, as the Septuagint hath it, (Ps. 84:5). The nature of this principle is to ascend up to God, and leave all the world behind its back. As the principle of persuading knowledge is faith in the understanding, so this desiring principle is love in the will in its primordial propensities; there is spiritual life in primo radio, in its first light; and here is spiritual life in primo ardore, in its first heat.
2. In that it is a purposing principle, such as inclines and disposes the soul to pitch by a serious determination upon God as its only happiness, and to "cleave unto him with purpose of heart," (Acts. 11:23). This renders a man a true spiritual Levite, who (as his name imports) is "joined to the Lord, and become one Spirit with him," (1 Cor. 6:17). And as the first-born were dedicated to God, and afterwards the Levites; so the desiring principle first dedicates the desires, the first-born of the will to God, and then this purposing principle makes a man a spiritual Levite, consecrated to God by a holy conjunction with him. This is that key of David or love (as David imports), which opens the everlasting doors of the will that "the King of glory may come in," (Psalm 24:7). This is that sweet voice of David or love, which upon mature deliberation is ready to break out,—"Whom have I in heaven but thee? whom on earth besides thee?" (Psalm 73:25). In heaven, there are glorious angels, and on earth multitudes of good creatures, but none of them all are my end or happiness; none, none but God alone. Were heaven and earth emptied of all their furniture, still I should have my end as long as I have my God, who fills them both with his presence; whilst he is with me there can be no such thing as emptiness, for he is all in all; waiving all the world, I pitch upon him alone as my only end. I can truly say to the covetous, God is my gold, (Job. 22:25); to the ambitious, God is my glory, (Psalm 3:3); to the voluptuous, God is my delight, (Isa. 58:14); to the soldier, God is my buckler and high tower, (Ps. 18:2); to the mariner, God is my broad rivers and streams, (Isa. 33:21); to the potentates and emperors of the world, God is my crown and diadem, (Isa. 28:5); and to those who, with Esau, have enough of the world, Jacob-like, I have all, (Gen. 33:11), all in one, even in God alone. Such resolutions as these are the proper issues of this purposing principle, this makes the will free indeed; before it was free in naturals, but now in spirituals, which is freedom indeed. When the will fixes itself upon the creature as its end, it is in straits in a house of bondage. Take the world in its own place, it is a spacious looking-glass of God's power and goodness, but take it as a man's end and happiness, it is too strait and narrow for the immortal spirit to breathe in. Hence carnal men, even In the fulness of sufficiency, are yet in straits, (Job 20:22); but when the will through this purposing principle fixes itself upon God as its end, it is free indeed. The rabbins call God מָקוֹם place, and a large one he is; no less than an infinity and immensity of goodness, such as no desire or outgoing of the will can ever pass through. Here there is room enough for an immortal spirit, goodness enough to satiate the rational appetite for ever. Now, as the desiring principle is love in the will in its first plantation, so this purposing principle is love further rooted and grounded in the same faculty.
3. In that it is a resting principle, such as inclines and disposes the will to a double rest in God.
1. To a rest of innitence.
2. To a rest of complacence.
1. To a rest of innitence; it inclines the will to lean and roll itself upon God, and to set its faith and hope in him: hereby the heart hath an access unto God, and casts and ventures itself upon him for all its happiness, as being fully resolved in itself to be happy only in him. And this is no other than faith in the will considered ut in ultimo termino, in God its only resting-place. "We which believe," saith the apostle, "do enter into rest," (Heb. 4:3). Faith makes a man cease from himself and enter into rest, by a fiducial repose on God's all-sufficiency.
2. To a rest of complacency: it inclines the will to delight in the Almighty, (Isa. 58:14); and count him its exceeding joy, (Ps. 43:4). Hereby the soul dwells at ease, or lodges in goodness (as the original hath it), (Ps. 25:13); hereby it lies down in the bosom of bliss, and hath peace for its tabernacle, (Job 5:24). God was the Levite's inheritance, (Deut. 18:2). As the purposing principle makes a man a spiritual Levite, so the resting principle gives a man an inheritance in God; and this is love in its triumph and joy, inheriting all things in God's mercy and glorious all-sufficiency.
2. This principle of rectitude or holiness sets the will right in reference to the true means. The true means is Jesus Christ the mediator; the only way into the holy of holies is through the veil of his flesh. We are in a treble incapacity of returning unto God our ultimate end: we are in the darkness of sin, and see not the right path thither: and as to this, Christ is the way, as a prophet, teaching us by his Spirit and word: we are in the guiltiness of sin, and dare not approach thither; and as to this, Christ is the way, as a priest offering up his blood and righteousness for us: we are in the impotency and enmity of sin, and cannot, will not, of ourselves, return thither; and as to this, Christ is the way as a king, subduing and ruling us by his gracious sceptre. God hath sealed Christ to all these offices for this very end, to bring us home to himself. Now this principle sets the will right in reference to Christ in all his offices.
1. Take him as a Prophet, this principle sets the heart right in a threefold respect.
1. It is a principle of humble teachableness. God, who is the soul's centre, dwelling in light unapproachable, and Christ, who is in the Father's bosom, being the great revealer of him, this principle inclines the will to hearken to Christ; the ear is opened or revealed to hear the great Prophet in all things. There is a προθυμία, or readiness of mind to let in every beam of light, and catch at every drop of truth which falls from Christ. Before, man was a wolf and a lion for brutish untractableness, but now a little child may lead him, (Isai. 11:6), even the least truth or message from Christ; he will not be unruly, or break away from it, for a world; but meekness and humility make him as a little child, ruleable by every word of Christ.
2. It is a principle of faith, ready to receive Christ in the name of a prophet. Christ doth no sooner usher in a truth into the soul, but this principle clasps about it with fiducial embraces, and says, This is a beam from the Sun of righteousness, this is a message from the Angel of the covenant, sent on purpose to fetch me away to God. Hereby the soul is disposed to believe Christ's words, and receive his testimony.
3. It is a principle of love, ready to embrace Christ as the angel of God's face or presence, and kiss the Son, as revealing holy secrets from the Father's bosom. This principle hangs upon Christ's myrrh-dropping lips, and when he speaks, it catches up his words as the words of eternal life; every truth is received in love as from Christ's hand; and above all, Christ himself is very precious, because he is the brightness of glory.
2. Take him as a Priest, this principle sets the heart right towards him. Under the law the Levites were given to the priest; under the gospel those who are spiritual Levites, are given to Christ, the high-priest. Now the principle, whereby they are given to Christ as a priest, is double.
1. It is a principle of faith inclining the soul to wash in the laver of Christ's blood, and wrap up itself in the robe of his righteousness. This is called in scripture, trusting in Christ's name, (Matt. 12:21); faith in his blood, (Rom. 3:25); receiving the atonement, (Rom. 5:11); and receiving the gift of righteousness, (Rom. 5:17). When a soul comes up out of the wilderness of sin to return to God, all the way it leans upon Jesus Christ, (Cant. 8:5).
2. It is a principle of love inclining the soul to love Jesus Christ as its priest. When once there are faith-glances in the understanding at Christ crucified, and faith-rollings in the will upon him, the holy fire, called a vehement flame, or, as it is in the original, the flame of God, (Cant. 8:6), kindles upon the heart and makes it burn with true love to Christ: Oh! says the soul, this is he who made the robe of righteousness for me, and how much love was there in every thread of it? This is he who drunk off the cup of trembling for me, and how much wrath did my sins squeeze into it? When on earth, he bore my sins upon the cross, and now in heaven, he bears my name upon his heart; his person is all desires, his blood all preciousness, his righteousness all glory, his love all heights and depths and breadths, surpassing knowledge, and who can choose but love him? There is no high priest or sacrifice but himself, no balm or healing, but in his wounds; no intercessor above, but his blood and righteousness; no beauty or glory in all the visible world, like that in his cross; and how can the heart refuse his espousals? This is a principle of sweet closure with Christ; this makes the soul breathe after, nay approach to Christ, and when it hath a being in him, such is the holy aspiration of this principle, that still it desires to be more perfectly and intimately in him; no embraces near enough, there is too much distance in every union: when the soul is brother and sister and mother to him, still it would be nearer, nothing less than one spirit, (1 Cor. 6:17): and when it is so in some measure, still it presses hard after more oneness with him: Oh, that the veil of darkness were quite off! that the remnants of separating corruption were quite out! Oh, for more gales of faith and prayer to blow up this holy fire! for more effusions of the holy unction to feed and enflame it! Thus this principle is hiatus voluntatis, the opening or thirsty gaping of the will for more and more of Christ, and all that it may dwell in God, who is love itself.
3. Take him as a King, this principle sets the heart right towards him. Hence a man becomes ευθετός εἰς βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, in a fit posture towards the kingdom of God, (Luke 9:62), and that in a threefold respect.
1. This principle is a principle of faith. God made Christ a king, and faith owns him as such; God gave him all the power in heaven and earth, and faith gives him all the power in the upper and lower faculties of the soul. This principle rests upon him as a king, able to put all his enemies under his feet. Are there strong holds of sin in us? This principle rests on him as the power of God to cast them down. Are there armies of temptations round about us? This principle rests on him as the captain of salvation to scatter them. As soon as this principle is in the soul, the soul is no longer where it was, but translated into the kingdom of Christ, (Col. 1:13). Before it was in a region of darkness, but now in a place of marvellous light; its native soil was spiritual Sodom and Egypt, where sin is a law, but now it, is in the dominions of Christ, where the law of the Spirit frees from the law of sin; and because, after the law or reign of sin is broken, the remnants or relics of corruption are still in us, therefore, this principle doth in a wonderful manner rest upon Christ for a more thorough purging out thereof.
2. This principle is a principle of love, disposing the soul to love Christ as a Melchisedeck, a king of righteousness, and to kiss his sceptre as a sceptre of righteousness. This principle desires and delights above all places to dwell in Immanuel's land, and by a holy acquiescence under his law, it sits down, as it were, in the kingdom of God. Hence the heart is willing that Christ should reign over it, and that all his enemies should be made his footstool, even those that dwell in its own bosom; if he come and search for darling lusts there, this principle will open every fold, and unlock every secret place of the heart to discover them. If he come and slay them with the sword of his mouth, this principle will be consenting to their death, and pray, So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord, even all the remainders of corruption lying in my heart.
3. This principle is a principle of obedience; and this is no other but the two former principles of faith and love conspiring together to do the will of Christ. Christ is at the right hand of God; and the soul, by faith and love, is at the right hand of Christ, (Psalm 45:9), ready to hear and do all his pleasure, (v. 10). Faith hath two eyes, and whilst one is upon the propitiatory cross, the other is upon the holy crown of Jesus. Love hath two hands, and whilst one is thrust into his side and bleeding wounds, the other is busy in keeping his righteous laws and commands. No sooner doth a command drop down from him, but faith catches it up. Oh! says faith, this comes from the King of kings and must be done; and this great King, says love, obeyed for me, even to the cross, and how can I do less than obey him? His commandments are all right, his yoke easy, his service freedom, and his love constraining.
3. This principle sets the will into a right frame in respect of that great obstacle, Sin. Sin separates between God and the soul, but this principle separates between the soul and sin, and this in three respects.
1. As it is a principle of evangelical sorrow. Sin is contracted with pleasure and must be dissolved with sorrow, and this dissolution will not be kindly, unless the sorrow be evangelical; legal sorrow is a preparative to conversion, but evangelical is an essential ingredient in it; in legal sorrow, the heart breaks under the fears of hell and death, but in evangelical it thaws under the beams of free grace; it melts for the exceeding sinfulness of sin, it bleeds over the bleeding wounds of Christ, it grieves at the grievings of the Holy Spirit; it blushes and shames itself for the stains cast upon God's glory, and it is offended, and full fraught with displiceney at its many and great offences of the divine Majesty. This is λύπη κατα τον Θεὸν, "sorrow according to God," (2 Cor. 7:10). Sorrow for sin as sin, such as God would have. This turns the sweet morsels of sin into bitter herbs, and the pleasant streams of lust into blood; hereby sin is in some degree loosened out of the heart.
2. As it is a principle of hatred inclining the will to hate every false way. The scripture sets out sin as a very odious thing; it is the poison of asps, (Rom. 3:13); the dogs' vomit, (2 Peter. 2:22); a menstruous cloth, (Isaiah, 30:22): περισσείαν κακίας, the superfluity or excrement of all evil, (James, 1:21); enmity to God, (Rom. 8:7); the abominable thing which God hates, (Jer. 44:4); and that with great hatred, (Hos. 9:7). Now the heart, when this principle is in it, hates and abhors the taste of this poison, the smell of this vomit, the touch of this menstruous cloth, the sight or appearance of this filthy excrement, the thought of this enmity to God, and the very presence of this abominable thing; this hatred is the very life and spirit of repentance: as the love of sin, is the vinculum unionis or vital spirit, whereby the soul and sin are intimately united together; so the hatred of sin is the solutio vinculi, or the extinction of that vital spirit, whereby the soul and sin are separated one from another.
3. As it is a principle of actual reformation, or forsaking of sin; and this is no other than the two former principles of sorrow and hatred conspiring together to make away with sin. Sorrow nails the old man with all his members upon the cross, there to die in pains and agonies, and hatred pierces into his very heart, and lets out his vital blood, I mean, the love of sin, that he may be sure to die, and not revive again; where these two are, a man suffers in the flesh, and ceases from sin, (1 Pet. 4:1); he cannot ποιεῖν ἁμαρτίαν, commit sin, (1 John, 3:9), not so as he did before. Sorrow forbids it to be the joy of his way, and hatred forbids it to be the love of his heart, and both cast it out as an unclean thing, causing God's departure from the soul.
3. As to the affections, there is a principle which tunes and harmonizes them, and that in a threefold respect.
1. It is a principle reductive of the affections to the rule of reason. God in creation made man a Lord over brutes, and anointed reason to reign over the affections; but as soon as man rebelled against God, all within him and without him was hurled into confusion: without, the brute beasts rebelled against his person; and within, the brutish lusts rebelled against his reason; but when converting grace reduces man into order again, then the beasts of the field are at peace with him, (Job 5:23), and the affections of the heart throw down their arms and confess their homage to the kingdom of reason. This principle makes a man able to rule over his own spirit, (Prov. 16:32); and say with authority to one affection, Go, and it goeth; and to another, Come, and it cometh. It is true, moral virtue doth in its way subject the affections to reason, but this supernatural principle doth it in a more excellent manner; there the subjection is to reason as the supreme faculty of the soul, but here it is to it as the candle of the Lord, even for his sake who lighted it up for the guidance of the blind faculties; there it is to reason as a natural light, but here it is to it as supernaturally illuminated. The Holy Spirit makes the truths of the gospel to become the law of the mind, and this law of the mind rules over the affections; the affections are the τὸ θῆλυ, the woman-part in us, the head of this woman is the man or reason, and the head of this man is Christ and his holy unction.
2. It is a principle moderative of the affections as to the things of the world. Before conversion the earth hath its throne in the heart, but this principle shakes the earth out of her place; before, the affections are as sails spread open to the gales of the world, but this principle contracts and folds them up, lest the spirit of the world should fill them. Earthly things are τὰ ἐλάχισα, the smallest things of all, (1 Cor. 6:2); and where this principle is, a very small portion of them will suffice; Agur's dimensum, Daniel's pulse, our Saviour's daily bread, Paul's food and raiment, Luther's herring, anything with the word of blessing will serve the turn; when there is little or nothing without, still there is an αὐτάρκεια, a self-sufficiency of holy content within; and when there is a concourse or affluence of all outward blessings, this principle is as ballast to keep the heart from drowning and overwhelming itself therein; there is such a holy allay upon the soul, that in the lowest ebbs of adversity it possesses all things in its God: and in the highest tides of prosperity it will not be possessed by anything in the world. Alas! saith the soul, all this is but thick clay, and why should I lade my eagle-affections with it? All this is but πολλὴ φαντασία, much fancy, and why should an immortal soul be set upon it? The whole world is but σχῆμα, a figure or shadow, and that time, which envelopes it, is but καιρὸς συνεσαλμενος, time contracted, and contracted into a το νῦν, for so the apostle calls the world τὸν νῦν αἰῶνα, the new world, (2 Tim. 4:10). Wherefore, a shadow of affections is big enough for a figure, and the shortest glance of the heart long enough for a τὸ νῦν, a transient and momentary thing which perishes with the very using. The world in scripture is set out as a nullity, a thing that is not, (Prov. 23:5), and this principle deals with it as such; it makes a man rejoice as if he rejoiced not, and buy as if he possessed not; the affections, like translated Enoch, are not found here below, because God hath translated them.
3. It is a principle inflammative of the affections towards God and the things of God; before, the affections run down to the world as their centre, but this principle turns the stream of the soul upward towards God; now love, which is the key of the heart, opens and unlocks it unto God; desire, which is love in motion, goes out in holy breathings and thirstings after him; and if he stay away from the soul, hope, which is love in expectation, looks and waits for his approaches to the soul; and when he doth approach thither, delight, which is love in rest or acquiescence, joys and keeps sabbath in his presence; and lest this sabbath should be broken, fear, which is the soul's sentinel, watches against sin, as the great make-bate and incendiary; and when sin offers to enter the soul, hatred, which is the soul's guard, shuts the doors against it with a holy displicency and antipathy; and if it do enter there, anger, which is the soul's sword, strikes at it with indignation; and sorrow, which is the soul's issue, vents and lets out the corrupt blood and humours out of it; and, which is the heat and height of all, zeal sets the soul on fire and makes it burn ἐν καλῷ, in that which is good, for the glory of God, who is the supreme good, and against the commission of sin, which is the supreme evil. Thus the whole πολίτευμα trade or converse of the affections is in heaven, (Phil. 3:20). This principle sets the heart upon God above all; it may and doth love creatures as the prints of his power and goodness; ordinances as the conduit-pipes of his grace and spirit; and saints as the lively pictures and resemblances of his holiness, but it sets the heart upon God above all. This principle is a fire dropped down from heaven into the heart, to consume the dross of corruption, and inflame the affections towards God; it is a touch from Christ, risen and sitting in glory, to raise up the affections out of the tombs and graves of earthly vanities, and to quicken and inspire them with the life of God, that God may be all in all therein.
