By Daniel Whitby – part of Discourses on the 5 Points
Editor Note: Archaic spellings and words have been updated, sentences broken down into shorter sentences and links to scripture references inserted. – Godismyjudge
Answering the arguments produced to prove, First, that man is purely passive in the work of conversion, and that it is done by an irresistible or unfrustrable act of God.
These arguments, for method-sake, may be reduced to four heads,
First. Arguments taken from the nature of the work itself; as v. g. it being represented by such acts:
- ‘By a resurrection. (Ephesians 1:19-20)
- A creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 2:10)
- A new birth in which we are confessedly passive. (John 3:5)
Secondly. Arguments taken from the nature of the state and disability of the person to be converted:
- As, v. g. that he is dead, and so unable to move towards a new life. (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13)
From his disability,
- To discern the things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
- To think anything, as of himself, (2 Corinthians 3:5)
- To do anything till he be first in Christ. (John 15:5)
- To come to Christ till he be drawn by God. (John 6:44)
- To bring forth good fruit, being an evil tree. (Matthew 7:18)
- To be subject to the law of God. (Romans 8:7)
Thirdly. Such as. respect God himself, he being represented as either,
- Giving repentance to life. (Acts 11:18)
- Giving faith. (Ephesians 2:8)
- Opening die heart. (Acts 16:14)
Or as promising, (2,)
- To circumcise the heart. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
- To give a new heart and spirit. (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26)
- To write his law in our hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33)
- To give us one heart and one way, that we may fear him forever. (Jeremiah 32:39)
Or, (3,)as doing this work in us, it being God,
- Who worketh in us both to will and to do. (Philippians 2:13, Hebrews 13:21)
- Who turns us to himself. (Jeremiah 31:18)
Or, Fourthly, such as prove the absurdity of the contrary assertion, that man cooperates with God in this work, and is not converted without the free consent of his own will; for if so, it follows,
- That one man makes himself to differ from another, which is contrary to (1 Corinthians 4:7)
- That man would have cause of boasting; which is denied, (1 Corinthians 1:29, 31, Ephesians 2:9)
- That the whole glory of our conversion would not be due to God.
- Because, if grace be resistible by the will of man, it must be uncertain whether any man will be converted by it, or not.
I. Now before I come to a particular answer to these arguments, I think it proper to premise three things:
First. That it seems unreasonable to apply all those sayings of the scripture which concern heathen nations lying under the most gross idolatry, and under great darkness and confusion, into which the corrupt customs of the Heathens, and the subtlety of Satan had reduced them, to prove what is the natural estate of all men, even of those who have the knowledge of the true God, and the light of the gospel. For to place them under the same disability with persons sunk into the dregs of Heathenism, seems a very great absurdity; it being in effect to say, that “men acquainted with all the inducements, arguments, and motives which Christianity affords to produce faith, repentance, and conversion in them, have no more advantages, towards repentance and conversion than the worst of Heathens,” who, to be sure, cannot do less than nothing towards their conversion, and would as certainly be converted by an irresistible act of God, and by unfrustrable grace, as they who have attained to the exactest knowledge of God, and of the doctrine of Christianity; and yet it is certain that some of those arguments depend upon such passages as only represent the state of Heathens lying in darkness and gross idolatry, and lead by Satan captive to his will.’
Secondly. It seems also certain, that those promises and scriptures which respect whole nations, churches, and Christians, without distinction or respect of persons, can afford no just arguments to prove such operations shall be wrought upon them which are peculiar to the elect. The reason, is, because all the members of any church, nation, or public society, are not of the number of the elect, but some few of them, only, and therefore the promises made to the whole body of them must either be conditional, and so require something to be done by them in order to the enjoyment of the blessings promised, and then they cannot be purely passive, or if they be absolute, they cannot be promises peculiar to the elect, as being made to many which are not of that number. And yet that this is the nature of many of the promises produced in this affair, will be evident.
And, Thirdly. It seems very impertinent to produce those places of scripture which evidently speak of men who have already believed and repented, and upon whom the work of regeneration has been completed already, to prove that men are purely passive in the work of faith, repentance, and regeneration: the reason is, because such places cannot concern the work of faith, repentance, and regeneration yet to be wrought upon them.
If it be said, ” the argument is good, a fortiori, viz. if after all these works have been done upon them, men are still purely passive in all the good they do, much more must they be so before these works are wrought within them;” I answer that the argument, were the case truly so, would be very good; but the supposition that men are still as unable after such grace received, as before, to do any good, is intolerably absurd; since, were it so, men would not be one bit the better for their conversion and the new nature wrought within them, their faith could not be fruitful in good works, their mind could be no more enabled to approve the things which are of God, nor their wills to chose them, nor their affections to desire them, nor their executive faculties to perform them. Seeing then such places cannot be understood of God’s working in them without any co-operation of their own, it is evident they cannot pertinently be alleged to prove such operation upon other men.
Objection 1: Ephesians 1:19-20
II. OBJECTION ONE. When the apostle prays that his Ephesians may know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead;’ (Ephesians 1:19-20) it must be absurd hence to infer, that the power of God working faith in believers, is equal to that which effected the resurrection of our Lord, and that we must be therefore purely passive in the whole work of our conversion. For as this power is not consistent with the persuasions and exhortations used in scripture to move sinners to repent and turn themselves from their iniquity, or with a rational choice, nor could it properly be said that ” they turned,” but only that ” they were turned to the Lord;” so is not the exposition agreeable to the words: for the apostle speaks not of the power exercised on us to render us believers, but of the power which shall be exercised on us who believe already, not of the power to be exercised on our souls to raise them from a death in sin to a life of righteousness, but of the power to be exercised on our dead bodies to give them a glorious resurrection to eternal life, as he had done already in the body of our Head, Christ Jesus.
Objection 2: Creation
Objection Two. When it is said that this work is compared to a creation, in which it is certain that which is created must be purely passive, as when by it we are said to become, a new creation Galatians 6:15, we being God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
Answer One. That this metaphor affords no certain proof that wheresoever it is used, the person it respects must be purely passive, and have done nothing towards the act styled creation; is evident from many instances to the contrary. Thus God is said to have created Jacob, and formed Israel, when he constituted them to be his church and people, (Isaiah 43:1) whence the Septuagint says, Ti rns xriatus rdurns, (b) remember this creation; and yet they were not purely passive, but entered into covenant to have him for their God.
