Gods not onely infusing the inward Principles of Grace, but also vouchsafing his Quickning, Actu∣ating, Assisting Grace unto his people, inabling them to walk in his Statutes; maintained against Pelagians, Arminians and Papists; Also, the happy condition of those who have this lat∣ter grace, as well as the former.
EZEK. 36. 27.
THe method that the Spirit of God useth in promising these great mer∣cies, hath afforded us profitable observations.
In the next place you may remember, that in the general division of this Text, there was the grace of God vouchsafed in the root, and in the fruit; in the principles or habits, and in the actual exercise of grace. We have al∣ready dispatched grace in the root, in the principles, which is called A new heart, and, Gods spirit put into us: Let us now admire the goodness of God in the fruit; for the Text beareth both an holy root, and holy fruit; and this is expressed in this promise, I will cause them to walk in my statutes: This is a fur∣ther d••finct mercy of God; it is the first and principal mercy indeed, To put his Spirit in us; and its the second, and no less necessary mercy, when this is done, To Page 549 cause us to walk in his statutes: So that the former part of the promise, is for the principles of grace; this latter part, for the acts and exercise of grace. We read in Scripture, that David, Peter, and others, who had the inward princi∣ples of grace, yet for want of the actual exercise of them, did grievously wound their own souls, and sadly dishonor the name of God: So that here we have a special remarkable point afforded us, viz.
That God doth not onely at first infuse the principles of grace in his children, but*its necessary he should also inable them to act and improve those principles.
He doth not onely give us power to holy actions, but he works also the holy actions themselves: So that not onely the principles of Believing, Repentance, &c. are the gift of God, but the very acts also of these graces: Thus the Apostle saith, That God worketh in us, not onely to will, but to do, Phil. 2. 13. not onely the power, but the action it self. This point in the explication of it, will much manifest and exalt the grace of God as all in all; and then it will set forth the exact duty of Christianity, whose glory lieth in the daily exercise of grace, not in the principles or root of it: And
First, We will open the sense of the Dostrine, and then prove it by several Ar∣guments; * for Pelagians, Arminians, and several Papists, are against this ex∣cellent and glorious truth, attributing indeed the sufficiency and power of doing a good action, to Gods grace, but the actual efficacy of it to a mans will.
In the first place therefore, consider, that there is a twofold grace of God, as to * our matter in hand; There is grace Regenerating, or Converting; whereby of men dead in sin, and wholly senseless, we come to have a life of Grace, and a Di∣vine Nature we are made partakers of.
Secondly, There is after this a quicking, preventing or exciting grace; where∣by * that former principle of grace is stirred up, and provoked to action. I shall not strictly attend to the School distinctions of grace, Prevenient, Conco∣mitant, and Subsequent, of grace operant, and co-operant: I shall use the Scripture phrase, Quickning Grace; which is not onely at first of men dead in sin, and giving life unto them, in which sense Paul useth it, Ephes. 2. but also for the exciting and stirring up those principles of grace in us, both to act, and also to increase; as David, Psal. 119. prayeth many times, especially verse 88. Quicken me after thy loving kindeness, so shall I keep thy testimonies: This is a blessed temper, and happy are those who do not by negligence, or any other sin, provoke God to withdraw this exciting grace; for although a godly man loose not his principles of grace, yet if he loose this quickning, this acting of grace, he is for the present like a barren wilderness: So then you see, God hath a twofold grace, Initial and Converting, Exciting and Quickning, which we need every hour, every moment, and must pray for more earnestly, then we would for our daily bread.
Secondly, You must know, that there is a great difference in man, while he re∣ceiveth*the one, and while God enableth him to the other: These are not speculative notional points, that tend not to edification, but are exceeding profitable; for if we consider man as the subject of that first converting grace, so he is meer∣ly passive, he doth not at all co-operate or work with the grace of God; for you heard, he had A stony heart, and he is dead in sin; and grace converting, is compared to the Resurrection: So that as Lazarus, when he was raised to life, did not contribute any help thereunto of himself, but was wholly passive; so it is in every man that is at first converted to God, he doth not further this great work, he doth not desire, he doth not set it on; yea, he useth all the power and re∣sistance he can against it, till God conquer the heart by his Omnipotent power; but it is otherwise in this exciting and quickning grace, for there being the super∣natural principles of grace before, when he is stirred up, he is not meerly passive; but being first acted by the grace of God, we then act & move also; so that we are voluntary and free in those exercises of grace; though grace moves, yet we also Page 550 move: This is excellently expressed by the Church, Draw us, and we will run after thee, Cant. 1. 4. The Church was listless, unprepared; therefore she desireth the grace of God to draw her, and then she would run after him. Draw a dead man, and for all that he cannot run; but the Church had the life of grace in her, onely she wanted this quickning, exciting grace.