2. Having shewed what conversion is in the first instant, I proceed to the second; in the first instant the lamps of grace are made; in the second, they are lighted up; in the first instant the new creature is begotten of God in all its parts and proportions; in the second, it is born into the spiritual world: in the first instant the tree of righteousness is planted; in the second, it buds and blossoms, and brings forth precious fruit; there is an actuation of gracious principles, an actual turning of the soul to God. The understanding doth actually see God as the supreme end; Christ, as the true way; and sin, as the great obstacle. The will, as to God the supreme end, doth actually breathe after him in holy desires, fix on him by serious purposes, and rest in him fiducially and complacentially for all happiness. As to Christ, the true way, it doth actually embrace and receive him as a prophet, for guidance and instruction; as a priest, for satisfaction and intercession; and as a king, in the government of his spirit and word. And as to sin, the great obstacle, it doth actually surround it with sorrow, fight against it with hatred, and overcome it by a real reformation. The affections do actually bow down under reason's sceptre, come off from the world's breasts, and ascend up in holy flames towards God; and under this sanctified and actually returning soul, the members of the body become ὅπλα δικαιοσύνης, weapons of righteousness, actually performing and executing the commands thereof. Thus all the habits and principles of grace are actuated, and all the powers and faculties of man are actually returned unto God. Now this actual conversion comes into being, three ways.
1. As from the inward vital principles of grace; there is a divine life and vigor in them, putting forth the soul to acts congruous and connatural thereunto; the divine nature will be shewing forth itself, the well of living water will be springing up, the seed of God will be shooting forth, the kingdom of heaven, though but as a grain of mustard-seed, will at last become a tree. When there is a principle of right knowledge in the understanding, it is a well-spring of life, (Prov. 16:22); and the wise, who have it, shall understand, (Dan. 12:10). When there is a principle of rectitude in the will, integrity will guide it and direct its way, (Prov. 11:3–5); the מֵישָׁרִים the rectitudes or rightnesses will love Jesus Christ, (Cant. 1:4); that is, such hearts as have right principles in them will assuredly love him, for the bias of those principles draws to it; converting Israel will cast forth his roots, (Hos. 14:5), the root of faith casts forth itself in actual believing, the root of love in actual loving; "the root of the righteous yieldeth its fruit, (Prov. 12:12). The very nature of these principles is to dispose the soul to actual conversion. Even moral virtues dispose to moral acts, how much more do supernatural principles dispose to spiritual acts? Moral habits are of our own house, but supernatural principles are of a higher extraction, coming down from heaven, and styled the virtues of God, (1 Pet. 2:9), therefore there must needs be more virtue and vigour in them than in moral habits, which come forth out of principles of reason, and are the virtues of men.
2. Actual conversion comes into being, as from the assistant and auxiliary grace of God. When the apostle gives account of himself as to the principles of grace, he saith, "By the grace of God I am that I am;" all his spiritual essence was from free grace: when he gives an account of himself as to the exercise of grace, he saith, "I laboured, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me," (1 Cor. 15:10); auxiliary grace, which was with him, moved the principles of grace, which made up his spiritual essence, into actual exercise. The new creature can no more do ought of itself than the old: as natural agents five and move in the God of nature, so spiritual agents live and move in the God of grace. Wherefore, that there may be actual conversion indeed, there is help from the holy one, a quickening virtue from God, (Psalm 119:37); a stirring up and fluttering over the nest of gracious principles, (Deut. 32:11); a supply of the Spirit, (Phil. 1:19); and grace with our spirit, (Philem. ver. 25); nay, in a sober sense, Immanuel, God with us; the Lord with us, to incline our hearts to him. (1 Kings, 8:57, 58). God himself is as dew to Israel, and then the roots of grace cast forth themselves, (Hos. 14:5). God blows and breathes upon his garden by auxiliary grace, and then the spices thereof flow out in the actual exercise of grace. (Cant. 4:16).
3. Actual conversion comes into being as from the soul itself. Timothy must ἀναζωπυρε͂ιν, stir or blow up his grace, (2 Tim. 1:6); auxiliary grace stirs and blows up the principles of grace, the principles of grace stir and blow up the soul, and the soul, by virtue of those principles and assistances, stirs and blows up itself unto actual conversion. Anima, as a learned man hath it, priùs actu agit, et priùs mota movet, et priùs à Deo conversa convertit se ad Deum. Hence in scripture conversion is styled man's act, he believes to righteousness, (Rom. 10:10); he returns to the Lord with all his heart, (1 Sam. 7:3); he gives himself unto the Lord, (2 Cor. 8:5): he obeys to the form of gospel doctrine, (Rom. 6:17); still it is man's act, where we may note a remarkable difference between habitual and actual conversion. In the production of actual conversion man is active, but in the production of gracious principles he is passive. We read in scripture of men believing and repenting, but we never read of any man who made himself a new heart, and a new spirit: these are of God's make only, but being made, the man, in whom they are, through auxiliary grace, doth actually turn to God.
Having showed what conversion is in the first and second instant thereof, I pass on to the next and last query, viz.,
3. Who is the worker of conversion? and this I shall cleave asunder into three questions.
1. Whether God be not the author of conversion?
2. After what manner it is wrought?
3. Whether God's will be not always accomplished therein?
1. Whether God be not the author of it? and to this scripture and reason answer in the affirmative.
1. Scripture asserts it; there conversion is painted out under various notions. With reference to our old corruption, it is called a new heart; with reference to the seed of the world, it is a generation; with reference to our natural birth, it is a regeneration; with reference to the law in the letter, it is the law in the heart; with reference to the world, it is a heavenly call out of it; with reference to Satan, it is a translation out of his kingdom; with reference to Christ, it is a coming to him by faith; with reference to God, it is a returning or conversion to him; with reference to our death in sins, it is a resurrection, a quickening of the dead; with reference to our nullity in spirituals, it is a creation or a new creature. The scripture phrases it many ways, but still it sets forth God as the supreme author of it. Be it a new heart, God is the giver of it, (Ezek. 36:26); be it a generation or regeneration, God is the father of it, (James, 1:18); be it the law in the heart, God is the writer of it, (Heb. 8:10); be it a call out of the world, God is the caller, (2 Tim. 1:9); be it a translation out of Satan's kingdom, God is the translator, (Col. 1:13); be it a coming to Christ, God is the drawer, (John. 6:44); be it a turning or returning to God, God is the converter; to him the church prays, "Turn us, O Lord and we shall be turned," (Lam. 5:21); be it a resurrection, God is the quickener, (Eph. 2:5); be it a new creation, God is the creator and we are ποίημα αὐτοῦ, his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, (Ephes. 2:10). Every way, God is the author of conversion; even in actual conversion, whilst the act is man's, the grace is God's; for he worketh the will and the deed.
2. Reason evinces this, and that three ways.
1. Creature-weakness needs it, man cannot convert himself; the natural man οὐ δέχεται, "receiveth not the things of God," (1 Cor. 2:14); nay, οὐ δύναται, "he cannot be subject to God's law," (Rom. 8:7); as to God, חֲסַרלֵב he wants a heart, (Prov. 9:4); a stone he hath, which resists God's will, but a heart he hath not to obey the same. His will is tota cupiditas, a lust rather than a will; no wonder if he cannot by his own power, convert himself. Conversion is a thing above the sphere of lapsed nature, nay, beyond the line of angels; man's heart is so dark, that those stars of light cannot irradiate it, and so cold, that those flames of love cannot warm it; there is such an iron sinew in it, as the heavenly hosts (which excel in strength) cannot bow, but must leave it to the arms of the Almighty, and when he doth it, they joy over the convert as a wonder of power and grace.
2. The excellency of the work calls for it. The body of nature is a rare piece, but the soul of man is of a nobler value, and in the soul, converting grace (which is but an accident) is worth more than the soul itself; it is the soul's rectitude, it is glory within, it is the precious hidden man of the heart, it is the very image of God, it is Christ formed in us, it is anima in centro, the soul centred in God, joined unto him, and after a wonderful manner becoming one spirit with him; it is faith in the true one, love in the essential love, a mind light in the Lord, and a will at liberty in the will of the primum liberum, and who can be author thereof, but God alone? God made all things, ab angelo usque ad vermiculum, from the angel in heaven to the worm on earth, but in conversion, he makes a poor worm angelize: God must be owned in every atom of nature, how much more in the great work of grace? This is one of the τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ θεοῦ, the wonderful works of God, (Acts 2:11). St. Austin tells a story of one, who was seduced at first but to deny God's creatorship in the fly, afterwards came to deny it in the bird, and then in the beast, and at last in man: but if any one should proceed so far as to deny him in conversion, it would be more prodigious blasphemy than all the rest. Saving grace is a ray or sparkle of the Deity, a thing merely κατα θεὸν, according to God, (Eph. 4:24); there is more of God to be seen in it, than in all the world of creatures besides; and by consequence, to deny him in that, is more than to deny him in all the rest.
3. The almightiness of grace can only effect it. As the scripture sets out conversion as a great work, so it sets out an almighty grace as the cause thereof. He that believes, according to some scriptures, that in the work of conversion there is a resurrection of the soul from the dead, a transformation of a stony heart into flesh, and a creation of a new heart and new spirit, must also believe, according to other scriptures, that in the production of that work, there is put forth a divine power, excellency of power, and exceeding greatness of power, such as raised up Christ from the dead. In conversion, there is not only a light shining round about the sinner, but a light shining into him; not only a waking of a sleepy will, but a quickening of a dead one; not only a proposal of divine objects, but an infusion of divine principles: therefore the grace effecting it must be almighty. That in the prophet, "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes," (Ezek. 36:27), is as much a word of power as the fiat which made the world; that in the gospel, "the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live," (John 5:25), sounds out as great an efficacy as that other, "Lazarus come forth;" nothing less than almighty power can effect it.
2. After what manner is it wrought? Our Saviour sets out the mystery of regeneration by the wind, "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," (John 3:8). In regeneration the Spirit blows with such a sound as breaks the stone in the heart, and with such lively gales as quicken the dead soul; but the manner of this work is in a great measure secret and incomprehensible by us. If we know not how the bones grow in the womb, how much less how Christ is formed in the heart. No man perfectly knows the least atom or dust in nature, how much less the grand mystery of grace! Here, then, we must proceed with great modesty and sobriety, keeping as close as may be to the line and level of scripture. Now here I shall make a threefold inquiry.
1. Whether the word of God be the means or instrument of conversion.
2. Whether the will of man be converted by the intervention of the enlightened understanding?
3. Whether the work of conversion be wrought in an irresistible way?
1. Whether the word be the means or instrument of conversion? And here I shall endeavour two things.
1. I will prove that it is so.
2. I will inquire how far, or in what sense it may be called so.
1. I shall prove that it is so, and that by three arguments.
1. Plain scripture asserts it.
2. Successive experience shews it.
3. The analogy between the principles of the new creature, and the properties of the word induces it.
1. Plain scripture asserts it. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," (Rom. 10:17); "The Holy Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation," (2 Tim. 3:15); "The law is perfect, converting the soul," (Ps. 19:7); "The gospel is the power of God to salvation to the believer," (Rom. 1:16); and for the unbeliever, who accounts it foolishness and weakness, the apostle assures us, that "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men," (1 Cor. 1:25); so much wiser as to out-reason their carnal understanding, and so much stronger as to out-wrestle their carnal wills and affections. The gospel it is, ministerium spiritûs, the ministration of the Spirit, (2 Cor. 3:8); the golden pipe, through which the oil of grace is emptied out into men's hearts, and the great organ, through which the Holy Ghost breathes spiritual life into them; it is the seed of the new creature, We are begotten by the word of truth, (James 1:18); "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever"; (1 Pet. 1:23); it is the white horse upon which Christ rides, conquering, and to conquer, (Rev. 6:2). Conversion is a conquest over the minds and wills of men, and for the obtaining thereof, Christ rides עַל־דְבַר upon the word of truth, (Psalm 45:5); and, because there be high things and strong holds in men's hearts, the word is as a mighty engine in his hands, to cast down those heights and holds, and captivate every thought to himself. (2 Cor. 10:4, 5.) The apostle taking notice of the work of faith, labour of love, and patience of hope in the Thessalonians, (1 Thes. 1:3), gives us a clear account whence those choice graces came, the fontal cause of them was election, (ver. 4), and the instrumental, the gospel, (ver. 5). "For" (saith he) "our gospel came unto you not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." In a word: all the current of scripture seals up this truth.
2. Successive experience shows it. St. Peter at once caught three thousand souls in the net of the gospel. (Acts 2:41.) St. Paul came to the Romans ἐν πληρώματι ευλογίας, in the fulness of the evangelical blessing, Rom. 15:29); the Corinthians were his seal, (1 Cor. 9:2), and the Thessalonians his joy and crown, (1 Thess. 2:19.) In all ages of the church, God's ministers have had a proof of Christ speaking in them, and God's people have felt the word to be spirit and life to them; in all places where God's name hath been recorded, his blessing hath been afforded; where the seed of the word hath been sown, new creatures, more or less, have sprung up out of it. Were there a general assembly of the first-born, what stories would they tell us about the power of the word? One would say, hell flashed in my face out of such a threatening; another, heaven opened to me in such a promise; a third, the beauty of holiness appeared to me in such a precept: every one, in the language of his own experience, would speak forth the wonders of the word. How many nave been forced by the power of it to fall down, and worship, and say, "God is in it of a truth?" How many have experimentally felt it, pointing out their darling lust, plucking again and again at the iron sinew in their wills, lifting and thrusting hard at the world in their hearts, and at last carrying away their souls in a fiery chariot of holy affections towards God in Christ. The common sense of Christians bears witness to the efficacy of it.
3. The analogy between the principles of the new creature, and the properties of the word, induces it. If we compare the understanding of the new creature with the word, there is a principle of excellent knowledge, and here is the word of truth, (Eph. 1:13); there is a lively and spiritual knowledge, and here are lively oracles, (Acts 7:38); and words which are spirit and life, (John 6:63); there is a near and intimate knowledge, and here is a word quick and powerful, piercing into the very soul and spirit, (Heb. 4:12); there is a divine faith or persuasion, and here are faithful sayings worthy of all acceptation, (1 Tim. 4:9); there is a clear vision, an open-faced knowledge, and here is a clear revelation, a pure glass reflecting the glory of God upon the heart, (2 Cor. 3:18): there is a practical knowledge, and here is a doctrine according to godliliness, (1 Tim. 6:3). Again, if we compare the will of the new creature with the word, there are holy desires breathing after, and holy resolutions fixing upon God as the ultimate end, and here are the goads and the nails, (Eccl. 12:11), which stir up those desires, and fasten those resolutions in the heart; there is freedom indeed, spiritual liberty in the ways of God, and here is free-making truth, (John 8:32), and a law of liberty, (James 1:25); there is a fiducial and complacential rest in God, and here are λόγοι πίσεως, words of faith to lean upon, (1 Tim. 4:6); and דּבְרֵי חֵפֶץ, words of delight to take pleasure in, (Eccl. 12:10); there is a closing with Christ in all his offices, as prophet, priest, and king; and here is this prophet speaking to us, this priest dying, and, as it were, crucified before our eyes, and this king upon his throne with a sceptre of righteousness in his hand; there is a sorrow for, and hatred of sin, and here is that which pricks us at the heart, and shows us sin as an abominable thing. If we compare the affections of the new creature with the word, there is a reduction of the affections unto reason, and here is reason in its height and pureness; there the world hath but a very low place, and here it hath but a very mean character; there the affections are inflamed towards God, and here is the holy fire which makes our hearts burn within us towards him. Every way there is a wonderful analogy between the principles of the new creature and the properties of the word, which plainly speaks forth the aptness and congruity of the word, to be a means or instrument of conversion.
2. How far or in what sense may the word be called a means or instrument thereof? In answer whereunto, I shall first lay down two things as common concessions, and then come to the main query.
The two concessions are these.
1. That the word is a means or instrument of the preparatives to conversion; it is as a fire and a hammer, (Jer. 23:29). When the Holy Ghost blows in this fire upon the conscience, every sin looks like a spark of hell; when the Almighty arms set home this hammer, it breaks the rocky heart all to pieces. No sooner doth the commandment come home to the heart, but sin revives and the sinner dies, (Rom. 7:9); the sin, which before lay as dead in the sleepy conscience, now lives and gnaws upon the heart, as if the never-dying worm were there; the sinner, who before was alive in his own self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, now is a dead man, one who hath the sentence of death in himself, and feels as it were the pangs of hell in conscience.
2. That the word is a means or instrument to reduce the principles of grace into actual conversion. When God stirs up and flutters over the nest of gracious principles, it is by the wings of the Spirit and word; when the spices of the garden flow out, it is from the north and south wind, the Spirit blowing in threatenings or promises. That which makes the roots of graces cast forth themselves into acts, is the dew of auxiliary grace, and that dew falls with the manna of the word. That grace with our spirit, which stirs up the principles of grace into exercise, comes in the clothing or investiture of some holy truth or other. Hence the apostle counts it one of his master-pieces, διεγείρειν, to stir up pure minds by his epistles, (2 Pet. 3:1).
