« הקודםהמשך »
pames, characters, or places of abode, or their natural embellishments, who shall attain this privilege, are no where pointed at in scripture ; nor is the book of God's secret purpose, concerning election to eternal life, opened, so as that any one can discern his name written in it, before he be effectually called ; for we have no warrant to look any farther than God's revealed will, which assigns no evidence of our interest in the saving blessings of the gospel, till they are experienced by us, in this effectual call.
(3.) God plainly discovers to men, in the gospel that all those graces, which are inseparably connected with salvation, are his work and gift, and consequently out of their own power; or that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, Rom. ix. 16. Therefore he no where tells the man, who is tied and bound with the chain of his sin, that he is able to set himself free; but puts him upon expecting and praying for it, from the pitifulness of his great mercy. He no where tells him, that he can implant a principle of spiritual life and grace in himself; or that he ought so much as to attempt to do any thing to atone for his sins, by his obedience and sufferings, but suggests the contrary, when he says, Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, Isa. xlv. 24.
(4.) He gives none the least ground to expect, or lay claim to salvation, till they believe ; and as faith and salvation are both his gifts, he puts them upon seeking, and desiring them, in their respective order; first grace, and then glory.
(5.) The gospel-call is designed to put men upon a diligent attendance on the ordinances, as means of grace, and to leave the issue and success thereof to God, who waits that he may be gracious; that so his sovereignty may appear more eminently in the dispensing this privilege; and, in the mean time, assigns it as their duty to wait for him, chap. xxx. 18. And while we are engaged in this duty, we are to acknowledge, that we have nothing that can give us any right to this privilege : So that God might justly deny success to his ordinances. Nevertheless, if he is pleased to give us, while we are attending on them, those earnest desires of their being made effectual to our conversion and salvation, we may conclude this to be a token for good, that he designs us some special advantage thereby; and we do not know but that even this desire of grace may be the beginning of the Spirit’s saving work, and therefore a earnest of his carrying it on.
(6.) When God commands persons, in the gospel, to do those things which cannot be performed without his special grace, he sometimes supposes them, when he gives forth the command, to have a principle of spiritual life and grace, which
is, in effect to bid one that is made alive, to put forth living actions; which respect, more especially, the progress of grace after the work is begun ; in which sense I understand those words of the apostle, IVork out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh ; that is, hath wrought, in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure, Phil. ii. 12.
2. If we consider the gospel as holding forth promises of salvation, when, at the same time, it is not in our power to exercise those graces that accompany it; which gives farther occasion to those that except against the doctrine we are maintaining, to conclude, that it represents God as offering those blessings which he does not design to bestow : This may give us occasion to explain what we mean, when we consider salvation as offered in the gospel ; whereby we understand nothing else but a declaration, that all who repent and believe, shall be saved ; which contains a character, or description of the persons who have ground to expect this privilege: not that salvation is founded on dubious and uncertain conditions, which depend upon the power and liberty of our wili ; or impossible conditions ; as though God should say, if man will change his own heart, and work faith, and all other graces in himself, then he will save him : but all that we mean by it is, that those graces, which are inseparably connected with salvation, are to be waited for in our attendance on all God's ordinances, and when he is pleased to work them, then we may conclude, that we have a right to the promise of salvation. Thus concerning the gospel-call, what it is, how far it may be improved by those who are destitute of special grace, and what is God's design in giving it: we now proceed to consider,
3. The issue and consequence thereof, as it is farther obser-, ved in this answer, that many wilfully neglect, contemn, or retuse to comply with it, with respect to whom it is not made effectual to their salvation. This appears from the report that Christ's disciples brought to him, concerning the excuses that many made when called to come to the marriage feast, in the parable : One pretended, that he had bought a piece of ground, and must needs go see it ; and another, that he had bought five yoke of oxen, and must go to prove them; and another had married a wife, and therefore could not come. It is elsewhere said, that they all made light of it, and went their ways ; one to his farm, another to his merchandise ; und the remnant took his scr. vants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them, Luke xiv. 18–20. compared with Matt. xxii. 5, 6.
And the prophet introduces our Saviour himself as complaining, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, Isa. xlix. 4, 5. And the reason hereof is, because Is. rael is not gathered ; which words are to be understood in a
comparative sense, as denoting the fewness of those who complied with his gracious invitations, to come to him, or were convinced, by the miracles which he wrought to confirm his doctrine.
This is also farther evident, from the small number of those who are effectually prevailed upon under the gospel dispensation, which the apostle calls the grace of God that brings salvation, that hath appeared to all men, teaching them to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts; and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. And also, from the great opposition and hatred, which many express to the person of Christ, who is the subject matter thereof; which the prophet not only relates, as what was observed in his day, but foretells, that in after-ages, a great part of mankind would not believe the report made concerning him ; but that he should be despised and rejected of men, who would hide, as it were, their faces from him, and not esteem him, Isa. liii. 1, 3. This is certainly the highest contempt of the gospel ; for it is an undervaluing the great est privileges, as though they were not worthy to be embraced, desired, or sought after; and inasmuch as this is wilful, arising from the enmity of the will of man against God, and the method of salvation which he has prescribed therein, it has a tendency to provoke his wrath ; so that being justly left in their unbelief, they will not come to Christ, that they may have life. And as they are judicially left to themselves, they contract a greater degree of alienation from, and averseness to God, and so never truly come to Jesus Christ ; which is an awful and tremendous consideration.
