“3. Grace is considered as it is in the vessels that receive it, in men that partake of it. And here it will be needful to distinguish. The grace of God as received, comes under a very notable distinction of common grace, and saving grace, or special. Somewhat hath been hinted of the same distinction, betwixt common and special saving mercy. But of this distinction, as to grace received, I would speak more fully.

First, Common grace is so called, not because it is ordinary and usual, (for in bad times it is rare enough), but because it is not saving. It is most likely, that in such happy times (which we cannot now boast of, but only hope for) when saving grace is bestowed on many, common grace is dispensed more frequently also. That there is such a thing as common grace, is as certain, as it is that there is such a creature (if I may so call him) as a hypocrite in the church, or in the world. For an hypocrite is nothing else but an unrenewed sinner, painted over with more or less common grace. And to men that see the outside of others only, he may appear like a true Christian.

I would give some particular instances of this common grace.

1. There is a common enlightening grace, a common illumination, Heb. vi. 4. and x. 26. The apostle supposeth, that there is an enlightening, and a receiving a knowledge of the truth that may be where a fatal apostasy may follow. The Lord may give the light of his word; and, in and by that light, may dart in some clear beams of gospel-truth on such that are led no farther. It is far from being true, that all knowing heads have sound hearts. There may be, and often is, much clear light in the mind about points of saving truth, when there is no sense, no savour, no faith in the heart. Acts xxvi. we find Paul speaking in the most noble assembly that it is like he ever spoke in; a King and a Queen, and a Roman Governor greater than both. In this august assembly, Paul, though a prisoner in bonds, remembers his being an apostle, and preacheth Christ, and takes Christ’s grace in converting him for his text: ver. 24. When he is thus speaking, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul thou art beside thyself: much learning doth make thee mad. At the same time, ver. 28. Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. This was a great deal better than Festus’s word, yet a poor word in itself. It spoke some glancing of ineffectual light on his mind. An almost Christian, and no more, is but a sinner almost saved, and no more; or one that is no Christian, and never saved at all.

2. There is common awakening grace. The Lord sometimes alarms the consciences of the ungodly, and may raise a great sense of sin in such as are never forgiven; and fears of hell, yea, a foretaste of hell, in some that never escape it. I have sinned, Saith Pharaoh; I have sinned saith Saul: I have sinned (saith Judas), in betraying innocent blood. Alas, poor wretch! it had been better to have confessed his sin against his master, to his master, than to his murderers. Felix trembled when Paul preached. It was grace in God to come so near to him, and great power was put forth. What else could make such a great prince as Felix was, to tremble at the words of a poor prisoner standing before him in his chains? Awakening grace is but common grace. The law wounds many a conscience that the gospel doth not heal, because not applied to. No wound can the law make, which the gospel cannot heal. Boast not of your wounds by the law, unless you can tell how you were healed. There is no cure for a conscience wounded by sin and by the law, but the blood of Jesus shed for sin. Did ye come to it? Heb. xii. 24. Did he apply it to you? Were you cured of your wounds before ye went to him, and before he came to you? Woeful is that cure, and worse than the wound. Many poor creatures are wounded by the law, and to the law they go for healing. But God never appointed the law to heal a wounded conscience; and it never did, nor can, nor will, to the end of the world, nor to eternity. It is Christ’s name, and property, and glory, to be the only physician of souls; and all must die of the disease of sin, that are not his happy patients.

3. There is common restraining grace; an act of God’s grace and wisdom, which he often puts forth in his ruling of this wicked world. How quickly would this earth become a hell, were it not for this restraining grace? if all unrenewed men were permitted by God, to commit all the sin Satan tempts to, and their natures incline them to, there would be no living in this world for the godly. This restraining grace we find a Heathen had: Gen. xx. 6. I with-held thee from sinning against me, saith the Lord to Abimelech. And, which is more, we find a great saint praying for it, Psal, xix. 13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me: that is, “Lay a powerful restraint on me by thy grace, that when I am tempted, my way may be hedged up, and I may be kept from complying with the temptation.” But yet bare restraining grace is not desired by a Christian in good case, without sanctifying grace. He desires not only the restraining of the outward acts of sin, but the removing of inward inclinations to sin; he begs the renewing and changing of the heart. So David, when he had fallen foully, by the strength of inward corruption, and God’s leaving him to himself; when recovered by grace, and renewed unto repentance, prays like a wise believer, Psal. li. 10. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

4. There is common assisting grace. Many a bad man hath had good assistance from God in a good work. The Spirit of God hath clothed many, and enabled them to great and good works, which God gets service by, and the world good by, though the doers thereof be not accepted: Matth. vii. 22. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? All great things, and all done in Christ’s name, and done by his assistance. In their costing out of devils, and in working of miracles, there was an exerting of omnipotency, with and by their faith; which is the greatest divine assistance we can imagine. And no doubt they were assisted by Christ’s Spirit in their prophesying in his name. Now, such things they thus did. Christ, in his reply, denies not their doing of them, finds no fault with the works in themselves; but all his quarrel is with the workers: I never knew you, you are workers of iniquity.

5. To common grace belongs some comfort and joy reaching the heart in hearing the word. Our Lord expressly explains the stony ground this way, Matth. xiii. 20. He that received the seed in stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it.

6. Lastly, There is reforming grace, that belongs to common grace. The power of the word may come so on natural men’s consciences, that they may reform many things; as Mark vi. 20. Herod, when he heard John Baptist, did many things, and heard him gladly. So 2 Pet. ii. 20.

If any say, What ! should we come to the throne of grace for common grace? I answer, Not for it alone, but for it, and better. It is a mercy to have common grace; it is grace that is undeserved: but it is a woeful snare to him that rests in it. If the Lord restrain your corruptions; if he enlighten your minds, and awaken your consciences; if he assist you with gifts for good works; if he help you to mend any thing that is amiss in your conversation; bless him for all: but rest not on any of these things. It is a higher and better grace that is saving, and that you must seek after.

Secondly, Saving grace, as distinct from, and beyond all that is common, respects three things.

1. It respects and works a change in a man’s state, which common grace never performs. Saving grace changeth a person’s state. By this grace an enemy is reconciled to God, a guilty sinner is justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, a stranger receives sonship by Christ. Common grace never alters the state of a man’s person, but it leaves him where it found him. It never doth, nor can take him out of the old stock of fallen Adam; he still lies in that pit; and is never by it translated into Christ, and ingrafted in him, as a new head. But saving grace, when it comes, doth all, Eph. ii. 4,-18.

2. Saving grace respects man’s sinful nature, and changeth it. And this grace thus working, is called regenerating, sanctifying, and renewing of men. Christ calls it, being born again, John iii. 3. If any man be in Christ, (through this grace), he is a new creature, 2 Cor. v. 17. This the apostle calls, Tit. iii. 5. According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Natural men are apter to look to their conversation, than to their nature. They may see many things amiss in their way, who are loth to look into their heart. And if light shine in, to discover inward heart-faults, they are still backward to own that all is naught, and that there is no good in their hearts. If the light pursue them yet closer, and make them see that all is stark naught within, they are still more backward to own the true spring of their disease, and the true remedy for it; that all this dominion of sin over them, flows from the natural state of their persons, as standing still in and under the first sinful Adam; and can never be altered and mended, but by grace putting them into Christ, as the root of their new life.”

3. Saving grace respects and works on the new nature. Special grace not only changeth a man’s state, nor his old corrupt nature only: but it works on this new nature wrought by grace. The special operation of the grace of God, in and from the fountain, is upon his own new creation in the hearts of his children. We cannot conceive it fully; our minds are not able to take in these depths of God. We hear from, and read in the word, of the intimate correspondence the Lord entertains with them in whom he dwells. Christ dwells in the heart by faith, Eph. iii. 17. His Spirit dwells in his people, Rom. viii. 9, 10, 11. But what is it in their hearts that he dwells in? He dwells in his own workmanship in their hearts, in his own new creation, in his own garden that he hath planted in them. There his presence is, and there his eye is, on that his hand is; this is that he waters, and carefully looks after. When a believer comes to the throne of grace, for this grace, he comes to beg that the new creation in him may be visited, refreshed, and strengthened, and brought to perfection. They that have no planting of Christ in them, want this errand to the throne of grace, that believers daily come upon.

Robert Traill, The Works of the Late Reverend Robert Traill, ( Edinburgh: Printed for J. Ogle, 1810), 1:146-150.

Credit to Tony for the good find; I have inserted the two missing pages.

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