November 24, 2007

William Bates (1625–1699) on Common and Special Grace

"Now such is the mercy of God, that he gives his spirit, to assist men by his illuminating, preventing, restraining and exciting grace, to forsake their sins, that they may be saved: and if they did faithfully improve the lower degrees of grace, (though they can claim nothing by right) he would from his good pleasure afford them more grace: but they are so averse from God; and strongly bent to the present world, that they so long resist the pure motions of grace in their hearts, till the gales of the Spirit expire, and revive no more; according to that terrible threatening, 'my spirit shall no longer strive with man, for he is flesh.' Gen. 6.

Besides the common grace afforded to natural men, there is a supereffluence of grace bestowed upon some to convert them, which infallibly obtains its end. Those who are the patrons of free-will methinks should allow that God is master of his own will, and the free dispenser of his own grace. This especial grace works powerfully, yet conveniently, to the reasonable nature. There is no charm so sweet, no constraint so strong; as the operation of it: for the understanding is convinced by so clear and strong a light, of our being undone for ever without God's pardoning mercy, 'that his loving-kindness is better than life;' and this is represented to the will with that powerful application, that the will certainly chooses it. When there is a wavering and indifferency of the will to a propounded object, it is either from some defects in the object, or in the apprehension of it: but when the supreme good is so represented, that it fills all the capacities of the soul, the will as certainly embraces it, as one that is burnt up with thirst, and near a cool stream stoops and drinks to quench it. The holy spirit, who knows the manner of his own operations, expresses the efficacy of them in the resemblances of the creation and resurrection, wherein the divine power cannot be frustrated; yet it is so congruous to the frame of man's nature, that the freedom of the will is then in its most noble exercise: 'men are drawn to Christ by the teachings of God;' not by overruling violence upon their faculties, but by instruction and persuasion suitable to them."

No comments: