|« Prev||Chapter II.||Next »|
Differences between spiritual gifts and saving grace.
Their nature in general, which in the next place we inquire into, will be much discovered in the consideration of those things wherein these gifts do agree with saving graces, and wherein they differ from them.
First, There are four things wherein spiritual gifts and saving graces do agree:—
1. They are, both sorts of them, the purchase of Christ for his church, the especial fruit of his mediation. We speak not of such gifts or endowments of men’s minds as consist merely in the improvement of their natural faculties: such are wisdom, learning, skill in arts and sciences; which those may abound and excel in who are utter strangers to the church of Christ, and frequently they do so, to their own exaltation and contempt of others. Nor do I intend abilities for actions, moral, civil, or political; as fortitude, skill in government or rule, and the like. For although these are gifts of the power of the Spirit of God, yet they do belong unto those operations which he exerciseth in upholding or ruling of the world, or the old creation as such, whereof I have treated before. But I intend those alone which are conversant about the gospel, the things and duties of it, the administration of its ordinances, the propagation of its doctrine, and profession of its ways. And herein also I put a difference between them and all those gifts of the Spirit about sacred things which any of the people of God enjoyed under the old testament; for we speak only of those which are “powers of the world to come.” Those others were suited to the economy of the old covenant, and confined with the light which God was pleased then to communicate unto his church. Unto the gospel state they were not suited, nor would be useful in it, Hence the prophets, who had the most eminent 426gifts, did yet all of them come short of John the Baptist, because they had not, by virtue of their gifts, that acquaintance with the person of Christ and insight into his work of mediation that he had; and yet also he came short of him that is “least in the kingdom of heaven,” because his gifts were not purely evangelical. Wherefore, those gifts whereof we treat are such as belong unto the kingdom of God erected in an especial manner by Jesus Christ after his ascension into heaven; for he was exalted that he might fill all things, τὰ πάντα, that is, the whole church, with these effects of his power and grace. The power, therefore, of communicating these gifts was granted unto the Lord Christ as mediator, by the Father, for the foundation and edification of his church, as it is expressed, Acts ii. 33; and by them was his kingdom both set up and propagated, and is preserved in the world. These were the weapons of warfare which he furnished his disciples withal when he gave them commission to go forth and subdue the world unto the obedience of the gospel, chap. i. 4, 8; and mighty were they through God unto that purpose, 2 Cor. x. 3–6. In the use and exercise of them did the gospel “run, and was glorified,” to the ruin of the kingdom of Satan and darkness in the world. And that he was ever able to erect it again, under another form than that of Gentilism, as he hath done in the antichristian apostasy of the church visible, it was from a neglect and contempt of these gifts, with their due use and improvement, When men began to neglect the attaining of these spiritual gifts, and the exercise of them, in praying, in preaching, in interpretation of the Scripture, in all the administrations and whole worship of the church, betaking themselves wholly to their own abilities and inventions, accommodated unto their ease and secular interest, it was an easy thing for Satan to erect again his kingdom, though not in the old manner, because of the light of the Scripture, which had made an impression on the minds of men which he could not obliterate. Wherefore he never attempted openly any more to set up Heathenism or Paganism, with the gods of the old world and their worship; but he insensibly raised another kingdom, which pretended some likeness unto and compliance with the letter of the word, though it came at last to be in all things expressly contrary thereunto. This was his kingdom of apostasy and darkness, under the papal antichristianism and woful degeneracy of other Christians in the world; for when men who pretend themselves intrusted with the preservation of the kingdom of Christ did wilfully cast away those weapons of their warfare whereby the world was subdued unto him, and ought to have been kept in subjection by them, what else could ensue?
By these gifts, I say, doth the Lord Christ demonstrate his power and exercise his rule. External force and carnal weapons were far 427from his thoughts, as unbecoming his absolute sovereignty over the souls of men, his infinite power and holiness. Neither did any ever betake themselves unto them in the affairs of Christ’s kingdom, but either when they had utterly lost and abandoned these spiritual weapons, or did not believe that they are sufficient to maintain the interest of the gospel, though originally they were so to introduce and fix it in the world, — that is, that although the gifts of the Holy Ghost were sufficient and effectual to bring in the truth and doctrine of the gospel against all opposition, yet are they not so to maintain it; which they may do well once more to consider. Herein, therefore, they agree with saving graces; for that they are peculiarly from Jesus Christ the mediator is confessed by all, unless it be by such as by whom all real internal grace is denied. But the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit, with their respect unto the Lord Christ as mediator, have been sufficiently before confirmed.
