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none that doth good, no not one of them, nor are they able ; they are not subject to the law of God, nor can they be. When the Ethiopian changes his skin, and the leopard his spots, then may they also do good, who are accustomed to do evil. Men may expect as soon to gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles, as good fruit to grow upon, or good works to be performed by, unregenerate men: no, they must be created in Christ Jesus, have the Spirit of Christ put into them, and his grace implanted in them; they must be believers in him, before they are capable of doing that which is spiritually good. And even believers themselves are not able to think a good thought or perform a good work of themselves; it is God who works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Sometimes when they have a will to that which is good, yet how to perform they know not; they can do nothing without Christ, though all things through him, who strengthens them; much less then have unregenerate persons either a power or a will to that which is spiritually good. Nor,
3. Is there any foundation for such a proposition in these words, which are hypothetically expressed, and therefore nothing absolutely to be concluded from them; that is to say, we are not to argue from God's saying to Cain, If thou dost well, therefore Cain had a power to do well, or to do that which is spiritually good, well; much less should we infer from hence, as one does, that "God could not have proposed the doing of good as a condition, if he had not given Cain sufficient strength whereby he was capable to do good *". Since God could not only have proposed the doing of good, but have required it according to his law, without being under obligation to give sufficient strength to obey; for though man by his sin has lost his power to obey the will of God in a right manner, yet God has not lost his authority to command; which he may use without obliging himself to find man sufficient strength to act in obedience to it. Besides,
4. These words regard doing well, not in a moral, but in a ceremonial sense. Cain and Abel were very early taught the necessity, manner, and use of sacrifices; and in process of time they brought their offerings to the Lord, each according to his different calling and employment : the one brought of the fruit of the ground, the other of the firstlings of his flock. Now to Abel and his offering the Lord had respect, that is, he accepted him and his offering; but to Cain and his offering he had not respect; which made Cain very wroth, and his countenance fell ; upon which the Lord expostulates with him after this manner, Why art thou wroth ? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou dost well, <av opws mporevéykNS, If thou hadst offered rightly, as the Septuagint render the words ; which though it is not a proper literal translation of them, yet agreeable enough to their sense, shouldst thou not be accepted? Cain failed either in the matter or manner of his sacrifice; probably in the latter ; since the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews observes, that by faith, Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Caint. Cain offered his sacrifice without faith, without any view to the sacrifice of Christ : he performed this his • Barclay's Apology, p. 151.
+ Heb. xi. 4.
sacrifice hypocritically, in show and appearance only; he acted from no right principle, nor to any right end ; and therefore his works, whatever show of righteousness they might have, are, by the apostle John*, rightly called evil; as are also all the works of wicked and unregenerate men. I proceed,
II. To consider whether man's acceptance with God is on the account of his good works.
1. There is a difference between the acceptance of men's works, and of their persons for them : there are many actions done by men, which are acceptable and well-pleasing to God, when they themselves are not accepted by him, on account of them. Besides, no man's works are accepted byhim whose person is not previously accepted: God first had respect to the person of Abel, and then to his offering ; ' which shows that his person was not accepted for the sake of his offering.
The best works of the saints are imperfect, and attended with sin, and are only acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, in whom, and in whom only, who is the beloved, their persons are accepted and wellpleasing to God. No man can be justified or saved by his works, and therefore no man can be accepted with God on that account ; which is the current doctrine of the sacred writings: this will help us to understand the true sense of such passages, as Acts x. 35; Rom. xix. 18; 2 Cor. v. 9; compared with Eph. i. 6; 1 Pet. ii. 5.
2. Nor do these words suppose that man's acceptance with God stands upon the foot of works. The Hebrew word 2012, for there is but one word in the original text, which our translators render, shalt thou not be accepted ? signifies either excellency, as in Psal. Ixii. 4, and may design the dignity of primogeniture, or honour of birth-right, as it does in Gen. xlix. 3, and so be rendered, shalt thou not have the excellency? that is, shall not the right of primogeniture continue with thee? shall not the honour and privilege of being the first-born abide with thee? thou needest not be afraid that this shall be taken from thee, and given to thy younger brother, who is willing to be subject to thee, and ready to serve thee; which well agrees with the latter part of the text, and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him: or the word signifies an elevation, or lifting up, and is to be understood as Aben Ezrat observes of Duw, a lifting up of the countenance, which was fallen, ver. 5, 6, and then the sense is, If thou hadst done well, when thou broughtest thine offering, thou mightest have lift up thy face without spot, and doubtless thou wouldst have done so; but inasmuch as thou hast sinned and done evil, and which is to be seen in thy fallen countenance, sin lies at the door of thy conscience; which, when once opened, it will enter in, and make dreadful work ; as it did a little after ; which made him say, My punishment is greater than I can bear. But admitting that the word signifies acceptance, and be rendered, shall there not be an acceptance ? it is to be understood, not of an acceptance of his person, but of his sacrifices and services.
