June 8, 2019

Peter van Mastricht (1630–1706) on Universal and Common Grace

What is universal grace and what sort is it?

XV. Now we would not repeat concerning grace what we just above taught concerning love, if a manifold controversy, one that has been in every age most vexing, did not urge us to do so. There is, then, first, universal grace, by which God dispenses natural things to each and every creature and is thus named the Savior of all (1 Tim. 4:10), the one who saves beasts and men (Ps. 36:6) and takes cares that his sun rises over the field of the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45), concerning which see above. This grace particularly confers to man his free choice and whatever sort of strength he has for natural good, and also stirs up and encourages that strength by its influence. And all these things, although they come forth from the gratuitous love of God, and thus from grace, yet in the use of Scripture, and also of all ancient orthodoxy, rarely and less properly are they called grace. For the latter tradition cautiously distinguished nature from grace against the Pelagians.

What is common grace and what sort is it?

XVI. There is, second, common grace, by which he dispenses moral goods, particularly to men, but indiscriminately, to the elect and the reprobate. To this kind of grace belong the virtues of the intellect, such as ingenuity, wisdom, and prudence (Ex. 31.3), as well as the virtues of the will, the ethical virtues (Luke 18:11), of which kind are all the virtues of pagans and unbelievers. In this number should be reckoned those things that appear more closely to approach saving things, such as are mentioned in Hebrews 6:4–5, Isaiah 58:2, and 1 Corinthians 13:1. To this pertains external calling to participation in Christ through the proclamation of the Word (Ps. 147:19–20; Matt. 20:16, and also internal calling through some sort of illumination, and all those good things which are conspicuous in temporary believers (Matt. 13:20–21).
Petrus van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology. Volume 2: Faith in the Triune God, trans. T. M. Rester, ed. J. R. Beeke and M. T. Spangler (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 353–54; 1.2.17 §XV–XVI.

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