A Second LETTER, BEING A View of two Emergent Difficultyes.
THe very freindly reception which my larger trouble found from you, is my full encourage∣ment to proceed to the conclusion of my impor∣tunity and your exercise, which cannot now be far off, if I may judge by your Letter.
§. 2. Two difficultyes, you say, you have sprung * by farther entring into the consideration of this matter, the first occasioned by my distinction betwixt the worke of Grace and of Providence, the second arising from the Concessions of Scripture of Gods withdrawing his grace from those that reject it.
§. 3. To those I shall make these returnes, which I doubt not will prove satisfactory. The first seemeth to favour an 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or suspence, and to avert all defining in these points: For, say you, since the efficacy of Divine grace followeth the*acts of his Providence, so as it may seem in a manner to depend chiefly thereupon, and the wayes of his pro∣vidence are abyssus multa, deep and unfathomable, it seemeth to you to conclude strongly that the man∣ner how God effectually worketh by his grace to the conversion of a sinner is also to our understandings incomprehensible.] To this you cannot but foresee * my reply, that the proposall of that distinction was Page 78 by me designed as a prejudice to Bishop Overal's way, which you had then mentioned as your con∣jecture. And if it shall have indeed that influence upon you or any man, as you speake of, to encrease the difficulty, and to conclude strongly, that the manner of Gods working, &c. is incomprehensible; yet you know this cannot in justice be applyed far∣ther then to that particular Scheme, against which * peculiarly this disadvantage was proposed, and then the onely regular conclusion is, that this which you proposed but as a conjecture, should now grow lower in your esteem, and scarce be thought wor∣thy to be own'd as such.
§. 4. And the more force there is in this one consideration, thus to incline you, the lesse shall * I despair, that two more considerations, which then encompassed this, and the superadded tender of another way, that the Scripture-grounds, especially Christ's parables in the Gospel, suggested, will in some degree prevaile with you, to deposite this conjecture, which (beside other prejudices against it,) hath no grounds of Scripture to pretend to, in exchange for that other, that hath, and pretends no further, then it shall approve it selfe to be thus founded.
§. 5. This is all that I may say to an objection which I was to cherish and strengthen, (rather then answer.) But I shall not think that needfull, onely I leave it to have that force with you, which you shall see fit to give it, remembring onely that it ought not to have force with him, that ac∣cepts not that Scheme, that alone is concerned in it.
§. 6. Which Scheme having been proposed by you with perfect warinesse, and profession of Page 79 allowing it to be no more then a conjecture, one such difficulty as this, is, I acknowledge, sufficient to remove you from it, and in that case it will not be unseasonable again to tender that which you may finde better qualified for your acceptance, having without question an advantage, from the *parable of the sower, to recommend it. I shall en∣deavour to make this cleare to you. Your sup∣posed intricacy, or unfathomable question, is, what it is that makes sufficient grace to be effectuall to * any? I say the parable of the sower was intended by Christ on purpose to answer that question, which it hath competently performed, for here wee see, the seed being the same, (whether that * were the word, or grace, it matters not, as long as 'tis remembred that the word is the vehicle of grace, and the instrument of conveighing it to the heart,) all the difference taken notice of, is onely in the soyle, viz: some troden down, and crusted; * some stony; some thorny; some good, and mellow. Proportionably to this four-fold difference of the ground, the severall fates of the seed are described, and your one question divided into four, and an∣swer exactly accommodated to each.
§. 7. The first question is this, what is it that * makes sufficient grace, uneffectuall, to some men, so that though it be on Gods part freely afforded them, and as freely as to any other, yet it hath not the least effect upon them? And the answer is evident in the explanation of that parable, Mat. XIII. 19. because he is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, one that heares the word, to which that grace is an∣nexed, but either understands it not, or minds it not; and so the Divil comes and catcheth away that which was sown, (and in that case there is Page 80 no great need of that Divil towards the obstructing effectuallness, let the seed ly there never so long, if it be not minded, it can signifie nothing toward an harvest.)
§. 8. The second question is, what is it that makes * sufficient Grace, after it is received, and that with joy, (great forwardness and alacrity at the first) to become so uneffectuall to the supporting a man in time of temptation, that rather then endure any smart for piety, he falls into any the grossest sins? And the answer follows v. 21. because such a man is of a temper that yields not Grace any depth to root in, he hath some stonyness at the bottome, some pleasure, or passion, or other remains of resistance rooted in him, which he hath not divested him∣self of, and when duty begins any way to check that, he is impatient, and throws off Piety, of which he made very fair professions, and such as had, as far as his trialls formerly went, reality in them, till this last signall tryall was made of him, for which, it seems by the effect, he was not quali∣fied.
§. 9. The third question is, what is the reason * that sufficient Grace, once received and bringing forth fruits, though it come not to combat with any sharp tryalls, doth yet many times decay and perish after a while? And the answer is v. 22. that there remained in the heart of such some piece of ill temper unreformed, which in time prolified, and sent out great and wasting sins (though not so generally decryed in the world) viz. worldly sollici∣tudes, and such as the wealth of the world is apt to beget in men that have or seek it, and these being permitted to thrive in the soul, 'tis regular that Grace, which cannot consist with such (you cannotPage 81serve God and Mammon) should be overrun, and choaked, and at length destroyed by that means, which had it not been for this cause of abortion, as it was sufficient, and effectuall for a while, so it would have prosper'd to perseverance.
§. 10. And this introduceth the fourth and last * question, What then is it that renders sufficient Grace Effectuall both to Conversion and Perseve∣rance? And the Answer is v. 23. the goodness of the soile, probity of the heart, wherein that suffici∣ent Grace is received, and what that is, is best dis∣cerned by the opposition to all the former three, * 1. it is a sincerely pliable, ductile temper, that ne∣glects not to make use of any grain of Grace, 2. it hath an uniform Courage to combat with difficul∣ties, and is not enslaved to pleasures. 3. it utterly despises the world, the allurements and the terrors of it, and uses it, as if it used it not. The former part of this temper renders it effectuall to conversi∣on, the two latter to perseverance also. And con∣sidering that parable is set down by Christ to give account of the various successes of the word of the kingdome, i. e. of the Gospel among all those to whom it is made known, who with you are the ad∣aequate object of the Scripture-election, and repro∣bation, what can be farther required to the clear satisfaction of your whole difficulty?
§. 11. And then remembring that the onely re∣maining question, viz. whence is this probity? hath * been fully answered in the former papers, I appeal to no other then your self, whether this be not both a perspicuous, and authorized stating, having so weighty a passage of Gospel to found it, and therefore in all justice preferrable to your bare Conjecture, which, besides that it is pressed with Page 82 difficulties (as your self acknowledge) which to you seem unanswerable, is not provided of any pretense of a foundation, hath no authority from holy Scripture to recommend it.
§. 12. If it have any, it is most probably that * other short parable in the same Chapter, v. 44. where the kingdome of God is compared to a treasure hid in the field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, &c. There the man, which found the treasure, is not supposed to seek it (for that makes another parable v. 45.) but by the meer provi∣dence of God (which the heathen Philosophers were wont to stile chance, and commonly give this very instance of it the treasure found in the field,) happily to fall upon it, when he passeth by on some other errand; And this indeed is matter of frequent observation, Augustine is converted * by S. Ambrose's Sermon, when he came to it on no such design, Saul is called to from heaven, and con∣verted to Christianity, when he was going to Da∣mascus on the most distant design of persecuting it. And to omit the many more examples of those of whom it hath been litterally true, that they have found God, when they sought him not, asked not af∣ter him, one eminent story our books give us, of two young children brought to a city to be sold, at a time when a devout Nun had vowed to take some * young child, and bestow her whole life, and ut∣most industry to bring it up in strict piety, and ac∣cordingly came and bought one of them, and as∣soon as she had bought her, a bawd came in her presence and bought the other, by which means these two, which were so lately in the very same in∣different condition, by this act of Divine provi∣dence (to which this was to be attributed) were Page 83 strangely discriminated, the one brought up and early engaged, and so persevering to the lives end in all piety, and the other by the contrary discipline debauched, and educated to the trade of harlotry, wherein she lived and persevered. In which it is vi∣sible how signal an influence this one act of Divine Providence had on so distant eternall fates of these two, and how eminent an ingredient it was in the saving the one and damning the other.
