Page images

such as they can either use or neglect, according to their choice and inclination, so the supernatural assistances afforded to men by the revelation of the Gospel, and by the influence of the Spirit, are still in the nature of assistances, which may either be received or rejected. Eternal life, as it is a gift of God which men could not possibly merit or claim by virtue of their own deserts, so it is not a gift obtruded upon them whether they will or no, but the aid to obtain it is such an aid as requires the concurrence of their own endeavours in the use and application. For this reason St. Peter exhorts Christians to grow in grace, as a thing depending upon their own efforts, and St. Paul admonishes them, not to quench or to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, who will not forcibly strive with those who resist his good impressions; and men are frequently blamed in Scripture for receiving the grace of God in vain, for resisting the Holy Ghost, and for rejecting the counsel of God against themselves.


Therefore when the Scriptures tell us in some places that we are saved by grace, and in other places that good men work out their own salvation, there is no inconsistency in this. They are saved by grace, because, without God's favourable assistance and acceptance of their imperfect endeavours, they could not of themselves acquire eternal life; and at the same time it is no less true that they work out their own salvation, because unless they exert their own powers, the grace of God alone will in no wise force them to be sayed. Thus God's working in or with us, and our

working together with God are easily reconciled. And so likewise are those places of Scripture in which the wicked are represented usually as hardening themselves, and sometimes as being hardened of God. They harden themselves, because it is by their own choice, by their own obstinacy and perverseness that they become ob durate; and they are hardened of God, not by any proper and immediate act of God depriving them of reason and liberty, or compelling them to do evil; but quite on the contrary, by his continuing to give them both motives and opportunities to do well, which gifts being rejected and abused, are the innocent cause, or the occasion of their greater wickedness, and in this sense they are hardened by the very goodness of God. Besides, in the style of the Scriptures, God is often said to do what he only permits to be done, and in all other languages also, the occasion is put for the cause, both as to persons and as to things. "I came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword," says our Lord; that is, my Gospel, though it ought to produce peace and love, will prove the occasion of strife and enmity.

Thus the doctrine of divine grace and the doctrine of free will, or human liberty, unite and conspire in a friendly manner to our everlasting good. The first is adapted to excite in us gratitude, faith, and humility; the second to awaken our caution, and to quicken our diligence.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]






« PreviousContinue »