Chapter 4: Effectual CallingThe Sovereignty of God by Elisha Coles
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The doctrine of Calling, (which I term Effectual, distinguish it from that which is outward only, and prevails not) respects the means whereby, and the manner how, God’s elect are actually prepared for that salvation he has chosen them to: it is God’s revealing his Son in them; and he doeth it by the Holy Ghost, whose office is to sanctify whom the Father has elected, and Christ redeemed, 1 Peter 1:2, Jude verse 8. These three acts of grace are peculiar to the three persons of the sacred Trinity, respectively, and are all predicated of the same subjects; and that as a party select, and distinguished from others: they are “chosen out of the world,” John 15:19. “redeemed from among men,” Revelation 14:4, and taken “from among the Gentiles,” Acts 15:14.
Next to the glory of his grace, and the honor of his Son, the Lord has placed the blessedness of his chosen as that principal scope and end of all he has done in the world, or will do. It could not, therefore, stand with his holy wisdom, to leave those he was pleased to choose to salvation, to the conduct of their own understanding and will, with such means and helps as they have in common with other men, and thereon to suspend the whole of his great design; for by such a course it would not only be liable to frustration, but be certainly defeated. For prevention whereof, and that the purpose of his grace might stand, he has made it of the substance of predestination, to prepare and apply the means, as well as to appoint the end; which in sacred language is termed a “giving of all things pertaining to life and godliness.” 2 Peter 1:3.
The sum of what I intend on the present subject is comprised of the following proposition; namely,
Prop. That whatever things are requisite to salvation, are given of God freely to all the elect; and wrought in them effectually, by the divine power in order to that salvation to which he has appointed them.
By salvation here, I understand the saints’ perfect settlement in blessedness and glory: and, by things requisite thereto, all those gifts, graces, and operations, that are any where necessary to their actual obtainment of that state. The divine power, is that ability of working which God has reserved to himself; and is not moved or governed by the creature’s act, but by the good pleasure of his own will.
That divers things are requisite to salvation, needs no proof: my business therefore is to show,
- What these requisites to salvation are.
- What root it is they proceed Romans
- Whom they do belong to, and by what right.
- The way and manner of God’s dispensing them.
- What these requisites to salvation are.
They are three sorts; some to be done for us; some on us, or in us; and others by us; yet so as not without the special aid and assistance of the first agent, that good Spirit who began the work, and worketh all in all. The great thing to be done for us (next after election,) is redemption from sin: this was a work of infinite moment, and as far above the undertaking of creatures,’ for, 1. The justice of God that must be satisfied, by bearing the curse due to transgressors: by this we are saved from wrath; and without this, divine justice will not open the house of his prisoners. 2. All righteousness must be fulfilled by an absolute perfect subjection to the law: by this, we are interested in eternal life; and without this, there is no entering into rest. 3. The devil, who had the power of death, must be destroyed, and his works of darkness (by which he leads captive at his will) dissolved; that life and immortality might be brought to light, and the prey delivered. None of which works could ever have been effected, but by one of the same nature with the aggressing, and yet equal in power and dignity with the majesty offended; for which cause and end, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, and made under the law,” etc. Galatians 4:4, 5. that what the law could not do, because of its weakness through the flesh, the Son of God, in the likeness of sinful flesh, might perform; and so condemn sin in that flesh which gave it entrance, Romans 8:3. This was the proper subject of the former head, namely redemption: the end of which, partly, was, to bring in the next sort of things requisite to salvation, that is, such as are to be done on and in the elect, namely, their reconcilement to God, and receiving the adoption of sons. This is the actual performance of what was intentionally in election, and virtually in the death of Christ, as the necessary way and means to their ultimate end. The sum of these requisites consists in faith and sanctification, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. the one imports our right, the other our capacity; faith entitles, and holiness meetens: both which, though expressed as two, go always together, as if but one; and are as inseparable as light from the sun: and, without these, our little world would still be in darkness, notwithstanding all the light that shines about us, or within us; neither knowing our danger, nor how to escape it.
- Faith. This, in general, is that spiritual light in which we see ourselves by nature children of wrath, and wholly unable to change our state, and withal, do apprehend “God justifying freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ,” Romans 3:24, and to that end, do roll ourselves on him, and give up ourselves to his law and government. It is of the essence of faith, to empty the soul of selfability. And, 1. Of its own understanding. It is a beam of divine light, which evidenceth all a man’s natural knowledge to be ignorance and darkness, as to spiritual things. The apostle speaks of it as of a faculty newly given, 1 John 5:20, and the nature of its new objects requires it; for the natural man cannot discern the things of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14. They that have the best eyes now, were sometimes darkness. Faith empties the soul. Faith empties the soul of its own righteousness, 1. By discovering the uncleanness of it, Isaiah 64:6. 2. By showing the necessity of a better, Romans 3:20. 3. In whom this better righteousness is to be found, chapter 10:4. 4. That it may be attained and had, chapter 3:21. 5. That being attained, the soul is safe, and may triumph over all, chapter 8:34, and chapter 7:25. 6. That this better righteousness and its own cannot stand together, Galatians 5:2. Romans 10:3. And then, 3(?). The next work of faith is, to empty the soul of its own strength; that is, of all confidence in himself, as to the obtainment of that better righteousness. He makes it, indeed, his business to get rid of his own, and most gladly would he be invested with the righteousness of God; but finds it a matter of transcendent difficulty. Now he is convinced it is no easy matter to be saved; since to believe, and to keep the whole law, are things of an equal facility; that is, they are both alike impossible to him; but nothing, he knows, is too hard for God, and therefore takes hold of his strength, Isaiah 27:5. to work this faith in him; and so, by a faith unseen, believes to a faith that is visible, Romans 1:17. It is faith that is at work all this while, though the soul knows it not till afterwards. 2.(There’s no number 1) The other grand requisite to salvation, is sanctification, or personal inherent holiness. Justification is by a righteousness imputed; sanctification infused; the former is first in order of nature; they commence together in point of time; even as light in the air at the sun’s approach; or as the reversing an outlawry instantly reinstates the party in his former privileges; or as the canceling a bill of at tinder(?) restores the blood(?). Sanctification is the divine nature communicated; by which the whole man is expelled, with his deeds, or rather subdued and brought under; for they are not totally nulled in this life; only proud flesh is put down from its seat, and that is a great matter, its dominion is taken away, and the seed of God enthroned in its stead: and so we are said to be translated out of Satan’s kingdom, or government, into Christ’s, Colossians 1:13. It is sometimes called regeneration, or a being born again, John 3:3. the separating a man from his wild stock, and grafting him in the true, Romans 11:17. the forming of Christ in us, and the law written in the heart, Hebrews 8:10. that is, dispositions according to God, or a heart after his own. It is also termed, the passing away of old things, and a becoming new of all, 2 Corinthians 5:17. there is a change of principles, scope, and end of man’s life. Not that the old faculties are blotted out or destroyed, but reduced or renewed, according to the “image of him that createth it,” Colossians 3:10. Romans 8:29. As the body, when it is regenerated, or raised again, shall be the same that was sown; but so changed, and dignified in its qualities, as if it were another; so, in the soul’s regeneration, the same understanding, will, and affections do remain, but quite otherwise disposed and qualified, according to the new objects they are to converse with. And this is so main a requisite to salvation, that we are not capable of heaven without it.
Even the local heaven would not be a place of happiness to a soul unsanctified; no communion there without concord; and that is the reason why spiritual notions are so disgustful to carnal men; and if they cannot endure the shadow, how should they bear the substance and thing itself? In this work the soul is passive; but being thus quickened by the Spirit of life from God, and set on their feet, they are capacitated for action. And now (say they, as Daniel, now) “let my Lord speak, for thou hast strengthened me,” Daniel 10:19. And thenceforth their work and business is, “to walk worthy of the Lord;” to glorify that grace which has saved them; to walk before God in the daily exercise of those graces he has given them; and to press after perfection, that is, a ripeness of grace, or meetness for that state of glory which all these are preparatory to; to show forth his praises; the virtues of him that has called them; making his law their rule, and his glory their end above all; and all in a way of dutiful gratitude. For though ye may, and ought to have respect to your own salvation, peace, and comfort; yet so, as to substitute all to the glory of the grace of God. And take this by the way, to encourage you in your duty, that the glory of God, and his peoples’ blessedness are so interwoven, as never to be divided: while ye keep that most directly in your eye and scope, your own concerns are most currently going on; they fall in together, and keep in the same channel.
- Whence these requisites to salvation do proceed.
That men might know themselves to be creatures, it was needful to know the world had a beginning, by whom, and how: and no less needful to know the original of the world renewed. The not minding of which, may have been the occasion of men’s ascribing the new creation to the concourse of freewill atoms: which seems at least, as irrational as the contingent coming together of the visible frame.
Our present inquiry therefore is, touching the author of faith and holiness: what root they spring from; who, or what, is the efficient cause of regeneration; what power it is by which the new creature is formed, and brought forth. Our assertion is, that the new creature is God’s workmanship, entirely and alone. This the scripture seems evident for, and delivers in positive terms in James 1:17. “Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights:” which is so full an answer to the question, as one would think admits of no reply. But being a truth unacceptable to nature, and such striving among men to entitle the human power and will to the fatherhood of this new creation, it must be argued: and our argument for it is this; that the new creature must be wrought, either by a divine power, or by a natural power, or a concurrence of both together. But,
First. It cannot be wrought by a natural power, and that for such reasons as these:
Argument 1. Because it is a creature; and, of all creatures, the noblest and most excellent. All the virtuosi in the world are not able to make an atom: they may refine and sublimate things that are, but cannot give being to the least thing that is not. How then should the natural man give being to the new creation! To suppose such a thing would be a degrading to the divine nature; a setting the image of the heavenly below that of the earthly: for he that builds, is worthy of more honor than the thing that is built by him, Hebrews 3:3.
Argument 2. Nothing can afford what it has not in itself. Now, every soul, in nature, is darkness, and possessed with a habitual aversion from God: but light is not brought out of darkness, nor friendship out of enmity: no man will expect grapes from thorns; the product will be according to that of which it is produced; every seed will have its own body, 1 Corinthians 15:38. an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, Matthew 7:18. that which is born of the flesh is flesh, John 3:6, and will never be better: therefore the new creature, being a divine thing, cannot be educed of natural principles.
Argument 3. The natural man is not only void of all virtue and property that tends to regeneration; but is opposite thereto. To be grafted into the true olive free, is contrary to nature, Romans 11:24. “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” Romans 8:7, and enmity being a principle uneatable of reconciliation, it cannot be supposed it will help to destroy itself: “they will not so much as seek ;nor(?) God, nor take him into their thoughts,” Psalm 10:4. They follow with natural motion, John 8:44. But as for the word of the Lord, they profess stoutly, they “will hot hearken to it,” Jeremiah 49:6. “They have loved strangers, and after them they will go,” chapter 2:25. So desperately wicked are the hearts of men, chapter 17:9. they are even made up of fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, and whatever has respect to his happy restoration. And this enmity is maintained and animated, (1.) By the darkness that is in them; which all men in nature are filled with; or with false lights, which are equally pernicious and obstructive to this work: by reason whereof; the most glorious objects, though just before them, are hid from their eyes; they do not, nor they cannot discern the things which are of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14. they have false conceptions of every thing; call good evil: and evil good; put light for darkness, and darkness for light; and the most excellent things are commonly farther off their approbation. It is a known experiment, that the more spiritual any truth is, the more will carnal reason object against it: “how can these things be?” John 3:9, and “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” chapter 6:52. By all the understanding that men have before conversion, they are but more strongly prejudiced against the truth, Acts 17:18 1 Corinthians 1:19. 23, (2.) This enmity is further confirmed and fixed by the naturalness of it. If it were an adventitious quality it might possibly be separated; but now it cannot by any human power. And that it is natural, appears, in that the universality of men are infected with it: it is not here and there one, but all and every one, Jews and Gentiles, are all under sin; “none that understandeth; none that seeketh after God; none that doeth good, no, not one,” Romans 3:0— 18. “all flesh had corrupted his ways,” Genesis 6:12. “every imagination of their heart is only evil, and that continually,1′ chapter 8:21. “every man is brutish and altogether filthy,” Jeremiah 10:14. “and this is their root; conceived in sin,” Psalm 51:5. “they go astray from the womb,” Psalm 58:3. It also grows up with them; and the longer it lives, the worse it is, and the more impregnable, Jeremiah 13:23. “it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” Romans 8:7. And though, at times, they look another way, like bullets of stone or lead, which, actuated by a foreign power, are mounted into the air, their upward motion quickly ceaseth, because it was not natural; they come again to their center, of their own accord, and there they live and die: as was verified in Saul, Ahab, Agrippa, and others.
Argument 4. The new creature cannot be the product of natural power, because every thing is received and improved according to the nature of that, which receives it. Plants, and other creatures, turn all their nourishment into their own species and property. A vine and a thistle, both planted in one soil, have the same sun, dew, air, and other influences common to both, yet each one converts the whole of that it receives into its own substance and kind. You may plant and prune, dig and dung an evil tree, bestow what pains you will on it, it does all but enable the more pregnant production of evil fruit: just so doth the natural man, even turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, Jude verse 8(?) 4. as to the pure all things are pure; so to the impure all things are defiled, Tit. 1:15. “David, by his afflictions, learned to keep God’s laws,” Psalm 119:6, 7. but Ahaz trespassed yet more, 2 Chronicles 28:22. Good Josiah’s heart melts at reading the law, he humbles himself, and falls to reforming, chapter 34:27. 31. but wicked Jehoiakim, he cuts the roll in pieces, and bums it, Jeremiah 36:23. thus sin, that is, corrupt nature, works death by that which is good, Romans 7:8, 10.
Secondly. That the new creature is not wrought by the concurrence of divine and natural power together, the following arguments shew.
