1) Which common grace is either,

[1.] More general, to all men. Whereby those divine sparks in their understandings, and whatsoever is morally praiseworthy in them, is kept up by the grace of God, which was the cause that Christ tasted death for every man: Heb. ii. 9, “That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man;” whereby the apostle seems to intimate, that by this grace, and this death of Christ, any remainders of that honor and glory wherewith God crowned man at first are kept upon his head; as will appear, if you consider the eighth Psalm, whence the apostle cites the words which are the ground of his discourse of the death of Christ.

[2.] More particular common grace, to men under the preaching of the gospel. Which grace men “turn into wantonness” or lasciviousness, Jude 4. Grace they had, or the gospel of grace, but the wantonness of their nature prevailed against the intimations of grace to them. Besides this common grace, there is a more special grace to the regenerate, the more peculiar fruit of Christ’s mediation and death for them. All this, and whatsoever else you can conceive that hath but a face of comeliness in man, is not the birth of fallen nature abstracted from this mediation. Therefore when the Gentiles are said to “do by nature the things contained in the law,” it is not to be understood of nature merely as fallen, for that could do no such thing; but of nature in this new state of probation, by the interposition of Christ the mediator, whose powerful word upheld all things, and kept up those broken fragments of the two tables of law, though dark and obscure. And considering God’s design of setting forth the gospel to the world, there was a necessity of those relics, both in the understanding, and affections, and desire for happiness, to render men capable of receiving the gospel, and those inexcusable that would reject it. So that by this mediation of Christ, the state of mankind is different since the fall from that of the evil angels or devils. For man hath, first, a power of doing that which is in its own nature good; secondly, a power of doing good with a good intention; not indeed supremely for the glory of God, but for the good of his country, the good of his neighbors, the good of the world, which was necessary for the soldering together human societies, so that sometimes even in sins man hath good intentions. Whereas the devil doth always that which in its own nature is evil, and al ways sins with evil intentions.1 Without this mediation, every man had been as very a slave to sin as the devil; though he be naturally a slave to sin, yet not in that full measure the devil is, unless left in. a judicial manner by God upon high provocations. There is then a liberty of will in man; and some power there is left in man. And here I shall show,

1. What kind of liberty this is.
2. That there is some liberty in man.
3. How far the power of man by common grace doth extend.