III. It remains to be considered, whether Cain had a day of grace, in which it was possible for him to be accepted with God. • 1 John iii. 12.
+ In loe.
# So says Barclay in lois Apology, p. 151.
1. There is no acceptance of any man's person, but as he is considered in Christ the Mediator. Now as there is no reason to believe that ever Cain, who was of the wicked one, the devil, was ever in Christ, or ever considered in him; so there is no reason to conclude, that he either was, or that it was possible for him to be, accepted with God.
2. The text does not speak of his doing well in a moral or spiritual, but in a ceremonial way ; and not at all of the acceptance of his person, on the foot of so doing ; but at most, only of the acceptance of his sacrifice and ceremonious services, supposing them rightly performed.
3. These words are not expressive of a day of visitation in a way of grace and mercy to him ; but are to be considered as an expostulation with him for his wrath, fury, and fallen countenance, and an upbraiding of him with his evil doing, in order to awaken his conscience, and bring him to a full sense of his sin ; which was so far from proving a day of grace to him, that it quickly issued in the utmost distress of mind, torture of conscience, and black despair.
And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he
also is flesh; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.—GEN. vi. 3.
It will be necessary, in order to understand the sense of this text, to inquire,
I. Who is meant by the Spirit of God; and whether the Holy Ghost, the third person in the trinity, is designed or not.
1. Some of the Jewish writers * think, that the soul of man is intended ; which is called not only the spirit of man, but also the Spirit of God; as in those words of Job, All the while my breath is in me, and the Spirit of God is in my nostrils t. Some of them ț derive the word 177, translated strive, from 172, which signifies the scabbard of a sword, and say, what the scabbard is to the sword, that the body is to the soul ; and give this as the sense of the words; “My Spirit, or the soul which I have put into man, shall not always abide in him as a sword in its scabbard ; I will unsheath it, I will draw it out; he shall not live always, seeing he is flesh, corrupt, given up to carnal lusts ; yet his days, or term of life, which I will now shorten, shall be one hundred and twenty years." Another of them delivers the sense of the words to this purpose ; "My Spirit, which I have breathed into man, shall not be any more in contention with the body; for it does not delight in nor receive profit from the desires of the body; for the body is drawn after beastly desires, and that because it is flesh, and its desires are plunged and fixed in the propagation of * R. Levi Ben Gersom, R. Aben Ezra, &c., in loc.
t Job xxii. 3. So some in R. Aben Ezra, in loc R. Hona in Bereshit Rabba, fol. 22, 3. § R. Joseph Kimchi in R. David Kimchi, lib. Shorash, rad. 177
the flesh : however, I will prolong their days one hundred and twenty years; and if they return by repentance, very well; but if not, I will destroy them from the world.” The Targum paraphrases the words thus, " This wicked generation shall not be established before me for ever.”
2. Others, as Sol. Jarchi, understand it of God himself, thus saying, within himself ; “My Spirit, which is within me, shall not always be, as it were, in a tumult, or contention about man, whether I shall spare him, or destroy him, as it has been a long time, but it shall be no longer so; I will let man know, that I am not fluctuating between mercy and judgment, but am at a point, being determined to punish him, since he is wholly given up to carnal pleasures, when I have spared him an hundred and twenty years more.