Argument 1. The Holy Ghost needs no assistance in his work: who and where is he that stood up for his help when he moved on the waters, and brought forth this world into form? Genesis 1:2. Job 38:4. when he weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Isaiah 40:12. 14. He that made all things of nothing, cannot be supposed to need the aid of any. As man had nothing to do in the conception of Christ’s human nature, but the power of the Most High was alone in that work; so also it is in forming Christ within us. Why should he call in the aid of another, unless deficient in himself? and he must be greatly put to it, that takes in the help of an enemy.
Argument 2. If the Holy Ghost had need of help, the flesh affords not the least help, nor can. For, (1.) The natural man is “without strength,” Romans 5:6. The best natured man in the world (until regenerate) is but flesh; and “all flesh is grass, and the glory of it as the flower of grass,” 1 Peter 1:24. which fades in a moment; it is an arm that has no strength, Job 26:2. makes a show, but can do nothing.
And it is not only weak in itself, but it renders weak and impotent whatever relies on it, or may be used by it, for any spiritual end: a straw in the hand of a giant will make no deeper impression than if in the hand of a stripling: the law itself, “which was ordained to life, is made weak through the flesh,” Romans 7:10. with chapter 8:3. The flesh is on an opposite principle, at perfect enmity against the holy seed; as you see before: it answers, as Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?” Exodus 5:2. its whole business is to crush the workings of the spirit; and the conflict ceaseth not, but in the total overthrow of the one party. The flesh and the spirit always have been, are, and will be two; yea, even where the enmity has lost its dominion, it will maintain a conflict to the last; and if the one fights against the other after the new creature is formed, it will doubtless oppose the first formation of it. (3.) If we should suppose the flesh able, in any respect, to give assistance in this work, the Holy Ghost would none of it: “what concord has Christ with Belial?” 2 Corinthians 6:2. Such mixtures are an abomination to him: he would not permit his people to yoke an ox and an ass together in ploughing, Deuteronomy 22:10. nor to sow their land with divers seeds, verse 9, and if in building an altar their tools were lifted up on it, the Lord reckons it defiled, Exodus 20:’25. (4.) Suppose a possibility of conjunction: what would be the issue of it? “when the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, giants were born to them,” Genesis 6:4. If creatures of several kinds should couple together, what could be produced but a monster in nature? such monsters in spirituals are hypocrites and temporary believers: in whom there is something begotten on their wills, by the common strivings and enlightenings of the Spirit, which attains to a kind of formality, but proves, in the end, a lump of dead flesh: it never comes to be a new creature: as you see in Herod and Agrippa. An owl’s egg, though hatched by a dove or eagle, will prove but a nightbird: the seed of the bondwoman will be carnal, though Abraham himself be the father of it.
To illustrate this a little farther, I would briefly recount what most probably should influence the hearts of men, and lead them to repentance; with their common, if not constant effect, when left to their freewill improvements. I reduce them to five: a prosperous condition; afflictions; the word of God; the strivings of the Spirit; and miracles. 1. Prosperity: this, we find, has not done it. How many have been the worse, and how few, if any, the better for it? even “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked,” Deuteronomy 32:15. In the time of the Judges, whenever they had respite from trouble, they presently fell to idolatry: “when Uzziah was strong his heart was lifted up to destruction,” 2 Chronicles 26:16. Some there be that are not in trouble like other men; their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart can wish, etc. But are they bettered by it? no; “pride compasseth them about like a chain, and they set their mouths against the heavens,” Psalm 73:3-9. so true is that, maxim, “Let favor be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly,” Isaiah 26:10.
- Afflictions and judgments will not do it. It appears by Amos, that that people were loaded with a variety of judgments, “yet they turned not to him that smote them,” Amos 4:&-12(?) “the more they were stricken, the more they revolted,” Isaiah 1:5. “The Lord was wroth with Ephraim, and smote him: he hid his face from him, and was wroth,” (which, if any thing, should have moved him: ) but what cares Ephraim? “he went on frowardly in the way of his heart,” Isaiah 57:7. The Jews continue to this day in their unbelief, though “wrath be come on them to the uttermost.” The antichristian world, when vials of wrath were poured forth on them, “they blasphemed God, and repented not,” Revelation 16:9-11. Hosea 7:9 10. .thus “bray a fool in a mortar, yet his foolishness will not depart from him,” Proverbs 22:27. it is natural to him, and therefore inseparable.
- The word of God, and his ordinances.— Neither is it in these to turn the heart back again. Of this, the people of Israel are a pregnant example; “to them were committed the oracles of God,” Romans 3:2. no nation had God so nigh them as they, Deuteronomy 4:7, and yet the most stubborn, stiff-necked people that ever the earth bore. “The Lord sends them his prophets, rising early and sending,” 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16, and see how they are used! first, “they slight his messengers, and send them away empty,” Jeremiah 25:3, 4. they then fall to “beating and imprisoning of them,” Jeremiah 37:15. yea, they proceeded farther (for this enmity knows no bounds,) some they stoned, others they “slew with the sword,” Luke 20:10—15. when was there one that escaped them? At last he sends them his Son; surely “they will reverence him!” No, this is the heir; come, let us kill him, Matthew 21:38, and thus they went on, “until there was no remedy,” 2 Chronicles 36:16.
- The world of ungodly in Noah’s time.—After warning of the flood, they had the “Spirit of God striving with them sixscore years together,” Genesis 6:3, and yet, not a man in the whole universe prevailed on. The people in the wilderness—how many ways did the Lord strive with them, by mighty deliverances, terrible appearances, merciful providences, dreadful judgments; and this forty years together! and yet, still they went on “rebelling against him, and vexing his Holy Spirit,” Isaiah 63:10.
- Miracles will not do it.—What a multitude of these, mingled with judgments, were shewn on Pharaoh! all which did but further harden him, Exodus 7:14—22. chapter 6:19. chapter 9:7, etc. Then the people of the wilderness: take but that one instance of Korah and his company; “the earth clave asunder, and swallowed up the chief of the mutineers, with all that they had: they went alive into the pit,’. Numb. 16:32. two hundred and fifty more were consumed by fire from heaven, verse 8(?) 35. which one would think should cause them to fear the Lord, and do no more presumptuously; and yet the next thing we hear of them, on the very morrow, they are at it again; and that not a party of them, but the whole congregation, verse 8 41.(punctuation?) All which considered and laid together, it follows, with much evidence,
Thirdly, That the new creature is the product of divine power alone. A point of great concernment, if duly considered.
The evangelist John is clear on our side touching this original and pedigree of it, both whence it is not, and whence it is: “it is born, not of blood;” that is, it belongs not to, nor is brought forth in any, as they are men made of flesh and blood; nor as they are “Abraham’s seed according to the flesh,” Romans 9:7. nor is it born “of the will of the flesh;” the carnal and sensual affections have nothing to do in the spiritual birth: “nor of the will of man;” the rational faculties, by which men are set above the rank of other creatures, even these contribute nothing to our divine sonship: “but it is of God,” John 1:13. that is, it is his work alone; and the natural man has nothing to do in it: he is as perfectly unactive in it, as the dry bones in causing themselves to live, Ezekiel 37:5. 9. 14. or as Lazarus in reviving himself; of whom it is said, “He that was dead came forth bound hand and foot,” John 11:44. which was such a demonstration of divine power, that the Pharisees themselves acknowledge, “if they now let him alone, all men will believe in him,” John 11:48. (And if it were not so, the Lord alone should not be exalted.) And with this falls in the other beloved disciple, James; “Of his own will begat he us,” James 1:11. 2 Peter 1:8. that is, by his own divine power he forms and brings forth the new creation, without any assistance from the old, or cooperation of it: they contribute no more to it, than those who sleep in the dust to their own resurrection. Peter also tells us, “It is born of incorruptible seed,” 8 Peter 1:23, and John, again, “it is born of the Spirit,” John 3:8. which is plainly to be the offspring of God. Of like tenor is that of the prophet, “Thou hast wrought all our works within us,” Isaiah 26:12, and that of Paul, “We are his workmanship,” Ephesians 2:10. as also that of the Psalmist, “It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves, his people,” Psalm 100:2. We find it here, and in John, expressed both negatively and positively; as purposely and for ever to exclude whatever is in man from being so much as thought contributary to the new creation; and that the whole work might be fathered on God only; which is, indeed, the natural result of all those scriptures which speak of it under the notion of a creature; which necessarily implies, that the whole of it, both matter and form, is from the Creator: for, in truth, a creature’s foundation is nothing, besides the good pleasure of God. It may further be noted, that in James, “the Father of lights” is said to beget it; and in the Galatians, “Jerusalem which is above” to be the mother of it; and in John, as before, that it is born of the Spirit. Now, if father and mother, begetter and bringer forth, are both in heaven, what shall the man of earth found his pretensions on, as to the parentage of the new creature?
And further, it is worthy of remark; 1. What sort of instruments were mostly used in this work. Not the learned, but illiterate men: and of these, such most eminently as had neither elegancy of speech, nor majestic presence, 2 Corinthians 10:10, and the end of this was, that it might appear, and men might be convinced, that “their faith stood not in (was neither made nor maintained by) the wisdom of men, but the power of God,” 1 Corinthians 2:3, 4, 5.
The natural unaptness of the persons commonly wrought on, to receive those highborn principles: not many of the wise and noble, but the poor, base, and foolish; that is, in comparison of others. And why these? Truly it was to make good the truth that is here asserted, namely, “That no flesh might glory in his presence,” chapter 1:26—29. And yet likewise take notice, that the wise and noble were not excluded; witness the wife of Herod’s steward, Joseph, Nicodemus, and Sergius Paulus, a prudent man: which further illustrates the power of God, and that he did, by those weak and contemptible means, bring in also such as these.
- The scripture is so emphatically ascribing this work to God: which kind of ascription were very improper, if faith and holiness were things so common, and easily attained, and the natural man so able and virtuous an engine in that work, as most men imagine. Paul styles it, “The faith of the operation of God,” Colossians 2:12. Isaiah makes it dependant on the “arm of the Lord revealed,” Isaiah 53:1. that is, made bare, and put forth to the utmost. Our Savior attributes it to God the Father, as Lord of heaven and earth, Matthew 11:25. And Paul, again, to the “exceeding greatness of his mighty power, even the same by which he raised Jesus Christ from the dead,” Colossians 1:12. even then, when the sins of all his people lay on him; and all the malice, strength, and subtlety of the powers of darkness were up in arms against it: which was indeed the highest indication of divine power that ever was put forth, or shall be.
- The next thing to be shown is, who those blessed ones are to whom these requisites to salvation do belong; and by what title.
The answer is, they all do belong to elect persons, and that in right of their election. Elect and believer are convertible terms: every believer is an elect person, and every elect person is a believer, or shall be in his time. This right, indeed, is neatly founded on redemption; but being originally from election, I shall speak here only to that To put effects in the place of causes, and causes of effects, is a great absurdity in natural things, and yet how prone are we to it in matters of divine concernment! which chiefly comes from the pride of our spirits, who fain would be somebody in procuring our own happiness; and do therefore ascribe it to any cause, rather than that which is proper to it. This is a great evil; and the more perilous and catching, because espoused by some of no common profession, and that with great pretences of reason for it. To refute which, your most rational course will be to search and consult the scriptures; whose testimony, and right reason, do always sort together: and if by this ascent you follow salvation, and all the conducements thereto, up to their head, you shall find them all to be entirely and absolutely of God, and contained in the same decree; and, consequently, that faith and holiness are the effects and certain consequences of election.
The genuine import of scripture’s salvation is broad and comprehensive, extending to all manner of requisites which any way conduce to the perfect accomplishment of the thing itself. Outward salvation, whatever belongs to the outward man’s preservation; as water, bread, walls, bulwarks, etc. Isaiah 26:1. “Salvation will appoint walls and bulwarks;” that is, the promise of salvation implies and carries in it all things pertaining to safety: so spiritual salvation, whatever pertains to blessedness and glory; as redemption from sin, faith, holiness, and holding out to the end: any of which being absent, would invalidate all the rest, as one round of a ladder plucked out, hinders your ascent to the top. If one gives me a piece of land that is all around enclosed, the law gives me a way to it (though no express mention hereof in my deed,) so as to take the profits; his gift would otherwise little avail me. Salvation is that the elect are endowed with; faith and holiness the necessary way to their actual possession; and, therefore, these they must be ordained to, and are, as well as to salvation itself: for, being “predestinate to the adoption of sons,” Ephesians 1:5. “and to be conformed to the image of Christ,” Romans 8:28. (which is not perfectly accomplished until his appearing in glory) 1 John 3:2. they must be predestinated also to all those intermediate dispensations and graces which are requisite thereto. For, right to the end, gives right to the means; they are therefore said to be “chosen to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,” 2 Thessalonians 2:13. In order of intention, God wills the end first, and then the means: in order of execution, the means first, as directive to that end, Romans 8:30. The end is the cause of the means, Ephesians 2:4, 5, and election the cause of them both, chapter 2:8. 10.
The promise of Canaan to Abraham’s seed, did virtually contain whatever must come between the making of the promise, and the final performance of it: as, 1. To multiply his seed into a nation. 2. To keep Esau, Laban, and others, from hurting them. 3. To provide for them in time of famine. 4. To preserve and increase them in Egypt, notwithstanding the Egyptians’ craft and cruelty to suppress them. 5. To bring them forth with an high hand, in contempt of Pharaoh’s resolvedness against it, and his potency to withstand it. 6. To divide the sea before them, and provide them a table in the wilderness. 7. To cause their enemies’ hearts to faint, and become as water. 8. To send the hornet before them, and to fight for them, etc. (For otherwise the Lord’s giving them Canaan, had been but as the pope’s giving England to the Spaniard, that, is, if he could get it.) And, lastly, to pardon their manifold great and high provocations; by which they exposed themselves to wrath and extirpation daily. So is it in the case of election; it draws with it even all that is tendent to the saints’ actual investiture with glory. The apostle, therefore, linketh eternity past with eternity to come: he makes election and glorification the two extreme points of the compass; calling and justification (which are parts intermediate) he founds on the first, in order to the last; and gives you their set course. In Romans 8. “Whom he did foreknow, them also he did predestinate (to what?) to be conformed to the image of his Son; and whom he did predestinate, them also he called,” Romans 8:29. And what did he call them to? He called them to holiness, to glory and virtue, 2 Peter 1:3, and “whom he called, them also he justified and glorified,” Romans 8:30. These all do belong to the same persons, and that by virtue of the decree, and no one of them did ever go alone.