Thirdly, When we say, That God doth not onely work the principles, but also*the acts of grace, that is to be understood as an efficient, not as a subject: So that although we say, God worketh in us our Faith, our Repentance, yet we can∣not say God believeth, and God repenteth; for they came from him as an efficient meerly, but from us as subjects in a vital formal manner, Deus non potest supplere vicem formalis aut materialis causae: So that we are the formal causes, as well as the efficient. Even as God in the order of nature, worketh all natural actions for us, In him he we live and move, saith the Apostle; yet we cannot say, God liveth, or God moveth, or God eateth or God walketh; because he is the efficient cause of these onely, not the formal.
Thus you have the sense of the Doctrine; let us observe the grounds: And *
First, Its clear, that God doth not onely give a new heart, but cause us also to walk in the ways of holiness, because these are two distinct mercies, and are very se∣parable one from the other: It may be, and experience tells us, it doth too often fall out, that where the former mercy is of Gods spirit, and a new heart in his people, yet the latter may not be. David you heard, even while he committed those foul and gross sins, yet had not the principle and seeds of Grace quite dead within him; no more then the tree in winter, that is stript of all its ornaments, is dead at the root; yet he was far from this latter mercy in the Text, To walk in the statutes of God: And so at any time, when the children of God fall into sins of lusts, or carelesness and negligence, they are not fallen from the Root Christ; but yet this exciting and quicking grace they have lost for the present. Seeing therefore, that this latter is separate from the former, and you may see even one of Christs sheep for the time, wallowing like the Swine in filthy mire, it is necessary that God should not onely do the one, but the other also for us: Therefore the people of God are to consider this: please not your selves that you have had the experience of conversion upon your souls; you can tell, that God hath made a wonderful change in you; for how doth God accompany you with this exciting, acting grace? Are ye not all over rusty, as it were, are you not very often unfit for holy duties, unprepared to hear, to pray? Are not your hearts like a barren mountain, yea, like a noisom dunghill sometimes? Do you not refuse to open the door, that Christ may come in, who hath stood all night knocking at the door, while his locks are full of dew? Is it not thus, and far worse with you many times, who yet hope of your conversion to God? And whence is all this? you have not this acting, this exciting grace, and so thou art like one in a deep sleep.
Secondly, The people of God have earnestly begged for this acting grace, as not thinking the principles of grace enough: Thus David often, Quicken my heart, in∣cline*my heart (saith he) to keep thy testimonies: That man prayed, That Christ would increase his faith; yea, all the prayers that you read any godly men have made for the acts of grace, that they might repent, believe, walk holily, all these do plainly convince, that God doth not onely give the life of grace, but the constant motions of that life afterward: So that if God did not work these exercises of grace for us also, it would be a vain thing to importune God in prayer for them.
Thirdly, God doth this latter, as well as the former, Because he encourageth the godly to set upon the exercise of grace, because he will inable them, and assist*them therein: Thus the Apostle, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling: Why? because its God that worketh in you to will and to do: This argument may seem very strange, Work, because God worketh in you; but its the greatest rea∣son *Page 551 and comfort that can be: Do thou set thy self upon the works of Faith, Re∣pentance, Mortification of the dearest and strongest corruption, though thou art apt to be discouraged, and savest, It cannot be, yet God is ready to help with his hand. Paul speaking of those high expressions of grace, To know how to abound, and how to want, he addeth, I can do all things, through Christ that strengthens me, Phil. 4. 13. A godly man hath a kinde of Omnipotency; he can do what God can do, because he hath the help of God inabling him thereunto: A Christian then should not dishearten himself with such thoughts as these, What shall I do when death comes? What if such suddain calamities should overwhelm me? for he must remember, that God useth to put forth his hand at that time; and then Peter is imboldned to go upon the waters to Christ.