These two concessions being laid down, the main query is, touching the production of gracious principles, whether as to that, the word may not be an instrument in God's hand? Many learned divines speak of the word as operating only morally and objectively. Mr. Pemble distinguishes thus; Instruments are either co-operative or passive, and the word must be one of the two; co-operative it is not, moving or working on the soul by any inward force of itself, it is therefore in itself a passive instrument, working only per modum objecti; now no object whatsoever hath any power, per se, to work any thing on the organ, but is only an occasion of working. And a little after, he saith thus, I cannot better express the manner how the Holy Ghost useth the word in the work of sanctification, than by a similitude; Christ meeting a dead corpse in the city of Nain, touches the bier and utters these words, Young man, I say unto thee, arise; but could these words do any thing to raise him? No, it was Christ's invisible power that quickened the dead; not his words, which only declared what he meant to do by his power: so in this matter of conversion, Christ bids us believe and repent, but these commands work nothing of themselves, but take effect by the only power of God working upon the heart. Thus that learned man. But me-thinks this is too low; the word of itself operates morally and objectively, and shall it do no more as clothed and accompanied by the Holy Spirit? Surely the scripture-strains touching the word's efficacy are so high, that it cannot be nudum signum, no, not as to the production of gracious principles; St. James is express, Of his own will begat he us, λόγῳ ἀληθείας, with the word of truth, (Jam. 1:18); and St. Paul is more emphatical; in Christ Jesus I have begotten you διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου by or through the Gospel, (1 Cor. 4:15); it is not κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, according to the Gospel, but διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, by or through Gospel, as pointing out the instrumentality of it in the generation of the new creature. And St. Peter is yet in a higher strain; We are born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, διὰ λόγου, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever, (1 Pet. 1:23); where, besides the emphatical διὰ, the word is styled no less than the incorruptible seed; not only a sampler externally shewing the figures and lineaments of the new creature, but a seed too, springing up into, and for ever living in the new creature. Faith (which is the new creature's head) is ἐξ ἀκοῆς, by or out of hearing the word, (Rom. 10:17), and so are all those sanctifying graces, which, as it were, make up the new creature's body: For thus our Saviour prays; "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth," (John. 17:17); and thus he practises too, He sanctifies and cleanses his church by the word. (Eph. 5:26.) Surely those scriptures which are able σοφίσαι, "to make wise to salvation," (2 Tim. 3:15), must do somewhat as to the principles of knowledge in the understanding; that law, which is מְשִׁיבַת "converting or restoring the soul," (Psalm 19:7), must do somewhat as to the principles of grace in the will; that word, which is δυνάμενον σῶσαι, "able to save the soul," (James 1:21), must also be able to sanctify it, because without holiness there is no seeing of God; that doctrine, which is ὑγιαίνουσῃ διδασκαλίᾳ, healing doctrine, (1 Tim. 1:10), must operate somewhat as to the principles of grace which heal the deadly wound of original corruption. The converted Corinthians were "Christ's epistle, and the apostle's too, written by the Holy Spirit, and ministered by the apostle also," (2 Cor. 3:2, 3). The apostle's weapons were mighty through God "to captivate every thought to Christ," (2 Cor. 10:4, 5); which could not be if they were not also mighty through God to set up Christ's throne in the heart. These scriptures constrain me to believe, that the word doth operate in the production of gracious principles, only not as it is alone or separate from the Holy Spirit, for so it operates only morally and objectively; but as it is clothed in the power and virtue of the Spirit, for so it becomes spirit and life to the soul. As for the similitude used by Mr. Pemble, I conceive that the raising of the young man from a natural death, and the raising of a sinner from a spiritual death, are not every way parallel. For in that, there was no capacity at all, in the naturally dead to receive the words of Christ; in this, there is a passive capacity in the spiritually dead to take in the word of God as from a divine impression; in that the words of Christ entered not at all into the naturally dead, in this the word of God enters into the spiritually dead, even intimately into his very heart; in that the words of Christ were transient and passed away, in this the word of God, though it may pass away as to its sounds and syllables, yet as to its substance it lives and abides for ever in the new creature. Wherefore, (these differences considered), I conclude, that Christ's words were only declarative in that resurrection, but God's word is operative also in this. The manner how God works gracious principles in and by his word as an instrument, is a secret which I dare not pry into; only for a little more illustration of the word's efficacy in the production of gracious principles, there are two instants or moments to be distinctly considered.
1. The first instant or moment is that wherein there is a close application and intimate inning of the word in the heart; in common auditors, the word is upon the heart, but here it is in it; in temporary believers, the word is in some degree in the heart, but here it is in it intimately. This close application is excellently set out in scripture; it is a nail fastened, (Eccles. 12:11); it is a word engrafted, (James 1:21); it is instruction sealed, (Job 33:16); it is the law put and written in the heart, (Heb. 8:10); it is wisdom entering into the heart, (Prov. 2:10); it is the apostle's ἔισοδος, or entrance into his auditors, (1 Thess. 2:1); it is the word having a place in us, (John 8:37); and such a place as to root in our hearts; thus Job says of himself, שֹׁרֶשׁ דָבָר the root of the word is found in me, (Job. 19:28); and this root is such as will abide in us, and become the incorruptible seed of the new creature. This close application is a glorious work of God, and the word is not altogether passive therein, but in the hand of the Spirit it is quick and powerful, as a sharp sword piercing and cutting its way into the heart, (Heb. 4:12); and as a mighty engine, casting down imaginations and high things there, (2 Cor. 10:5), that itself may have a place and throne in the same.
2. The second instant or moment is that wherein God in and by the word, so intimately inned in the heart, doth produce the principles of grace there; in the first moment, the indwelling word makes the heart a spiritual Bethlehem, a house of bread; in the second, Christ is spiritually born there; in the first moment, the incorruptible seed is sown in the heart, in the second, it springs up into a new creature. The scripture seems to me to hold out this method very clearly, The engrafted word is able to save the soul, (James 1:21); the word saves the soul, but not merely as outwardly expressed, but as inwardly engrafted. Faith comes by hearing the word, (Rom. 10:17); but is that a mere outward hearing? No surely, there is a hearing of the Father, and so a coming to Christ, (John 6:45). There is the powerful and intimate demonstration of the Spirit, and so faith stands in the power of God, (1 Cor. 2:4, 5); that is to say, in that power of God, which intimately demonstrates and closely applies the word unto the heart, as its true cause and foundation. When the apostle speaks of the Thessalonians' faith and love, (1 Thess. 1:3), he there opens the causes thereof, viz., the fontal cause, God's election, (ver. 4), and the instrumental cause, the gospel, (ver. 5); but how could the gospel be an instrument? The apostle tells us, that it came to them "not in word only, but in power and in the Holy Ghost;" it was strongly and sweetly set home upon the heart, and from that impress came faith and love. The wise man would have the word kept in the midst of the heart; and his reason is, because it is life, (Prov. 4:21, 22). The word in the ear only is but a transient sound, but the word in the midst of the heart is spirit and life. Job proves the truth of his grace thus, "The root of the word is in me," (Job 19:28). The word, as shining on the head, lights up notions; but, as rooted in the heart, springs up in graces. St. John tells the young men, that they are strong; and for a reason adds this, "the word of God abides in them," (1 John 2:14). St. Paul first speaks of his ἔισοδος, or entrance into his auditors, and then of their turn to the living and true God, (1 Thess. 1:9). The entrance of the word into the understanding giveth light, (Ps. 119:130); and when it passeth from the understanding to the will, it is spiritually a word upon the wheels, and inwardly becomes free-making truth, (John 8:32), ennobling the will with true liberty in the ways of God. Epaphras was in an agony of prayer for the Colossians, that "they might be filled in all the will of God," (Col. 4:12); the more filling with God's will, the more true liberty in ours. St. Peter clearly asserts, that "we are born again of the incorruptible seed of the word," (1 Pet. 1:23). In which words his plain meaning is, that the word being intimately sown in the heart doth, under the warming influences of the Holy Spirit, spring up into the new creature; and to make this the plainer, he adds, that "the word lives and abides for ever," speaking, as I take it, not of the words living and abiding in itself, but of its living and abiding in the new creature. As it is with natural seed or grain sown, the husk or outward part passes away, but the lively or substantial part springs up into the stalk, blade, and ear; so it is with the seed of the word, the letters and syllables, the noise and sound of words pass away, but the lively and substantial truth springs up into the new creature, and in it lives and abides for ever. God made two great promises of regeneration; the one, "That he would write the law in the heart;" and the other, "That he would give a new heart;" and the latter he fulfils by the former.
In these two instants, distinguishable at least in nature, doth God by his word bring forth the principles of grace. Now here I would conclude this point, but that I am obviated by two objections.
The one absolutely against the word's instrumentality.
The other against the method proposed in the two instants.
1. Object. That against the word's instrumentality is this: the production of gracious principles is a creation, and in creation there can be no instrument at all, and therefore the word cannot be an instrument in that production.
In answer to which objection, founded on philosophical principles, I think it were enough I to say, with the Psalmist, "Thy testimonies are wonderful," (Psalm 119:129); or with the convicted man, "God is in it, of a truth," (1 Cor. 14:25); or with the apostle, "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men," (1 Cor. 1:25). The scriptures asserting this instrumentality, what if this philosophical objection could not be answered, must therefore the holy oracle be rejected? What if reason cannot comprehend it, must therefore faith renounce it? How much better is that old gloss, taceat mulier in ecclesia, Let reason be silent in the church. But for some satisfaction, I shall offer four things to your consideration.
1. Consider who is the principal agent, who but the Almighty? And if he will appear in the word, (as the expression is, Acts 26:16), what may not be done by it? The apostle was but an earthern vessel, yet a minister of the quickening Spirit, because God ἱκάνωσεν, made him sufficient to be such a one. (2 Cor. 3:6.) If he make the word sufficient to regenerate, who can gainsay it?
2. Consider what the instrument is, it is the word of God; the two grand truths therein are the law and gospel, and what are these in their eternal idea? The law is an ἁπαύγασμα or eternal off-shining from the divine will as righteous; and the gospel is an ἁπαύγασμα or eternal off-shining from the divine will as gracious, and what are they in their external revelation? The scripture is θεόπνευστος, breathed out from the very mind and heart of God, and, therefore, cannot be less than a lively picture or image of the divine will: wherefore, that such a word, as is the image of the divine will, should instrumentally produce the new creature, which is the image of the divine nature, seems to me rather congruous than impossible.
3. Consider what the principles of grace are, they are not substances, but accidents, depending upon their subject, in esse et operari, and may more properly be said to be increated than cretated: now if there could be no instrument in the creation of substances, yet why may not there be one in the increation of accidents?
4. Consider what a kind of creation the production of gracious principles is. Is it every way pure creation? how then is it generation? how resurrection? pure creation can be neither of these: you will say, it is generation and resurrection, but metaphorically only; very well, if it be but so, the metaphor must be founded on some true likeness or analogy between these and the production of gracious principles, which is altogether unimaginable in a pure creation. It remains, therefore, that the production of gracious principles is styled all these in scripture, partly to import the excellency of the work, such as cannot be fully expressed by any single one of these, and partly to hint out the nature of the work, such as hath in it somewhat analogous to every one of these: wherefore, I take it to be thus, it is a creation, because a real production of gracious principles by Almighty power; it is a generation, because of the immortal seed of the word, and it is a resurrection, because a man spiritually dead is raised up to divine life. Now if there could be no instrument in a pure creation, yet may there be one in the production of gracious principles, because that is not purely creation, though there be a creating power put forth therein.
2. Object. The other objection is against the method proposed in the two instants, viz., That first in nature the word is put into the heart, and then the principles of grace are produced, which is contrary to that, The natural man receives not the things of God, (1 Cor. 2:14); and contrary to that, The word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith, (Heb. 4:2); and also contrary to the scope of that parable, where the seed of the word only fructifies in a good and honest heart, (Luke 8:15), for according to the method of the two instants, the natural man doth receive the things of God, the word doth profit before it is mixed with faith, and the seed doth fructify in a heart not good or honest.
In answer whereunto, I conceive that the method proposed in the two instants doth not contradict any of these scriptures. As for the first place, The natural man receives not the things of God; I answer, that the things or truths of God may be received in the heart two ways; either passively, by way of impression from the Holy Spirit, or actually, by way of actively discerning them in the understanding, and embracing them in the will: the former is a reception of them according to the obediential capacity of the heart, the latter a reception of them according to the spiritual faculty thereof: the former doth at least in nature go before the principles of grace, in order to their production; the latter doth follow after the principles of grace, as the fruit thereof. The former is that which is done in the first instant above-mentioned, the latter is that which is spoken of by the Apostle in the text above-named: for there he saith, that "the natural man receiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," where evidently he speaks of such a receiving as is an actual knowing and spiritual discerning of the things of God: wherefore, according to the Apostle, this active receiving doth presuppose the principles of grace already in being; but the other passive receiving (of which the Apostle there speaks not) doth only pre-suppose an obediential capacity in the soul. There is a double obediential capacity in the soul to receive the truths of God as by way of impression; the ultimate and radical capacity is the rationality of the soul, and the next and immediate capacity is that softness of heart which is wrought in the preparatory work of conversion. The soul as rational is capable to receive an impression of truths from God, and as softened, it is yet further disposed thereunto. This is that obediential capacity which is required in the method of the two instants, and which the Apostle in that place doth not so much as touch upon.
As for the second place, The word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith; I answer, that the word may be considered under a double notion, either as it is operative of faith, or as it is promissive of rest to believers: take it as operative of faith, and so it profits, not being mixed with faith, otherwise faith could not come by hearing, as the apostle asserts, (Rom. 10:17); but take it as promissive of rest to believers, and so it doth not profit, not being mixed with faith; that is, faith, which is the condition of the promise, not being performed, the eternal rest, which is the thing promised, cannot belong to them: and this is clearly the apostle's meaning; for having spoken of a promise of rest, (Heb. 4 ver. 1), he adds, (ver. 2), "The word" (that is, the promise of rest spoken of before) "did not profit them, not being mixed with faith," that is, the promised rest was of no effect to them, because they were unbelievers; and in this sense the words no way oppose the method in the two instants.
As for the parable where it is said, that "the seed of the word fructifies in the good and honest heart," I answer, that the seed of the word may be said to fructify two ways, either internally in the production of inward graces, or externally in the production of outward good works: now our Saviour's scope in this parable, at least in the latter part thereof, touching the good ground, was to show how the word did fructify in the production of outward good works; this is clear, because it is such a fructification as pre-supposes a good and honest heart: so that our Saviour doth not here deny the word's fructification in the production of graces; but asserts the word's fructification in the production of good works. Nay, in the former part of the parable touching the three sorts of bad ground, laying down the impediments of the word's fructification, and those impediments being in themselves impediments to all kind of fructification, as well that which is in the production of graces, as that which is in the production of good works; he seems, by way of implication, to hint out the word's fructification in the production of graces, according to the method of the two instants; for he saith, that the word did not fructify in the stony ground, because they had no root, (Luke 8:13), intimating that the word must first root, before it can fructify at all: so that if we might gather out of this parable the whole method of the word's fructification, it seems to be thus; first, the word must be notionly understood, which was wanting in him by the way-side; then it must be inwardly rooted, which was wanting in the stony ground; then it must cast the choaking world out of the heart, which was wanting in the thorny ground; then it makes the heart a good and honest heart; and lastly, it makes that good and honest heart fructify in all outward good works; wherefore this parable is so far from contradicting, that it seems rather to illustrate the method proposed in the two instants abovesaid.
Having passed the first query, I proceed to the second.
2. Query, Whether the will of man be converted by the intervention of the enlightened understanding?
In answer to which, I shall lay down two positions.
1. That the will of man doth infallibly and necessarily follow the practical understanding.
2. That the will of man doth so in the matter of conversion.
But that there may be a clear foundation, I shall first lay down some differences between theoretical knowledge, and practical, as to the truths and things of God. And,
1. These differ subjectivè; not as if these were not both in the same understanding, but that their way of inhesion there is different. Theoretical knowledge is in the understanding but superficially, a flash and away, a light taste, such as was in those apostates, (Heb. 6:5); a word sown but unrooted, such as that in the stony ground, (Matt. 13:21); but practical knowledge is deeply radicated in the understanding; it is truth in the hidden parts, wisdom entering into the soul, and a word sinking down into the heart; and, which is a second difference springing out of the former, theoretical knowledge, being but superficial, hath much of doubtings and fluctuation; it sees and sees not, it is a dark and half vision, a persuasion ἐν ὀλίγῳ, in a little, as the expression is, (Acts 26:28); but practical knowledge being deeply radicated, hath much of certainty and assurance in it; it is instruction sealed, a vision unveiled, and with open face: a man need not say, Who shall ascend into heaven? or who shall descend into the deep? the word is in the heart in such a sensible presentiality, as makes a thorough persuasion of the truth thereof.
2. These differ objectivè. Theoretical knowledge represents things as good or evil only in the general, but practical knowledge represents this or that as good or evil in its individuality, and as clothed with all its circumstances. In Herod's theoretical knowledge it was evil to kill John the Baptist; but in his practical judgment, with the circumstance of his oath, it was good in his eyes to do so. The theoretical knowledge in the stony ground pronounces the word to be good, but the practical judgment sentences it evil with persecution. But to carry on the difference a little further: theoretical knowledge, representing things as good or evil only in the general, speaks little or nothing to practice, but practical knowledge, representing this or that as good or evil in its individual circumstances, speaks absolutely and with a kind of authority; this must be done, and that must not not be done: when it says, This must be done, it is promotive of the duty; they that know thy name will trust in thee, (Ps. 9:10), and by the same reason will do other duties required by thee: when it says, That must not be done, it is preventive of sin; "If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory," (1 Cor. 2:8), that is, a practical knowledge would effectually have impeded that sin, and by the same reason will it impede other sins; both ways it hath a great influence into practice.
3. These differ essentially. Theoretical knowledge is in some sense but knowledge falsely so; called, because it knows not the things of God as they are proposed to be known; those things are proposed to be known not as mere notions, but as practical things, to be above all other things chosen, loved, embraced and practised: wherefore a theoretical knowledge, knowing them notionally only, even whilst it is materially true, hath a secret lie in it, because it judges of them theoretically only, of which it should judge practically. Thus the Apostle, "He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him, (1 John 2:4), not in him as it should be; for in the midst of all his puffing knowledge, he knoweth nothing as he ought to know, (1 Cor. 8:2), because not in a practical way; but practical knowledge is a true knowledge, it knows the things of God as they are proposed to be known, that is, not as mere notions, but as things to be practically improved in heart and life; it knows them as it ought to know them. And out of this difference arises a second: theoretical knowledge being but a false knowledge, is but a weak and dead thing, able to put forth no vital or spiritual action; just as a flash of lightning in the night, it makes all the way plain, but before one step can be taken, all is in darkness; such a vanishing vapour is mere notion, which puffs the head but penetrates not into the heart. But practical knowledge, being a true knowledge, hath strength and life in it, it puts forth vital and spiritual actions. Hence our Saviour calls it no less than eternal life, (John 17:3); it forges out the blood and vital spirits of the new creature, strengthens him with spiritual bones and sinews, and sets him in motion towards the crown of life in heaven.
These differences premised, I proceed to prove the two positions laid down.
1. The first was this, That man's will doth infallibly and necessarily follow the practical understanding, and this I shall endeavour to make out,
1. From God's ordination, in which there are two things to be considered.
1. God never made the will of man to stand alone.
2. God never made it to go alone: both which may yet be, if it follow not the practical understanding.
1. God never made the will of man to stand alone, but he would have it depend upon the understanding: as he made the sensitive appetite to depend upon the senses, so he made the will to depend upon the understanding. Hence the will, which is in itself, but cæca potentia, a blind power, in its dependance, is ὅρεξις μετά λόγου, a rational appetite. If the will do not depend upon the understanding, where doth it stand but upon the base of its own independency? You will say, No, not so; for still it is under the guidance of Providence. I answer; that providence, which rules all things in a sweet congruity to their natures, rules the will, not as a brute, but as a rational appetite; and how that can be without its dependance on the understanding, I know not.
