August 17, 2007

John Howe (1630–1705) on Common Grace

John Howe (1630-1705)After speaking of the efficacious work of the Spirit in regeneration (special grace), John Howe, "a much-neglected Puritan," cautions his listeners not to make the mistake of presuming on the Spirit and making light of the purpose of common grace.
And here, there needs a caution too, as well as in reference to the former head. Some may be apt to apprehend; if this work is wrought and done, by such an irresistible power, to which no opposition can be made; what need we trouble ourselves; when God will do such a work, he will do it: it will never be in our power to hinder it, and we need never be afraid, that we shall. To this it may be said, and it ought to be seriously considered; that though there is no possibility of such resistance to that influence by which this work is done, wheresoever it is done, which could have prevented the doing of it; yet there are many previous workings, in order to it, wherein the Spirit of God is frequently resisted; that is, the workings and operations of common grace, which lead and tend to this special work of grace. And here lies the great danger, when in these common precursory works of the Holy Ghost, which have a tendency in them to this work, and by which it is gradually moving on; they may resist and oppose themselves, to a total, utter, eternal miscarriage. The Spirit of God in this work, can never be resisted; but so as that it will certainly overcome and effect its work. But we must know that he is a free Agent; and there is reason to apprehend there is the same reason in chusing the degree of operation, as there is of the subject. It doth not only work where it listeth; but to what degree it listeth of power and efficacy : and when it is working but at the common rate, then it suffers itself many times to be overcome, and yields the victory to the contending sinner. You see what the charge was upon the people of Israel by Stephen, Acts 7- 51. Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ear; ye do always resist the Holy Ghost as your fathers did, so do ye. It is remarkable to this purpose what this blessed man charges that people with; that this was the genius of that people from age to age, from one generation to another. Ye do always resist, &c. The same spirit of enmity and contrariety is still propagated and transmitted from one age to another, your fathers are like their fathers, and their fathers like theirs; and so run on back as far as you will; they were always a people resisting and contending against the Holy Ghost: as the complaint was against them not long before, Isai. 63. 10. They rebelled and vexed his Spirit, therefore he turned and fought against them, and became their enemy. And that this is the common temper, is most evident, and was so even in the more early ages of the world. My Spirit shall not always strive with man, Gen. 6. 3. That striving implies a resistance. There is great danger of resisting the Spirit of God, when it is in that method and way of operation, wherein it many times yields to the resistance. It is as if he should say to the sinner; " Because thou hast so great a mind to get the day, and deliver thyself from under the power of my grace, get that unhappy victory, and perish by it.
John Howe, "The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit, in Every Age, with Reference to Particular Persons: Considered in Several Sermons on John. III, 6. and Gal. v. 25," in The Posthumous Works of the Late Rev. John Howe, ed. John Hunt (London, 1832), 23–24.

The Whole Works of the Rev. John Howe in 8 Volumes may be downloaded by clicking here as well.

No comments: