Page images
PDF
EPUB

verance in well-doing! All which are plain and sensible instances of the internal operations of the Holy Spirit upon our souls. So that when we comply with these inward motions of the Holy Ghost, so as to forsake those sins which they dissuade us from, we do then mortify the deeds of the body by the Spirit.

From the consideration of these benefits by the Spirit of God, many useful inferences may be deduced : and first, from hence we may discern the necessity of the Spirit, to enable us to mortify the deeds of the body. And indeed, considering the infirmity of our natures, and the many temptations we have to encounter, how we are habituated to a sensual life before we are capable of exercising our reason, and how much our wills are biassed by our carnal inclinations; it is hardly to be imagined, how we should ever be able to retrieve ourselves from the power and dominion of our own lusts, without some supernatural aid and assistance. For though we have an understanding capable of distinguishing between good and evil, and of discerning all those advantages and mischiefs that are inseparable unto virtuous and vicious actions; though we have a will that can comply with the dictates of right reason, and is no ways determined and necessitated to evil; and though we can do whatsoever we will: yet if, besides those motives which arise out of the nature of virtue and vice, we had not supernatural arguments to assist us, our inclinations would certainly prove too strong for our reason. If the lascivious wanton had no other arguments to oppose against the temptations of lust, but that it vexes him with impatience, fills him with mad and ungovernable desires, torments him with fear and jealousy, betrays him into sickness and poverty, and the like; how can it be expected that such slender arguments should prevail against the importunities of his depraved appetite! If the covetous oppressor had no other motive to confront his lust with, but that his injustice exposes him to the hatred of those whom he injures, and violates the laws of society, and consequently is destructive of the public good, in which his own is involved; alas! what thin arguments would these be to him in comparison with the temptations of a bag of gold! And though to these natural arguments God hath added sundry supernatural ones in the revelations of the gospel, such as are in themselves sufficient to check our most outrageous appetites, and to baffle the strongest temptations; yet, alas! our thoughts are so squandered among this great multiplicity of carnal objects that surround us, that did not the divine Spirit frequently suggest those supernatural arguments to us, and by the powerful influence of his grace keep our minds intent upon them, we should never recollect ourselves to such a thorough consideration of them, as is necessary to persuade ourselves by them into a lasting resolution of amendment. So that we have very great need both of the outward and inward grace of God: for though we can deliberate what is best to choose, and choose what we find best upon deliberation, yet we are like men standing in bivio, between two contrary roads, and are naturally indeed free to turn either to the right hand or to the left; but on the left-hand way there are so many temptations perpetually beckoning to us, and inviting us unto that which is evil, and our brútish passions and appetites

are so ready upon all occasions to yield and comply with them, that we should certainly go that way, did not the Holy Spirit importune us with strong arguments to turn to the right-hand way of virtue and goodness.

2. We may learn from hence the necessity of our concurrence with the Spirit. For the Spirit of God works upon us in such a way as is most congruous to our free and rational natures; that is, it doth not act upon us by mere force, or irresistible power, but addresses to our reason, with arguments and persuasions, and so moves upon our wills by the mediation of our understandings : but when he hath done all, he leaves it to our own choice whether we will reject or embrace his proposals. For although I firmly believe, as no man would be wicked, were he not invited by the temptations of sin, so no man would be good, were he not solicited by the grace of God; yet I see no reason to imagine, that either the one or the other invades the liberty of our wills. The temptations of sin indeed incline us one way, and the grace of God another: but when all is done, they leave us free to choose or refuse, and neither the one nor the other forces or necessitates us. And hence the successes of the divine grace are in scripture attributed to the disposition or indisposition of the subject it acts upon : so Matt. xi. 20, 21. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein his mighty works were done ;- Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. From whence I argue, that that grace which would have converted Tyre and Sidon was not irresistible ; for if it had, it would have converted Chorazin and Bethsaida too: for how could they have resisted irresistible grace ? And why should it not have had the same effect on the one which it would have had on the other, had there not been something in the one which was not in the other, which did actually resist and vanquish it? And so likewise in the parable of the seed sown in the highway, the stony, thorny, and good ground, Matt. xiii. the reason why the seed prospered in some, and not in others, is plainly resolved into the different condition of the soil : for as for those that either considered not at all, or not enough, the seed of the divine grace proved altogether ineffectual to them; but as for those who had so throughly considered its proposals, as to form in their minds a firm and settled judgment of them, it produced in them a most fruitful spring of virtues and good works. Which is a plain argument that the successes of God's grace depend upon the concurrence of our endeavours with it; for had it wrought irresistibly upon these different soils, it must have had the same success in all. And indeed it is infinitely unreasonable to expect that God should make us good irresistibly, without the free concurrence of our own will and endeavours; since by so doing he must offer violence to the frame of our beings, and alter the established course of our natures; which consists in a free determination of ourselves, according to the dictates of

For that which is irresistible must necessitate the subject upon which it acts; and therefore, if we are impelled to be good by a power which we cannot resist, it is not in our power to choose whether we will be good or no. Wherefore, though

our own reason.

God be infinitely desirous of our happiness, and ready to contribute whatsoever is necessary to promote it, yet he will not effect it by necessary means and causes, but in such a way only as is fairly consistent with the liberty of our wills; that is, he will not save us without ourselves, whether we will or no; but take our free consent and endeavour along with him. And having done all that is necessary to persuade, us, he expects that we should consider what he saith, and upon that, consent to his gracious proposals, and express this consent in a constant course of holy and virtuous endeavours : and if we will not do this, we cannot be saved, unless God work a miracle for us, and alters the course of nature; which is the great law by which his providence doth govern all the beings in the world. And this we have no reason to expect, either from the goodness of God's nature, or from any revelation he hath made to us. Not from the goodness of his nature; for why is it not as consistent with that to govern us as free agents, as to make us such ? Not from any revelation of his will; for that indispensably exacts our free concurrence with his grace and assistance, and requires us to make ourselves a new heart, to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. It is true God is also said to work in us to will and to do, to create in us a new heart, and to create us in Jesus Christ unto good works : which seemingly repugnant expressions can be no otherwise reconciled, but by supposing God and man to be joint causes contributing to the same effect; so that where God speaks as if he did all, we must suppose the concurrence of our endeavours; and where

« PreviousContinue »