« Prev 4. Efficacious Grace. Next »

§ 4. Efficacious Grace.

Besides those operations of the Spirit, which in a greater or less degree are common to all men, the Scriptures teach that the covenant of redemption secures the Spirit’s certainly efficacious influence for all those who have been given to the Son as his inheritance.

Why called Efficacious.

This grace is called efficacious not simply ab eventu. According to one view the same influence at one time, or exerted on one person, produces a saving effect; and at other times, or upon other persons, fails of such effect. In the one case it is called efficacious, and in the other not. This is not what Augustinians mean by the term. By the Semi-Pelagians, the Romanists, and the Arminians, that influence of the Spirit which is exerted on the minds of all men is called “sufficient grace.” By the two former it is held to be sufficient to enable the sinner to do that which will either merit or secure larger degrees of grace which, if duly improved, will issue in salvation. The Arminians admit that the fall of our race has rendered all men utterly unable, of themselves, to do anything truly acceptable in the sight of God. But they hold that this inability, arising out of the present state of human nature, is removed by the influence of the Spirit given to all. This is called “gracious ability”; that is, an ability due to the grace, or the supernatural influence of the Spirit granted to all men. On both these points the language of the Remonstrant Declaration or Confession is explicit. It is there said, “Man has not saving faith from himself, neither is he regenerated or converted by the force of his own free will; since, in the state of sin, he is not able of and by himself to think, will, or do any good thing, any good thing that is saving in its nature, particularly conversion and saving faith. But it is necessary that he be regenerated, and wholly renewed by God in Christ, through the truth of the gospel and the added energy of the Holy Spirit, — in intellect, affections, will, and all his faculties, — so that he may be able rightly to perceive, meditate upon, will, and accomplish that which is a saving good.”502502Confessio Remonstrantium, xvii. 5; Episcopii Opera, edit. Rotterdam, 1665, vol. ii. pp. 88, 89, of second set. “Homo itaque salvificam fidem non habet ex seipso: neque ex arbitrii sui liberi viribus regeneratur, aut convertitur: quandoquidem in statu peccati nihil boni, quod quidem salutare bonum sit (cujusmodi imprimis est conversio et fides salvifica), ex seipso, vel cogitare potest, nedum, velle, aut facere: sed necesse est, ut a Deo, in Christo, per verbum, evangelii, eique adjunctam Spiritus Sancti virtutem regeneretur, atque totus renovetur; puta intellectu, affectibus, voluntate, omnibusque viribus; ut salutaria bona recte possit intelligere, meditari, velle, ac perficere.” On the point 676of sufficient grace the Declaration says: “Although there is the greatest diversity in the degrees in which grace is bestowed in accordance with the divine will, yet the Holy Ghost confers, or at least is ready to confer, upon all and each to whom the word of faith is ordinarily preached, as much grace as is sufficient for generating faith and carrying forward their conversion in its successive stages. Thus sufficient grace for faith and conversion is allotted not only to those who actually believe and are converted, but also to those who do not actually believe and are not in fact converted.”503503Confessio Remonstrantium, xvii. 8; p. 89, a, of second set. “Etsi vero maxima est gratiæ disparitas, pro liberrima scilicet voluntatis divinæ dispensatione: tamen Spiritus Sanctus omnibus et singulis, quibus verbum fidei ordinarie prædicatur, tantum gratiæ confert, aut saltem conferre paratus est, quantum ad fidem ingenerandum, et ad promovendum suis gradibus salutarem ipsorum conversionem sufficit. Itaque gratia sufficiens ad fidem et conversionem non tantum iis obtingit, qui actu credunt et convertuntur: sed etiam iis, qui actu ipso non credunt, nec reipsa convertuntur.” In the Apology for the Remonstrance, it is said, “The Remonstrants asserted that the servitude to sin, to which men (per naturæ conditionem) in their natural state, are subject, has no place in a state of grace. For they hold that God gives sufficient grace to all who are called, so that they can be freed from that servitude, and at the same time they have liberty of will to remain in it if they choose.”504504Apologia pro Confessione Remonstrantum, cap. VI.; ut supra, p. 144, b. of second set. “Remonstrantes asserunt necessitatem sive servitutem istam peccati, cui homines, per naturæ conditionem subjecti sunt, locum non habere sub statu gratiæ. Nam statuunt, vocatis omnibus gratiam sufficientem a Deo concedi, ita ut possint a servitute illa liberari, et simul manere in iis voluntatis libertatem, ut possint eidem servituti mander subjecti, si velint.” In the Apology it is expressly stated, “Gratia efficax vocatur . . . . ab eventu,” which is said to mean, “Ut statuatur gratia habere ex se sufficientem vim, ad producendum consensum in voluntate, sed, quia vis illa partialis est, non posse exire in actum sine coöperante liberæ voluntatis humanæ, ac proinde, ut effectum habeat, pendere a libera voluntate.505505Ibid. cap. xvii. iii.; p. 191, b, of second set. Limborch506506Theologia Christiana, IV. xii. 8, edit. Amsterdam, 1715, p. 352, b. teaches the same doctrine. “Sufficiens vocatio, quando per coöperationem liberi arbitrii sortitur suum effectum, vocatur efficax.