2. God never made it to go alone; it is in itself but a blind power, and God never made the blind to go alone. Even in brutes there is sense to light the appetite, much more in man understanding to light the will. Hence the understanding is called τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν, the leading or ruling faculty, and lucerna Domini, the candle of the Lord, (Prov. 20:27): without it the will is all in the dark. If the will can go alone in any acts, surely it must be in acts of sin, which have much of darkness in them; but even there, whilst the holy law of God is violated, the dictates of the corrupt understanding are observed. If the will can go alone in any acts of sin, surely it must be above all in such acts as are most against knowledge; but even there, whilst theoretical knowledge is opposed, the practical judgment is fulfilled. Hence such presumptuous sinners as rebel against the light, are yet said to walk in their own counsels, (Ps. 81:12), because they follow their practical judgment; and to err in their hearts, (Ps. 95:10), because that practical judgment which they follow is corrupt and erroneous; and to make them idols according to their own understanding, (Hos. 13:2), because first the understanding frames the idol, and then the will falls down and worshippeth.
2. I argue from the will itself, which may be considered two ways, either as it is in itself, or as it is in dependance upon the understanding.
1. As it is in itself, and so it is an appetite; its object is good, real, or at least apparent, for malum, quà malum, non est appetibile; and that good must be proposed by the understanding, for that is instead of eyes to the will. Suppose, then, that the understanding do show forth to the will such a thing as good pro hîc et nunc, and that so good, that it is immediately to be embraced, and cannot without a present evil be neglected, no, not for a moment: if in this case the will may refuse this object, it may appetere malum sub ratione mali, that is, appetere non appetibile, and in so doing it may cease to be, what it essentially is, an appetite.
2. As it is in dependance upon the understanding, and so it is a rational appetite, and, which results from thence, it is a free appetite; the root of its freedom is in the understanding. Why hath a will a liberty of spontaneity to some objects, but because the understanding represents them as good, pro hîc et nunc? Why a liberty of contradiction to other objects, but because the understanding looks on them as matters of little or no moment? One would think so odious and detestable a thing as sin, could not be chosen by the will; but the erring understanding gilds and glosses it over with a show of good. One would think, such glorious and all-desirable objects as are in the gospel could not be refused by the will, but the blind understanding sees little or no worth at all in them. But now if the practical judgment propose a thing as good, and the will reject it, it is no longer a rational appetite, but a brute; neither is it any longer free, but cut off, and in statu separato from the root and fountain of its liberty; neither is its act a free act, but beluinus impetus, a brutish violence, for it hath no understanding at all at the root and bottom of it, no more than the act of a beast hath. What, then, shall we say? Can the will cease to be a rational and free appetite? Or may it be rational and free without an understanding? Neither of these can be: wherefore it remains that it must follow the practical judgment, and so continue free and rational.
3. I argue from the effect, which shows much of harmony between the posture of the understanding, and the posture of the will. Is the understanding determinate? So is the will: hence if the understanding represent a thing as good, the will embraces it as such, if as a greater good, it embraces it the more; if as a summum bonum, it embraces it summo conatu. On the other hand, if the understanding represent a thing as evil, the will starts back from it; if, as a greater evil, it flies yet further from it; if, as malum maximum, it can never fly far enough from it. Is the understanding pendulous? So is the will too: hence, if the understanding represent a thing as a matter indifferent, having little or nothing of moment in it, one way or other, the will doth not infallibly will it as it doth the good, nor nill it as it doth the evil, but in a pendulous way it hangs off and plays on, because the understanding doth not pronounce it good or evil, but only indifferent. The will observes every motion of the practical judgment; if that say, Yonder is such a good, the will cleaves to it, as Ruth to Naomi; if that say, There is such an evil, the will flies from it, as Moses from the serpent; if that say, Such a thing is indifferent, the will stands as the king of Babylon, at the parting of the way, (Ezek. 21:21); it may will or not will; for there is an equilibrium in the will, answering the equilibrium in the understanding.
4. I argue from the consequent absurdity: if the will do not follow the practical judgment, then, although the practical judgment be never so right, yet may the will transgress, and by consequence a man may be a sinner and no fool, which is impossible. In scripture, sin is חַטָּאָה, an aberration, (Isai. 5:18); ἁμαρτία, a missing of the mark, (1 John 3:4); ἀγνόημα, an ignorance, (Heb. 9:7); πλάνη, an error, (Rom. 1:27); error in heart, (Heb. 3:10); and error of way, (James 5:20); and, which is the fullest expression of all, folly, foolishness, and madness, (Eccl. 7:25); as if all words were too little to express the folly thereof: also sinners are stragglers orwanderers, (Isai. 53:6); ἀνόητοι, without mind, (Tit. 3:3); simple ones, such as want heart, (Prov. 9:4); ἄτοποι, unreasonable men, (2 Thess. 3:2); fools, nay madmen, (Acts 26:11); nay, as if there were nothing of man in them, ἄλογα ζῶα, brute beasts, (2 Peter 2:12). Even in the first sin of man, the apostle tells us, That the woman ἀπατηθεῖσα, being deceived, was in the transgression, (1 Tim. 2:14). First, there was an error, a false end in her mind, and then the forbidden fruit was embraced by her will. But now after all this, if the practical judgment be right set, and yet the will may turn away unto sin, then that which is impossible in scripture, may be possible in nature; there may be a sinner and no fool, sin and no folly, wandering without error, missing the mark without any false end, transgression and nothing of deception in it; a man and a brute coupled together in the same act, the understanding playing the man in its right directions, and the will playing the brute in its irrational aversation: all which absurdities are unavoidable by such as assert, that the will doth not follow the practical judgment.
2. Posit. Leaving the first position, I proceed to the second, viz., That the will of man doth infallibly follow the practical understanding in the matter of conversion.
And here again I might re-inforce the former arguments with an emphasis: if the will cannot stand alone and upon the bottom of its own independency in other matters, much less can it do so in conversion, to which the working and I drawing of Almighty grace is requisite: if in other matters, the will cannot go alone without the torch of reason, surely in conversion it cannot go alone without the torch of supernatural illumination. If the will, by deserting a lesser good proposed by the understanding, do appetere malum sub ratione mali, then the will by deserting God proposed as the summum bonum by the understanding, doth appetere summum malum so; if the will, by rejecting an inferior good proposed by the practical judgment, must become brutish and irrational, how much more brutish and irrational must it become by rejecting the summum bonum so proposed? If the will may be determined by the understanding as to a lesser good, nay, as to a false lying good, as in the case of sin, how much rather may it be so determined as to the summum bonum? If by the will's turning away from the understanding right set, there may be sin in the will, and no folly in the understanding, which is impossible; then by such turning away there may be no charity in the will, and yet true faith in the understanding, which is also impossible. But pretermitting these, I come more closely to the thesis, that is, That the will doth follow the understanding in the business of conversion. Now, whereas the conversion of the will is double; either it is the production of gracious principles in the will, or it is the actual conversion of the will: in the first, the will is passive, in the other active. The will's following the understanding is double also; as to the principles of grace in the will, the understanding is as the channel through which those principles are infused into the will; as to the actual conversion of the will, the understanding is as a potent persuader inducing the will unto actual conversion. In the first the will follows the understanding passively only and by way of reception of principles; in the second, the will follows the understanding actively and by way of free actuation of those principles.
I shall speak somewhat to both these.
1. As to the principles of grace in the will, the understanding is as the channel through which those principles are transfused into the will. God doth not infuse the principles of grace into the will ἀμέσως, but he puts in his hand "by the hole of the door, and so the church's bowels are moved for him," (Cant. 5:4): he puts in his grace at the understanding, and so the will and affections are turned to him; he purifies the heart by faith, (Acts 15:9); that is, through faith in the understanding he influences holiness into the will, and this holiness is called by the apostle, holiness of truth, (Eph. 4:24); not only because it is a real holiness, but especially because it is wrought through the truth, first entering in at the understanding, and so passing on to the will: and that this is the apostle's meaning appears, because he opposes holiness of truth, in the 24th verse; to the lusts of deceit, in the 22nd verse. As those are lusts of deceit, because the lusting will follows upon the erring understanding, so this is holiness of truth, because the holy will follows upon the true understanding. The practical knowledge of God is styled eternal life, (John 17:3), and a well-spring of life, (Prov. 16:22); and the reason is, because through it all quickening graces do, as a river of life, flow into the will. Above all, that of the apostle is most pregnant, "Beholding as in a glass the glory of God, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord," (2 Cor. 3:18). The glory of God is reflected from Christ upon the gospel, and from the gospel upon the understanding, and from the understanding upon the will, and so we are changed into his glorious image. In man's first transgression death entered in at the windows of the mind, and so got into the secret closet of the heart, and in man's first conversion life comes in at the mind, and so passes down into the will. All the grace that a man hath, saith Dr. Preston, passes in through the understanding; and if it were not so, how could the word be an instrument of the will's regeneration? There is no passage for it into the will but through the understanding. In regeneration the law is writ in the heart, and how can that be but through the understanding? The appetitive faculty is naturally crooked, and if ever it be made right, it must be through the apprehensive faculty: all the things of godliness are given διὰ της ἐπιγνώσεως, through the knowledge of God, (2 Peter 1:3); that is the great channel by which all grace passes into the will.
2. As to the actual conversion of the will, the understanding is as a potent persuader, effectually inducing the will thereunto. There are three principal things in the will's actual conversion, viz., a turning to God as its supreme end, an embracing Christ as the only way, and a rejection of sin as the great obstacle; and in all these the will doth follow the understanding.
1. The will doth follow the understanding in its turn to God as the supreme end, and this appears divers ways.
1. The scriptures clear it to us; there we find in conjunction, bethinking and turning, (2 Chron. 6:37); remembering and turning, (Ps. 22:27); considering and turning, (Ezek. 18:28); understanding and turning, (Matt. 13:15); and opening the eyes and turning, (Acts 26:18); in all which places the understanding goes before, and the will follows after. There we find conversion to be a thing wrought by persuasion, "God shall persuade Japheth," (Gen. 9:27); by inshining, "God hath shined in our hearts," (2 Cor. 4:6); by teaching, "They shall be all taught of God," (John 6:45); by anointing, "You have an unction from the Holy One," (1 John 2:20); and by coming to a man's self, (Luke 15:17); first the prodigal came to himself, and then he returned to his father: the import of all which, is plainly thus much, That God doth actually draw home the will unto himself through the understanding; "Thy people," saith the Psalmist, "shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth," (Ps. 110:3); here are a willing people like the dew for multitude, but whence are they? Whence, but from the womb of the morning? The morning of supernatural illumination is the womb out of which they issue: as long as there is "no morning" in men, as the expression is, (Isa. 8:20), there is no will at all to God; but as soon as the day dawns in their hearts, out comes a willing people, as dew from the morning.
2. The nature of the will holds forth thus much: the will naturally wills blessedness, or the ultimate end in general, because it is a good perfective and expletive of the soul; but the will doth not naturally fix on this or that thing as its blessedness or ultimate end in particular. One man fixes on mammon as his chief good, another makes his belly his God, a third is all for the pride of life; whence is the will thus determined? Either it must be determined by itself, or else by the understanding; not by itself, for it is a blind faculty, and cannot of itself judge anything to be a chief good, much less can it fix itself on it as such; wherefore it must be determined by the understanding. One man chooses mammon to be his chief good, because, as the Psalmist hath it, "his inward thought is, that his house shall continue for ever," (Psalm 49:11); that is lasting happiness, saith his carnal understanding. Another makes his belly his God, because "his inward thought is, eat, drink, and be merry," (Luke, 12:19); there is nothing better, saith his brutish understanding. A third is all for the pride of life, because his inward thought is, to be a Lucifer in self-excellencies; that is the top of bliss, saith his soaring understanding. In every one of these, first the understanding makes the idol, and then the will doth fall down and worship. Now if the will may be determined by the understanding to such false beatitudes as these, how much more may it be determined by the understanding to God, who is the true blessedness?
3. This appears from the excellency of that practical understanding which draws the will unto actual conversion. It is an excellent understanding for the object of it; being in the mount of transfiguration, it shews forth unto the will, not creatures, chips of being in the shell of time, but a Jehovah of self-beingness, a God of all-sufficiency dwelling in eternity; not streams of life or goodness in the creature-channel, but a fountain of living waters, an ocean of immense goodness, such as cannot be sailed over by faith or vision; not golden or pearly mountains, but an infinite mass of free grace, unsearchable riches of mercy, such as cannot be told over to all eternity; not shadows or little portions of being, but the ὸ ὢν, (Rev. 1:4), the true, I am; the τὰ πάντα, or the all things, (1 Cor. 15:28), in whom are all the rich mines of universal blessedness; and (which is the sweetness of all) it shews forth this God, not as reserving himself only to himself, but as freely offering himself to poor worms. Oh, my soul! stand still and adore the opening of his bowels, and self-motion of his grace; this Jehovah of self-beingness and all-sufficiency will make over himself to thee; this fountain of life and goodness will flow out to thee; this rich mass of grace and mercy will portion thee; this, I am, and ever-blessed All, is an inheritance for thee; and in inheriting him thou mayest after a wonderful manner inherit all things. This is the infinite excellency of the object; but after what manner doth the understanding show it forth unto the will? Surely, though as much below his worth as finite is below infinite, yet in an excellent way; the understanding shows forth God unto the will, not in a dead or literal manner, but with spiritual liveliness, and, as I may so say, in sparkles of glory; for it is eternal life, and heaven itself dawns in it, not darkly or at a distance, but clearly and closely; the day-star is up in the heart, and God approaches near unto the will, his goodness passes before it, and leaves some holy touches and savours thereupon, not in a weak and languishing manner, but powerfully and effectually. The apostle joins the demonstration of the spirit and power together, (1 Cor. 2:4). There is such a demonstration of the spirit in the understanding as cannot be denied, and from thence such a power upon the will as cannot be frustrated; not notionally only, but practically; it seriously presseth in upon the will. Here, O rational appetite! here is a God indeed; his grace free, his mercy self-moving; take him, and thou hast all; lose him, and thou hast nothing. Now, Oh! now is the accepted time, the day of salvation; in his favour there is life, in his wrath nothing but death: if he bless thee, none can curse; if he curse thee, none can bless; now or never, turn and live. After this manner doth it practically press in upon the will. Now when the understanding holds forth such an excellent object in such an excellent manner unto the will, already principled with grace, how can it choose, but actually close in with it? Such a knowledge being really actuated, can the will turn aside to other objects for its happiness? The simple one may turn away, (Prov. 1:32), but shall a man of understanding do so? A deceived heart may turn aside, (Isa. 44:20), but shall the wise in heart do so? A heart of unbelief may depart from the living God, (Heb. 3:12), but shall a man of precious faith do so? But whither can he turn? What, to the riches of the world? It is but dross to the unsearchable riches of Christ, saith the understanding: What, to honours? It is but a blast to the true honour which cometh of God only, saith the understanding: What, to pleasures? These are muddy puddles, to the pure rivers of pleasure above, saith the understanding. This understanding doth as it were blast all the world, crucify the universe, and, by a prospect of faith, see the heavens on fire, the earth burnt up, and the elements melting with fervent heat, and can the will fall in love with the dust and cinders of it? Surely it will not. But if the will cannot turn aside to such false beatitudes, yet may it not suspend its act as to the true? Suspend! What from its own blessedness, verily, thoroughly believed? What from God, the all in all, plainly, powerfully demonstrated to be such? And what for just nothing, for a sic volo? Can it be so brutishly free at so dear a rate as to be eternally miserable? Will it hang off from perfect blessedness? or can it do so, and the summum malum not fall into its embraces? And may a will renewed with the Holy Ghost, and right set by gracious principles do thus? Surely it cannot, "They that know thy name will trust in thee," (Ps. 9:10); and (which follows upon trust) will love thee: and (which streams from love) will obey thee: and (which is the crown of obedience) will resign up themselves to thee for all their happiness. Where such an excellent understanding goes before, there the will doth infallibly follow after, even in actual conversion unto God as its supreme end.
2. The will doth follow the understanding in its embracing of Christ as the only way, and this appears
1. From several scriptures. To know Jesus Christ is eternal life, (John 17:3); it quickens the will to embrace him. Christ told the woman, "If thou hadst known the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water," (John 4:10.) A true knowledge of Christ would have inflamed her desires after him, and those desires would have breathed out prayers for the living water. Our Saviour quotes that in the prophets [and they shall be all taught of God], and what follows upon that teaching? Every man therefore (saith he) that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me, (John 6:45.) True knowledge makes a man come to Christ, and that without fail, for it is so in every man that hears and learns of the Father; not in one or two, but in every man: and how doth knowledge do this? How, but by glorifying Christ unto the will? The Spirit (saith Christ) shall glorify me; how so? He shall take of mine and shall shew unto you, (John 16:14, 15); the Holy Spirit takes Christ and shews him after a wonderful manner; it glorifies him in the understanding, and through the understanding it glorifies him before the will, and so the will is sweetly and strongly drawn unto him.
2. From the will itself. If the will be determined by the understanding, unto God as its ultimate end, then is it also determined by the understanding, unto Christ as the only way thereunto. Indeed, if the understanding did propose an end, and withal two distinct ways of equal tendency thereunto, then the will might be free to either of those ways: but when the understanding proposes God as the end, and Christ as the only way to that end, then the will must infallibly close in with Christ; it must, or lose its end or blessedness; it must, or the summum malum will fall into its arms. When the understanding tells the will in good earnest, there is no other way but one, there is no other name under heaven but Jesus only, the will is sweetly constrained into his embraces.
