صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

given in all natural actions, wherein men do merely exercise and improve the principles of nature and laws of nature, and come to such attainments as are connected with such exercises by the mere laws of nature. For there is an assistance in all such natural actions; because it is by a divine influence that the laws of nature are upheld; and a constant occurrence of divine power is necessary in order to our living, moving, or having a being. This we may call a natural assistance. Or, 2. That assistance, which, though it be something besides the upholding of the laws of nature, (which take place in all affairs of life,) is yet, by a divine, universal constitution in this particular affair of religion, so connected with those voluntary exercises which result from this mere natural assistance, that by this constitution it indiscriminately extends to all mankind, and is certainly connected with such exercises and improvements, as those just mentioned, by a certain, established, known rule, as much as any of the laws of This kind of assistance, though many Arminians call it a supernatural assistance, differs little or nothing from that natural assistance that is established by a law of nature. The law so established, is only a particular law of nature; as some of the laws of nature are more general, others more particular: But this establishment, which they suppose to be by divine promise, differs nothing at all from many other particular laws of nature, except only in this circumstance, of the established constitutions, being revealed in the word of God, while others are left to be discovered only by experience.


The Calvinists suppose otherwise; they suppose that divine influence and operation, by which saving virtue is obtained, is entirely from, and above common assistance, or that which is given in a course of ordinary providence, according to universally established laws of nature. They suppose a principle of saving virtue is immediately imparted and implanted by that operation, which is sovereign and efficacious in this respect, that its effect proceeds not from any established laws of nature. I mention this as an entirely different question from the other, viz. Whether the grace of God, by which we obtain saving virtue, is determining or decisive. For that it may be, if it be given wholly in a course of nature, or by such an operation as is limited and regulated perfectly according to established, invariable laws. For none will dispute that many things are brought to pass by God in this manner, that are decisively ordered by him, and are brought to pass by his determining providence.

The controversy, as it relates to efficacious grace, in this sense, includes in it these four questions.

1. Whether saving virtue differs from common virtue, or such virtue as those have that are not in a state of salvation, in nature and kind, or only in degree and circumstances?

2. Whether a holy disposition of heart, as an internal governing principle of life and practice, be immediately implanted or infused in the soul, or only be contracted by repeated acts, and obtained by human culture and improvement?

3. Whether conversion, or the change of a person from being a vicious or wicked man, to a truly virtuous character, be instantaneous or gradual?

4. Whether the divine assistance or influence, by which men obtain true and saving virtue, be sovereign and arbitrary, or, whether God, in giving this assistance and its effects, limits himself to certain exact and stated rules, revealed in his word, and established by his promises?

13. Eph. i. 19, 20. "What is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward, according to the working of his mighty power," or the effectual working, as the word signifies-These words, according to the effectual working of his power, we shall find applied to conversion, to growth in grace, and to raising us up at last. You have them applied to conversion, Eph. iii. 7. "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, given to me, by the effectual working of his power."-So likewise to grow in grace, Eph. iv. 10. "The whole body increaseth with the increase of God, by the effectual working in the measure of every part."-And to the resurrection to glory at the last day, Philip. iii. 21. "He will change our vile bodies, according to the effectual working of his mighty power, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself."

And that the power of God in conversion, or in giving faith and the spiritual blessings that attend it, is here meant, may be argued from the apostle's change of phrase, that whereas in the foregoing verse, he spoke of the riches of the glory of Christ's inheritance in the saints, he does not go on to say, "and what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards them," (i. e. the saints,) which surely would have been most natural, if he still had respect only to the power of God in bestowing the inheritance of future glory. But, instead of that, we see he changes the phrase; "and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe," plainly intimating some kind of change of the subject, or a respect to the subject of salvation with regard to something diverse; that whereas before he spoke of saints in their future state only, now he speaks of something that the saints, we that dwell in this world that believe, are the subjects of. And as the apostle includes himself, so it is the more likely he should have the mighty power of God in conversion in his thought; his conversion having been so visible and remarkable an instance of God's marvellous power.

A gain, the apostle, in praying that they "knowing the exceeding greatness of God's power," &c. prays for such a knowledge and conviction of the power of God to bring them to life and glory,

which was a most special remedy against such doubts as the church in the then present state was most exposed to, viz. that of their being preserved to glory and salvation through all their trials, persecutions, and the great opposition that was made by the enemies of Christ and their souls. Therefore, after mentioning the glory of their inheritance, he, for their comfort and establishment, mentions the power of God to bring them to the possession of this inheritance, as the apostle Peter does, 1 Peter i. 4, 5. "To an inheritance incorruptible-who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." He speaks to their hearts, for here was their difficulty and temptation to doubting. But if the keeping them in faith showed such great power, much more did the first bringing them from heathenism and the power of sin, darkness, and spiritual death and ruin, into a state of faith and salvation, quickening them when dead in trespasses and sins; as it is a greater instance of divine power to raise the dead, than to maintain life that is exposed to danger; a greater work to reconcile us being enemies, than to keep us friends being reconciled. It was natural for the apostle to put them in mind of the power of God manifested in their conversion, as he would strengthen their faith in his power to raise them at the last day, and glorify them to eternity. Dr. Goodwin says, he finds most of the Greek fathers ran this way in interpreting the place. He mentions Theophylact and Chrysostom, and cites these words of Chrysostom: "The apostle's scope is to demonstrate by what already was manifested in them, viz. the power of God in working faith, and to raise up their hearts to believe what was not manifested, viz. the raising of them from death to life. It being (saith he) a far more wonderful work to persuade a soul to believe in Christ, than to raise up a dead man, a far more admirable work of the two." Besides, what the apostle says in the continuation of his discourse, explains his meaning, and puts the matter of his intending to include the power of God manifested in their conversion, out of all doubt, as, in the very next sentence, "and you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" and every word that follows, to the end of the second chapter, confirms the same thing. I shall mention a few of them: Verse 2. "Wherein in time past ye walked-according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh effectually in the children of disobedience." This shows the exceeding greatness of power in their being delivered from such a state, wherein they were held by the great power of so strong an enemy. Verses 5 and 6. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." These things tend to show how the power of God in their conversion, and the happy, honourable, and glorious change of their state by it, was according to the power that wrought in Christ when he was quickened, raised up, and made

