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§ 3. Common Grace.
The word χάρις, הֶמֶד, means a favourable disposition, or kind feeling; and especially love as exercised towards the inferior, dependent, or unworthy. This is represented as the crowning attribute of the divine nature. Its manifestation is declared to be the grand end of the whole scheme of redemption. The Apostle teaches that predestination, election, and salvation are all intended for the praise of the glory of the grace of God which He exercises towards us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. i. 3-6.) He raises men from spiritual death, “and makes them sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace.” (Eph. ii. 6, 7.) Therefore it is often asserted that salvation is of grace. The gospel is a system of grace. All its blessings are gratuitously bestowed; all is so ordered that in every step of the progress of redemption and in its consummation, the grace, or undeserved love of God, is conspicuously displayed. Nothing is given or promised on the ground of merit. Everything is an undeserved favour. That salvation was provided at all, is a matter of grace and not of debt. That one man is saved, and another not, is to the subject of salvation, a matter of grace. All his Christian virtues, are graces, i.e., gifts. Hence it is that the greatest of all gifts secured by the work of Christ, that without which salvation had been impossible, the Holy Ghost, in the influence which He exerts on the minds of men, has in all ages and in all parts of the Church been designated as divine grace. A work of grace is the work of the Holy Spirit; the means of grace, are the means by which, or in connection with which, the influence of the Spirit is conveyed or exercised. By common grace, therefore, is meant that influence of the Spirit, which in a greater or less measure, is granted to all who hear the truth. By sufficient grace is meant such kind and degree of the Spirit’s influence, as is sufficient to lead men to repentance, faith, and a holy life. By efficacious grace is meant such an influence of the Spirit as is certainly effectual in producing regeneration and conversion. By preventing grace is intended that operation of the Spirit on the mind which precedes and excites its efforts to return to God. By the gratia gratum faciens is meant the influence of the Spirit which renews or renders gracious. Cooperating grace is that influence of the Spirit which aids the people of God in all the exercises of the divine life. By habitual grace is meant the Holy Spirit as dwelling in believers; or, that permanent, immanent 655state of mind due to his abiding presence and power. Such is the established theological and Christian usage of this word. By grace, therefore, in this connection is meant the influence of the Spirit of God on the minds of men.
This is an influence of the Holy Spirit distinct from, and accessary to the influence of the truth. There is a natural relation between truth, whether speculative, æsthetic, moral, or religious, and the mind of man. All such truth tends to produce an effect suited to its nature, unless counteracted by inadequate apprehension or by the inward state of those to whom it is presented. This is of course true of the Word of God. It is replete with truths of the highest order; the most elevated; the most important; the most pertinent to the nature and necessities of man; and the best adapted to convince the reason, to control the conscience, to affect the heart, and to govern the life. Opposed to this doctrine of the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God on the minds of men, additional to the moral influence of the truth, is the deistical theory of God’s relation to the world. That theory assumes that having created all things, and endowed his creatures of every order, material and immaterial, rational and irrational, with the properties and attributes suited to their nature and destiny, he leaves the world to the control of these subordinate or second causes, and never intervenes with the exercise of his immediate agency. This same view is by many Rationalists, Pelagians, and Remonstrants, transferred to the sphere of the moral and religious relations of man. God having made man a rational and moral being and endowed him with free agency; and having revealed in his works and in his Word the truth concerning Himself and the relation of man to the great Creator, leaves man to himself. There is no influence on the part of God exerted on the minds of men, apart from that which is due to the truth which He has revealed. Those numerous passages of Scripture which attribute the conversion and sanctification of men to the Spirit of God, the advocates of this theory explain by saying: That as the Spirit is the author of the truth, He may be said to be the author of the effects which the truth produces; but they deny any intervention or agency of the Spirit additional to the truth objectively present to the mind. On this point Limborch491491Theologia Christiana, IV. xii. 2; edit. Amsterdam, 1715, p. 350, a. says, “Interna vocatio . . . . quæ fit per Spiritum Dei, . . . . non est virtus Spiritus seorsim operans a verbo, sed per verbum, et verbo semper inest . . . . . Non dicimus duas esse (verbi et Spiritus) actiones specie distinctas: 656sed unam eandemque actionem; quoniam verbum est Spiritus, hoc est, Spiritus verbo inest.”492492Theologia Christiana, IV. xii. 4; p. 351, a. This may be understood either in a Rationalistic, or in a Lutheran sense. It expresses the views of those extreme Remonstrants who inclined most to Pelagianism. With Pelagius little more was meant by grace than the providential blessings which men enjoyed in a greater or les degree. Even free will as a natural endowment he called grace.
Lutheran Doctrine on Common Grace.
