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OWN NATURAL STRENGTH AND GOOD WORKS TO FAITH AND CALLING UPON GOD.
The most pious of those who lived under the Mosaic dispensation, often acknowledge the necessity of extraordinary assistance from God: David prays to God“ to open his eyes, to guide and direct him (a);" “ to create in him a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within him (6).” And Solomon says, that “God directeth men's paths, and giveth grace to the lowly (c).” Even we, whose minds are enlightened by the pure precepts of the Gospel, and influenced by the motives which it suggests, must still be convinced of our weakness and depravity, and confess that WE HAVE NO POWER TO DO GOOD WORKS PLEASANT AND ACCEPTABLE TO GOD, WITHOUT THE GRACE OF GOD PREVENTING US, THAT WE MAY HAVE A GOOD-WILL, AND WORKING WITH US WHEN WE HAVE THAT GOOD-WILL. The necessity of divine grace to strengthen and regulate our wills, and to cooperate with our endeavours after righteousness, is clearly asserted in the New Testament : “ They that are in the flesh cannot please God (d).”—“ Abide in me,” says our Saviour, “ and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit
(a) Psalm 119. v. 18, 33 & 35. (b) Psalm 51. v.'10. (c) Prov. c. 3. v. 6.
• (d) Rom. c. 8. v. 8.
of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, and ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing (e).”—“No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him (f).”—No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (g).”-“ It is God that worketh in you, both to-will and to do of his good pleasure (h).”
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God (i).”—“ We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit helpeth our infirmities (k)."—We are said to be “ led by the Spirit (1),” and “ to walk in the Spirit (m).”—These texts sufficiently prove that we stand in need both of a preventing and of a co-operating grace; or, in the words of the Article, that WE HAVE NO POWER TO DO GOOD WORKS PLEASANT AND ACCEPTABLE TO GOD, WITHOUT THE GRACE OF GOD BY CHRIST PREVENTING US, THAT WE MAY HAVE A GOODWILL, AND WORKING WITH US WHEN WE HAVE THAT GOOD-WILL.
The (e) John, c. 15. v. 4 & 5. (f) John, c. 6. v. 44. (g) 1 Cor. c. 12. v. 3. (h) Phil. c. 2. v. 13. (i) 2 Cor. c. 3. v. 5. (k) Rom. c. 8. v. 26. (l) Rom. c. 8. v. 14. (m) Gal. c. 5. v. 16 & 25.
The doctrine of this Article we find asserted in many of the antient fathers, and particularly in Ambrose, who, in speaking of the effects of the fall, uses these words : “ Thence was derived mortality, and no less a multitude of miseries than of crimes. Faith being lost, hope being abandoned, the understanding blinded, and the will made captive, no one found in himself the means of repairing these things. Without the worship of the true God, even that which seems to be virtue is sin; nor can any one please God without God. But whom does he please who does not please God, except himself and Satan? The nature, therefore, which was good, is made bad by habit: man would not return, unless God turned him (n).”-And Cyprian says, “ We pray day and night that the sanctification and enlivening, which springs from the grace of God, may be preserved by his protection.”Dr. Nicholls, after quoting many authorities to shew that the doctrine of divine grace always prevailed in the catholic church, adds, “ I have spent, perhaps, more time in these Testimonies than was absolutely necessary; but whatever I have done is to shew that the doctrine of divine grace is so essential a doctrine of Christianity, that not only the Holy Scriptures and the primitive fathers assert it, but likewise that
(n) Amb. de Voc. Gent. lib. 1. cap 3.
the Christians could not in any age maintain their religion without it, it being necessary, not only for the discharge of Christian duties, but for the performance of our ordinary devotions." And this seems to have been the opinion of the compilers of our most excellent liturgy, in many parts (o) of which both a preventing and a cooperating grace is unequivocally acknowledged. · This assistance of divine grace is not incon-, sistent with the free-agency of men ; it does not place them under an irresistible restraint, or compel them to act contrary to their will. Though human nature is greatly depraved, yet every good disposition is not totally extinguished, nor is all power of right action entirely annihilated. Men may, therefore, make some spontaneous, though feeble, attempt to act conformably to their duty, which will be promoted and rendered effectual by the co-operation of God's grace; or the grace of God may so far prevent our actual endeavours, as to awaken and dispose us to our duty; but yet, not in such a degree that we cannot withstand its influence. In either case our own exertions are
necessary (0) Particularly in the second collect for the Evening Service; in the fourth collect at the end of the Communion Service; in the collect for Easterday; in the collect for the fifth Sunday after Easter; in the collects for the third, ninth, seventeenth, nineteenth, and twenty-fifth, Sundays after Trinity,
necessary to enable us to work out our own salvation, but our sufficiency for that purpose is from God. It is, however, impossible to ascertain the precise boundary between our natural efforts and the divine assistance, whether that assistance be considered as a co-operating or a preventing grace. Without destroying our character as free and accountable beings, God may be mercifully pleased to counteract the depravity of our hearts by the suggestions of his spirit, but still it remains with us to choose whether we will listen to those suggestions, or ob ey the lusts of the flesh. It becomes us to speak with humility and diffidence concerning the extent of divine grace: we only know, in general, that God will not subject us to greater temptations and trials than we are able to bear. If we cherish our good dispositions, and feel a sincere desire to be virtuous, we may rest assured that he will, by the communication of his grace, help our infirmities, invigorate our resolutions, and supply our defects. The promises that “ if we draw nigh to God, God will draw nigh to us, and pour out his spirit upon us (p);" and that “ he will give his Holy Spirit to every one that asketh him (9);” imply that God is ever ready to forward our progress and continuance in well-doing through
the (p) James, c.4. v. 8. Acts, c. 2. v. 17.
(9) Luke, e. 11. V. 13.