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Scarcely a Calvinist can be found, who does not consider the latter part of the seventh chapter of Romans, as the language of the apostle himself, describing his own conflict and experience, and those of every confirmed believer: and it needs not to be said how far this is from the claim of sinless obedience and unspotted purity. Yet believers and the elect,' in an argument of this kind, are, according to our view, precisely the same persons.
The Gift of God irrespective.
· The faith here spoken of is the joint result of human exertion and divine grace. It is indeed the gift of God, for without God's assistance no man can possess it. But it is a gift not bestowed “arbitrarily, capriciously, or irrespectively.'3
The former part of this quotation has already been sufficiently noticed, but the concluding words require a little further consideration. The word arbitrium (whence arbitrarily is derived,) might perhaps be shewn not improperly to denote that sovereign will of God, which, being perfectly holy, just, wise, and good, is without doubt the original cause of creation, and of the dispensations of providence. But arbitrary and arbitrarily, in English, are so associated with the idea of absolute power and authority, exercised in any way,
I Art. x
See Section on Supernatural.
but especially exercised in an iniquitous, oppressive and unreasonable manner; that Calvinists in general are willing that it, along with capriciously, should be excluded from all discourses, in which the purposes and counsels of the infinitely wise, holy, just, and good God are concerned. They are not however willing in the same manner to exclude the word irrespectively, or at least the idea conveyed by it. It may
be asked, To what hath God respect in fallen man, when, according to the Article on which his Lordship is commenting, he, ' by his grace in Christ,' works in us that we may have
a good will ?' (ut velimus :) for without this grace, man' cannot prepare himself—to faith and 'calling upon God.' Has he respect to any thing previously good in those who receive this gift: Are not all holy desires,' as well as all 'good counsels, and all just works' from God? Are then any of our fallen race, previous to ' pre
venting grace,' (gratia præveniens,) so disposed to what is good in the sight of God, as to merit that he should bestow it upon them? or to induce God for the sake of these good dispositions, or the effects of them, to confer this benefit on them rather than on others? Or does God perceive that there is in some, independently of his preventing grace, so docile and tractable a disposition, that they will improve preventing grace, by concurrent nature, when others will not? Let those who would maintain this point choose their own ground, but let them inquire whether “ boasting”
| Art. x.
be thus “ excluded." We find the same moder
ation observed in this Article that was taken notice of in the former: whence all disputes
concerning the degree of that feebleness and corruption, under which we are fallen by * Adam's sin, are avoided ; and only the necessity
of a preventing and a co-operating grace is as'serted against the Semi-pelagians and the Pela
gians.'— Those who were called Semi-pelagians *thought that an assisting inward grace was ne
cessary, to enable a man to go through all the ' harder steps of religion; but with that they ' thought that the first turn or conversion of the will to God was the effect of a man's free choice.''
Bishop Burnet was no Calvinist, and in quoting him I do not mean to express approbation of the entire passage : but it appears difficult, or rather impossible, to exclude irrespectively in this point, without at least falling into Semi-pelagianism.
* The following passage' (from the Homilies) • is sufficient to prove, that they do not represent our own care and exertions as fruitless and unnecessary; or the Spirit of God, as acting irrespectively and irresistibly.' 'Let the misery and short transitory joys, spied in the casualty of our days, move us while we have them in our hands, ' and seriously stir us to be wise, and to expend ' the gracious good-will of God to usward, which * all the day long stretcheth out his hands, as the ‘ prophet saith, unto us, for the most part his mer
'Bishop Burnet on Art. x.
ciful hands, sometimes his heavy hands, that we, being learned thereby, may escape the danger * that must needs fall on the unjust, who lead 'their days in felicity and pleasure, without the knowing of God's will towards them; but sud'denly they go down into hell. Let us be found 'watchers, found in the peace of the Lord, that at 'the last day we may be found without spot and - blameless. Yea let us endeavour ourselves, good Christian people, diligently to keep the
presence of his Holy Spirit. Let us renounce * all uncleanness; for he is the Spirit of purity. * Let us avoid all hypocrisy; for his Holy Spirit ' will flee from that which is feigned. Cast we off all malice and all evil will; for this Spirit will never enter into an evil-willing soul. Let us cast away all the whole lump of sin that standeth * about us ; for he will never dwell in that body that is subdued to sin. We cannot be seen thankful to Almighty God, and work such despite to the Spirit of grace, by whom we be sanctified. If we do our endeavour, we shall not need to fear. We shall be able to overcome * all our enemies that fight against us. Only let us apply ourselves to accept that grace that is offered us.'1
This passage from the Homilies proves, that our Reformers do not represent our cares and ex'ertions as fruitless and unnecessary ;' or ' the .
Spirit of God as acting irresistibly :'? but the preventing grace of God being not given irrespec
Third Hom. for Rogation Week : Ref. 72, 73. * See Sections on Irresistible, and Exertion.
tively, constitutes another question; which other quotations from the Homilies may aid the reader in deciding, as far as our authorized writings are concerned. “For of ourselves we be crab-trees, that can bring forth no apples; we be of ourselves of
such earth as can bring forth but weeds, nettles, brambles, briars, cockle, and darnel. Our fruits * be declared in the fifth chapter to the Galatians. · We have neither faith, charity, hope, patience, chastity, nor any thing that good is, but of God: and therefore these virtues be called there, “ the fruits of the Holy Ghost,” and not the fruits of man.'— Hitherto we have heard what we are of * ourselves; very sinful, wretched, and damnable.
Again, we have heard how that, of ourselves, ‘and by ourselves, we are not able either to think
a good thought, or work a good deed: so that ' we can find in ourselves no hope of salvation, but rather whatsoever maketh unto our de'struction.'1 For it is the Holy Ghost, and no other thing, that doth quicken the minds of
men, stirring up good and godly motions in * their hearts, which are agreeable to the will and
commandment of God; such as otherwise, of < their own crooked and perverse nature, they should never have. “That which is born of the flesh,” saith Christ, “ is flesh, and that which is ' born of the Spirit is spirit.” As who should say, · Man of his own nature is fleshly and carnal, cor* rupt and naught, sinful and disobedient to God, ' without any spark of goodness in him, without any virtuous or godly motion, and only given to