Quest. First, what kind of liberty this is. Arts. 1. The essential liberty of the will remains. Liberty is of the essence of the will, and cannot be taken away without extinction of the nature of man; it is free from compulsion, otherwise it were a not-will, which liberty doth not consist in a choice of good or evil. For even under this depravation it cannot choose evil qua malum, as such. It can choose nothing but what appears to it under the notion of good; though it many times embraces that which is materially evil, yet the formal consideration upon which it embraces it is as good, either in reality or in appearance; as the sight in every color sees light. And when it is carried out to that which is really evil, and only apparently good, it is by force of those habits in the understanding, which make it give a false judgment; or, by the power of the sensitive appetite, which hurries it on to the object proposed, but always it respects in its motion everything as good, either an honest, pleasant, or profitable good. Ans. 2. Though the essential liberty of the will remains, yet the rectitude whereby it might have been free only to that which was really good is lost. Man by creation had a freedom of will to choose that which was really good, yet had a mutability, and could choose evil; and by choosing evil rather than good, sank his posterity into this depraved liberty which now remains. Though since the fall man is preserved in his natural freedom, and cannot be forced, yet he hath not a power to will well, because that righteous principle whereby he did will well is departed from him;2 yet because the essential freedom due to his nature remains, whatsoever he wills he wills freely, so that though something the will wills may be materially good, yet it wills that good in an ill manner, for being overcome naturally by sin man can do nothing but according to that law which sin, as a master that hath conquered him, imposes upon him: 2 Peter ii. 19, “They themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” And of all men in a state of nature, though under common grace, the apostle pronounces, Rom. iii. 11, that “there is none that seeks after God”; that is, in any thing they do, though never so good, they seek not God but themselves. ‘There is no fear of God,’ no respect to God “before their eyes,” ver. 18, whence it comes to pass, that by reason of this dominion of sin nothing can be done well. Hence man is said to be dead; not that the life which doth constitute the nature of the soul is taken away, but that which renders it fit for performing actions pleasing to God; for such a life doth consist, not in the nature of the soul or will, but in that habitual integrity which was in man by creation. As the body when it is dead doth not cease to be a body, but ceases to be animated, by the separation of the soul from it, so the soul may be truly said to be dead, though the power of the soul be not taken away. If the spiritual rectitude in that power which did constitute it spiritually living be departed, by the removal of this righteousness, the will is not free to spiritual things, though it be to natural. It is “free among the dead,” as the psalmist speaks of himself, Ps. Ixxxviii. 5; free to dead works, not to living; to this or that dead work, to any work within the verge of sinning, as a bird in a large cage may skip this way and that way by its natural spontaneous motion, but still within the cage. Am. 3. Therefore, though man hath lost this liberty to good, he retains a freedom to the commission of sin, under the necessity of sinning. This freedom is a power of choice and election of a thing, which differs from that spontaneity which is in beasts, who act by instinct, without any reasoning in the case, because they want a reasoning power. Though man be under a necessity of sinning, yet ‘it is not a necessity of constraint, but a necessity of immutability, which is consistent with liberty, though the other be not. A creature may be unchangeably carried to good or evil, and yet be free in both: to good, as the angels and glorified saints cannot will to sin, because their wills are immutably determined to good. They cannot but praise and love God, yet they freely do both; and our Savior did freely do that good which he could not but do by reason of his hypostatical union, otherwise he could not have merited, for all merit requires the concurrence of the will. To evil; the devils cannot will to do good, because their wills are unchangeably determined to evil, yet they sin as freely as if there were no immutable necessity upon them. So man cannot but naturally sin in all that he doth, yet he is not constrained to sin, but sins as freely and voluntarily as if there were no necessity upon his nature to corruption, as freely as if God had not foreseen that he would do so. Man sins with as great a pleasure as if he were wholly independent upon the providence of God; and the more a man is delighted with sin, the greater freedom there is in it. Hence the Scripture lays sin upon the choice of man: Isa. Ixvi. 3, 4, “They have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations.” They were their own ways, that is, ways proper to corrupt man; but they chose them and delighted in them. Man is voluntary under his depravation, free in his aversion from God; a free necessity, a delightful immutability. The will cannot be compelled to will that which it would not, or not to will that which it would. When sin arises from a settled habit, the freer is a man in his sin; and though he cannot act otherwise than according to that habit, yet his actions are most voluntary, because he is the cause of that habit which he acquired by evil acts, and by succeeding acts testifies his approbation of it.

2. That there is some liberty in man, some power in man. Not3 indeed such a power as the Jews thought man had naturally, of exercising himself about anything that God should reveal, without the infusion of a new power, to enable him to act that which God required by supernatural revelation. Some power and liberty must be allowed,

(1.) To clear the justice of God. No just man will punish another for not doing that which was simply and physically impossible; and ‘ shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ It is a good speech of Austin, If there were not the grace of God, how could the world be saved? If there were not free will, how could the world be judged? If man were divested of all kind of liberty, he might have some excuse for himself; but since the Scripture pronounces men without excuse, Rom. i. 20, some power must be granted to clear the equity of God’s justice. No man sins in that which he is under an inevitable constraint to do, and so would be unjustly punished. It does not appear that God doth condemn any man simply for not being regenerate, but for not using the means appointed to such an end, for not avoiding those sins which hindered his regeneration, and which might have been avoided by him if he would, though indeed every unregenerate man will be condemned. The pouring out the wrath of God upon man is principally for those sins which they might have refrained, and had sufficient reason against: Eph. v. 6, for “because of these things,” that is, for those gross sins which they might have avoided, mentioned ver. 5, “comes the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience,” apeithias; men that would not be persuaded, which obstinacy was in their will. As these are the causes of God’s wrath, so these will be alleged as the principal reasons of the last sentence. And our Savior in his last judgment doth not charge men with their unregeneracy, but with their omissions of what they might have done, and that easily; and commissions which they might have avoided, Mat. xxv. 41-43, with their not feeding his members when they were hungry, &c., which were things as much in their power as anything in the world. And the reason Christ renders of the sentence passed upon men, to depart from him, was their working of iniquity: Mat. vii. 23, “Depart from me, you that work iniquity”; that work it voluntarily, and work that you might have for borne. Though unregeneracy doth exclude a man from heaven, as a condition without which a man cannot come there, yet nothing of this is mentioned in the last sentence. If man had a firm will to turn to God, and had not then a power conferred upon him to turn, I know not what to say; but man hath no will to turn, yea, he hath no will to do those things which he might do. Supposing man hath a power to avoid such and such sins, he is justly punished for not making use of that power. Nay, supposing he had no power to avoid them, yet if his will be set to that sin he is justly condemned, not for want of power, but for the delight his will took in it. From which delight in it, it may be gathered that if he had had a power to have shunned it, he would not have shunned it. If a man be assaulted by murderers that will cut his throat, if he will not use his power against them, but take a pleasure in having his throat cut, is not this man a self-murderer, both in the judgment of God and man? Let me use another illustration, since the end of all our preaching should be to humble man and clear God. If a man be cast out of an high tower, and be pleased with his fall, would he not be justly worthy of it, and to be neglected by men, not because he did not help himself in his fall, for that was not in his own power, but because he was mightily pleased and contented with his fall, and with such a pleasure, that if he had been able to have helped himself he would not? So though man be fallen in Adam, yet when he comes to discern between good and evil, he commits the evil with pleasure. So that supposing he had no power to avoid sins, yet he is worthy of punishment because he doth it delightfully. Whence it may be concluded, if he had had power to avoid it, he would not, because his will is so malignant.