2. There is an agreement between saving graces and spiritual gifts with respect unto their immediate efficient cause. They are, both sorts of them, wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost. As to what concerneth the former, or saving grace, I have already treated of that argument at large; nor will any deny that the Holy Ghost is the author of these graces but those that deny that there are any such. That these gifts are so wrought by him is expressly declared wherever there is mention of them, in general or particular. Wherefore, when they acknowledge that there were such gifts, all confess him to be their author. By whom he is denied so to be, it is only because they deny the continuance of any such gifts in the church of God. But this is that which we shall disprove.
3. Herein also they agree, that both sorts of them are designed unto the good, benefit, ornament, and glory of the church. The church is the proper seat and subject of them, to it are they granted, and in it do they reside; for Christ is given to be the “head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all,” Eph. i. 22, 23. But this “church” falls under a double consideration:— first, as it is believing; secondly, as it is professing. In the first respect absolutely it is invisible, and as such is the peculiar subject of saving grace. This is that church which “Christ loved and gave himself for, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and present it unto himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish,” chap. v. 26, 27. This is the work of saving grace, and by a participation thereof do men become members of this church, and not otherwise. And hereby is the professing church quickened and enabled unto profession in an acceptable manner; for the elect receive grace unto this end in this world, that they may 428glorify Christ and the gospel in the exercise of it, Col. i. 6; John xv. 8. But gifts are bestowed on the professing church to render it visible in such a way as whereby God is glorified. Grace gives an invisible life to the church, gifts give it a visible profession; for hence doth the church become organical, and disposed into that order which is beautiful and comely. Where any church is organized merely by outward rules, perhaps of their own devising, and makes profession only in an attendance unto outward order, not following the leading of the Spirit in the communication of his gifts, both as to order and discharge of the duties of profession, it is but the image of a church, wanting an animating principle and form. That profession which renders a church visible according to the mind of Christ, is the orderly exercise of the spiritual gifts bestowed on it, in a conversation evidencing the invisible principle of saving grace. Now, these gifts are conferred on the church in order unto “the edification of itself in love,” Eph. iv. 16, as also for the propagation of its profession in the world, as shall be declared afterward. Wherefore, both of these sorts have in general the same end, or are given by Christ unto the same purpose, — namely, the good and benefit of the church, as they are respectively suited to promote them.
4. It may also be added, that they agree herein, that they have both the same respect unto the bounty of Christ. Hence every grace is a gift, that which is given and freely bestowed on them that have it, Matt. xiii. 11; Phil. i. 29. And although, on the other side, every gift be not a grace, yet, proceeding from gracious favour and bounty, they are so called, Rom. xii. 6; Eph. iv. 7. How, in their due exercise, they are mutually helpful and assistant unto each other, shall be declared afterward.
Secondly, We may consider wherein the difference lies or doth consist which is between these spiritual gifts and sanctifying graces: and this may be seen in sundry instances; as, —
1. Saving graces are καρπός, the “fruit” or fruits “of the Spirit,” Gal. v. 22; Eph. v. 9; Phil. i. 11. Now, fruits proceed from an abiding root and stock, of whose nature they do partake. There must be a “good tree” to bring forth “good fruit,” Matt. xii. 33. No external watering or applications unto the earth will cause it to bring forth useful fruits, unless there are roots from which they spring and are educed. The Holy Spirit is as the root unto these fruits; the root which bears them, and which they do not bear, as Rom. xi. 18. Therefore, in order of nature, is he given unto men before the production of any of these fruits. Thereby are they ingrafted into the olive, are made such branches in Christ, the true vine, as derive vital juice, nourishment, and fructifying virtue from him, even by the Spirit. So is he “a well of water springing up into everlasting 429life,” John iv. 14. He is a spring in believers; and all saving graces are but waters arising from that living, overflowing spring. From him, as a root or spring, as an eternal virtue, power, or principle, do all these fruits come. To this end doth he dwell in them and abide with them, according to the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, John xiv. 17; Rom. viii. 11; 1 Cor. iii. 16; whereby the Lord Christ effecteth his purpose in “ordaining his disciples to bring forth fruit” that should “remain,” John xv. 16. In the place of his holy residence, he worketh these effects freely, according to his own will. And there is nothing that hath the true nature of saving grace but what is so a fruit of the Spirit. We have not first these graces, and then by virtue of them receive the Spirit, (for whence should we have them of ourselves?) but the Spirit bestowed on us worketh them in us, and gives them a spiritual, divine nature, in conformity unto his own.
