« 上一頁繼續 »
in the world, that were then of a teachable disposition. Many of them would be dead before the gospel could be spread among the Gentiles; and many of the Gentiles were doubtless brought in, that at that time were not of a teachable disposition. And unless God's decrees and efficacious grace made a difference, it is unreasonable to suppose any other, than that multitudes, in countries where the apostles never preached, were as teachable as in those countries where they did go; and so they never were brought in according to the words of Christ, *“ Those whom the Father hath given me, shall come unto me.” Christ speaks of the Father's giving them as a thing past, John x. 29. “My Father which gave them me."
When Christ speaks of men being drawn to him, he does not mean any preparation of disposition antecedent to their having the gospel, but a being converted to Christ by faith in the gospel, revealing Christ crucified, as appears by John xii. 32. “ And Î, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." Acts xv. 9. “Purifying their hearts by faith.” Therefore we are not to suppose God first purifies the heart with the most excellent virtues, to fit it for faith.
The apostle says, “without faith it is impossible to please God," Therefore it is not possible that persons should have, before faith, those virtues that are peculiarly amiable to God, as Stebbing supposes.
$67. The apostle James tells us, that if we do not pray in faith, we have no reason to expect to receive any thing, and particularly not to receive divine wisdom. And therefore it is unreasonable to suppose with Stebbing, that persons first pray, even before they have a spirit of meekness, and teachableness, and humility, faith, or repentance, and that God has promised to answer these prayers. Christian virtues being every where spoken of as the special effect of grace, and often called by the name of grace, by reason of its being the peculiar fruit of grace, does not well consist with the Arminian notion of assistance, viz. that God is obliged to give us assistance sufficient for salvation from hell, because, forsooth, it is not just to damn us for the want of that which we have not sufficient means to escape; and then, after God has given these sufficient means, our improving them well is wholly from ourselves, our own will, and not from God; and the thing wherein Christian virtue consists, is wholly and entirely from ourselves.
$68. Efficacious grace is not inconsistent with freedom. This appears by 2 Cor. viii. 16, 17. “Thanks be to God which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you; for indeed he accepted the invitation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.” So that his forwardness being put into his heart by God, and his being forward of his own accord, are not inconsistent, one with the other.
$69. According to Arminian principles, men have a good and honest heart, the very thing that is the grand requisite in order to God's acceptance, and so the proper grand condition of salvation, and which is often spoken of in the scriptures as such, before they have the proper condition of salvation.
See Stebbing, page 48.-This good and honest, meek and humble, sincere heart, they suppose they have before they have faith, repentance, or obedience. Yea, they themselves hold this previous qualification to be the grand and essential requisite in order to God's acceptance, and salvation by Christ; so that they greatly insist that if men have it, they shall be surely saved, though they live and die in ignorance of the gospel, and without faith, and repentance, and holiness, which are necessary in order for salvation, according to them.—Stebbing, p. 13.
$ 70. I would ask, how it is possible for us to come by virtue at first, according to Arminian principles, or how we come by our first virtue? Is it natural? Is there some virtuous disposition with which we come into the world? But how is that virtue ? That which men bring into the world is necessary, and what men had no opportunity to prevent, and it is not at all from our free will. How then can there be any virtue in it according to their principles ? Or is our first virtue wholly from the influence of the Spirit of God without any endeavour or effort of ours, to be partly the cause of it? This to be sure cannot be, by their principles; for, according to them, that which is not at all from us, or that we are not the causes of, is no virtue of ours. Is it wholly from our endeavours, without any assistance at all of the Spirit! This is contrary to what they pretend to hold; for they assert, that without divine assistance there can be no virtue. Stebbing, pages 27, 28, and pages 20, 21, and other places. If they say it is partly from the influence of the Spirit of God, and partly from our own endeavours, I would inquire whether those endeavours that our first virtue partly arises from, be good endeavours, and at all virtuous. If the answer be in the affirmative, this contradicts the supposition. For I am now inquiring what the first virtue is. The first virtue we have, certainly does not arise from virtuous endeavours preceding the first virtue; for that is to suppose virtue before the first virtue. If the answer be, that they are no good endeavours, they have nothing at all of the nature of the exercise of any good disposition, or any good aim and intention, or any virtuous sincerity; I ask, what tendency can such efforts of the mind, as are wholly empty of all goodness, have to produce true moral goodness in the heart?
Can an action, that in principles and ends has no degree of moral good, have a tendency to beget a habit of acting from good principles and for good ends ? For instance, can a man's doing something purely to satisfy some sensitive appetite of his own, or to increase bis own worldly profit, have any kind of tendency to
beget a habit of doing something from true, disinterested benevolence, or to excite to any act from such a principle? Certainly an act perfectly void of benevolence, has no more tendency to produce either a habit or act of benevolence, than nothing has a tendency to produce something.
971. Stebbing supposes the assistance God gives, or the operation of the Spirit in order to faith, is to give a good and honest heart, prepared to receive and well improve the word; as particularly meekness, humility, teachableness, &c.; and supposes that these effects of the Spirit are to be obtained by prayer; but yet allows, that the prayer must be acceptably made, page 106, which supposes that some degree of virtue must be exercised in prayer. For surely they do not suppose any thing else beside virtue, in prayer or in any other part of religion, is acceptable to God. I suppose they will not deny, that there must be at least some virtuous respect to the divine Being, as well as some virtuous concern for the good of their own souls, to make any external act of religion in them at all acceptable to God, who is a Spirit, and the Searcher of hearts. And it may be also presumed that they will allow, that there are multitudes of men, who at present are so wicked, so destitute of virtue, that they have not virtue enough for acceptable prayer to God. They have not now so much respect to God or their own souls, as to incline them to pray at all. But they live in a total neglect of that duty. Now, I would inquire, how these men shall come by virtue, in order to acceptably praying to God? Or how is it within their reach by virtue of God's promises? Or how can they come by it, save by God's sovereign, arbitrary grace ? Shall they pray to God for it, and so obtain it? But this is contrary to the supposition. For it is supposed, that they now have not virtue enough to pray acceptably, and this is the very thing inquired, how they come by the virtue necessary in order to their making acceptable prayer? Or shall they work the virtue in themselves wholly without God's assistance ? But this is contrary to what they pretend, viz. that all virtue is from God, or by the grace and assistance of God, which they allow to be evident by that scripture, “without me ye can do nothing." Or, is God obliged to give it, or to assist them to obtain it, without their praying for it, or having virtue enough to ask it of him? That they do not pretend. For they suppose the condition of our obtaining the heavenly Spirit is our seeking, &c. asking, &c. and besides, if God gives it without their first seeking it, that will make God the first determining efficient, yea, the mere and sole author of it, without their doing any thing toward it, without their so much as seeking or asking for it; which would be entirely to overthrow their whole scheme, and would, by their principles, make this virtue no virtue at all, because not at all owing to them, or any endeavours of theirs.
If they reply, they must in the first place consider : They are capable of consideration; and if they would consider as they ought and may, they would doubtless pray to God, and ask his help; and every man naturally has some virtue in him, which proper consideration would put into exercise so far as to cause him to pray in some measure acceptably, without any new gift from God- I answer, this is inconsistent with many of their principles. It is so, that men should naturally have some virtue in them. For what is natural is necessary; is not from themselves and their own endeavours and free acts; but prevents them all, and therefore cannot be their virtue. If they say, no; consideration will not stir up any virtue that is naturally in them, to cause them to pray virtuously; but God has obliged himself to give virtue enough to enable them to pray and seek acceptably, if they will consider; I answer, this is more than they pretend. They do not pretend that God has promised any new grace to any man, on any
lower condition than asking, seeking, knowing, &c. and if they should think best at last to pretend any promise on lower terms, they had best produce the promises, and tell us what and where they are. If they say, serious consideration itself is some degree of seeking their own good, and there is an implicit prayer in it to the Supreme Being to guide them into the way to their happiness: I answer, if it be supposed that there is an implicit prayer in their consideration, still they allow that prayer must be in some measure acceptable prayer,
in order to its being entitled to an answer; and consequently must have some degree of virtuous respect to God, &c.; and if so, then the same question returns with all the aforementioned difficulties over again, viz. How came the profane, thoughtless, vain, inconsiderate person by this new virtue, this new respect to God, that he ever exercises in this serious consideration and implicit prayer?
If they say there is no necessity of supposing any implicit prayer in the first consideration ; and yet, if the wicked, profane, careless person makes a good improvement of what grace he has, in proper consideration or otherwise, God has obliged himself to give him more, in that general promise, “ to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundance:” Then I answer, here is new virtue in his making a good improvement of what common assistance he has, which before he neglected, and made no good improvement of. How came be by this new virtue ? Here, again, all the aforementioned difficulties return. Was it wholly from himself? This is contrary to what they pretend. Or is God obliged to give new assistance in order to this new virtue by any promise ? If he be, what is the condition of the promise? It is absurd to say, making a good improvement of what assistance they have ; for that is the thing we are inquiring after, viz. how comes he by that new virtue, making a good improvement of what he has, when before he had not virtue enough to make such an improvement?
Of whatever kind this assistance is, whether it be some afilictive dispensation of Providence, or some other outward dispensation or inward influence, the difficulty is the same. How becomes God obliged to give this assistance ; and what is the condition of the promise?
The answer must be, that this new virtue is without any new assistance given, and is from God no otherwise than as the former neglected assistance or grace subserves it But the question is, whence comes the virtue of not neglecting but improving that former assistance? Is it proper to say that a mau is assisted to improve assistance by the assistance improved ? Suppose a number of men were in the water in danger of drowning, and a friend on shore throws out a cord amongst them, but all of them for a while neglect it; at length one of them takes hold of it, and makes improvement of it; and any should inquire, how that man came by the prudence and virtue of improving the cord, when others did not, and he before had neglected it; would it be a proper answer to say, that he that threw out the rope, assisted him wisely to improve the rope, by throwing out the rope to him? This would be an absurd answer. The question is not, how he came by his opportunity, but how he came by the virtue and disposition of improvement. His friend on shore gave him the opportunity and this is all. The man's virtue in improving it was not at all from him.
Would it not be exceedingly impertinent, in such a case, to set forth from time to time, how this man's discretion, and virtue, and prudence, was the gift of his friend on the shore, his mere gift, the fruit of his purpose and mere good pleasure, and of his power ; and yet that it was of his own will
Man's virtue, according to Arminian principles, must consist wholly and entirely in improving assistance: For in that only consists the exercise of their free will in the affair, and, not in their having the assistance, although their virtue must be by their principles entirely from themselves, and God has no hand in it. From the latter part of the above discourse, it appears that, according to Arminian principles, men's virtue is altogether of themselves, and God has no hand at all in it.
5 72. When I say that the acts and influences of the Spirit determine the effects, it is not meant that man has nothing to do to determine in tbe affair. The soul of man undoubtedly, in every instance, does voluntarily determine with respect to his own consequent actions. But this determination of the will of man, or voluntary determination of the soul of man, is the effect determined. This determining act of the soul is not denied, but supposed, as it is the effect we are speaking of, that the influence of of God's Spirit determines.