Part 2
Chapter 4Of Efficacious Grace

Section 11Jeremiah 31:18.

[with Deuteronomy 30:6]
Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; .for thou art the Lord my God.

Since God promises to circumcise the heart,and Ephraim here, being under afflictive providences, which had not such an effect upon him as to turn him heartily and effectually to the Lord, prays that he would take the work into his own hands more immediately, believing that then he should be thoroughly converted; we conclude, that the circumcision and conversion of the heart are the works of God in us, in which we are passive; that they are wrought by his powerful grace, without which all means are insufficient to produce them. Now,

1. In answer to such texts as these, in general, this is laid down as a most certain rule:[1] "that when God doth require us to do what he himself doth promise, and hath made it our duty to perform, his promise is only to perform what is requisite, on his part, towards the work." But this author should have informed us what that is which is requisite on God's part, and what that is which is man's duty to perform, towards the work of conversion. Whereas nothing is more certain, than that God does both require of us to do, and he himself promises to do, the whole work of conversion; which he does not by persuasion, or laying before us inducements to it, as is suggested, but by unfrustrable influence. And yet his command to do it does not imply that we are gods, or have equal power with him, as is intimated; nor does praying to him for the performance of what he requires of us, and he has promised, suppose a desire to be excused from obeying his commands. The commands of God show his authority, and man's duty; the promises of God discover his grace and power, and are a relief to man's weakness, which no way lessen his obligation to duty.

2. It is observed,[2] that "the same God, who promiseth to circumcise the hearts of his people, requires them to circumcise their own hearts (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:5). And it is suggested, that the promise is conditional, namely, if they would call to mind the blessings and curses he had pronounced (v. 1), and turn to the Lord (v. 2), and that it is made to all their seed, to nations, and not particular persons." I reply, that the passages referred to have been considered in the former part[3] of this performance; and as to the conditions mentioned, if they are conditions, they are not conditions of the circumcision of the hearts of God's people, but of turning their captivity. And though this promise is made to their seed, as well as to themselves, yet not to all their seed, much less to nations. Besides, it particularly regards the time of the Jews' conversion, when all the elect of God among them shall be saved.

3. It is said,[4] that "seeing God so frequently requires of the same persons, that they should turn themselves from their transgressions, promising life to the penitent, and threatening those that would not with death; and seeing he complains so oft of his own people, and of that very Ephraim which made this prayer, that they would not turn to him; it must be absurd to urge this prayer to excuse men from a duty required by God under such dreadful penalties." To which may be returned: that the duty required by God, in the places referred to, does not design internal conversion, but external reformation; which latter, men may be capable of effecting, though not of the former. Though admitting internal conversion is meant, God's requiring it does not suppose man's ability to perform it, but his need of it; and is done with a view to bring him to a sense of his state, and that he may apply to God for it, as Ephraim did. Nor does such a prayer for conversion excuse men from obligation to turn to the Lord, or any duty respecting the outward walk and conversation; so far from it, that converting grace, when obtained, puts men into a capacity, and engages them to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this world.And whereas it is added, "that by comparing this prayer with the preceding chapter, in which God promises so oft to turn their captivity, it appears this is only a prayer that God would bring them out of that thralldom, like that of the Psalmist (Ps. 126:4)." Let it be observed, that this is a sense which the Jews themselves, who are ready to explain scriptures this way whenever they have the least opportunity, do not give into. The Targum paraphrases the words thus, dnjlwpl anbyta, turn us to thy worship. Kimchi observes, that it is as if it was said hbwtb yklbq, receive me by repentance.Besides, it is plain, that what Ephraim here prayed for, he quickly had, as appears from verse 19, upon which followed true repentance; and being a dear son, and pleasant child to God (v. 20), he comforts him by assuring him that he would have mercy on him; and as an evidence of it, bids him turn again to his cities,which indeed designs the turning of his captivity: but then this is manifestly distinguished from the turning Ephraim prayed for, and which he enjoyed before he had this encouragement to turn to his cities.

4. The Remonstrants[5] formerly paraphrased the words thus: "As thou hast chastised Ephraim, O Lord, so chastise me; for though I am in part chastised, yet chastise me more and more:" and they farther suggest, "that they do not intend first conversion; since he being converted prays." In which may be observed, that this sense of the text introduces another person, speaking to the Lord, besides Ephraim, contrary to the express words, and plain reading of them: nor is the word bw, here translated turn,ever used for affliction or chastisement in all the word of God, though sometimes for deliverance from it: nor is there any command, or example of men's praying for affliction; for though they sometimes pray, that afflictions maybe sanctified, and that they may be supported under or delivered from them, yet never, that they may be brought upon them, or increased. And as to what is intimated, that the text is not to be understood of first conversion, being the prayer of a converted man; it may be replied, that it does not appear that Ephraim (for no other person can be meant) was then converted, at least in his own apprehensions, but afterwards (see v. 19). Moreover, Ephraim is to be understood not of a single person, but of a body of men; many of whom, and it may be the greatest part, were not converted: nor is his praying a sufficient evidence of his conversion; since a natural man is capable of praying, and of praying for conversion, under some awakenings of conscience. But be it so, that Ephraim was converted, and that he prayed not for the first work of conversion, but for the farther progress and carrying of it on, or for a renewal of it after backslidings; yet if this could not be done by himself, but required the grace and power of God; much less can the: first work of conversion be wrought by a graceless creature; and much more must that work require the powerful and efficacious grace of God.


[1] Whitby, p. 286, 287; ed. 2.279, 280.

[2] Ibid. p. 217; ed. 2.280.

[3] Sect. 18.

[4] Whitby, p. 288; ed. 2.281.

[5] In Coll. Hag. art. in. iv:266.

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