When God makes use of wicked men, or men of war, to punish others, he says, (c) I create the water to destroy; and yet it is certain that he is not purely passive in that work; and this is in the case before us certain from the nature of faith; for faith is man’s and not God’s; it is an assent, and so an action of the mind. Godly sorrow, though it arises from the motives which God and his Good Spirit, and which his ministers suggest, yet is it the sorrow of the convinced sinner, and it, says the apostle, works repentance unto life, which sure it could not do, if we were purely passive in that work.
As for the work of conversion, God’s frequent calls upon the wicked to turn themselves from all their transgressions, God’s commission to his apostles, to declare unto the (d) Gentiles that they should repent, and turn to the Lord, are certain indications that they are not wholly passive in that work.
Answer Two. But God is in scripture said to create that which he brings into a new and better state; thus David prays, (e) create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew in me a right Spirit. (Psalm 51:10) Thus he is said to create new heavens and new earth, by making such a change and alteration for the better in the face and state of things, that the frame of them, seems not to be the same as it was before, (Isaiah 65:17-18) And when he says, verse 18, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy, the note of Gataker is this, that ” restitution and renovation for the better, is deemed as a creation.” Seeing then the change wrought in us by that faith which purifies the heart, and makes us fruitful in good works, by a repentance from dead works to the service of the living God, and by a conversion from a life of sin to a life of righteousness, is such a renovation as changes the whole man and all his faculties for the better; seeing this renovation is begun, as creation is, by the power of God working upon the heart of man, we being made ‘a willing people in the day of his power,’ here is foundation sufficient for the metaphor of a new creature used in these texts. To this sense the scripture plainly leads us when it says, ” If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; because old things are passed away, and all things are become new in us ;” and says in one place, ‘ we put on the new man which is created after God in righteousness and holiness of truth;’ (Ephesians 4:24) and in another, which is ‘ renewed after the image of him that created him;’ and all the Greek Fathers confirm this exposition, by saying that ” this new creation only means ‘a change for the better’,” as you may see in Suicernus.
Objection 3: New Birth
OBJECTION THREE. ” Regeneration is styled A NEW BIRTH; as therefore we are passive in our generation, so must we be also in our regeneration.”
ANSWER. The falsehood of this argument is evident from this consideration, — that this new birth is ascribed to the word of God, which only works upon us by moral suasion; as when the scripture says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; (Romans 10:17) that we are begotten by the word of the living God; (1 Peter 1:23) that God himself hath “begotten us by the word of truth. (James 1:18)
(ii.) It is also ascribed to the ministers of God, as when St. Paul tells the Corinthians he had ” begotten them by the gospel.’ (1 Corinthians 4:15) If then this new birth, when it is ascribed to God’s word or ministers, cannot import that they produce it by an irresistible action, in which we are purely passive, it will not follow that God, of his Good Spirit, does so convert men, because they are said to be born of God, or of the Spirit.
Secondly. This regeneration being the phrase used by the Jews concerning their Proselytes, they being said to be then recens nati, ‘new-born babes,’ and born to holiness. (Strom. 1. 5. p. 552.) Our Lord translates the metaphor from them to his disciples renewed after the image of God in true holiness, and sanctified throughout in all their whole man. Nowhere is such an intrinsic change in ” the whole spirit, soul, and body,” and the whole tenor of this man’s life for the better, that he may well be said to be ‘born again,’ who is thus changed into another man; for if when the Spirit of prophecy came upon Saul he was ‘turned into another man ;'(1 Samuel 10:6) much more may he be said to be so who has the Spirit of sanctification dwelling in him. And seeing it is by the operation of the Holy Spirit that this change is wrought within us, it fitly is expressed by being “born of the Spirit.”
Seeing, lastly, we are thus born ‘ not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, that is, the word of the living God, who of his own will hath begotten us again by the word of truth,’ therefore we are as fitly said to be ‘ born of God.’
Objection 4: Dead in Sins
III. OBJECTION FOUR. “The unregenerate man is represented as ‘dead in trespasses and sins;’ and he that is dead, we know, hath no motion in him, and so cannot move towards a new life.” (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13)
ANSWER ONE. That the metaphor of being ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ cannot warrant our saying anything of unregenerate persons which may properly be affirmed of the dead, is evident from scripture and experience: for a dead body is void of all sense, whereas the unregenerate man is often under strong convictions, and a deep sense of his present misery. A dead man cannot awake himself out of the sleep of death, but God says to the spiritually-dead man, ” Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee life.” (Ephesians 5:14) A dead man cannot hear, but to the spiritually-dead God says, “Hear, and your souls shall live.” (Isaiah 55:3) And, lastly, it would be absurd to exhort a dead body to turn about and live; whereas God thinks it not incongruous to say to persons spiritually-dead, “turn yourselves, and ye shall live.” (Ezekiel 18:32, 33:1)
Moreover good Christians are said to be ‘ dead to sin,’ (Romans 6:2, 6, 7, 11) dead to the law, (Galatians 2:19) dead and crucified to the world. (Galatians 6:14) Now if hence we cannot truly argue that they cannot sin at all; that they can do nothing relating to the world, or could do nothing relating to the law, as St. Paul in compliance with the Jews, still did; neither can we argue from the metaphor of being ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ that after God’s call to hear and live, his excitation by all the motives and incitements of his word and Spirit, we can do nothing in obedience to these calls, and in compliance with these motions of his word and Spirit.
ANSWER SECOND. This argument offends against the first general rule laid down before, for both the places cited concern only the Gentile world, held under the government of Satan, and living according to the evil spirit, which works in the children of disobedience.’ (Ephesians 2:2) And the same persons are said to be dead in sins, and in the ‘ uncircumcision of the flesh,’ which put them out of a covenant-relation to God; and so their quickening must consist in their conversion from that darkness in which the Heathens lay, into the light of the gospel, and from the service of Satan to the service of the true God. But this was not the state of the Gentile made a proselyte of justice, or of the Jew, and much less of the baptized Christian; and so we cannot argue from those words which do so certainly relate unto the worst of Heathens, that this must be the natural estate of all men, or that the same power is requisite to convert the unregenerate Christian and the worst of Heathens.
Objection 5: Natural Man
OBJECTION FIVE. It is still more impertinent to argue this from the words of the apostle, ‘the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they art foolishness to him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1 Corinthians 2:14)
For First. The natural man here is not barely the unregenerate man, but the wise man and disputer of the world, who will admit of nothing but what he can see proved by reason, and so receives not things revealed by the Spirit, because he doth not see them proved by philosophical deductions from reason; but deems them foolishness, for want of that which only is, in his esteem, true wisdom; as has been fully proved in the note upon that place.
