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On Exertion, or Active Diligence.
“The personal exertions of Christians are necessary for salvation ; else why should they be commanded “ to work out their own salvation," ' and that too,“ with fear and trembling ?” with 'an anxious care lest their exertions should not
be successful, and lest from their negligence, ' the furthering help of the Spirit should be withdrawn 1
I feel no objection to this statement, nor the least inclination to write in vindication of those, who maintain any thing inconsistent with it.
"" Draw nigh to God,” says St. James, “and · he will draw nigh to you.
Some approach, therefore, towards God on the part of men, some exertion of their own will is necessary to obtain • his effectual assistance.'2
Such exhortations abound in every part of scripture, and they shew ug what is our bounden duty; but not the source of that disposition to do our duty, about which we are inquiring.-Iam confident that a large majority of those who are called the evangelical clergy, including even the Calvinists among them, are far more abundant and earnest in enforcing these exhortations, than most other preachers are : and that, by thus“ testifying
“ of the world that its works are evil,” and calling on all men to renounce their sins, and turn to God by Jesus Christ, and “do works meet for repen
tance;" they incur a great proportion of that marked disapprobation, with which they are pursued by the careless, the profane, the formal, and the dissipated. In argumentative discussions we must descend to distinctions, limitations, and explanations ; but, in our popular addresses, we seldom clog or enfeeble our earnest exhortations by them : either wholly omitting them, or stating what we deem needful in this respect, in another part of our public instructions. It is then needless to adduce, as if objected to, any thing spoken of
the dutiful necessity of exertions, voluntary endeavours, diligence, activity, and « abounding in
every good word and work ;" except when some unfounded charge is connected with it. I avow that ministers, and writers on religious subjects, cannot too strongly insist on the necessity and importance of “striving to enter in at the strait gate," or pressing forward in “ the narrow way;" provided they remember that "if a man strive for the mas“tery, he is not crowned except he strive lawfully.”! The whole must be done in dependence on the mercy and grace of God in Christ Jesus, and not in self-dependence or self-righteousness ; and, when what is really good before God has been wrought, we teach men by our instruction and example, to trace back the effect to the cause, and to say, “Yet “not I, but the grace of God that was with me :" “ By the grace of God I am what I am."?
This reminds me of a quotation from the eloquent Chrysostom, relative to this subject. Ob'serve the never-failing, but always conspicuous ‘character of apostolical modesty: he calls his own ' virtue the gift of God; and, when he has laboured 'much, he attributes the whole to the Lord.'? It would then, it seems, be decorous, and resemble 'the never-failing conspicuous character of apos'tolical modesty,' to use this kind of language, even if it were not really meant, nor the doctrines from which it flows when genuine, strenuously insisted on. But, if the appearance would be decorous, must not the reality be right and good? Counterfeits of every kind, give the credit of value to the thing counterfeited, and derive their speciousness from it. Hollow politeness is an acknowledgment that humble courteous love is a good thing: hypocrisy confesses the excellency of genuine piety.-Yet, after all, if Paul did not fully mean what he said, his apostolical modesty' was far from the language of “ simplicity and godly “ sincerity;" and not more worthy of commendation or imitation, than the Pharisee's words,“ God, “ I thank thee that I am not like other men."
Or he says this,' “ It is God that worketh in us to will, and to do of his good pleasure,”) from 'great piety; as when he says that our right actions are graces.'2
It is here again conceded, that the language of those who are now called Calvinists is pious, yea used from 'great piety,' and used by an inspired
Ref. 453, 454
Chrysost. in Ref. 500, 501.
apostle. Yet, at the same time, Chrysostom labours to explain away that very meaning of the apostle's words, which could render this language sincere, and unaffected. It may be a commendation to use this pious' language, provided we do not fully mean it, nor contend for the doctrine which stamps sincerity upon it!
· He uses the same form in speaking of preaching, in which he had undergone ten thousand labours, constant tribulation, inexpressible hardships, daily death! What does he say upon this subject : “ I laboured more abundantly than they all ; yet not I but the grace of God which was * with me.” He does not say, that a part was his, ' and a part God's. This is like a grateful servant,
to consider nothing as his own, but all things his 'master's; to think nothing his own, but all things his Lord's.'1
It seems that, the less is meant by this language, the more it is approved. If we use similar expressions with these of the apostle, accommodated to our very inferior services and exertions ; if we give unreservedly to the Lord all the glory of what is good in our conduct, and only acknowledge as our own the sin which intermingles with it; if we will not say of any thing good in the • sight of God,’ ‘a part is ours, and a part is God's,' we are censured. But why are we censured by those who commend similar language in the apostle ? Is it because our actions are not sufficiently excellent to be referred to God as the fruits of his grace?
' Idem, Ref. 454.
This, indeed, might well cause us to pause and reflect, whether we do not ascribe to divine grace what only springs from fallen nature. Or, is it, because, allowing the thing, spoken of to be truly good, we heartily mean all that which we say, in ascribing them to the grace of God, and this too evidently to receive approbation, or even toleration? Yet all the inhabitants of heaven ascribe their salvation unreservedly “ to God and the “ Lamb.”! They do not say ' a part is our's, and 'a part is God's. Surely then it might be allowed us to use, without censure, similar language, or at least to learn on earth, if it may be, something of that humble adoring love and gratitude which stamps the adoration of the heavenly worshippers.
• We say that of ourselves we can do nothing ; 'whence they conclude that we have nothing to 'do. We say that it is the grace of God which ' enables us to do every thing; from whence they conclude that every thing must be left to the grace of God, and that we need only work our'selves into a strong persuasion that God is at 'work for us, and may sit still ourselves. And · this persuasion, which is generally mere enthusiasm, they dignify with the name of Christian faith.'2
The writer of these remarks knows, by painful experience, that there are persons justly deserving of this censure : as a great part of his life has been employed in protesting and contending against this very antinomian enthusiasm. He cannot,
! Rev. v.8--11. vii. 9-12.
? Sherlock, Note, Ref. 48.