August 25, 2007

George Whitefield (1714–1770) on Common and Special Grace

My dear brethren, you have heard how far the foolish virgins went, and yet were answered with "Verily I know you not." The reason is, because none but such as have a living faith in Jesus Christ, and are truly born again, can possibly enter into the kingdom of heaven. You may perhaps live honest and outwardly moral lives, but if you depend on that morality, or join your works with your faith, in order to justify you before God, you have no lot or share in Christ's redemption. For what is this but to deny the Lord that has bought you? What is this but making yourselves your own Saviors? Taking the crown from Christ, and putting it on your own heads? The crime of the devil, some have supposed, consisted in this, that he would not bow to Jesus Christ, when the Father commanded all the angels to worship him; and what do you less? You will not own and submit to his righteousness; and though you pretend to worship him with your lips, yet your hearts are far from him : besides you in effect, deny the operations of his blessed Spirit, you mistake common for effectual grace; you hope to be saved because you have good desires, and a few short convictions: and what is this, but to give God, his word, and all the saints, the lie? A Jew, a Turk, has equally as good grounds whereon to build the hopes of his salvation. Need I not then to cry out to you, ye foolish virgins, watch. Beg of God to convince you of your self-righteousness, and the secret unbelief of your hearts ; or otherwise when the cry shall be made, "Behold the bridegroom cometh," you will find yourselves utterly unprepared to go forth to meet him. You may cry Lord, Lord; but the answer will be, "Verily I know you not."
George Whitefield, "The Wise and Foolish Virgins," Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, ed. John Gillies (New Haven: Whitmore & Buckingham and H. Mansfield, 1834), 481–482.
Perhaps there is not a word in the book of God that has a greater variety of interpretations put upon it than this little, this great word grace. I do not intend to fatigue you, or waste the time by giving you all. It will be enough in general to observe, that the word grace signifies favor, or may imply the general kindness that God bears to the world; but it signifies that here [Rev. 22:21], which I pray God we may all experience, I mean the grace, the special grace of the blessed God communicated to his people; not only his favor displayed to us outwardly, but the work of the blessed Spirit imparted and conveyed inwardly and most powerfully to our souls, and this is what our church in the catechism calls special grace; for though Jesus Christ in one respect is the Savior of all, and we are to offer Jesus Christ universally to all, yet he is said in a special manner to be the Savior of them that believe; so that the word grace is a very complex word, and takes in all that the blessed Spirit of God does for a poor sinner, from the moment he first draws his breath, and brings him to Jesus Christ, till he is pleased to call him by death ; and as it is begun in grace, it will be swallowed up in an endless eternity of glory hereafter.
George Whitefield, "A Faithful Minister's Parting Blessing—A Farewell Sermon," Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, ed. John Gillies (New Haven: Whitmore & Buckingham and H. Mansfield, 1834), 607–608.


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