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walk with God; and it is only by his own wilful refusal to use that strength, that he is without it. Conversion is, indeed, man's first step in the spiritual life, but he never could have taken this step, nor could he ever rightly have been commanded to take it, unless God had first taken a step towards him. The Word who was with God, and was God, and in whom there is life, hath come into man's nature-into the whole mass of the nature,—as a fountain of life, to quicken every man, and as a living cord, to draw man up to God. And shall we now speak and reason about man, as if he were yet in the condition into which Adam's fall brought him, before the Word was given ? Though now in Him, “ God is the Saviour of all men, specially of those who believe." And in Him also, “ The grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared.” And “ where sin abounded, there hath grace much more abounded.” Most assuredly there is in Jesus Christ a general salvation for the whole race, inasmuch as in Him, they are lifted again into that state of probation from which in Adam they had fallen, and are provided with spiritual strength to go through their probation, whether they use that strength or not: but none becomes personally a partaker of salvation, except by personally turning to God. And, in like manner, there is in Jesus Christ, a general election for the whole race-inasmuch as, in Him, they are lifted out of that state of reprobation into which, in Adam, they had fallen; but no one becomes personally elect, except by his personally receiving Christ into his heart.
Before proceeding farther, I think it right to take notice of two objections to the views which have now been explained, because I am aware, that if they remain unanswered in the mind of the reader, they will prevent him from forming an unbiassed judgment on the whole subject.
The first of these objections, refers to the principle of retributive judgment, according to which, it has been maintained, God deals out His spiritual communications to men. It may
be said, that if He indeed limits His more abundant supply to those who have used aright the gift already bestowed, then the doctrine of free grace is really practically denied, and Christian hope is founded on human merit. But surely it will not be contended by any one, that men are, by free
grace, lifted out from a state of probation. We are, undoubtedly, under probation, whilst we are in this world; probation and free grace must then be consistent with each other. And how are they consistent? Just in this, that having Jesus Christ given to us by the free grace of God, we are under probation, whether we will receive Him or not, whether we will walk in Him or not. “ We beseech you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” 2 Cor. vi. 1. The receiving it, or the refusing it, then, lies with man personally; and, as there must be a difference between those who receive it and those who refuse it, or receive it in vain, it cannot be contrary to the true doctrince of free grace to mark this difference, and to teach that those who do receive it shall receive yet more abundantly, and that those who receive it not shall have that taken from them which had been at first given to them. And all objections to this system of retribution, must arise from mistaken views of the nature of free grace, and of man's condition here.
There is surely a very false and diseased feeling on this subject. A man whose life is saved by the kindness of another, never supposes that his own mere consent to be
saved, detracts from the kindness of the other, or takes its place as the meritorious cause of his being saved. If, for instance, he has fallen from a ship into the sea, and is pulled out by a rope thrown to him by another, he does not think of challenging much merit to himself for taking hold of the rope,
, and having thus submitted to be pulled out. His consent to be saved, could not have saved him, unless his deliverer had been exerting himself in his behalf. Now, man's probation is, whether he will take hold of the rope or not. The cord of love let down to us, and the power of taking hold of it, are the free grace given to every man, in Jesus Christ. When we exercise faith, which is the
power of taking hold of the cord, we walk like Peter on the top of the water; but the flesh is continually tempting us to neglect this cord, and is continually putting another cord into our hand, which is fixed in the bottom of the sea, whither it would draw us; and, when we yield to this temptation, we sink.
He then who is saved, is saved by grace, but by a grace which every man is free to use—and he who is lost, is lost by refusing grace, which he might have used: “ For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and
that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. ii. 8. Mark here, that it is the gift of God—that is, God has given it ;-—and therefore, let not him that uses it, boast as if it were his own; and let not him who uses it not, excuse himself, by saying that he had it not in his power, for— God has given it.
Grace must be received as grace—that is, as a supply for which we have no claim; and it must be received as coming to us from God personally. There is a temptation to regard the power communicated in the word sown in the heart, as if it were a steady, uniform supply, which, though emanating from God, is now made over by Him to us, in such a way that we may use it at our own leisure and convenience, as we use the law of gravitation, or other natural powers. But if we proceed on such a supposition, we shall soon find our mistake, in the failing of our supply. For with God is the fountain of life, and with Him only, and spiritual life in us can only be sustained, by our directly and consciously receiving its supply from the Fountain. The natural life flows on without any need of recognizing its source-but every movement of the spiritual life depends on a personal recognition of God.