This is the consequence of it, with respect to those who have only this common call ; and therefore we must not conclude, that it is sufficient to salvation, unless there be an internal effectual call; and what this is, will be considered under our next head: but before we enter thereon, it is necessary for us to enquire, whether all, at least, those who sit under the sound of the gospel, have sufficient grace given them, so as that, by their own conduct, without the internal powerful influences of the Spirit, they may attain to salvation. This argument is much insisted on by those who adhere to the Pelagian scheme ; and therefore we cannot wholly pass it over : and for our setting this matter in a just light, let it be considered; that every one must allow, that all who sit under the sound of the gospel, have sufficient objective grace, or sufficient external means, to lead them in the way of salvation ; for to deny this, would be to deny that the gospel is a perfect rule of faith: this therefore is allowed on both sides ; and we think nothing more is intended, when Gud says, concerning the church of the Jews, What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it, Isa. y. 4.
But the question is, whether there be a sufficiency of power, or ability ip man ; so that without the internal efficacious grace of God, determining and inclining the will, to make a right improvement of it, it may be sufficient to the salvation of those to whom it is given? This is what we cannot but deny. Now, that the external means of grace are not rendered effectual to the salvation of all who are favoured with them, is evident; because, as was but now observed, many neglect and contemn the gospel : and as to others who improve it, so that the means of grace become effectual, it must be enquired ; what it is that makes them so ? How comes it to pass, that the preaching thereof is styled, to some, a savour of life, to others, a savour of death ? The answer which the Pelagians give to this, is, that they, in whom it is effectual, render it so, by their improying the liberty of their will ; so that they choose what is represented in the gospel, as eligible, and refuse the contrary. And if the question be asked, who maketh thee to differ from another ? they have, when disposed to speak agreeably to their own scheme, this answer ready at hand, I make myself to differ ; that is as much as to say, I have a natural power of improving the means of grace, without having recourse to God for any farther assistance, in a supernatural way. '
It may easily be observed, that this supposition is greatly derogatory to the glory of God; and repders all dependance on him, both to will and to do, unnecessary : It supposes that we have sufficient ability to work those graces in ourselves that accompany salvation; otherwise it is not sufficient to salvation ; and therefore it is contrary to all those scriptures which speak of them as the work, or the effect of the exceeding greatness of the power of God : which leads us to consider,
Secondly, The doctrine of effectual calling, as contained in the former of the answers, which we are explaining; in which we may observe,
I. The character of those who are effectually called antecedent thereunto. They have nothing that can recommend them to the divine favour; for being considered as fallen, guilty creatures, they are not only unable to make atonement for sin, but to do what is spiritually good : thus the apostle represents them, as withaut strength, Rom. v. 6. which is the immediate consequence of man's first apostacy from God; and universal experience, proves that we have a propensity to every thing that is evil, which daily increases : And to this we may add, that the mind is blinded, the affections stupified, the will full of obstinacy, the conscience disposed to deal treacherously, whereby we deceive ourselves ; so that the whole soul is out of order. The apostle speaks of man by nature, as dead i.. trespasses and sins, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience ; having their conoersation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind, Eph. ii. 1-3. And the prophet speaks of the heart of man, as being deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. xvii. 9. And the apostle describes some as walking in the vanity of their mind, having the under.
standing darkened, being alienated from the life of God, • through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blind
ness of their heart ; who being past feeling, have given them. • selves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with
greediness,' Eph. iv. 17—19. and others, as being · filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, ma·liciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boast
ers, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without * understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection,
implacable, unmerciful, Rom. i. 29–31. This, indeed, is spoken of the Gentiles, who were destitute of the means of grace, and had contracted greater degrees of impiety than many others; but they, who are effectually called, would have run into the same abominations, their natures being equally inclined thereunto, without preventing grace; as some of the church of Corinth are said to have done before their conversion, whom he speaks of as once having been 'unrighteous, fornicators,
idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with *mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners,' 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, 11. And elsewhere he says, “We ourselves • also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, sérving
divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another,' Tit. iii. 3. And the obstinacy and perverseness of men, going on in a course of sin, is so great, that God reproves a professing people, by telling them, that their neck was as an iron sinew, and their brow brass, Isa. xlviii. 4. Thus they were, before he refined and chose somo of them, in the furnace of affliction, ver. 10. From hence it evidently appears, that men are not naturally inclined to comply with the gospel-call ; but this is a privilege conferred on them, when, by the Spirit, it is made effectual to their salvation.
Objec. It is objected, to what has been said concerning persons being dead in sin, before they are effectually called ; that that is no other than a metaphorical expression; and therefore the sense thereof is not to be strained so far as to suppose from hence, that they are altogether without a power to do that which is spiritually good.