The like succession of causes and effects ye have in the 16th of Ezekiel, 6—12. The Lord finds them in their blood, that is, in their natural lost condition: he enters into covenant with them, and makes them his own; there is their election: then he washes them, and that thoroughly; there is their justification: and then adorns them; there is their sanctification, which always is consummated in glory. In the 17th of the Acts, ye have Paul preaching at Thessalonica, verse 8(?) 1—4. The same doctrine was propounded to all indefinitely; and it must be so, for the minister knows not the elect from other men: but the Holy Ghost, who searcheth the deep things of God, and has the management of this work committed to him, he knew the elect by name, John 10:3, and accordingly took them, “gathered them one by one,” Isaiah 17:12. (each one in his proper time) “and opened their ears to discipline,” Job. 26:10. Making them what they were chosen to be. And the same apostle, in his epistle to the Thessalonians, where he celebrates the effects of this sermon, brings in their election as the cause of their conversion; “Knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God; for our gospel came not to you in word only (as it did to others,) but in power,” 1 Thessalonians 4:5. So in the Acts, “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed,” Acts 13:48, and “the Lord added to the church daily (whom did he add?) such as should be saved,” chapter 2:47. Effectual calling is a sure demonstration of election, and the first effect by which it can be known.
That precious faith through which we are saved, is obtained “through the righteousness of God, and our Savior Jesus Christ,” 2. Peter 1:1. 1. It is given through the righteousness of God the Father; and so, it either respects his ordaining us to eternal life; in which act he did implicitly engage himself to give us faith, which may therefore be “called the faith of God’s elect,” Tit. 1:1. or else it respects his promise made to Christ, “that making his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed,” Isaiah 53:10. Tit. 1:2. with 2 Timothy 1:9, or it may be intended of both. 2. The righteousness of Christ is concerned in it two ways: 1. As the meriting or procuring cause thereof; and so this faith belongs of right to every one he died for, Philippians 1:29. Or, 2. As he is that faithful servant, who gives to every one according as he has received of the Father for them, Ephesians 4:7,8. in all which respects it evidently flows from election. To confirm which, Peter says expressly, in his former epistle, that they were “elected to obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 1:2. So the mystery of his will is made known, according to his good pleasure, which he had purposed in himself, Ephesians 1:9. The same intention we have in the Corinthians; “the preaching of the gospel is to them that perish, foolishness: but to us who are saved, it is the power of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:18, and in Timothy, “Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling,” 2 Timothy 1:9. in both places saving is put before calling, and then it must be before faith: and how men are saved before they believe, unless by election, or redemption, which is commensurate with election, doth not appear to us. To this purpose it is further observable, that in Romans 8:30. the apostle sets predestination before calling; as in Timothy and the Corinthians, he doth saving: and in Romans 9:23, 24. he puts calling in a tense subsequent to election, or preparing to glory. The apostle Jude, in his sentence also accords with it: he directs his epistle “to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called,” verse 8(?) 1. where, by sanctified he means elected, separated, or set apart: in this sense the word is used elsewhere, where it will not admit of any other, Exodus 3:13. “I am the Lord that doth sanctify you” and more plainly in Numb. 8:17. “all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified them for myself: “here no other thing but choosing, selecting, or setting apart, can be intended: and I see no reason why it should not be so understood in that of Jude.
And it is termed a holy calling, not only as it calleth us to holiness; but as it is sacred, peculiar, set apart, and appropriated to a holy people, namely, those whom the Lord set apart for himself: whose eternal sanctifying them in his decree, was the original cause of their being sanctified actually; “he loved them with an everlasting love, and therefore with loving kindness doth he draw them,” Jeremiah 31:3, and this their actual sanctification is so indubitable a consequent of the decretive, and so appropriate to the same persons, that the same word is used for both; as it is also for redemption: “for their sakes (says Christ) I sanctify myself,” John 17:19. A like instance of this we have in Eldad and Medad, who though they came not up to the tabernacle with their brethren, yet, being of them that were written, “the Spirit came on them, and they prophesied in the camp,” Numb. 9:26.. Election finds out men when they think not of it. So the Lord first determines Jeremy to his office; then puts forth his hand, and fits him for his work, Jeremiah 1:9. Even Christ himself was first appointed to his mediatory office; and then the Spirit came on him, because so appointed, Isaiah 61:1.
Quer. In the 1st of John, 16. it is said, that “to them which received him, he gave power to become the sons of God;” which seems to put their believing before their sonship.
Solu. Although faith goes before the manifestation of our sonship, yet not before our sonship itself; “the adoption of sons is (hat we were predestinated to before the foundation of the world,” Ephesians 1:4, 5. That therefore in John, must be understood with that of Moses, when he pleads with God for his presence with his people; “so shall we be separated from all the people that are on the face of the earth” Exodus 33:13. not that this separation was now to be made; it was done before, Lev. 20:24. but his meaning is, that by the Lord’s going with them, this their separation should be manifested. This sense of the word ye have in Matthew 5: “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; that ye may be (that is, that ye may appear to be) the children of your father which is in heaven,” Deuteronomy 7:6. Matthew 5:44, 45. in like manner we become “the sons of God by faith,” Galatians 3:26.
The budding of Aaron’s rod was not the cause of God’s choosing him to the priesthood, Numbers 17:5, 8. nor the falling of the lot on Saul, and afterwards on Matthias, the reason why God designed them, the one to the kingdom, and the other to the apostleship; they were both appointed before, and those events were but the effects of their foreappointment, and evidences of it, 1 Samuel 9:16. with chapter 10:21. Acts 1:24,26. So the giving of the Spirit is that which follows election; “because sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts,” Galatians 4:6. Although the manifestation of our adoption, and our actual enjoyment of its privileges, are in time; yet the thing itself we u ere(?) predestinated to from everlasting, Ephesians 1. 4, f, 0, 11. (?) Pursuant to this, our Savior manifests the Father’s name to the men he had given him out of the and these receive it, John 17:6. 8. The sheep hear his voice, and follow him, chapter 10:27. Of others he saith expressly, “ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep,” verse 8 26. “He that is of God, heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because you are not of God,” chapter 8:47. The same reason he gives for his different ministration towards his own and others: to the one it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to the other it was not given, Matthew 13:11, and, therefore, having ended his parables, he dismisses the multitude, as having no more for them; but to his disciples he expounded every thing in private, Mark 4:34, and ye see he puts it on election, as that which had invested them with this prerogative above the rest. “To you it is given;” that is, it belonged to them by God’s donation and appointment. They are first saints by election, then saints by calling, Romans 1:7.
When Christ appeared to Paul going to Damascus, they that were with him were all in amaze; a voice they heard, but knew not what it spake. Why so, since they were as likely to yield as he? It was not intended for them, and therefore their ears were not bored, nor the speech directed to them, but to Paul, and to Paul by name. But why to Paul above the rest, since he was the ringleader and chief persecutor in the company? Paul was a chosen vessel; and this, in brief, was the reason of it, as you have it recorded in Acts 22:14. “The God of our fathers has chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will.” The Jews had many means of knowing the Messiah, and inducements to believe in him, which the “Gentiles had not; and yet these embrace the gospel, while the Jews reject it. Those who sought after righteousness, fell short of it; when those who sought it not, attained it, Romans 9:30, 31. For the bottom reason of which different dispensation, we are referred to election; “The election has obtained, and the rest were blinded,” chapter 11:7.
How variously are several men affected in hearing the same word? The sheep and the rest have both the same outward means; one neglects it, attends not at all, or regards not what he hears; a second quarrels at it; as the Jews often did; a third is persuaded almost, as Agrippa was, and those that would hear Paul again of that matter: a fourth is pricked in the heart, and persuaded altogether. It is a stumbling block to some, foolishness to others, and to some it is the power of God: and these some were elected; of those to whom the promise was made, Acts 2:39, and are therefore termed the called according to his own purpose, Romans 8:28, and according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ before the world began, 2 Timothy 1:9. they are first chosen, and then caused to approach to God, Psalm 65:4.
There is almost no end of scriptures to this purpose: I shall instance one more, and so close up this particular. All the blessings which the saints are blessed with, in time, are bestowed according to God’s decree of election before time; as is manifest from Ephesians 1:3, 4. 5. Where f observe(?), 1. That election goes before the actual donation of spiritual blessings: for these are given in time, that was before time; and that which comes after, cannot be the cause of that which went before it: one effect may be the cause of another; but not the cause of that which causeth itself. 2. That the actual donation of spiritual blessings is according to election; that is, election is the rule by which the dispensation is guided; it is adequate with election, and answerable thereto; even as the impression is to the printing types; or as the fashion of David’s body, to the platform thereof in God’s book; and the tabernacle, to the pattern shown in the mount, according to which all things are made, as well in respect of number, weight, and measure, as form and figure. Spiritual blessings are not given to one more or fewer, or in other manner, but just, as election had laid it forth: which also is further confirmed by Revelation 21:27. where we find, that none are admitted into the holy city, but such “whose names were written in the book of life; and whoever was not found written in that book, was cast into the lake of fire,” Revelation 20:15. which shows, that at the latter day it will be taken for granted, that “as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed;” and that all and every one without the list of election, died in unbelief; that “the election obtained,” Acts 13:48. “and the rest were blinded,” Romans 11:7. therefore faith and holiness are not the cause, but the certain effects and consequents of election.
Now if any should ask, by the way, where the special love of God to elect persons discovers itself before their conversion? I cannot assign any plain or open discoveries of it, by which the elect may be known from other men, since all outward things fall alike to all: “the heir, while a child, differs nothing from a servant, although he be lord of all,” by election, Galatians 4:1. And yet there are divers gracious operations of that love towards them, even in common providences, although they are not perceived until afterwards: as,
- In keeping alive the root or stem they were to grow from: this, perhaps, was not the least cause of adding fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life; namely, for Josiah’s sake, who was to come of his lineage; Manasseh, who was to be his grandfather, not being yet born: so those days of tribulation were shortened, and many of the Jews, by special providence, kept alive, for the elect’s sake that should be of their progeny, perhaps two thousand years after.
- In preserving the elect themselves from many a death they were obnoxious to before their conversion, as he also did Manasseh: and this was the cause, when Satan had them in his net, and had dragged them to the brink of hell, that “the Lord sent from heaven, and saved them,” Psalm 57:3. “Deliver him; I have found a ransom,” Job 33:24. q. d. (?) He is mine, and I have designed him to another end.
- In keeping them from the unpardonable sin. Thus Paul, being a chosen vessel, was kept without that knowledge of Christ which some of the Pharisees had; for otherwise his persecuting the church of God had been incapable of pardon, as appears from 1 Timothy 1:3. “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly.”
- In casting the lot of their habitation where he has planted, or will plant, the means of grace; or bringing them, providentially, where some effectual word shall be spoken to them: the one is verified in those who dwelt at Corinth, where Paul must preach, and not hold his peace; for, says the Lord, “I have much people in this city,” Acts 18:9,10. the other, in those who were come to Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost, from all parts of the world; which gave them the opportunity of coming together, and of hearing Peter’s sermon, by means whereof thousands were converted, chapter 2:5. It is further exemplified by the story of the eunuch, chapter 8:27. as also that of Zaccheus, whose intent reached no higher than to what manner of person Christ was, being so much talked of abroad; and being low of stature, he climbs into a tree, and there salvation meets both him and his house, Luke 19:2-9.
- Our last inquiry is, Of the way and manner of God’s dispensing spiritual blessings: and that is effectually and freely.
First. Effectually. The soul is not turned to God by a twinethread; nor doth the Lord content himself with wishing and hoping that it might be so, after the manner of men, who either are somewhat indifferent about the thing, or have not wherewith to effect their desires: nor merely by propounding, moving and striving, by moral suasions, instructions, threatenings, and the like (which are of little avail with a dark understanding, and fixed enmity, which every natural man is actuated by;) but by the putting forth of a power invincible: a power that will not be said nay; but what it wills, that it will do; what it undertakes, it goes through with. To do a thing effectually, is to do it perfectly, thoroughly, successfully: so to use and apply the means, that the end designed is surely brought to pass; and this, notwithstanding all the weakness, averseness, and repugnancy of the carnal mind against it.
I might produce instances not a few, touching God’s effectual working to bring about things of lesser moment. How unwilling was Moses to be his messenger to Pharaoh! Exodus 3 and 4: so opposite to it, that when he had no farther plea nor excuse to make, he carries it perversely towards the Lord; “Send by the hand of him whom thou wilt send,” says he, chapter 4:13. but God having designed him for the work, leaves him not until he had won him to it, verse 18. So Pharaoh resolved he would not let the people go: but “I will stretch out my hand, says God, and he shall let you go.” Much more will he make his arm bare for the salvation of his chosen, whom he loved from everlasting: and it must be so done.
