September 28, 2014

John Sheffield (1654?-1726) on Abused Grace

"1. The Abuse of Grace is of all Sins the most provoking to God, as we say, Corruptio optimi est pessima, the abuse of the best Things is of all other the worst, and doth most heighten and aggravate the Sin and Guilt of those that do so. If it be so heinous a Sin to abuse the Mercies of God's common Providence, such as his Benignity, Patience and Long-suffering; so as thereby to be more bold and fearless in sinning against him, when they should be led thereby to Repentance and and Thankfulness; as it is Rom. 2:4, 5. Then how much more heinous, and crimson-dyed a Sin must it needs be, to wrest and abuse his Grace that brings Salvation, that offers Salvation, that tends to Salvation, that aims at and designs our Salvation, that is the first moving and efficient Cause of Salvation to us: What can be imagined worse than for Men to be evil, and the more evil because God is good to them! It is a Sin to return evil for evil to Men; and what is it then to return evil to God for the greatest good of all? There is nothing so provoking to a Man, as to have his free Love and Kindness abused and turned against himself, or to an end quite contrary to what he designed it, and so it must needs be to God; to abuse his Grace seems to be a greater Sin than to distrust his Power, or to slight his Authority, or to trample upon his Laws; you only have I known of all the families of the Earth, therefore I will punish you for your Iniquities.

2. To abuse Grace is of all others the most pernicious and destructive to Mens Souls; for this closes up the Fountain of all our Blessings, this makes Grace itself a Man's Enemy; and then who or what shall Plead for him; and Justice will not fail to avenge the quarrel of abused Grace, nay Grace itself will complain of the Wrong, and solicit for Vengeance upon the Abusers of it. If the only thing that can recover the Sinner, be abused, so that he falls the lower thereby, that will be an irrecoverable fall indeed; If a Man make Mercy and Grace itself his Enemy, then who or what shall be his Friend?"
John Sheffield, Salvation by Grace (London: Printed by S. Bridge, for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside near Mercers-Chapel, 1698), 67-68.


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