§. 13. But from all these and innumerable the * like, (which are freely granted, and allowed to be competent to confirm your main conclusion, that the Providence of God is Abyssus multa) you will soon discern, that there comes in no least advan∣tage to that Learned Bishops Scheme, which is the matter of your Conjecture, and our onely present enquiry. The whole weight of that (as far as I, or any man questions it) being laid, not on the su∣perabundance afforded to one above the other, (which is willingly granted) but on the foreseen universall inefficaciousness of the barely sufficient*Grace, acknowledged to be given to all, till that superadded advantage administred by Gods provi∣dence in the choice of the congruous timing, come in, as the work of Gods Election, to make the discrimi∣nation.
§. 14. Now seeing in all these examples, and in * that parable, nothing like this is to be found, no evi∣dence, or intimation of Gods foreseeing, 1. that that man that found the treasure, would never have been wrought on by that measure of sufficient Grace, which that opinion allows God formerly to have afforded him, unless by that seasonable act of Providence he had thus faln on the treasure in the parable, or 2. that Augustine would never have Page 84 been converted, if he had not been surprized by S. Ambrose's Sermon, or 3. that Saul would not have been converted at another time, without, or even with that vision, and voice from heaven, or lastly that that fortunate child, that fell into the Nun's, instead of the bawd's hands, would never have been brought to heaven any other way, and could not have miscarried under this method: Through all these instances, I say, it is still appa∣rent, that nothing is gained toward the approving the Conjecture, these advantageous turns of pro∣vidence afforded one man and not another, and the signall efficacy of such, being most freely granted by those who deem the Conjecture impro∣bable.
§. 15. And indeed, if it be well considered, all that these, and a myriad of the like instances in∣fer, is no more then this, the great and admirable variety of Gods providentiall acts, not as those are all one with, but as in his hands they are instrumen∣tall and subservient to his Grace, whereby in di∣verse manners grace is advantageously assisted by providence, to one in this wise, and admirable man∣ner, to another in that; No man, who is allowed the sufficient Grace, being denyed some benefit or * other of Providence to assist Grace, and make it more then probable to become effectuall to him, if he doth not betray and frustrate the opportunities of the one, as well as the power and efficacy of the other.
§. 16. So that still acknowledging most willing∣ly, and admiring the abyss of Providence, this no * way obstructs the comprehending the manner (or perplexes the doctrine) of the cooperation of the Grace of God with the will of man, but leaves it Page 85 where the Parable of the Sower set it, that the effi∣cacy of Grace, and successfulness, whether to con∣version, or perseverance proceeds from the mellow∣ness, and preparedness of the soile, from the ad∣vantages which it meets with in the honest heart, as that again is wholly due to Gods preventing Gra∣ces, which have thus fitted the soile for the kindly seeds-time, planted pliableness, humility in the heart, where Grace may be deeply and durably rooted, but this still resistibly in both parts, as hath formerly been exprest.
§. 17. One phansie I know there is, which hath * pleased some men in this matter, that God gives sufficient Grace to those who do not make use of it, but resist it, and yet more then so, the power of using, or accepting, or not resisting it, but gives to the Elect and onely to the Elect, ipsam non resisten∣tiam, the very not resisting, and this they will have to be the signal discriminating Grace.
§. 18. Of these I shall demand 1. whether in those which have not this ipsam non-resistentiam gi∣ven them, this be an effect of God's Decree, which * hath determined the certain infallible giving it to some peculiar persons, and so the not giving it to all others? If it be not, then this is no foundation of discriminating Grace, or consequently fruit of Election and Reprobation, and so is still impertinent to the matter for which it is brought.