to sit in heavenly places, as chap. i. 19, 20, 21. Now, to back this with a parallel place, as here in this place the apostle speaks of the greatness of God's power in working faith, and parallels it with the power that raised up Christ from the dead; so we find he says the very same thing in Colossians ii. 12, 13. "Ye are buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." In that text in Ephesians the apostle speaks of faith, the power that works in us that believe. So in this text in Colossians, ye are risen through faith. Again, 2dly, in Ephesians, together with what there follows, chap. ii., he compareth believing to a rising from the dead. So here in Colossians, ye are risen with him through faith. Thirdly, as in Ephesians the apostle speaks of the work of God in giving faith, as parallel with his works in raising Christ, so he does here in Colossians: "Ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Fourthly, as we in Ephesians are said to believe, according to the efficacious working of God, the word svegye is also used here in Colossians. It is called

faith of the operation, or effectual working of God, and as there God is said to be the author, the same that raised up Christ, and to work faith in them, so here it is the faith of the operation of God who raised Christ from the dead, so that, every way, one place is parallel with the other.

Some pretend, that in that expression, through the faith of the operation of God, there is no respect to God's operation as the efficient cause of faith, but only to the operation of God that raised Christ as the object of faith, which believes that power and operation as it was manifested in raising Christ, and which is believed to be sufficient to raise us up also. But that the apostle means the operation of God in giving faith, appears by verse 11, which introduces these words, where the apostle says, "In whom ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." This phrase, made without hands, in scripture, always denotes God's immediate power, above the course of nature, and above second causes. Thus, when he speaks of heaven, 2 Cor. v. 1, he calls it "a house not made with hands," and in Heb. ix. 11, the human nature of Christ, which was framed by so wonderful and supernatural a power of the Holy Ghost, is said to be a "tabernacle made without hands."

NOTE. The foregoing remarks concerning the texts in Eph. i. 19, 20, and in Coloss. ii. 11, 12, 13, are taken chiefly from Dr. Goodwin's works, vol. 1, p. 298, &c.

§ 14. It is a doctrine mightily in vogue, that God has promised his saving grace to men's sincere endeavours in praying for it, and using proper means to obtain it; and so that it is not God's mere will that determines the matter, whether we shall have saving

grace or not; but that the matter is left with us, to be determined by the sincerity of our endeavours.

But there is vast confusion in all talk of this kind, for want of its being well explained what is meant by sincerity of endeavour, and through men's deceiving themselves by using words without a meaning. I think the scripture knows of but one sort of sincerity in religion, and that is a truly pious or holy sincerity. The Bible suggests no notion of any other sort of sincere obedience, or any other sincerity of endeavours, or any doings whatsoever in religion, than doing from love to God and true love to our duty. As to those that endeavour and take pains, (let them do ever so much) that yet do nothing freely, or from any true love to or delight in God, or free inclination to virtue, but wholly for by ends, and from sinister and mercenary views, as being driven and forced against their inclination, or induced by regard to things foreign; I say, respecting such as these, I find nothing in scripture that should lead us to call them honest and sincere in their endeavours. I doubt not but that the scripture promises supernatural, truly divine, and saving blessings, to such a sincerity of endeavour as arises from true love to our duty. But then, as I apprehend, this is only to promise more saving grace to him that seeks it in the exercise of saving grace, agreeably to that repeated saying of our Saviour, "to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance." Persons, in seeking grace with this sincerity, ask in faith; they seek these blessings in the exercise of a saving faith, the great condition of the covenant of grace. And I suppose,


promises are made to no sincerity, but what implies this. whoever supposes that divine promises are made to any other sincerity than this, I imagine he never will be able to make out his scheme, and that for two reasons:

1. On such a supposition, the promises must be supposed to be made to an undetermined condition. And,

2. Even on the supposition that the promises are made to some other sincerity than a truly pious sincerity, the sovereign grace and will of God must determine the existence of the condition of the promises; and so the whole must still depend on God's determining grace.

I. On the supposition that the promises of saving grace are made to some other sincerity of endeavour than that which implies true and saving piety of heart, they must be made to an undetermined condition, and so be in effect no promises at all.

If there be any thing else worthy to be called sincerity in endeavours after holiness, but a free, pious inclination, or true regard and love to holiness, nothing better can be mentioned than this, viz. endeavours after holiness, from a real willingness of heart to put forth those endeavours for the agent's own sake, yet for such ends as prudence and self-love would propose; such as his own eternal interest, salvation from everlasting misery, &c.

« السابقةمتابعة »