Argument 1. Because, otherwise, the elect should be in no better condition than other men; for, until conversion, Satan has as fast hold of them as of the rest. Adam’s fall was the devil’s masterpiece: to bring men into his own condemnation, is the trophy he glories in; and being a prince, both proud, subtle, and imperious, you may not think he will be baffled or complimented out of his hold: entreaties, menaces, and force of arguments, are of no weight with him; he laughs at your strong reasons, and counts them but rotten wood; Jesus I know, and his Spirit I know, Acts 19:15. but what are these? No; this kind goes not forth by consent; nothing will move him, but that power which heaven and earth do bow under: he that made him (and he only) can cause his sword to approach to him, and take the prey from this terrible one. And for this it was, that our Savior tells the apostles (when he sends them to “turn men from Satan to God,”) that “all power in heaven and earth was committed to him,” Matthew 28:18, and that in this power “he will be with them to the end of the world,” Matthew 28:20. Luke 9:1. which was indeed but needful; for they had surely gone on a sleeveless errand (a weak and fruitless design,) if Christ himself thus empowered had not gone with them. And for the elect themselves, they are of themselves, no better disposed to this work than those that never shall be wrought on: they are enemies in their minds, darkness, dead in sin, and children of wrath, even as others: and this they are by nature: their state, therefore could not be changed, if a power invincible, and invincibly resolved in what he undertakes, were not engaged in it. Ephraim, though an elect vessel, yet while in nature, was of so bad a nature, that all moral endeavors were lost on him. Let messengers be sent to him early and late, he pulls away the shoulder: the Lord was wroth with him, smote him, hid his face from him; he still went on frowardly: show him his sickness; so that he cannot but see it; and he sends to king Jareb, takes any course rather than turn to him that smote him, Hosea 5:13. take off the yoke from his jaw, give him the scope of his will, and the first thing he takes to shall be the forbidden fruit: lay meat to his mouth, that which is meat indeed, and he will rather starve than eat; men left to their own will, will rather go to hell, than be beholden to free grace for salvation. But, says God, “Is Ephraim my dear son?” one whom I bought with a price? “Is he a pleasant child?” Jeremiah 31:20. whom I loved from everlasting; and shall I so lose him? shall it be said, that I raised up a creature whom I cannot rule and bring to my bent? or, that I made him for such an end, as that any thing conducible thereto may not be done for him? shall my will be forced rather than his? mine to destroy him, rather than his to be saved? No; I have not done all this to lose him at last; nor have I suffered those unworthy repulses, for want of power to prevent them, but that Ephraim might see what would become of him if left to the conduct of his own will; (free indeed to nothing but his own ruin!) and now I will heal him: and the first effect of this healing was, Ephraim’s applying himself to God; “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned,” chapter 31:18. Those cords of love, by which the Lord draws men to himself, are not love and kindness merely propounded, with frustrable motives to persuade acceptance, but “divine love shed abroad in the heart,” Romans 5:5. not written with ink (a thing of human composition) but by the Spirit and power of God. And hence it is that we find those imperial terms,” I will, and ye shall,” so much in use about this matter. Thus the Lord began with the serpent (which was a leading case to all that follows, “It shall bruise thine head;” in which compendious word, the destruction of Satan and sin is effectually provided for: and elsewhere he speaks as much for quickening the soul, “A new heart also will I give you, and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; ye shall be my people, and I will be your God,” Ezekiel 36:26, 27, 28. “They shall return to me with their whole heart,” Jeremiah 24:7. with many others. The Lord still utters himself in terms of omnipotency, as putting forth an almightiness of power; which, as it needs not, so it will not (yea, it cannot with a salvo to his honor) admit the least dependence on created power to make it successful: “his word shall not return to him void; it shall accomplish that which he pleaseth, and prosper in the thing whereto he sends it,” Isaiah 55:11. “He that was dead, comes forth at his word, though bound hand and foot,” John. 11:44.
Argument 2. Conversion is a creation work; which, though done by degrees, must be gone through with, and that by him who laid the foundation; or all the foregoing parts (as conviction) will molder and come to nothing. As, when Adam was to be made, the Lord first prepares the earth, then moulds it in such a form, and then “breathes into him the breath of life;” else that lump had never been a living soul. So, in the new creation, the Lord works, and goes on to work, and leaves it not, until he has set it going. He doth not only cause the light to shine into darkness, but gives, withal, a suitable understanding, 1 John 5:20. a faculty connatural with the object, as without which the darkness would never comprehend it, John 1:5. Ezekiel might have prophesied till doom’s day, ere those dry bones would have lived, if the Lord himself had not caused breath to enter into them; and, probably, he is called “the Father of lights,” James 1:17. (plural) to denote, that as well the light comprehending (or capacitating our comprehension) is from God, as that to be comprehended, 2 Corinthians 4:6. “In his light we see light,” Psalm 36:9.
Argument 3. God’s effectual working in this matter, and the necessity of his so working, may also be argued from the common sense of those already wrought on, and brought in; by whose prayers and confessions it is evident, that they still needed a powerful and effectual influence to carry on the work already begun: “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned,” Jeremiah 31:18. “Quicken us, and we will call on thee,” Psalm 80:18. “Draw me, we will run after thee,” Cant.(this should be Song of Soloman) 1:4. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing, but our sufficiency is of God,” 2 Corinthians 3:5. “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” etc. Galatians 2:20. Hence it readily follows, that if those already turned, and made partakers of the divine nature, whose hearts are fixed in the good ways of God, and who desire nothing more than to walk in them, cannot yet keep themselves going, without a continued efficacious influx and spring from above; much less can the natural man, without the like supernatural and divine efficacy, effectually bend himself to a compliance with them: for, “It is an abomination to fools to depart from evil,” Proverbs 13:19.
Argument 4. If the Lord did not work effectually, he should lose the honor of his work. If the efficacy of grace should depend on the human will (that is, if grace should be rendered effectual by some motion or act of the will, which grace is not the author of,) then will nature assume the priority; works will glory over grace, and freewill will be said to be better than free grace; for, that the less is blessed of the better, is without contradiction, Hebrews 7:1, and; that that which sanctifies, is greater than that which is sanctified by it, is so obvious, that Christ appeals it to the reason of fools and blind, Matthew chapter 23:19. If, therefore, you will grant, that grace is better than nature; follow it must, that the will is blessed and sanctified by grace, namely, by its powerful and effectual operation on it. And here, indeed, lies the honor and efficacy of grace; not in a vincible moving, exciting, persuading, or threatening the will to a compliance; but in taking off its natural bias, and placing it, as it were, on the other side; working the heart into a kindly agreeableness with the divine will, which before was so contrary to it: and thus the Lord doeth, and thus he will do, where so ever he will be gracious; though ever so much against the present mind and natural propensity of the subject: and yet there is no such thing as forcing the will, as ye will see afterwards.
Argument 5. The doctrine of effectual calling is further confirmed, from the office of Christ as a Redeemer; which was not only to purchase, but to put us in actual possession of the good things he purchased for us. Redemption, forgiveness of sin, and reconciliation, are relatives, commensurate, and inseparable, Ephesians 1:7. chapter 2:13. 16. Heb 2:17. It is not only a reconcilable state that redemption puts us into, but a state of actual reconcilement, Romans 5:8, 9, 10. Colossians 1:20, 21, 22. it “abolishes the enmity,” Ephesians 2:15. “makes an end of sin, and brings in everlasting righteousness,” Daniel 9:24. On this account our Savior bears that glorious title, “Thou shall call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21, and for “this cause was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John 3:8. Now, of those works, blindness of mind is the firstborn, and foster mother to all the rest, 2 Corinthians 4:4. it is that keeps the soul in unbelief, as under locks and bars; and therefore must of necessity be dispelled; which can only be done by causing the true light to shine effectually; as he did the light of this world in the first creation, which the scripture resembles it to, verse 8(?) 6. Hence those frequent mentions of his being sent “to open the blind eyes,” Isaiah 43:7. to give light to them that sit in darkness, Luke 1:79, and to bring forth the prisoners from the prison house, Isaiah 49; 9. which may not be valued as things in design, yet liable to obstruction; but to be as certainly performed as that Christ should die. In the 107th Psalm it is spoken of as done, already; “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder,” Psalm 107:14, and that he speaks it of redeemed ones, appears by verse 8(?) 2. First, take them as in darkness, and he i – so(?) to give them light, as to “guide their feet into the way of peace,” Luke 1:79. The story of the blind man in Mark, is a pertinent shadow of it; Christ spits on his eyes, and puts his hand on him; as yet he saw but darkly, “men as trees walking;” but he puts his hands on him again; and dismisses him not until he has made him see clearly, Mark 8:23, 24,25. Then take them as prisoners, and prisoners in the pit, Zechariah 9:11, and he that will deliver them must not only open the gate, but disarm their guard, knock off their shackles, and bring them forth as the angel did Peter, even “while the keepers stood before the door,” Acts 12:6, 7. He so calleth his sheep, that he “leadeth them out,” John 10:3, and this he doth by the blood of his covenant; it is that makes those in the pit to be prisoners of hope, Zechariah 9:11, 12. And these effects as duly flow from redemption, as light from the sun; it is therefore expressly said, that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” 1 John 1:7, and that “we are sanctified through the offering of his body once for all,” Hebrews 10:10. This gave the apostle to argue so positively in Rom 6. that “if planted together in his death, we shall be also in his resurrection,” Romans 6:5, and to put that emphasis on it, that “if reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more shall we be saved by his life,” Romans 5:9,10. That saying of Christ is much to our purpose; and “other sheep I have, them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice,” John 10:16. This must, imports a duty not to be dispensed with; he had “received a commandment for it from the Father,” verse 8(?) 18, and this shall, that effectual working, “whereby he subdues all things to himself;” and whereby they are made to believe, Ephesians 1:19. The sheep, of themselves, lie as cross to this work as other men: “What have I to do with thee?” cries the possessed Gadarene, Mark 5:7. but being his sheep, he must make them willing, Peal. 110:3. But suppose they stop their ears; then he is to bore them; for “he received gifts for the rebellious,” Psalm 68:18. Men’s averseness does not lose Christ his right; nor shall it render his work ineffectual. For this very end God raised him up, namely, “to bless his people, in turning them from their iniquities,” Acts 3:26, and to give them repentance, and that such as has forgiveness of sins annexed to it, chapter 5:31. which also he doth as a prince; that is, as one invested with power to remove whatever might hinder the effect of his purpose; to him are committed “the keys of hell and of death,” Revelation 1:18. From these premises I conclude, that what Christ, as a Redeemer, came to do, that he doeth, and will do; and that none of his work shall fall to the ground. What he saith in the 17th of John, is prophetical of what he will say at the latter day: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; of all that thou hast given me, I have lost nothing; I have manifested thy name to the men which thou gavest me out of the world; I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them,” John 17:4. 6. 8. More might be added; but by these I hope it is evident, that Jesus Christ was not only a Redeemer to pay our ransom, but the officer appointed of God to set us at liberty, even that glorious liberty of the sons of God: and this is that pleasure of the Lord which should prosper in his hands, Isaiah 49:10. as it has done, and doth, and for ever shall: and it is matter of great consolation to them that take hold of his covenant.
Secondly. All that God doeth for men, or gives to them, in order to their salvation, is given and done freely. Now, a thing is then said to be thus given or done, when it proceeds from the mere good will and favor of him that worketh, forgiveth; without respect to any thing done or deserved by the receiver: it is a voluntary act supposing no obligation in him that gives; nor any attractive or obliging virtue in him that receives; nor yet expectation of recompense from him. Much need not be said to prove the free giving of the things we are speaking of, did we duly consider, 1. The sovereign greatness of him that gives: it is the “Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth;” who is infinitely and independently blessed in himself, and therefore cannot be added to, nor receive from any creature. Who can give to him that gives to all their life and breath? 2. The superexcellent, unspeakable worth of the things that are given: the first and chief is our Lord Jesus Christ; whose dignity was such, that heaven and earth were too low a price to set them at, especially to be given as he was; and in him righteousness and strength, adoption and reconciliation, grace and glory. 3. The vanity and wretchedness of those on whom they are bestowed: both scripture and experience speak nothing of them in their natural state, but what bespeaks a condition every way deplorable, and incapable of yielding motives for such a gift; as is shown before. But being so greatly in love with ourselves, and fond of our own improvements, and stiffly bent to a covenant of works, to help us off those dangerous shelves, let us dwell awhile on the following arguments.
