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I can prepare, I can draw myself unto Jesus Christ, or I can draw Christ to me. Beloved ! in natural actions, there needs always preparations to the introducing of forms, because in the way of generation of nature, things are wrought by degrees. As for example now: if a great log lie in the mud, before you carry it away, you must loosen it from the mud : but the log doth not loosen itself: and so, if wood be to be burnt, first it must be dried, there is preparing the wood to be burnt, because the thing is to be done by degrees, but in the conversion of a poor sinner, the work is done in a moment, it is no natural work; God infuses grace there; and therefore there needs no preparation there. And therefore Bradwardine, he reasons the case very well thus: If, says he, a man can prepare himself, then the preparation either helps forward, or causes the following grace; if it does not help forward, nor cause the following grace, then it does not prepare, that which does not help, does not prepare: and if it does help forward the following grace, or cause it, that God must give a following grace as a reward of this preparation; then surely, this preparation makes a man pleasing in the eyes of God, for, will God reward a man for a work that does not make him pleasing in the eyes of God? But how can a man be pleasing in the eyes of God, without faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” Hebrews xi. 6. So that a man cannot prepare himself to what is good. Put all these together : a man cannot naturally overcome a sin, a temptation, though never so small : he cannot rise when he is fallen: he cannot stand though he should rise, yea, he is unable to any good work, simply in himself, and he is not able to prepare himself unto what is good. Surely therefore, all is in a way of receiving: whatever grace one hath, he hath it in a way of receiving. This is the first argument.
Secondly, This truth is also argued from the supernaturality of grace. Grace is a supernatural thing, and is called in scripture phrase, the seed of God: the image of Christ : the Divine nature: the good and perfect gift that comes from above, from the Father of lights. It is wrought in the soul by the infinite and almighty power of God! the same power wherewith God created heaven and earth at the first. And therefore it is called a creation, in Ephesians ii. 10, “We are his workmanship, created unto good works.” The same
power that the Lord used in raising up Christ from the dead, is also put forth in the conversion of erery sinner.
And besides, when the Lord is pleased to convert, and draw a poor sinner unto Himself, he does not always take those that are the best, those that are the wisest, those that are the most moral, civil men; he does not always take the most prudent: but many times the Lord takes the worst; Paul, Zaccheus, Matthew, the Jailor, divers others. And if you look into the xxxiird chapter of Job, where you have the platform, indeed, of man's conversion: you shall find there, in what a time God takes a man to convert him: at the 14th verse; “God speaketh once, yea, twice, yet man perceives it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed. Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man." When man least thinks of it, then God comes, in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon a man, and in slumberings upon the bed. Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction. What does all this argue then ? But that grace, grace is infused, grace is supernatural. Oh! there is a supernaturality in saring grace. Surely therefore, all is in a way of receiving, all is received. That is a second argument.
Thirdly, This truth is also argued, from the shortness of the means of grace. Much means of grace appointed, but take the means as it is in itself without God's appointment or institution upon it, and you will find that all means are too short to reach the end. For example; in the Old Testament, when the Lord would take in Jericho, and break down the walls of Jericho, he commands, "the ram's horns should be blown.” Josh. vi. 4. Take the blowing of the ram's horns as lying under God's appointment, and so this action was sufficient for to break down the walls: but take the action of blowing the ram's horns by itself, and so it was too short. So the Lord commands Naaman to go and wash himself in the water of Jordan : 2 Kings v. 10. Take this action of Naaman washing himself in the water : take it, I say, without God's commandment: take it with God's commandment, God's appointment, so it was sufficient to reach his cure, and heal him of his leprosy: but now, take
the action as it was in itself, without the appointment and institution of God, and so it was too short to reach his cure. So in the New Testament: our Saviour, Christ, He takes spittle and clay for to cure a man's eyes. John ix. 6. Take this under Christ's appointment, and so it is sufficient to reach the cure; but take it without, and so short. So God did appoint in baptism, a man should be washed in water; and in the sacrament we should eat bread, and drink wine, for the begetting and increasing of faith. Take these actions as they lie under God's appointment and institution, they are able to reach this end. But take these actions as they are in themselves, washing in water and eating bread, and drinking wine, they are all too short; and too short either to beget or increase grace. Well now, why does the Lord still appoint such means, as in themselves are too short for the end whereto appointed ? Surely, not only for this reason, that he might teach us, that the thing done is rather by the appointment, than bythe use of means : but also to show thus much : That though we do use the means, yet notwithstanding in the use of the means, we do not attain the thing by the use thereof, but that in the using of means, and waiting there, we shall receive strength from God to do it, to attain the end. Whensoever, therefore, you consider the shortness of the means appointed, conclude thus, that all is in a way of receiving: therefore God hath appointed the means that are in themselves short.
