« PreviousContinue »
and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Here the Apostle lays before us, at one view, both human activity and human dependence, and represents them as perfectly harmonious and consistent. For he considers believers, to whom he is speaking, as being able to act in the most free and voluntary manner, while they are acted upon by the immediate power and energy of the divine Being. It is evident, therefore, that he intended to assert this general truth:
That saints both act and are acted upon by a divine operation, in all their holy and virtuous exercises.
It is the design of the ensuing discourse to make it appear, that this sentiment is plainly contained in the Word of God; and then to inquire, why it is supposed to be inconsistent and absurd.
The point proposed might be argued from the mere light of nature. It is the dictate of right reason, that no created being is capable of acting independently. Universal and absolute dependence goes into the very idea of a creature; because independence is an attribute of the divine nature, which even omnipotence cannot communicate. And since saints are creatures, and creatures too of an inferior order, they can never act otherwise, than under the powerful and unremitting energy of the Supreme Being. But not to insist on this argument, I proceed to adduce evidence from Scripture, that saints both act and are acted upon by a divine operation, in all their holy and virtuous exercises.
Paul tells us, “We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” Solomon uses a similar mode of expression. “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” The Church expresses the same sentiment in her petition to Christ. “Draw me, we will run after thee." This idea is contained in that divine promise made to Christ: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." David says, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” And agreeably to this he prays, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” The Apostle, impressed with a sense of his absolute dependence, says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." And he introduces Aratus one of the Heathen Poets, who proclaims with the voice of nature, that "in God we live, and move, and have our being.”
If we now take a particular view of the several graces and virtues, in the exercise of which saints work out their own salvation, we shall find that they always act under the powerful influence of the divine Spirit.
To begin with their first holy exercises, the Scripture represents them as acting and being acted upon, in their regeneration or conversion. This great change is mentioned under a variety of figures and modes of expression. It is called the circumcision of the heart, and as such ascribed both to God and the creature. On the creatures part, it is commanded as a duty. “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.” But as the act of God, it is promised as a blessing. “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” The making of a new heart is both enjoined as a duty and promised as a favor. The injunction is, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart, and a new spirit.” But the promise is, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean-a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” The spiritual resurrection is represented as the work of God and the duty of the sinner. The Apostle considers it as the work of God, when he tells believers, “You hath he quickened who were dead in tresspasses and sins.” But God commands the sinner to arise from spiritual death. “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” The new creation is represented as the work of man as well as the work of God. In one place, the Apostle speaking in the name of christians, says, “We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” But in another place, he enjoins this new creation as a duty. “Put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The turning from sin unto God is sometimes represented as arising from a divine operation, and sometimes as owing to human exertion. As a divine operation David prays for it repeatedly in the eightieth Psalm.
lurn us again, O. God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” Ephraim prays in the same language for himself. "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” And the
prophet Jeremiah cries, “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.” But God expressly requires sinners to return unto him, of their own accord. By Isaiah he says, “Let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” And by Ezekiel he urges the same duty
“Turn ye, turn ye: for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel?”
Love, the first and noblest of all the christian gra. ces, is required as a duty, and yet placed among the gifts of the Spirit. David calls upon good men to love God. “O love the Lord all ye his saints.” And he resolves to exercise the same affection. “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.” But the Apostle tells us, that love is of God, and the production of his Spirit. "Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.” Repentance, another holy exercise, is represented as the gift of God and the act of the penitent. Timothy is directed, “in meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth." Yet the Apostle tells us, “God now commandeth all men every where to repent." Christ declares, "He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Notwithstanding this we are told, “Him hath God exalted to give repentance and remission of sins." Though faith in Christ be required, yet it is represented as the effect of a divine operation. When the Jews demanded of Christ, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” But the Apostle
tells believers, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” And suggests the same idea, by reminding them, that “they were risen with Christ, through the faith of the oper. ation of God."
Coming to Christ, which is indeed the same as believing in him, is represented as the ex. ercise of the sinner, while under the influence of a divine operation. “No man can come unto me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.” Thus saints are represented as actually loving, repenting, believing, and coming to Christ, under the agency of the divine Spirit.
And we must further observe, that they are represented as exercising not only these, but all other graces and virtues, in the same manner. It is said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness.” Nevertheless, we find these fruits of the Spirit required as christian duties. “Giving all diligence,” says the Apostle Peter, “add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.” And the Apostle Paul gives a similar exhortation to christians. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Ina word, good men are represented as turning from sin unto God; as making themselves a new heart; as raising themselves from spiritual death; as exercising love, repentance, faith, submission, and every other christian grace; as persevering in holiness, enduring unto the end, and being faithful unto death: and yet they