« PrécédentContinuer »
taken from them, who are the subjects thereof; inasmuch as they had before this, nothing in them, that could render them the objects of divine love, being described as dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from the life of God, and enmity itself against him: so that their condition, antecedent hereunto, cannot be supposed to be the moving cause hereof; for that which is in itself, altogether unlovely, cannot afford a motive for love to any one that weighs the circumstances of persons and things, and acts in pursuance thereof.
Object. But whereas it is objected, that though the present condition of unregenerate persons cannot afford any motive inducing God thereunto, yet the foresight of their future conduct might.
Answ. To this we answer, That all the good which shall be found in believers, is God's gift; he is the finisher as well as the author of faith; and therefore it cannot be said, that any thing out of himself, was the moving cause hereof. And to this we may add, That God foresaw the vile and unworthy behaviour of believers, proceeding from the remainders of corrupt nature in them, as well as those graces which he would enable them to act: so that there is as much in them that might induce him to hate them, as there is to move him to love them; and therefore we must conclude, that his love proceeds from another cause; or that it is by the grace of God alone, that we are what we are: which leads us to consider,
4. That the power and grace of God, displayed in effectual calling, is irresistible, and consequently such as cannot but be effectual to produce that which is designed to be brought about thereby. To deny this, would be to infer, that the creature has an equal, if not a superior, force to God: for, as, in nature, every thing that impedes or stops a thing that is in motion, must have an equal force to resist with that which is affected by it; so, in the work of grace, if the will of man can render the power of God of none effect, or stop the progress of divine grace, contrary to his design or purpose, this must argue the creature's power of resisting, equal to that which is put forth by God, in order to the bringing this work to perfection. This consequence is so derogatory to the divine glory, that no one who sees it to be just, will maintain the premises from whence it is deduced.
If it be said, that God may suffer himself to be resisted; and his grace, that would otherwise have been effectual, to be defeated; this will not much mend the matter; but only, in order to the avoiding one absurd consequence, bring in another; for if every one would have, what he purposes to be done brought to pass, and would not be disappointed, if he could help it, the same must be said of the great God. Now if God
could have prevented his purpose from being defeated, but would not, this argues a defect of wisdom; if his own glory was designed, by purposing to do that which the creature renders in effectual, then he misses of that end, which cannot but be the most valuable, and consequently most desirable: therefore, for God to suffer a purpose of this nature, to be defeated, supposing he could prevent it, is to suffer himself to be a loser of that glory which is due to his name. Moreover, this is directly contrary to what the apostle says, Who hath resisted his will, Rom. ix. 19. or who hath rendered the grace, which he designed should take effect, ineffectual, or, which is the same thing, who can do it?
The ground on which many have asserted, that the grace of God may be resisted, is taken from some scriptures, that speak of man's being in open hostility against him. Thus we read of a bold daring sinner, as stretching out his hand against God, and strengthening himself against the Almighty, running upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers, Job xv. 25, 26. And Stephen reproves the Jews as having always resisted the Holy Ghost, both they and their fathers, Acts vii. 51, 52. and the Pharisees are said to have rejected, Luke vii. 30. or, as the word might have been rendered, disannulled the counsel of God against themselves. And elsewhere, the prophet speaks of God's stretching out his hand all the day unto a disobedient and gainsaying people, Rom. x. 21. These, and such like scriptures give occasion to some to suppose, that the power and grace, as well as the purpose of God, may be resisted.