3. From the understanding, which shews forth Christ to be the perfect way suitable to all our wants in our passage to God the true end. Thou wouldst come to God, but for the weight of sin and wrath; lo, here is an High Priest with expiating blood; thou wouldst come to God, but thou knowest not the way thither, here is a Prophet with words of light and life; thou wouldst come to God but for the pressure of thy reigning lusts, here is a King with a sceptre of righteousness to subdue them; thou wouldst come to God, but for want of a gracious heart, here is a Treasury of all grace and holiness. The understanding still points at Christ. Art thou in darkness? he is a sun of righteousness; art thou in death? he is the resurrection and the life; art thou a withered branch? he is a root of fatness and sweetness; art thou a lost and half-damned creature? he is a Saviour able to save to the uttermost. Tins understanding glorifies Christ in all his offices, sings the song of the Lamb, and cries him up for altogether precious; this is the window or lattice at which his all-fair person looks in upon the will; the conduit through which the sweet ointment of his name is poured out unto the will, and the crucifix, which shews forth his bloody passion in lively colours before the will. This understanding practically presses the will to embrace him; O my soul! now hear and live; take him, and everlasting mercy meets thee; leave him, and devouring justice overtakes thee; catch hold on this Prince of life, or die for ever; look up to this Brightness of glory, or be in utter darkness; wash in his blood, or bleed in eternal flames; put on his righteousness, or be naked to all eternity; there is no way into the holy of holies, but through the veil of his flesh; enter, and thou hast an ever-blessed God to make thee happy; neglect, and thou hast a righteous God to make thee for ever miserable. When Christ, through the understanding, thus pours out his precious name as an ointment unto the will, how can it choose but love him? When through this hole of the door he thus drops in his sweet-smelling truths upon the will, how can it choose, but rise and open to him? If it do not, whither will it turn? What, to the creatures? they are all blackamoors to this all-lovely Jesus. What, to repentant tears? those want washing in his blood. What, to its good works and righteousness? they are but a filthy rag. There is such a τὸ ὑπερέχον, such a transcendent excellency in the knowledge of Christ, that it makes all other things but as dung before the will, (Phil. 3:8). Hence the will hath no whither else to turn. But if it turn no whither else, may it not suspend its act as to Christ? Suspend! What, from the only way to blessedness evidently pointed out? What, from him who is all desires really believed to be such? Can it thus waive happiness, and embrace mere nothing in the room thereof? and can it do thus when a right-set understanding is really actuated, and itself truly principled with grace? Surely, it cannot be. No sooner did Christ see the budding graces of his church, but his soul made him like the chariots of Amminadib, (Cant. 6:11, 12); and no sooner do christians see the lovely excellencies of Christ, but they will become an Amminadib, a willing people, and their wills as so many swift chariots to convey them unto him. Thus the will follows the understanding in its embraces of Christ as the way.
3. The will follows the understanding in its rejection of sin as the great obstacle, and this also appears,
1. From several scriptures; there we find on the one hand, that folly is the root of the commission of sin; "The foolishness of man perverteth his way," (Prov. 19:3). Why doth the atheist say in his heart, there is no God? Because he is a fool, (Psalm 14:1). Why do the mammonists boast and trust in their uncertain riches? Because their way is their folly, (Ps. 49:13). Why doth the blind idolator fall down to the stock of a tree? Because a deceived heart hath turned him aside, (Isai. 44:19, 20). Why did the rebellious Israelites grieve their good God forty years together? Because they did err in their hearts, (Ps. 95:10.) On the other hand, there we find that true wisdom or understanding is the root of the rejection of sin, "To depart from evil is understanding," (Job 28:28); the pollutions of the world are escaped through the knowledge of Christ, (2 Pet. 2:20); "Through thy precepts (saith David) I get understanding," what then? "therefore I hate every false way," (Ps. 119:104); and again, "I esteem all thy precepts to be right," and what follows? "I hate every false way," (v. 128). First, there was a right judgment in his understanding, and thence issued a hatred of sin in his will. For all the wolves and the leopards, yet (saith God) "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain;" why so? "Because the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord," (Isa. 11:9); that saving knowledge should turn them into lambs and little children, and make them leave off their barbarous and inhuman cruelty. Hence repentance (which includes in it an hatred and rejection of sin) is stiled μετάνοια, a transmentation or postmentation; because, when a man comes to himself in a right understanding, he hates and rejects sin.
2. From the will itself: If that follow the understanding in turning to God as its supreme end, and in embracing of Christ as the only way, then by necessary consequence it must needs follow the understanding in the rejection of sin as the great obstacle; for if it follow not here also, it must waive its supreme end and the way thither, it must resolve upon a happiness without God and Christ. If the understanding say to the will, There is no other cloud betwixt thee and the Father of lights, no other distance betwixt thee and the fountain of living waters, none but sin alone, surely the will must bid it be gone for ever.
3. From the understanding, which so represents sin, as that the will doth turn away from it, and this it doth three ways.
1. The understanding doth represent sin as a grand evil; it sets it forth as an ataxy in man, rebellion against God, spears and nails to Jesus Christ, quench-coal to the Spirit of grace, blur and stain to the soul, groaning burthen on the back of the whole creation, venom and perfect quintessence of all evils, a thing of such monstrous deformities, as, if it did appear in its own prodigious shape, would not be touched upon by man; and how can the will, being a rational appetite, doat upon such a thing? Surely, upon it as such it cannot; wherefore sin, that it may be welcome to the will, covers itself with fig-leaves as Adam; it veils its face like Tamar; it paints and tires like Jezabel; it disguises and feigns itself to be another, like Jeroboam's wife; it courts and flatters to steal away hearts, like Absalom; it comes like Agrippa and Bernice, with great pomp, in fancy of some apparent goodness. Offering itself to our Saviour, it wrapped up itself in all the glories of the world, nay, in the mantle of scripture, and angelical protection; coming to Adam, it held forth an apple, and promised no less than a godhead: ever it hath a lie and a cheat in it. Hence it is called a false way, (Psal. 119:104), and פְּעֻלַּת־שֶׁקֶר "the work of a lie, (Prov. 11:18); there is in it κυβεία, a sleight, as in cogging dice, (Eph. 4:14); it makes every sinner believe that he shall have the cast of happiness, but coggs away his soul. This is that deceitfulness of sin, by which it insinuates itself into the will; but this right understanding hath a counterwork, it unleaves and unveils sin, it unpaints and undresses it, it plucks off its false appearances and disguises, it disrobes it of all its pomps and fancy, it discovers the lie and cheat in it, and makes it appear in its own ugly hue and shameful nakedness; Achan's sin was wrapt up in a Babylonish garment, but unclothe it, and it was an accursed thing; Saul's sin was covered over with sacrifices, but unveil it, and it was witchcraft-like rebellion; Judas's sin about the precious ointment was painted over with charity, but unpaint it, and it was arrant thievery; Paul's sin wore a cloak of zeal, but undress it, and it was bloody persecution. This right understanding plucks the lie out of sin's mouth, and the paint off from its face, and all the robes of apparent goodness off from its back, and so constrains it to go naked before the will, and thereby it appears what it is, ἁμάρτωλος ἁμαρτία, sinning sin, (Rom. 7:13); רַעַת רָעַתְכֶם the evil of evils, (Hos. 10:15), altogether evil, and nothing but evil; and now how can the will embrace it as good? How can it choose but reject it as evil? Now, if ever, shall sin be crucified. Malefactors were first stripped, and then crucified: sin in its attire, is a king in its robes, sitting on the heart as a throne; but sin, stripped naked by the understanding, is a malefactor ready for the cross, and there the will surely nail it; "the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing," saith the Prophet, (Isa. 10:27), Sin is a yoke upon the will fastened there by a lie, an appearance of some false good, but the anointing, which is truth, (1 John 2:27), reveals the lie, and then off comes the yoke. Doth sin proffer a world? This anointing is an inward Ecclesiastes, crying out, "All is vanity!" Doth it proffer honours, or riches, or pleasures? What for a soul, a Christ, a God? No cheat like that, saith the anointing. Doth it promise happiness? You do but flatter and lie, saith the anointing; you have nothing but death and hell to bestow. Christ was manifested, ἴνα λύσῃ, that he might dissolve the works of the devil, that is, sins in men, (1 John 3:8); and he dissolves them by this anointing. Sin is in union with the will, because sin is in composition with some seeming good; break the composition between sin and the seeming good, and you dissolve the union between sin and the will. The worldly man's will is in union with his sin, because his sin is in composition with the world; break the composition by a right understanding, make him indeed see that the world is but σχῆμα, a figure or fashion, and riches but a thing that is not; dissolve the world by faith, and instantly the sin will drop out of his will, for sin, as mere sin, will not down with the will. If therefore the compound of apparent goodness be once broken by the understanding, the will must needs cast it out as altogether evil, because it is no object capable of its embraces.
2. The understanding doth represent sin as the devil's work. Should the devil visibly appear, and offer to the covetous his bags, or to the drunkard his cups, surely they would hardly take them at his hands. Wherefore Satan transforms himself into many shapes, and puts on changes of raiment that he may act invisible. But on the other hand, Christ ἀπεκδυσά μενος, spoils, or, more properly, unclothes him, (Col. 2:15); he spoiled him meritoriously on the cross, and unclothes him efficaciously in the hearts of men. Christ was so quick of understanding, that he found out Satan even in Peter's tender indulgence; and Christ gives such a true understanding unto the heart, that it sees Satan lurking in every sin: Oh! says the true understanding, there is a bloody devil in all thy malice, a blasphemous devil in all thy profaneness, a lying devil in all thy hypocrisies, a proud devil in all thy self-excellencies, a devil in the swine in all thy sensualities, and in every sin Satan stands at thy right hand. Now when the devil thus appears in sin, surely the will must needs turn away from it.
3. The understanding doth represent sin as the only obstacle of happiness. The understanding views the all-blessed God with his infinite bowels, and the all-precious Jesus with his infinite merits; it lets in some glimpses of glory, and takes as it were a prospect of eternity; it travels over the land of promise, and tastes the milk and honey of free grace flowing there; and after all this, it cries out, Oh! my soul, nothing can hinder thee from all these but sin, nor sin neither, unless indulged; this is the only gulph between thee and thy God, the only distance between thee and thy sweet Jesus, the only bar to the heaven of glory, and the only flaw in thy title to the land of promise. When the understanding shews sin to be such indeed, surely the will cannot but reject it.
Thus the will follows the understanding, in turning to God the supreme end, in embracing Christ the only way, and in rejecting sin, the great obstacle, which are the three grand things in actual conversion.
Now here I would have closed up this point, but that there are two main objections to be solved.
Object. 1. This thesis of the will's following the understanding, takes away the necessity of gracious principles in the will.
Object. 2. This thesis overturns the liberty of the will.
1. This thesis takes away the necessity of gracious principles in the will; what need of any there, seeing the will is so good a follower.
As to this I shall answer two things.
1. This thesis is so far from taking away the necessity of gracious principles in the will, that it discovers the way how those gracious principles come to be wrought there. It is in this case between the understanding and those gracious principles, as it is between the beams of light and the accompanying heat: as heat comes down from the sun into the lower world in the vehicle of natural light, so holiness comes down from the Sun of righteousness into the will in the vehicle of supernatural light. When the day dawns in the heart, the heart waxes warm with spiritual life; "Give me understanding," saith David, "and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart," (Psalm 119:34). Why is he so earnest for understanding? Is the understanding all? May not the will hang back for all that? No, give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart: that will set all my soul in a right posture towards the law of God.
2. Notwithstanding this thesis, there is yet a treble necessity of gracious principles in the will; for,
1. God calls for them.
2. The will itself stands in need of them.
3. The perfection of the new creature cannot stand without them.
1. God calls for them; above all things he calls for a heart, a pure heart, such as works out the mixtures of corruption; a right heart, such as lies level to the rule of righteousness; this he desires; "he desires truth in the inward parts," (Psalm 51:6); this he delights in, "he hath pleasure in uprightness," (1 Chron. 29:17); where this is found, he passes by many infirmities; "I have eaten," saith Christ, "my honey-comb with my honey, wax and all, wax and all," (Cant. 5:1). Infirmities do not hinder acceptance; but where this is wanting, he sets a black mark upon men, even whilst they do that which is materially good. Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart, (2 Chron. 25:2); there is a black mark set upon him for want of integrity. But now, without gracious principles in the heart, how can the heart be right or pure? which way can God's call be answered, or his desire or delight attained?
2. The will itself stands in need of them. The will of fallen man, what is it but a very shoal of inordinate affections, a womb of evil concupiscence? Here is the ἐπιθυμία συλλαβοῦσα, the conceiving lust, (James 1:15); that which teems out a generation of wickednesses. Here is an abyss, a bottomless pit of evils, such as smokes and vomits up all manner of abominations. Every carnal heart hath in it a plague of rottenness which is still starting from God, and an iron-sinew of rebellion which is still contradicting God; and how can this hell of lust in the will ever be quenched, but by the clean water? How can this deadly wound of corruption there ever be healed but by gracious principles?
3. The perfection of the new creature cannot stand without them. The new creature is a new man, all over new, new in its desires as well as in its intellectuals; it is a perfect man in Christ, perfect in all its parts; it hath a heart as well as a head. Should the will want gracious principles, the new creature must want a heart, the old heart will not serve the turn; the new man is but half a man without a new heart. There was put into the breast-plate of judgment the urim and the thummim; that is, lights and perfections; both were in it, or else it had not been perfect. The full substance of this type was only in Christ, who was full of all grace and truth; but there is a measure of it in every true christian, who puts on the breast-plate of faith and love, (1 Thess. 5:8). Faith is a kind of urim in his understanding, and love a kind of thummim in his will; and both together make up his complete breast-plate. But if there were no gracious principles in his will, he should have an urim without a thummim, light in the mind without integrity in the heart; and by consequence he could be but one-half of a christian.
Object. 2. This thesis overturns the liberty of the will; for if the will be determined by the understanding, how is it free? and if free, how determined?
I answer; There are three things, which well weighed, give a perfect solution to this objection.
1. This objection carries in it a great absurdity.
2. This objection stands upon a false notion of liberty.
3. This objection vanishes by the true stating of liberty.
1. This objection carries in it a great absurdity. If the will being determined by the understanding lose its freedom, then it loseth its freedom by an adhesion to the root of its freedom; and it cannot be free unless it can turn brute, which is a great absurdity. You will say, Is this so absurd? Doth not the will turn brute in closing with sensual lusts? and doth not the scripture call men beasts upon that account? I answer, that the will in closing with its sensual lusts is brutish as to the matter of its choice, but not as to the manner of it, because it hath a human understanding, though corrupt, going before it; but if it can turn away from the understanding, it can turn brute even as to the manner of its acting; for then its act hath no understanding at all at the bottom of it, no more than the act of a beast, which is very absurd in a rational appetite.
2. This objection stands upon a false notion of liberty, viz.: That the liberty of the will doth essentially consist in an ἰσοῤῥοπία or ἁδιαφορία, in an equilibrium or indeterminate indifferency, whereby it may will or not will a thing; for why, according to this objection, is the will not free? Why, but because it is determined? And why is it not free, if determined? Because its freedom doth consist essentially in such an equilibrium, as cannot stand with any determination but what is merely from itself. Now that this is a false notion of liberty, doth appear many ways: for,
3. If liberty do essentially consist in such an indifferency, then what shall we say to Jesus Christ on earth? Had not he, as man, all the essentials of liberty? Was not all his obedience perfectly free? And yet did not his human will indeclinably follow his divine? Was there a posse peccare in that spotless Lamb? Could that human nature, conceived by the Holy Ghost, and inseparably united to the Godhead, could that also transgress? Surely, it could not. "I do nothing of myself," saith Christ, (John 8:28), nay, οὐ δύναμαι, "I can do nothing of myself," (John 5:30), nothing; in such perfect dependance was his human will upon his divine, not the shadow of an equilibrium there, and yet the substance of perfect liberty.
2. If liberty do essentially consist in such an indifferency, what say we to the blessed saints in heaven? Have not they all the essentials of liberty? Are those spirits made perfect in everything else but that? Is that the thing that is wanting in heaven? No, surely; glorious liberty cannot but be there, and yet what of an ἀδιαφορία; there God is all in all, and the saints cannot take off their eyes from him for ever; his will is perfectly triumphant over theirs, and their will is perfectly determined by his, so determined, as not to glance aside from it to all eternity: and yet in this determination liberty is not destroyed but perfected; the will is not in straits or bonds, but in a sabbath of rest and joy. Here is nothing of an equilibrium; that kind of liberty is so magnified on earth, that it shall never be glorified in heaven; and if it be not glorified there, sure it is no essential here.
3. If liberty do essentially consist in such an indifferency, then how shall the divine prescience be salved? God knoweth all the free acts of men, even the thoughts afar off, from the high tower of his eternity: but if the will be in equilibrio, its acts, before they come into being, must be mere contingencies, and without any determinate verity at all in them, and how then are they knowable as certainties? To know contingencies as certainties, is to err and not to know.
4. If liberty do essentially consist in such an indifferency, then what becomes of divine providence? Providence hath a kingdom over men's hearts. We find in scripture, God touching the heart, (1 Sam. 10:26); stirring up the heart, (2 Chron. 36:22); opening the heart, (Acts 16:14); inclining the heart, (1 Kings 8:58); and turning the heart whithersoever he will, (Prov. 21:1). And after all this, is the will in equilibrio? If not, where is the supposed liberty? If so, where is the divine providence? All its touching, stirring, opening, inclining and turning the heart, signifies little or nothing. Infinite wisdom and power seem to have posed themselves in making such a creature as they cannot govern, or at least not govern without destroying its faculties; the infinite Spirit hath then nothing to rule over but the brutal world, and the rational is lost out of his dominions; men must subsist like creatures, and yet may act as gods; their being is within the realm of providence, and their acting without it. In a word; when we read of God over all, we must ever except the rational creature. Wherefore, that is no true notion of liberty, which is so opposite to the sceptre of divine providence.
5. I shall add but one thing more. Every man is born under a futurition of all the acts which he will produce, or else those acts should be present in time, which never were future, which is impossible; and every futurition implies in it a necessity of immutability, or else that which is future might cease to be such without coming into actual being, which is impossible: hence it appears, that human liberty doth well consist with a necessity of immutability; nay, it cannot stand without: take away all necessity, and you take away all futurition; take away all futurition, and you take away all the free acts of the creature; for those free acts could not be acts, much less free acts, in time, unless they were future before; and future they could not be without such a necessity: therefore, liberum and necessarium may, nay, must stand together; and if so, the will may be determined by the understanding, and yet be free without an equilibrium, and by consequence, an equilibrium is not essential to its liberty. This false notion of liberty maintained, upholds the objection, but dissolved, breaks the same in pieces.