Argument 1. Is taken from the nature and import of the covenant of grace. This covenant is that which all professing Christians profess to be saved by, however they differ about the import and latitude of it. But if we receive the scriptural notion (which needs must be the right,) we shall find, that it is of the very nature and substance of this covenant, to give freely and absolutely; without conditioning for any thing to be done by men, as the ground or motive thereof. All that God doeth for those he will save, is for his name’s sake; which name is recorded in Exodus 34:5, 6. “The Lord God, gracious and merciful,” etc. To be gracious, is to do well to one that deserves ill; and if otherwise, it would be but after the covenant of works, or first covenant; which yet was not faulty or defective in itself, for it gave a sufficiency to obtain the benefits proposed by it; which if they had used and improved as they might, there would not have needed a second. But the Lord foreknowing the creature’s mutability, and, consequently, what need there would be of another kind of power and grace than that Adam was created with, did therefore determine of a second; which in scripture is called “the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began,” Tit. 1:2. It is called the covenant of grace, not only as designing the glory of his grace in the saving of men; but as giving freely, and of mere grace and favor, whatever must bring about that salvation. For where else can lie the difference between the two covenants? It cannot be in respect of the easiness and difficulty of the duties enjoined; for faith and repentance are much more above the compass of natural power, than to forbear the forbidden tree: but the difference lies in this, that the new covenant consists in better promises; and this betterness, in the free, absolute, independent engagement of God, to invest his covenant ones with all things conducing to the blessedness held forth; as well that to be done on their part, as on his own on their doing it. That is, plainly, to give to them, and work in them, whatever in this covenant he requires of them. The law shows matter of duty, but gives not wherewith to perform it: the covenant of grace does both, by writing the law in the heart; and without this, it would still have been but a covenant of works, be the duties enjoined what you will. It therefore runs not on conditional or fallible terms, “I will, if ye will;” but absolute and sovereign, “I will, and ye shall.” This covenant does not only give life on terms of believing; but faith also and holiness, as the necessary means of attaining that life: and this not on your ingenious compliance, as some term it, or better improvement of what you have in common with other men, (such allegations the Lord disallows, and often cautions against,) but of grace, it is a covenant made up of promises; and promise, by scripture intendment, is always free: both freely made, and freely performed, without the desert or procurement of men. Take Isaac for instance: Abraham’s body was now dead, and for Sarah, besides her natural barrenness, “it ceased to be with her after the manner of women,” and yet Sarah shall have a son, Genesis 19:11.14. But how? The promise had in it (though Abraham and Sarah had not) whatever might tend to Isaac’s conception and birth; and for this cause he was called “the son of the promise,” Galatians 4:23, 28. as also believers are, Romans 2:8 Galatians 3:29. they are also termed “heirs of promise;” Hebrews 6:17. And on this account Christ is called the “promised seed;” and the Holy Ghost the “Spirit of promise;” namely, to shew the independent freeness of those divine gifts; the promise of sending them, their actual coming, and effectual operations, are all free, and free in all respects. This “dew from the Lord waiteth not for men,” Micah 5:7. For further illustration, the Jews are a pertinent instance, as ye read in Jeremy, Jeremiah 32:30—35. they had done nothing but evil from their youth up, and were a continual provocation; and when scattered among the nations, were no whit bettered; but caused even the heathen to blaspheme: and yet notwithstanding all this, the Lord will gather them, and “give them an heart to fear him for ever,” verse 8(?) 37—44, and this, even while they were not moved “neither could they blush,” chapter 8:12. See also with what inexpressible freeness of grace the Lord deals with them in the 43d of Isaiah, “I, even I am he that blotteth out thy transgression,—and will not remember thy sins,” Isaiah 43:25. But what is the introduction to this so great a promise? see it and wonder at it! “Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob, but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel: thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings: thou hast bought me no sweet cane with thy money . . . but hast made me to serve with thy sins, and wearied me with thine iniquities,” verses 22, 23, 24. “I, even I (whom thou hast dealt so ungratefully with and disingenuously, even I) am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake,” verse 8(?) 25. And this was a great thing they looked not for: as, indeed considering themselves, and what their demeanor had been, they had no reason to look for it. From all which it is clear, that grace respects not the worthiness of men in what it does for them; nay, it must respect their unworthiness rather, as that by which grace is more illustrated, and the glory thereof more advanced: in that, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,” Romans 5:20. And Paul proclaims it as verified on himself: “I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy; and the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant,” 1 Timothy 1:13, and hereon he falls to adoring that grace; “Now, to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen,” verse 17.
The riches of mercy is made out by saving the chief of sinners, and in quickening them when dead, Ephesians 2:1. 4, and it is very observable, that the apostles, whenever they mention the grace of God in saving, quickening, they give not the least intimation of men’s worthiness, preparedness, compliance, or any such thing, but dead in sins, and quickening, come one on the neck of the other, as light does on darkness, which in no sort induces the light, or prepares the dark earth or air for it, as is abundantly evident in all their epistles. And how often does the Lord declare against all the pretensions of men, as to their activity in this matter, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea? etc, and as a bar to those pretensions, the holy people he calls, “A people sought out;” and proclaims, “I am found of them that sought me not.” This I shall end with a very observable instance within my own memory; and I bring it not in for proof, but illustration. I knew a man, who when he came under convictions, endeavored with all his might to stifle them: his convictions grew stronger, and he hardened himself against them: he saw their tendency: but was so opposite to it, that he resolved, in express terms, he would not be a puritan, whatever came of it. To the church he must go, his master would have it so; but this was his wont, to loll over the seat, with his fingers in both his ears: here general or conditional grace was surely nonplussed. But a chosen vessel must not be so lost; now steps in electing grace, and by a casual slip of his elbow, drew out the stoppers, and sent in a word from the pulpit, which, like fire from heaven, melted his heart, and cast it in a new mould. Surely, in this the Lord did not wait for the man’s compliance or improvements; his work was not originated thence, nor dependant thereon.
Argument 2. If all that pertains to salvation were not given freely, salvation itself would not be of grace, for “to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt,” Romans 4:4. but salvation is of grace, Ephesians 2:5. “By grace ye are saved.” And again verse 8. “By grace ye are saved, through faith;” where also, lest the adding of faith should occasion a lessening of that or grace, or seem to detract from the freeness of it, he cautiously subjoins, that this faith is the work of that grace, “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” For if grace be perfectly free in choosing, it must be answerably free in giving and applying the means to bring about the end it has chosen us to: for if the effect of the means should depend on something to be done by men, which grace is not the doer of: then works would put in for a share in the glory of men’s salvation; and so the grace of God would be dethroned, and be as if it were not; grace is no more grace, as is argued in Romans 11:16.
Argument 3. Spiritual blessings must be given freely, and of pure grace, because the natural man cannot perform any such act as might be motive for such a gift. Things materially good they may do, as Cain in offering the first fruits; but not acceptable, because not done in a due manner; that is, in faith; the want of which makes incense itself an abomination, Isa. 1:13, 14. If without faith it be impossible to please God, then it must be impossible to do aught before you believe, that may move God to give you faith. Salvation is promised to faith, remission of sins to repentance, the blessed vision to purity of heart: but we find not these graces promised to any act or qualification inferior to, or going before the graces themselves; our holy calling, and the washing of regeneration, we are not entitled to by works of our own, 2 Timothy 1:9. Tit. 3:15.
Argument 4. If any of the requisites to salvation should be given on condition, reason would it should be that which in worth and virtue containeth all the rest, and without which the rest had never been, or been of none effect, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ; of whom it is said, that “all the fullness of the godhead dwells in him bodily,” Colossians 2:9. .’ and that, out of his fullness all grace is received,” John 1:16. the giving of whom was the most superlative commendation of God’s love to men, Romans 5:8, and is therefore termed “the,” or “that gift of God,” John 4:10. being such a gift as comprehends all others. And as touching the free and unconditional giving of Christ, see that ancient authentic record in Genesis 3:15. “It shall bruise thy head:” where is contained an absolute free promise to send the Son of God, in human flesh, to be a Redeemer. And we evidently know, that his actual coming and performance thereof, was not suspended on any desert or worthiness of men: how could it, when after the fall they did not, nor could do any thing but what might turn his heart more against them? For evidence hereof, we need not go out of the context: do but observe the first Adam’s carriage, and the manner of it, a little before the promise was made: first, they believe the serpent rather than God; then they break the commandment of life, when they had neither need nor occasion so to do. This done, and finding themselves lost, they do not so much as seek after God for help, but rather to hide themselves from him; so far from confessing them selves faulty, that they charge God foolishly, and shift the blame of their miscarriage on him; “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree—and the serpent, which also is a creature of thy making, beguiled me.” Here is nothing in their deportment that looks like the motive of such a promise. But, though they run from God, he will not so part with them; yea, he follows them, finds them out, and, for a door of hope, freely pronounceth this gracious promise, of sending his Son to destroy this t Id(?) serpent, the devil; and, consequently, the serpentine nature, that had now instilled and mingled itself with theirs. It is the first promulgation of the gospel, and speaks with as much absoluteness as words can express, “It shall bruise thy head.” This I insist the more on, because it is the first that was made in time, and that out of which all following promises are educed.
The intent of this promise, was Adam’s recovery and comfort; who, doubtless, at this time, was in a very disconsolate condition; as lying under a fresh sense of the happiness he had lost, and the woeful estate he was now plunged into; and therefore it was necessary, if Adam shall have comfort by it, that the terms thereof be altogether free and absolute: for, suppose them to be conditional, as, namely, if Adam shall now repent and convert himself; if he shall better improve a second stock, or rather the cankered remnant of that he had at first, my Son then shall come into this lower world, to still that enemy and avenger: his life shall go for thy life; I will be friends with thee, and restore thee to thy former state. AH(Ah!) this, and more of this kind, had yielded but little comfort of hope to a guilty and defiled conscience, who found itself not only naked, and wholly bereft of its primitive righteousness, but at enmity with its Creator, and a bond slave to Satan: for such reasonings as these would have broken in like a flood, to bear down, and stifle all hopes of future success, especially, if when I was in so blessed a state, and endued with power to keep the law, on so slight a temptation I yielded and fell; how should I rise now I am down, and my strength is gone? If when I had freedom of will, and stood upright, I so easily warped into crooked paths; how can I hope to return, and do better, now my will is so perverted and bent to a contrary course? If whilst I had eyes in my head, and saw things with clearness I yet lost my way, and wandered; how should I think to recover it, being now both sadly bewildered, and my eyes put out? How should I bring a clean thing out of an unclean, who kept not my heart clean when it was so? How should I gain more with fewer talents, who ran myself out of all when I had abundantly more? Grapes will not grow on thorns, nor figs on thistles: nay, were my primitive state restored to me on the former terms, I could not expect to keep it, having this woeful experience of so causeless and dreadful an apostasy etc.
It was therefore importantly necessary, that this first promise, made on so great and solemn an occasion, and bearing in it all the hopes and comforts of God’s people to eternity, should be thoroughly free and absolute, and not depend, in the least, on any good thing to be done by men as the condition of it. And if Christ be given freely, there is good ground of arguing thence, the free giving of lesser things: for, “he that spared not his own Son, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32. “Is not the life more than meat?” Matthew 6:25. Is not Christ more than faith and all grace? Has God given us the flesh of his Son, which is meat indeed; and will he not restore our withered hand to receive it? It cannot be; especially considering, that this may be done with a word; and without this, the other would be lost, and as water spilt in the ground. But though this promise of Christ be virtually a promise of all grace; yet, because of our slowness of heart to believe, and to win us off from our legalizing notions, the Lord condescends to gratify his people in words, as well as substance: therefore,
Argument 5. To make it expressly evident, that all spiritual blessings are perfectly free, he has put them into absolute promises. Not that all promises run in that tenor: many of them have conditions annexed; which also, in their place, have a very significant usefulness: 1. As proofs of our willing subjection to God, Genesis 22:12. 2. As directives by what mediums we must get to the blessedness designed us, John 3:16. John 14:6, and how qualified for the enjoyment of it, Matthew 5:8. 2 Corinthians 7:1. 3. As marks and evidences of our being in the way to it, and of those to whom it doth belong, Mark 15:16. Rom, 8:1. John 10:9. But this annexing of conditions does not imply a power in men to perform them; though performed they must be, before we come to the promised reward; nor does the effect of those promises depend on any act to be done by us, which some other promise doth not provide us with. But that great fundamental promise, on which is founded our hopes of eternal life, was absolute; it was given before the world, Tit. 1:2. Though clearly conditional to him with whom the compact was made, yet perfectly free and absolute to us; and, therefore, the adding of conditions to after promises, may not be taken as invalidating that first promise, or as defiance to it. It is a scripture maxim, that “the covenant which was before confirmed of God in Christ, the law (which was four hundred and thirty years after) cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect,” Galatians 3:17. The like may be said of promises made in time, namely, that the conditionality of some does not make void the absoluteness of others. As the law was to Christ, such are conditional promises to the absolute; they show what we should be and do; and, by consequence, that we can neither be nor do as we should; and thence infer to us, the necessity of divine grace to undertake for us; and then, indeed, and not till then, is the freeness of grace adorable, which promiseth help in terms of an absolute tenor. And accordingly we find that whatever is in one scripture made the condition of acceptance with God, and eternal life, in other scriptures those very conditions are promised without condition; some of which we have a prospect of in the following balance, which being that of the sanctuary, may well be allowed to cast it: nor would it be once debated, if men knew their interest; for interest will not lie.
Promises of the Condition
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” Isaiah 1:16,17, 18
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” Ezekiel 36:25
“Repent and turn; so iniquity shall not be your ruin,” Ezekiel 18:30.
“Make you a new heart, and a new spirit,” Ezekiel 18:81.
“Hear, and your soul shall live,” Isaiah 55:3.
“If thou shall seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with thy whole heart,” Deuteronomy 4:29.
“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord,” Hosea 6:3.
“Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart,” Deuteronomy 10:16.
“Return, O backsliding children,” Jeremiah 3:14.
“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land,” Isaiah 1:9.
“I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel,” Ezek. 36:37.
“He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved,” Matthew 24:13.
“forgive your iniquity; and your sin I will remember no more” Jeremiah 31:34.
“I will put a new spirit within you,” Ezekiel 11:19. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you,” Ezekiel 36:26.
“Thou shalt return, and obey the voice of the Lord,” Deuteronomy 30:8. “They shall return to me with their whole heart,” Jeremiah 24:7.
“I am found of them that sought me not,” Isaiah 65:1.
“Thou shalt call me, My Father, and shalt not turn from me,” Jeremiah 3:19.
“The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart,” Deuteronomy 30:6.
“I will heal their backslidings,” Hosea 14:4.
“Thy people shall be willing,” Psalm 110:3. “I will cause you to walk in my statutes,” Ezekiel 36:27. Phil 2:13.
“I will pour on the house of David, the Spirit of grace and supplications,” Zechariah 12:10.
“They shall not depart from me,” Jeremiah 82:40. “Who shall confirm you to the end,” 1 Corinthians 1:8. Jer”8:10.
These are some of those many exceeding great and precious promises, by which we are made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, and if duly considered would much conduce to establish the present truth, which affirms the absolute free giving of “all things pertaining to life and godliness,” 2 Peter 1:3, and this nothing more plainly contradicts, than to make the dispensations of grace to depend on the wills and improvements of natural men: to exclude which is a principal scope of absolute promises, “that no flesh should glory in his presence,” 1 Corinthians I: 29. since it is God that worketh all in all, both to will and to do; and that of his own good pleasure, 1 Corinthians 12:6. Philippians 2:13. There are yet divers things alleged against this doctrine; which the holy scriptures, with reasons drawn from thence and sanctified experience, do afford a plentiful bar(?) and answer to: and this service they have done us, to bring some things to mind (before omitted) which may prove to the further clearing and confirmation of the truth.
Obj. All men universally, others as well as those you call the elect, are endued with means sufficient for salvation.