But that we may understand the sense of these scriptures, and, at the same time not relinquish the doctrine we are maintaining, and thereby infer the consequence above-mentioned; we must distinguish between our opposition to God's revealed will, contained in his word, which is the rule of duty to us; and resisting his secret will, which determines the event. Or, as it may be otherwise expressed, it is one thing to set ourselves against the objective grace of God, that is, the gospel, and another thing to defeat his subjective grace, that when he is about to work effectually in us, we should put a stop to his proceedings. The former no one denies; the latter we can, by no means, allow of. Persons may express a great deal of reluctancy and perverseness at that time, when God is about to subdue their stubborn and obstinate wills; but the power of God will break through all this opposition; and the will of man shall not be able to make his work void, or without effect. The Jews, as above-mentioned, might resist the Holy Ghost, that is, oppose the doctrines contained in scripture, which were given by the Spirit's inspiration; and they might make this re
velation of no effect, with respect to themselves; but had God designed that it should take effect, then he would have prevented their resisting it. Israel might be a gainsaying people, that is, they might oppose what God communicated to them by the prophets, which it was their duty and interest to have complied with; and so the offers of grace in God's revealed will, might be in vain with respect to them; but it never was so with respect to those whom he designed to save: and if the hardened sinner, stretching out his hand against God, may be said hereby to express his averseness to holiness, and his desire to be exempted from the divine government; he may be found in open rebellion against him, as hating and opposing his law; but he cannot offer any real injury to his divine perfections, so as to detract from his glory, to render his purpose of no effect. Moses speaking concerning God's works of providence, says, They are perfect; for all his ways are judgment, Deut. xxxii. 4. And elsewhere, God, by the prophet Isaiah, says, I will work, and who shall let it, Isa. xliii. 13. From whence he argues, his eternal Deity, and uncontroulable power, when he says, before the day was, I am he, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand; so that if a stop might be put to his works of providence, he would cease to be a God of infinite-perfection; and may we not from hence infer, that his works of grace are not subject to any controul; so that when he designs to call any effectually, nothing shall prevent this end's being answered, which is what we intend, when we speak of the power and grace of God as irresistible; which leads us to consider,
5. The season or time in which persons are effectually called; which in this answer, is said to be God's accepted time. If the work be free and sovereign, without any motive in us, the time in which he does it, must be that which he thinks most proper. Here we may observe,
(1.) That some are regenerate in their infancy, when the word can have no instrumentality, in producing the least acts of grace; these have therefore the seeds thereof, which spring up, and discover themselves, when they are able to make use of the word. That persons are capable of regeneration from the womb, is no less evident, than that they are capable of having the seeds or principle of reason from thence, which they certainly have; and if it be allowed, that regeneration is connected with salvation, and that infants are capable of the latter, as our Saviour says, that of such is the kingdom of God; then they must be certainly capable of the former; and not to suppose some infants regenerate from the womb, would be to exclude a very great part of mankind from salvation, without scripture-warrant.
(2.) Others are effectually called in their childhood, or riper years, and some few in old age; that so no age of life may be an inducement to despair, or persons be thereby discouraged from attending on the means of grace. Thus it is said concerning Josiah, That in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David, his father, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 1. and David was converted when he was a youth, a stripling of a ruddy and beautiful countenance, 1 Sam. xvi. 12. compared with chap. xvii. 56, 58. And Moses seems to have been effectually called, when he left Pharaoh's court; and it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel; at which time he was forty years old, Acts vii. 23. And Abraham seems to have been made partaker of this grace, when he was called to leave his country, when he was seventy-five years old; before which, it is probable, that he, together with the rest of his father's family, served other gods, Josh. xxiv. 2. con-pared with Gen. xii. 4. And we read, in one single instance, of a person converted in the very agonies of death, viz. the thief upon the cross, Luke xxiii. 43.
(3.) Sometimes, when persons seem most disposed hereunto, and are under the greatest convictions, and more inclined to reform their lives, than at other times, the work appears, by the issue thereof, to be no more than that of common grace, which miscarries and leaves them worse than they were before; and, it may be, after this, when they seem less inclined hereunto, that is, God's accepted time, when he begins the work with power, which he afterwards carries on and completes. Some are suffered to run great lengths in sin, before they are effectually called; as the apostle Paul, in whom God was pleased to shew forth all long suffering, as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe, 1 Tim. i. 16. So that the time and means being entirely in his hand, as we ought not to presume, but wait for the day of salvation in all his ordinances; so, whatever our age and circumstances are, we are still encouraged to hope for the mercy of God, unto eternal life; or, that he will save and call us, with an holy calling.
QUEST. LXIX. What is the communion in grace, which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
ANSW. The communion in grace, which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is, their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.
AVING considered the vital union which the members
calling, we are now led to speak concerning that communion in grace, which they have with him.
Communion with Christ doth not, in the least, import our being made partakers of any of the glories or privileges which belong to him as Mediator; but it consists, in our participation, of those benefits which he hath purchased for us; and it implies, on his part, infinite condescension, that he will be pleased to communicate such blessings on us, and on our's, unspeakable honours and privileges, which we enjoy from him: it is sometimes called fellowship, 1 John i. 3. which is the result of friendship, and proceeds from his love: thus our Saviour speaks of his loving them, and manifesting himself unto them, John xiv. 21. It also proceeds from union with him, and is the immediate effect and consequence of effectual calling: therefore God is said to have called us unto the fellowship of his Son Je sus Christ, 1 Cor. i. 9.
And it is farther said in this answer, to be a manifestation of our union with him. He has received those blessings for us, which he purchased by his blood; and, accordingly is the treasury, as well as the fountain of all grace; and we are therefore said to receive of his fulness, grace for grace, John i. 16. And the blessings which we are said to receive, by virtue of his mediation, are justification, adoption, and sanctification, with all other benefits that either accompany or flow from them; which are particularly explained in the following answers.
QUEST. LXX. What is justification?
ANSW. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
QUEST. LXXI. How is justification an act of God's free grace?
ANSW. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice, in the behalf of them that are justified; yet, inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, did provide this surety, his own only VOL. III.