Secondly. When the apostle says that this man cannot know the revelations of the Spirit, he speaks not of the inability of a Heathen to understand the meaning of any revelation discovered to him; for how then is it discovered to him? Nor does he say that when they are declared to him, he lacks further means to attain to the true sense of them; but only that he cannot know them by that human wisdom by which alone he will be guided: for being mysteries, and secret counsels of God’s will, they are not knowable by human reason, till God is pleased to reveal them; whence the apostle demonstrates the necessity of a supernatural revelation, that the hidden wisdom of God may be made known unto the world.
Objection 6: 2 Corinthians 3:5
OBJECTION SIX. The argument from those words of the apostle, ‘we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves,’ is as impertinent to this purpose as the former. (2 Corinthians 3:5)
For, first, if it proves anything, it proves too much, viz. That we are not sufficient of ourselves, ‘to think anything’ at all, whether it be good or bad.
And, secondly, the words relate to the apostles, and to them alone, and are a declaration of their own insufficiency to carry on the great work of the conversion of the world to the Christian faith by their own strength and wisdom, and that their sufficiency for it derived entirely from that God who had ‘ made them able ministers of the New Testament,’ by the assistance of his Holy Spirit; for having proved, in his first epistle, that there was a necessity of a divine revelation to enable them to make known the truths contained in the gospel to the world, because human reason, without this revelation, was not sufficient to discern them, he here disclaims that sufficiency of themselves without divine assistance; that is, without those illuminations and powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, which made them able ministers of the New Testament, assisting them to preach the word ‘ with demonstration of the Spirit, and with power.’
Objection 7: Without Me you can do nothing
OBJECTION SEVEN. ” Christ says, ‘ without me you can do nothing,’ (John 15:5) whence it is inferred that no man can do anything that is good, till he be first in Christ, that is, till he be endued with justifying faith.”
ANSWER FIRST. This argument offends against the third general rule: for these words of Christ are spoken expressly to those who were ‘abiding in Christ,’ and truly believed already, that is, to his twelve apostles, to show the necessity of their continuance in that state, that they might successfully perform the work he had designed and chosen them to do, viz. ‘ to go forth into the World, and bring forth much fruit,’ by converting many to the faith, verse 1-8, and so it signifies that without the gifts, and powerful assistance of that Holy Spirit, who belonged only to them who abode in Christ, they could do nothing to convert the world; their sufficiency for that work deriving itself entirely from that God who gives the Holy Spirit to them for that end. (2 Corinthians 3:5)
ANSWER SECOND. Gataker has well noted, that koris emo ‘without me,’ is the same as koristhentes ap emo ‘being separated from me,’ you can do nothing ; and this being given as a reason engaging those he spoke to, to abide still in him, if you extend it to all true Christians, (as it proves that they may not abide always such, so) it only signifies that without abiding in the faith, they cannot be fruitful in the faith; and without their continuing united to Christ by the Spirit, they cannot bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. But they do not prove that a man cannot hearken or attend to what he hears, in order to the obtaining of that faith which comes by hearing; that he cannot ask, seek, and knock for the Good Spirit, that he may be born of the Spirit; or that he cannot think of his ways, that he may turn his feet unto God’s testimonies.
Objection 8: Drawn of the Father
OBJECTION EIGHT. ‘No man can come to Christ except the Father draw him’ (John 6:44) Now he that is drawn, is passive.”
ANSWER. To this I answer, (First,) that to be drawn of God, cannot import our being moved by any inward and irresistible impressions to believe in Christ; for then no man could come to Christ without this irresistible impression, and then no other person could be blameworthy for not believing on him, because they could not do it without that powerful attraction which God was not pleased to afford them; nor could it be praise-worthy to believe in him, because they only did so when they could not chose but do it, as being moved in so doing by a force they were not able to resist.
Therefore to be drawn of God can only signify:
First. To be persuaded and prevailed upon to come to Christ, by the consideration of the mighty works which God had done to justify that Christ was the true Messiah, or that prophet which he had sent into the world. To these Christ still appeals as divine testimonies concerning him, by saying, “the works that my Father has given me to; bear witness of me;’ (John 10:25) and hence he represents the unbelieving Jews as inexcusable, that he had done ‘ those works among, them which never man did.’ (James 1:14) See the note there.
Or, Secondly, It is to be moved by the great promise of eternal life, confirmed by these miracles, to do it; for where there is a firm belief and lively sense of that inestimable blessing, it strongly must engage us to use the means by which we may obtain it, and so to come to Christ, when from him only this blessing is to be expected; and this is a familiar sense of the word ‘draw,’ both in the scripture and in other writings. Thus God is said to ‘ draw them to himself by the cords of lore,’ (Hosea 11:4) who yet were ‘ bent to backsliding from him,’ (verse 7) and men are said to be ‘ drawn aside by their own lusts;’ (or trahit sua quem que volitptas,) ‘ every man’s pleasure draws him to a compliance with it:’ See the note there. And that we are only said to be drawn thus by the Father to Christ, (viz. by his miracles and divine instructions,) is evident from the words following; as a proof of this, ‘ it is written they shall all be taught of God, he therefore that hath heard (these things from) the Father (there is God’s teaching) and learned, that is, perceived that it is even he that speaks and does these mighty things by me, (there is man’s duty and his action) he comes to me.’ Without this drawing, none can come to Christ; for God alone can give this promise of eternal life to encourage us to do so, and no power but that of God could work those miracles which confirmed this promise and the commission of our Lord.
Objections 9 &10: Evil Tree/Carnal Mind
The NINTH and TENTH OBJECTIONS are in effect the same, and so will admit of the same answer, viz. “That while a man is an evil tree, (Matthew 7:18) he can do nothing that is good, and that ‘ the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, nor Indeed can be so;’ whence the inference is this, that this evil tree must be first made good, this carnal mind must be first made spiritual, before he can do anything towards his conversion. (Romans 8:7)
ANSWER FIRST. Now the absurdity of these objections is visible in this, that this exposition of them renders all God’s exhortations to the wicked to turn from the evil of their ways, all his promises of pardon and salvation if they turn from them, all his threats of death and destruction if they do not turn from them, all its complaints against them that they would not be converted, they would not come to him, vain and absurd; as being exhortations and commands to do what he knew they could not, and he only could do without them; promises of pardon and salvation, if he himself would do what they could not; and threats of damnation if he himself did it not, and in effect complaints against him; for he that complains against me for not doing what he himself alone can make me do, lays the whole guilt of not doing it upon himself.