Answer: It shall be far from us to lessen the means afforded to any; or their sin in not living tip(?) to what they have: they have all means to be better than they are; and yet we cannot assent that all men now (since the fall) have the sufficiency alleged; for, of all the rest, the name of Christ, and faith in him, must not be excluded; but these all men have not. In a great part of the world Christ is not so much as named; and “how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Romans 11:14, and where the gospel is, “all men ‘have not faith,” 2 Thessalonians 3:2. For men to believe (or fancy rather) that some excellent person has interposed an atonement, to keep off vengeance from sinful men (as some speak,) is not to believe on the name of the Son of God, but rather to erect an altar to an un known deity, and to worship they know not what. Our Savior tells the Jews (who knew that Messiah cometh,) “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins,” John 8:24. For other reasons also, we cannot admit the objection. 1. Because it sets man in the same state now as before the fall; then, indeed they had a sufficiency to retain their present state; but ever since, all are born children of wrath, and enemies to God. 2. Because the objection, while it seems to magnify common grace, nullifies the special; as if God no more regarded his own elect than other men. 3. Because it lays a foundation for self boasting; for, if all have but the same means given from above, the betterness of any must be from themselves; men must make themselves to differ; which is contrary to all reason, since the same means can have but the same effect on subjects alike qualified. 4. Because the scripture speaks expressly the contrary; and that of those who had the likeliest sufficiency of any others; and yet they “could not believe,” John 12:39, and of believers themselves, that “they cannot think,” 2 Corinthians 3:5, and of Christ’s own disciples (who, of all believers, had the highest means,) that “without him they can do nothing,” John 15:5, and if such as these can neither do nor think, where is the sufficiency boasted of? You say they have the power to believe, if they will: not so, but if they will, they have power. Power and will, in this matter, are the same thing variously expressed: it is common to say, we cannot, when nothing is wanting but will. And, for power to will (if such a thing could be) without a will to put that power into act, it would signify no more than an arm without strength (which makes a shew, but can do nothing;) like the feet and anklebones of him that was born a cripple. But is not that a deplorable kind of sufficiency, which leaves “without hope, and without God in the world?” Ephesians 2:12, and yet such is the state of a very great part of mankind. You will say, perhaps, they had a sufficiency, but by misusage they lost it: and can there be a more palpable instance of a thing’s insufficiency, than its inability to preserve itself, and the general successfulness of it? But means may be proper enough, and in their kind sufficient, towards the production of such an event, and yet that event never succeed, for want of something else which also was requisite for it. Some of the Jews, by the evident testimonies of Christ’s divinity, were convinced that he was the Messiah, but it came not up to a perfect work; “they did not confess him,” John 12:42, and this because “the arm of the Lord was not revealed to them,” Isaiah 53:l. that is, as Moses speaks, “the Lord had not given them an heart to understand,” Deuteronomy 29:4. Planting and watering are proper, and sufficient in their kind, as means and secondary causes; but nothing as to increase, without a blessing from God. Who could reason more strongly than Paul? or speak more eloquently than Apollos? and yet the success of their ministry was “as God gave to every man,” 1 Corinthians 3:5. it is God that worketh both will and deed, Philippians 2:13. it is he that openeth the ear to discipline, Job 36:10, and sealeth instruction, chapter 33:16. when his hand is set to, then it is authentic and powerful, and not before. Of this, those ancient Jews are a downright instance: they had means of being purged, and yet were not purged, Ezekiel 24:13. but afterwards, the Lord takes the work into his own hand; “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you; a new heart also will I give you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,” Ezekiel 36:25—28. by which it appears, that the Lord will not only afford them means, as aforetime, and leave the improvement thereof to themselves; for that he saw would not do; but now he will take the whole on himself; not to exempt them from their duty, but enable them for it; adding also his own divine power to make the means effectual; as is plainly implied in that of the prophet Jeremiah, “I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them,” Jeremiah 33:6. that is, he would give them an honest and good heart, which shall bring forth fruit to perfection, Luke 8:15. These are the means proper and sufficient for salvation, and less than this will not do.
Objection: They have as full a sufficiency as is meet and just for God to give.
Answer: 1. Is it meet and just to do good? Why not then the chiefest good that men are capable of, which is, to have their hearts perfectly turned to God, and united to him for ever? 2. The objection attributes more to man, in the business of his salvation, than to God: for, if all that God can justly or meetly do in order thereto will not save him, without something done by himself, which God is not the doer of, then man will be reckoned chief agent in the work; and so “the axe will boast itself against him that handles it,” Isaiah 10:15. Suppose a plaster or medicine to be made up of twenty ingredients, and one of them to be of such sovereign virtue as to influence all the rest; all which, if that be wanting, will but ulcerate the wound, or heighten the distemper; that one must be counted the principal. 3. It is not to be supposed that the great and only wise God would set up a creature whose will he cannot justly and meetly overrule, especially in things requisite to the very end for which he was made: nor, that he should make him for such an end, as that any thing conducible thereto may not meetly and justly be done, in order to its accomplishment. 4. It would not answer the end of Christ’s receiving gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious, to bring in whom, all power was given to him. Suppose a general should take in the lesser forts of a revolted city, but leave the fort royal, which commands all the rest, in the enemy’s hand; shall he tell his prince they would not yield; and that, being men of reason, he thought it not fair to force them? would this be a fair account of his expedition? I know not; for it would be to say, in effect, that he did not reduce them, because they were rebels. 5. It cannot be righteous or meet for men to affirm, nor for the honor of sovereign majesty, to admit, that the creature’s will should limit, divert, or frustrate, the will and intent of the Creator. Shall it be at the will of one possessed, whether or no the devil shall be cast out? shall every base and pitiful lust have a negative vote to that which has passed the Trinity’s fiat? It was religiously said of one, “I will not have him for my God, that has not power over my will.” And, lastly. Suppose a man crazed in his head, and you intend him an honor or office, which he never will be capable of without the full use of his reason; is it not meeter, and doth it not argue an higher degree of love, prudence, and justice, to cure his distemper, though in a way contrary to his present mind, than to wait his complying with your prescriptions, which (as he is) he will never understand? And what hinders, but that God may do so by his people; even give them a heart to know him, and to fear him for ever, save only that this boggy principle of human liberty will not comport with it?
Objection: But if a sufficiency of means to repent and believe be not afforded to all, how shall God be just in punishing for neglects?
(Tabà) Answer: The justice of God will not need our salving, especially by a balm of our making: whether he judge or justify, he is just in what he doeth, though purblind reason sees not how. His judgments are a great deep; not to be fathomed by human comprehension. In sounding at sea, will it follow that there is no bottom, because your line will not reach it? God dealt not so (in respect of means) with any nation as with Israel: and the men going with Paul to Damascus, the Lord would not give them to see his face, nor to hear his voice; both which he vouchsafed to Paul, and yet he needs no vindication or apology for punishing their unbelief: “They that, have sinned without law, shall perish without law,” Romans 2:12. Besides, men are justly obnoxious to punishment for neglecting or not improving the means they have; although those means, when made the best of that nature can, will not save them: they are punishable for not feeding and not clothing; and yet by doing these, men are not justified. The least transgression lays men open to wrath; and we cannot, by keeping some commands, compensate the breach of others.
(Tabà) Objection: Where it is said, “I will write my law in their hearts; and cause them to walk in my statutes,” etc. there is no more intended by it, but the giving of things or means proper to such an end.
Answer: If one obliged to save your life should thus expound his engagement, you would not think it good payment, nor that he had dealt faithfully with you. The sense objected cannot be the mind and limit of that most gracious promise: for, 1. The promise must be as broad and large as the precept: it would else be too short to repose our confidence in. If, then, the precept intends as much as the words of it do literally import, then also doth the promise: but the precept not only requires a using the means that tend to the duty enjoined, but the perfect, effectual performance of the duty itself, both as to matter and form; therefore doth likewise the promise: and then it will follow, that to write the law in the heart, and cause us to walk, etc. is more than a means: it is the thing itself. 2. The doctrine is hardly bestead, and not much to be credited, which, for its support, must put such a construction in the highest and most absolute promises that God has made, as would render them weak and fruitless things. 3. Where God has absolutely said, that such a thing he will do for men to put in conditions or limitations, is to raze or interline a record; which is a felonious act: and hope he will deal with those who add to, or take from, the words of his prophecy, you have recorded in the last chapter of his book: (it is ill trifling with sacred things.) 4. A physician that undertakes to cure a man of his frenzy, and to keep him in his right mind, is not said to have done his work, or made good his word, whatever means have been applied to him, if the patient continue his former distraction, or relapse into it. 5. There is no need or reason why the Lord should promise, or make shew of promising, more than he intends to perform, for that would be as a broken staff: or why he should express himself in terms of a fuller or more absolute engagement than might in all points consist with his wisdom, justice, holiness, etc. 6 Lastly, The objection is further excepted against and rejected, not only as it makes man the chief agent in his own salvation, but as denying that God doeth any thing more for them that are saved, than for them that perish. If men make themselves to differ, the gospel design of magnifying grace is dashed at once. And, truly, it is matter both of wonder and grief, to see how industriously witty some men are to enervate the promises of God; as if they could not accept of salvation, unless their own wills may stand partners with his grace.
Objection: But is it not said, “To him that has shall be given?” Matthew 25:29. that is, he that uses common grace well, shall have special.
(Tabà) Answer: 1. If that gracious promise, of writing the law in our hearts, intend only the affording of means, which is but common grace, where shall we find a promise of the special? The well using of common grace is indeed a duty incumbent on all; but is in no way meriting, or moving God to bestow the special: he is above all human motives; and is not wrought on by them, as men are. This is seen by Paul, whom special grace took hold on, even while misusing that which is common: there was no space of time between his being a persecutor, and his obtaining mercy, 1 Timothy 1:3. with Acts 9:4, 5, 6. 2. What proportion is there, in value, between a handful of clay, and a talent of gold? Infinitely more is the disproportion between the grace of faith, and all that a natural man can do for obtaining it: “they that are in the flesh cannot please God,” Rom, 8:8. 3. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin; but a man’s sin cannot be a motive for his good: to plead your improvements, is to make your filthy rags an argument why God should accept you. Remember the condition he was in that proffered money for the gift of the Holy Ghost, Acts 8:18, 19. improvements for faith is no better. 4. It would not become the wisdom, power, or grace of God, to build on a foundation made ready to his hand: he needs it not, nor will it sort with his design; which is to have his grace acknowledged the alpha and omega of men’s salvation. Lastly, A will to improve, is as much from God as the thing to be improved: “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from above,” John 3:27. the thing given, and power to receive and improve it, are both from thence: and things from above are not fetched down by men; but they come down when, and on whom, the Father of lights pleaseth, James 1:17.
Objection: Men are commanded to make them a new heart, Ezekiel 18:31. which must imply an ability so to do: for how can it be just to require things impossible; and that under so severe a penalty?
Answer: Whatever is implied in the command, such allegations do surely imply that the framers of them are much unacquainted with the scriptures, or extremely rash in drawing conclusions from them. There are reasons enough, and holy ends, which do justly warrant such commands, without supposing those to whom they are given able now to perform them: as, 1. Perhaps the Lord speaks it ironically; deriding their vain confidence, as Elijah did the priests of Baal, when he bids them “Cry aloud, for he is a god,” 1 Kings 18:27. will you hence infer, that Baal was a god? or that idols can shew things to come, because the Lord bids them do it, thereby to evidence their godhead? Isaiah 41:23. or that Adam had advantaged himself by his fall, because the Lord says, “The man is become like one of us?” Genesis 3:22. The like form of speech is sometimes used concerning Babylon; “Take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed,” even then when “his device was to destroy her;” Jeremiah 51:8. with chapter 50. So, here, as upbraiding those carnal Jews with their fond opinion of self-sufficiency, freedom of will, and power to do great matters; “Make you a new heart, for why will ye die7”q. d.(?) “You know that the end of these things is death: you pretend to an high pitch of ability, that men may be good if they will, and turn when they please, and yet you go on in an evil way: if ye can make you a new heart, do it; why will ye, by neglecting so easy a matter, fall under a sentence of death?” 2. To let men know God has not lost his right of commanding, though they have lost their power of obeying: time was when they had it, and power to keep it, but, having lost it, God is not bound to restore it, nor unjust in punishing those neglects which arise from the want of it. It is man’s duty to seek after God, though it be a peradventure whether he shall find him or not, Acts 17:27. 3. Hereby to convince them what was that one thing necessary, namely, the change of heart; as, without which, all labor is spent in vain on them, as in the parable of the sower. The root must be holy before the fruit: grapes will not grow on thorns; nor the stony, thorny, or highway ground bring forth to perfection, Luke 3:12—15. when Ephraim was turned, then he repented, and not before, Jeremiah 31:19. 4. That being convinced of the necessity of such a change, and finding their own endeavors wholly ineffectual, as Paul did, Romans 7:8, 9. 23. they might see also the necessity of free grace, and of the divine power to do it for them; and so have their eyes turned oft.(?) from themselves, and drawn thitherwards even towards those hills of strength, which the church had an eye to when they prayed, “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned,” Jeremiah 31:18. 5. If the giving a command from God infers in men a power to obey; then it will follow, that men have a power to keep the whole law, and that without turning aside to the right hand or to the left; and to make themselves holy, as God is holy; for these he commanded, Deuteronomy 5:32, 33. 2 Peter 1:15. But, 6. That the Lord intends not such a conclusion should be made on his command, appears from the 17th of Jeremiah verse 8(?) 1. “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with a point of a diamond graven on the table of their heart;” that is, so as not to be blotted out by human wit or strength: and therefore, 7. He tells them expressly, it is as impossible for them to make themselves a new heart, “as for the Ethiopian to change his skin,” Jeremiah 13:23. “For who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” Job 14:4 “They that sanctify themselves, and they that offer swine’s flesh, shall both be consumed together,” Isaiah 66:17.
Objection: Why then are men enjoined attendance on the means, if there be so little in them?