Fourthly, There must be such acting and inlivening grace, as well as the principles, Because otherwise God would lose great part of his glory, in bringing a*man to heaven: For not onely Justification, but Salvation is attributed unto Grace; and Rom. 9. Its not of him that willeth, or runneth, but of him that calleth and electeth: Now grace could not have the glory of all from the beginning to the end, if God should not constantly inable and help in the progress of god∣liness, as well as at the beginning: So that if God did onely give principles of grace, and not daily assist and inable; we might indeed be thankful unto him for what once he did for us, but we might thank our own power, and sacrifice to our own will for what is done afterwards: But what hast thou, saith the Scri∣ture, that thou hast not received? 1 Cor. 4. 7. Its a general assertion, Every good and perfect gift comes from the father of lights, James 1. and we cannot think a good thought, much less have any good affections or desires, though already con∣verted, of our selves, if grace were not always ready at hand: So that this truth should put the soul into daily and constant thankfulness, because it hath daily and constant supply from the throne of grace.
Fifthly, If so be that in natural things, where God hath given natural princi∣ples of actions, yet they cannot act, without daily concourse of God, how much more*must this hold in supernaturals: Take the fire, that is a natural Agent, and so determined to one action; viz. To burn, yet if God doth suspend his influence, his actual motion, as in the example of the three Worthies, then it cannot burn; and this is much more seen in natural creatures: In him we live, and move, and have our being, saith the Apostle; we do not onely live by him, but we are not able to move or stir without him. Now if it be not enough for a man to have God give him life once, but he must daily inable him to move and stir, will not this follow much more in supernatural things? Cannot we stir the hand or the foot without him? and can we stir the heart or affections to God without him? So that as God, though he did rest from the works of Creation, yet he doth not from them of Conservation: But hitherto, saith Christ, I and my father work: So neither in the spiritural new creature doth God cease from daily conservation, and constant help in all its actions.
Sixthly, The Dominicans arguing against the Jesuits in this point, reason thus, *Every thing that is potential, must be reduced into act, by some thing that is it self in act: Now, say they, God he is Actus primus, & purus, he is the first and pure act. The principles and habits of grace are potential, and therefore they must be determinated and actuated by God, who is always in act: This Argument hath much strength in it, but it is too metaphysical: I come to a more popular one; And
Seventhly, God doth not onely bestow principles of grace, but also excites * and quickens, as is plainly evidenced, In that two godly men, living under the same means of grace, yet one doth not profit, but groweth colder and colder; the other groweth and thriveth more and more: How comes this difference to be? but that one hath the grace of God assisting and inabling of him, the other hath not; not Page 552 that he who falls into sin may blame God; for his slothfulness, negligence and carelesness, makes God to withdraw his helping hand in that need: So that al∣though the cause of one mans fall, is his own sin: Yet the cause of the other mans standing, is Gods grace vouchsafed unto him, yea, the same godly man: as David, findes a great change in his own heart: sometimes he is able to trust in God, to overcome temptations; at other times he is cast down, and hath no strength within him; Whence is all this? but from the ebbings and flowings of exciting grace: And this is a clear experimental demonstration of this truth, At sometimes the least temptation, the least snare, is ready to make a godly man fall; at another time, though strong winds and tempests blow upon him, yet he is able to stand like Mount Sion, that cannot be removed. Now this diffe∣rence comes not from within a man, but from without, as this assisting and ex∣citing grace is ready, or afar off.
In the next place, let us consider, how blessed and happy a thing it is, to have * not onely the principles of grace, but the actings and causations of it: And
First, Hereby the soul will be kept from negligence, dulness, and all abatements or falls in our love to God: All the while grace is thus causing thee to walk, cau∣sing thee to be always doing, no dulness or stupidity will enter upon thee; all the while a man is in exercise and motion, he doth not take cold; all the while the streams run, they cannot grow muddy: Now a godly man is said To have Rivers of living water flowing from his belly; he is not a fountain sealed up, they are daily flowing, and then they cannot grow noisom; the iron that lieth still groweth rusty, and is not fit for use: Now what a comfortable condition is this to the godly, to have thy heart never lie still, but always hungring, thirst∣ing, or moving after God and good things one way or other! As the heart it self, you see, never lieth still, but is always in motion; so grace in the heart, when stirred up by God, it is always working, putting on, drawing out the soul: What makes the godly so grieved, so dejected many times? its the decay, the fall they finde within themselves, but this causing grace makes all things flourish.
