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even the knowledge of divine things, much less a predilection for them, nature, untaught, and unenlightened, by an higher power, never could attain. And the Apostle Paul, under the teachings of God the Holy Ghost, considers this point as a matter so certain, and incontrovertible, that he sets it down, as a fixed thing : the natural man (says he) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.* And elsewhere he assigns the reason; Having the understanding darkened being alienated from the life of God. through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart, § To suppose therefore, that characters of this description, should make the first advances in the renewed life towards God, would be as absurd, as to imagine a dead body, to arise by its own powers, to all the exercises of animal functions.
Equally inconsistent is it with the divine glory, and altogether destructive, of all the just conceptions, we can form, of the freedom, and sovereignty of God's grace, to suppose, that though it be admitted, God's choice is the first cause, yet, that choice, originated in the foreknowledge of God, that such as become the objects of his favor, would by their subsequent conduct, be found more deserving than others, and therefore, God foreseeing this, was directed in this predilection. This idea, is perfectly B
suited § Epes. 4. 18.
* 1 Cor. 2. 14.
suited, to gratify man's "pride, but becomes highly injurious to God's glory. And by the way, my Brother, let me beg of you, to mark this down, in the memorandums of your diary, as a never-failing maxim; that whatever tends to inflate the mind with the least exalted notions of any thing good in itself by so much robs God of his honor, and man of his happiness. Very sweet indeed I confess, is the reflection to the soul of the truly regenerate, when he can look back, and consider the change wrought upon him, that he who was once darkness is now light in the Lord.. And still more pleasing will be the view, when he can trace the blessed effects of this change, in his life, in the progressive path of that light, which shineth more and more unto a perfect day. But in every review of this kind, there is a voice which accompanies it, and which the truly gracious soul delights to hear, who maketh thee to differ from another and what hast thou which thou didst not receive ? I That God's choice will be followed with the gift of God's grace in the heart, is unquestionable; for he that saith, I have chosen you, saith also, I have ordained
go and bring forth fruit. But to fancy, that this choice, is the result of some supposed latent worthiness in the object, and not of God's free and unmerited love, is to invert the very order of things, and to make the effect precede its cause.
Let us advance one step higher in the argument, in confirmation of this doctrine, and
1 Cor. 4. 7
observe, that the term grace, becomes at once the most decided proof of the whole. For in fact, it looses its very name, if there be an atom of supposed merit in the receiver. It ceases then, to be a gratuitous act, but on the contrary, it partakes of the nature of a reward. If it be of works (saith an Apostle) then is it no more of grace, for otherwise grace is no more grace. Nay, so far are the highly favoured objects of this bounty, from being considered, as contributing in the smallest degree, to the reception of it, that they are beheld, not barely as undeserving, but ill deserving; not simply as unworthy of mercy, but worthy of punishment, Grace therefore signifies, an act of unmerited clemency, bestowed upon a set of creatures, who in the very moment of receiving it, are justly deserving God's displeasure..
You will immediately perceive from this statement, how impossible it is, consistent with God's glory, for man to assume any merit to himself, respecting his salvation; either in the original appointment, or in the after stages of grace. For if I fancy myself, even in the smallest possible degree, to have merited divine favor, the very character of grace looses its name. But if, (as is really the case) I see myself, in the very moment of becoming, the object of this distinguishing mercy, both in the first manifestations of it, and in all the after periods of life, as singled out from the throng of my fellow creatures, all alike unworthy, and all equally undeserving; such views of grace, will then afford proper ideas, of what it really is, and compel the heart of every one, who is conscious of being the happy partaker of it, to cry out with the astonished disciple Lord how is it that thou hast manifested thyself to me and not unto the world?
B2 * Rom. 11. 6.
But it were to leave the subject unfinished, tho' confirming the doctrine, were we to rest here, without connecting with it, some other delightful properties, which belong to the same, The fact once admitted, that all our mercies originate, in this predilection of grace, it must immediately follow, that as nothing new, or undetermined, could at any period arise in the divine mind, which had not existed there before; every purpose concerning salvation, must have been formed, in the eternal, and unchangeable purposes of God in Christ Jesus, before the world began. Hence therefore, a door of the most important nature, is at once thrown open, by the discovery of this leading truth; and all those sweet, and precious doctrines, of the Father's mercy, the Redeemer's love, and the Spirit's grace, are unfolded to view, and brought forward with a strength of testimony, that may indeed astonish the mind, but which nothing can refute.
Sceptics may question, and impiously arraign, both God's wisdom, and his goodness. But my province is, not to answer the angry accusations of the ungodly, but to satisfy the humble enquiries of the just. The Apostle hath drawn, a beautiful model for imitation in this particular, which may serve as a guide, for every one, who supposes himself called upon to make reply to the presumptuous reasoning of the unhumbled mind. He borrows a figure from common life, of the Potter, exercising power over the same lump of clay, to make one vessel unto honor and another to dishonor ;* and takes occassion therefrom to shew, that He, who hath made all things, and for whose pleasure they are, and were created, hath an unquestionable authority, to do what he will with his own. And to strike dumb in everlasting silence, the profane tongue, which might be prompted to go further, and demand a reason; every thing in reference to his will, who hath appointed all, terminates in this; shall not the Judge of all the carth do right?
If I have said enough to answer the first object which I proposed from this subject, I come now to the second. Having I hope fully ascertained the certainty of the doctrine; to this will very properly succeed, the practical effects arising out of it.
* Rom 9. 21.