3. This objection vanishes quite away by the true stating of liberty. Liberty is double; ethical, as to that which may be done, de jure; and physical, as to that which may be done, de facto. God is perfectly free both ways; ethically, because under no law but the perfection of his own nature, and physically, because Almighty. Man is not ethically free, because under a law; nor yet altogether physically free, for some things he cannot do, if he never so much will the doing thereof, because they are not within his power. Libertas, as the learned Camero hath it, est facultas faciendi quod libet, or more largely, facultas quâ quis tantum possit quantum velit, tantúmque velit quantum esse volendum judicavit; It is that faculty in man, whereby, within his own sphere, he can do as much as he wills, and will as much as in his understanding he judges fit to be willed. Now that this is a right definition of human liberty doth appear three ways.
1. It is bottomed upon scripture.
2. It is commensurate to the nature of the thing.
3. It is proportionable to both the acts of the will.
1. It is bottomed upon scripture. In scripture there are various expressions touching liberty, congruous to the several parts of this definition. In the definition liberty is a faculty of doing, and in scripture it is a having a thing in our power, (Acts 5:4); or in the power of our hand, (Gen. 31:29). In the definition it is a faculty of doing as much as we will; and in scripture it is a doing according to our will, (Dan. 11:36), or all that is in our heart, (2 Sam. 7:3). In the definition it is a power of willing as much as in our understanding we judge fit to be willed; and in scripture it is doing what is right in our own eyes, (Judg. 17:6), or what seemeth good and meet unto us, (Jer. 26:14). Thus all the definition is founded on scripture.
2. This definition is commensurate to the nature of liberty. What is liberty in man in the full compass of it, but that whereby he becomes κύριος της πράξεως αὐτοῦ, lord of his own act, and such he truly is, when within his own line he can do as much as he will, and will as much as in his understanding is fit to be willed. When the scripture paints out that glorious τὸ αὐτεξούσιον, or supreme liberty in God, what doth it say, but that "he worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will," (Eph. 1:11), and "doth what he pleaseth in heaven and earth," (Ps. 135:6). Wherefore if a man can work according to the counsel of his will, and do what he pleaseth within his own sphere, he must needs be truly free; and so much is allowed by this definition.
3. This definition is proportionable to both the acts of the will. There is actus imperatus, an act commanded by the will, such as speaking or walking, or the like; there is actus elicitus, an act produced in the will, such is the act of willing. Now quoad actum imperatum, the definition says, that a man can do as much as he wills; and quoad actum elicitum, it says, that he can will as much as he judges fit to be willed. These two acts must be carefully distinguished, for the will is not alike free in both: as to the imperate act, the will is the mistress and commandress mandress of that, proceeds from it, per modum imperii, and it is truly said to be done quia volumus; but, as to the elicit act, the will is not properly the mistress or commandress of that, that proceeds not from it, per modum imperii, for then it should be actus imperatus, rather than elicitus; neither can we be said truly to will quia volumus, for so the same act of willing should be the cause of itself: wherefore the liberty of the will, as to the act of willing, doth not consist in a self-motion, for the will doth not move itself. To which purpose I shall quote two testimonies, one out of Camero; "Nulla mera potentia semetipsam propellit in actum; quicquid enim ejusmodi est, id in actu esse necesse est. Voluntas autem (id est, volendi facultas) mera potentia est; ergò non potest semetipsam excitare ad agendum: si enim hoc facit, facit per aliquem actum; at quod est in mera potentia, illud non agit." And again: "Non potest dici quæ sit voluntatis seipsam determinantis actio; non est volitio ipsa, est enim volitio ipse terminus; ergo non ipsa determination." Another out of the French divines, in their Theses Salmurienses: "Nulla potentia sesemet educit in actum; sensus moventur à rebus sensibilibus, phantasia à phantasmatibus, intellectus ab objectis intellectualibus, locomotiva à voluntate, voluntas quîpote à seipsa?" And indeed, if the will do move itself to the act of willing, then (because it cannot move itself, as quiescent) it must move itself by some act, and what is that act but an act of willing? Therefore, by an act of willing it moves itself to an act of willing, which is very absurd. Wherefore the will is free in the act of willing, not in respect of its self-motion, but in respect of its lubency and spontaneity; what it wills, it doth incoactively will according to the dictate of the understanding. Now this being the true nature of liberty, the determination of the will by the understanding doth not overthrow it; for (notwithstanding this determination) man is free still, because he can, within his own sphere, do as much as he wills, and will as much as he judges fit to be willed. His will is free, because in its imperate acts it commands what it pleases, and in its elicit acts, it wills what it wills spontaneously, according to the dictate of the understanding; therefore the determination of the will by the understanding doth not at all destroy the nature of liberty.
Thus, passing over the second query, I proceed to the third.
Query 3. Whether the work of conversion be wrought in an irresistible way?
I am for the affirmative in a right sense. A work may be said to be done irresistibly two ways; either when there is no resistance at all: thus the Apostle saith, "Ye have killed the just, and he doth not resist you," (Jam. 5:6); that is, not resist at all; or else when there is no such resistance as to impede the work; thus they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit of Stephen, (Acts 6:10): there is an irresistibility; but what, without any resistance at all? No, they disputed against him with might and main, but because their disputes could not impede his work in propagating the Gospel, therefore it is said, that they were not able to resist him. Thus, when I say that conversion is wrought in an irresistible way, I mean not, that there is no resistance at all, for even in the regenerate, there is flesh lusting against the spirit, the old man and the new struggle in the same faculties, like Esau and Jacob in the same womb; but I mean, that there is no such resistance as to impede the work of conversion. "In meekness," saith the apostle, "instructing those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God will give them repentance," (2 Tim. 2:25); here is a resistance, but for all that, the work will be done, if God give repentance: "He went on," saith the prophet, "frowardly in the way of his heart," but what saith God? "I have seen his ways and will heal him," (Isai. 57:17, 18): here was a great resistance, but for all that, God will heal him. God works conversion in such an insuperable way, that, notwithstanding all the opposition made thereunto, it doth infallibly come to pass. Now this I shall endeavour to demonstrate first, in general, and then in particular, with respect to the two instants of conversion.
1. I shall demonstrate it in general, and that by these arguments taken,
1. From God's election. He hath chosen some before the foundation of the world, chosen them to holiness as the way, (Eph. 1:4); and chosen them to salvation as the end, (2 Thess. 2:13). But if conversion be not wrought in an insuperable way, how doth the foundation of God stand sure, (2 Tim. 2:19)? How is that golden chain kept entire, "Whom he did predestinate, them he called: whom he called, them he justified and glorified," (Rom. 8:30)? were not these called ones, who have predestination going before them, and justification and glorification coming after them, called in an insuperable way? If not, the chain cannot hold together. The apostle makes a plain difference between men; he opposes those of the election of grace to the οἱ λοιποὶ, who were blinded, (Rom. 11:7); and those on whom God will have mercy, to those whom he hardens, (Rom. 9:18). But if conversion be not irresistibly wrought, this difference falls to the ground; those of the election may be blinded, and those on whom God hath mercy, may be hardened as well as others: for my part I should as soon believe that a little child may put up his finger and roll about the spheres, as that the will of man may stay or turn aside the influences of electing grace.
2. From Christ's redemption. If we consider the preciousness of his blood, surely he must have a body; every little seed in nature hath a body given to it, and the Son of God sowing his blood and life, cannot want one: if we consider the promise of God, surely he must have a seed, (Isa. 53:10); and what else is the fulness of the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Jews, but this promised seed? But if grace be not wrought in an insuperable way, Christ might sow his blood and life in a wonderful passion, and yet have no body springing out of it; nay, God might engage himself in the promise of a seed, and yet nothing at all come of it; if the grace of God be resistible, leave must be asked of man's will, that Christ's blood may be fruitful, and God's promise faithful.
3. From the Spirit's work. The three glorious persons in the sacred Trinity show forth themselves in three glorious works; the Father hath a special shine in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Holy Spirit in sanctification. In the first work we have God in the world; in the second, God in the flesh; and in the third, God in the heart, or spirit. When God came forth in creation, Oh! what a heaven and earth full of admirable creatures, and harmonies, issued forth! When God came in the flesh, what outbreakings of glory were there? What sparklings of the Deity, in miracles, upon the bodies of men? The blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf did hear, the dead were raised, and the devils were ejected, with power: and when God comes in the heart or spirit, what planting of a new heaven and a new earth? How much of glory and spiritual miracle breaks forth in the souls of men? Even here also the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the devil is cast out with power. The very same miracles which Christ in the flesh, did do on the bodies of men, in a visible manner; the very same doth Christ, in the spirit, do on the souls of men, in a spiritual way. This is the proper work of the Spirit, to sanctify men's hearts; the Spirit doth not appear anywhere in all the world so much as in a true saint. Look into a godly man's understanding, there is the spirit of revelation; look into his will, there is the spirit of holiness; look into his affections, there is the spirit of love and joy; look into his conscience, there is the spirit of consolation; look into his prayers, there is the spirit of supplication; look into his conversation, there is the spirit of meekness and all righteousness. Thus the Holy Spirit shows forth its glory, and flows in men as rivers of living water: and this glory and out-flowing is so precious, that before it came, in esse, according to the rich measures of gospel-grace, it is said of the eternal Spirit, οὕπω ἦν Πνεῦμα ἅγιον, "the Holy Spirit was not yet," John 7:39); as if the Spirit's flowing in men were a kind of second being to it. But now, after all this, if conversion be not wrought in an insuperable way, the Holy Spirit may be barred out of every heart, and then how shall his work be done? Where shall his glory and spiritual miracles appear? The Father hath a world to appear in, the Son hath flesh to tabernacle in, but possibly the Holy Spirit can get never a heart to inhabit in, never a temple to fill with his glory; the Holy Spirit would tabernacle with men, but what if the iron sinew in the will not come out? What if the stone in the heart will not break? Then the Holy Spirit is robbed of his glory. But is this so strange a thing? will you say. What saith holy Stephen? "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye," (Acts 7:51). To which I answer; That the Spirit may be said to be resisted two ways; either as it is in the external ministry, or as it comes in the internal operations. It may be said to be resisted in the external ministry: "He that despiseth you despiseth me," saith Christ, (Luke 10:16). "He that despiseth, despiseth not man but God," saith the apostle, (1 Thess. 4:8). When, therefore, it is said, that they resisted the Holy Ghost, the meaning is not, that they resisted him as to his internal operations, but that they resisted him as to the external ministry. This appears by the context, for they resisted him as their fathers did, (v. 51), and how was that? The next verse tells us; which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted, (v. 52)? Their resistance of the Spirit was in persecution of the prophets. But you will say, might they not also resist him as to his internal operations? I answer, so much doth not appear in the text; but however, the internal operations of the Spirit are twofold; some are for the production of common graces, some for the production of saving graces, such as the new heart and new spirit. Now, if the Holy Ghost may be resisted as to the former operations, yet it cannot as to the latter; for in these it takes away the heart of stone, the resisting principle, and gives a heart of flesh capable of divine impressions.
4. God doth insuperably remove the obstacles of conversion. What, is thy mind dark, nay, darkness itself? God can command the light out of darkness, and shine into the heart, (2 Cor. 4:6). Is thine ear deaf? He can say Ephatha to it, and seal instruction, (Job 33:16). Is thine heart hard and stony? He can take away the stony heart, and in the room of it give a heart of flesh, (Ezek. 36:26). Is thy heart barred and shut up against God? He can open it as well as Lydia's, (Acts 16:14); he opens and none can shut, (Rev. 3:7). Doth thy will hang back? He can draw thee, (John, 6:44); and reveal such day of power upon thy heart as shall make thee truly willing, (Ps. 110:3). Dost thou go on frowardly in the way of thy heart? Yet he can see thy way and heal thee, (Isa. 57:17, 18). Dost thou oppose the precious gospel? Yet peradventure he will give thee repentance, (2 Tim. 2:25). Whatever the obstacle be, he can remove it, he can cast down πᾶν ὕψωμα, every height in the heart, (2 Cor. 10:5); and then what obstacles can remain? Now if God do insuperably remove the obstacles of conversion, then he doth insuperably produce the work of conversion.
5. If God do not work conversion in an insuperable way, then what doth he produce towards it but a mere posse convertere? According to the Remonstrants' doctrine, he doth not infuse habits or vital principles of grace, neither will they in plain direct terms assert, that he doth produce actual conversion; what, then, doth he produce towards it, but a mere posse convertere? and is not a posse peccare from him also? "Voluntatem," say the Remonstrants, "comitatur proprietas inseparabilis, quam libertatem vocamus, à qua voluntas dicitur esse potentia, quæ positis omnibus prærequisitis ad agendum necessariis, potest velle et nolle, aut velle et non velle." And again: "Semper et in omni statu hujus vitæ, ubi legislatio, præmiorum promissio, pœnarum interminatio, hortationes, preces et similia locum habent, voluit Deus libertatem voluntati adesse, quâ objectum ad intellectu monstratum velle potest et nolle, aut velle et non velle." Surely if the nature and inseparable property of the will be such, and such by the will of God, then, according to the Remonstrants' doctrine, a posse peccare is from God as the author of nature, as well as a posse convertere is from him as the author of grace; and by consequence it follows, that he doth act as far towards transgression, as towards conversion. No, by no means, will you say, it cannot be; for God by his commands, promises, and the Spirit's motions, doth promote conversion; but by his prohibitions, threatenings, and the Spirit's counter-motions, doth beat back transgression. Very well: these things shew that God's actings touching conversion and transgression are not the same as to the manner; nevertheless, they still remain the same as to the terminus or product: for, after all the commands, promises, and motions towards conversion, still the terminus or product is but a posse convertere; and, notwithstanding all the prohibitions, threatenings, and motions against transgressions, still there is the terminus or product of a posse peccare; and by consequence, he acts as far towards transgression as towards conversion. Will you yet reply, that God gives a posse convertere, and without this man could not convert, and when he doth actually convert, God concurs thereunto? I answer; that, according to the Remonstrants' doctrine, God gives a posse peccare also; and without this, man could not sin; and when he doth actually sin, God concurs to the material act thereof; and where, then, is the difference? By the doctrine of resistible grace, God seems to act as far towards transgression as towards conversion.
6. If God do not work conversion in an insuperable way, then he works it in a dependent way, putting man's will in equilibrio, as it were in an even balance, that it may turn or not turn to God, ad placitum. Now that this last is none of God's method, clearly appears, because God (as beseems his infinite wisdom) works conversion in such a way, as is most depressive of the creature, and exaltative of himself; the man (whom he indeed converts) doth lick the dust; the fountain of blood in his nature is broken up, and the superfluity of naughtiness in his life set in order before him; he falls down in self-abhorrencies, and cannot deny but that he is a beast in his sensual sins, and a devil in his spiritual; he perceives his spiritual poverty to be extreme; so many thousand talents owing to divine justice, and nothing at all to pay; a shameful nakedness in his soul, and not a rag of righteousness to cover it: as a wretched half-damned creature down he goes to the brink of hell, and from thence he hath a prospect of heaven; down he goes into the abyss of his own nullity, and from thence hath some glimpses of Christ's allness. His first breath of spiritual life is a groaning under the weight of sin: oh! the intimate love of sin, says he, it will never out, unless my heart be broken all to pieces; oh! the obdurate stone in my heart, it cannot be mollified but by Almighty Grace; oh! my dead heart, nothing can quicken it but a resurrection; oh! my nothingness in spirituals, there must be a creation, or I shall never be anything; oh! the miserable down-cast, when I fell from God into myself, I can never get up again unless I be unhinged and unselved, unless the Spirit lift me up out of my own Iness and egoity; oh! that I were once out of my own carnal reason, and in the light of life, that I were once out of mine own rebellious will, and in the will of God: if ever I live, it is not I but Christ in me, if ever I labour, is it not I but grace in me; I can write an [I] upon nothing but my sins; if ever I be true to God, it is the holy anointing; if ever I be willing, it is the day of God's power. Oh! the crossbars in my perverse heart, none can shoot them back but the Almighty fingers; oh! the plague of apostacy in my lying heart, nothing can heal it but the holy unction; if God do not write his law in my heart, there will be nothing but wickedness there; if he do not let down some holy fire into my affections, there will be nothing but earth there. Flesh is grass, and God glory; man nothing, and grace all; God's mercy is all, and the willer or runner nothing; God's increase is all, and the planter or waterer nothing. Thus in conversion all glorying is cut off, and pride stained; God, as a God, is very high upon his throne of free grace; and man, as man, very low upon the dunghill of his own baseness: the little ones enter into the land of promise, the poor are evangelized, the dry wilderness gapes for distillations of grace, the poor weeping soul (which bears the precious seed of self-nothingness, and mourns after a supply from free grace alone) shall be sure of the sheaf of comfort at last. But now if God, in working conversion, doth only put the will in equilibrio, whether it will turn or not, then the method is quite another thing: Lie not, O man, upon thy face, shake off the dust of creature-weakness, talk no more of thy poverty and wretchedness, cry not out for a resurrection or creation, trouble not the Almighty Spirit and grace, all is in thine own power already: will, and live for ever in the sweat of thine own improvements; nill, and all the power of grace cannot change thee; will, and take the crown of thy self-differencing glory; nill, and all the breathings and inspirations of the Holy Spirit must fly away from the birth and from the womb. Adam left thee in the common mass—God gives thee the common grace; but thou, O man, must make thyself differ from others by a right use of that grace which they neglect. Beatæ vitæ firmamentum est sibi fidere; trust in thy own heart, thy way is in thyself; thy will is the great umpire, whether thou wilt be God's or not. After all the suasions of precepts and promises, after creating and quickening grace hath done its utmost, after the living Spirit hath tried to write the law in thee, shall all this be something or nothing? Shall the new creature come forth or not? Which shall abide in thy heart, law or lust? Thou thyself must determine the business. God made the heart and all the wheels therein, but the motion is thine own; Christ hath all the power in heaven and earth, but the actual turn is in thine own hand alone. Thus, according to this doctrine, man is exalted, and God is abased, free-will hath the throne, and free grace waits upon her. Man in his first trangression would have been a God in his understanding, and now in his conversion he becomes one in his will, turning the scale of grace one way or other, as he pleaseth.
2. Having proved in general that God works conversion in an insuperable way, I proceed to prove it in particular with respect to the two instants of conversion.
