December 5, 2014

William Strong (d.1654) on the Rich Young Ruler, God's Restraining Grace, and Common Love

Seeing that all men are sinners in Adam alike, and sin in one man is as much improved as in another; that all men are not alike sinful in this life, and alike miserable in the life to come, (for there be degrees of wrath;) and that all men do not sin against the Holy Ghost, and are not by Satan hurried on to the great Transgression; it is not thanks to the man but merely to restraining Grace! So in Mar. 10:21 the young man that came to Christ, Christ is said to love him; he was proud, and stood upon his own righteousness, and was covetous, and did part with Christ to reserve to himself an Estate, and went away from him as being offended at his Doctrine, and never returned again; and yet it is said that Christ loved him; what was there lovely in such a man? Here Interpreters distinguish [1] of the act, [2] of the object. [1] Of the Act, they say there is a double love of Christ, so Cartwright; a Human and Divine; a Divine love, that is to Salvation; so he loves only the Saints; but there was a human love, and so he loved his friends and kindred according to the flesh, who yet did not believe in him. And some say there is a double love of God, and of Christ as God; there is a peculiar and fatherly love, and this he bears only to his own people; but there is also a common love, whereby he loves whatever is of his own in any of the Creatures. So Beza* and Calvin. But I should rather call them the common works of the Spirit of Christ, dispensed unto unregenerate men under the Gospel. [2] They distinguish of the Object, he loved the remainder of his own Image, or rather the works of his own Spirit in him, though they were common, that he was preserved unchangeable, in tanta morum corruptela, where there was such a general and universal overspreading of wickedness; and this was Donum Dei gratuitum naturale illam pravitatem non quidem immutantis, sed in quibus illi placet paulatim reprimentis, Bernard. i.e. Not mortifying but restraining sin. So that all this was grounded upon the restraining Grace of the Lord did vouchsafe unto him [the rich young ruler] in his younger years; for to be preserved is a good thing, a great gift, it is a great mercy not to be tainted with the common corruption, and not to wallow in the common mire of the times, nor to be given over thereunto.
*Quia illi grata est humani generis conservatio, ideoque politicas virutes amare dicitur Tenues & paulatim per se evanescentes imaginis suae relinquias. - Beza
William Strong, A Discourse of the Two Covenants (London: Printed by J. M. for Francis Tyton at the Three Daggers in Fleet-street, and for Thomas Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns at the lower end of Cheapside near Mercers Chapel, 1678), 101. This work is also available at the Westminster Assembly Project. For Beza on the love of God for all creatures as such, see the primary source here: Theodore Beza, Ad acta Colloquii Montisbelgardensis Tubingae edita (Genevae: Johannes Le Preux, 1588), 212–213; or a secondary source here (click).


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