(2.) Without some liberty in the will, free from necessity of compulsion, man would not be capable of sin, nor of moral goodness. No human law doth impute that for a vice, or a virtue, to which a man is carried by constraint, without any power to avoid. Where anything is done without a will, it is not an human action. Beasts therefore are not capable of sin, be cause they want reason and will. If man had not liberty of will, he would be as a beast, which hath only a spontaneous power of motion without reason. Sin could not be charged upon man, as God doth all along: Ps. xcv. 10, “It is a people that do err in their hearts”; and Ps. cxix. 21, “Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.” It had been no error in them, if they had not done it voluntarily. The erring from God’s commandments arises from pride of heart, they had not else deserved a rebuke. Who would chide a clock for going wrong, which hath no voluntary motion? Man without a liberty of will could not be the author of his own actions, and sin could no more be imputed to him, than the irregular motion of a watch can be imputed to the watch itself, but rather to the work man or governor of it. Without a voluntary power, man would be as an engine, moved only with springs; and human laws, which punish any crime, would be as ridiculous as Xerxes’ whipping the sea, because it would not stop its tide. Neither were any praise due to man for any moral virtue, no more than praise is due to a lifeless picture for being so beautiful, or to the limner’s pencil lor making it so: the praise is due to the artist, not to the instrument.

(3.) Without some liberty and power of motion in the will, all the reason of man, and those notions in the understanding, left by the virtue of Christ’s mediatory interposition, would be to no purpose. The reason why men do err is because they do not take right ways of judging according to those means they have: “Ye err,” says our Savior, “not knowing the Scripture, nor the power of God,” Mat. xxii. 29. They have a faculty of judgment, and means whereby to judge, which would prevent errors. There is therefore some suitable power in man to follow the judgment of reason, if he will. He would be in vain endowed with that power of reasoning, if there were not a power of motion in some measure suitable to that reason. The authority of judging in the understanding would be wholly insignificant; all debates about any object proposed would be to no end, if the will had not a liberty to follow that judgment. How can God make appeals to men as he doth, if they had not a power of judging that they ought to have done otherwise, and might have done otherwise than they did? Though man hath not a sufficient light left in his nature for salvation, yet he hath such a light of reason in him to which he might be more faithful in his motions than he is, otherwise the apostle could not have argued from that light the heathens had to their conviction, as he doth, Rom. i. 19-21, &c., and manifests their unfaithfulness to that truth which God had manifested to them, and manifested in them in their nature. Most sins do arise from the neglect of being guided by that light which is in men.

(4.) The glory of God’s wisdom in the government of the world would not have been so conspicuous, if some liberty had not been allowed to the will. It is no great matter to keep in order an inanimate thing, as a clock that must obey a necessity; God would have been but like a good clock-keeper only, as one4 says. But how much doth it make for the wisdom of God, to make the free motions of his creature, the various humors in the will of man, center at last in his own glory, contrary to the will and design of the creature; that they have their natural motions, their voluntary motions, and God superintends over them, and moves them according to his own will regularly, according to their nature, without crossing them? ‘ The determinate counsel of God,’ in the death of our Savior, and the free will of Pilate and the Jews, meet in the same point: God acting wisely, graciously, justly; their wills acting freely and naturally, reduced, without injury to their nature, to the due point of God’s will. Steven Charnock, “A Discourse on the Efficient of Regeneration,” in The Works of Stephen Charnock 3:210-215.