Answer: If there were no other reason or end, this were enough, that God had commanded it; that binds us to use the means, though not the means to effect the thing it is used for: nor is the means so much to be considered, as God’s institution and appointment; nor the use thereof to be rested on, but the grace and power of God giving influence thereto; who himself is not bound to means or method: originally he is found in his own way, and out of it we are not to look for him.
Objection: But to what end is the gospel preached in terms universal, and universally to all, if some particular and determinate persons only can receive it?
Answer: The counsel of God concerning election is secret; the minister knows not who are the objects of it; and therefore must preach to all, according to his commission. The Lord deals in this, as in the matter of lots: Saul was foreappointed to be king; yet all Israel must come together, and lots must be cast on the whole nation, as if the person were yet undesigned, 1 Samuel 9:16. with chap: 10:20, 21. The falling of the lot was wholly contingent, as to men: another might have been taken as well as he it fell on: but the Lord disposed it, and cast it on the right person, Proverbs 16:33. So, touching the gospel, it is sent to a place where, perhaps, but one, or very few elect persons, are, and those only shall be taken by it, and yet it must be published to the whole city promiscuously: but the Holy Ghost, “who knoweth the deep things of God,” brings it to the hearts of those to whom it is prepared; and there it fixeth: which the jailer, Lydia, and other examples, make evident.
(Tabà) Objection: Man is a rational creature, and accordingly to be proceeded with: but this way and manner of conversion destroys all freedom of will; and makes conversion a compulsory thing.
Answer: The will cannot be forced: the man may be forced to act against his will, but not to will against his will: or, he may will that to day, which yesterday he willed not: but this change is so far from being an infringement, that it is rather an effect and demonstration of his freedom. There are three sorts of compulsion, violent, natural, and rational. 1. Violent; when a man is constrained to do that which his will is opposite to: thus the Israelites, to serve the Egyptians, and go into captivity: so also Paul, and other saints, are led captive to that they would not, Romans 7:9. but the will in conversion comes not under this kind of constraint, nor any thing like it. 2. There is a natural compulsion: thus men, and other creatures, are compelled to eat, drink, sleep, and breathe; there need no violent hand to impose it, nor arguments to persuade to it; they do it by instinct, which God has endued them with for their own conservation: this kind of compulsion is proper to the soul converted, in reference to a spiritual life and actions. 3. There is also a rational compulsion, which is nearest the case in hand: this is when the understanding and judgment are convinced of the goodness, necessity, or expediency of a thing, which before he judged otherwise of. For this, see the prodigal’s reasons for returning to his father, Luke 15:17, and the lepers’ for going to the Syrian’s camp, 2 Kings 7:3. 4. their reason told them, it was better to go where there was hope, than to tarry where there was none. See also the arguments for the saints’ living to Christ; the love of Christ constrains them; they cannot but so judge, namely, that if Christ died for them, they are bound to live to him, 2 Corinthians 5:14. yet no breach of their liberty, although at other times they were otherwise minded.
The first of these, namely, that which is violent, our doctrine has nothing to do with: it is true, there is a drawing in conversion; and there would be no conversion without it; “no man can come to Christ except he be drawn,” John 6:44. which drawing implies an averseness, or at least a disability in him that is drawn, and, consequently, a kind of force, or extrinsical power, put forth on him. But let me say, it is such a force as the enlightened soul most gladly subjects itself to, and would not be from under the power and blessed influence of for a world. Let it therefore be observed how the Father draws: it is in the most genuine and kindly way that can be conceived: he draws by teaching, John 6:45. not as Gideon taught the often of Succoth, Judges 8:16. nor as the taskmasters drew the people to their burdens, Exodus 5:16. but as Jacob was drawn into Egypt; who need not be forced to dislodge, and remove his tent, when he found himself surrounded with famine, and he heard there was corn in Egypt; that the king had sent wagons for him, and provisions for the way; telling him withal, that the good of all the land was before him; especially considering that his beloved Joseph was there alive, and in the greatest honor, ready to receive him, Genesis chapter 45. In like manner, when the soul has a sight of the holiness of God, and of its own vileness, of the purity, straightness, and just severity of the law; with its own uncleanness, crookedness, guiltiness, and disability, either to keep it, or bear the vengeance of it; that in God alone is all its blessedness; and that yet it cannot possibly come at him, but as dried stubble to a devouring flame: and yet again, if he comes not, he dies in the place where he is, and must dwell with everlasting burnings; and withal hears of a Mediator, who came from Heaven to save such as himself is; and who casts out none that come to him; and by whom he may come to God both safely and acceptably; there will need no violent hand on the will; even love to himself makes the soul wings. There is, indeed, a violent (or rather, almighty) constraint and casting out of him that did usury on the will, and perverted it, “by deluding the understanding with false glosses and carnal reasonings; which being dispelled by the true light’s shining, the will falls in with it, and follows with perfect freedom. Christ offered no violence to the man when he cast out the legion; but thereby restored him to his proper freedom: for we presently find him at “Jesus’ feet, clothed, and in his right mind,” Luke 8:35. desiring now to dwell with him, the sight of whom before was a torment to him; here ho man will say the patient was wronged, though his will was crossed; if any do, there is cause to inquire whether himself be yet in his right mind. When the faculties are put in order by renovation, the understanding is the spirit of the will; which therefore looks find (there must be a bad word here somewhere?) goes the same way as of course, as the wheels did after the living creatures, Ezekiel 1:19. without any foreign or violent constraint: it has now a, spring within it, by which it is moved and guided (itself being also renewed and sanctified) according to this renewed light; as a needle that if rightly touched needs not to be forced to look towards the pole; it will do it by sympathy: “If the eye be single, the whole body is full of light,” Matthew 6:22.
But suppose the thing objected to be true, namely, that in conversion the will suffereth violence, it no way deserves to be styled cruel and tyrannical, as some, extremely intemperate in nature’s concerns! do presume to speak, nor indeed to be complained of in the least, since the tendency and issue thereof is an infinite good. What father would not cross the will of his child, rather than see him destroyed by his foolhardiness? Shall parents, as it were, force their children’s will for their good, and be blameless; and shall not much more the Father of spirits, that we may live? Hebrews 12:9. Was it not a mercy to Jeremiah, that .. the word of the Lord was as a fire in his bones, that he could not forbear speaking,” Jeremiah 20:9. rather than be confounded for holding his peace? How much better is it to enter into life halt or maimed, than go into hell with a whole skin! I hope there is none so much beside themselves as to judge otherwise of it; or complain of their being compelled to go to heaven, though it were by a whirlwind and chariot of fire. At first, I grant it is pure necessity drives to Christ: but afterwards, his personal excellency and loveliness constrain to abide with him; a sweet and blessed compulsion! and now you would not leave him again, although the first necessity of your going to him were quite at an end: but still we say, as before, that the will is not violated, but changed, and that in a due and orderly way, by being made subject to an enlightened understanding, than which there is nothing more pleasant and natural to it.
The inferences from this doctrine I reduce to two sorts? 1. Cautionary, to prevent the misusing so great a truth: 2. Directive, to draw forth some of the spirits of it into practice: and of these, intermixedly and briefly, though capable of much enlargement. In general, take notice, that the scope and design of the doctrine, is not to foster remissness in duty, nor to countenance a stupid, or carnal quiet: but, to set forth the fullness, freeness, and prevalent efficacy of divine grace, with the creature’s nothingness, as to any considerable act, in this matter. More particularly:
Infer. 1. Presume not yourself interested in the promise of eternal life, until you find in yourself those necessary evidential qualifications of faith and regeneration: or, least, a truly earnest and restless pursuit after them: “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me,” Genesis 32:26.
Infer. 2. Let not the means be despised, or lightly regarded, because of themselves not sufficient to save. Where the means are, the Lord expects that men should use them; and we read not of any saved without, where they might be had.
Infer. 3. Let no man sit still in the willful or careless neglect of his duty, pretending, that if elected he shall surely be saved; if not, all he can do will not help him. Such a disposition argues a great height of pride, or sullenness of spirit, and enmity against God: fly from it as from hell; for it is truly that death which hell follows after: as, on the contrary, ye can hardly have a more hopeful symptom of your state, than a serious attendance on God in his way. And, in seeking to know your election, begin at the right end; give all diligence to make your calling sure; and the certainty of your election will fall in on it.
Infer. IV. Take notice, from the import and tenor of the contrary doctrine, what standing need and usefulness there is of those often repeated cautions, to “try the spirits; search the scriptures; take heed how you hear;” and not be led by “fair shows in the flesh.” The more smooth and pleasing notions are to the carnal ear, the more to be suspected, and thoroughly examined before they pass. Let the drift of the law and the testimony determine the question; and that will tell you, those doctrines are not to be held guiltless, that cry tip(?) that excellent creature man; with the strength and capacity of natural reason; the sufficiency of freewill grace; power of improvement, and truly I know not what, for they are not after the pattern of wholesome words; making these the great hinge whereon the design, that glorious design, of grace in election, the mediation of Christ, and the Holy Ghost’s operations, must all hang and move; yea, be frustrate too, and come to nothing, except the reason of man will dethrone itself, and submit to that which it reckons foolishness. Godliness is a mystery, 1 Timothy 3:16, and a great one, it is a spiritual mystery; which it could not be said to be, if reason could comprehend it. With all your care and circumspection, fly from that dangerous quicksand, which the Jews sunk into and perished, Romans 9:31, 32, and how many in our days are in danger of it! It has slain its thousands, for others’ single tens. As preventive of this, I would put in a threefold memorial.
- That there is a specific difference between moral virtues, and divine, or holiness of truth. True ‘holiness has all morality in it; but all that is called moral may be without holiness, nor will ever rise to it; sublimation does not vary the kind; holiness must have a root of its own: he that best knew the nature of things, and what may be made of them, affirms it as irrational to think otherwise, as to expect figs from thistles, Matthew 7:16. That they proceed from several heads, appears from their several ends. What rises from the divine nature, directs its course towards God, and ceases not until it arrive at him; and what rises in itself, terminates there; as a circle, wheresoever it begins, there it ends, fetch it ever so far a compass. Paul was a moralist of no ordinary size; his often quoting it, shows the esteem he had once had of it: but when it pleased God to reveal his Son in him, Galatians 1:15. he counts it all but dung, Philippians 3:8. Which he would not have done, had the new creature sprung out of the old: but thus far he was, when he knew better things from his former fondness; and so shall we. Think not, therefore, to find in yourselves the materials of gospel holiness, or to raise them out of the dust of your natural endowments: which, though of good use in their place, will not bear of the right kind, Matthew 12:33. till headed by the engrafted word, James 1. 21. He that thinks to draw saving graces out of natural principles, does but spin out of his bowels to die in his own web.
- You may not think to obtain special grace on your improvement of that which is common: he that does, builds on a wrong foundation, and is yet under a covenant of works; under which no man was ever saved, or shall be, Galatians 3:10. This was the case with those who followed after the law of righteousness, and did not attain to it: what was it that hindered? “They sought it (as it were) by the works of the law,” Romans 9:31, 32, and yet the Gentiles, who sought it not, attained it, Romans 9:30. Where note, by the way, that those who do not at all seek after righteousness and life, are as likely to speed, as those who seek it unduly; that is, by works of their own. In vain is salvation looked for from the hills of natural freedom, free-will-grace, human improvements, or whatever else is of highest esteem with men: none in such danger of being broken off, that is, of losing that they profess and seem to have, as those who are high minded, who stand on their terms, and will not yield without taking their baggage with them: it was the very same with those carnal Jews, “We have Abraham to our father; were never in bondage to any man,” John 8:33. “and are we also blind?” John 9:40. If thy carnal heart has been hankering that way, and is now bought off, bless the Lord for it; remember the danger thou hast escaped, and come no more there; bear in thy heart, as a frontlet between thine eyes, that good word recorded in Jeremiah, which shows the danger of making “flesh thine arm,” and the blessedness of trusting only in the Lord, jcn 17:5, 6,7, and this, I verily think, is the cause that some, who have made a fair profession, do fall off and wither; they make the promises of grace conditional, and the efficacy of them to depend on their free will’s disposition, and treat them accordingly. Such faith is but of human extract; it is of men, and therefore it comes to nought; whereas, “if it were of God, it could not be overthrown.” Acts 5:38.