This sense of the words much obtains among learned men *. And if either of these senses be received, the reasonings of the Arminians from these words, in favour of any branch of their scheme, fall to the ground; but I am willing to allow,
3. That by the Spirit of God, we are to understand the Holy Ghost; so Jonathan Ben Uzziel, in his Targum, expressly calls him; and I am the rather induced to believe this to be the meaning of the phrase ; since the apostle Peter, when he speaks of Christ being put to death in the flesh, and quickened by the Spirit
, which is to be understood of the Holy Spirit, adds, by which, that is, by which Spirit, also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah t: which words refer to those in Genesis, and are the best key unto them, and comment on them. I proceed to consider,
II. Whether the Holy Spirit was in the men of the old world, since, as it is observed t, the words may be rendered, My Spirit shall not always strive in man; and whether it may be concluded from hence, that the Spirit of God is in every man, from whom he may wholly remove through man's misconduct.
1. The Spirit of God is every where, in every creature, and so in every man, as he is the omnipresent God : hence says the Psalmist, Whither shall I fly from thy Spiritg ? He may also be in some persons by his gifts natural or divine, and that either in an ordinary or in an extraordinary way, or by some operations of his on the mind; which are not of a saving nature, nor designed to a saving purpose ; and in one or other of these senses, the manifestation of the Spirit is given to erery man to profit withal || ; and the Spirit may be said to be both in the men of the old world, and of this. But,
2. That he is in every man in a way of special grace, and to saving purposes, provided they behave well, must be denied ; for every unconverted man is destitute of the Spirit: were the Spirit, in this sense, in every man, the indwelling of the Spirit would be no evidence of regeneration; the difference between a regenerate and an unregenerate man lying in this, the one has, the other has not the Spirit of God. Hence,
* Vid. Fuller. Miscell. Sacra, 1 5, c. 5; and Vatablus, and Capellus, in loc. + 1 Peter iii. 18-20. Barclay's Apology, p. 154. § Ps. cxxxix, 7. il I Cor, xii. 7,
3. It is easy to judge in what sense the Spirit of God does, and does not depart where he once is. Where he is only by his gifts or external operations, he may wholly remove, he may take away those gifts, or cease from those works ; and men, notwithstanding these, may be everlastingly lost; but where he is by his special grace, he never totally departs, though he may withdraw his gracious presence for a time; his people may not be indulged with his joys and comforts, and in their apprehension he may seem to be taken away from them, yet he always abides in them; otherwise Christ's prayers for his petual continuance with his people would not be answered ; nor would the Spirit's indwelling be a security of the saints' perseverance, nor any certain pledge of their future glory. To add no more, the words of the text speak not of the Spirit's being in the men of the old world, but of his striving with them. Wherefore the next inquiry
III. Is, what is meant by the strivings of the Spirit? and whether through man's neglect of him, or opposition to him, he may strive to no purpose.
1. The Hebrew word 717, here used, signifies to judge, to execute judgment, or punish in a righteous way; and so some * read the words, My Spirit shall not judge these men for ever ; I will not reserve them to everlasting torments ; I will punish them here in this world; for they are flesh, frail sinful creatures ; I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth : for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made t ; or rather the sense is according to this version, My Spirit shall not exercise judgment on them for everí, that is, immediately, directly, at this very instant : though they are so corrupt, I will give them the space of one hundred and twenty years to repent in ; and after that, if they repent not, I will deliver them up to destruction ; which accordingly was the event of things.
2. The word hero translated strive, signifies also to litigate a point, or reason in a cause; before it is ripe for judgment, or the execution of it. Now the Spirit of God had been litigating and reasoning with these men in the court and at the bar of their own consciences, about their sins, by one providence or another, and by one minister or another ; particularly by Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and that to no purpose : hence he determines to go on no longer in this way, but to proceed to pass and execute the sentence of condemnation on them, since they were so very corrupt, being nothing else but flesh. However, to show his clemency and forbearance, he grants them a reprieve for one hundred and twenty years ; which is that long-suffering of God the apostle speaks of, that waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing §. Hence it appears, that the strivings of the Spirit of God with these men, were only by the external ministry of the word, and in a way of moral suasion, which came to nothing. This may lead us to observe the insufficiency of moral suasion and the external ministry of the word, without the powerful and efficacious grace of the Spirit.
* So Symmachus, Ilieron. Trad. Heh. tom. jjj. p. 66; R. Juda Bar Elbai in Bereshit Rabba, fol. 22, 3.
# Vid. Fuller. Miscell. Sacr. I. 5. c. 5. $ I Peter iii, 20,
of Isa. lvii, 16.