Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

to produce this change; by this means they think that grace is first attained, and we disposed to comply with the external call of the gospel, whereby it is rendered effectual.

They sometimes indeed, use the word conversion, and speak of the power and grace of God herein; and that they may not seem to detract from the glory thereof, they profess themselves to adore and magnify God as the author of this work; but all this amounts to no more than nature acting under the influence of common providence. Something, indeed, they ascribe to God; but much less than what we think the scripture does.

That which they ascribe to him therein, is,

1. That he has made man an intelligent creature, having a power capable of choosing whatever seems advantageous, or refusing what appears to be destructive to him; and in order hereunto, he is able to discern what is his duty and interest; and when the will duly attends to these dictates of the understanding, it has a power inclining it to be influenced thereby, and embrace whatever overtures are made conducive to his future happiness.

2. Whereas the understanding and reasoning powers and faculties, are oftentimes impaired and hindered, in their method of acting, by some accidental inconveniences of nature, such as the temperament of the body, or those diseases which it is sometimes liable to, which affect the mind; these God, by his powerful providence, removes, or fences against, that the work may go on successfully.

3. Sometimes our outward circumstances in the world, give a different turn to our passions, and hinder us from entertains ing any inclinations to religion; therefore, they suppose, that there is a farther hand of providence in ordering the various changes or conditions of life, as to what concerns the prospere ous or adverse circumstances thereof, whereby a sanguine temper is changed to that which has more of a melancholy or thoughtful disposition in it, more inclined to be afraid of those sins that are like to be prejudicial to him; an angry and choleric temper, changed to another that has a greater mixture of meekness and humility; and whatever hinderance may arise from his conversing with those who tempt him to lay aside all thoughts about religion, or by loading it with reproach, to make him ashamed to pretend to it, the providence of God so orders circumstances and things, as to make them unacceptable to him, or him disinclined to converse with them: by this means there arises a congruity, as they call it, between men's natural dispositions and that grace which they are called, by the gospel, to exert, when they are persuaded to comply with it, without which the overture would be in vain.

f. Providenoc farther performs its part, by over-ruling some concurring circumstances external to, and thought of, by him, in casting his lot among those who are able and desirous te persuade him to alter his sentiments, in matters of religion, whose industry and zeal for his good, accompanied with their skilfulness in managing those persuasive arguments used to convince him, have a great tendency to prevail upon him ; hereby he is persuaded to give the hearing to that which before he despised, and made the subject of ridicule; and sometimes the motives and inducements that are used, accompanied with the pathetic way of address, in those whose ministry he attends on, is very conducive to answer the end attained thereby, namely, his conviction and altering his conduct of life, pura suant thereunto; all which is under the unforeseen direction of providence.

5. They add, that there is a kind of internal work in exciting the passions, by a general influence upon them, leaving it, notwithstanding, in man's power to determine them, with respect to their proper objects; and as for the will, that still remains free and unbiassed; but by this moral suasion, or these rational arguments, it is prevailed upon to comply with that which is for its advantage. According to this method of accounting for the work of conversion, what they attribnte to the grace of God, is nothing more than what is the result of common providence; and it is supposed to act no otherwise than in an objective way; and that which gives the turn to all is, the influence of moral suasion, whereby men are prevailed on; but in all these respects, they are only beholden to God, as the God of nature: and when this is called, by them, a display of divine grace, nature and grace, in this matter, are made to signify the same thing, without scripture warrant.

Moreover, since, it is plain, all this may be done, and yet persons remain in an unconverted state, and the gospel-call be ineffectual, they suppose there is something to be performed on man's part, which gives a sanction to, and completes the work: accordingly he must rightly use and improve the power of reasoning, which God has given him, by diligently observing and attending to his law; and he must persuade himself, that it is highly reasonable to obey it; and must also duly weigh the consequence of his compliance or refusal, and endeavour to affect himself with the consideration of promised rewards and punishments, to excite his diligence, or awaken his fears; and inust make use of those motives that are proper to induce him to lead a virtuous life, and when he is brought to conclude this most eligible, then he must add hereunto, the force of the strongest resolutions, to avoid occasions of sin, perform several necessary duties, and associate himself with those whose conversation and example may induce him to be virtuous; he must at

tend on the word preached, with intenseness of thought, and a disposition to adhere, with the greatest impartiality, to what is recommended to him therein, as conducive to his future happiness: by this means he is persuaded ; and from thence proceed those acts of grace, which afterwards, by being frequently repeated, arrive to a habit, which, if it be not lost by negligence, stupidity, and impenitency, or adhering to the temptations of Satan, being brought into a state of conversion, he is in a fair way to heaven, which, notwithstanding this, he may of by apostasy, since the work is to be carried on by him, as it was at first begun, by his own conduct.