With gifts, singly considered, it is otherwise. They are indeed works and effects, but not properly fruits of the Spirit, nor are anywhere so called. They are effects of his operation upon men, not fruits of his working in them; and, therefore, many receive these gifts who never receive the Spirit as to the principal end for which he is promised. They receive him not to sanctify and make them temples unto God; though metonymically, with respect unto his outward effects, they may be said to be made partakers of him. This renders them of a different nature and kind from saving graces; for whereas there is an agreement and coincidence between them in the respects before mentioned, and whereas the seat and subject of them, — that is, of gifts absolutely, and principally of graces also, — is the mind, the difference of their nature proceeds from the different manner of their communication from the Holy Spirit.
2. Saving grace proceeds from, or is the effect and fruit of, electing love. This I have proved before, in our inquiry into the nature of holiness. See it directly asserted, Eph. i. 3, 4; 2 Thess. ii. 13; Acts ii. 47, xiii. 48. Whom God graciously chooseth and designeth unto eternal life, them he prepares for it by the communication of the means which are necessary unto that end, Rom. viii. 28–30. Hereof sanctification, or the communication of saving grace, is comprehensive; for we are “chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit,” 2 Thess. ii. 13, for this is that whereby we are “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” Col. i. 12. The end of God in election is the sonship and salvation of the elect, “to the praise of the glory of his grace,” Eph. i. 5, 6; and this cannot be unless his image be renewed in them in holiness or saving graces. These, therefore, he works in them, in pursuit of his eternal purpose therein. But gifts, on the other hand, which are no more 430but so, and where they are solitary or alone, are only the effects of a temporary election. Thus God chooseth some men unto some office in the church, or unto some work in the world. As this includeth a preferring them before or above others, or the using them when others are not used, we call it election; and in itself it is their fitting for and separation unto their office or work. And this temporary election is the cause and rule of the dispensation of gifts. So he chose Saul to be king over his people, and gave him thereon “another heart,” or gifts fitting him for rule and government. So our Lord Jesus Christ chose and called at the first twelve to be his apostles, and gave unto them all alike miraculous gifts. His temporary choice of them was the ground of his communication of gifts unto them. By virtue hereof no saving graces were communicated unto them, for one of them never arrived unto a participation of them. “Have not I,” saith our Saviour unto them, “chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John vi. 70. He had chosen them unto their office, and endowed them with extraordinary gifts for the discharge thereof; but one of them being not “chosen unto salvation before the foundation of the world,” being not “ordained unto eternal life,” but, on the other side, being the “son of perdition,” or one certainly appointed unto destruction, or “before of old ordained unto that condemnation,” he continued void of all sanctifying graces, so as, unto any acceptation with God, he was in no better condition than the devil himself, whose work he was to do. Yet was he, by virtue of this choice unto the office of apostleship for a season, endowed with the same spiritual gifts that the others were. And this distinction our Saviour himself doth plainly lay down; for whereas he says, John vi. 70, “Have not I chosen you twelve,” — that is, with a temporary choice unto office, — chap. xiii. 18, he saith, “I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen,” so excepting Judas from that number, as is afterward expressly declared: for the election which here he intends is that which is accompanied with an infallible ordination unto abiding fruit-bearing, chap. xv. 16, that is, eternal election, wherein Judas had no interest.
