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improvement? Of whatever kind this assistance is, whether it be some afflictive dispensation of Providence, or some other outward dispensation or inward influence, the difficulty is the How becomes God obliged to give this assistance; and what is the conditon of the promise?
The answer must be, that this new virtue is without any new assistance given, and is from God no otherwise than as the former neglected assistance or grace subserves it. But the question is, whence comes the virtue of not neglecting, but improving that former assistance? Is it proper to say that a man is assisted to improve assistance by the assistance improved? Suppose a number of men were in the water in danger of drowning, and a friend on shore throws out a cord amongst them, but all of them for a while neglect it; at length one of them takes hold of it, and makes improvement of it; and any should inquire, how that man came by the prudence and virtue of improving the cord, when others did not, and he before had neglected it; would it be a proper answer to say, that he that threw out the rope, assisted him wisely to improve the rope, by throwing out the rope to him? This would be an absurd answer. The question is not, how he came by his opportunity, but how he came by the disposition of improvement. His friend on shore gave him the opportunity, and this is all. The man's virtue in improving it was not at all from him. Would it not be exceedingly impertinent, in such a case, to set forth from time to time, how this man's discretion, and virtue and prudence, was the gift of his friend on the shore, his mere gift, the fruit of his purpose and mere good pleasure, and of his power; and yet that it was of his own will? Man's virtue, according to Arminian principles, must consist wholly and entirely in improving assistance: For in that only consists the exercise of their freewill in the affair, and not in their having the assistance, although their virtue must be by their principles entirely from themselves, and God has no hand in it. From the latter part of the above discourse, it appears that, according to Arminian principles, men's virtue is altogether of themselves, and God has no hand at all in it.
54. When I say that the acts and influences of the Spirit determine the effects, it is not meant that man has nothing to do to determine in the affair. The soul of man undoubtedly in every instance, does voluntarily determine with respect to his own consequent actions. But this voluntary determination of the soul of man, is the effect determined. This determining act of the soul is not denied, but supposed, as it is the effect we are speaking of, that the influence of God's Spirit determines. The scripture speaks of this as the reason that good men have virtue, that God hath given it to them; and the rea
son why bad men have it not, that God hath not given it to them. These two together clearly prove that God is the determining or disposing cause of virtue or goodness in men.
§ 55. In many particulars their scheme contradicts common sense. It is contrary to common sense, that a being should continually meet with millions of millions of real proper disappointments and crosses to his proper desires, and not continually lead a distressed and unhappy life. It is contrary to common sense, that God should know that an event will certainly come to pass, whose non-existence he at the same time knows is not impossible. It is contrary to common sense that a thing should be the cause of itself; and that a thing not necessary in its own nature should come to pass without any cause That the more indifferent a man is in any moral action, the more virtuous he is, &c.
§ 56. They say, their scheme gives almost all the glory to God. That matter, I suppose, may easily be determined, and it may be made to appear beyond all contest, how much they do ascribe to the man, and how much they do not. By them, salvation is so far from God, he gives opportunity to obtain salvation; it is God that gives the offer and makes the promise: but the obtaining the thing promised is of men. The being of the promise is of God; but their interest in it is wholly of themselves, of their own freewill. And furthermore, it is to be observed, that even God's making the offer, and giving the opportunity to obtain salvation, at least that which consists in salvation from eternal misery, is not of God, so as to be owing to any proper grace or goodness of his. For they suppose he was obliged to make the offer, and it would have been a reproach to his justice, if he had not given an opportunity to obtain salvation. For they hold it is unjust for God to make men miserable for Adam's sin; and that it is unjust to punish them for a sin that they cannot avoid; and that, therefore, it is unjust for God not to preserve or save all men that do what they can, or use their sincere endeavours to do their duty; and therefore, it certainly follows, that it is unjust in God not to give all opportunity to be saved or preserved from misery: and consequently it is no fruit at all of any grace or kindness in him to give such opportunity, or to make the offer of it. So that the fruit of God's kindness in man's salvation, is the positive happiness that belongs to salvation. For it is evident that a man's making himself to differ with regard to any great spiritual benefit, and his not receiving it from another but from himself, is ground of a man's boasting and glorying in himself, with respect to that benefit. "Who maketh thee to differ? why boastest thou, as though thou hadst not received it ?"
§ 57. It is evident, that it is God's design to exclude man's boasting in the affair of his salvation. Now let us consider
what does give ground for boasting in the apostle's account, and what it is that in his account excludes boasting, or cuts off occasion for it. It is evident by what the apostle says, 1 Cor. i. latter end, that the entireness and universality of our dependence on God, is that which cuts off occasion of boasting; as, our receiving our wisdom, our holiness, and redemption through Christ, and not through ourselves; that Christ is made to us wisdom, justification, holiness and redemption; and not only so, but that it is of God that we have any part in Christ; of him are ye in Christ Jesus: nay, further, that it is from God we receive those benefits of wisdom, holiness, &c. through the Saviour. The import of all these things, if we may trust to Scripture representations, is, that God has contrived to exclude our glorying; that we should be wholly and every way dependent on God, for the moral and natural good that belongs to salvation; and that we have all from the hand of God, by his power and grace. And certainly this is wholly inconsistent with the idea that our holiness is wholly from ourselves; and, that we are interested in the benefits of Christ rather than others, is wholly of our own decision. And that such an universal dependence is what takes away occasion of taking glory to ourselves, and is a proper ground of an ascription of all the glory of the things belonging to man's salvation to God, is manifest from Rom. xi. 35, 36. "Or who hath first given unto him, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and to him, and through him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen."