ANSWER SECOND. It is said in the same place, that ‘a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; and elsewhere, that ‘he that is born of God cannot sin.’ Now if we cannot truly hence infer that a good man, or a spiritual person, can never do an evil or a sinful action, neither can we from the words cited infer, that an evil or a carnal man can never do a good action; for if so, why does God say to him, ‘ cease to do evil, learn to do welI? (Psalm 34:14) but only that they cannot do it till they will use the faculties which God has given them, to consider and lay to heart the inducements which the gospel tenders to engage them to amend their ways. Hence our Lord says to these bad trees, ‘make the tree good that the fruit may be good; which shows, he knew they could and ought to have done something towards that good effect. And the apostle, by his frequent exhortations to carnal men, ” to mortify the deeds of the flesh, to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, to put off the old man with his deeds; (Galatians 5:24, Ephesians 4:22) by his threats that “if they live after the flesh they shall die,” and by his promise, that ” if through the Spirit they do mortify the deeds of the flesh they shall live, (Romans 8:13) plainly demonstrates not only that they can, but that they must be active, if ever this change be wrought upon them.
Objections 11 &12: Gifts of Repentance & Faith
IV. To the ELEVENTH and TWELFTH OBJECTIONS the same general answers may be given, they both depending on the same phrase, and making thus one argument: ” What God gives we only receive, and so are only passive; but God gives faith and repentance.” (Acts 11:18, Ephesians 2:8)
ANSWER FIRST. To show the vanity of such objections, I shall confront them thus, what God commands we must do, and therefore must be active in it; but God ‘ commands all men every where to repent,’ (Acts 17:30) and ‘ this is his commandment that we believe in the name of the Son of God,’ (1 John 3:23) therefore we must be active in the works of faith, (John 6:29) and of repentance. Yea, by this way of arguing, all that hardness of heart the Jews contracted must be ascribed to God, and they must have been purely passive in it, God having ‘green them a spirit of slumber:’ (Romans 11:8) Ahab’s false prophets must be purely passive; for, says Micaiah, ‘ the Lord hath given a lying spirit in the mouth of all thy prophets: ‘ (1 Kings 22:23)
The enemies of God’s church must be passive in all the evils they do to her, God having ‘given them to take peace from the earth, and to slay some and in the blasphemies they utter against him, ‘ God having given to the beast to speak blasphemies’ (Revelations 13:5)
ANSWER SECOND. In answer to all the sayings of like nature to these, I lay down this as a general and certain rule, — that where God is said to give anything, the exercise of that faculty is still supposed which he hath given us already, and God is only said to give it by giving us those faculties by which we are enabled to obtain it, and the means and motives which are sufficient to excite those faculties to the performance of their proper actions; I say, the exercise of those faculties is always presupposed, when God said to give that which it is our duty to perform, and which will turn to our advantage and reward.
And, First . Thus is it always with respect to natural gifts ; for thus God “gives riches,” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-6:2) because he ‘gives power to get wealth,’ (Deuteronomy 8:18) but yet it is ‘ the diligent hand, and the blessing of God on our labors that makes rich.’ (Proverbs 10:4, 22) He ‘ gives us our daily bread,’ yea, he ‘ gives food to all flesh,” (Psalm 136:25) yet we must eat it ‘ in the sweat of our brows,” and with the labor of our hands procure it.
So ‘ he gives all things to all men,’ (Acts 17:25) and ‘ to the beasts their food.’ (Psalm 147:9) But then they must employ those faculties which God has given them to procure it: wherefore to argue thus, — ” God gives faith and repentance, therefore we do nothing to obtain them, but God does all,” is as if I should argue, that, because God gives us our daily bread, we were not to labor for it, because he gives food to all flesh, they were not to seek out after it.
Secondly, thus is it also with respect to spirituals; for ‘ God gives wisdom,’ (Ecclesiastes 2:26) but it is only the ‘man of understanding’ who has it. (Proverbs 10:23) We must be at some pains to get it; (Proverbs 4:5) and must apply our hearts to seek her out. (Ecclesiastes 7:25) So that, to argue as these men do in this case, is plainly to contradict the mind of the Holy Ghost, who for this very reason that God is the giver of it, requires us to ‘ incline our ear to wisdom, and apply our hearts to understanding, to cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding; to seek for her as (men do) for silver, and to search for her as for hid treasure, ‘suspending our enjoyment of her upon all this diligence, by saying, ‘then shall than understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God, for (to such persons) the Lord gives wisdom.’ (Proverbs 2:2-6)
And thus has God given us an ‘understanding to know the true God,’ (1 John 5:20) by sending his Son to reveal him to the world. (John 1:18) Thus the Jews say, that God hath ‘given repentance to the Gentiles,’ when by Peter preaching to them peace through Jesus Christ, and promising remission of sins upon their repentance, they repented and believed in Christ. (Acts 10:36, 43)
So also though faith be an assent to a divine revelation, and so an act of the understanding, requiring only the evidence of the truth of that revelation to produce it, yet is it said to be the ‘gift of God,’ because the objects of our faith are only by divine revelation made known to us, and only are confirmed, and so made credible to us, by the testimony which God hath given to them.
Objection 13: Opening the Heart
OBJECTION THIRTEEN. ” ‘The Lord opened the heart of Lydia;’ therefore conversion is wrought by his immediate impulse and powerful influence.” (Acts 16:14)
ANSWER FIRST. That God inclined her to do this, is not denied. The question only is, whether he did this by an extraordinary and irresistible influence. And this it seems reasonable to deny; for either she alone was prepared disposed and fitted to receive this influence, and then she had done something already towards her conversion; or if it were absolutely necessary that she might believe, and yet she alone, though no more fitted or prepared for it than the rest, received it ; the other auditors, for want of this extraordinary influence, must be under a necessity of not believing, and so it could not be blameworthy in them that they did not believe.
ANSWER SECOND, ‘ To open the heart’, and ‘ to open the ear’ are scripture-phrases of like import; for the effect of both is the same, viz. the rendering the person willing and inclined to do the thing. See 1 Chronicles 17:25, Psalm 40:6.
now this God is sometimes said to do when he awakens men by his afflicting hand; for thus speaks Elihu, ‘ if they be bound in fetters, and held in cords of affliction, he opens their ear to discipline, he opens their ears in oppression;’ (Job 36:8,13,15) and yet these things can only do it by awakening men to consider of their ways.
And sometime., he does it by the preaching of the word: for as they who are taught by the word, or the example of God, are said to be ‘ taught of God;’ so they who have their hearts affected with it, and inclined by it to what is good, may be said properly enough to have their hearts opened by it. Thus our Lord represents himself as ‘ knocking at the door of men’s hearts’ by the preachers of his word, and the suggestions of his Spirit; but entering only when men open their hearts to receive him.
In short, God is here said ‘ to open the heart of Lydia,’ not to believe, but only to attend to the things spoken’ by St. Paul; that is, to weigh, and seriously consider of the greatness of the blessings promised to believers, viz. remission of sins, and eternal life; and that attention produced this faith in her.
Objections 14 & 15: Circumcision of the Heart
V. OBJECTIONS FOURTEEN and FIFTEEN. “God promises ‘ to, circumcise, the heart,’ (Deuteronomy 30:6) and Ephraim prays thus, ‘turn thou us, O Lord, and so shall we be turned (Jeremiah 31:18) he therefore only does these works in us, and we are purely passive.”
ANSWER. Now in answer to such texts as these in general, I lay down this as a most certain rule, that when God does require us to do what he himself does promise, and hath made it our duty to, perform, his promise is only to perform what is requisite on his part towards the work, he certainly expecting we ourselves should do what he commands; and the tenor of those prayers is only to afford his assistance to help our infirmities when we are truly willing and desirous to perform our duty by virtue of those inducements he hath already laid before us; for if in such cases the whole was to be done by God immediately, not by way of persuasion only, but by unfrustrable influence, his command to us to do it, could only be to this effect, “do you upon your utmost ” peril what I alone can do, or be gods!”
For a comand to men to do what divine power can alone effect, does signify no less; and we by praying he alone would do what he requires us to do, pray in effect to be excused from obeying his commands, and that he would do himself what he expects from us.
First. Then seeing the same God who promises to ‘circumcise the hearts’ (Deuteronomy 30:6) of his people, requires them to ‘ circumcise their own hearts,'(Jeremiah 4:4, 9:26)’ and calls upon the men of Judah to ‘circumcise themselves, and take away the foreskins of their hearts, lest his justice break forth upon them,’ and threatens to punish all the house of ‘ Israel because they were uncircumcised in heart,’ and yet he cannot rationally be supposed to punish and break, forth in fury on them, because he had not performed his promise, it is demonstrably certain that promise could not signify that he alone would do that work without their concurrence, or their endeavor to do something towards it; so that it is superfluous to add that this promise was apparently conditional, viz. if they would call to mind the blessings and the cursing which he had pronounced, verses 1& 2, and ‘turn to the Lord their God;’, or that it is a promise made to all that were brought back into the land from their captivity, and to all their seed, and so to many who were not elected; to nations, not to particular persons.
Secondly. Seeing God so frequently requires of the same persons that they should: turn themselves from their transgressions, promising life to the penitent ‘ because he considers and turns from his iniquity,’ and threatening that if they would not turn, ‘ they should die in their sins’ seeing he complains do often of his own people, that ‘they would’ not turn to him that smote them,’ and of that very Ephraim which made this prayer, that ‘they would not frame their doings to turn unto the Lord;’ (Hosea 5:4) it must be absurd to urge this player to excuse men from a duty required by God under such dreadful penalties.
Add to this, that by comparing this prayer with the preceding chapter, in which God promises so often to turn their captivity, it appears this is only a prayer that God would bring them out of that slavery, like that of the Psalmist, ‘turn our captivity, O Lord.’ (Psalm 126:4)
Objections 16 & 17: Writing Laws on the Heart
OBJECTIONS SIXTEEN and SEVENTEEN. “God promises to ‘write his law in the hearts of his people, and to put it into their inward parts; (Jeremiah 31:33) that he will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear him forever, and will make an everlasting covenant with them; that he will not turn away from them to do them good, but will put his fear in their ‘hearts that they shall not depart from him’.” (Jeremiah 32:39-40)
ANSWER. These promises are made expressly to the whole house of Israel, and to ‘all the children of Israel and Judah’ to all with whom the old covenant was made, and whom God’ brought out of Egypt,’ and would bring again ‘ out of captivity’ it therefore, by the second general rule, can be no promise made to, or covenant made with, the elect of the house of Israel and Judah.
(i.) Because then the whole nation of the Jews must have been elected and converted, (ii.) Because it is made with those who “kept not his former covenant, and therefore he regarded them not;” whereas the elect always persist, say these men, in their covenant with God, and he doth always regard them; they always are his people, and he is still their God; this therefore can be no new covenant with them.
And therefore, ANSWER SECOND. These words, “I will put my law or my fear into their hearts, and write it in their inward parts,” import two things; First, that he would clearly make known his will to them, so that they need not be at much pains to find it out, as in these words; “the commandment which I command thee this day is not hidden from thee, neither is it far from thee, the word is near unto thee in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou should do it; see, I have set before thee life and death;” and so, says the apostle, is it with the ‘ word of faith which we preach,’ it is nigh to the Christian in his mouth to confess, and in his heart to believe it. (Romans 10:8-9) And the law written “in the hearts of the Heathens,” (Romans 2:15) is the law so plainly taught them, that their own consciences inwardly condemn them when they do transgress it. Hence the effect of writing this law in their hearts, here, and Hebrews 8:11, is this, that “they should all ‘ know him from the least to the greatest.” So Jerome, Christostom, Theodoret, and Cyril of Alexandria. See the note on Hebrews 8:13.
Secondly. An inculcating them on the soul by the Holy Spirit so as that they may be still fresh upon the memory. So Deuteronomy 6:6 ‘”these words that I command thee this day shall be in thy heart:” ‘ that is, ‘says B. Uiael, ‘they shall be written, upon the table of your hearts’. So Proverbs 3:1-3 “my son, forget not my law, but let thy heart keep my commandments; write them upon the table of thine heart.” And again, chapter 7:1-3, “my son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee, bind them upon thy finger, write them upon the table of thine heart.” Thus the sin of Judah is said to be written ‘upon the table of their hearts’ (Jeremiah 17:1) as if their memory of, and affection to, it could scarce be obliterated. And Clemens gives this commendation to the church of Corinth, that “the commandments of the Lord, WERE WRITTEN UPON THE TABLES OF THEIR HEARTS.”
And seeing God so expressly required of his people that they should ‘ lay up his words in their hearts and souls,’ (Deuteronomy 11:18) that they should ” write his commandments upon the table of their hearts,” and by this prophet Jeremy, that ‘ law should not depart from their hearts’ (2 Maccabaeus 2:3) it follows by the rule laid down in answer to the former objection I.) that these promises cannot be so understood as if God by them engaged to do that whole work which he hath engaged us so expressly to perform.
And therefore, 2. The promise made Jeremiah 32:39-40, is plainly conditional. “I will gather them, if they will diligently learn the way of my people. Chap. 12:16. I will give them one heart, and one way that they may fear me.” That is, when they shall return to me with their whole heart, chap, 24:7, and not feignedly, as chapter 3:10. See Gataker there.