Augustinians of course admit that common grace is in one sense sufficient. It is sufficient to render men inexcusable for their impenitence 677and unbelief. This Paul says even of the light of nature. The heathen are without excuse for their idolatry, because the eternal power and Godhead of the divine Being are revealed to them in his works. Knowing God, they glorified Him not as God. (Rom. i. 20, 21.) So common grace is sufficient to convince men, (1.) Of sin and of their need of redemption. (2.) Of the truth of the gospel. (3.) Of their duty to accept its offers and to live in obedience to its commands; and (4.) That their impenitence and unbelief are due to themselves, to their own evil hearts; that they voluntarily prefer the world to the service of Christ. These effects the grace common to all who hear the gospel tends to produce. These effects it does in fact produce in a multitude of cases, and would produce in all were it not resisted and quenched. But it is not sufficient to raise the spiritually dead; to change the heart, and to produce regeneration; and it is not made to produce these effects by the coöperation of the human will. This is a point which need not be discussed separately. The Remonstrant and Romish doctrine is true, if the other parts of their doctrinal system are true; and it is false if that system be erroneous. If the Augustinian doctrine concerning the natural state of man since the fall, and the sovereignty of God in election, be Scriptural, then it is certain that sufficient grace does not become efficacious from the coöperation of the human will. Those who hold the last mentioned doctrine reject both the others; and those who hold the two former of necessity reject the last. It is not, however, only in virtue of its logical relation to other established doctrines that the doctrine of sufficient grace is rejected. It may be proved to be contrary to what the Scriptures teach on regeneration and the mode in which it is effected. These arguments, however, may be more properly presented when we come to the answer to the question, Why the grace of God is efficacious in the work of conversion?


Another erroneous view on this subject is that the influence of the Spirit in conversion owes its efficacy to its congruity. By this is sometimes meant its adaptation to the state of mind of him who is its subject. When a man is in one state, the same influence, both as to kind and degree, may fail to produce any serious impression; when in a different and more favourable frame of mind, it may issue in his true conversion. In this view the doctrine of congruity does not differ from the view already considered. It supposes that the subject of the Spirit’s influence, in one state of 678mind resists, and in another, submits to, and coöperates with it and that its efficacy is in the end due to this coöperation.

