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could have prevented his purpose from being defeated, but would not, this argues a defect of wisdom; if his own glory was designed, by purposing to do that which the creature renders in effectual, then he misses of that end, which cannot but be the most valuable, and consequently most desirable : therefore, for God to suffer a purpose of this nature, to be defeated, supposing he could prevent it, is to suffer himself to be a loser of that glory which is due to his name. Moreover, this is directly contrary to what the apostle says, Who hath resisted his will, Rom. ix. 19. or who hath rendered the grace, which he designed should take effect, ineffectual, or, which is the same thing, who can do it? The ground on which many have asserted, that the
of God may be resisted, is taken from some scriptures, that speak of man's being in open hostility against him. Thus we read of a bold daring sinner, as stretching out his hand against God, and strengthening himself against the Almighty, running upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers, Job xv. 25, 26. And Stephen reproves the Jews as having always resisted the Holy Ghost, both they and their fathers, Acts vii. 51, 52. and the Pharisees are said to have rejected, Luke vii. 30. or, as the word * might have been rendered, disannulled the counsel of God against themselves. And elsewhere, the prophet speaks of God's stretching cut his hand all the day unto a disobedient and gainsaying people, Rom. X. 21. These, and such like scriptures give occasion to some to suppose, that the power and grace, as well as the purpose of God, may be resisted.
But that we may understand the sense of these scriptures, and, at the same time not relinquish the doctrine we are maintaining, and thereby infer the consequence above-mentioned ; we must distinguish between our opposition to God's revealed will, contained in his word, which is the rule of duty to us; and resisting his secret will, which determines the event. Or, as it may be otherwise expressed, it is one thing to set ourselves against the objective grace of God, that is, the gospel, and another thing to defeat his subjective gráce, that when he is about to work effectually in us, we should put a stop to his proceedings. The former no one denies; the latter we can, by no mcans, allow of. Persons may express a great deal of reluctancy and perverseness at that time, when
God is about to subdue their stubborn and obstinate wills; but the power of God will break through all this opposition; and the will of man shall not be able to make his work void, or without effect. The Jews, as above-mentioned, might resist the Holy Ghost, that is, oppose the doctrines contained in scripture, which were given by the Spirit's inspiration; and they might make this re
velation of no effect, with respect to themselves; but had God designed that it should take effect, then he would have prevented their resisting it. Israel might be a gainsaying people, that is, they might oppose what God communicated to them by the prophets, which it was their duty and interest to have complied with ; and so the offers of grace in God's revealed will, might be in vain with respect to thein ; but it never was so with respect to those whom he designed to save: and if the hardened sinner, stretching out his hand against God, may be said hereby to express his averseness to holiness, and his desire to be exempted from the divine government; he may be found in open rebellion against him, as hating and opposing his law; but he cannot offer any real injury to his divine perfections, so as to detract from his glory, to render his purpose of no effect. Moses speaking concerning God's works of provi. dence, says, They are perfect; for all his ways are judgment, Deut. xxxii. 4. And elsewhere, God, by the prophet Isaiah, says, I will work, and who shall let it, Isa. xliii. 13. From whence he argues, his eternal Deity, and uncontroulable power, when he says, before the day was, I am he, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand; so that if a stop might be put to his works of providence, he would cease to be a God of infinite perfection; and may we not from hence infer, that his works of grace are not subject to any controul; so that when he designs to call any effectually, nothing shall prevent this end's being answered, which is what we intend, when we speak of the power and grace of God as irresistible; which leads us to consider,
5. The season or time in which persons are effectually called; which in this answer, is said to be God's accepted time. If the work be free and sovereign, without any motive in us, the time in which he does it, must be that which he thinks most proper. Here we may observe,
(1.) That some are regenerate in their infancy, when the word can have no instrumentality, in producing the least acts of grace;
these have therefore the seeds thereof, which spring up, and discover themselves, when they are able to make use of the word. That persons are capable of regeneration from the womb, is no less evident, than that they are capable of having the seeds or principle of reason from thence, which they certainly have ; and if it be allowed, that regeneration is connected with salvation, and that infants are capable of the latter, as our Saviour says, that of such is the kingdom of God; then they must be certainly capable of the former; and not to sup-. pose some infants regenerate from the womb, would be to exclude a very great part of mankind from salvation, without scripture-warrant
(2.) Others are effectually called in their childhood, or riper years, and some few in old age; that so no age of life may be an inducement to despair, or persons be thereby discouraged from attending on the means of grace. Thus it is said concerning Josiah, That in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David, his father, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 1. and David was converted when he was a youth, a stripling of a ruddy and beautiful countenance, 1 Sam. xvi. 12. compared with chap. xvii. 56, 58. And Moses seems to have been effectually called, when he left Pharaoh's court; and it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel; at which time he was forty years old, Acts vii. 23. And Abraham seems to have been made partaker of this grace, when he was called to leave his country, when he was seventy-five years old; before which, it is probable, that he, together with the rest of his father's family, served other gods, Josh. xxiv. 2. compared with Gen. xii. 4. And we read, in one single instance, of a person converted in the very agonies of death, viz. the thief upon the cross, Luke xxiii. 43.