Fourthly. This doctrine is further argued from the work and nature of faith. There is no grace that the Scripture puts more upon than faith. Mark, I pray, in the Old Testa. ment, all the victories are put on faith. In the New Testament, all the cures: if thou canst but believe, says Christ, “According to thy faith be it unto thee.” Yea, beloved, if you look into the New Testament, you shall find that the same works that are given to Christ, are given to faith. Jesus Christ, he is said for to sanctify the soul : so doth faith. “Faith purifies the heart,” says the apostle. Jesus Christ, he is said for to justify a sinner : so does faith too. “Being justified by faith.” Romans v. Jesus Christ, he is said for to save the soul, he is called our Saviour: so doth faith too. By faith ye are saved. What is the reason now that the Lord does especially set the crown upon the head of
faith? Some think it is for this reason : because that faith doth unite the soul unto Jesus Christ : but so does love, love is an affection of union, and all grace unites to Christ; as every sin separates, so every grace unites. Others think it is for this reason, because that as faith sets the crown upon the head of Christ, so God sets the crown upon the head of faith ; and this is true. For as the Lord does honour those persons most that honour him most : so he will honour those graces most that honour him most. But besides this, I conceive the great reason is this, why the Lord does thus set all over upon faith, I say, because that faith in the nature of it is a receiving grace. And therefore John having said in this ist chapter of John, and the 12th verse, “To as many as received him, he gave power to be called the sons of God;" explains himself by this afterward in the same verse, even to them that believe on His name.” So that believing is nothing else but receiving the grace of God: the nature of faith being to receive the truth, or the receiving of Jesus Christ: the proper work and nature of faith being to receive. Now therefore when the Lord does put all upon faith, and faith in its nature is a receiving; plainly it holds forth this truth unto us, that all is in a way of receiving: all grace in a way of receiving.
Fifthly and lastly, This truth is argued also, from the posture and true behaviour of prayer. Mark, prayer is nothing else, but the soul's begging or petitioning for something from heaven. A beggar you know, when he begs, he holds forth, or he stretches forth his hand : noting a willingness to receive. So you read in Scripture, that when the soul is put into a posture of prayer, it is put into this posture. Read, therefore, what is said in Job xi. 13, “If thou prepare thine heart," or establish thine heart, for so the word signifies, “If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands towards him.” That is, if thou doest pray unto Him, thou stretchest out thine hands unto Him. Now as one observes well: as it were a derision or a mocking of God, to praise God, or to give God thanks for that which he does not gire, but I have in my own power: so it were also a mocking of God, to pray to God for that which is not in His hands to give, but in mine to do. Now, my beloved, whatever grace or holiness a man hath, he is to pray for: pray for healing strength; pray for quickening strength ; pray for confirming
strength; pray for strength to pray: and seeing the posture of prayer is this, to stretch forth the hands, which notes receiving, in that we are for to beg all grace from God : it argues, all is in a way of receiving, all, all good is in a way of receiving: whatever grace or holiness a man hath on this side heaven, it is all in a way of receiving.
But you will say, that this cuts off all endeavour ; if all be in a way of receiving, then nothing to be done? This doctrine is an enemy to all obedience, to all labouring, to all good works, and to all performance, to all endeavour.
I answer, not so. The apostle expressly does speak the contrary, as you may read, and I pray mark, in the iind chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians: “Wherefore," at the 12th verse, says he, “my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence : work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Why? at the 13th verse. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will, and to do, of His good pleasure.” Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: why? for all is in a way of receiving; it is God, it is God that worketh all in all; it is God, it is God that does it, therefore work. Mark, how the apostle argues : he does not argue, as many do: And I pray tell me if there be any here that think this doctrine is against endeavour; pray tell me, what work or endeavour? Either you would endeavour for to leave your sins; or you would endeavour to do what is good, to perform some good. If you would endeavour for to leave your sins: there is no such way, as to be truly, fully persuaded in your heart of this truth : that all is in a way of receiving. Mark, therefore I pray, how the Apostle argues for that purpose, in the 1 Corinthians iii. 3. For, says he “ Ye are carnal; ye are carnal; for whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal ?” Well, but what course does the apostle take to cure this carnality? See what he says, at the 6th verse: at the 5th, “Who then is Paul? who is Paul ? and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man: I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth anything,