§ 58. Again, in the apostle's account, a benefit being of our works, gives occasion for boasting, and therefore God has contrived that our salvation shall not be of our works, but of mere grace; Rom. iii. 27. Eph. ii. 9. And that neither the salvation, nor the condition of it, shall be of our works, but that, with regard to all, we are God's workmanship, his creation, antecedently to our works; and his grace and power in producing this workmanship, and his determination or purpose with regard to them, are all prior to our works, and the cause of them. See also Rom. xi. 4-6. And it is evident that man's having virtue from himself, and not receiving it from another, and making himself to differ with regard to great spiritual benefits, does give ground for boasting, by the words of the apostle in Rom. iii. 27. And this is allowed by all as to spiritual gifts. And if so in them, more so in greater things; more so in that which in itself is a thousand times more excellent, and of ten thousand times greater importance and benefit.
By the Arminian scheme, that which is the most excellent thing, viz. virtue and holiness, which the apostle sets forth as being infinitely the most honourable, and will bring the sub
jects of it to the greatest and highest honour, that which is the highest dignity of man's nature of all things that belong to man's salvation; in comparison of which, all things belonging to that salvation are nothing; that which does more than any thing else constitute the difference between them and others, as more excellent, more worthy, more honourable and happy; this is from themselves! With regard to this, they have not received it of another. With regard to this great thing, they, and they only, make themselves to differ from others; and this difference proceeds not at all from the power or grace of God.
§ 59. Virtue is not only the most honourable attainment, but it is that which men, on the supposition of their being possessed of it, are more apt to glory in, than in any thing else whatsoever. For what are men so apt to glory in as their own supposed excellency, as in their supposed virtue? And what sort of glorying is that, which, it is evident in fact, the Scriptures do chiefly guard against? It is glorying in their own righteousness, their own holiness, their own good works. It is manifest, that in the apostle's account, it is a proper consideration to prevent our boasting, that our distinction from others is not of ourselves, not only in being distinguished by better gifts and better principles, but in our being made partakers of the great privileges of Christians, such as being ingrafted into Christ, and partaking of the fatness of that olive tree. Rom. xi. 17, 18. "And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in amongst them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches."
Here it is manifest, that the distinction between some and others, is the thing insisted on; and the apostle, verse 22, calls upon them to consider this great distinction, and to ascribe it only to the distinguishing goodness of God. "Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness." And its being owing not to them, but to God and his distinguishing goodness, is the thing the apostle urges as a reason why they should not boast, but magnify God's grace or distinguishing goodness. And if it be a good reason, and the scheme of our salvation be every way so contrived (as the apostle elsewhere signifies) that all occasion of boasting should be precluded, and all reasons given to ascribe all to God's grace; then it is doubtless so ordered, that the greatest privileges, excellency, honour and happiness of Christians, should be that wherein they do not distinguish themselves, but the difference is owing to God's distinguishing goodness.-Yet, Stebbing strongly asserts, God is not the author of that difference that is between some and others, that some are good, and others bad! The Arminians VOL.VII. 60
differ among themselves. Dr. Whitby supposes that what God does, is only proposing moral motives; but that in attending, adverting, and considering, we exercise our liberty. But Stebbing supposes, that the attention and consideration is itself owing to the Spirit of God; (page 217.) and then changes the question (pages 223, 224.) he was considering, who has the chief glory of our conversion, or of our virtue? and endeavours to prove the affirmative of another question, viz. whether God is the author of that pardon and salvation, of which conversion and virtue are the condition? He supposes, that one thing wherein the assistance of the Spirit consists, is the giving of a meek, teachable, disinterested temper of mind, to prepare men for faith in Christ; (pages 217, 259.) and that herein consists the drawing of the Father, John vi. 44. viz. in giving such a temper of mind-this he calls the preventing grace of God, that goes before conversion. He often speaks of a part that we do, and a part that God does. And he speaks of this as that part which God does. Therefore this, in distinction from the part which we do, (for so he speaks of it,) is wholly done by God. And consequently, here is virtue wholly from God, and not at all from the exercise of our own freewill: which is inconsistent with his own, and all other Arminian principles.
$60. The Arminian scheme naturally, and by necessary consequence, leads men to take all the glory of all spiritual good (which is immensely the chief, most important and excellent thing in the whole creation) to ourselves; as much as if we, with regard to those effects, were the supreme, the self-existent and independent, and absolutely sovereign disposers. We leave the glory of only the meaner part of creation to God, and take to ourselves all the glory of that which is properly the life, beauty, and glory of the creation, and without which it is all worse than nothing. So that there is nothing left for the great First and Last; no glory for either the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost in the affair. This is not carrying things too far, but is a consequence truly and certainly to be ascribed to their scheme of things. He may be said to be the giver of money that offers it to us, without being the proper determiner of our acceptance. But it is in the acceptance of offers, and the proper improvement of opportunities, wherein consists virtue. He may be said to be the giver of money or goods, that does not determine the wise choice; but if the wise and good choice itself be said to be the thing given, it supposes that the giver determines the existence of such a wise choice. But now, this is the thing of which God is represented as the giver, when he is spoken of as the giver of virtue, holiness, &c.; for virtue and holiness (as all our opponents in these controversies allow and maintain) is the thing wherein a wise and good choice consists.