August 28, 2007

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

William Bates, who was close friends with Thomas Manton, Richard Baxter and John Howe, said the following:
And from hence we may distinguish between regenerating grace, and formal hypocrisy in some, and the proficiency of nature and power of common grace in others. A hypocrite in religion is acted from without, by mercenary base respects; and his conscience being cauterized, handles sacred things without feeling: a regenerate person is moved by an internal living principle, and performs his duties with lively affections. Natural conscience under the compulsion of fear, may lay a restraint upon the outward acts of sin, without an inward consent to the sanctity of the law. Renewing grace cleanses the fountain, and the current is pure. It reconciles the affections to the most holy commands," I love thy law because it is pure," saith the Psalmist.

A moral principle may induce one to abstain from sins, and to perform many praise-worthy things in conformity to reason. But this is neither sanctifying nor saving; for it only prunes sin as if it were a good plant, and does not root it up; it compounds with it, and does not destroy it. There may be still an impure indulgence to the secret lustings of the heart, notwithstanding the restraint upon their exercise. And many duties may be done on lower motives, without a divine respect to the commands and glory of God.

But renewing grace subjects the soul to the whole royalty of the law, uniformly inclines it to express obedience to all its precepts, because they are pure, and derived from the eternal spring of purity. It mortifies concupiscence, and quickens to every good work, from a principle of love to God, and in this is distinguished from the most refined unregenerate morality. In short, there may be a superficial tincture of religion from common grace, a transient esteem, vanishing affections, and earnest endeavors for a time after spiritual things, and yet a person remain in a state of unregeneracy. But renewing grace is a permanent solid principle, that makes a man " partaker of the divine nature," and elevates him above himself.
William Bates, "The Four Last Things," in Select Practical Works of Rev. John Howe and William Bates, ed. James Marsh (New York: G. & C. & H. Carvill, 1830), 477–478.
From hence it follows, that it is from the perverseness of the will, and the love of sin, that men do not obey the gospel. For the Holy Spirit never withdraws his gracious assistance, till resisted, grieved, and quenched by them. It will be no excuse, that divine grace is not conferred in the same eminent degree upon some as upon others that are converted, for the impenitent shall not be condemned for want of that singular powerful grace that was the privilege of the elect, but for receiving in vain that measure of common grace that they had. If he that received one talent had faithfully improved it, he had been rewarded with more; but upon the slothful and ingrateful neglect of his duty, he was justly deprived of it, and cast into a dungeon of horror, the emblem of hell. The sentence of the law has its full force upon impenitent sinners, with intolerable aggravations for neglecting the salvation of the gospel.
Ibid., 399.

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