A second view on this subject is that of the Lutherans already referred to. They also deny any influence of the Spirit accessary to the power inherent in the Word. But they are very far from adopting the deistical or rationalistic hypothesis. They fully admit the supernatural power of Christianity and all its ordinances. They hold that the Word “habet vim aut potentiam activam supernaturalem ac vere divinam ad producendos supernaturales effectus, scilicet, mentes hominum convertendas, regenerandas et renovendas.”493493Schmid, Dogmatik, third edit. p. 393. This divine efficacy is inherent in, and inseparable from the Word. The words of man have only human power, presenting arguments and motives to convince and to persuade. The Word of God has supernatural and divine power. If in any case it fail to produce supernatural effect, i.e., to renew and sanctify, the fault is in the hearer. It is like articles of the materia medica, which have inherent virtue, but which nevertheless require a suitable condition in those to whom they are administered, in order to their proper effect. Or, to take a much higher illustration and one of which the Lutheran divines are especially fond; the Word is like the person of our Lord Jesus Christ when here on earth. He was replete with divine virtue. Whoever touched even the hem of his garment, was made whole of whatever disease he had. Nevertheless without faith, contact with Christ was inefficacious. There is all the difference, therefore, according to the Lutheran doctrine, between the word of man and the Word of God, that there was between Christ and ordinary men. The effect of the Word is no more to be attributed to its natural power as truth on the understanding and conscience, than the cures effected by Christ are to be referred to any natural remedial agencies. The effect in both cases is supernatural and divine. “Verbum Dei,” says Quensted,494494Systema Theologicum, I. iv. 2, 16, 4, edit. Leipzig, 1715, p. 248. “non agit solum persuasiones morales, proponendo nobis objectum amabile, sed etiam 657vero, reali, divino et ineffabili influxu potentiæ suæ gratiosæ, ita ut efficaciter et vere convertat, illuminet, salvet in illo, cum illo et per illud operante Spiritu Sancto; in hoc enim consistit verbi divini et humani differentia.” So Hollaz says,495495Examen, III. ii. 1, 4; Holmiæ et Lipsiæ, 1741, p. 987. “Verbum Dei, qua tale, non potest fingi sine divina virtute aut sine Spiritu Sancto, qui a verbo suo inseparabilis est. Nam si a verbo Dei separetur Spiritus Sanctus, non esset id Dei verbum vel verbum Spiritus, sed esset verbum humanum.” As the Spirit, so to speak, is thus immanent in the Word, he never operates on the mind except through and by the Word. On this point Luther and the Lutheran divines insisted with great earnestness. They were especially led to take this ground from the claims of fanatical Anabaptists, to direct spiritual communications independent of the Scriptures to which they made the written Word subordinate: “Pater neminem trahere vult, absque mediis, sed utitur tanquam ordinariis mediis et instrumentis, verbo suo et sacramentis.”496496Formula Concordiæ, xi. 76; Hase, Libri Symbolici, p. 818. See Confessio Augustana, x. v. 2; Ibid. p. 11. “Constanter tenendum est, Deum nemini Spiritum vel gratiam suam largiri, nisi per verbum et cum verbo externo et præcedente, ut ita præmuniamus nos adversum enthusiastas, id est, spiritus, qui jactitant, se ante verbum et sine verbo Spiritum habere, et ideo scripturam sive vocale verbum judicant, flectunt et reflectunt pro libito, ut faciebat Monetarius, et multi adhuc hodie, qui acute discernere volunt inter Spiritum et literam, et neutrum norunt, nec quid statuant, sciunt.”497497Articuli Smalcaldici, viii. 3; Hase, p. 331. The Lutherans, therefore, reject the distinction made by Calvinists between the external and internal call. They admit such a distinction, “sed,” as Quenstedt498498Systema Theologicum, III. vi. ii. ἔχθεσις viii.; Wittenberg, 1685, part ii. p. 467, a. says, “ut externam vocationem internæ non opponamus, nec unam ab altera separemus, cum externa vocatio internæ medium sit ac organon et per illam Deus efficax sit in cordibus hominum. Si externa vocatio non ex asse congruit internæ, si externe vocatus esse potest qui non interne, vana fuerit, fallax, illusoria.”
A third doctrine which is opposed to the Scriptural teaching on this subject, is that which makes no distinction between the influence of the Spirit and the providential efficiency of God. Thus Wegscheider499499Institutiones Theologiæ, III. iii. § 152; fifth edit. pp. 469, 470. says, “Operationes gratiæ immediatas et supernaturales jam olim nonnulli recte monuerunt, nec diserte promissas esse 658in libris sacris nec necessarias, quum, quæ ad animum emendandum valeant, omnia legibus naturæ a Deo optime efficiantur, nec denique ita conspicuas ut cognosci certo et intelligi possint. Accedit, quod libertatem et studium hominum impediunt, mysticorum somnia fovent et Deum ipsum auctorem arguunt peccatorum ab hominibus non emendatis commissorum. . . . . Omnis igitur de gratia disputatio rectius ad doctrinam de providentia Dei singulari et concursu refertur.” To the same effect De Wette says: “It is one and the same efficiency, producing good in men, which according to the natural anthropological view we ascribe to themselves, and according to the religious view to God. These two modes of apprehension ought not to be considered as opposed to each other, but as mutually compensative.” Again, “Religious faith regards the impulse to good (die Begeisterung zum Guten) as an efflux from God; philosophical reflection as the force of reason.”500500Dogmatik, 2ter Th. III. i. § 77; Berlin, 1816, 2d part, p. 167.
It depends of course on the view taken of God’s relation to the world, what is the degree or kind of influence to be ascribed to Him in promoting the reformation or sanctification of men. According to the mechanical theory, adopted by Deists, Rationalists, or (as they are often called in distinction from Supernaturalists) Naturalists, there is no exercise of the power of God on the minds of men. As He leaves the external world to the control of the laws of nature, so He leaves the world of mind to the control of its own laws. But as almost all systems of philosophy assume a more intimate relation between the Creator and his creatures than this theory acknowledges, it follows that confounding the providential agency of God over his creatures with the influence of the Holy Spirit, admits of the ascription to Him of an agency more or less direct in the regeneration and sanctification of men.
