« ElőzőTovább »
the ministry ; but with me it is of no 'consideration : for our apostle rejects it utterly. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.'
4. We do not therefore suppose that the motives of the ford are left to an operation merely natural, with respect to the ability of those who dispense it; but that it is also blessed of God, and accompanied with the power of the Holy Ghost, for the producing its effect on the souls of men: only the influence of the Spirit in this case, is supposed to extend no further than to motives, arguments, reasons, and considerations proposed to the mind, so to influence the will and affections.
Now concerning this whole work, I affirm, that the Holy Spirit does make use of it in the conversion of all adult
persons, either by the word preached, or by some other application of light and truth to the mind derived from the word ; for by the persuasive arguments which the word affords, our minds are effected, and our souls so wrought upon, that conversion to God becomes our reasonable service ; but we also affirm, that the whole work of the Spirit in our conversion does not consist herein; but that there is a real physical work, whereby he infuses a gracious principle of spiritual life into the souls of all who are truly regenerated; and this we shall prove by the following arguments :
1. If the Holy Spirit works on men only by proposing objects to them, and urging their regard to them by arguments to that purpose, then, after all, the will of man remains indifferent whether it will admit of them or not: and indeed this is all that some plead for. It is true, that notwithstanding the grace thus administered, the will has a power to refuse it, and to continue in sin: but that there is no more grace wrought in us but what may be so refused, is false ; for this ascribes the whole glory of our regeneration to ourselves, and not to God; for, on this supposition, that act of our wills, whereby we turn to God, is merely an act of our own, and not of the grace of God. Besides, this would leave it absolutely uncertain, notwithstanding the purpose of God and the purchase of Christ, whether any one in the world should ever be converted or not; which is contrary to the covenant of God with Jesus Christ. It is contrary also to the express testimonies of Scripture, wherein actual conversion is ascribed to this grace; as in Phil. ii. 13. God worketh in us to will and to do.' The act of willing is of God's operation ; and though we ourselves will, yet it is he who causeth us to will and to do, of his own good pleasure.
2. This moral persuasion confers no real supernatural strength on the soul; for as it works only by motives and arguments, it can only draw out the strength that we have ; delivering the mind from prejudices and other moral impediments : internal spiritual strength neither is nor can be conferred by it: and he who admits that there is any such spiritual strength communicated to us, must also acknowledge that there is another work of the Spirit of God upon us than can be effected by these persuasions.
- 3. It is indeed pretended by some, that grace, in the dispensation of the word, does work really and efficiently, especially by illumination and excitation of the mind and affections; and if, upon this, the will exerts itself in the choice of that which is good, then the grace thus adminiştered concurs with it, assists it to perfect its act, and 80, that the whole work is of grace. So pleaded the SemiPelagians, and so do others still. Now this is, in effect, to overthrow the whole grace of Jesus Christ, and to render it useless ; for it ascribes to man the honour of his conversion, his own will being the principal cause of it. It makes a man to beget himself anew, or to be born again of himself; to make himself differ from others, by that which, in a special manner, he has not received.
This is not all that we pray for, when we beg effectual grace for ourselves or others. Surely, he must be very
indifferent in this matter, who only prays that God would persuade him or others to believe and to obey. The church of God has always prayed that God would work these things in us; and those who have a real concern in them, do pray continually that God would effectually work them in their hearts; that he would give them faith, and increase it in them; and that in all these things he would work in them by the exceeding greatness of his power, - both to will and to do, according to his good pleasure.' This argument was much pressed on the Pelagians by the Fathers; and there is not a Pelagian in the world who ever sincerely prayed for divine assistance, with a sense of his want of it;
but his prayers contradicted his profession. Indeed, for any person to continue praying for what is in his own power, is absurd and ridiculous : and they do but mock God, who pray to him to do that for them which they can do for themselves, and which God cannot do for them but only as they choose to do it for themselves.
4. This moral persuasion, where it is alone, is not suited to effect the work of regeneration in persons who are really in that state of nature which we have before described. The most effectual persuasions cannot prevail with such men to convert themselves, any more than arguments can prevail with a blind man to see, or with a dead man to rise from the grave. Wherefore, the whole description before given from the Scripture, of the state of fallen nature, must be disproved, before this grace of moral persuasion can be thought sufficient for the purpose of regeneration.
I shall now proceed to shew, positively, wherein the work of the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, does consist.
There is, then, in regeneration, not only a moral, but a physical immediate operation of the Spirit. So it is asserted, Eph. i. 19, 20; " That we may know what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.' The power here mentioned, has an exceeding greatness ascribed to it, with respect to the effect produced by it. The power of God in itself, as to all acts, is equally great; it is infinite ; but some effects are greater than others : such is that whereby he makes men believers. And to this power of God there is an actual operation ascribed, the nature of which is said to be of the same kind with that which was exerted in raising Christ from the dead.' The work of God towards believers, consists in the acting of his divine power, by a real internal efficiency. So God is said to fulfil in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.' And hence the work of grace is constantly expressed by words denoting a real internal efficiency : such are creating, quickening, forming, giving a new heart, &c.
This internal efficiency of the Holy Spirit, as to the event, is infallible, victorious, irresistible, or always efficácious: but the measure of the efficacy of grace, and the
end to be attained, are fixed by the will of God. As to the end designed, it is always prevalent, and cannot be resisted ; or, it will effectually work what God designs it to work ; for if he will work, who shall let it? There are many motions of grace, even in the hearts of believcrs, which are so far resisted, that they do not attain that effect which in their own nature they have a tendency to; but they are effectual so far as they were designed in the purpose of God. Wherever the Holy Spirit puts forth his power for regeneration, it removes all obstacles, and infallibly produces the effect intended. This proposition being of great importance to the glory of God's grace, and most signally opposed by the patrons of free will, must be both explained and confirmed. We therefore,
1. The operations of divine power are suited to our nature;
our minds, wills, and affections. He draws us with “ the cords of a man.' And the work itself is expressed by persuading and by alluring : it has no more repugnancy to our faculties than a prevalent persuasion has. 2. He does not possess the mind with any
enthusiastical impressions ; nor does he act absolutely upon us as he did in extraordinary prophetical inspirations of old, where the minds and bodies of men were merely passive instruments; but he works on the minds of men in and by their own natural actings, through an immediate impression of
3. He therefore offers no violence to the will. This faculty is not capable of compulsion ; if it be compelled, it is destroyed. There is an inward, almighty, secret act of the power of the Holy Ghost, affecting in us the will of conversion to God; so acting our wills, as that they also act themselves, and that freely. The Holy Spirit doth, with the preservation, and in the exercise of the liberty of our wills, effectually work our regeneration and conversion to God. I shall confirm this truth with evident testimonies of Scripture, and reasons contained in them or deduced from them.
First, The work of conversion, and especially the act of believing, is expressly said to be of God, to be wrought in us, to be given to us, by him. The Scripture says, Not that God gives us ability only to believe, or such a power
as we may make use of if we will, but faith, repentance, and conversion themselves, are said to be the work of God. Thus, in Phil. i. 29, “ To you it is given, on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.' To believe on Christ, expresses saving faith itself. This is given to us. And how is it given ? Even by the power of God working in us ' to will and to do of his own pleasure,' ver. 13.
Our faith is our coming to Christ. And no man,' saith he, can come unto me, except it be given him of my Father.' John vi. 65. In ourselves we are utterly destitute of power for this end; 'no man can come to me: however men may be disposed or prepared, whatever arguments may be used with them, yet no man of himselfcan believe, can come to Christ, unless faith itself be given to him; that is, wrought in him by the grace of the Father. This is again asserted, both negatively and positively, Eph. ii. 8: By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Our own ability and God's gift are here distinguished. If it be of ourselves, it is not the gift of God: if it be the gift of God, it is not of ourselves. In like manner God is said to give us repentance, 2 Tim. ii. 25. This is all we plead for. God, by the exceeding greatness of his power, actually works faith and repentance in us; so that they are mere effects of his grace; and his working in us infallibly produces the effect interded, because it is actual faith that he works, and not merely a power to believe, which we may exert or not as we please.
Secondly, As God works in us faith and repentance, so the way whereby he does it, makes it evident that he does it by a power infallibly efficacious : for he takes away all resistance, all opposition ; ' The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, that thou mayest live.' To have the heart circumcised, “is the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh :' that is, our conversion to God. It is the giving · an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear;' that is, spiritual light and obedience, by the removal of all hindrance s. This is the immediate work of the Holy Ghost. No man ever circumcised his own heart. No man can say he began to do it by the power of his own will, and then God only helped bim by his
grace. As outward circumcision on the body of a child was the act