- Human wisdom is no competent judge in this matter. Ye may as well try metals on a brickbat, or judge of colors by moonlight, as of spiritual things by natural reason; they are above it, though not contrary to it: nor will the clearness of light without help in this case; high noon and midnight are both alike to one that was born blind; the light of the sun, if sevenfold, would but more dazzle the eight(?) that is not adapted for it. Divine things are not visible but by an organ suitably disposed; in the want of which the scripture itself is too often perverted; and the letter of it set up to obliterate its meaning. The very disciples of Christ knew not the scriptures, but as he opened their understanding, 1 John 5:20. with John 20:9, and Luke 24:45, and shone into it: and enabled by this, they looked on and handled the word of life as such, 1 John 1:1. they beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, John 1:14. when, at the same time, the learned scribes, with all their moral and literary endowment, saw no such thing; but counted him a deceiver, and one possessed, John 7:12. 20. chapter 10:20. “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God,” and he to whom the Spirit will reveal them: “but the natural man, (while such,) receiveth not the things of the Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 2:14. “they are foolishness to him,” 1 Corinthians 1:18,19, and Hebrews l:5. “neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” and not otherwise. “But, he that is spiritual, endued with power from on high,” Luke 24:49. “judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man,” 1 Corinthians 2:15. no unspiritual man understands him, nor his principles; it is a “new name, which no man knows but he that has it,” Revelation 8:17. Hence they are called unintelligible notions; and “what will this babbler say? when he preached Jesus, and the resurrection of the dead,” Acts 17:18. And for this cause the apostle still prays for those he writes to, “that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation, and enlighten the eyes of their understanding,” Ephesians 1:17, 18. where note, that one of the great things they were to discern, was, the “exceeding greatness of the divine power put forth in them that believe,” verse 8(?) 19, and, that “they might abound in knowledge, and in all judgment; and this, that they might approve things that are excellent,” Philippians 1:9, 10. or try things that differ, as the margin has it. So, for the Colossians; “He ceaseth not to pray for them, that they might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” Colossians 1:9. Which scriptures plainly import, that there is not in every man this knowledge; nor yet enough in the best: for why should he pray so solemnly for that which is common, or easily obtained? so then, wisdom is the principal thing, Proverbs 4:7, and it must be wisdom from above, James 3:17. without which the mind is not good, nor capable of right judgment, however garnished with human habiliments: but endued with this, those other will be serviceable handmaids: if the eye be single, the whole body shall be full of light. Those lesser lights are yet of use, and may serve to rule the night, which they were made for, but when the daystar is up, they vanish; then those wild beasts of human abilities, lie down in their dens, and man goes forth to his work, Psalm 104:22. with another kind of skill and power than ever he had before, and with better success. Therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding,” Proverbs 4:7. “It is a wellspring of life to him that has it,” Proverbs 16:22. the image of God and eternal life begin here, Jon 17:?. (?) Colossians 3:10. The first step towards it, is your sense of its want: “he that thinks he knows any thing, knows nothing yet as he ought to know,” 1 Corinthians 8:2. The more ye know in truth, the deeper sense shall ye have of your scanty attainments. “He that will be wise, let him become a fool (in his own sight) that he may be wise,” 1 Corinthians 3:18. “Whom God will teach knowledge, and make to understand doctrine, he weans from the milk, and draws from the breasts,” Isaiah 28:9. of their motherwit and carnal understanding. Your next step is, to seek wisdom where it is to be had, namely, at the fountainhead, “the Father of lights,” James 1:5. He that thinks to obtain of himself, a phrase too much in use with some, goes to a wrong door; and is but as likely to speed, as a beggar that asketh an alms of himself: and hence it is, that in so many seekers, there are so few that find. When Solomon, from a sense of his childhood in knowledge, sought wisdom of God, he obtained it; when of himself, though better stocked than before, he failed; “I said I will be wise, but it was far from me,” Ecclesiastes 7:23. he seemed, at this turn, to be of the freewill persuasion, and he sped accordingly. He therefore puts on this course a mark of ignominy; “He that trusteth to his own heart is a fool,” Proverbs 28:26. I heartily wish it may not be said to any among us, “thy wisdom and thy knowledge it has perverted thee,” Isaiah 47:10. And having once got this spiritual faculty, preserve it like fire on the altar; let it never go out, Leviticus 6:13, and for your growth in it, live up to what you know. “He that will do his will, shall know of his doctrine,” John 7:17; 2 Peter 1:5-8.
Infer. V. If the divine power be absolutely necessary; then rest not on means or ministry, though the best; use thorn(?) as means, but still have your eye towards that power and grace which alone can make them effectual. Elisha smote the waters with Elijah’s mantle but it was the God of Elijah that parted them hither and thither, to make a way over, 2 Kings 2:14. Men rolled the stone from Lazarus’s grave; but Christ was he who brought Lazarus forth, John 11:41—44. so the minister preaches Christ; but it is God only that gives an understanding to know him. Our business is, to mind our duty, and to have our faith in God, as the principal part of it: for he it is, who is both the maker of our plaster, and the layer of it on; who also doth influence and manage it for us, from first to last; he is both the author and finisher, Hebrews 12:2. “It is God that worketh all in all,” 1 Corinthians 12:6.
Infer. 6. In looking over the several parts of this great work, and parties concerned about it, let not the grace of Jesus Christ be overlooked; nor let it be lightly considered, how little, indeed, less than nothing, you or I have done to induce or help it on. See how manifestly our Lord and Redeemer approves himself the good shepherd: he is not satisfied to send his servants, but he goes himself; and such is his care and love to our souls, that he leaves no place unsearched; ranges the briers and thickets; avoids neither mountains nor valleys; no, not even the valley of the shadow of death; nay, he knows, that there he is most likely to meet them, and rests him not until he has found. He doth, as it were, forget the ninety and nine of his very sheep, that are already brought in, yet so, as not to leave them without a good guardian, and all to fetch in a straggler: which having found, he doth not yet think it found, till he have it at home in the fold. It is not enough with him to move, argue, persuade, threaten; and if they will not comply, let them take their course, and feed on the fruit of their doings: his mercies are not like our freewill mercies to ourselves: to see them but deeper plunged, by all he has done for them, would not be to see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. But if all this will not do, and he knows it will not, he apprehends his lost sheep, as he did Manasseh and Paul, or as an officer does a fugitive, lays it on his shoulders, and brings it home; which plainly shows the sheep’s averseness to return: for, if it would either lead or drive, the shepherd would not trouble himself to bear it on his back. O that the love and faithfulness of Christ might hare(?) its weight on our hearts, to love him highly, and ourselves only for his sake, who saves us at first against our wills, in saving us from selfwilledness: and so making us willing to be saved indeed!
Infer. 7. If all that pertains to salvation be given in right of election, then let every soul that seeks for spiritual gifts, and would be sure to speed, apply himself to electing love: and let all your thankfulness for all that you have or hope for, be referred to that love: for that is the rock out of which they are hewn, the fountain and spring from whence they proceed. See the bounty and nobleness of it! electing love not only provides your home, but sends you wagons and provision for the way: regard not your stuff: whatever you have of your own, be it good, or be it bad; for, “the good of all the land is yours.” Make mention of nothing that is properly thine, except the “greatness of thy sins,” as David, Psalm 25. 11. the power of indwelling corruption, as Paul, Romans 7: thy inability to serve him, as Joshua and Jeremiah, Josh. 24:19. Jeremiah 1:6. that without faith thou canst not please God, nor give glory to him; that without holiness thou canst not show forth his virtues, nor answer the end for which he has chosen thee: and, finally, that thou canst be sanctified by that will only, which wills thy sanctification, Hebrews 10:10. When Moses would prevail for the gracious presence of God with that people, what does he plead for it? “Remember (says he) this nation is thy people; and where shall it be known, that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in this, that thou goest with us?” Exodus 33:13.16. Here, you see, he makes God’s presence with them an evidence of his having chosen them; and from his choosing them, he draws an argument why he should be with them. Moses durst not say, “They are a people that keep thy commands; they are persons of a very honest, ingenuous disposition, (as some say,) a tractable sort of men, that have complied with thee, and better improved thy favors than their neighbors have done; therefore own them, and go with them:” no, but “consider, I pray thee, that they are thy people; thou hast chosen them above all people,” Deuteronomy 10:15, and therefore deal with them above the rate of thy dealings with other men.
In like manner, having received any special favor from God, sacrifice not to your better deservings; but as Daniel, who, though a man of singular wisdom, yet, says he, “This secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living,” Daniel 2:30. Thus also we find David deporting himself when Nathan brought him that gracious message from God, how great things he would do for him, and for his house; what does David put on it? “Thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant;” that is, thou knowest that I have done nothing which might move thee to this munificent bounty; but, “for thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, thou hast done all these great things,” 2 Samuel 7:20, 21. this is the voice of the man after God’s own heart.
Again, suppose you have done any signal service for God; retire into self-abasement, and magnify God that he was pleased to vouchsafe you that honor. Thus also did David, when setting his affection to the house of God, he had gathered that huge incredible mass of treasure for the building it: he wonders not so much at his having gotten it, though that might be well wondered at, as that he had an heart so freely to devote it to that sacred use: “Who am I (says he,) and what is my people, that we should be able to offer thus willingly? for all things are of thee,” 1 Chronicles 29:14. He acknowledgeth their willingness to offer to be as much of God, as the offering itself. And Paul, having labored more abundantly than all the apostles, puts from himself the honor of it: “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me,” 1 Corinthians 15:10.
Three or four things, in seeking for spiritual blessings, be sure to keep still in your mind.
- That you must be nothing in yourself. New wine is not for old bottles; the bottles must be first undone, and made up anew; or else the wine will be spilt, and the bottles perish, Matthew 9:17. All your imaginary righteousness, wisdom, strength, etc. must be parted from you; and it is as necessary, as to leave your made ground, to build on the firm rock.
- That spiritual blessings are a gift, and will not admit of any plea which may seem to make them wages. Lazarus loved Christ, yet would not his sisters use that as their argument; but, “Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick,” John 11:3. What the scripture holds forth as a motive with God, that you may plead, and that in his name; and, indeed, nothing else is pleadable at the throne of grace. Esteem not yourself the better for what you may carry with you: think not to be accepted because of your present; it is not your money, Isaiah 55:1. John 7:37. nor your double money in your hand, that will fetch you corn from above;, though it may from Egypt: silver and gold, your own works und worthiness, are of no value at the mint of free grace; but there it is, and thence you must have whatever may render you welcome at the court of heaven.
- Be not over solicitous how you shall speed; nor think you shall fare worse for coming in so tattered and pitiful a condition. Free grace is compassionate, rich, bountiful: you are not the less welcome because you bring nothing: the best qualification is to find yourself ill qualified, empty, hungry, poor, naked, blind, miserable. Electing love has provided enough, and more: not bread and water only (though these are very welcome to an hungry and thirsty soul,) but wine and milk, “wine on the lees, a feast of fat things,” Isaiah 25:6. Not aprons made of fig leaves, or made of beasts’ skins; but “long robes of linen, fine white,” Revelation 19:8. not money made of leather, or base metal, that burden one to carry a month’s provision of it; but gold, and of that the finest, and tried in the fire, Revelation 8:18. which has nothing of dross or cankering rust adhering to it. And if thou have but little, look on that little us an earnest of more; “To him that has shall be given: “although thou be but “smoking flax, he will not quench thee,” Isaiah 42:3. But to make sure this important work,
- Be sure you leave not out your Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Electing love doeth all in him, and so must you: ask all in his name, and then say, “Lord, he is worthy for whose sake thou shouldst do this.” And, withal, take heed of patching; join not law and grace together, lest the rent be made worse: the righteousness where you must appear before God is not made up of divers sorts and pieces, partly his, and partly your own; but a seamless vesture, wrought throughout of one kind of substance, and by one hand: in this you may approach with boldness, and touch the top of the golden scepter.
Infer. 8. Having so firm and impregnable a rock to found your faith on; why should the greatest of difficulties, even the power of inbred corruption, discourage any soul from casting itself on electing love, as that which is perfectly able; and the very design of it is, to subdue iniquity, as well as to pardon it? It chose us, not because we were, or would be holy, but that we might be so, Ephesians 1:4, and, to that end, undertakes the whole of our work for us. It is between us and sin, as it was between Israel and the Canaanites; until the Lord began to drive, they did not stir; they were giants, too big for grasshoppers to deal with; had iron chariots, and cities walled up to heaven: and yet that company of grasshoppers turned them out; and this, because the Lord, who gave them that land, was at the head of them; he went before them, and cut their way for them; while he drove, they were driven; when he ceased, the work stood still, Psalm 44:28. Exodus 23:28. nay, his own people were routed, and put to the worse, John 7:4. And we shall find both Moses and Joshua still using arguments fetched from the covenant that God had made with them, by which always they were supported. Let us do likewise, make election our all; our bread, water, munitions of rocks, and whatever else we can be supposed to want: here we are sure of supply and safety: it is a tower that is really walled up to heaven; a never to be emptied cloud of manna, and a Jacob’s well that is never dry: it is deep indeed, and you have nothing (of your own) to draw with; yet be not disheartened stay by it, and the well itself shall rise up to you, Numb. 21:17. rather than you shall want.
Infer. 9. Having done all you can, and in the midst of your doing, walk humbly, as living on another’s bounty. Assume not to yourself, but ascribe the whole of your salvation, and of all the conducements thereto, to electing grace, and hang on that root alone: even faith itself, as it is the believer’s act, is not to be rested in, nor to share in this glory. We may say of faith, as he to Felix, whom Caesar set over them, “By thee we enjoy much quietness;” but the honor chiefly belonged to Caesar, who gave them that governor. Give to faith its due; “accept always, and in all places, the benefits you have by it, with all thankfulness,” Acts 24:2, 3. for it does you many good offices, and you cannot indeed live without it; only in the throne, let grace be above it; for that is the potentate which puts faith in that capacity, and maintains it there; and the truth is, true faith is best pleased with its own place. To this end, the Lord tells his people, it was not their sword nor their bow that drove out their enemies: but, say some, it was the sword and bow which God put into their hands, and which they manfully employed: no, God will not have men arrogate so much to themselves; but to acknowledge, “It is God that subdues our enemies under us,” Psalm 60:12. The people with Gideon he reckons too many to give the Midianites into their hands; why? Lest they should vaunt themselves against him, Judges 7:2. Faith, and other graces, are, mighty only through God: as they are his workmanship, so it is he only can keep them going (as a watch, or other engine, cannot wind up itself.) To frame a perpetual motion, no man has ever attained: no, not in trifling matters. As thou hadst no hand in changing thy heart at first, so, neither, of thyself, in carrying on the work afterwards: all our sufficiency is of God; even all the strivings of the saints are “according to the workings of God in them,” Colossians 1:29. A good tree will bring forth good fruit; but not without sun, air, dew, and other heavenly influences; for if separate from these, the tree itself will die: so, without a continual communication of virtue from above, Cant. 4:16(?). the new creature can neither act nor live. Depend, therefore, on that radical grace (that is, on the God of all grace,) for preserving and actuating the grace he has given you: rest not in this, that you know God; but, rather, that you are known of him.
By this, I hope, the proposition is made evident, with something of its usefulness, namely, that whatever things are requisite to salvation, are freely given of God to all the elect, and wrought in them effectually by his divine power, as a part of that salvation to which they are appointed; and are all contained in the decree of election. And I cannot but reckon it one (and that a principal part) of those works of God that stand for ever; and is so perfect, that nothing can be taken from it, nor any thing added to it; and is a good introduction into, yea, and argument for, the final perseverance of believers.