1. As to the first instant, God works the habits or principles of grace in an insuperable way; and to make this appear.
1. Let us compare them with the Remonstrant's posse convertere. They, because they would own somewhat more than mere moral grace in regeneration, tell us, potentiam credendi ante omnia conferri dicimus per irresistibilem gratiam. Now if the posse convertere be wrought in an insuperable way, why should not the habits or principles of grace be so wrought? How is the will's liberty impeached by the one more than by the other? Which way can the will resist the infusion of the one more than of the other? I know no difference between them as to these things: wherefore, supposing what I have proved before, that there are such habits of grace, it follows that they are wrought in an insuperable way.
2. There is in man's soul an obediential capacity to receive the habits or principles of grace; there is a capacity, and therefore God, who fills all things, can till it; there is an obediential capacity, and therefore God, whenever he fills it, fills it in an insuperable way: for this obediential capacity is no other than that, whereby the soul, as to the receiving of gracious principles, stands in obedience to God's power, and as it stands in obedience to God's power, it cannot resist. To have an obediential capacity and not stand in obedience to God's power, is one contradiction, and to stand in obedience to God's power and yet to resist, is another: wherefore the soul receiving gracious principles from God in its obediential capacity, receives them in such a way as excludes resistance. Add hereunto, that if the infusion of gracious principles can be hindered; then it must be hindred either by the habitual pravity of the soul, or by the sinful act of the will; but neither of these can do it: not the habitual pravity of the soul, for then it should hinder always and in all persons; for it is in all, and whilst it is there, it hinders, and whilst it hinders, it cannot be removed, because there is no other way of removing it but by those gracious principles; and by consequence, there should be no capacity at all in the soul to receive gracious principles; nor yet can the sinful act of the will hinder it, for the will doth not receive gracious principles by its act, and those which it doth not receive by its act, it cannot refuse by its act; but it receives them in its obediential capacity, and therefore in an insuperable way.
3. The covenant of grace evidences this to us. I shall instance in two famous places; the one is that, "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh; I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes," (Ezek. 36:26, 27). The other is that, "I will put my laws in their inward parts, and write them in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people," (Jer. 31:33). These promises do most signally set forth the production of gracious principles: here is the principles themselves,—a new heart and a new spirit; here is the principal efficient of them,—the Holy Spirit of God; here is a remotion of the obstacles unto them,—the taking away the heart of stone; here is the next immediate capacity of receiving them,—a heart of flesh; here is the way or manner of producing them,—a writing the law in the heart; here is the effectual fruitfulness of them,—a causing to walk in God's statutes; and here is the crown or glory of all,—God will be their God, and they his people. Now, when there is a worker, such as the Almighty Spirit; a remotion of the obstacles, such as the stone of hardness; an immediate capacity, such as a heart of flesh; a way of working, such as the intimate impression of truth; a fruit proceeding, such as obedience to God's statutes; and a crown of all, such as an interest in God; how can the grace be less than insuperable? You will say, these promises were not made to the Gentiles, but to the Jews; and not to any singular persons among them, but to the whole nation. I answer; These promises extend not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles; for these are promises of grace founded in Christ, and in Christ, Jew and Gentile are all one, (Gal. 3:28); so one, that the Gentiles are of the same body, and partakers of the promise, (Eph. 3:6). Indeed, before the middle wall of partition was broken down, they were strangers from the covenant of promise; but that being gone, they are fellow-heirs, partaking of the root and fatness of the olive. Neither do these promises extend to all the nation of the Jews, but to the true Israel, the elect people of God, whether they be Jews or Gentiles; for in them only are these promises fulfilled. Had these been made to all the Jews, the true God would have fulfilled them in every Jew. You will say, No, God's truth doth not exact such a performance, for he promised to do these things not absolutely, but conditionally, so as men did not resist the operations of his grace. I answer; If God only promise these things shall be done, so as men do not resist, then these promises run thus:—If thy stony heart do not resist, I will give thee a heart of flesh; if thy old heart do not resist, I will give thee a new one; if thy own spirit do not resist, I will give thee my Spirit; and if the law of sin do not resist, I will give my laws into thy heart. Which interpretation doth utterly evacuate the glory and power of these promises; for to be sure that stone, that old heart, that spirit of our own, that law of sin in us, will, what it can, resist the operations of grace. You will say, God gives unto man, a posse convertere, a supernatural faculty whereby he is able to turn unto God. Now God promises to do these things, not so as men in their mere naturals do not resist, but so as men furnished with that supernatural power do not resist. I answer; two things overthrow this interpretation.
1. In the text itself there is not a tittle of such a condition of non-resistancy, nor of such a supernatural power of conversion; nay, on the contrary, instead of the condition of non-resistancy, it speaks of a stony heart, which is a principle of resistancy, to be removed; instead of a supernatural power of conversion, it implies an old heart, which is powerless in the things of God, to be made new.
2. If God promise to do these things so as men, furnished with supernatural power of conversion, do not resist, then there is such a supernatural power in men before these things be wrought in them, that is, before there be a new or soft heart, whilst the heart is old and stony, there is such a supernatural power in them, which assertion is, as I take it.
1. Against scripture; that divides all men into two ranks, they are clean or unclean, new creatures or old, spiritual men born of the Spirit, or natural men born of the flesh; but this assertion ushers in a middle sort of men, such as hang by a posse convertere, between nature and grace; with the natural man they have an old stony heart, and with the spiritual man they have a new supernatural power; in the frame of their heart they are no better than natural, and in their supernatural power they are little less than spiritual.
2. It is against reason. All powers in the rational soul flow out of life; the power of knowing and embracing natural good things flows out of the natural life of the soul; and the power of believing and receiving spiritual good things flows out of the supernatural life of the soul; but this assertion supposes a supernatural power of conversion, without any vital root; nothing of a new heart or spirit, and yet a supernatural power of conversion: wherefore rejecting these interpretations, I conclude that those promises import the production of gracious principles in an insuperable way.
4. The production of gracious principles is in scripture set out in such glorious titles as do import insuperable grace: it is a creation, (Eph. 2:10); it is a generation, (James 1:18): it is a resurrection, (Eph. 2:5, 6); it is a traction, (John 4:44); it is an opening of the heart, (Acts 16:14); it is a translation into Christ's kingdom, (Col. 1:13). Now if this be not insuperable grace, then there may be a creation on God's part and no new creature on man's; a generation on God's part, and no child of grace on man's; a resurrection on God's part, and nothing quickened on man's; a traction on God's part, and nothing coming on man's; an opening on God's part, and all shut on man's; and a translation on God's part, and no remove at all on man's; and why then should such stately names of power be set on the head of resistible grace? You will say, all these are but metaphors; very well, but metaphors are metaphors, that is, they carry in them some image or resemblance of the things themselves, but there is not the least shadow of likeness or similitude between these things and resistible grace. What shadow of creation in that which a creature may frustrate? What of generation in that which produces nothing at all? What of resurrection when the dead need not rise? What of traction when there is no coming upon it? What of opening when there is a heart still shut up? What of translation when there is no remove by it? Take away the infallible efficacy of grace, and it can be none of all these, no, not so much as metaphorically, because it hath no print of likeness thereunto.
5. The scripture doth not only set out conversion under the glory of metaphors, but in plain terms it stiles it a work of power; The gospel comes in power and in the Holy Ghost, (1 Thes. 1:5); and in the demonstration of the Spirit and power, (1 Cor. 2:4); there is power in it, nay, excellency of power, (2 Cor. 4:7); nay, ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος, exceeding greatness of power, and ἐνέργεια τῆς κράτους τῆς ἰσχύος the working of the might of power, such as raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, (Eph. 1:19, 20). The entire words run thus: "What is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead: the apostle here doth not only denote God's power towards believers, but also God's power in making them such. As there is exceeding greatness of power towards believers, so those believers did believe "according to the working of his mighty power, such as raised up Christ from the dead." Every way a believer, in fieri, and, in facto esse, is surrounded with power and excellent greatness of power; Oh! what rare eloquence! What high strains are here? Too much and too high, in all reason, for resistible grace: if the weakness of God be stronger than man, surely the power of God in its might and excellency, put forth for the production of gracious principles, cannot be resisted and overcome by him.
6. The heart which hath gracious principles in it is God's tabernacle, and all God's tabernacles have been built in a sure way, such as cannot fail of the effect. God, besides the natural tabernacle of his eternity, hath, in his condescending grace been pleased to have three tabernacles built for him: first he had a worldly tabernacle or sanctuary, (Heb. 9:1), and then ἐσκήνωσε, he tabernacled in our flesh, (John 1:14); and last of all, he hath a tabernacle in the hearts of men, a sanctuary, בְּתוֹכֶם in the midst of them, that is, in the midst of their hearts, (Ezek. 37:26): the heart, which hath gracious principles in it, is God's tabernacle: Hence God says, ἐνοικήσω, "I will indwell in them," (2 Cor. 6:16). Now God himself undertook that all these tabernacles should be built: as for the first, God took care to have it made exactly to a pin; as for the second, God engaged that a virgin should conceive and bring forth Immanuel; as for the third, God binds himself, in a promise, to raise up the tabernacle of David, (Amos 9:11), that is, to convert the Gentiles, for so it is interpreted, (Acts 15:14, 15, 16.) New creatures are the tabernacle of David; there is David, the man after God's own heart; there Christ, the true David, dwells in the heart by faith and love. Again, God says, "I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them," (Ezek. 37:26), that is, I will by my sanctifying grace turn their hearts into a holy place for my own habitation. Moreover, all the tabernacles of God have been made in a sure way, because they have been made through the over-shadowing presence of the Holy Spirit. As for the first, the master-workman of it was Bezaleel, a man (as his name imports) in the shadow of God, filled full of the Spirit of God, in all wisdom for the doing of the work. As for the second, there is a Bezaleel, too; the Holy Ghost comes upon, and the power of the highest overshadows the blessed virgin, and so the holy thing, the pure flesh of Christ, was formed in her womb, (Luke 1:35). And as for the third, there Bezaleel again; they that dwell בּצלּוֹ in his shadow shall return, (Hos. 14:7); the Holy Ghost comes upon the soul, and the power of free grace overshadows it, and so Christ, or the holy thing, is formed therein. What is said of the apostles as to their sacred function? "The Holy Ghost came upon them," (Acts 1:8); the same is true of all true Christians as to their spiritual generation: thus, whilst Peter spake, "the Holy Ghost fell on them," (Acts 10:44), by his grace making them an habitation of God. "Lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee," (Zach. 2:10); he comes by his Spirit, and makes their hearts a sanctuary for himself: thus this tabernacle is built in a sure way, because pitched by God himself; but now, if all the operations of grace be resistible, what becomes of this tabernacle? God may raise and raise by all the operations of his grace, and yet the tabernacle not go up; the Holy Ghost may overshadow men's souls, and yet no Christ be formed in them; a holy place in men's hearts may be sought for the Lord, and none at all found. All these precious promises of condescending grace may fall to the ground. You will say, What remedy for all this? God will not dwell in men whether they will or not: very true; but if almighty power cannot make men willing, what can do it? "Christ received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them," (Ps. 68:18). Observe, it is for the rebellious also; not that God doth dwell in them as such, but that by his gifts of grace he turns rebellious hearts into gracious, and so comes and dwells in them as his own tabernacle. Wherefore I conclude that God works the principles of grace in an insuperable way.
2. As to the second instant of conversion, God works actual conversion also in an insuperable way; so that, sooner or later, it always takes effect. And this will appear,
1. From the vitality of gracious principles as backed with auxiliary grace; there is a divine vigor in these principles, these are a well of living water ready to spring up, a seed of God ready to shoot forth, and a beam of the divine nature ready to sparkle out; wherefore, when auxiliary grace stirs up this well of living water, bedews this seed of God, and blows up this beam of the divine nature, it is no wonder at all, that actual conversion should infallibly follow. Auxiliary grace stirs up the principles of grace, these stir up the soul, and that by virtue of both the former stirs up itself unto actual conversion: and so actual conversion comes forth into being.
2. From the insuperability of grace in the illumination of the understanding. God doth enlighten the understanding in an irresistible way, "He shines into the heart, he puts wisdom into the hidden parts. Who teaches like him?" (Job 36:22.) "He teaches with a strong hand," (Isa. 8:11.) "He teaches in the demonstration of the Spirit and power," (1 Cor. 2:4.) A demonstration is such a thing as cannot be resisted by the mind of man; and of all demonstrations, the demonstration of the Spirit is most invincible. Now if the understanding be irresistibly enlightened, then the will (as I have before proved) doth infallibly follow it; they that know God's name will trust in it; the θεοδίδακτοι will come to Jesus Christ: truth, if but rightly known, will make us free; true wisdom dwells with prudence, and practically leads in the way of righteousness; it is a suada to the will, and draws it home to God in actual conversion.
3. From those scriptures which set forth God as the author of actual conversion. He gives τὸ πιστεύειν. the actual believing, (Phil. 1:29); he grants repentance unto life, (Acts 11:18); he works τὸ θέλειν, the very act of willing, (Phil. 2:13); he causes to walk in his statutes, (Ezek. 36:27. In every true convert there is more than a mere man, the grace of God is to be seen in him, (Acts 11:23); there is God in converting Paul, (Gal. 1:24.) In the temple of the new creature every thing speaks of his glory, every holy breath in the will must praise the Lord as its author: if God did not work the very act of willng, then (which I tremble to utter) all the prayers made to him for converting grace are but God-mockeries: all the praises offered up to him for the same, are but false hallelujahs; then they which glorified God in converting Paul, glorified but an idol of their own fancy; they which glorified God in the repenting Gentiles, (Acts 11:18), offered but a blind sacrifice. When we pray, that God's kingdom should come into our hearts, we do not mean that God should put our wills in equilibrio, but our wills should be subdued under God's. When David and his people offered willingly unto God, he falls into a kind of extacy: "Who am I, and what is my people," (1 Chron. 29:14)? And, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory," (Ver. 11); even the victory over hearts; and, "All things are of thee," (Ver. 14); not only our gold and silver, not only our hearts and will, but our very actual willingness also. You will say. All this is true; God works the very act of willing, but not insuperably, but so as men do not resist the work of grace. But what is the meaning of this? God works the will, so as men do not resist; not to resist is to obey: wherefore the plain meaning is, God works the act of willing, so as men do will, which is very absurd; because it makes the very same act of willing to be the condition of itself. Again; What is it for God to work the act of willing, so as men do not resist, but to work it in a way of dependance upon man's will? and what is that, but to contradict the apostle, who saith, that God works the act of willing, ὑπὲρ της ευδοκίας, of his own good pleasure; if he do it of his own good pleasure, surely not in a way of dependence upon man's will, but in a glorious insuperable manner.
4. From those scriptures, whose truth is so founded upon insuperable grace, that it cannot stand without it. "Turn thou me and I shall be turned," (Jer. 31:18); "Turn us unto thee O Lord, and we shall be turned," (Lam. 5:21). If man's actual turn do not infallibly follow upon God's turning grace, what truth is there in these [ands] which couple both together? "Other sheep I must bring," saith Christ, "and they shall hear my voice," (John 10:16); and, which agrees with it, "The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it," (Acts 28:28). What connection is there betwixt Christ's bringing, and man's hearing, or betwixt salvation sent, and man's hearing, without insuperable grace? Again, God says, "I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live," (Ezek. 37:14); and "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes," (Ezek. 36:27). What necessity of life or obedience in them, if the Holy Spirit be given in a resistable way? Again; God says to Christ, "Thou shalt call a nation, and nations shall run unto thee," (Isa. 55:5); and the church prays, "Draw me, we will run after thee," (Cant. 1:4). Where is the truth of these propositions, if God's calling and drawing do not infer man's running? Again, David prays, "Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end; give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law," (Psalm 119:33, 34.) Where is the consequence of David's obedience upon God's teaching, if grace be superable? Moreover, God says, "I will be as dew to Israel; he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon; his branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree," (Hos. 14:5, 6). Here is Israel very florid, but that which secures all is insuperable grace; nothing could hinder their spiritual prosperity, who had God for their dew; I say, nothing, not lusts; for Ephraim shall say, "What have I to do with idols," (v. 8)? not backslidings, for God says, "I will heal their backslidings," (v. 4); not barrenness, for God tells them, "From me is thy fruit found," (v. 8); not deadness, for "They shall revive as the corn and grow as the vine," (v. 7). But if the work of grace may be frustrated, then there is no certain root for all this holy fruit to stand upon.
5. From those scriptures which set forth actual conversion as a work of power, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power," (Psalm 110:3): "God fulfils the work of faith with power," (2 Thess. 1:11); the principle of faith is incomplete without its act; but God, by his powerful grace, actuates it in us. When our Saviour, Christ, told his disciples that it was "easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into God's kingdom," they cried out with amazement, "Who, then, can be saved?" but our Saviour unties the knot thus: "The things that are impossible with men, are possible with God," (Luke 18:24, 25, 26, 27). God, by the power of his grace, can fetch off the world, the camel's bunch, from the heart, and so make it pass as it were, through the needle's eye into the kingdom of God. But now the assertors of resistable grace may turn the words thus: the things which, according to the ordinary working of grace, are impossible with God are possible with men; that crowning work of actual conversion, which is too hard and heavy for God's free grace, is absolved and dispatched out of hand by man's free will. In the parable of the lost sheep, we find God going after it until he find it, and then laying it upon his shoulders, (Luke 15:4, 5). He goes after it in the means of grace, he finds it by the intimate inshinings of his Spirit, and he lays it upon the shoulders of his power, that he may bring it home to himself in actual conversion. But now, if grace be resistible, the almighty shoulders are only put under man's will, to bear it up in equilibrio, to see whether it will go home to God or not; it may be it will, it may be it will not. God's power doth but attend on man's will as the umpire of all.