And thus it is in general, and in other instances. When God chooseth any one to eternal life, he will, in pursuit of that purpose of his, communicate saving grace unto him. And although all believers have gifts also sufficient to enable them unto the discharge of their duty in their station or condition in the church, yet they do not depend on the decree of election. And where God calleth any, or chooseth any, unto an office, charge, or work in the church, he always furnisheth him with gifts suited unto the end of them. He doth not so, indeed, unto all that will take any office unto themselves; but he doth so unto all whom he calls thereunto. Yea, his call is 431no otherwise known but by the gifts which he communicates for the discharge of the work or office whereunto any are called. In common use, I confess, all things run contrary hereunto. Most men greatly insist on the necessity of an outward call unto the office of the ministry; and so far, no doubt, they do well, for “God is the God of order,” — that is, of his own: but whereas they limit this outward call of theirs unto certain persons, ways, modes, and ceremonies of their own, without which they will not allow that any man is rightly called unto the ministry, they do but contend to oppress the consciences of others by their power and with their inventions. But their most pernicious mistake is yet remaining. So that persons have, or do receive, an outward call in their mode and way, — which what it hath of a call in it I know not, — they are not solicitous whether they are called of God or no: for they continually admit them unto their outward call on whom God hath bestowed no spiritual gifts to fit them for their office; whence it is as evident as if written with the beams of the sun, that he never called them thereunto. They are as watchful as they are able that God himself shall impose none on them besides their way and order, or their call; for let a man be furnished with ministerial gifts never so excellent, yet if he will not come up to their call, they will do what lies in them for ever to shut him out of the ministry. But they will impose upon God without his call every day; for if they ordain any one in their way unto an office, though he have no more of spiritual gifts than Balaam’s ass, yet (if you will believe them) Christ must accept of him for a minister of his, whether he will or no. But let men dispose of things as they please, and as it seemeth good unto them, Christ hath no other order in this matter, but “As every one hath received the gift, so let them minister, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” 1 Pet. iv. 10, Rom. xii. 6–8. It is true that no man ought to take upon him the office of the ministry but he that is, and until he be, solemnly called and set apart thereunto by the church; but it is no less true that no church hath either rule or right so to call or set apart any one to the ministry whom Christ hath not previously called by the communication of spiritual gifts necessary to the discharge of his office. And these things must be largely insisted on afterward.
3. Saving grace is an effect of the covenant, and bestowed in the accomplishment and by virtue of the promises thereof. This hath been declared elsewhere at large, where we treated of regeneration and sanctification. All that are taken into this covenant are sanctified and made holy. There is no grace designed unto any in the eternal purpose of God, none purchased or procured by the mediation of Christ, but it is comprised in and exhibited by the promises of the covenant. Wherefore, they only who are taken into that 432covenant are made partakers of saving grace, and they are all so. Things are not absolutely so with respect unto spiritual gifts, although they also in some sense belong unto the covenant: for the promises of the covenant are of two sorts, — (1.) Such as belong unto the internal form and essence of it; (2.) Such as belong unto its outward administration, — that is, the ways and means whereby its internal grace is made effectual. Saving grace proceedeth from the former, gifts relate unto the latter; for all the promises of the plentiful effusion of the Spirit under the new testament, which are frequently applied unto him as he works and effects evangelical gifts, extraordinary and ordinary, in men, do belong unto the new covenant, — not as unto its internal essence and form, but as unto its outward administration. And if you overthrow this distinction, that the covenant is considered either with respect unto its internal grace or its external administration, every thing in religion will be cast into confusion. Take away internal grace, as some do, and the whole is rendered a mere outside appearance; take away the outward administration, and all spiritual gifts and order thereon depending must cease. But as it is possible that some may belong unto the covenant with respect unto internal grace who are no way taken into the external administration of it, as elect infants who die before they are baptized; so it is frequent that some may belong to the covenant with respect to its outward administration, by virtue of spiritual gifts, who are not made partakers of its inward effectual grace.