Sometimes, however, more is meant than that the grace is congruous to the state of mind of its subject. Cardinal Bellarmin objects to the view above stated that it assumes that the reason why one man believes and another disbelieves, is to be found in the free will of the subject. This, he says, is directly contrary to what the Apostle says in 1 Corinthians iv. 7, “Who maketh thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” “Nam,” he adds, “si duo sint, qui eandem concionatorem audiant, et eandem interius inspirationem habeant, et unus credat, alter non credat, nonne dicere poterit is qui crediderit, se discerni ab infideli, per liberum arbitrium quia ipse inspirationem acceperit, quam alter rejecit? nonne gloriari poterit contra infidelem, quod ipse Dei gratiæ coöperatus sit, quam ille contempsit? et tamen Apostolus hoc omnino prohibet?507507De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, I. xii.; Disputationes, edit. Paris, 1608, vol. iv. p. 420, d. Here the main principle which distinguishes Augustinianism from all other schemes of doctrine is conceded. Why does one man repent and believe the Gospel, while another remains impenitent? The Augustinian says it is because God makes them to differ. He gives to one what He does not give to another. All Anti-Augustinians say that the reason is, that the one coöperates with the grace of God, and the other does not; or, the one yields, and the other does not; or, that the one resists, and the other does not. Bellarmin here sides with Augustine and Paul. His own theory, however, is a virtual retraction of the above mentioned concession. He says that the different results in the cases supposed, are to be referred to the congruity between the influence exerted and the state of mind of the person on whom that influence is exerted. But this congruity is foreseen and designed. God knows just what kind and degree of influence will be effectual in determining the will of a given person, under given circumstances, and in a given state of mind. And this influence he determines to exert with the purpose of securing the sinner’s conversion, and with the certain foreknowledge of success. Bellarmin508508Ibid. IV. ix.; Disputationes, vol. iv. pp. 543 e, 544 a. says, “Ut efficacia proveniat non tam ex vehementia persuasionis, quam ex dispositione voluntatis, quam Deus prævidet. Nimirum cum Deus ita proponit aliquid interna persuasione, ut videt voluntatem aptam esse ad consentiendum.” And again, “Infallibilitas [rei] non oriatur ex vehementia motionis divinæ, sed ex prævisione aptitudinis ipsius voluntatis.509509See Turrettin, Institutio Theologiæ, locus xv. ques. iv. In one view this seems to refer the cause 679of the difference between the believer and the unbeliever, to the purpose of God; as it is He who foresees and intends the issue and adapts the means for the attainment of the end. But really the cause of the difference is in the man himself. One man is susceptible and yielding; another is hard and obstinate. Besides, this view as well as the preceding, regards the influence by which regeneration is effected, as a mere suasion, which is contrary to the representations of Scripture. It ignores the Scriptural doctrine of the natural state of man since the fall as one of spiritual death; and it professedly repudiates that of the divine sovereignty. It cannot, therefore, be reconciled with the Scriptures, if those doctrines are taught, as all Augustinians believe, in the Word of God. The Jesuits adopted much the same view as that presented by Bellarmin. Molina, in his celebrated work, “Liberi arbitrii cum gratiæ donis, divina præscientia, providentia, prædestinatione et reprobatione concordia,” says, “Una et eadem est natura gratiæ sufficientis et efficacis; a nostro arbitrio et libero consensu pendet, ut efficax fiat nobis consentientibus, aut inefficax, nobis dissentientibus. Dens infallibiliter operatur ope scientiæ mediæ: vidit per scientiam rerum sub conditione futurarum, quem hæc aut illa gratia effectum habitura sit in homine, si detur; ponit decretum talem largiendi, cum qua prævidet consensuram voluntatem; talis gratia est efficax, — itaque præscientia non fallitur.510510See Köllner’s Symbolik, Hamburg, 1844, vol. ii. p. 334.