2) Quest. 2. If we have not an ability to renew ourselves, why doth God command us to do so? And why doth God make promises to men if they will turn? Is not this a cruelty? as if a man should command another to run a race, and promise to reward him if he did, and yet bind him with fetters that he cannot run? Both the command would be unjust and the promise ridiculous.

Ans. In general. God may command, and his command doth not signify a present ability in man.

(1.) He may command, because we have faculties suited to the command in respect of their substance. For the death of a sinner was not a physical death, but a moral. Man lost not his faculties, but the rectitude of them; he lost the purity of his sight, the integrity of his will, but not the under standing and will itself.

(2.) God’s command does not signify a present moral ability to perform it. God’s command, which acquaints us with our present duty, is no argument of a present power; for if a command signified more than the duty man owes, it signified more than a command in its own nature could signify. God’s command to us to renew ourselves implies no more an ability inherent in the creature to do so than Christ’s voice to putrefying Lazarus, “Lazarus, arise, come forth,” John xi. 43, implied a power in Lazarus to raise himself; or his speech to the palsied cripple, “Arise, take up thy bed,” implied a power in himself to do it himself before a supernatural conveyance of it. Do not men exhort every day to sobriety those that have contracted a pro found habit of drunkenness and lust, that philosophy doth acknowledge it is not possible for them to abstain from; yet no man accuses those that exhort them of impertinence, nor those that chastise them of injustice. God’s commands are not the measures of our strength, but the rule of our duty, and do not teach us what we are, but what we should be.

But to clear this more particularly:

God may command, though man hath not a present moral ability to renew himself. For

[1.] First, Man once had a power to do whatsoever God would command him; he had a power to cleave to God. He had not else, in justice, been capable of any such injunction; there had been ground of a complaint and charge against God, if man had been created defective in any of those abilities necessary for his obedience to this command. The command is just; God would not else have imposed it, because of his righteousness; and every man’s conscience testifies that it is highly just he should honor God, love God, and cleave to God. If it were just, then man was capable to perform this command; for man, as a rational creature, is capable of a law, and cannot be governed otherwise; and no law could be given so proper for him as to stand right to his Creator. Since, therefore, the law was just in itself, and since God did justly impose it, man was certainly created by God in a capacity to observe it. No question but God, who furnished other creatures with an ability to attain their several ends, and perform the orders God had set them in at the creation, was no less indulgent to man. He that was not deficient to the lower creatures would not be deficient to the noblest of his sublunary works. He would have been worse in his rank, without a sufficient stock, than other creatures were in theirs. There would not have been a physical goodness and perfection suitable to his station in the world, and his excellency above other creatures. How could God then have pronounced him good, among the rest of his works, if there had been in his creation a natural inability to answer the end of his creation? If God had created man in such a state that he could not do righteously, and yet commanded him to do righteously, and, because he did not, punish him, he would have been unjust; as if a man should command another to reach a thing too high for him, and that when his hands were tied behind him, and because he did not, beat him. This would have been the case had not man had power at first to do righteously. Had man preserved himself in that created state, no just command of God (and it was impossible any unjust command should have proceeded from infinite righteousness) would have been too hard and too high for him.

[2.] God did not deprive man of this ability. Man was not stripped of his original righteousness by God, for man had lost it before ever God spake to him, or passed any sentence upon him after his fall: Gen. iii. 10, “I was naked.” If God had taken it away without any offense of Adam, he might have expostulated the case. It had been alike unjust, as if God had never given him power at first to observe the command he enjoined him. It would have been unreasonable to require that of man which God -himself had made impossible. But God did not take away man’s original righteousness.5 If God had taken it away before man’s fall, then man was unrighteous before he fell; and God, taking it away from him while he was perfect, had made him, of an holy and righteous man, unholy and profane; as he that deprives a malefactor of his sight, for his demerit, makes him of seeing blind. If God took it away after he spake to Adam in the garden, it would then follow that Adam was righteous after his fall till God deprived him of it, and so was innocent while he was sinful, and strong while he was weak. God did not take it away from him before, but had told him that the loss of it would be the natural consequent of his eating the forbidden fruit, Gen. ii. 17; nor after, for after we find only temporal punishments threatened. God indeed did judicially deny him the restoration of it, which, as a governor and a judge, he might justly do, resolving to govern him in another manner than before. So that it would be an unjust imputation on God to say, God cut off man’s legs, and then commanded him to run, and come to him. What if God did foresee that man would fall; was God therefore the cause of his fall? God’s prescience, though it is infallible, is not the cause of a thing, no more than our foreknowledge that the sun will rise to-morrow morning is a cause of rising of it.