4. Saving grace hath an immediate respect unto the priestly office of Jesus Christ, with the discharge thereof in his oblation and intercession. There is, I acknowledge, no gracious communication unto men that respects any one office of Christ exclusively unto the others: for his whole mediation hath an influence into all that we receive from God in a way of favour or grace; and it is his person, as vested with all his offices, that is the immediate fountain of all grace unto us: but yet something may, yea, sundry things do, peculiarly respect some one of his offices, and are the immediate effects of the virtue and efficacy thereof. So is our reconciliation and peace with God the peculiar effect of his oblation, which as a priest he offered unto God. And so in like manner is our sanctification also, wherein we are washed and cleansed from our sins in his blood, Eph. v. 25, 26; Tit. ii. 14. And although grace be wrought in us by the administration of the kingly power of Christ, yet it is in the pursuit of what he hath done for us as a priest, and for the making of it effectual unto us; for by his kingly power he makes effectual the fruits of his oblation and intercession. But gifts proceed solely from the regal office and power of Christ. They have a remote respect 433unto and foundation in the death of Christ, in that they are all given and distributed unto and for the good of that church which he purchased with his own blood; but immediately they are effects only of his kingly power. Hence authority to give and dispose them is commonly placed as a consequent of his exaltation at the right hand of God, or with respect thereunto, Matt. xxviii. 18; Acts ii. 33. This the apostle declares at large, Eph. iv. 7, 8, 11, 12. Christ being exalted at the right hand of God, all power in heaven and earth being given unto him, and he being given to be head over all things unto the church, and having for that end received the promise of the Spirit from the Father, he gives out these gifts as it seemeth good unto him. And the continuation of their communication is not the least evidence of the continuance of the exercise of his kingdom; for besides the faithful testimony of the word to that purpose, there is a threefold evidence thereof, giving us experience of it:— (1.) His communication of saving grace in the regeneration, conversion, and sanctification of the elect; for these things he worketh immediately by his kingly power. And whilst there are any in the world savingly called and sanctified, he leaves not himself without witness as to his kingly power over all flesh, whereon he “gives eternal life unto as many as the Father hath given him,” John xvii. 2. But this evidence is wholly invisible unto the world, neither is it capable of receiving it when tendered, because it cannot receive the Spirit, nor seeth him, nor knoweth him, John xiv. 17; nor are the things thereof exposed to the judgment of sense or reason, 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10. (2.) Another evidence hereof is given in the judgments that he executes in the world, and the outward protection which he affords unto his church. On both these there are evident impressions of the continued actual exercise of his divine power and authority; for in the judgments that he executes on persons and nations that either reject the gospel or persecute it, especially in some signal and uncontrollable instance, as also in the guidance, deliverance, and protection of his church, he manifests that though he was dead, yet he is alive, and hath the keys of hell and of death. But yet because he is, on the one hand, pleased to exercise great patience towards many of his open, stubborn adversaries, yea, the greatest of them, suffering them to walk and prosper in their own ways; and, [on the other], to leave his church unto various trials and distresses, his power is much hid from the world at present in these dispensations. (3.) The third evidence of the continuance of the administration of his mediatory kingdom consists in his dispensation of these spiritual gifts, which are properly the powers of the new world; for such is the nature of them and their use, such the sovereignty that appears in their distribution, such their distinction and 434difference from all natural endowments, that even the world cannot but take notice of them, though it violently hate and persecute them, and the church is abundantly satisfied with the sense of the power of Christ in them. Moreover, the principal end of these gifts is to enable the officers of the church unto the due administration of all the laws and ordinances of Christ unto its edification. But all these laws and ordinances, these offices and officers, he gives unto the church as the Lord over his own house, as the sole sovereign lawgiver and ruler thereof.
5. They differ as unto the event even in this world they may come unto, and ofttimes actually do so accordingly; for all gifts, the best of them, and that in the highest degree wherein they may be attained in this life, may be utterly lost or taken away. The law of their communication is, that he who improveth not that talent or measure of them which he hath received, it shall be taken from him; for whereas they are given for no other end but to trade withal, according to the several capacities and opportunities that men have in the church, or their families, or their own private exercise, if that be utterly neglected, to what end should they be left unto rust and uselessness in the minds of any? Accordingly we find it to come to pass. Some neglect them, some reject them, and from both sorts they are judicially taken away. Such we have amongst us. Some there are who had received considerable spiritual abilities for evangelical administrations, but after a while they have fallen into an outward state of things wherein, as they suppose, they shall have no advantage by them, yea, that their exercise would turn to their disadvantage, and thereon do wholly neglect them. By this means they have insensibly decayed, until they become as devoid of spiritual abilities as if they never had experience of any assistance in that kind. They can no more either pray, or speak, or evidence the power of the Spirit of God in any thing unto the edification of the church. “Their arm is dried up, and their right eye is utterly darkened,” Zech. xi. 17. And this sometimes they come to be sensible of, yea, ashamed of, and yet cannot retrieve themselves. But, for the most part, they fall into such a state as wherein the profession and use of them become, as they suppose, inconsistent with their present interest; and so they openly renounce all concernment in them. Neither, for the most part, do they stay here, but after they have rejected them in themselves, and espoused lazy, profitable, outward helps in their room, they blaspheme the Author of them in others, and declare them all to be delusions, fancies, and imaginations; and if any one hath the confidence to own the assistance of the Holy Spirit in the discharge of the duties of the gospel unto the edification of the church, he becomes unto them a scorn and reproach. These are branches cut off 435from the Vine, whom men gather [for the fire], or those whose miserable condition is described by the apostle, Heb. vi. 4–6. But one way or other these gifts may be utterly lost or taken away from them who have once received them, and that whether they be ordinary or extraordinary. There is no kind of them, no degree of them, that can give us any security that they shall be always continued with us, or at all beyond our diligent attendance unto their use and exercise. With saving grace it is not so. It is, indeed, subject unto various decays in us, and its thriving or flourishing in our souls depends upon and answers unto our diligent endeavour in the use of all means of holiness ordinarily, 2 Pet. i. 5–10; for besides that no man can have the least evidence of any thing of this grace in him if he be totally negligent in its exercise and improvement, so no man ought to expect that it will thrive or abound in him unless he constantly and diligently attend unto it, and give up himself in all things to its conduct; — but yet, as to the continuance of it in the souls of the elect, as to the life and being of its principle, and its principal effect in habitual conformity unto God and his will, it is secured in the covenant of grace.
6. On whomsoever saving grace is bestowed, it is so firstly and principally for himself and his own good. It is a fruit of the especial love and kindness of God unto his own soul, Jer. xxxi. 3. This both the nature and all the ends of it do declare; for it is given unto us to renew the image of God in us, to make us like unto him, to restore our nature, enable us unto obedience, and to make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. But yet we must take heed that we think not that grace is bestowed on any merely for themselves; for, indeed, it is that wherein God designeth a good unto all: “Vir bonus commune bonum,” — “A good man is a good to all;” Mic. v. 7. And, therefore, God in the communication of saving grace unto any hath a threefold respect unto others, which it is the duty of them that receive it diligently to consider and attend unto:— (1.) He intends to give an example by it of what is his will, and what he approveth of; and, therefore, he requires of them in whom it is such fruits in holy obedience as may express the example of a holy life in the world, according to the will of God and unto his glory. Hereby doth he further the salvation of the elect, 1 Pet. iii. 1, 2; 1 Cor. vii. 16; convince the unbelieving world at present, 1 Pet. ii. 12, 15, iii. 16; and condemn it hereafter, Heb. xi. 7; and himself is glorified, Matt. v. 16. Let no man, therefore, think that because grace is firstly and principally given him for himself and his own spiritual advantage, he must not account for it also with respect unto those other designs of God; yea, he who, in the exercise of what he esteems grace, hath respect only unto himself, gives 436an evidence that he never had any that was genuine and of the right kind. (2.) Fruitfulness unto the benefiting of others is hence also expected. Holy obedience, the effect of saving grace, is frequently expressed in the Scripture by fruits and fruitfulness. See Col. i. 10. And these fruits, or the things which others are to feed upon and to be sustained by, are to be born by the plants of the Lord, the trees of righteousness. The fruits of love, charity, bounty, mercy, wisdom, are those whereby grace is rendered useful in the world, and is taken notice of as that which is lovely and desirable, Eph. ii. 10. (3.) God requires that by the exercise of grace the doctrine of the gospel be adorned and propagated. This doctrine is from God; our profession is our avowing of it so to be. What it is the world knows not, but takes its measure of it from what it observes in them by whom it is professed. And it is the unprofitable, flagitious lives of Christians that have almost thrust the gospel out of the world with contempt. But the care that it be adorned, that it be glorified, is committed of God unto every one on whom he bestows the least of saving grace; and this is to be done only by the guidance of a holy conversation in conformity thereunto. And many other such blessed ends there are, wherein God hath respect unto the good and advantage of other men in the collation of saving grace upon any. And if gracious persons are not more useful than others in all things that may have a real benefit in them unto mankind, it is their sin and shame. But yet, after all, grace is principally and in the first place given unto men for themselves, their own good and spiritual advantage, out of love to their souls, and in order unto their eternal blessedness; all other effects are but secondary ends of it. But as unto these spiritual gifts it is quite otherwise. They are not in the first place bestowed on any for their own sakes or their own good, but for the good and benefit of others. So the apostle expressly declares, 1 Cor. xii. 7, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” These gifts, whereby the Spirit evidenceth and manifesteth his power, are bestowed on men for this very end, that they may profit and benefit others in their edification; and yet, also, where they are duly improved, they tend much to the spiritual advantage of them on whom they are bestowed, as we shall see afterward. Wherefore, as grace is primarily given unto us for ourselves, and secondarily for the good of others; so gifts are bestowed in the first place for the edification of others, and secondly for our own spiritual advantage also.