And then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them to do them good, verse 40, if they will call him Father and not turn away from them. (Jeremiah 3:19) Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you. (Isaiah 45:3) I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me’ Jeremiah 32:40. This doubtless was God’s end, as it was also of his punishments; “for,” he says, “they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity, that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me.” (Ezekiel 14:10-11) But this was not the event; for God says in this very prophet “I have caused to cleave to me the whole house of Israel, and the house of Judah; but they would not hear’. (Jeremiah 13:11)
3. This text only contains a promise that when the Jewish nation shall be converted at the close of the world, they should never fall off any more from being his people, as they had done before. See Gataker and the note on Hebrews 8:13.
Objections 18 & 19: New Heart
OBJECTIONS EIGHTEEN and NINETEEN. “God says concerning his people, ‘I will give you one heart, and I will put a new Spirit in you, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them an heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances.’ ‘ And again, ‘ I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your filthiness, and I will put up my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments to do them;”‘ where a new heart and spirit are said not only to be given, but put into them by God, and therefore they were to do nothing towards it.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
ANSWER FIRST. The arguments taken from both these places have two of the general faults which render all arguments of this nature null, v. g. (1.) That they speak of all the whole house of Israel, (Ezekiel 11:15, 36:21- 22) to all that were “gathered out of all countries, and brought to their own land.’ (Ezekiel 11:24).
And then it is certain from the second general rule, that it belongs not to the elect only. It is also certain from the event, if it respect their return from the Babylonish captivity, that it must be conditional; the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and especially the complaints of the prophet Malachi, showing, that they were never fulfilled in many of them; and from Ezekiel 11:18, which speaks of those “whose heart would still walk after their detestable things:” or else it relates to the conversion of the Jewish nation yet to come; of the whole house of Israel; and then it can relate to them alone, and all Christians may as well expect to be exempted from famine, (Ezekiel 36:30), and to have ” increase of corn,” Ezekiel 36:29, and their ” waste places and fenced cities built,” Ezekiel 36:35, as the other blessings promised here. Moreover, according to this exposition, it must follow that not one good man came out of the captivity, not one of them with a new or a clean heart; but all of them with a heart of stone, which was to be taken away.
ANSWER SECOND. This objection is contrary to the other general rule laid down in answer to the fifteenth Objection; for God expressly commands them by the same prophet ” to make themselves a new heart, and a new Spirit,” Ezekiel 18:30; and elsewhere says unto them, ” wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Isaiah 1:16.
O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness that thou may be saved.” Jeremiah 4:14. And St. James speaks to the same people thus, ” wash your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” (James 4:8) All which things do assure us, that something was required on their parts towards the completion of this promise. God therefore may be, and is, in scripture, said to do these things, when by his providential dispensations, his rich mercies, or his judgments, or his miraculous dealings, he does that which affords a powerful inducement to engage men to cleanse themselves from their defilements, and turn to him with a perfect heart; and does design these actions for such ends, though through the wickedness of men the event proves often otherwise.
Thus God declares that he would purge his people by his judgments; as when he says, “I will turn my hand upon thee, and (by the calamities I shall inflict upon thee) will purely purge away thy dross.” (Isaiah 1:25) And that he will ” wash away the filth of the daughter of Zion, and purge the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the Spirit of judgment, and by the Spirit of burning. ” (Isaiah 4:4) By his mercies, as when he says, “I draw them with the cords of a man, the cords of love.” (Hosea 11:4)
By his miracles, as when he upbraids the Jews, that having ‘seen the great signs and miracles he had done for them, yet had they not hearts to perceive, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.’ (Deuteronomy 29:3-4).
Hence when his vineyard brought forth still wild grapes, he enquires, ‘ what could I have done more for my vineyard,’ that she might bring forth good grapes? (Isaiah 5:4) — And says he had done, by these means, what through the obstinacy of his people was not done: For thus he speaks, ‘ I have purged Jerusalem, and she was not purged, Ezekiel 24:13.
I have caused the whole house of Israel to cleave to me as a girdle cleaves to a man’s loins, but they would not hear.’ (Jeremiah 13:11) Note also, that this is one of those texts the heretics, who destroyed free-will, and held that men were necessarily good or evil by nature, used to confirm that doctrine, as you may see in Origen and Philocal and the objection following from Philippians 2:13 is another.
Objections 20 & 21: God works in us
VI. OBJECTIONS TWENTY and TWENTYONE. “The apostle informs us, Philippians 2:13, that ‘it is God that works in us both to will and do;’ and prays ” he would work in us what is well pleasing in his sight.” (Hebrews 13:21) Whatsoever therefore we will, or do, that is good, God does it in us.”
ANSWER. That God does this, is not denied; the question is, whether he does it by a physical operation, unfrustrable by the will of man, or by internal suasion or inducements to prevail upon us thus to will and do: And that he does this only in this latter sense, is evident from these very words, ” not only in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that works in you, etc.”
For if, beyond his inward suggestions and persuasions, some physical and irresistible operation were required on God’s part, which makes it necessary for us to will and do, why are we then commanded to ” work out our own salvation?” For can we act where we are purely passive? Or can that be a reason why we ourselves should work, that another will effectually do that very thing without our co-operation? Is it not rather a manifest reason why we should neither will, nor work at all, since both is and will be irresistibly performed without us?
(ii.) Why are we bid to work out our salvation with ‘fear and trembling? For can there be any cause of fear lest that salvation should not be wrought out, which God works in us irresistibly? Surely if God unfrustrably works in us both to will and do, there can be no possibility of our miscarrying, and so no ground for fear and trembling.
iii.) Why are the Philippians exhorted to do this, ‘much more in St. Paul’s absence than in his presence if when he was present God wrought in them-irresistibly to will and do, and could do no more in his absence, surely no reason can be given of these words but this, — that whereas he being present stirred them up by his counsels and exhortations to do what was according to the mind of God, they in his absence were immediately excited to those things by the suggestions of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly. That the word enegpein doth not require, this sense is evident, because in scripture it occurs very often, where it must be understood not of a physical but only of a moral operation; as when Satan is said, ‘ TO WORK IN the children of disobedience,’ and the mystery of iniquity ‘ to work.’ (Ephesians 2:2)
(ii.) When it is attributed to those causes which produce not their effects by a physical, but only by a moral operation, as when the word is said to be, energes POWERFUL; (Hebrews 4:12) the word o energeitas, ‘WHICH WORKS EFFECTUALLY in them that believe; (1 Thessalonians 2:13) when it is said that ‘faith works by love; (Galatians 5:4) that ‘ charity is EFFECTUAL; (Philemon 1:6) and of concupiscence, that’ IT WORKETH IN our members.’
