Page images

and doing, in working out their own salvation, are as necessary as if they were independent on God, and he did not work in them to will and to do: and therefore this is no reason why they should not will and work, but sit still and do nothing ; but is a good reason why they fould work, and do what they do with fear and trembling, not trusting in themselves, but in God alone, to enable them to go through and perfect this work.

This doctrine of abfolute dependence on God for every volition and exertion in working out our own fälvation, which is implied and asserted in the explanation which has been given of this text, has been repre. fented and objected to as a very discouraging doctrine, tending to lead persons to fit still, and not attempt to do any thing towards their falvation.

It is granted that the view of the text which has been given does tend to discourage persons from at. tempting to work out their own salvation in their own strength and fufficiency, independent of God, and his effectual operation on their hearts to will and to do ; and will effectually do it, where it has its proper influ. ence on the hearts of men. But this affords no real ground of objection to the doctrine, but is rather in favour of it.

It is neceflary that men should be difcouraged from working out their falvation in this way, and relinquish it, in order to their being faved; and the sooner and more thoroughly they are discouraged, the better. Such discouragement is indeed given in the text, and in a vadt number of other paflages in the Bible, being rightly understood; for men are every where in fcripture represented as wholly dependent on God for the effectual influences of the Holy Spirit in order to do that which is necessary to be done by them for their salvation,

But to him who feels his own moral depravity and utter insufficiency to will and do any thing by which he may be saved, without the powerful operations of God to work in him to will to do it, this doctrine will


open the only ground of hope and encouragement to do or attempt to do any thing. If a child or any perfon were called to do fome great thing, to which he knew he was wholly unequal, being utterly insufficient to such a work of himself, he would not have any courage to attempt it, until he knew that one stood by him who was able and promised to give him all necessary alfistance, if he would rely wholly on him for it ; but this would give him sufficient encouragement to engage in the work with hope of success; and would be the only ground of encouragement and hope.

Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “ Without me ye can do nothing.” Surely he did not say this to discourage them, and lead them to sit still and do nothing; but to encourage them to trust in him, and to engage in the work alligned to them with alacrity, courage and hope. The apostle Paul knew that he was what he was by the grace of God, working mightily and effectually in him both to will and to do ; that he had no sufficiency of himself for any good thing, but that all his sufficiency was of God; that without the powerful assistance of Christ he could do nothing. Did this discourage him, from attempting to do any thing? No; directly the contrary: from this he took his sole encouragement, and was animated to pursue his work with activity

and diligence, and laboured more than all the other apostles, knowing that through Christ who strengthened him he could do all things.

Thus it appears not only that the objection under confideration is altogether without any ground or reason, but that it is made against a passage of fcripture which, according to the explanation which has been given, affords the only ground of hope to-finners, and gives fufficient and the only encouragement to work out our own falvation with fear and trembling; and which does contain a complete anfwer to the objection, and that it is as direct, great and mischievous a perversion and abuse of the text, as can be imagined. Let it therefore be rejected by all with abhorrence, and filenced forever.

[ocr errors]

3. The

3. The objection which has been made, that this doctrine of man's dependence on the powerful operation of God for every virtuous and holy act of will, so that it is really produced by him, and could not exist did not God work in him both to will and to do, is inconsistent with human liberty, and makes man a mere machine, who is acted upon in all he wills and does, is really answered and refuted in the words themselves, as they have been explained.

Human liberty consists in willing and doing, or in acting voluntarily. To act freely, and to act voluntarily, are synonimous terms, meaning the same thing; and it is impoflible to exercise or conceive of any other real liberty than this. All the liberty of

All the liberty of any moral agent consists in acting voluntarily. There is no other liberty. in nature poflible. Therefore liberty does not confift in any thing which takes place before the actual exertion of willing ; man does not, he cannot, exercise freedom antecedent to his acting voluntarily, or when he ceases to will and to do. Therefore, when God worketh in men to will and do what otherwise they would not will and do, their liberty is so far from being obstructed by this, that it is promoted, and the consequence is, their actually willing and doing, and consequently exercising all the liberty of which any creature is or can be made capable. How groundless and unreasonable then is this objection! It amounts to this, that man cannot be free in that which is the only exercise of liberty, because he never would have acted thus freely in that instance, did not God by working in him induce him to exercise all the freedom of which he is capable in actually willing and doing

It is evident that many puzzle and bewilder themselves about human liberty, and think many facts and doctrines contained in the Bible to be inconsistent with liberty ; or at least confefs themselves unable to conceive how they can be consistent with it, because they have never attended so much to the nature of human liberty as to be able to determine precisely in what it does confift, and


imagine it consists in something, of which they have no clear and consistent idea, and which is really impossible, and never did or can exift. If they would carefully consult their own feelings to find what that is which they feel and exercise when they consider themselves perfectly free in what they do, they would find that when they acted voluntarily or of choice, and did as they pleased, they acted freely, and pofseffed all the freedom they could defire, or have any consistent conception of; therefore, that though God work in them to will and to do, or whatever were the previous cause of their willing and acting as they did, yet they were perfectly free in their choice and conduct; and that it was as much their own will and choice, as it could be on any supposition whatever, and they themselves wholly accountable for what they will and do.

This paffage therefore is so far from being inconsistent with human liberty, that it supposes and asserts that persons have and exercise all the liberty in the practice of morality and religion of which man is capable, and carries in the face of it a complete confutation of the objection under consideration. And let no one imagine he has not all the freedom that is desirable, or that, in the na. ture of things, can be pofleffed and exercised, while he feels and knows that he acts voluntarily, or does as he pleases. And if he does both will and do that which is really working out his own falvation, let him afcribe it wholly to the fovereign mercy of God, who worketh in hin thus to will and do, of his good pleasure.

[blocks in formation]

Sermon XIII.

Phil. ii. 12, 13. Work out your own salvation with fear

and trembling : for it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure. T TAVING considered three objections to the text, as 1 it has been explained, in the preceding discourse, it is proposed in this to answer feveral more.

4. It is objected, that if men are not and cannot be willing to work out their own salvation, unless God firit work in them to wil and do, then they cannot be blamcable for not willing and doing.

To this objection there is a full solution and answer in the words to which, it is made. If none do any thing towards working out their own salvation, till God worketh in thèm to will and to do, this supposes that previous to this they are unwilling ; and that this unwillingness, or opposition of will to this work, is the only difficulty in the way of their willing and doing that by which they would be saved; and were it not for this opposition of heart or will to do that by which they would be saved, there would be no need that God should thus work in them to will and to do, which otherwise they voluntarily refufe to do. It is therefore supposed that they act freely in willing and doing that which is contrary to working out their falvation, and consequently that they are wholly blameable for voluntarily opposing that by which they might be faved, if they were willing to comply with it. For we have no other idea of blame or crime, but that which confifts, in willing and doing that which is contrary to reason and truth, and the command of God, when nothing is in the way of willing and doing that which is right and wise, but their unwillingness or opposition of heart or will to that which is required. And the great


« PreviousContinue »