This account of effectual calling or conversion, supposes it to be little more than a work of common providence; and all the grace they seem to own, is nothing more than nature exerting itself under the conduct of those reasoning powers which God has given it. None pretend to deny that our reasoning powers are herein to be exerted and improved; or that those arguments, which tend to give conviction, and motives to enforce obedience, must be duly attended to: neither do we deny that there is a kind hand of providence seen in over-ruling our natural tempers and dispositions, in giving a check to that corruption that is prevalent in us; and in rendering our condition of life, some way or other conducive to a farther work, which God designs to bring about. We also assert, that providence greatly favours us in bringing us under the means of grace, or casting our lot in such places where we have the advantages of the conversation and example of others, who are burning and shining lights in their generation; nor is it less seen in adapting a suitable word to our condition, or in raising our affections, while attending to it: but all this falls very short of effectual calling, as it is a display of God's power and grace. This work is no more than natural; whereas conversion is a supernatural work. Hitherto we may be led by common grace ; but effectual calling is a work of special grace; the effect of this is only a change of life : but we assert, and have scriptureground for it, that there is in that a change of heart. This scheme supposes the very principle and spring of grace to be acquired by man's improving his natural powers, under the conduct of God's providence: whereas, we suppose, and shall endeavour to prove, under a following head, that it is not acquired, but infused, and is the effect of divine power. This supposes the work to be brought about by moral suasion; and that the understanding, taking in the arguments that are made use of in an objective way, the will is induced to compliance, by choosing that which is good, and refusing that which is eyil: whereas, we assent, that the will of man is bowed and

[blocks in formation]

subjected to Christ, its enmity overcome; and accordingly we are said to be made willing in the day of his power.

But since that which bears the greatest share in this work, according to thein, is the will and power of man, determining itself, by proper motives and arguments, to what is good; which supposes, that it acts freely therein. This may give us occasion to consider the nature of human liberty; we do not deny, in general, that man is endowed with a free will, which exerts itself in things of a lower nature, to that which we are speaking of, for this is as evident, as that he is endowed with an understanding: we shall therefore, in speaking concerning the liberty of the will of man, (1.) Consider what are the essential properties of liberty,* without which, an action would cease to be free. And, (2) How far the power of man's freewill may be extended, with a particular view to the matter, under our present consideration.

1. Concerning the nature and essential properties of human liberty. They, whose sentiments of free-will and grace we are opposing, suppose that it is essential to a free action, or otherwise it could not be denominated free, that it be performed with indifferency, that is, that the will of man should be so equally poised, that as it determines itself to one extreme, it might as well have determined itself to the other: therefore, he that loves God freely, might, by a determination of his will, as well have inclined himself to hate him; and on the other hand, he that hates God, might, by an act o: his will, have determined himself to love him : the balance is supposed to be equal, and it is the method that the person uses to determine his will, that gives a turn to it. And from hence they infer, that they who persevere in grace, which they do freely, may, for the same reason, apostatize ; yea, they proceed farther, at least some of them, who have maintained, that our Saviour might have sinned, and consequently the work of our redemption have miscarried in his hands; because, according to this notion of liberty, he acted freely in all those exercises of grace; which, we suppose, were no less free, because they were necessary; and also, from this account they give of liberty, they infer that the angels and glorified saints might sin, and so lose that state of blessedness, which they are possessed of; otherwise their obedience is not free ; which absurdities are so apparently gross, that they who duly weigh them, will not easily give into this notion of liberty. And there is another absurdity, which the Pelagians dare not assert; for it would be the greatest blasphemy that could be contained in words, though it equally flows from this method of explaining the nature of liberty; that either God must not act freely; or else he mighe

This is what is general readed the final ratio y al per

act the contrary, with respect to those things in which he acts, like himself, as a God of infinite perfection; and accordingly, if he loves or delights in himself freely, or designs his own glory, as the highest end of all that he does, and uses means to bring about those ends which are most conducive thereunto; wherein his holiness, wisdom, justice, and faithfulness appear, I say, it will follow from their scheme, and I cannot but tremble to mention it, that he might do the contrary; and what is this but to say, that he might cease to be God.

The arguments which they who attempt to support this notion of liberty, insist on, are taken from the ideas which we generally have of a person's acting freely; as for instance, if a man performs any of the common actions of life, such as walking, sitting, standing, reading, writing, &c. freely, he may do the contrary,

But to this I answer, That there is a vast difference between asserting, that many of the actions of life are arbitrary or in. different, so that we might do the contrary; and saying that indifferency is essential to liberty; for that which is essential to an action must belong to every individual action of the same kind.* Thus concerning their notion of liberty, whom we oppose.

But on the other hand, that which we acquiesce in, is, that its essential property or nature, consists in a person's doing a thing without being laid under a natural necessity to do it;t or doing it of his own accord, without any force laid on him. I Others express it by a person's doing a thing out of choice, as having the highest reason to determine him so to do.* This is that notion of liberty which we cannot but approve of; and we are now to shew,

(2.) How far the power of man's free-will may be extended, with a particular view to the matter under our present consideration. Here let it be observed,

1st, That the power of man's will extends itself to things within its own sphere, and not above it; all actions and powers of acting, are contained within certain limits, agreeable to the nature and capacity of the agent. Creatures below man,

* We generally say, that whatever is essential to a thing, belongs to it as such. And there is a known rule in logic, A quatenus ad omne valet consequentia; and the then absurd consequences, above mentioned, would necessarily follow from it.

# In this respect divines generally consider liberty as opposed to co-action; but here we must distinguish between a natural co-action and a moral one, Liberty is not opposed to a moral co-action, which is very consistent with it. Thus an hones! man cannot allow himself in a vile action; he is under a moral constraint to the contrary; and yet he abstains from sin freely. I believer loves Christ freely, as the apostle Paul certainly did; and yet, at the same time, he wus under the constraint of the love of Christ ; as he himself expresses it, 2 Cor. v. 14.

# This divines generally call spontaneity. Tuis some all lubentia rationalis.

« AnteriorContinuar »