Neither the Symbols of the Romish Church, nor the majority of its theologians adopt this doctrine of Bellarmin. They make the difference between sufficient and efficacious grace to be determined simply by the event. One man coöperates with the grace he receives, and it becomes efficacious; another does not coöperate, and it remains without saving effect. On this point the Council of Trent511511Sess. VI. cap. iv.; Streitwolf, Libri Symbolici, Göttingen, 1846, p. 34. decided, “Si quis dixerit, liberum hominis arbitrium a Deo motum, et excitatum nihil cooperari assentiendo Deo excitanti atque vocanti, quo ad obtinendam justificationis gratiam se disponat, ac præparet, neque posse dissentire, si velit, sed velut inanime quoddam nihil omnino agere, mereque passive se habere, anathema sit.” “According to Catholic principles,” says Möhler,512512Symbolik, 6th edit. Mainz, 1843, p. 105. “two agencies are combined in the holy work of regeneration, a human and divine, which interpenetrate each other, when the work is effected; so that it is a divine-human work. God’s holy power goes before, exciting, awakening, and quickening, without the man’s 680meriting, procuring, or determining this influence, but he must yield to, and freely follow it.” This he confirms by citing the language of the Council of Trent.513513Sess. VI. cap. iv.; Sreitwolf, Libri Symbolici, p. 23.Ut, qui per peccata a Deo aversi erant, per ejus excitantem atque adjuvantem gratiam ad convertendum se ad suam ipsorum justificationem eidem gratia libere assentiendo, et cooperando, disponantur: ita ut tangente Deo cor hominis per Spiritus Sancti illuminationem, neque homo ipse nihil omnino agat, inspirationem illam recipiens, quippe qui illam et abjicere potest, neque tamen sine gratia Dei movere se ad justitiam coram illo libera sua voluntate possit.

Augustinian Doctrine of Efficacious Grace.

According to the Augustinian doctrine the efficacy of divine grace in regeneration depends neither upon its congruity nor upon the active coöperation, nor upon the passive non-resistance of its subject, but upon its nature and the purpose of God. It is the exercise of “the mighty power of God,” who speaks and it is done. This is admitted to be the doctrine of Augustine himself. He says, “Non lege atque doctrina insonante forinsecus, sed interna et occulta, mirabili ac ineffabili potestate operari Deum in cordibus hominum non solum veras revelationes, sed bonas etiam voluntates.514514De Gratia Christi (xxiv.), 25; Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1838, vol. x. pp. 545 d, 546 a.Nolentem prævenit, ut velit; volentem subsequitur, ne frustra velit.515515Enchiridon de Fide, Spe et Charitate (xxxii.), 9; Works, vol. vi. p. 363 a. For a full exposition of Augustine’s Theory see Wiggers, Augustinism and Pelagianism, ch. xiii. Andover, 1840, pp. 194-218.

The Jansenists, the faithful disciples of Augustine, endeavoured to revive his doctrine in the Roman Church. Among the propositions selected from their writings and condemned by Pope Clement XI. in the famous Bull, Unigenitus, are the following: “Num. ix., Gratia Christi est gratia suprema, sine qua Christum confiiteri nunquam possumus, et cum qua nunquam illum abnegamus. 1 Cor. xii. 3. Num. x., Gratia est manus omnipotentis Dei, jubentis et facientis quod jubet. Mar. ii. 11. Num. xix., Dei gratia nihil aliud est quam ejus omnipotens voluntas: hæc est idea, quam Deus ipse nobis tradit in omnibus suis Scripturis. Rom. xiv. 4. Num. xxi., Gratia Jesu Christi est gratia fortis, potens, suprema, invincibilis, utpote quæ est operatio voluntatis omnipotentis, sequela et imitatio operationis Dei incarnantis et resuscitantis filium suum. 2 Cor. v. 21. Num. xxiv., Justa idea, 681quam centurio habet de omnipotentia Dei et Jesu Christi in sanandis corporibus solo motu suæ voluntatis, est imago ideæ, quæ haberi debet de omnipotentia suæ gratiæ in sanandis animabus a cupiditate. Luc. vii. 7516516See Herzog’s Encyklopädie, Art. Unigenitus.