§. 19. But if it be the effect of Gods Decree, determining the giving it to some, and denying it to others, I then 2. demand, whether all they to whom it is not given, do therefore infallibly receive the grace of God in vain, because they have not this ipsa non-resistentia (which is more then the power of not resisting) given them?
Page 86 §. 20. If this be not affirmed, then, as before, this comes not home to discriminating Grace, nor consequently to the business of Election and Re∣probation, which it was meant to assist. But if it shall be said, that they therefore infallibly resist, or receive in vain, because this ipsa non-resistentia is not given them, then it seems this gift of ipsa non-resi∣stentia is such, as that they who have it not, want somewhat which is necessary to their effectuall re∣ceiving, or not-resisting Grace, and if this be the condition of the far greatest part of the world, then how can it with any sincerity be affirmed (as by those that make use of this expedient, it is pro∣fest) that God hath to all mankind given Christ, and in him all things, and particularly Grace suffi∣cient, and the power of not-resisting Grace, which according to this phansie, none can choose but re∣sist, who have not the ipsam non-resistentiam given them, which yet they affirm to be given but to a few, i. e. to none but the elect?
§. 21. This were (by interpretation, and in ef∣fect) for God to give to all men a power to an act, which yet the greatest part of those which have it given them, can never make use of to that act, for want of somewhat else which is not given them, which to all them which have not that somewhat else given (and those the far greatest number of men for whom Christ dyed) is not a power to that act, viz. of not-resisting; which what is it other then a direct contradiction, a power and not a po∣wer to the same act? and withall so far from being a favour to them, that it is in event infallibly and inevitably the greatest curse, that could have be∣faln them, viz. the heightening and extreamly ag∣gravating of their guilt and punishment, propor∣tionably Page 87 to their sin of resisting such sufficient grace, of standing out against Christ, which as it is the height of guilt, (and awarded the dregs of Gods wrath,) now under the Gospel, and makes their condition in the world to come, much worse, then it would have been, if Christ had never been borne, or preached to them, so it had never been thus direfully charged upon them, if they had not had the power of not resisting given them by Christ.
§. 22. This is a competent prejudice and dis∣couragement * to this phansy, of founding discrimi∣nating grace and the doctrine of unconditionate decrees in this difference betwixt the power of re∣sisting, and the ipsa non-resistentia, the latter given onely to the Elect.
§. 23. But it will farther be defeated, if we re∣flect on that place of Scripture, wherein Gods giving the ipsa non-resistentia chiefly seems to be mentioned, Phil. II. 13. under the style of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, *working in us to do, or work, which that it tends not to the support or advantage of this phansy may be evident by these three con∣siderations.
§. 24. First, by the importance of the phrase, [working in us to do, as before to will,] which (as was formerly noted, in passing,) will best be understood by other parallel phrases, as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Gods giving to serve, Luke. 1. 72. Which is evidently his giving grace, or power, or super∣natural abilities to serve, not onely furnishing him with a remote, and fundamentall power, or facul∣ty, but withall having a particular immediate in∣fluence on the effect, actuating that power, when it is actuated, and so properly causing, or making Page 88 him actually to serve, yet so as to leave him power also to neglect, and receive that power in vain, as the Scripture elsewhere saith; Thus Revel. xi. 3. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉I will give, wee render, I will give power, viz. power to the subsequent act, prophecying there, as in Luke, serving in holynesse. By which analogy it is evident, that Gods working in us to do, or work, is not interpretable to any more, then his giving supernaturall power, or sufficient grace to do, or worke, and causing him actually, though not irresistibly to work, and then here is no pre∣tense whereon to found the foresaid difference, between God's giving the power of not resisting, and the ipsa non-resistentia, these two being equiva∣lent in this Text.
§. 25. Secondly, the same appeareth by the A∣postles exhortation foregoing in this Text, to worke and worke out our own salvation with feare and trembling, for the inforcing whereof this reason is given, for it is God that worketh, &c. Here our own working is under Apostolical exhortation and precept, wee are commanded to worke, as else∣where 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉to cooperate, and worke together with God, which could not have place, if God alone, (and not wee,) did work in us the very working, whereas interpreting it of Gods giving us the power of working, or doing, as well as of willing, and withall engaging us to make use of that power, and cooperating with us in the very act, and so causing us actually to work, yet so as to leave us a power of resisting, and frustrating, and receiving this power or grace in vain, this is a most proper and effectuall inforcement of the exhortation ad∣drest to us, to work and work out our own salvati∣on.
Page 89 §. 26. This farther and most irrefragably ap∣peares by the persons, to whom both the exhorta∣tion, and this enforcement thereof is tendred, viz: the brethren indefinitely, or beloved, verse. 12. the whole Church of Professors at Philippi to whom he writes, which being not made up wholly of the elect, sincere, and persevering Christians, but like the net, in Christ's parable, that caught both good and bad, and had no doubt some insincere persons, hypocrites, and temporaryes in it, the affirmation notwithstanding is indiscriminately of all, God worketh in them to work, which could not hold, if by this phrase were meant his giving the ipsa non-resistentia, and that as an evidence of discriminating grace, and an effect of his Election, for this is not supposable to have belonged to that whole Church, any more then it then did, or now is believed to do to all Christi∣ans.
§. 27. I have enlarged thus far, because I was not willing to omit, but rather to prevent what∣soever I could foresee might probably be objected in this businesse. And so this may suffice to have returned to your first difficulty.
§. 28. The second difficulty you thus propose, *Whereas it is said, and that, (as you conceive,) most truly and agreably to plain evidence of Scripture, that God withdraweth his grace from such as re∣jecting it when it is offered to them by the preaching of the Gospel, do thereby frustrate the Counsell of God against themselves, it seemeth hard to conceive how the grace of God should be so withdrawn from them, that so do, but that, so long as they are not deprived of the outward means, the same sufficient grace that was offered to them at the first hearingPage 90of the Gospel, is offered to them still; which if it was then sufficient on God's part, to do the work, is also still sufficient, and that in the same degree, and how then can it be said to be withdrawn? It is true that the conversion of such a person, after so long obstinacy and refusall is more difficult then before, which may arise from the greater indisposition of the person to be wrought upon, but how it can be imputed in the least, to the withdrawing of the divine grace, (to which yet undoubtedly it may and ought to be imputed,) upon the former supposall on the like sufficiency remaining, I must professe my self not able to understand.]
§. 29. To this I shall not doubt to apply a satis∣factory answer, and such as you will acknowledge to be such, by distinguishing of Gods withdrawing his grace. For, 1. it being Gods method to give*more grace to those that walk worthy of it, the humble obedient children of grace, when he on our provocations stops that current, this may be called withdrawing. God's smitings are his admoniti∣ons, (heare ye the Rod,) his admonitions, as any other dispensation of his word are vehicles of grace, and when these prevaile not, they are thus with∣drawn, i. e. not farther encreased, (why should yee be smitten any more, &c. Is. 1.) Yet is this withdrawing consistent with Gods affording suffici∣ent*grace, either by instruments of some other kinde, or even of the same kinde, the continuance of that proportion, which was formerly afforded; as he that gives a competency, and would if he saw it well used, daily make additions to it, though he see cause to with-hold those additions, yet he may continue that competency. But in propriety of speech, (the truth is,) this is rather with-holding,Page 19 then withdrawing, yet because the not giving what was promised to be given is tantamount to with∣drawing, I therefore place this in the first ranke, supposing it cleare, that this doth not onely leave sufficient grace; but is it self designed to awaken and quicken those that did not formerly make good use of it, Lest a worse thing yet befall them.
§. 30. Secondly, then withdrawing being taken * in the proper sense, for taking away from and diminishing the stock, before afforded, that may yet be but in part, not totall, and there being a * latitude in sufficient grace, some degrees of that may be taken away, and yet that which remaines be sufficient, an image of which is that degree of Church-censures, which cutting off from the participation of the Eucharist, or suspending from it, allowes the hearing of the word, and partaking in the prayers of the faithfull, And this act of Gods withdrawing, again is so far from denying sufficient grace, that it is purposely used and de∣signed, as the most probable means to make that sufficient grace effectuall, which formerly had not been so.
§. 31. There may yet be a third, and yet fur∣ther degree of withdrawing, which at the present, * and as to sufficient grace, may be said to be totall, i. e. such a withdrawing of grace at the present, that it shall truly be said such a man is not now allowed sufficient for his necessities, whether it be that his necessities are grown greater, and so the former competency will not suffice, or be it also, that some of that which he had is withdrawn, as when he that for some time had no violent temp∣tations, and was furnished with strength propor∣tionable Page 92 to what he had, upon his betraying this strength, and sinning willfully against it, is by God called out to sharper combats, having been foiled with the weaker, and perhaps some part of his former strength withdrawn from him also, when he hath most need of succours, and should certainly have had them, had he not thus provoked the with∣holding them. In this case the aime of this punish∣ment of Gods is yet most wise and mercifull, thus to convince such a man of his guilts, and impotence, (the effect of them,) and so as by turning Ne∣buchadnezzar into the field, thorowly to humble him, to excite ardency of prayers, both for pardon, and grace, which God in that case failes not to give, and so to restore such a man to a greater stability of his former state.
§. 32. And so still this is neither finall, nor simply totall, as that signifies withdrawing all grace, but onely totall for a time in the sence declared, as it signified the withdrawing what was necessary to their present state.
§. 33. And I need not shew you how far this is reconcileable with sufficient grace, any farther then thus, that such an one though severely mulcted hath yet time for repentance and grace to make some use of it, which if he failes not in, he hath assurance of more grace, and this demonstrated to be so, by his not being cut off in his sins, (Gods long-suffering leading him to repentance,) and by * the light of Gods word, and articulation of his calls dayly continued to him, which are not void of that grace, which is sufficient to work conviction, and hath the promise of more, (upon asking,) made to him that is thus qualified for it.
Page 93 §. 34. Fourthly, there is the removing the can∣dlestick,* the withdrawing all the outward ordina∣ry means of Grace, the preaching of the Word and Sacraments, which if it be done by the censures of the Church, is called the delivering up to Satan, or if it be done by Gods judgements, invasion of barbarians, &c. it is yet to those persons that are thus punished, perfectly proportionable to that of the Church-censures. And yet of those it is said expresly by the Apostle, that the end of inflicting them is for edification, that they may be disciplined,*taught not to blaspheme. This supposes continu∣ance * of Grace to them that are thus punished, and that sufficient to make use of this punishment to their amendment, nay the punishment, though it be the withdrawing of one instrument of Grace, is it self another, and therefore purposely chosen and allowed in exchange for the former, because it is looked on as the more probable to produce the Effect.
§. 35. They that see so great a benefit withdrawn from them for their unworthiness, will be thereby excited to reflect on their provocations, and be∣wail them, and contend by all regular means to regain what they have forfeited, and to repair their defects some other way, and this being the very end to which this punishment is by God de∣signed, it is not imaginable, he doth yet (till this method also be despised) withold that degree of Grace from such which is necessary for the pro∣ducing of the Effect.
§. 36. All the ordinances of God, we know (and such are the Censures) yea and all the wise dispen∣sations * of his providence, particularly his punish∣ments of this life (and therefore this, as the last, Page 94 beside excision) are instruments of Grace in the hands of his wisdome, as well as the preaching of the word is, and therefore in all reason to be re∣solved to be the vehicles of Grace also, and so nei∣ther is this any objection against Gods giving suf∣ficient Grace to those, whom he thus punishes, in case they begin to make use of it. If they do not, but continue still obstinate, 'tis just it should at length be withdrawn from them.
§, 37. But this must be understood onely of those persons to whom the light of the Gospel had formerly shined, not to their distant poste∣rity, which never have had any gleames of it, though their Ancestors had the fullest Sunshine. These are to be reckon'd with the heathen, with whom you know we undertook not to meddle, trea∣ting onely of the Scripture-Election, terminated in those to whom the Scripture is revealed.