[3.] Therefore, since God did not deprive man of it, it follows that man lost it himself; and not barely lost it, but cast it away. He did voluntarily, by an inordinate intention of will, cast away this original perfection, and fell a-hunting after his own “inventions,” Eccles. vii. 29. He did not stick to that command God had given him, nor implore God’s assistance of him, as by his natural ability he might have done. He consulted not with his command upon the temptation, but was very willing to cast off that righteousness wherewith God had endowed him, for an affected godhead. Man readily swallowed the bait; he did not debate the business with Eve, ‘ She gave to her husband with her, and he did eat,’ Gen. iii, 6. So that the fault was wholly in himself, and his present state voluntarily contracted; for though the devil tempted him, yet he had no power to force him. He was easily overcome by him, for it was not a repeated temptation, but a surrender at the first parley.

[4.] Therefore God’s right of commanding, and man’s obligation of re turning and cleaving to God, remains firm. God’s right still remains. God gave him a portion to manage, though man prodigally spent it. God may challenge his own. Cannot a master justly challenge that commodity he sent his servant with money to buy, though he spent it in drunkenness and gam ing? God gave Adam a sufficient stock; he trifled it away. Must God’s right suffer for his folly, and man’s crime deprive God of his power to command? The obligation to God is natural, therefore indelible; the corruption of the creature cannot render this first obligation void. Righteousness is a debt the creature, as a rational creature, owes to God, and cannot refuse the payment of it without a crime. Who deprived him of the power of paying? Himself. Should this voluntary embezzlement prejudice God’s right of exacting that which the creature cannot be excused from? A debtor, who cannot pay, remains, under the obligation of paying. The receipt of a sum of money brings him into the relation of a debtor, and not his ability to pay what he hath received. Such a doctrine would free all men who were unable to pay from being debtors, though the sums they owed were never so vast. That judge would be unjust that would excuse a prodigal debtor, because he could not pay when sued by his creditor. No doubt but the devils are bound to serve God, and love him, though by their revolt they have lost the will to obey him. If, because we have no present power, our obligation to turn to God and obey him ceased, there would be no sin in the world, and consequently no judgments. Who will say, that if a prince had such rebellious subjects that there were little hopes to reclaim them, he should be therefore bound not to command them to return to their duty and obedience? If it be reasonable in a prince, whose rights are limited, shall it not be reasonable in God to exact it, who hath an unbounded right over his creature? Either God must keep up his law or abrogate it, or, which is all one, let it lie in the dust. His holiness obliges him to keep up his law; to abrogate it, therefore, would be against his holiness. To declare a willingness that his creature should not love him, should not obey him, would be to declare that which is unjust, because love is a just debt to an amiable object and the chief good, and obedience to a sovereign Lord. Must God change his holiness because man hath changed his estate? The obligation of man remaining perpetual, the right of God to demand remains perpetual too, notwithstanding the creature’s casting himself into an insolvent condition. If man still owes this duty to God, why may not God exact his right of man? Much more may God call for a right use of those means and gifts he hath, as a benefactor, bestowed upon man since his fall. No man will deny this right to God upon serious thoughts. These new gifts and means were given him not only for himself, but for his Lord, to improve for his glory. God may justly require the right use of those moral principles and evangelical means for the ends for which he appointed them.

[5.] It will appear more reasonable, because God demands no more; nay, not so much as he required of Adam in innocency. It is but obedientia redintegrata a return in part to that perfect holiness which was inherent in man, and to that obedience in part which was in a great measure due to God. As when a prince demands the return of rebels, he demands a restoration of that subjection which they paid him before. God required a perfect obedience in the first covenant, he requires not so much in the second, so that for want of it a creature shall be cast off; but a sincere obedience is required, though not in degree perfect. Adam had a fundamental power in him to perform that obedience which is required, in faith and repentance, the two great parts of regeneration. Faith is nothing but an embracing and accepting of Christ the mediator. Adam had a power of believing and accepting Christ for his head, had he been proposed to him in paradise, as the mediator of consistency and confirmation, and the vinculum of holding him for ever close to God. Had not Adam a power to accept him under this notion, as well as the good angels have accepted him fer their head, and worship him as mediator; that is, pay him an obedience as mediator when he comes into the world, Heb. i. 6. Had he not a fundamental power to grieve, though since sin was extraneous to a state of innocency, he could not have exercised that grief for himself, repentance being extraneous to obedience, and unmeet for him in a sinless state? Suppose God had commanded him to grieve for the sins of the fallen angels, Adam having this passion in his nature, might have done it. He might have known what sin was in. them, and might have grieved for the dishonor of God by them; even as our Savior did grieve for the sins of others, Mark iii. 5, who knew no sin himself. And in grieving for his own sin, there was only a change of the object.

[6.] It is yet more reasonable if we consider, that every natural man thinks he hath a power to renew himself, and turn to God when he will; practically, though not all of them nationally. What reason then hath man to quarrel with God, and accuse him of demanding that which he thinks he can give to God, and will not at present, but take his own time to do it, when he sees it fit? This practical opinion runs in the veins of every natural man under the gospel, as well as in the heathens, which appears by the general willful delays of men about their eternal concerns, by their vows and resolutions upon the blows of conscience of reforming their lives, and be coming new men without having recourse to the grace of God, or taking any notice of him in their resolves. This I think is a clear case. “Yet a little more sleep,” says a man, that thinks he can rise time enough when he will, and despatch his business in a moment, Prov. vi. 10. With what face can man accuse God of not giving him power, when he thinks he hath power enough himself? or be angry with God for demanding his debt, when he thinks himself in a solvent condition? No man will blame another for requiring that of his servant, which his servant boasts he hath power in him self to do. The Israelites thought so when they said, Exod. xxiv. 3, “All the words which the Lord hath said we will do,” without any applications to the grace of God to enable them. All men are like Israel in this; only the regenerate are most sensible of their own impotence, and scarce any man else. [7.] From all this it follows, that God is not bound to give grace to any; and where he doth bestow it, it is an act of his sovereign pleasure. If God has given man power, and never took it away, but it was cast away by man, therefore God’s right is not prejudiced, but he may justly demand of man what once he gave him power to do, especially since it is less than what man at first owed him; and when man thinks he has power to pay him, it will evidently follow, that God is not bound to give any new power. If God were bound to give a new power to accept of the gospel, he were then unjust not to confer it; if he be not bound, it is of mere grace that he bestows it. God proposes pardon to all upon such conditions, but he is not bound to give the condition to any; he commands all to renew their obedience to him, but he is not bound to renew any one person. He gives the command to turn, as a lawgiver and governor; he gives the grace to some to turn, as a benefactor. It is grace therefore, not debt. When God confers it, it is an act of his compassionate mercy; when he denies it, it is an act of his just sovereignty. He may, if he please, “suffer all nations to walk in their own ways,” Acts xiv. 16. Yet if he please to propose the means of grace to any, the very knowledge of those mysteries of heaven is a peculiar gift, as well as the outward proposal: Mat. xiii. 11, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” If we improve reason to the highest, God is not obliged to give us grace, no more than if a beast improved sense to the highest, he were bound to give him reason. , Though if there could be a man found in any age of the world, who did improve reason to the utmost of his power, I would not doubt God’s giving him the addition of supernatural grace, out of the largeness of his bounty, though still there is no obligation upon God , because man doth no more than his duty. And that God doth not give grace to all to whom the means are offered, and yet doth command them to turn, and promise to receive them;

(1.) It doth not entrench upon his sincerity in his proposals. His proposals are serious, though he knows man will not receive them without an over-powering grace;6 and though he be resolved not to give the assistance of his grace to every one under those means, but leave them to the liberty of their own wills. The gospel is to be considered as a command ordering men to believe, or as a promise alluring men to be renewed, by representing to them the happiness of such a state. Consider it as a command; God is serious in it, though he resolve not to give grace to all to whom the precept comes, for under this consideration of a command it is a declaration of man’s duty, and a demonstration of God’s sovereign authority. Doth God’s resolution of not giving grace weaken the obligation of man to his duty, or diminish God’s authority, or give ground to man to charge him with in sincerity? Consider it as a promise, doth it hinder God’s seriousness in it if he resolves not to give the condition of it to all? It is sufficient to show God’s seriousness in it, to declare, that if men will be regenerate, it will be very pleasing to him; that he will make good to them what he hath promised; that if they be renewed, he will make good every tittle of the promise to them; and if they will seek, and ask, and knock, he will not be wanting to them to assist them.

