1) As the world, so the gifts and common graces of men in the world are for the good of the church, which is a great argument for providence in general; since there is nothing so considerable in government as the disposing of places to men according to their particular endowments and abilities for them. And the bestowing such gifts upon men is none of the meanest arguments for God’s providential government of the world. As, First, The gifts of good men. The gifts conferred upon Paul were deposited in him, not only to be possessed by him, but used and laid out for the good of the church: Col. i.25, ‘ Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you;’ ‘The manifestation of the Spirit to any man is given to profit withal,’ 1 Cor. xii.7. And this is the great end for which men should seek to excel, viz., for the edifying of the church: 1 Cor. xiv.12, “Forasmuch as you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church.”

Secondly, The gifts and common graces of bad men. There is something that is amiable in men. though they have not grace. As in stones, plants, and flowers, though they have not sense, there is something grateful in them, as colour and smell, &c. And all those things that are lovely in men are for the church’s good; the best life, and the worst death, things present, let who will be the possessor, all things between life and death, are for the good of believers, because they are Christ’s : 1 Cor. iii. 22, Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world,’ i.e., whether the gifts of the prime lights in the church, or the common gifts of the world, are all yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.’ God is the dispenser of them, Christ is the governor of them, and all for your sakes. As the medicinal qualities of waters are not for the good of themselves, but the accommodation of the indigencies of men. By the common works of the Spirit God doth keep men from the evil of the world. For it cannot be supposed that the Spirit, whose mission is principally for the church, should give such gifts out of love to men which hate him, and are not the objects of his eternal purpose ; but he hath some other ends in doing it, which is the advantage of his church and people ; and this God causes by the preaching of the gospel, which when it Works gracious Works in some, produces common works in others for the good of those gracious ones. Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse on Divine Providence,” in Works 1:67.

2) The distinction is laid either in the common grace, bounding and suppressing it; or in special grace, killing and crucifying it. Charnock, “Practical Atheism,” in Works 1:184.

3) Man is to be considered as respited from the present suffering this sentence by the intervention of Christ; whereby he is put into another way of probation. So those common notions in our understandings, and common motions in our wills and affections, so far as they have anything of moral goodness, are a new gift to our natures by virtue of the mediation of Christ. In which sense he may be said to ‘ taste death for every man,’ Heb. ii. 9, and be * a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.’ By virtue of which promised death, some sparks of moral goodness are preserved in man. Thus his ‘life was the light of men;’ and he is ‘the light that lightens every man that comes into the world,’ which sets the candle of the Lord in the spirit of man a-burning and sparkling, John i. 9, and upholds all things by his mediatory as well as divine power, Heb. i. 3, which else would have sunk into the abyss. By virtue of this mediation, some power is given back to man, as a new donation, yet not so much as that he is able by it to regenerate himself ; and whatsoever power man hath, is originally from this cause, and grows not up from the stock of nature, but from common grace.

Which common grace is either,

[1.] More general, to all men. Whereby those divine sparks in their under standings, 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 honour 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 always sins with evil intentions. 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. Charnock, “Regeneration,” in Works, 3:210-211.

Charnock on Common Restraining Grace:

1) “Prop. 7. The holiness of God is not blemished by withdrawing his grace from a sinful creature, whereby he falls into more sin. That God withdraws his grace from men, and gives them up sometimes to the fury of their lusts, is as clear in Scripture as anything (Deut. xxix. 4): “Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear,” &c. Judas was delivered to Satan after the sop, and put into his power, for despising former admonitions. He often leaves the reins to the devil, that he may use what efficacy he can in those that have offended the Majesty of God; he withholds further influences of grace, or withdraws what before he had granted them. Thus he withheld that grace from the sons of Eli, that might have made their father’s pious admonitions effectual to them (I Sam. ii. 25): “They hearkened not to the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.” He gave grace to Eli to reprove them, and withheld that grace from them, which might have enabled them against their natural corruption and obstinacy to receive that reproof.

But the holiness of God is not blemished by this.

1. Because the act of God in this is only negative.* Thus God is said to “harden” men: not by positive hardening or working anything in the creature, but by not working, not softening, leaving a man to the hardness of his own heart, whereby it is unavoidable by the depravation of man’s nature, and the fury of his passions, but that he should be further hardened, and “increase unto more ungodliness,” as the expression is (2 Tim. ii. 19). As a man is said to give another his life, when he doth not take it away when it lay at his mercy; so God is said to “harden” a man, when he doth not mollify him when it was in his power, and inwardly quicken him with that grace whereby he might infallibly avoid any further provoking of him. God is said to harden men when he removes not from them the incentives to sin, curbs not those principles which are ready to comply with those incentives, withdraws the common assistances of his grace, concurs not with counsels and admonitions to make them effectual; flashes not in the convincing light which he darted upon them before. If hardness follows upon God’s withholding his softening grace, it is not by any positive act of God, but from the natural hardness of man. If you put fire near to wax or rosin, both will melt; but when that fire is removed, they return to their natural quality of hardness and brittleness; the positive act of the fire is to melt and soften, and the softness of the rosin is to be ascribed to that; but the hardness is from the rosin itself, wherein the fire hath no influence, but only a negative act by a removal of it: so, when God hardens a man, he only leaves him to that stony heart which he derived from Adam, and brought with him into the world. All men’s understandings being blinded, and their wills perverted in Adam, God’s withdrawing his grace is but a leaving them to their natural pravity, which is the cause of their further sinning, and not God’s removal of that special light he before afforded them, or restraint he held over them. As when God withdraws his preserving power from the creature, he is not the efficient, but deficient cause of the creature’s destruction; so, in this case, God only ceases to bind and dam up that sin which else would break out.”

[*]Testard. de natur. et grat., Thes. 150, 151. Amyr. on divers texts, p. 311.

Charnock, “On The Holiness of God,” in Works, 2:238-239. [Footnote values and content original.]

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Updated Charnock on Stephen Charnock on Common Grace. Credit to the beggar: Charnock on God Withdrawing Common Grace

September 29th, 2007 at 2:39 am

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