According to the common doctrine of Theism second causes have a real efficiency, but they are upheld and guided in their operation by the omnipresent and universally active efficiency of God; so that the effects produced are properly referred to God. He sends rain upon the earth; He causes the grass to grow; He fashions the eye and forms the ear; and He feeds the young ravens when they cry. All the operations of nature in the external world, which evince design, are due not to the working of blind physical laws, but to those laws as constantly guided by the mind and will of God. In like manner He is said to control the laws of mind: to sustain and direct the operation of moral causes. His relation to the world of mind is, in this point, analogous to his relation 659to the material world. And in the same sense, and for the same reason that He is said to give a plentiful harvest, He is said to make men fruitful in good feelings and in good works. Conversion, according to this view, is just as much a natural process as intellectual culture, or the growth of vegetables or animals. This is the doctrine of Rationalists as distinguished from Supernaturalists.
Many philosophical systems, however, ignore all second causes. They assume that effects are due to the immediate agency of God. This is the doctrine not only of Pantheists, but also of many Christian philosophers. This idea is involved in the theory of occasional causes, and in the doctrine so popular at one time among theologians that preservation is a continual creation. If God creates the universe ex nihilo every successive moment, as even President Edwards strenuously asserts, then all effects and changes are the product of his omnipotence, and the efficiency or agency of second causes is of necessity excluded. According to this doctrine there can be no distinction between the operations of nature and those of grace. The same thing is obviously true in reference to the theory of Dr. Emmons and the high Hopkinsians. Dr. Emmons teaches that God creates all the volitions of men, good or bad. The soul itself is but a series of exercises. First in chronological order comes a series of sinful volitions; then, in some cases, not in all, this is followed by a series of holy volitions. God is equally the author of the one and of the other. This is true of all mental exercises. No creature can originate action. God is the only real agent in the universe. According to this doctrine all operations of the Spirit are merged in this universal providential efficiency of God; and all distinction between nature and grace, the natural and the supernatural is obliterated.
In opposition, therefore, first, to the proper naturalistic theory, which excludes God entirely from his works, and denies to Him any controlling influence either over material or mental operations and effects; secondly, in opposition to the doctrines which identify the operations or influence of the Spirit with the power of the truth; and thirdly, in opposition to the theory which ignores the influence between the providential efficiency of God and the operations of the Holy Spirit; the Scriptures teach that the influence of the Spirit is distinct from the mere power, whether natural or supernatural, of the truth itself; and that it is no less to be distinguished from the providential efficiency (or potentia ordinata) of God which coöperates with all second causes.660
There is an influence of the Spirit distinct from the Truth.
As to the first of these points, namely, that there is an influence of the Spirit on the minds distinct from and accessary to the power of the truth, which attends the truth sometimes with more, and sometimes with less power, according to God’s good pleasure, the proof from Scripture is plain and abundant.
1. The Bible makes a broad distinction between the mere hearers of the Word, and those inwardly taught by God. When our Lord says (John vi. 44), “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him;” he evidently refers to an inward drawing and teaching beyond that effected by the truth as objectively presented to the mind. All the power which the truth as truth has over the reason and conscience is exerted on all who hear it. This of itself is declared to be insufficient. An inward teaching by the Spirit is absolutely necessary to give the truth effect. This distinction between the outward teaching of the Word and the inward teaching of the Spirit is kept up throughout the Scriptures. The Apostle in 1 Corinthians i. 23-26, as well as elsewhere, says that the gospel however clearly preached, however earnestly enforced, even though Paul or Apollos were the teacher, is weakness and foolishness, without power to convince or to convert, unless rendered effectual by the demonstration of the Spirit. “The called,” therefore, according to the Scriptures are not the hearers of the Word, but are those who receive an inward vocation by the Spirit. All whom God calls, He justifies, and all whom He justifies He glorifies. (Rom. viii. 30.)
2. The reason is given why the truth in itself is inoperative and why the inward teaching of the Spirit is absolutely necessary. That reason is found in the natural state of man since the fall, He is spiritually dead. He is deaf and blind. He does not receive the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. It is therefore those only who are spiritual, i.e., in whom the Spirit dwells, and whose discernment, feelings and whole life are determined by the Spirit, who receive the truths which are freely given unto all who hear the gospel. This is the doctrine of the Apostle as delivered in 1 Corinthians ii 10-15. And such is the constant representation of the word of God on this subject.
3. The Scriptures therefore teach that there is an influence of the Spirit required to prepare the minds of men for the reception of the truth. The truth is compared to light, which is absolutely 661necessary to vision; but if the eye be closed or blind it must be opened or restored before the light can produce its proper impression. The Psalmist therefore prays, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm cxix. 18.) In Acts xvi. 14, it is said of Lydia, “Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
4. Accordingly the great promise of the Scriptures especially in reference to the Messianic period was the effusion of the Holy Spirit. “Afterward,” said the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (ii. 28). The effects which the Spirit was to produce prove that something more, and something different from the power of the truth was intended. The truth however clearly revealed and however imbued with supernatural energy could not give the power to prophesy, or to dream dreams or to see visions. The Old Testament abounds with predictions and promises of this gift of the Holy Ghost, which was to attend and to render effectual the clearer revelation of the things of God to be made by the Messiah. Isaiah xxxii. 15, “Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.” Isaiah xliv. 3, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” Ezekiel xxxix. 29, “I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel.” Zechariah xii. 10, “1 will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son.”