6. From those scriptures which show forth actual conversion as a conquest. Thanks be to God (saith the apostle) τῷ θριαμβεύοντι, that triumpheth us in Christ, (2 Cor. 2:14); that is, that subdues us to the gospel, and makes us instruments of his grace to subdue others thereunto. Christ rides upon his white horse, the word of truth, νικῶν καὶ ἴνα νικήσῃ, conquering and to conquer, (Rev. 6:2); he leads captivity captive, (Psalm 68:18); those men which were captives to sin and Satan before, now become captives to his Spirit and grace, and as captives, μετέστεσε, he translates them into his own kingdom, (Col. 1:13); he carries them away out of the native soil of their corruption, into the land of uprightness; and (which further shows the insuperability of his conquest) he binds the strong man and spoils his goods, (Matt. 12:29); he casts down πᾶν ὕψωμα, every height, and captivates πᾶν νόημα, every thought to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5); and that this may be surely effected, there are weapons δυνατὰ τῳ Θεῷ mighty to God, (ver. 4); to accomplish his will in that behalf, he circumcises, or (as the Septuagint hath it) περίκαθαριεῖ, he purges the heart round about, (Deut. 30:6); he baptizes it with the Holy Ghost and fire, (Matt. 3:11). Fire-like, he purges out the dross, and converts the heart into his own nature in a glorious way; he causes men to walk in his statutes, (Ezek. 36:27). Oh! what words of power! What triumphs of free grace are these! Here' is the day of God's power; here is the Jerusalem above, the mother of true freedom. Neither is there any shipwreck of human liberty in all this, for God can change the unwilling will into a willing will; or else, which is durus sermo, he, that made free will, cannot have mercy upon it; he, that made the horologe of the heart and all its pins, cannot move the wheels. But if God work conversion in a resistible way, then free grace must lose its triumph, and free will must take the crown; free grace works only a posse convertere, and free will completes it in an actual conversion; free grace may set the will in equilibrio, and that is all; but free will must do the business, and that in a self-glorifying way, not in the humble posture of the apostle, ἀφορῶντες, looking off from ourselves to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, (Heb. 12:2); but in the proud posture of the Pharisee, σταθεὶς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν, standing to himself. (Luke 18:11). Free grace must not act or move the will unto actual conversion; for all action or motion of the will, so far as it is action or motion, is a determination thereof; and a determination from grace cannot, according to the Remonstrant's doctrine, consist with the liberty of the will: wherefore, free grace having set the will in equilibrio, must act or move no further, but leave it to move and determine itself in actual conversion, that is, in plain terms, give up the crown and glory of all unto it. But how absurd is this? God says, No flesh shall glory in itself, and shall man's will vaunt it thus? God says, κατέλιπον, I have left or reserved so many to myself, (Rom. 11:4); and shall free will say so? Christ's manhood did not anoint itself, and shall free will turn itself? God by his grace begins to build a tabernacle for the Spirit, he begins in the understanding by illumination, in the affections by holy motions, and in the will by a posse convertere; and is he not able to finish the work by an actual conversion? All nations, saith the prophet, are but as a dust of the balance to him, (Isa. 40:15); and by the same reason, all their wills are but as the dust of the balance to his will; and shall this small dust turn the scales in the weighty business of conversion? Nay, shall it do so, after creating, regenerating, quickening, captivating, conquering, translating, renewing, drawing, powerfully working, grace hath done its utmost? Surely it cannot be: wherefore, I conclude, That God works actual conversion in an insuperable way.
Having; thus debated the manner of conversion, I proceed to the last thing proposed, viz.;
Query 3. Whether the will of God touching conversion be always accomplished therein?
For answer whereunto, I must first lay down a distinction as a foundation. God may be said to will the conversion of men two ways; either by such a will as is effective, and determinative of the event, or by such a will as is only virtual, and ordinative of the means tending thereunto: both parts of this distinction are bottomed upon scripture.
1. God wills the conversion of some by such a will as is effective and determinative of the event. There are some chosen to holiness, (Eph. 1:4), called κατα πρόθεσιν, according to purpose, (Rom. 8:28); predestinated to be conformed to Christ's image, (ver. 29); begotten of God's own will to be first-fruits to him, (Jam. 1:18); and within that election of grace which doth ever obtain, (Rom. 11:5, 7). Touching these, the will of God is effective and determinative of the event, in these, conversion is wrought after an irresistible and insuperable manner.
2. God wills the conversion of others by such a will as is only virtual and ordinative of the means tending thereunto. Thus God would have healed Israel, (Hos. 7:1). Thus God wills "the turning of the wicked, who yet dieth in his sin," (Ezek. 33:11), because the true tendency of the means is to heal and turn them. Thus the apostle asserts, that God "will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth," (1 Tim. 2:4). In which place, as I take it, the word "all" extends further than to the elect; for those words of the apostle are laid down as a ground of that exhortation to "pray for all men," (ver. 1); and that exhortation to prayer extends further than to the elect: wherefore, the "all" whom God would have to be saved, being parallel and co-extensive to the "all" whom we are to pray for, must also extend beyond the elect. Wherefore, I conceive that the latter part of the words, viz., "and to come to the knowledge of the truth," is a key to the former, viz., "that God would have all to be saved." God would have all to be saved, so far, as he would have all to come to the knowledge of the truth, and he would have all to come to the knowledge of the truth, so far, as he wills means of knowledge unto them; for the true end and tendency of the means (and that from the will of God ordaining the same thereunto) is that men might be turned and saved: wherefore, in respect of that ordination, God may be truly said, by a kind of virtual and ordinative will, to will the turning and salvation of all men. This I shall explain,
1. With reference to those in the bosom of the church.
2. With reference to those out of it.
1. God by a virtual or ordinative will doth will the turning and salvation of all men within the bosom of the church; for they have Jesus Christ set before their eyes, and what was the true end of Christ's coming, but to turn every one from his iniquities, (Acts 3:26). They have the gospel preached unto them: there we have God spreading out his hands all the day, standing and knocking at the door of the heart, crying out with redoubled calls, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" Wooing and beseeching men, be ye reconciled unto me; making his salvation bringing grace appear unto all men, even to the non-elect themselves; and causing the kingdom of God to come nigh unto men, even to such as; for the rejection thereof have the dust of their city wiped off against them; and what is the meaning of all this, if God no way will their conversion? Take away God's ordinative will, and then God (as to the non-elect) spreads out his hands of mercy that he may shut them: knocks, that he may be barred out; cries and beseeches, that he may not be heard; makes his grace appear and kingdom come nigh, that it may be rejected, and not received: all which is to evacuate scripture and put a lie upon the offers of grace. Neither will it salve the business, to say, there is a voluntas signi in all this; for what is voluntas signi, if it be not signum voluntatis? If it be only an outward sign or appearance, and; there be no counterpane or prototype, thereof, within the divine will, how is it a true sign? which way could it be breathed out from God's heart? When God makes his great gospel-supper, and says, Come, for all things are ready; he is not, he cannot be like him with the evil eye, who saith, Eat and drink, but his heart is not with thee, (Prov. 23:6, 7.) No, God's heart goes along with every offer of grace; he never calls, but in a I serious manner. And therefore, unbelieving and impenitent persons are in scripture said not only; to reject the means, but "to receive the grace of God in vain," (2 Cor. 6:1); to "reject the counsel of God against themselves," (Luke 7:30), and to "make God a liar," (1 John 5:10), as if he meant not really in the offers of his Son, Jesus Christ. When God threatened the the Jews with his judgments, "they belied the Lord, and said, "It is not he," (Jer. 5:12); and when God offers men grace in the gospel, they by their unbelief belie the Lord and say, It is not he; it is but only the minister or outward sign; God's heart or mind is not in it. Under such weighty words as these doth the scripture set out the rejection of means, because of God's I ordinative will. That God who will one day mock at the rejectors of his call, (Prov. 1:26), doth not now mock them in the grace of his call; the true end of his call is their conversion, and that that end is not attained, the only reason lies within themselves, in their own corrupt, unbelieving hearts. Moreover, it is worthy of our consideration, that those scriptures (which the Remonstrants urge, to prove that all the operations of grace, even those in the very elect who actually turn unto God, are resistible) do signally set forth this ordinative will of God. As first, they urge that, (Matt. 23:37). "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." Here, say they, is resistable grace. Very well; but what grace doth the text speak of? It speaks only of the grace afforded to those Jews which were never gathered or converted thereby, but not a tittle of the grace afforded to those Jews which were thereby actually gathered or converted; and how then can it prove that this latter grace (of which it speaks not at all) was resistible? If it prove this grace resistible, it can be upon no other ground but this only; That the grace afforded to the Jews which were not gathered, and the grace afforded to the Jews which were gathered, was one and the same; but how can that be made good? Can that text assert an equality of grace to both sorts of Jews, which speaks only of the grace afforded to one of them, viz. to the ungathered ones? It is impossible. But if it be not the truth of the text, is there yet any truth in the thing? Had all the Jews equal grace with the Jews given to Christ, with the Jews drawn by the Father, with the Jews chosen out of the world? It is incredible. The Remonstrants allow, that God doth irresistibly enlighten the understanding, excite the affections, and infuse a posse convertere into the will; but was it thus with all the Jews? Were the blind leaders of the blind thus enlightened? Were the malicious scorners thus affected? Were those which could not believe, (John 12:39), endued with a posse convertere? It cannot be. Wherefore, this text speaking only of the grace given to the ungathered Jews, proves not the grace given to the other Jews to be resistible, but it genuinely proves a will in God to gather them all under his wings of grace; I say, a will in God, for it cannot be interpreted of Christ's human will; for the gathering willed was not only a gathering by Christ's ministry, but by the mission of prophets before his incarnation, to which Christ's human will could not extend, because not then in being: wherefore, this will is God's ordinative will, imported in the ministry of Christ and the prophets, the proper end and tendency whereof was to gather them into the bosom of his grace. This Calvin, in his commentaries upon this place calls, "mirum et incomparabile amoris documentum:" and withal adds, "significat nunquam proponi nobis Dei verbum, quin ipse màternâ dulcedine gremium suum nobis aperiat." Again, they urge that, (Isa. 65:2). "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people;" but this place speaks only of the grace afforded to the rebellious, and, therefore, it proves not that the grace afforded to the elect was resistible. Neither is it imaginable, that the same measure of grace is signified in this expansion of God's hand, as in the revelation of his arm," (Isa. 53:1). The apostle quoteth this place, (Rom. 10:21), yet withal asserts, "that there was a remnant according to the election of grace," Rom. 11:5); not a remnant according to the better improvement of the same grace, but a remnant according to the election of grace; such as pure grace had reserved to itself, by those special operations which were not vouchsafed to the blinded ones," (v. 7). "God's stretching out his hands is all one with his call," (Prov. 1:24); but all men are not called after the same rate as the called according to purpose: wherefore, this place proves not, that the workings of grace as to the elect are resistible; but that the offers of grace as to the non-elect are serious, God in the means really spreading out his arms of grace unto them. Again: they urge that of our Saviour, "These things I say, that you might be saved," (John 5:34); which words were spoken to them, which "would not come to Christ," (ver. 40); but that the Holy Spirit spake as inwardly and powerfully to them, as to the elect who "hear and learn of the Father;" what chemistry can extract it out of this text? or from what other scripture can it be demonstrated? God "commands the light to shine out of darkness in some hearts," (2 Cor. 4:6); but doth he so in all? Whence then are those blinded ones? (ver. 4). If there be any such, where is the Remonstrants' equality of grace? Where, when they say, that illumination is wrought irresistibly? These things cannot consist together. Wherefore our Saviour's words shew not forth the weakness or superableness of grace as to the elect, but the true end and scope of Christ's preaching as to the non-elect; what he spake to them was in order to their salvation. Again: they urge that, "The pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him," that is, of John, (Luke 7:30). Here, say they, is their thesis in terminis: but this place is so far from proving that the internal grace vouchsafed to the elect is resistible, that from hence it cannot be proved that these rejecters had any workings of internal grace at all in them; for internal grace runs in the veins of ordinances, and the ordinance here spoken of was John's baptism, and that these rejecters would not partake of at all; for so saith the text, "They were not baptized of him," and then which way should they come by internal grace? could they have it quite out of God's way? 'No; surely there is little, or rather no reason, to imagine that these rejecters so far scorning I God's ordinance, as not so much as outwardly to be made partakers thereof, should yet have the workings of internal grace in them. But suppose they had some internal working, must it needs be the "baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire," such intimate and powerful working as is in the elect? Not a tittle of this appears in the text: wherefore this place proves not that the working of grace in the elect is resistible, but it signally shews forth the nature of divine ordinances. Every ordinance is an ordinance from the will of God; it is an appointment dropt down from heaven; it is divinely εἰς οἰκοδομὴν, for edification and not for destruction; it is the place where God records his name; it is the way where God would be met withal; it is the oracle where God would be heard; it is a kind of tabernacle of witness, where God attesteth the riches of his grace. John's baptism was not a mere external sign or shadow, but imported God's ordinative counsel to bring men to repentance; it was εἰς μετάνοιαν, to repentance, as its proper end, (Matt. 3:11). Gospel-preaching is not a mere sound or voice of words, out it importeth God's ordinative counsel to turn men unto himself. Hence every true minister is said to stand in God's counsel, and for this very end, to turn them from the evil of their doings, (Jer. 23:22). Every ordinance speaks an ordinative counsel for some spiritual end, a serious ordination for the good of souls. Oh! that every one would think so indeed, how surely would they find that God is in it of a truth; whosoever comes to an ordinance so thinking, justifies God's institution and meets his benediction; but he who comes and thinks otherwise, doth, by that very thought, forsake the ordinance of his God, and reject his counsel, though not in so high and gross a manner as the Pharisees and lawyers did, who would not so much as outwardly partake of John's baptism. Again: they urge that, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes," (Isai. 5:4)? Here, say they, were omnia adhibita, not a tantillum gratiæ wanting; here seems to be the ultimus conatus, the utmost acting of grace, even equal to those operations of grace which were in the converts of the Jewish church, and that upon a double account; first, because God says, "What could be done more?" Secondly, because God had done so much, that he expected the grapes of holiness and obedience from them; and yet after all this, they brought forth wild grapes: hence the Remonstrants conclude, that conversion is wrought in a resistible way. I answer; those which will take the true measure of the grace set forth in this text, must first consider to whom this grace was afforded; it was to the Jewish church in common, even to every member thereof: this granted, as it cannot be denied, I proceed to answer, first as to that expression, "What could have been done more?" Either the meaning of it is, what could have been done more in a way of internal grace, or else it is what could have been done more in a way of external means; the first cannot be the meaning, that God could do no more in a way of internal grace; if God had said so in that sense, the Jewish church might have aptly answered, Lord! couldest thou not write the law in every heart? Couldest thou not make a new heart in every one of us? O how many unregenerate souls are there found in me! But if not that, Lord! couldest thou not, at least, have inwardly enlightened every one? Couldest thou not have given him some inward dispositions to conversion? O how many ignorant souls are there, which call "evil good, and good evil, and put darkness for light, and light for darkness!" (Isa. 5:20.) These are not so much as inwardly enlightened. O! how many atheists are there which jeer and scoff at the threatenings of God, saying, "Let him hasten his work, that we may see it, let the counsel of the Holy One draw nigh, that we may know it." (Ver. 9.) These are so far from any dispositions to conversion, that they scarcely have the sense of a Deity in them. Lord! thou, who didst plant me a vineyard or visible church, could'st have planted saving graces in every heart; thou, who didst gather out the stones of public annoyance out of me, could'st have took away the privy stone of hardness out of every heart; doubtless thou art Almighty, and therefore thou canst do it; thou art true, and therefore thou wilt do it, if thou hast said it. Hence it appears that that expression, "What could have been done more?" relates not to internal grace, but external means: it is as if God had said, "O Israel! I have planted thee in a Canaan; I have set thee my only visible church in the world; I have manured thee by my prophets; I have betrusted thee with the lively Oracles of my law; I have fenced thee in with my waky providence and protection. What nation is there so great, who hath me so nigh unto them, who hath judgments and statutes so righteous? What national or church-privileges is there yet behind? What could have been done more for a church under the legal pedagogy, and before the Messiah's coming in the flesh?" This I take to be the proper meaning of the words. Secondly, as to God's expectation, neither doth that imply that there were omnia adhibita; for when God came and sought fruit on the fig-tree, the seeking there was as much as the expecting here, and yet there were not omnia adhibita, no, not as to external means; for after his seeking, he digged about it and dunged it, that it might be fruitful, (Luke 13:6, 7, 8, 9). Now, by all this it appears, that that parable of the vineyard proves, not that the internal grace afforded to those Jews which were thereby converted was resistible; but it proves that the proper end and tendency of the means afforded to the Jewish church, was that they might bring forth good fruits to God; and in respect of that ordination, God is said to expect those good fruits from them.
2. God, by a virtual or ordinative will, doth will the turning and salvation even of the very pagans. According to that will, God would (as I have before laid down) be seen in every creature, sought and felt in every place, witnessed in every shower and fruitful season, feared in the sea-bounding sand, humbled under in every abasing providence, and turned to in every judgment. This the very Philistines saw by the light of nature; "Give glory to God," say they, "peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you," (1 Sam. 6:5). Also, the Ninevites' counsel was, "to cry mightily to God, and turn from their evil ways; who can tell," say they, "if God will turn and repent," (Jonah 3:8, 9). In a word; the meaning of all God's works is "that men should fear before him," (Eccl. 3:14). The goodness and patience of God leads them to repentance, (Rom. 2:4). Hence the apostle tells us, "The Lord is long-suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," (2 Peter 3:9). "Mirus hîc erga humanam genus amor," saith Calvin on the place, "quòd omnes vult esse salvos, et ultrò pereuntes in salutem colligere paratus est." God, in indulging his patience and long-suffering to men, doth virtually will their repentance and salvation. I know some interpret this place otherwise: God is long-suffering to us, that is, the ἀγαπητοὶ, in the former verse, not willing that any, (viz. of us,) should perish, but that all, (viz., of us,) should come to repentance. But I conceive that there is no necessity at all that the text should be so straitened, nor yet congruity for long-suffering towards the beloved, that they, who have already repented, should come to repentance. Neither doth this answer the scope of the place, which asserts, that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, upon this ground, because of his long-suffering: and his long-suffering extends to all, and in that extent its true end and scope is to lead them to repentance and salvation. Wherefore, the meaning is, God is long-suffering to us, not to us beloved only, but to us men, not willing our perdition but repentance. The true duct and tendency of his long-suffering is to lead men to repentance and salvation; and, therefore, in willing that long-suffering, he doth virtually and ordinatively will their repentance and salvation.
Having thus at large laid down this distinction with its parts, my answer to the query proposed is this: God's will of conversion, as effective and determinative of the event, is accomplished in the actual conversion of all the elect by insuperable grace; and God's will of conversion, as virtual and ordinative of means, is accomplished in this, That there is a serious exhibition of the means in order to conversion, as their proper end, and, that that end, but for man's voluntary corruption, would be thereby attained, even in all.