(2.) It doth not disparage his wisdom to command that to man which he knows man will not do without his grace, and so make promises to man upon the doing it. If man indeed had not a faculty naturally fitted for the object, it might entrench upon God’s wisdom to make commands and promises to such a creature as it would be to command a beast to speak. But man has a faculty to understand and will, which makes him a man;7 and there is a disposition in the understanding and will which consists in an inclination determined to good or evil, which makes us not to be men, but good or bad men, whereby we are distinguished from one another, as by reason and will we are from plants and beasts. Now the commands and exhortations are suitable to our nature, and respect not our reason as good or bad, but simply as reason. These commands presuppose in us a faculty of under standing and will, and a suitableness between the command and the faculty of a reasonable creature. This is the reason why God hath given to us his law and gospel, his commands, not because we are good or bad men, but because we are men endued with reason, which other creatures want, and therefore are not capable of government by a command. Our blessed Lord and Savior did not exhort infants, though he blessed them, because they were not arrived to the use of reason; yet he exhorted the Jews, many of whose wills he knew were not determined to good, and whom he told that they would die in their sins. And though God had told them, Jer. xiii., that they could no more change themselves than an Ethiopian could his skin, yet he expostulates with them why they “would not be made clean”: verse 27, “Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?” Because, though they had an ill disposition in their judgment, yet their judgment remained, whereby to discern of exhortations if they would. To present a concert of music to a man that cannot hear the greatest sound were absurd, because sounds are the object of hearing; but commands and exhortations are the object, not of this or that good constitution of reason, but of reason itself.

(3.) Neither doth it disagree with his justice. It is so far from being unjust for God to demand what men are obliged to do, though he knows that they will not do it, that God would be unjust to himself if he did not demand it, if he let men trample upon his rights without demanding restitution of them. If a prince sets forth edicts to rebels to return, and promise them pardon upon their returning, though he knows they are rebelliously bent, that they will not entertain a thought of coming again under his scepter, but will still be in arms, and draw down his wrath upon them, will not all interpret this to be an act of clemency and goodness in the prince? Neither is God an accepter of persons, because he doth not give grace unto all; for may he not do with his own what he please without injustice? Those to whom we give alms have reason to thank us; those to whom we give not an alms have no reason to complain; we have gratified the one, but we have done no wrong to the other. We are all by nature criminals, deserving death; should God leave us in that deplorable estate wherein he found us, can we accuse him of injustice? Those that by grace are snatched out of the pit, have reason to acknowledge it an admirable favor, as indeed it is; those that are destitute of grace, and by their own willful rejection left to sink to the bottom, cannot impute their unhappiness to him; for he left them not without witness; he presented them the word, exhorted them to hearken to him; but, instead of paying their duty, they fiercely rejected him, abhorred his exhortations, and gave themselves over to sin and vice. If a man proclaim by a crier that such that can bring such a mark shall receive such an alms, he sends this private mark to some; they come and receive an alms. Had he not power to do what he pleased with his own, to send his distinguishing token to whom he pleased? What injustice is done to the other, to whom he sends not this mark? Steven Charnock, “A Discourse on the Efficient of Regeneration, in Works 3:223-228.

Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse of the Efficient of Regeneration” in The Works of Stephen Charnock, 3:227-228. [Some spelling modernized; footnote values modernized; footnote content original; and underlining mine.]

[Stolen from Tony]


1Dr Jackson, vol. ii. fol. p. 3091.

2Ames Medul. lib. I. cap. 13, thes. 10.

3Smith, Select Discourse, p. 290, &c.

4Ingelo. Bentivol. part 2, p. 99.

5Trigland, de Grat. p. 275.

6Amiraut. Ser. sur Phil. ii. 13, p. 79.

7Ibid. p. 383.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 at 12:15 pm and is filed under The Distinction Between Natural and Moral Ability. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed at this time.