“This grace as the influence of the Spirit on the minds of men generally and of individual men before their personal acceptance is described in various ways. These may be classed as, first, referring to the Divine operation, when it is a striving and drawing; secondly, in relation to the means used, when it is a demonstration of the truth; thirdly, as influencing man, when it is the working in him to will, by piercing or opening his heart. These three are distinct, but one; and, when compared, yield a doctrine which is simple in its mystery though mysterious in its simplicity.”
– William Burt Pope, p. 361
From William Burt Pope, “Prevenient Grace”, A Compendium of Christian Theology, Vol. II (1877), at pages 359 – 362:
The Grace of God which bringeth salvation is the fountain of Divine lovingkindness to mankind, undeserving and impotent; exhibited once for all in the redeeming mission of Christ; and exercised in the administration of the Holy Ghost, THE SPIRIT OF GRACE, throughout the whole range of His saving work. It is the sole, efficient cause of all spiritual good in man: of the beginning, continuance, and consummation of religion in the human soul. The manifestation of Divine influence which precedes the full regenerate life receives no special name in Scripture; but it is so described as to warrant the designation usually given it of Prevenient Grace.
I. Grace, […], is the love of the Triune God as it is displayed towards sinful man, helpless in his sin. It is therefore free grace corresponding to universal love; mercy towards the guilty and help for the impotent soul. It is sovereign as being under no compulsion, even that of the Atonement, which it provided, and was not created by it. It is universal, being spoken of rather as an attribute than as an act of God; but it is particular also, suiting its manifestation to each. It is independent of merit in the object, of necessity, for otherwise grace would be no more grace; but it is not arbitrary, nor is it independent of conditions. As this grace is that of the Father and the Son in the redemption of mankind, it has already been considered. It is now viewed as the grace of the Spirit in the administration of redemption. The Holy Ghost is once in Scripture termed in a most affecting connection THE SPIRIT OF GRACE (Heb. 10:29). The propriety of the term Prevenient Grace, and the doctrine which it signifies, rests upon the general truth that salvation is altogether of the Divine lovingkindness. This is declared in two ways: man is impotent in his guilt and weakness; God’s manifold gift in redemption is free.
As to Man.
1. The powerlessness of man is everywhere assumed in Scripture, though not stated often in positive terms. Like many other universal truths — such as the Being of God, the immortality of the soul— it is the presupposition of the whole Bible. Still, it has sound and most impressive Scriptural confirmations: though some of those which may be appealed to must, in exegetical fidelity, be cautiously received. Certain of these passages refer rather to the hardening effect of continued sin: such as you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Some describe the impotence of man to carry on of himself God’s work; such as Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts (Zech. 4:6); and Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves ; but our sufficiency is of God (2 Cor. 3:5). Not a few refer to the entire dependence of the believer on Christ for all his spiritual good; such as Without Me ye can do nothing (John 15:5). But there are others which lay stress upon the fact that the world was lost in sin and weakness when Christ interposed: When we were yet without strength ([…], helpless), in due time Christ died for the ungodly ([…], godless). While we were yet sinners ([…], transgressors), Christ died for us. When we were enemies ([…], under wrath), we were reconciled to God. (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10). Now all these words, while they depict the estate of fallen man at the time when the Redeemer appeared, must be made general in their application. They give, as a quaternion, the best negative definition of grace that the Scripture furnishes. As sinners are under the law and guilty, grace finds a method of mercy; as they are under the Divine displeasure, it provides for the reconciliation of God; as they are cut off from fellowship with their Maker, it gives them the Spirit of Worship and holiness; as they are absolutely unable to help themselves, it provides them all the help of Heaven. Man is unequal to his own salvation, however it is viewed: whether in its beginning, or in its process, or in its end.
As to God.
2. Hence it is declared that the salvation of man is altogether of grace. By grace are ye saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8): altogether of grace and not of works. There is no need to ask to which — whether salvation or faith — the GIFT refers: it refers to both, which in this connection are inseparable. It is not so much in single passages as in the constant tenour of Scripture that we gather the spontaneous freedom of the grace that provided salvation. In fact, the origin of human redemption is always traced to the love of God which, resting upon undeserving man, became grace. And the use of the term in the New Testament illustrates this. The word, as sanctified to Christian uses, and apart from its occasional classical application as graciousness, — in which sense it lights upon our Lord’s lips: they wondered at the gracious words, […], which proceeded out of His mouth (Luke 4:22) — has three meanings in the New Testament. It is Grace from God to man, and as such is the sum of benediction […]; it is Grace working within the soul: My grace, […], is sufficient for thee (2 Cor. 11:9); and, finally, it is Grace going back to God in thanks: […], thanks be to God. (2 Cor. 9:15).
II. This grace as the influence of the Spirit on the minds of men generally and of individual men before their personal acceptance is described in various ways. These may be classed as, first, referring to the Divine operation, when it is a striving and drawing; secondly, in relation to the means used, when it is a demonstration of the truth ; thirdly, as influencing man, when it is the working in him to will, by piercing or opening his heart. These three are distinct, but one ; and, when compared, yield a doctrine which is simple in its mystery though mysterious in its simplicity.
Drawing and Striving.
1. The drawing and striving of the Spirit are throughout the Scriptures abundantly referred to: the former operating on the human soul regarded as obedient; the latter wrestling with that soul regarded as repugnant; both tending to salvation, and in every case rendering that salvation possible. The Old-Testament declaration, My Spirit shall not always strive with man (Gen.6:3), may be capable of another interpretation, but it is followed by constant reference to a resisting of the Spirit as the secret of human impenitence. In the New Testament we hear, from the lips of the Great Attraction Himself: No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him (John 6:44), and we may add, This spake He of the Spirit (John 7:39). Both the striving and the drawing express the strongest influence short of compulsion. The zeal of human agency, described in Scripture, catches the same tone and strictly corresponds, being its representative. That I might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22) and Compel them to come in (Luke 14:23) are mutually correlative: neither the command, nor the obedience to it, is consistent with an absence of Divine influence, or with anything but a Divine purpose to save.
Spirit in the Word.
2. The Word of Truth is never without the influence of the Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost the first Christian sermon was preached with His accompanying power : they spoke, first indeed only to God but afterwards to man, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4). Nothing less than this is meant by the reference to the Word of God which effectually worketh (1 Thess. 2:13) in those that believe, and to the Gospel which came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost (1 Thess. 1:5). An effectual Divine energy is described as belonging to the Word preached, apart from its final result: My preaching was . . . in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4). This […] is opposed to the influence of rhetorical skill, and establishes the general fact that the Spirit’s power has the energy and effect of a Divine persuasion, whether yielded to or not.
3. The effect produced is occasionally made prominent. Under that first sermon they were pricked in their heart (Acts 2:37), which in another form is stated of Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened (Acts 16:14). The piercing and the opening are not in these texts so different as is sometimes thought: both the Jews and Lydia attended unto the things which were spoken as the result. It is God which, of His good pleasure, worketh in you to will and to do (Phil. 2:13): here we have the last word of Scripture on this subject.
The full book is available online here: https://archive.org/details/compendiumofchri02pope/page/358/mode/2up
Related posts from SEA:
- William Burt Pope, A Compendium of Christian Theology
- Roger Olson, “Prevenient Grace: Why It Matters”