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§ 52. Stebbing supposes the assistance God gives, or the operation of the Spirit in order to faith, is to give a good and honest heart, prepared to receive and well improve the word; as particularly, meekness, bumility, teachableness, &c. And supposes that these effects of the Spirit are to be obtained by prayer; but yet allows, that the prayer must be acceptably made, (page 106.) which supposes that some degree of virtue must be exercised in prayer. And it may be presumed that they will allow, that there are multitudes of men, who at present are so wicked, so destitute of virtue, that they have not virtue enough for acceptable prayer to God. They have not now so much respect to God or their own souls, as to incline them to pray at all. Now, I would inquire, how these men shall come by virtue, in order to acceptably praying to God? Or low is it within their reach by virtue of God's promises ? Or how can they come by it, save by God's sovereign arbitrary grace ? Shall they pray to God for it, and so obtain it? But this is contrary to the supposition. For it is supposed, that they now have not virtue enough to pray acceptably, and this is the very thing inquired, how they come by the virtue necessary in order to their making acceptable prayer? Or shall they work the virtue in themselves wholly without God's assistance ? But this is contrary to what they pretend, viz. that all virtue is from God, or by the grace and assistance of God, which they allow to be evident by that scripture, “ without me ye can do nothing." Or, is God obliged to give it, or to assist them to obtain it, without their praying for it, or having virtue enough to ask it of him? That they do not pretend. For they suppose the condition of our obtaining the heavenly Spirit is our seeking, asking, &c.; and besides, if God gives it without their first sceking it, that will make God the first determining efficient, yea, the mere and sole author of it, without their doing any thing toward it, without their so much as seeking or asking for it; which would be entirely to overthrow their whole scheme, and would by their principles, make this virtue no virtue at all, because not at all owing to them, or any endeavours of theirs.
§ 53. If they reply, they must in the first place consider: they are capable of consideration ; and if they would consider as they ought and may, they would doubtless pray to God, and ask his belp; and every man naturally has some virtue in him which proper consideration would put into exercise so far as to cause him to pray in some measure acceptably, without any new gift from God :-I answer, this is inconsistent with many of their principles. It is so, that men should naturally have some virtue in thern. For what is natural is necessary; is not from themselves and their own endeavours and free acts ;: but prevents them all, and therefore cannot be their virtue. If they say, consideration will not stir up any virtue that is naturally in them, to cause them to pray virtuously; but God has obliged himself to give virtue enough to enable them to pray and seek acceptably, if they will consider : I answer, this is more than they pretend. If they say, serious consideration itself is some degree of seeking their own good, and there is an implicit prayer in it to the supreme Being to guide them into the way to their happiness: I answer, if it be supposed that there is an implicit prayer in their consideration, still they allow that prayer must be in some measure acceptable prayer, in order to its being entitled to an answer; and consequently must have some degree of virtuous respect to God, &c.; and if so, then the same question returns with all the aforementioned difficulties over again, tiz. How came the profane, thoughtless, vain, inconsiderate person, by this new virtue, this new respect to God, that he ever exercises in this serious consideration and implicit prayer?
If they say, there is no necessity of supposing any ima plicit prayer in the first consideration; and yet, if the wicked, profane, careless person, makes a good improvement of what grace he has, in proper consideration or otherwise, God has obliged himself to give him more, in that general promise, "to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abun: dance:" Then I answer, here is new virtue in bis making a good improvement of what common assistance be has, which before he neglected, and made no good improvement of. This is contrary to what they pretend. Or is God obliged to give new assistance in order to this new virtue by any promise? If he be, what is the condition of the promise? It is absurd to say, making a good improvement of what assistance they have ; for that is the thing we are inquiring after, viz. How comes he by that new virtue, making a good improvement of what he has, when before he had not virtue enough to make such an 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 same. How becomes God obliged to give this assistance; and what is the condition 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 bis friend on the shore, bis 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 wbolly and entirely in improving assistance: For in that only consists the exercise of their free-will 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 volun. tary 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 giren it to
and the reason 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 good. ness 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 con. trary 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 shonld 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 free-will. 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 bappiness 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. 6 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 ercludes bonsting, 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 boast, ing; as, our receiving our wisdom, our holiness, and re 'emp, tion 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 bis power and grace. And certainly this is wholly inconsistent wiih the idea that our holiness is wholly from ourselves; and, that we are interested in the benefits of Christ ratber 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 manitest 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 eyer and eyer, 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 subjects 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,