(3.) Sometimes, when persons seem most disposed hereunto, and are under the greatest convictions, and more inclined to reform their lives, than at other times, the work appears, by the issue thereof, to be no more than that of common grace, which miscarries and leaves them worse than they were before; and, it may be, after this, when they seem less inclined hereunto, that is, God's accepted time, when he begins the work with power, which he afterwards carries on and completes. Some are suffered to run great lengths in sin, before they are effectually called ; as the apostle Paul, in whom God was pleased to shew forth all long suffering, as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe, 1 Tim. i. 16. So that the time and means being entirely in his hand, as we ought not to presume, but wait for the day of salvation in all his ordinances; so, whatever our age and circumstances are, we are still encouraged to hope for the mercy of God, unto eternal life; or, that he will ave and call us, with an holy calling.
Quest. LXIX. What is the communion in grace, which the
members of the invisible church have with Christ? Answ. The communion in grace, which the members of the
invisible church have with Christ, is, their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.
AVING considered the vital union which the members calling, we are now led to speak concerning that communion in grace, which they have with him.
Communion with Christ doth not, in the least, import our being made partakers of any of the glories or privileges which belong to him as Mediator ; but it consists, in our participation, of those benefits which he hath purchased for us; and it implies, on his part, infinite condescension, that he will be pleased to communicate such blessings on us, and on our's, unspeakable honours and privileges, which we enjoy from him : it is sometimes called fellowship, 1 John i. 3. which is the result of friendship, and proceeds from his love : thus our Saviour speaks of his loving them, and manifesting himself unto them, John xiv. 21. It also proceeds from union with him, and is the immediate effect and consequence of effectual calling: therefore God is said to have called us unto the fellowship of his Son yesus Christ, 1 Cor. i. 9.
And it is farther said in this answer, to be a manifestation of our union with him. He has received those blessings for us, which he purchased by his blood'; and, accordingly is the treasury, as well as the fountain of all grace; and we are therefore said to receive of his fulness, grace for grace, John i. 16. And the blessings which we are said to receive, by virtue of his mediation, are justification, adoption, and sanctification, with all other benefits that either accompany or flow from them; which are particularly explained in the following answers.
Quest. LXX. What is justification ?
in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to
them, and received by faith alone. Quest. LXXI. How is justification an act of God's free
grace? Answ. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make
a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice, in the behalf of them that are justified; yet, inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, did provide this surety, his own only VOL. III.
Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification, but faith ; which also is his gift; their justification is, to them, of free grace.
ITHERTO we have been led to consider that change of
by a dead sinner is made alive, and one that was wholly indisposed for, and averse to the performance of good works, is enabled to perform them by the power of divine grace: and now we are to speak concerning that change of state which accompanies it; whereby one, who being guilty before God, was liable to the condemning sentence of the law, and expected no other than an eternal banishment from his presence, is pardoned, received into favour, and has a right to all the blessings which Christ has, by his obedience and sufferings, purchased for him. This is what we call justification; and it is placed immediately after the head of effectual calling, as being agreeable to the method in which it is insisted on in that golden chain of salvation, as the apostle says, Whom he called, them he also justified, Rom. viii. 30.
This is certainly a doctrine of the highest importance, inasmuch as it contains in it the way of peace, the foundation of all our hope, of the acceptance both of our persons and services, and beholding the face of God, at last, with joy. Some have styled it the very basis of Christianity; and our forefathers thought it so necessary to be insisted on and maintained, according to the scripture-account thereof, that they reckoned it one of the principal doctrines of the reformation. And, indeed, the apostle Paul speaks of it as so necessary to be believed, that he concluded that the denying or perverting of it was the ground and reason of the Jews being rejected ; qvho being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish a righteousness of their own, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God: and when they shall be called, if their call be intended, in that account which we have, of the marriage of the Lamb, and his wife having made herself ready, Rev. xix. 7. as many suppose, it is worth observing, that she is described as arrayed in jine linen, which is the righteousness of saints, or Christ's righteousness, by which they are justified: this is that in which they glory; and therefore are represented as being convinced of the importance of that doctrine which, before, they were ignorant of. This we have an account of in these two answers, which we are now to explain, and shall endeavour to do it in the following method.
I. We shall consider what we are to understand by the word justify.
II. What are the privileges contained therein, as reduced to