§. 38. Fifthly there is a totall and finall with∣drawing of all grace, as well as the means of it, * which is visible in the cutting off such an one in his sins, and when this comes, our former supposall of sufficient grace, as of the preaching of the word, and God's calls, are utterly at an end, but this breeds no shew of difficulty, that man having enjoyed and mispent his time of sufficient grace, and now the store-houses are shut up.
§. 39. But there is yet possibly a sixth state of with-drawing, when before either cutting off, or * with-drawing Gods outward calls, whilst life, and the preaching of the word is continued, the ob∣durate sinner, that hath long hardened his own heart against God, thereby provokes him totally to with-draw all inward Grace from him, as much as if he were already in hell; This seems to be Pha∣raoh'sPage 95 case after the sixth judgement, and was de∣signed by God to very excellent ends, to make him an example to all those that should be inclined to harden their hearts against God; And though we know not that God thus deals with any others, yet it is sure he justly may with all whom he may justly cut off in their sins. And in this case I acknowledge the non-conversion of such a man is not onely impu∣table to the indisposition of the person to be wrought on, but also to the withdrawing of the divine grace, for then, as I said, the former supposal (of the like sufficiency remaining) ceaseth, and is out∣dated.
§. 40. What fresh difficulties can arise from this concession, I cannot divine, unless 1. it should be objected, that then, it seems, the word is not al∣wayes the vehicle of Grace, and then 2. who knows when it is so, when not? And how then is this re∣concileable with the doctrine of sufficient grace al∣wayes accompanying the word? And to these the answers are obvious, 1. that it is granted that the * Word is not the vehicle of Grace to the Divils who believe and tremble, to the damned who have re∣ceived their sentence, nay nor to those that are thus arrived to the highest degree of obduration in this life, and have, as Pharaoh, this exterminating sentence passed upon them. It is sufficient if it be so to them that are in a capacity to make use of it, and have not utterly hardened themselves against it, the Scripture-expression being, that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that be∣lieves*it, and this is enough to establish our pre∣tensions, the doctrine of sufficient grace. There is a competent time allowed every man, and 'tis cer∣tain, death is the conclusion of it, 'tis possible some space before death.
Page 96 §. 41. As for the second, if it were on the pre∣mised grounds granted, that sometimes it cannot be known whether or no the preaching of the Word do then bring this Grace with it, yet the one re∣gular consequence would be that we should all be the more carefull to make use of Grace, when it is afforded: But when to this is added, that this bar∣ren season is alwayes the reward of obstinate obdu∣ration (and of nothing less then that) As long as * we have any softness left, that is our assurance that this sad time is not yet come upon us. They that go on in their obdurate course, have reason to ex∣pect this fatal period every hour, but they that have remorse, and any degree of sincere relenting, may know by this, that this state of spiritual death hath not yet seized them, and that is sufficient to guard this doctrine from all noxious consequences, ha∣ving provided that none shall hereby think his state desperate, that is willing to reform it.
§. 42. But then it is farther to be remembred, that there appears not in the word of God, any o∣ther example of this totall spirituall dereliction fi∣nally * inflicted, before death, but onely that of Pharaoh, after the time that God is said to have hardened his heart; and the reason of this is set down, God keeps him alive, after the time due to his excision, that he might shew in him his power. And such singular examples ought no farther to be * taken into consideration by us at this distance from them, then to warn us, that we keep as far as it is possible from the like provocations, And then there remains not, that I discern, any farther appearance of difficulty in this matter.
§. 43. As for any others that shall be apt to oc∣cur, when men set themselves to consider of these Page 97 points, not divining what they are, I may not pre∣tend to speak to them, any farther then thus, that in all probability they may be measured by these, which you have chosen to mention, and by nearer approach to them be likewise found not to be so deep, as at the distance they are conceited to be. This then concludes your trouble; It re∣mains that according to my promise I now onely annex the Letters of Praescience, and hasten to sub∣scribe my self
Your most affectionate brother and servant H. HAMMOND.