(iii.) When it is ascribed to God sending upon men, the efficacy of deceit; for surely God works no evil physically.
Thirdly. Both these places speak of men already believing and converted, and therefore, by the third general rule, must be impertinently alleged to prove men must be purely passive in the work of conversion.
Objection 22: Difference Maker
II. OBJECTION TWENTY-TWO. “If man doth anything towards his conversion, which another neglecting to do is not converted, he makes himself to differ from that other, which yet seems not consistent with St. Paul’s enquiry, ‘ who made thee to differ from another ” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
ANSWER. The apostle manifestly speaks here of those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, the gifts of tongues, and prophecy, &c. on the account of which they were puffed up for one against another, counting one a man of better gifts than another. Now these gifts being immediately infused without human industry, and conferred upon Christians without any such co-operation of their faculties, as is required to the exercise of any Christian duty or moral virtue, it cannot, with like reason, be enquired of these duties, as it may be of those gifts, ‘who made thee to differ from another in them? Nor can it from them be duly inferred, that no man does anything to make himself differ from another in any virtue, or pious dispositions. For to what purpose are men continually exhorted and stirred up by powerful motives to all Christian duties, and particularly to excel in virtue, if these exhortations and motives be not proposed to engage them to exercise these Christian virtues, to ‘ chose the good and refuse the evil.
And if one man, upon consideration of those motives, does chose to live a pious life, whereas another will not be persuaded so to do, does he not differ from that other by virtue of that choice? And though the grace of God by way of excitation works in us thus to will, yet since our faculties do first deliberate upon, and then comply, and chose to do the thing to which this grace excites us; if to consider be to differ from him that does not consider, and to comply with and to embrace the call of God be to differ from him that disobeys the same call, it must be certain, that as God’s grace preventing and exciting, so my faculties co-operating, tend to make me differ from another. And does not God himself declare, that men do somewhat to make themselves differ from others, by praising them who did what others neglected to do; as in the case of the Beraeans, (Acts 17:10-11) the elder and the younger son; the publicans and harlots compared with the Scribes and Pharisees, the penitent Publican and the proud Pharisee?
To the question then, when two are equally called, and one converted, who is it that puts the difference? The answer grounded upon God’s own righteous judgment will be this, ” that man puts the difference, and not God only; because God judges not his own acts, but the acts of men, dealing with every many according to his own works; and because every righteous judge finds a difference and does not make it, where the sentence is so vastly different.”
Objections 23 & 24: Reason to boast
VIII. OBJECTION TWENTY-THREE and TWENTY-FOUR That by this doctrine we administer occasion of boasting to all that are converted and saved, by attributing their conversion and salvation partly to their works; whereas the apostle says, ‘by grace are we saved, NOT OF WORK?, lest any man should boast. Moreover, according to the same doctrine, the whole story of conversion will not be due to God, because man co-operates with him; whereas the divine wisdom hath so contrived the business of our salvation, that ‘ no flesh should glory in his sight ‘. (1 Corinthians 1:29)
ANSWER. To the first part of the objection taken from Ephesians 2:8, , I have already given a full answer, by showing that these words, ‘ are we saved by grace through faith’ bear this sense, that through the saving grace of God appearing to us by the preaching of the gospel, and believed by us, we are put into a state of salvation; and that all this is done to any church or nation, through the free grace and mercy of God, without any thing done by them antecedently to this grace; and more especially by showing, that though our actual salvation depend upon good works, or on sincere obedience to be performed after faith, yet is all boasting utterly excluded upon several accounts; (i.) because that revelation which contains the matters of our faith, and all the powerful motives to embrace it, and all those miracles which rendered that revelation highly credible, and so engaged us to believe it, is the free gift of God.
(ii.) Because the good works we do, proceed not from ourselves, but are the fruits of that faith, which, in the sense now mentioned, is the gift of God, and from that word and Spirit of God which works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. As therefore the apostle says of the gift of tongues and prophecy, ‘ what (gift) hast thou which thou hast not received; and if thou hast received it, wherefore dost thou boast as if thou had not received it?’ so may we here; What faculty of believing, or willing what is good, hast thou which thou hast not received i What motive thus to will, or to believe, which hath not been vouchsafed by the free grace of God: What good work dost thou when this grace hath made thee willing, but in the strength of God, and by the aid of that good Spirit by whom we are ” strengthened with might in the ‘inward man to do his will?”
And if thou hast received strength from God for the performance of them, wherefore dost thou boast? This being the apostle’s rule — that we can boast of nothing but that which we have not received.
Secondly. Though God is pleased to require of us to be willing, yea to ‘cease to do evil, and to learn to do well,'(Isaiah 1:16-18), to qualify us for his mercy in the pardon of our sins, to make our faith the condition of justification, aim our good works the condition of salvation; yet is all boasting utterly excluded; because it is still of grace that any of these things do find acceptance.
It is of preventing and exciting grace that we thus will, chose and refuse; of assisting grace, that we are enabled to perform that will, and persist in this choice, or refuse; and of true mercy, that the pardon of all our crimson sins is annexed to so doing; it is of grace that faith is imputed to justification, ‘THAT IT MIGHT BE OF GRACE.’ (Romans 4:16) It also is of grace that our imperfect works are accounted good, and are at all rewarded by God. Now upon what account can any of us boast of doing that which in itself deserves condemnation, though through grace it finds acceptance? Boasting, says the apostle, is not ‘ excluded by the law of works,’ (Romans 3:27) Because to him that works, the reward is not reckoned of grace but of debt;’ (Romans 4:4) Grace and works that deserve justification and salvation, being perfectly opposite one to another; but it is, says he, excluded “by the law of faith.”
Where therefore the acceptance of the act to such a purpose is of free grace; where the reward is still of grace and not of debt; where it is given on the account of works imperfect, and deserving nothing from God,’ — there boasting is excluded.