After the resurrection of our Lord He directed his disciples to remain at Jerusalem until they were imbued with power from on high. That is, until they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was on the day of Pentecost that the Spirit descended upon the disciples, as the Apostle said, in fulfilment of the predictions of the Old Testament prophets. The effect of his influence was not only a general illumination of the minds of the Apostles, and the communication of miraculous gifts, but the conversion of five thousand persons to the faith at once. It is impossible to deny that these effects were due to the power of the Spirit as something distinct from, and accessary to, the mere power of the truth. This is the explanation of the events of the day of Pentecost given by the Apostle Peter, in Acts ii. 32, 38, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right 662hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the prom ise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” This was the fulfilment of the promise which Christ made to his disciples that He would send them another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth who should abide with them forever. (John xiv. 16.) That Spirit was to teach them; to bring all things to their remembrance; He was to testify of Christ; reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and he was to give the Apostles a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries should not be able to gainsay or resist. Believers, therefore, are said to receive the Holy Ghost. They have an unction from the Holy One, which abides with them and teaches them all things. (1 John ii. 20 and 27.)
When our Lord says (Luke xi. 13), that our Father in heaven is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, than parents are to give good gifts unto their children, He certainly means something more by the gift of the Spirit, than the knowledge of his Word. Thousands hear and do not understand or believe. The Spirit is promised to attend the teaching of the Word and to render it effectual, and this is the precious gift which God promises to bestow on those who ask it. “Hereby we know,” says the Apostle, “that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he bath given us.” (1 John iii. 24.) The Holy Ghost, therefore, is a gift. It is a gift bestowed on those who already have the Word, and consequently it is something distinct from the Word.
5. Another clear proof that the Spirit exercises upon the minds of men an influence distinguishable from the influence of the truth either in the Lutheran or Remonstrant view, is that those who have the knowledge of the Word as read or heard, are directed to pray for the gift of the Spirit to render that Word effectual. Of such prayers we have many examples in the Sacred Scriptures. David, in Psalm li. 11, prays,” Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” The Apostle prays in behalf of the Ephesians to whom for more than two years he had been preaching the Gospel, that God would give them the Holy Spirit, that they might have the knowledge of Him, that their eyes might be opened to know the hope of their calling, and the riches of the glory of the inheritance of the saints, and the exceeding greatness of the power of which they were the subjects. (Eph. i. 17-19.) He makes a similar prayer in behalf of the Colossians. (Col. i. 9-11.) On the other hand men are warned not to grieve or quench the Spirit lest he should depart from them. The great judgment which ever hangs over 663the impenitent hearers of the Gospel is, that God may withhold the Holy Spirit, leaving them to themselves and to the mere power inherent in the truth. Such are reprobates; men with whom the Spirit has ceased to strive. It is obvious, therefore, that the Scriptures recognize an influence of the Holy Ghost which may be given or withheld, and which is necessary to give the truth any power on the heart.
6. The Scriptures therefore always recognize the Holy Spirit as the immediate author of regeneration, of repentance, of faith, and of all holy exercises. He dwells in believers, controlling their inward and outward life. He enlightens, leads, sanctifies, strengthens, and comforts. All these effects are attributed to his agency. He bestows his gifts on every one severally as he will. (1 Cor. xii. 11.) The Bible does not more clearly teach that the gifts of tongues, of healing, of miracles, and of wisdom, are the fruits of the Spirit, than that the saving graces of faith, love, and hope are to be referred to his operations. The one class of gifts is no more due to the inherent power of the truth than the other. The Apostle, therefore, did not depend for the success of his preaching upon the clearness with which the truth was presented, or the earnestness with which it was enforced, but on the attending “demonstration of the Spirit.” (1 Cor. ii. 4.) He gave thanks to God that the Gospel came to the Thessalonians “not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost.” (1 Thess. i. 5.) He prayed that God would fulfil in them “the work of faith with power.” (2 Thess. i. 11.) He reminded the Philippians that it was God who worked in them “both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. ii. 13.) In Hebrews xiii. 21, he prays that God would make his people perfect, working in them “that which is well-pleasing in his sight.” Indeed, every prayer recorded in the Scriptures for the conversion of men, for their sanctification, and for their consolation, is a recognition of the doctrine that God works on the mind of men by his Holy Spirit according to his own good pleasure. This is especially true of the apostolic benediction. By the “communion of the Holy Ghost, which that benediction invokes, is meant a participation in the sanctifying and saving influences of the Spirit.
7. This truth, that the Spirit does attend the Word and ordinances of God by a power not inherent in the Word and sacraments themselves, but granted in larger or less measures, as God sees fit, is inwrought into the faith of the whole Christian Church. All the Liturgies of the Greek, Latin, and Protestant churches are 664filled with prayers for the gift of the Spirit to attend the Word and sacraments. Every Christian offers such prayers daily for himself and others. The whole history of the Church is full of the record of facts which are revelations of this great doctrine. Why were thousands converted on the day of Pentecost, when so few believed under the preaching of Christ himself? Why during the apostolic age did the Church make such rapid progress in all parts of the world? Why at the Reformation, and at many subsequent periods, were many born in a day? Every revival of religion is a visible manifestation of the power of the Holy Ghost accessary to the power of the truth. This, therefore, is a doctrine which no Christian should allow himself for a moment to call into question.
The Influence of the Spirit may be without the Word.
There is another unscriptural view of this subject which must at least be noticed, although its full consideration belongs to another department. Many admit that there is a supernatural power of the Spirit attending the Word and sacraments, but they hold that the Spirit is confined to these channels of communication; that He works in them and by them but never without them. On this subject Romanists hold that Christ gave the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. They transmitted the gift to their successors the bishops. Bishops in the laying on of hands in ordination communicate the grace of orders to the priests. In virtue of this grace the priests have supernatural power to render the sacraments the channels of grace to those who submit to their ministrations. Those, therefore, who are in the Romish Church, and those only, are, through the sacraments, made partakers of the Holy Spirit. All others, whether adults or infants, perish because they are not partakers of those ordinances through which alone the saving influences of the Spirit are communicated. This also is the doctrine held by those called Anglicans in the Church of England.
The Lutheran Church rejected with great earnestness the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, the Grace of Orders, and the Priesthood of the Christian Ministry as held by the Church of Rome. Lutherans, however, taught not only that there is “a mystical union” between the Spirit and the Word, as we have already seen, so that all saving effects are produced by the power inherent in the Word itself, and that the Spirit does not operate on the hearts of men without the Word, but also that there is an objective supernatural power in the sacraments themselves, so that they 665are, under all ordinary circumstances, the necessary means of salvation.
The Reformed, while they teach that, so far as adults are concerned, the knowledge of the Gospel is necessary to salvation, yet hold that the operations of the Holy Spirit are confined neither to the Word nor to the sacraments. He works when and where He sees fit, as in the times of the Old Testament and during the Apostolic age his extraordinary gifts were not conveyed through the medium of the truth, so neither now are the gifts for ecclesiastical office, nor is the regeneration of infants, effected by any such instrumentality. The saving efficacy of the Word and sacraments where they take effect, is not due to “any virtue in them; . . . . but only” to “the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.”
The Work of the Spirit is distinct from Providential Efficiency.
As grace, or the influence of the Holy Spirit, is not inherent in the Word or sacraments, so neither is it to be confounded with the providential efficiency of God. The Scriptures clearly teach, (1.) That God is everywhere present in the world, upholding all the creatures in being and activity. (2.) That He constantly coöperates with second causes in the production of their effects. He fashioned our bodies. He gives to every seed its own body. (3.) Besides this ordered efficiency (potentia ordinata), which works uniformly according to fixed laws, He, as a free, personal, extramundane Being, controls the operations of these fixed laws, or the efficiency of second causes, so as to determine their action according to his own will. He causes it to rain at one time and not at another. He sends fruitful seasons, or He causes drought. “Elias . . . . prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James. v. 17, 18.) (4.) A like control is exercised over mankind. The king’s heart is in the. hands of the Lord, and He turns it as the rivers of water are turned. He makes poor and makes rich. He raises up one and puts down another. A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps. By Him kings rule and princes decree justice. Such, according to the Scriptures, is the providential government of God who works all things according to the counsel of his own will.
As distinct from this providential control which extends over all creatures, the Scriptures tell of the sphere of the Spirit’s operations. 666This does not imply that the Spirit has nothing to do in the creation, preservation, and government of the world. On the contrary the Bible teaches that whatever God does in nature, in the material world and in the minds of men, He does through the Spirit. Nevertheless the Scriptures make a broad distinction between providential government, and the operations of the Spirit in the moral government of men and in carrying forward the great plan of redemption. This is the distinction between nature and grace. To these special operations of the Spirit are attributed, —
1. The revelation of truth. Nothing is plainer than that the great doctrines of the Bible were made known not in the way of the orderly development of the race, or of a growth in human knowledge, but by a supernatural intervention of God by the Spirit.
2. The inspiration of the sacred writers, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
3. The various gifts, intellectual, moral, and physical, bestowed on men to qualify them for the special service of God. Some of these gifts were extraordinary or miraculous, as in the case of the Apostles and others; others were ordinary, i.e., such as do not transcend the limits of human power. To this class belong the skill of artisans, the courage and strength of heroes, the wisdom of statesmen, the ability to rule, etc. Thus it was said of Bezaleel, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and in understanding and in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass.” (Exod. xxxi. 3, 4.) Of the seventy elders chosen by Moses, it is said, “I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them.” (Num. xi. 17.) Joshua was appointed to succeed Moses, because in him was the Spirit. (Num. xxvii. 18.) “The Spirit of the Lord came upon” Othniel “and he judged Israel.” (Judg. iii. 10.) So the Spirit of the Lord is said to have come upon Gideon, Jephtha, and Samson. When Saul was called to be king over Israel, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him; and when he was rejected for disobedience, the Spirit departed from him. (1 Sam. xvi. 14.) When Samuel anointed David, it is said, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” (1 Sam. xvi. 13.) In like manner under the new dispensation, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” (1 Cor. xii. 4.) And by these gifts some were made apostles, some prophets, some teachers, some workers of miracles. (1 Cor. xii. 29.) Paul, therefore, exhorted the elders of Ephesus 667to take heed to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. (Acts xx. 28.)
4. To the Spirit are also referred conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment; the resistance and rebuke of evil in the heart; strivings and warnings; illumination of the conscience; conviction of the truth; powerful restraints; and temporary faith founded on moral convictions; as well as regeneration, sanctification, consolation, strength, perseverance in holiness, and final glorification both of the soul and of the body.
All these effects which the Bible clearly and constantly refers to the Holy Spirit, Rationalism refers to second causes and to the attending providential efficiency of God. It admits of revelation, but only of such as is made in the works of God and in the constitution of our nature, apprehended by the mind in its normal exercises. All truth is discovered by the intuitive or discursive operations of reason. Inspiration is only the subjective state due to the influence of these truths on the mind. Miracles are discarded, or referred to some higher law. Or if admitted, they are allowed to stand by themselves, and all other subsequent intervention of God in controlling the minds of men is reduced to the regular process of human development and progress. The Bible and the Church universal recognize a broad distinction between the work of the Spirit and the operation of second causes as energized and controlled by the general efficiency of God. It is to one and the same divine agent that all the influences which control the conduct, form the character, and renew and sanctity the children of men, are to be referred; that by his energy revealed the truth to the prophets and apostles, rendered them infallible as teachers, and confirmed their divine missions by signs, and wonders, and divers miracles. The former class no more belong to the category of nature or natural operations, than the latter. God as an extramundane Spirit, a personal agent, has access to all other spirits. He can and He does act upon them as one spirit acts upon another, and also as only an Almighty Spirit can act; that is, producing effects which God alone can accomplish.
The Bible therefore teaches that the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, of holiness, and of life in all its forms, is present with every human mind, enforcing truth, restraining from evil, exciting to good, and imparting wisdom or strength, when, where, and in what measure seemeth to Him good. In this sphere also He divides “to every man severally as He will.” (1 Cor. xii. 11.) This is what in theology is called common grace.668
The Influences of the Spirit granted to all Man.
That there is a divine influence of the Spirit granted to all men, is plain both from Scripture and from experience.
1. Even in Genesis vi. 3 (according to our version), it is said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” The Hebrew verb דוּו means, to rule, to judge. The sense of the passage therefore may be, as given by Gesenius, De Wette, and others, “Nicht für immer soll mein Geist walten im Menschen.” My Spirit shall not always rule in man. But this means more than the Septuagint expresses by καταμείνῃ and the Vulgate by permanebit. The Spirit of God, as Keil and Delitzsch properly remark, is the principle of spiritual as well as of natural life. What God threatened was to withdraw his Spirit from men on account of their wickedness, and to give them up to destruction. This includes the idea expressed in the English version of the passage. The Spirit of God had hitherto exerted an influence in the government of men which, after the appointed time of delay, was to cease. Rosenmüller’s explanation is, “Non feram, at Spiritus meus, per prophetas admonens homines, ab his in perpetuum contemnatur: puniam!” The clause per prophetas admonens has nothing in the text to suggest or justify it. It is inserted because Rosenmüller admitted no influence of the Spirit that was not indirect or mediate.
2. The martyr Stephen (Acts vii. 51) tells the Jews, “As your fathers did . . . . ye do always resist the ‘Holy Ghost,” as the prophet Isaiah lxiii. 10, said of the men of his generation, that they vexed God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit, therefore, is represented as striving with the wicked, and with all men. They are charged with resisting, grieving, vexing, and quenching his operations. This is the familiar mode of Scriptural representation. As God is everywhere present in the material world, guiding its operations according to the laws of nature; so He is everywhere present with the minds of men, as the Spirit of truth and goodness, operating on them according to the laws of their free moral agency, inclining them to good and restraining them from evil.
3. That the Spirit does exercise this general influence, common to all men, is further plain from what the Scriptures teach of the reprobate. There are men from whom God withdraws the restraints of his Spirit; whom for their sins, He gives up to themselves and to the power of evil. This is represented as a fearful doom. It fell, as the Apostle teaches, upon the heathen world for 669their impiety. As they “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator . . . . God gave them up unto vile affections . . . . As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (Rom. i. 25-28.) “My people would not hearken to my voice: and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts: and they walked in their own counsels.” (Ps. lxxxi. 11, 12.) As men are warned against grieving the Spirit as they are taught to pray that God would not take his Holy Spirit from them; as withdrawing the Spirit from any individual or people is represented as a direful judgment, the fact that the Spirit of God does operate on the minds of all men, to a greater or less degree, is clearly taught in Scripture.
4. The Bible therefore speaks of men as partakers of the Spirit who are not regenerated, and who finally come short of eternal life. It not only speaks of men repenting, of their believing for a time, and of their receiving the Word with joy, but still further. of their being enlightened, of their tasting of the heavenly gift, and of their being made partakers of the Holy Ghost. (Heb. vi. 4.)
Argument from Experience.
What is thus taught in Scripture is confirmed by the experience of every man, and of the Church in the whole course of its history. God leaves no man without a witness. No one can recall the time when he was not led to serious thoughts, to anxious inquiries, to desires and efforts, which he could not rationally refer to the operation of natural causes. These effects are not due to the mere moral influence of the truth, or to the influence of other men over our minds, or to the operation of the circumstances in which we may be placed. There is something in the nature of these experiences, and of the way in which they come and go, which proves that they are due to the operation of the Spirit of God. As the voice of conscience has in it an authority which it does not derive from ourselves, so these experiences have in them a character which reveals the source whence they come. They are the effects of that still small voice, which sounds in every human ear, saying, This is the way; walk ye in it. This is much more obvious at one time than at others. There are seasons in every man’s life, when he is almost overwhelmed with the power of these convictions. He may endeavour to suppress them by an effort of the will, by arguments to prove them to be unreasonable, and by diverting his mind by business or amusement, without 670success. God reveals Himself as distinctly in the workings of our inward nature as He does in the outward world. Men feel that they are in the hands of God; that He speaks to them, argues with them, expostulates, reproves, exhorts, and persuades them. And they know that they are resisting Him, when they are striving to stifle this mysterious voice within them.
During the apostolic period the Spirit, in fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, was poured out on all classes of men. The effects of his influence were, (1) The various spiritual gifts, whether miraculous or ordinary, then so abundantly enjoyed. (2.) The regeneration, holiness, zeal, and devotion of the multitudes added to the Church. And (3.) The moral conviction of the truth, the excitement of all the natural affections, temporary faith, repentance, and reformation. The latter class of effects was just as conspicuous and as undeniable as either of the others. And such has been the experience of the Church in all ages. Whenever and wherever the Spirit has been manifested to a degree in any measure analogous to the revelation of his presence and power on the day of Pentecost, while many have been truly born of God, more have usually been the subjects of influences which did not issue in genuine conversion.
The evidence therefore from Scripture, and from experience, is clear that the Holy Spirit is present with every human mind, and enforces, with more or less power, whatever of moral or religious truth the mind may have before it.
The Effects of common Grace.
The effects produced by common grace, or this influence of the Spirit common to all men, are most important to the individual and to the world. What the external world would be if left to the blind operation of physical causes, without the restraining and guiding influence of God’s providential efficiency, that would the world of mind be, in all its moral and religious manifestations, without the restraints and guidance of the Holy Spirit. There are two ways in which we may learn what the effect would be of the withholding the Spirit from the minds of men. The first is, the consideration of the effects of reprobation, as taught in Scripture and by experience, in the case of individual men. Such men have a seared conscience. They are reckless and indifferent, and entirely under the control of the evil passions of their nature. This state is consistent with external decorum and polish. Men may be as whitened sepulchres. But this is a restraint which the 671wise regard to their greatest selfish gratification places on the evil principles which control them. The effects of reprobation are depicted in a fearful manner by the Apostle in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. Not only individuals, but peoples and churches may be thus abandoned by the Spirit of God, and then unbroken spiritual death is the inevitable consequence. But, in the second place, the Scriptures reveal the effect of the entire withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from the control of rational creatures, in the account which they give of the state of the lost, both men and angels. Heaven is a place and state in which the Spirit reigns with absolute control. Hell is a place and state in which the Spirit no longer restrains and controls. The presence or absence of the Spirit makes all the difference between heaven and hell. To the general influence of the Spirit (or to common grace), we owe, —
1. All the decorum, order, refinement, and virtue existing among men. Mere fear of future punishment, the natural sense of right, and the restraints of human laws, would prove feeble barriers to evil, were it not for the repressing power of the Spirit, which, like the pressure of the atmosphere, is universal and powerful, although unfelt.
2. To the same divine agent is due specially that general fear of God, and that religious feeling which prevail among men, and which secure for the rites and services of religion in all its forms, the decorous or more serious attention which they receive.
3. The Scriptures refer to this general influence of the Spirit those religious experiences, varied in character and degree, which so often occur where genuine conversion, or regeneration does not attend or follow. To this reference has already been made in a general way as a proof of the doctrine of common grace. The great diversity of these religious experiences is due no doubt partly to the different degrees of religious knowledge which men possess; partly to their diversity of culture and character; and partly to the measure of divine influence of which they are the subjects. In all cases, however, there is in the first place a conviction of the truth. All the great doctrines of religion have a self-evidencing light; an evidence of their truth to which nothing but the blindness and hardness of heart produced by sin, can render the mind insensible. Men may argue themselves into a theoretical disbelief of the being of God, of the obligation of the moral law, and of a future state of retribution. But as these truths address themselves to our moral constitution, which we cannot 672change, no amount of sophistry can obscure their convincing light, if our amoral nature be aroused. The same is true also of the Bible. It is the Word of God. It contains internal evidence of being his Word. All that is necessary to produce an irresistible conviction of its truth is that the veil which sin and the God of this world have spread over the mind, should be removed. This is done, at least sufficiently to admit light enough to produce conviction, whenever the moral elements of our nature assume their legitimate power. Hence it is a matter of common observation that a man passes suddenly from a state of scepticism to one of firm belief, without any arguments being addressed to his understanding, but simply by a change in his inward moral state. When, as the Bible expresses it, “the eyes of the heart” are thus opened, he can no more doubt the truths perceived, than he can doubt the evidence of his senses.
In the second place, with this conviction of the truths of religion is connected an experience of their power. They produce to a greater or less degree an effect upon the feelings appropriate to their nature; a conviction of sin, the clear perception that what the Bible and the conscience teach of our guilt and pollution, produces self-condemnation, remorse, and self-abhorrence. These are natural, as distinguished from gracious affections. They are experienced often by the unrenewed and the wicked. A sense of God’s justice necessarily produces a fearful looking for of judgment. Those who sin, the Apostle says, know the righteous judgment of God, that they who do such things are worthy of death. (Rom. i. 32.) The attending conviction of entire helplessness; of the soul’s utter inability either to make expiation for its guilt, or to destroy the inward power of sin, and wash away its defilement, tends to produce absolute despair. No human suffering is more intolerable than that which is often experienced even in this life from these sources. “Heu me miserum et nimis miserum! nimis enim miserum, quem torquet conscientia sua quam fugere non potest! nimis enim miserum quem exspectat damnatio sua, quam vitare non potest! Nimis est infelix, qui sibi ipsi est horribilis; nimis infelicior, cui mors æeterna erit sensibilis. Nimis ærumnosus, quem terrent continui de sua infelicitate horrores.”501501Augustine, De Contritione Cordis, Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1837, vol. vi. appendix, p. 1376, c.
It is also natural and according to experience, that the promise of the Gospel, and the exhibition of the plan of salvation, contained in the Scriptures, which commend themselves to the enlightened 673conscience, should often appear not only as true but as suited to the condition of the awakened sinner. Hence he receives the Word with joy. He believes with a faith founded on this moral evidence of the truth. This faith continues as long as the state of mind by which it is produced continues. When that changes, and the sinner relapses into his wonted state of insensibility, his faith disappears. To this class of persons our Saviour refers when He speaks of those who receive the Word in stony places or among thorns. Of such examples of temporary faith there are numerous instances given in the Scriptures, and they are constantly occurring within our daily observation.
In the third place, the state of mind induced by these common operations of the Spirit, often leads to reformation, and to an externally religious life. The sense of the truth and importance of the doctrines of the Bible constrains men often to great strictness of conduct and to assiduous attention to religious duties.
The experiences detailed above are included in the “law work” of which the older theologians were accustomed to speak as generally preceding regeneration and the exercise of saving faith in Christ. They often occur before genuine conversion, and perhaps more frequently attend it; but nevertheless they are in many cases neither accompanied nor followed by a real change of heart. They may be often renewed, and yet those who are their subjects return to their normal state of unconcern and worldliness.
No strictness of inward scrutiny, no microscopic examination or delicacy of analysis, can enable an observer, and rarely the man himself, to distinguish these religious exercises from those of the truly regenerated. The words by which they are described both in the Scriptures and in ordinary Christian discourse, are the same. Unrenewed men in the Bible are said to repent, to believe, to be partakers of the Holy Ghost, and to taste the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come. Human language is not adequate to express all the soul’s experiences. The same word must always represent in one case, or in one man’s experience, what it does not in the experience of another. That there is a specific difference between the exercises due to common grace, and those experienced by the true children of God, is certain. But that difference does not reveal itself to the consciousness, or at least, certainly not to the eye of an observer. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” This is the test given by our Lord. It is only when these experiences issue in a holy life, that their distinctive character is known.674
As to the nature of the Spirit’s work, which He exercises, in a greater or less degree, on the minds of all men, the words of our Lord admonish us to speak with caution. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John iii. 8.) This teaches that the mode of the Spirit’s operation whether in regeneration or in conviction, is inscrutable. If we cannot understand how our souls act on our bodies, or how evil spirits act on our minds, the one being a familiar fact of consciousness, and the other a clear fact of revelation, it cannot be considered strange that we should not understand how the Holy Spirit acts on the minds of men. There are certain statements of the Bible, however, which throw some light on this subject. In the first place, the Scriptures speak of God’s reasoning with men; of his teaching them and that inwardly by his Spirit; of his guiding or leading them; and of his convincing, reproving, and persuading them. These modes of representation would seem to indicate “a moral suasion;” an operation in accordance with the ordinary laws of mind, consisting in the presentation of truth and urging of motives. In the second place, so far as appears, this common influence of the Spirit is never exercised except through the truth. In the third place, the moral and religious effects ascribed to it never rise above, so to speak, the natural operations of the mind. The knowledge, the faith, the conviction, the remorse, the sorrow, and the joy, which the Spirit is said to produce by these common operations, are all natural affections or exercises; such as one man may measurably awaken in the minds of other men. In the fourth place, these common influences of the Spirit are all capable of being effectually resisted. In all these respects this common grace is distinguished from the efficacious operation of the Spirit to which the Scriptures ascribe the regeneration of the soul. The great truth, however, that concerns us is that the Spirit of God is present with every human mind, restraining from evil and exciting to good; and that to his presence and influence we are indebted for all the order, decorum, and virtue, as well as the regard for religion and its ordinances, which exist in the world. And consequently that the greatest calamity that can befall an individual, a church, or a people, is that God should take his Holy Spirit from them. And as this is a judgment which, according to the Scriptures, does often come upon individuals, churches, and people, we should above all things dread lest we should grieve the Spirit or quench his influences. This is done by 675resistance, by indulgence in sin, and especially, by denying his agency and speaking evil of his work. “Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Matt. xii. 32.)
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