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even Omnipotence can bring them to a cordial compliance with the gospel.
For in the first place, God cannot make them willing to be saved, by giving them a sense of guilt. He may awaken their consciences, and set their sins in order before them, and make them feel, that they justly deserve his wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come. But will such a sense of criminality and ill desert, reconcile them to the way of salvation by Christ? There is no necessary connexion between conviction and conversion. Those under conviction have often expressed their sensible and violent opposition to God, to Christ, and even to heaven itself. Their sense of guilt, instead of diminishing, greatly increased the native enmity of their hearts against every thing holy and divine. It will be universally allowed, that the hearts of the damned grow worse and worse under conviction. And from this we may conclude, that should God give sinners, in this world, as great a sense of guilt as the damned actually feel, it would directly tend to harden, instead of softening their hearts. It does not appear possible, therefore, that God should change the hearts of sinners, by giving them a sense of guilt.
Nor does it appear possible, that he should make them willing to be saved, by giving them a sense of danger. He often does give them as great a sense of danger as of guilt. He often Uncovers destruction before them, and makes them feel from day to day, that they are constantly exposed to drop into the bottomless pit. Though, in this situation, they anxiously desire to escape the damnation of hell; yet they have no disposition to repent and believe the gospel. But on the other hand, the more clearly God shews them, that he is able and disposed to punish them according to
their deserts, the more vigorously and sensibly they oppose his holy and amiable sovereignty. And surely God cannot destroy the enmity of their hearts, by that sense of danger, which directly tends to increase it.
Nor, in the last place, can he make them willing to be saved, by giving them a sense of the worth of their souls, and the importance of eternal happiness. He always gives them a sense of these things, when he awakens their consciences to feel their guilt, and opens their eyes to see their danger. Awakened and convinced sinners look upon the happiness of this life, as less than nothing and vanity, in comparison with future and eternal felicity. They view saints as the only happy persons, and would give all the world, if they had it in their power, to gain an interest in Christ, and be in the situation of those, who are rejoicing in the hopes of heaven. But these feelings have no tendency to destroy the enmity of their hearts against God, and prepare them for holy and heavenly enjoyments. Could the gates of heaven be set open, and could they be allowed to step in among the spirits of just men made perfect, they would choose to take up their eyerlasting residence among sinful, rather than among perfectly holy beings. Thus it appears to be out of the power of the Deity, to convert sinners by moral suasion. All, that he can do in this way, is, to give them a realizing sense of their guilt, of their danger, and of the worth of their souls; but the most lively sense of these things has no tendency to change their hearts. If God can, therefore, fulfil his promise to Christ, and make his people willing to be saved; he must be able to slay the enmity of their hearts, and reconcile them to the terms of life, by an act of his power,
1. If God does, by an act of his power make men willing to be saved, then there is an essential distinction between common and special grace. Many imagine, there is only a gradual or circumstantial difference between one act of divine grace and another. They suppose regeneration or conversion is a gradual change, and effected entirely by clear and repeated exhibitions of divine truth to the view of sinners. Such moral suasion would indeed reconcile them to Christ, if all their opposition to him originated in the weakness or blindness of the understanding. The bare exhibition of divine truth is abundantly sufficient to remove natural ignorance and intellectual errors. But since sinners are unwilling to be saved, when they see their danger and feel their guilt, and when the way of salvation by Christ is clearly pointed out; no moral suasion or objective light can have the least tendency to make them willing. Though the gradual exhibition of objective light may gradually expel the darkness of their understanding; yet nothing can remove their perverse opposition to light itself, but the instantaneous and powerful operation of the divine Spirit upon their hearts. This divine operation, therefore, is special grace,
and differs from common grace, in two respects. In the first place, it makes men willing to be saved. Common grace never produces this effect. By common grace, God invites and commands men to accept of salvation, and makes them feel their obligation to submit to the terms of life. But by special grace, God actually inclines their hearts to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to them in the gospel. God usually exercises common grace toward sinners, long before he makes them the subjects of special grace. He often employs every mode of moral suasion, for a great while, before he puts forth an act of his power to make them willing to be saved. This appears in the case of Manasseh, of Saul of Tarsus, and of many others, who have been converted late in life. The highest degree of common grace leaves men unwilling to be saved; but the lowest degree of special grące makes them willing. In this respect, common and special grace essentially differ. And so they do in another respect.
For, in the second place, common grace is granted to all, who enjoy the light of the gospel, while special grace is granted to none but the elect. God makes none willing to be saved but those whom he has given to Christ. He invites and commands others to em: brace the gospel, and sometimes awakens them to a lively sense of their danger and guilt; but yet he never puts forth an act of his power, to subdue their hearts and reconcile them to Christ. Hence that act of his power, by which he makes men willing to be saved, is properly an act of special grace, and essentially different from any act of kindness, favor, or assistance, which he bestows upon any, who are finally lost.
2. If God's making men willing to be saved by an act of his power be an act of special grace; then special grace is always irresistible. It is the general representation of Scripture, that common grace may be resisted. God often complains of sinners, for resisting the calls and invitations of his common grace. “I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.” Zechariah says, “They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets.” Christ reproves sinners, for resisting the power and influence of common grace.“ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” And Stephen in his dying address to sinners in Jerusalem, plainly tells them, “Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Sinners are able to resist all the objective light afforded them, and all the external means used with them, to bring them to repentance. The reason is, all these means of light and conviction leave them in the full possession of their evil hearts of unbelief. And so long as the enmity of their hearts remains, they are able to resist all the force of moral suasion or common grace. But when God displays his special grace upon them, he takes away the enmity of their hearts, and removes the primary cause of resistance. In the day of his power, he makes them willing to come to Christ for life; and when they are willing to come, there is nothing to prevent their coming. No sinner ever was, or ever will be unwilling to be saved, in the day of God's power. Those, whom God calls by his special grace, are morally obliged to come in and partake of the gospel feast. Hence divines have usually termed this act of special grace, effectual calling.
3. If God can make men willing to be saved by an act of his power, and if this act of his power be special grace; then special grace is as consistent with free agency as common grace. The only reason, why common grace is universally supposed to be consistent with free agency is, because it leaves men free to choose and