Thirdly. Observe, that the scripture plainly grants that there is ‘MATTER OF GLORYING,’ in things done by the assistance of the grace God, and it is for the glory of a man to do them. St. Paul says ‘it were better for him to die, than that any man should make void HIS BOASTING,’ in preaching the gospel without charge. 1 Corinthians 9:15-16. Yea, he swears that ‘no man should stop HIS BOASTING in that kind. 2 Corinthians 11:10. And in behalf of all his fellow- workers, or apostles, he says, ‘this is our BOASTING, or rejoicing, in the testimony of our conscience.’ (2 Corinthians 1:12) And the advice he gives to all Christians ‘let every man approve his own work (to his own conscience) and then shall he have BOASTING, or rejoicing, in himself, and not in another! (Galatians 6:4)
The glorying therefore, which the apostle elsewhere doth reject and exclude, is only that of the merit of our works, or their sufficiency to procure the justification of a sinner, (Romans 3:27-4:2) or that which does exclude the help and the assistance of the grace of God in Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:29-31)
To proceed then to that second part of this objection, that ” by our doctrine the glory of our conversion will not be wholly due to God, because man co-operates with him;” this, will be sufficiently accounted for by observing that the principle by which man co-operates with him in this work is derived from him, and all the motives which excite this principle to act, arise purely from God’s preventing and exciting grace. Now where both the principleof acting, and the sole motives to act, are from God alone, there the whole glory of the Action must be due to him alone. Thus though wealth is the fruit of industry, and it is the ‘diligent hand that makes rich;’ yet because God gives ‘ the power to get wealth,’ and it is his blessing of our enterprises which make rich the glory of it is due to God alone; and we must say with David, ” riches and honor come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee; all this store cometh of thy hand, and it is all thine own.” (1 Chronicles 29:12-16)
After all our industry to find out wisdom, and to search for her as for hid treasure, we must give the all wise God the glory of all the wisdom we attain to, as knowing that ” the Lord giveth wisdom, out of his month cometh understanding.” Thus St. Paul says, ‘I labor more abundantly than they alI;(1 Corinthians 15:10) and yet ascribes all to ‘the grace of God that was in him:’ (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) and though ‘ Paul did plant, and Apollos water, yet because God gave the increase; neither, says he, ‘Paul or Apollos to be deemed anything, but all must be ascribed to God that gives the increase.”
So when the Apostle says, ” it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy,” (Romans 9:16) most of the Fathers descant thus upon those words, “‘it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs only, but of’ God that ‘shows mercy, and crowns the work by his assistance;’ for otherwise,” say, they, “it cannot be our duty either to will or run, provided we can neither by willing, nor by running, do anything to incline God to show mercy. And why then doth God blame us for not willing, (Matthew 23:37, John 5:40) and require us to run that we may obtain (1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1) And whereas against this it is objected, that “according to this interpretation it might be said, it is not of God that shows mercy only, but of men who wills and runs ;” Origen, St. Chrysostom, and Theophyaet answer, that ” this follows not, because man’s willing and running would not avail without the divine aid to enable him to run, and his grace and mercy to accept his running ; and therefore, according to the custom of the scripture,’ the effect” is to be ascribed to the chief agent only, as when it is said, ‘ except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it’. (Psalm 127:1)
Secondly. Our Lord and his apostles often commend the good actions of men, and Christ will at last say to the righteous man, ‘well done, than good and faithful servant.’ Therefore he that turns from his evil ways, and does that which is right m the sight of God, is commendable, and does that which is praise-worth. For God does not judge of things or persons otherwise than they are.
If this then be the consequence charged upon our opinion, that “it makes some praise belong to the convert and the believer,” God himself owns the truth of it, by requiring us to do what is honorable and praise-worthy, (Philippians 4:8) to suffer our conscience towards God, ‘FOR this is thankworthy (1 Peter 2:19-20) and saying, that our faith ‘wilt be found to our praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Christ Jesus’ (1 Peter 1:7)
The contrary doctrine is liable to this just exception, that it does consequentially assert, that no thanks are due for any kindness received, if he to whom it is done be not merely passive, and if he that receives a kindness be but so much is active in receiving or accepting it, the glory of it redounds to him rather than to the benefactor; so that we must not expect from Christ the praise and glory of feeding his hungry members, unless we put the meat into their mouths; or of ‘ clothing them when naked,’ unless We put the clothes upon them; or of receiving them into our houses, though we do invite and open the door for them, unless we force them in: that he who gives a prisoner money sufficient to pay off his debt, is not to have the glory of his release, if he require the prisoner to tell out, and deliver the money to the creditor; and that the prince who pardons his condemned subject, upon condition that he will plead his pardon, is not to have the sole glory of that pardoning mercy. ” And the true consequence from this is,” saith Dr. Claget, ” that the glory of God’s grace wholly depends upon the sullenness and obstinacy of men, and that the only way to advance it, is by a stout opposition and spiteful resistance of it.” Part 2. p. 208.
Objection 25: Conversion uncertain
IX. OBJECTION TWENTY-FIVE. Lastly, it is objected, “that the opinion which makes the grace of God resistible, leaves it uncertain whether any one will be converted by it, or not.”
ANSWER FIRST. To this I answer, that it leaves it as uncertain whether any one will be unconverted, or not; and surely, that opinion which affords this encouragement to all, that God, notwithstanding their fall, will afford means sufficient to convert them, if they do not neglect and refuse to use them, is much to be preferred before that which tells them he hath from eternity passed an act of preterition on them, and by that excluded them out of the number of the elect, that is, of them who only shall be saved.
ANSWER SECOND. A man may, notwithstanding this opinion, be infallibly certain, otherwise, that many will be found true converts at the last, because he knows that many have already died in the fear of God, and in the faith of Christ, and because the holy scriptures do assure us that ‘ some shall arise to everlasting life, and receive the end of their faith in the salvation of their souls’
ANSWER THIRD. To say that “it is barely possible in the nature of the thing that none may be converted,” hath no inconvenience in it, because it tends not to hinder any man’s endeavors after his conversion, any more than the like possibility, — that no man may thrive by his industry, or grow rich by his trading, or have a safe voyage at sea, or a plentiful crop by sowing, or health by taking medicine, — hinders men from doing any of these actions.
It is no imputation upon divine wisdom, that God himself complains he had given his law to the Jews in vain; nor did St. Paul conceive it any defect in the grace of God, that it might be received in vain by the churches of Corinth, (2 Corinthians 6:1) of Galatia, (Galatians 6:4) and of Thessalonica, (1 Thessalonians 3:5) and, by parity of reason, by all other churches. It is possible, that no one ” subject may obey the laws of his superior, because they have freewill, and may do evil under the strongest obligations to do well; but should the world be left therefore without human laws, or be governed by irresistible force, or not at all? Nay, rather that freedom which includes a bare possibility that all may disobey, proves the wisdom and justice of governing mankind by laws attended with moral inducements to obedience. Whereas if we suppose men to be under a necessity either of doing what is required, or of doing the contrary, it is very hard to understand how governing them by moral means should be wise in the former case, or just in the latter.