It is not a matter of doubt or dispute that the Reformed Church adopted the Augustinian doctrine on this subject. In the “Second Helvetic Confession,” it is said, “Quantum ad bonum et ad virtutes, intellectus hominis, non recte judicat de divinis ex semetipso. . . . . Constat vero mentem vel intellectum, ducem esse voluntatis, cum autem cœcus sit dux, claret, quousque et voluntas pertingat. Proinde nullum est ad bonum homini arbitrium liberum nondum renato, vires nullæ ad perficiendum bonum. . . . . In regeneratione . . . . voluntas non tantum mutatur per Spiritum, sed etiam instruitur facultatibus, ut sponte velit et possit bonum. . . . . Observandum est — regeneratos in boni electione et operatione, non tantum agere passive, sed active. Aguntur enim a Deo, ut agant ipsi, quod agunt.517517IX.; Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, Leipzig, 1840, pp. 479, 480.

The Synod of Dort,518518Cap. III. art. iii.; Niemeyer, p. 709.Omnes homines in peccato concipiuntur . . . . inepti ad omne bonum salutare . . . . et absque Spiritus Sancti regenerantis gratia, ad Deum redire, naturam depravatam corrigere, vel ad ejus correctionem se disponere nec volunt, nec possunt.” “Fides Dei donum est, non eo, quod a Deo hominis arbitrio offeratur, sed quod homini reipsa conferatur, inspiretur, et infundatur.519519Cap. III. art. xiv.; Ibid. p. 711. Quando Deus . . . . veram in electis conversionem operatur, non tantum evangelium illis externe prædicari curat et mentem eorum per Spiritum Sanctum potenter illuminat, . . . . sed ejusdem etiam Spiritus regenerantis efficacia ad intima hominis penetrat, cor clausum aperit, durum emollit, . . . . voluntati novas qualitates infundit, facitque eam ex mortua vivam, ex mala bonam, ex nolente volentem.520520Cap. III. art. xi.; Ibid. p. 710.

The following proposition contains one of the positions assume by Remonstrants on which the Synod was called to decide. “Operatio gratiæ in prima conversione indifferens est et resistibilis, ut per eam possit homo converti vel non converti: nec sequatur ejus conversio nisi libero assensu ad eam se determinet, et converti velit.” On this proposition the Theologians of the Palatinate in their “Judicium,” after referring to the Remonstrant idea that regeneration is effected by moral suasion, say, “Scriptura vero, 682etsi moralem (quam vocant) suasionem non removet ab hoc negotio (quid enim est totum ministerium reconciliationis, quam ejusmodi commendatio ac suasio? 2 Cor. v. 18-20), præcipuam tamen vim conversionis in ea minime collocat, verum in actione longe diviniore, quæ efficacia nec creationi, nec resuscitationi mortuorum quicquam concedat. . . . . Et irresistibilis quidem est tum ex parte gratiæ Dei, tum ex parte voluntatis. Ex parte gratiæ: quia efficax Dei operatio est in actu posita, cui nemo potest resistere, Rom. ix. 19, prout Christus ne gratia sapientiæ Apostolis datæ dixit: cui omnes non poterunt resistere, Luc. xxi. 15. . . . . Ex parte voluntatis: nam subdita gratiæ eflicaci jam non vult resistere: et quia non vult, necessario non vult, sicque resistere velle non potest salva sua libertate.521521Acta Synodi Dordrechtanæ, edit. Leyden, 1620, pp. 138, 139, of second set.

The “Westminster Confession”522522Chapter x. §§ 1-3. says, “All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

“II. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

“III. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, where, and how He pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

In the “Larger Catechism,”523523Answer to the 67th question. effectual calling is declared to be “the work of God’s almighty power and grace.”

The Main Principle involved.

These authoritative declarations of the faith of the Reformed Church agree as to the one simple, clear, and comprehensive statement, 683that efficacious grace is the almighty power of God. There are, as has been before remarked, three classes into which all events of which we have any knowledge may be arranged. First, those which are produced by the ordinary operations of second causes as guided and controlled by the providential agency of God. Secondly, those events in the external world which are produced by the simple volition, or immediate agency of God, without the cooperation of second causes. To this class all miracles, properly so called, belong. Thirdly, those effects produced on the mind, heart, and soul, by the volition, or immediate agency of the omnipotence of God. To this class belong, inward revelation, inspiration, miraculous powers, as the gift of tongues, gift of healing, etc., and regeneration.