7. The principal difference between them is in their nature and kind, discovering itself in the different subjects, operations, and effects; for those already insisted on are principally from external causes and considerations. And, — (1.) As to the different subjects of 437them, spiritual gifts are placed and seated in the mind or understanding only; whether they are ordinary or extraordinary, they have no other hold or residence in the soul. And they are in the mind as it is notional and theoretical, rather than as it is practical. They are intellectual abilities, and no more. I speak of them which have any residence in us; for some gifts, as miracles and tongues, consisted only in a transient operation of an extraordinary power. Of all others, illumination is the foundation, and spiritual light their matter. So the apostle declares in his order of expression, Heb. vi. 4. The will, and the affections, and the conscience are unconcerned in them, Wherefore, they change not the heart with power, although they may reform the life by the efficacy of light. And although God doth not ordinarily bestow them on flagitious persons, nor continue them with such as after the reception of them become flagitious, yet they may be in those who are unrenewed, and have nothing in them to preserve men absolutely from the worst of sins. But saving grace possesseth the whole soul; men are thereby sanctified throughout, in the whole “spirit and soul and body,” 1 Thess. v. 23, as hath been at large declared. Not only is the mind savingly enlightened, but there is a principle of spiritual life infused into the whole soul, enabling it in all its powers and faculties to act obedientially unto God, whose nature hath been fully explained elsewhere. Hence, — (2.) They differ in their operations: for grace changeth and transformeth the whole soul into its own nature, Isa. xi. 6–8; Rom. vi. 17, xii. 2; 2 Cor. iii. 18. It is a new, a divine nature unto the soul, and is in it a habit disposing, inclining, and enabling of it unto obedience. It acts itself in faith, love, and holiness in all things. But gifts of themselves have not this power nor these operations. They may and do, in those who are possessed of them in and under their exercise, make great impression on their own affections, but they change not the heart, they renew not the mind, they transform not the soul into the image of God. Hence, where grace is predominant, every notion of light and truth which is communicated unto the mind is immediately turned into practice, by having the whole soul cast into the mould of it; where only gifts bear away, the use of it in duties unto edification is best, whereunto it is designed. (3.) As to effects or consequents, the great difference is that on the part of Christ; Christ doth thereby dwell and reside in our hearts, when concerning many of those who have been made partakers of these other spiritual endowments, he will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you,” which he will not say of any one whose soul he hath inhabited.
These are some of the principal agreements and differences between saving graces and spiritual gifts, both sorts of them being wrought in 438believers by “that one and the self-same Spirit, which divideth to every one severally as he will.” And for a close of this discourse I shall only add, that where these graces and gifts, in any eminency or good degree, are bestowed on the same persons, they are exceedingly helpful unto each other. A soul sanctified by saving grace is the only proper soil for gifts to flourish in. Grace influenceth gifts unto a due-exercise, prevents their abuse, stirs them up unto proper occasions, keeps them from being a matter of pride or contention, and subordinates them in all things unto the glory of God. When the actings of grace and gifts are inseparable, as when in prayer the Spirit is a Spirit of grace and supplication, the grace and gift of it working together, when utterance in other duties is always accompanied with faith and love, then is God glorified and our own salvation promoted. Then have edifying gifts a beauty and lustre upon them, and generally are most successful, when they are clothed and adorned with humility, meekness, a reverence of God, and compassion for the souls of men; yea, when there is no evidence, no manifestation of their being accompanied with these and the like graces, they are but as a parable or wise saying in the mouth of a fool. Gifts, on the other side, excite and stir up grace unto its proper exercise and operation. How often is faith, love, and delight in God, excited and drawn forth unto especial exercise in believers by the use of their own gifts!
And thus much may suffice as to the nature of these gifts in general; we next consider them under their most general distributions.
|« Prev||Chapter II.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version