Secondly, This causing grace, as it preserveth from decays in the degree of grace, so much more from gross and foul sins: Oh David and Peter wanted this * help in the midst of their temptations, and therefore they were so dangerously overcome: This is the onely Preservative and Antidote against sin; not the principles of grace, but the actings of grace: This is called by the Apostle, Grace to help in time of need, Heb. 4. 16. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Oh this is admirable, when grace comes in the very need thou wert in! thou wert even falling into such a sin, thou wert even drowning, and this comes and lifts up thy head.
Thirdly, This actuating grace will make a man in a prepared frame for every du∣ty; and to resist every kinde of temptation; And what can be more desired then * this? Ask this of God, and you beg the whole Kingdom of grace: He that is prepared to do every duty, and to resist every temptation, though he should drink any deadly thing of sin, though a Viper of lust should fasten on him, yet it would not hurt him: Thus the Scripture speaks often of being prepared, and ready for every good work: When God commands Faith, Patience, Zeal, to say, My heart is prepared or fixed, I come to do thy will, O God: The heart of it self is no ways fitted for any good action; and though the principles of grace be within, yet a man may be very indisposed to what is holy: Now this causing grace is the file to take off the rust, its the whetting of the edge, its the stirring up or blowing of the coals into a flame; and the excellncy of this grace, is no less seen in the confirming and corroborating of the heart against temptations: We are taught to pray constantly, That God would not lead us into temptations. Temptations have discovered the rottenness, guile and falshood of mens hearts: It was a temptation discovered the second kinde of ground to have no root; who knoweth his heart in temptations? Peter in a temptation, differed much from himself when without it. Now there is nothing doth so fortifie and Page 553 make the heart in flexible, as this grace, to help in time of need.
Fourthly, This actuating grace will make a man fruitful and profitable in his*place: This is the trading and merchandizing grace, this makes a man redeem the time, take the present seasons of grace, observe all opportunities, that he may serve God in his generation; so that no good thing will be wanting to that man, who hath this daily influence; whereas men lie like lumps of earth, or stand like dead and dry trees in the garden of God, if this grace doth not always water them.
Fifthly, This causing, exciting grace, puts a man in a comfortable posture; inso∣much, * that whensoever our Lord and Master shall come, he will be pronounced faithful and blessed: Thus our Saviour, Blessed is he, whom his master when he cometh, shall finde so doing, Luke 12. 43. He must be doing, he must be in his masters work: This will make a man have oyl enough; Oh therefore that the people of God would hunger and thirst more after this working, living and quickning grace: How many opportunities doest thou neglect? how many prises are put into thy hand, and thou like a fool doest neglect them? how often is thy heart sluggish, dead, and very much indisposed, if Christ should come at this or that hour? All is from want of this grace, which puts thy heart in tune, but this would wind up thy soul, so that thou wouldst be ready for the work of the Lord.
Use of Conviction, unto the greatest part in our Congregations, that they are * such who never felt the power of this Text upon their souls: Where God re∣news, there he causeth men to walk in his statutes, he will overpower their hearts, he will subdue their contumacy, he will remove their unwillingness: But alas, wo, and again wo for thee! thou findest the Devil, that unclean Spi∣rit ruling in thy heart, he causeth thee to walk in all the lusts of sin, be moves thee to serve this corruption, and thou doest it; that sin, and thou doest not refuse it; what is more plain and evident, then that yet this mercy is not vouchsafed to thee? and yet how confident, how secure art thou? what, art thou not afraid of Gods word? doest thou not believe? doest thou think to mock God, and to finde his word false? Oh miserable and wretched men! the more to be pitied, because they pity not themselves, neither consider how near they are to eternal wo.
Use 2. Of Admonition to the children of God: you have the principles of * grace, know, that is not enough, but the sweetness and comfort of these, lieth in the exercise of them. In all good things of this life, thou doest judge the use and improvement of them all in all; why not then in the principles of grace? Be always ready to say, My heart is prepared, O Lord, I can do and suffer thy will; especially take heed of all those sins that may drive or chase a∣way this exciting grace; take heed thou doest not provoke God to withdraw this assistance and strength from thee, for that is easily done; and know, nothing doth sooner bereave you of this assisting grace, then neglect of the Ordinances, or the careless and sluggish performance of them; for in and by the use of these, God doth discover his power: He bids us wait for this strength, and expect it in these.