Efficacious Grace Mysterious and Peculiar.

If this one point be determined, namely, that efficacious grace is the almighty power of God, it decides all questions in controversy on this subject.

1. It is altogether mysterious in its operations. Its effects are not to be explained rationally, i.e., by the laws which govern our intellectual and moral exercises. To this aspect of the case our Lord refers in John iii. 8, “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.” Volumes have been written on the contrary hypothesis; which volumes lose all their value if it be once admitted that regeneration, or effectual calling, is the work of omnipotence. No one is hardy enough to attempt to explain how the efficiency of God operates in creation; or how the mere volition of Christ healed the sick or raised the dead. Neither would men attempt to explain how Christ raises the spiritually dead, did they believe that it was a simple work of almighty power.

2. Another equally obvious corollary of the above proposition is, that there is a specific difference between not only the providential efficiency of God and efficacious grace, but also between the latter and what is called common, or sufficient grace. It is not a difference in degree, or in circumstances, or in congruity, but the operations are of an entirely different kind. There is no analogy between an influence securing or promoting mental development, or the formation of moral character, and the efficiency exerted in raining the dead.


Not Moral Suasion.

3. It is no less clear that efficacious grace is not of the nature of “moral suasion.” By moral suasion is meant the influence exerted by one mind over the acts and states of another mind, by the presentation of truth and motives, by expostulations, entreaty, appeals, etc. Under the influence of this kind of moral power, the mind yields or refuses. Its decision is purely its own, and within its own power. There is nothing of all this in the exercise of omnipotence. Healing the sick by a word, is an essentially different process from healing him by medicine. A living man may be persuaded not to commit suicide; but a dead man cannot be persuaded into life. If regeneration be effected by the volition, the command, the almighty power of God, it certainly is not produced by a process of argument or persuasion.

Efficacious Grace Acts Immediately.

4. It is a no less obvious conclusion that the influence of the Spirit acts immediately on the soul. All effects in the ordinary dealings of God with his creatures are produced through the agency of second causes. It is only in miracles and in the work of regeneration that all second causes are excluded. When Christ said to the leper, “I will; be thou clean,” nothing intervened between his volition and the effect. And when He put clay in the eyes of the blind man, and bade him wash in the pool of Siloam, there was nothing in the properties of the clay or of the water that coöperated in the restoration of his sight. In like manner nothing intervenes between the volition of the Spirit and the regeneration of the soul. Truth may accompany or attend the work of the Spirit, but it has no coöperation in the production of the effect. It may attend it, as the application of the clay attended the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man; or as Naaman’s bathing in the Jordan attended the healing of his leprosy. It is however to be remembered that the word regeneration (or its equivalents) is used, sometimes in a limited, and sometimes in a comprehensive sense. The translation of a soul from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, is a great event. It involves a varied and comprehensive experience. There is much that usually precedes and attends the work of regeneration in the limited sense of the word; and there is much that of necessity and (in the case of adults) immediately succeeds it. In all that thus precedes and follows, the truth has an important, in some 685aspects, an essential part in the work. In most cases conviction of the truth, and of sin, a sense of shame, of remorse, of sorrow, and of anxiety, and longing desires after peace and security, precede the work of regeneration; and faith, joy, love, hope, gratitude, zeal, and other exercises follow it, in a greater or less degree. In all these states and acts, in everything, in short, which falls within the sphere of consciousness, the truth acts an essential part. These states and acts are the effects of the truth attended by the power, or demonstration of the Spirit. But regeneration itself, the infusion of a new life into the soul, is the immediate work of the Spirit. There is here no place for the use of means any more than in the act of creation or in working a miracle. Moses smiting the rock attended the outflow of the water, but had not the relation of a means to an effect. So the truth (in the case of adults) attends the work of regeneration, but is not the means by which it is effected. Much preceded and much followed the healing of the man with a withered arm; but the restoration of vitality to the limb, being an act of divine omnipotence was effected without the coöperation of secondary causes. There are two senses in which it may be said that we are begotten by the truth. First, when the word to beget (or regeneration), is meant to include the whole process, not the mere act of imparting life, but all that is preliminary and consequent to that act. The word “to beget” seems to be used sometimes in Scripture, and very often in the writings of theologians in this wide sense. And secondly, when the word by expresses not a coöperating cause, or means, but simply an attending circumstance. Men see by the light. Without light vision is impossible. Yet the eyes of the blind are not opened by means of the light. In like manner all the states and acts of consciousness preceding or attending, or following regeneration, are by the truth; but regeneration itself, or the imparting spiritual life, is by the immediate agency of the Spirit.

The Use of the Word Physical.

This idea is often expressed by the word physical. The Schoolmen spoke of “a physical influence of the Spirit.” The Pope condemned Jansenius for teaching, “Gratia de se efficax vere, realiter et physice præmovens et prædeterminans, immutabiliter, infallibiliter insuperabiliter, et indeclinabiliter necessaria est,” etc. Thus also Turrettin says:524524XV. iv. 18; edit. Edinburgh, 1847, vol. ii. pp. 461, 462.Gratiæ efficacis motio, nec physica 686nec ethica proprie dicenda est, sed supernaturalis et divina, quæ utramque illam σχέσιν quadantenus includit. Non est simpliciter physica, quia agitur de facultate morali, quæ congruenter naturæ suæ moveri debet; nec simpliciter ethica, quasi Deus objective solum ageret, et leni suasione uteretur, quod pertendebant Pelagiani. Sed supernaturalis est et divina, quæ transcendit omnia hæc genera. Interim aliquid de ethico et physico participat, quia et potenter et suaviter, grate et invicte, operatur Spiritus ad nostri conversionem. Ad modum physicum pertinet, quod Deus Spiritu suo nos creat, regenerat, cor carneum dat, et efficienter habitus supernaturales fidei et charitatis nobis infundit. Ad moralem, quod verbo docet, inclinat, suadet et rationibus variis tanquam vinculis amoris ad se trahit.” Here as was common with the writers of that age, Turrettin includes under “conversion,” what is now more frequently distinguished under the two heads of regeneration and conversion. The former including what the Spirit does in the soul, and the latter what the sinner, under his influence, is induced to do. With his usual clearness he refers what is now meant by regeneration to the physical operation of the Spirit; and all that belongs to conversion or the voluntary turning of the soul to God, to the mediate influence of the Holy Ghost through the truth.

Owen, in his work on the Spirit, strenuously insists on the necessity of this physical operation. He uses the words conversion and regeneration interchangeably, as including all that Turrettin understands by them. And hence he says that in the work of conversion there is both a physical and moral influence exerted by the Spirit. Speaking of moral suasion, he says, “That the Holy Spirit doth make use of it in the regeneration or conversion of all that are adult, and that either immediately in and by the preaching of it, or by some other application of light and truth unto the mind derived from the Word; for by the reasons, motives, and persuasive arguments which the Word affords, are our minds affected, and our souls wrought upon in our conversion unto God, whence it becomes our reasonable obedience. And there are none ordinarily converted, but they are able to give some account by what considerations they were prevailed on thereunto. But, we say that the whole work, or the whole of the work of the Holy Ghost in our conversion, doth not consist herein; but there is a real, physical work, whereby He infuseth a gracious principle of spiritual life into all that are effectually converted, and really regenerated, and without which there is no deliverance from the 687state of sin and death which we have described; which among others may be proved by the ensuing arguments. The principal arguments in this case will ensue in our proofs from the Scriptures, that there is a real, physical work of the Spirit on the souls of men in their regeneration. That all He doth, consisteth not in this moral suasion, the ensuing reasons do sufficiently evince.”525525Πνευματολογια, or a Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit, book III. v. 18, 19, edit. London, 1674, p. 261.

It is too obvious to need remark that the word physical is used antithetically to moral. Any influence of the Spirit that is not simply moral by the way of argument and persuasion, is called physical. The word, perhaps, is as appropriate as any other; if there be a necessity for any discriminating epithet in the case. All that is important is, on the one hand, the negation that the work of regeneration is effected by the moral power of the truth in the hands of the Spirit; and, upon the other, the affirmation that there is a direct exercise of almighty power in giving a new principle of life to the soul.

This doctrine both in what it denies and in what it affirms, is not peculiar to the older theologians. The modern German divines, each in the language of his peculiar philosophy, recognize that apart from the change in the state of the soul which takes place in the sphere of consciousness, and which is produced by God through the truth, there is a communication by his direct efficiency of a new form of life. This is sometimes called the life of Christ; sometimes the person of Christ; sometimes his substance; sometimes his divine-human nature, etc. They teach that man is passive in regeneration, but active in repentance.526526See Ebrard, Dogmatik, III. v. 2, § 447, edit. Königsberg, 1852, vol. ii. p. 328. “Man is every moment unspeakably more than lies in consciousness,” says Ebrard.527527Ibid. § 444, vol. ii. p. 319. This is true, and it should teach us that there is much pertaining to our internal life, which it is impossible for us to analyze and explain.

Efficacious Grace Irresistible.

5. It will of course be admitted that, if efficacious grace is the exercise of almighty power it is irresistible. That common grace, or that influence of the Spirit which is granted more or less to all men is often effectually resisted, is of course admitted. That the true believer often grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit, is also no doubt true. And in short that all those influences which are in their nature moral, exerted through the truth, are capable of 688being opposed, is also beyond dispute. But if the special work of regeneration, in the narrow sense of that word, be the effect of almighty power, then it cannot be resisted, any more than the act of creation. The effect follows immediately on the will of God, as when He said let there be light, and light was.

The Soul passive in Regeneration.

6. It follows, further, from the same premises, that the soul is passive in regeneration. It is the subject, and not the agent of the change. The soul coöperates, or, is active in what precedes and in what follows the change, but the change itself is something experienced, and not something done. The blind and the lame who came to Christ, may have undergone much labour in getting into his presence, and they joyfully exerted the new power imparted to them, but they were entirely passive in the moment of healing. They in no way coöperated in the production of that effect. The same must be true in regeneration, if regeneration be the effect of almighty power as much as the opening the eyes of the blind or the unstopping by a word the ears of the deaf.

Regeneration Instantaneous.

7. Regeneration, according to this view of the case, must be instantaneous. There is no middle state between life and death. If regeneration be a making alive those before dead, then it must be as instantaneous as the quickening of Lazarus. Those who regard it as a protracted process, either include in it all the states and exercises which attend upon conversion; or they adopt the theory that regeneration is the result of moral suasion. If the work of omnipotence, an effect of a mere volition on the part of God, it is of necessity instantaneous. God bids the sinner live; and he is alive, instinct with a new and a divine life.

An Act of Sovereign Grace.

8. It follows, also, that regeneration is an act of sovereign grace. If a tree must be made good before the fruit is good; the goodness of the fruit cannot be the reason which determines him who has the power to change the tree from bad to good. So if works spiritually good are the fruits of regeneration, then they cannot be the ground on which God exerts his life-giving power. If, therefore, the Scriptures teach the doctrine of efficacious grace in the Augustinian sense of those terms, then they teach that regeneration is a sovereign gift. It cannot be granted on the sight or foresight 689of anything good in the subjects of this saving change. None of those whom Christ healed, pretended to seek the exercise of his almighty power in their behalf on the ground of their peculiar goodness, much less did they dream of referring the restoration of their sight or health to any coöperation of their own with his omnipotence.

« Prev 4. Efficacious Grace. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |