The

CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH.

Part 2
Chapter 4—Of Efficacious Grace

Section 9—Acts 11:18.

[with Ephesians 2:8]
Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.


These scriptures prove that faith and repentance are the gifts of God, and owing to the powerful operation of his grace. Now

1. To confront this, it is said,[1] "What God commands we must do; and therefore must be active in it: but God commands all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30), and to believe in the name of Christ (1 John 3:23), therefore we must be active in the works of faith and repentance." To which I reply, that though what God commands is the rule of man's duty, yet not the measure of his strength. It is no good arguing from God's commands, to man's power in his present state. God requires men to keep the whole law; it does not follow from thence, that they are able to do it. So, though it is his commandment, that we should believe in his Son Jesus Christ, and repent;yet it is certain, that faith is not of ourselves,it is a gift of grace, and of the operation of God;and the same may be said of repentance. Moreover, though believers are active in the exercise of the graces of faith and repentance; for it is the convinced sinner, and not God or Christ, or the Spirit, who repents and believes; yet in both men are purely passive in the first production and implantation of them in their hearts. But we are told,[2] that; it by this way of arguing, the Jews must have been purely passive in all their hardness of heart, Ahab's false prophets in lying, the enemies of God's church in all the evils they do to her, and in the blasphemies they utter against him; because God is said (Rom. 11:8; 1 Kings 22:23; Rev. 6:4, 8; 13:5, 7), to give a spirit of slumbering, a lying spirit, power to take peace from the earth, and a mouth speaking blasphemies. To which I answer, that these judicial acts of God, and as such the persons to whom they relate, were indeed passive in them, these being purely God's acts, and not man's; and yet the Jews were active in hardening their own hearts, Ahab's prophets in following the suggestions of the lying spirit, and the enemies of God's church in using their power to make war with the saints, and in opening their mouths in blasphemy against him.

2. This is laid down[3] "as a general and rule, that where God is said to give any thing, the exercise of that faculty is still supposed which he hath given us already;and God is only said to give it by giving those faculties by which we are enabled to obtain it, and the means and motives which are sufficient to excite those faculties to the performance of their proper actions. Thus it is always with respect to natural and spiritual gifts; for thus God giveth riches and wisdom.Thus the Jews say, that God hath given repentance to the Gentiles, when, by Peter's preaching to them peace through Jesus Christ, and promising remission of sins upon their repentance, they repented, and believed in Christ. So faith is said to be the gift of God; because the objects of it are only by divine revelation made known, and are only confirmed, and made credible by the testimony God hath given to them." But though the Gentiles repented, and believed in Christ, upon Peter's preaching peace and pardon to them through him; yet it was not through the strength of their natural faculties, or barely through means and motives, exciting their faculties to the performance of these actions, but through the power of the Holy Ghost; for while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word (Acts 10:44); who produced in them these graces of faith and repentance, and assisted them in the exercise of them on their proper objects. Besides, if God may be said to give faith and repentance to men, when he only gives the means of them, and motives to them, he may be said equally to give faith and repentance to men, who do not believe and repent; which is a contradiction in terms, provided they have the same means and motives as those who do. And so Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, may be said to have faith and repentance given them; because they had the means of them, and motives to them; the doctrines of Christ were preached unto them, and his mighty works done among them; though our Lord upbraids them with their impenitence and unbelief. So, when faith is said to be the gift of God, if no more is meant by it, than that the objects of it are made known, confirmed, and rendered credible by a divine revelation; then all those may be said to have it given to them, to whom the objects of it are so made known and confirmed. Whereas there are multitudes, who through the external revelation of the word, know that Christ is the object of faith, and yet have no true faith in him. Therefore more is meant than this, even the donation of the grace itself; for it is given to men to believe,even actually to exercise faith. To which is required, besides the confirming evidence of revelation, the power and grace of God; for no man can come to Christ, that is, believe on him, except the Father draw him.Nor is it always true, with respect to natural gifts, that God gives riches and wisdom to men, when he gives them faculties, means, and motives of getting wealth and wisdom (see Eccl. 9:11). When he does give riches and wisdom, he gives more than barely faculties, means, and motives to get them; he gives riches and wisdom themselves: so when he gives faith and repentance, it is not merely natural faculties capable of them, or the bare means of them, or motives inducing to them, but the things themselves.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Whitby, p. 283; ed. 2.276.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Whitby, p. 283-285; ed. 2.276-278.


Gill Index