The Method of Grace

by John Flavel

 
Concerning the Work of the Spirit, as the Internal,
and Most Effectual Mean of the Application of Christ 

 
"No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw
him." John 6: 44  
 
    Our last discourse informed you of the usefulness and influence
of the preaching of the gospel, in order to the application of
Christ to the souls of men. There must be (in God's ordinary way)
the external ministerial offer of Christ, before men can have union
with him.
    But yet, all the preaching in the world can never effect this
union with Christ in itself, and in its oven virtue, except a
supernatural and mighty power go forth with it for that end and
purpose. Let Boanerges and Barnabas try their strength, let the
angels of heaven be the preachers; until God draw, the soul cannot
come to Christ.
    No saving benefit is to be had by Christ, without union with
his person, no union with his person without faith, no faith
ordinarily wrought without the preaching of the gospel by Christ's
ambassadors, their preaching has no saving efficacy without Gods
drawings, as will evidently appear by considering these words and
the occasion of them.
    The occasion of these words is found (as learned Cameron well
observes) in the 42d verse, "And they said, is not this Jesus the
son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" Christ had been
pressing upon them in his ministry, the great and necessary duty of
faith; but notwithstanding the authority of the preacher; the
holiness of his life; the miracles by which he confirmed his
doctrine; they still objected against him, "is not this the
carpenter's son?" From whence Christ takes occasion for these words;
"No man can come unto me, except my Father which has sent me, draw
him," q. d. In vain is the authority of my person urged; in vain are
all the miracles wrought in your sight, to confirm the doctrine
preached to you; until that secret, almighty power of the Spirit be
put forth upon your hearts, you will not, you cannot, come unto me.
    The words are a negative proposition,
    In which the author, and powerful manner of divine operation in
working faith, are contained: these must be drawing before
believing, and that drawing must be the drawing of God: every word
has its weight: we will consider them in the order they lie in the
text.
    "Oudeis", - No Man] not one, let his natural qualifications be
what they will, let his external advantages, in respect of means and
helps, be never so great: it is not in the power of any man; all
persons, in all ages, need the same power of God, one at well as
another; every man is alike dead, impotent, and averse to faith in
his natural capacity. No man, or - not one, among all the sons of
men.
    "Dunatai" - Can] or is able: he speaks of impotency to special
and saving actions, such as believing in Christ is: no act that is
saving can be done without the concurrence of special grace. Other
acts that have a remote tendency to it, are performed by a more
general concourse and common assistance; so men may come to the
word, and attend to what is spoken, remember and consider what the
word tells them; but as to believing or coming to Christ, that no
man can do of himself, or by a general and common assistance. No man
can.
    "Echtein pros me", - Come unto me,] that is believe in me unto
salvation. Coming to Christ, and believing in him, are terms
aequipollent, and are indifferently used to express the nature of
saving faith, as is plain, ver. 35. "He who comes to me shall never
hunger, and he who believes on me shall never thirst:" it notes
the terms from which and to which the soul moves, and the
voluntariness of the motion, notwithstanding that divine power by
which the will is drawn to Christ.
    "Ean me ho Pater", Except my Father] not excluding the other
two Persons; for every word of God relating to the creatures is
common to all the three Persons; nor only to note that the Father is
the first in order of working: but the reason is hinted in the next
words.
    "Ho pempsas me", - Who has sent me,] God has entered into
covenant with the Son, and sent him, stands obliged thereby, to
bring the promised seed to him, and that he does by drawing them to
Christ by faith: so the next words tell us the Father does,
    "Elkuse auton". - Draw him.] That is, powerfully and
effectually incline his will to come to Christ: "Not by a violent
co-action, but by a benevolent bending of the will which was
averse;" and as it is not in the way of force and compulsion, so
neither is it by a simple moral suasion, by the bare proposal of an
object to the will, and so leaving the sinner to his own election;
but it is such a persuasion, as has a mighty overcoming efficacy
accompanying which more anon.


    The words thus opened, the observation will be this:
    
    Doctrine. That it is utterly impossible for any man to come to
    Jesus Christ, unless he be drawn unto him by the special and
    mighty power of God.
    
    No man is compelled to come to Christ against his will, he who
comes, comes willingly, but even that will and desire to come is the
effect of grace, Phil. 2: 13. "It is God that works in you, both
to will and to do of his own good pleasure."
    "If we desire the help and assistance of grace, (says
Fulgentius) even the desire is of grace; grace must first be shed
forth upon us, before we can begin to desire it." "By grace are we
saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of
God," Eph. 2: 8. Suppose the utmost degree of natural ability; let a
man be as much disposed and prepared as nature can dispose or
prepare him, and to all this, add the proposal of the greatest
arguments and motives to induce him to come; let all these have the
advantage of the fittest season to work upon his heart; yet no man
can come until God draw him: we move as we are moved: as Christ's
coming to us, so our coming to him are the pure effects of grace.
    Three things require explication in this point before us.
    First, What the drawing of the Father imports.
    Secondly, In what manner he draws men to Christ.
    Thirdly, How it appears that none can come until they be so
drawn.
    First, What the drawing of the Father imports.
    To open this, let it be considered, that drawing is usually
distinguished into physical and moral. The former is either by co-
action, force, and compulsion; or, by a sweet congruous efficacy
upon the will. As to violence and compulsion, it is none of God's
way and method, it being both against the nature of the will of man,
which cannot be forced, and against the will of Jesus Christ, who
loves to reign over a free and willing people, Psalm. 110: 5. "Your
people shall be willing in the day of your power." Or, as that word
may be rendered, they shall be voluntarinesses, as willing as
willingness itself. It is not then by a forcible co-action, but in a
moral way of persuasion, that God the Father draws men to Jesus
Christ: He draws with the bands of a man, as they are called, Hos.
11: 14. that is in a way of rational conviction of the mind and
conscience, and effectual persuasion of the will.
    But yet by moral persuasion, we must not understand a simple
and bare proposal or tender of Christ and grace, leaving it still at
the sinners choice, whether he will comply with it or no. For though
God does not force the will contrary to its nature, yet there is a
real internal efficacy implied in this drawing, or an immediate
operation of the Spirit upon the heart and will, which, in a way
congruous and suitable to its nature, takes away the rebellion and
reluctance of it, and of unwilling, makes it willing to come to
Christ. And, in this respect, we own a physical, as well as a moral
influence of the Spirit in this work; and so scripture expresses its
Eph. 1: 19, 20. "That we may know what is the exceeding greatness of
his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his
mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from
the dead." Here is much more than a naked proposal made to the will;
there is a power as well as a tender; greatness of power; and yet
more, the exceeding greatness of his power; and this power has an
actual efficacy ascribed to it, he works upon our hearts and wills
according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in
Christ, when he raised him from the dead. Thus he fulfils in us all
the good pleasure of his will, and the work of faith with power, 2
Thess. 1: 11.
    And this is that which the schools call gratia efficax,
effectual grace; and others victrix delectatio, an overcoming,
conquering delight: thus the work is carried on with a most
efficacious sweetness. So that the liberty of the will is not
infringed, while the obstinacy of the will is effectually subdued
and overruled. For want of this, there are so many almost Christians
in the world; hence are all those vanishing and imperfect works
which come to nothing, called in scripture, a morning cloud, an
early dew. Had this mighty power gone forth with the word, they had
never vanished or perished like embryos as they do. So then, God
draws not only in a moral way, by proposing a suitable object to the
will, but also in a physical way, or by immediate powerful influence
upon the will; not infringing the liberty of it, but yet infallibly
and effectually persuading it to come to Christ.
    Secondly, Next let us consider the marvelous way and manner in
which the Lord draws the souls of poor sinners to Jesus Christ, and
you will find he does it,
1.  Gradually,
2.  Congruously,
3.  Powerfully,
4.  Effectually, and
5.  Finally.
    First, This blessed work is carried on by the Spirit gradually;
bringing the soul step by step in the due method and order of the
gospel to Christ; illumination, conviction, compunction, prepare the
way to Christ; and then faith unites the soul to him: without
humiliation there can be no faith, Matt. 21: 32. "You repented not,
that you might believe." It is the burdensome sense of sin, that
brings the soul to Christ for rest, Matt. 11: 28. "Come unto me all
you that are weary and heavy laden." But without conviction there can
be no compunction, no humiliation; he who is not convinced of his
sin and misery, never bewails it, nor mourns for it. Never was there
one tear of true repentance seen to drop from the eye of an
unconvinced sinner.
    And without illumination there can be no conviction; for what
is conviction, but the application of the light which is in the
understanding, or mind of a man, to his heart and conscience? Acts
2: 57. In this order, therefore, the Spirit (ordinarily) draws souls
to Christ, he shines into their minds by illumination; applies that
light to their consciences by effectual conviction; breaks and
wounds their hearts for sin in compunction; and then moves the will
to embrace and close with Christ in the way of faith for life and
salvation.
    These several steps are more distinctly discerned in some
Christians than in others; they are more clearly to be seen in the
adult convert, than in those that were drawn to Christ in their
youth; in such as were drawn to him out of a state of profaneness,
than in those that had the advantage of a pious education; but in
this order the work is carried on ordinarily in all, however it
differ in point of clearness in the one and in the other.
    Secondly, He draws sinners to Christ congruously, and very
agreeably to the nature and way of man, so he speaks, Hos. 11: 4. "I
drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love," Not as
beasts are drawn; but as men are inclined and wrought to compliance,
by rational conviction of their judgments, and powerful persuasion
of their wills: the minds of sinners are naturally blinded by
ignorance, 2 Cor. 4: 3, 4. and their affections bewitched to their
lusts, Gal. 3: 4. and while it is thus, no arguments or entreaties
can possibly prevail to bring them off from the ways of sin to
Christ.
    The way therefore which the Lord takes to win and draw them to
Christ, is by rectifying their false apprehensions, and showing them
infinitely more good in Christ than in the creature and in their
lusts; yes, by satisfying their understandings, that there is
goodness enough in Jesus Christ, to whom he is drawing them.
    First, Enough to out-bid all temporal good, which is to be
denied for his sake.
    Secondly, Enough to preponderate all temporal evils, which are
to be suffered for his sake.
    First, That there is more good in Christ than in all temporal
good things, which we are to deny or forsake upon his account. This
being once clearly and convincingly discovered to the understanding,
the will is thereby prepared to quit all that which entangles and
withholds it from coming to Christ. There is no man that loves money
so much, but he will willingly part with it, for that which is more
worth to him than the sum he parts with to purchase it, Matthew. 13:
45, 46. "The kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant man, seeking
goodly pearls, who when he has found one pearl of great price, goes
and sells all that he has buys it.
    Such an invaluable pearl is Jesus Christ; infinitely more worth
than all that a poor sinner has to part with for him; and is a more
real good than the creature. These are but vain shadows; Proverbs 23:
5. Christ is a solid, substantial good: yes, he is, and by
conviction appears to be a more suitable good than the creature: The
world cannot justify and save, but Christ can. Christ is a more
necessary good than the creature, which is only for our temporal
convenience, but he is of eternal necessity. He is a more durable
good than any creature comfort is, or can be: "The fashion of this
world passes away," 1 Cor. 7: 13. But durable riches and
righteousness are in him, Proverbs 8: 17. Thus Christ appears in the
day of conviction, infinitely more excellent than the world; he
out-bids all the offers that the world can make; and this greatly
forwards the work of drawing a soul to Jesus Christ.
    Secondly, And (then to remove everything out of the way to
Christ) God discovers to the soul enough in him to preponderate, and
much more than will recompense all the evils and sufferings it can
endure for his sake.
    It is true, they that close with Christ close with his cross
also: they must expect to save no more but their souls by him. He
tells us what we must trust to, Luke 14: 26, 27. "If any man come to
me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and
brethren and sisters; yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my
disciple." And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me,
cannot be my disciple.
    To read such a text as this, with such a comment upon it, as
Satan and our flesh can make, is enough to fright a man from Christ
forever. Nor is it possible by all the arguments in the world to
draw any soul to Christ upon such terms as these, until the Lord
convince it, that there is enough, and much more than enough in
Jesus Christ to recompense all these sufferings and losses we endure
for him.
    But when the soul is satisfied that those sufferings are but
external upon the vile body, but that the benefit which comes by
Christ is internal in a man's own soul; these afflictions are but
temporal, Romans 8: 18. But Christ and his benefits are eternal: This
must needs prevail with the will to come over to Christ,
notwithstanding all the evils of suffering that accompany him, when
the reality of this is discovered by the Lord, and the power of God
goes along with these discoveries. Thus the Lord draws us in our own
way, by rational convictions of the understanding, and allurements
of the will.
    And it is possible this may be the reason why some poor souls
misjudge the working of the Spirit of God upon themselves, thinking
they never had that wonderful and mighty power of God in conversion,
acting upon their hearts, because they find all that is done upon
their hearts that way is done in the ordinary course and method of
nature; They consider, compare, are convinced, and then resolved to
choose Christ and his ways; whereas they expect to feel some strange
operations, that shall have the visible characters of the immediate
power of God upon them, and such a power they might discern, if they
would consider it as working, in this way and method: but they
cannot distinguish God's acts from their own, and that puzzles them.
    Thirdly, The drawings of the Father are very powerful. "The arm
of the Lord is revealed in this work," Isaiah 53: 1. It was a powerful
word indeed that made the light at first shine out of darkness, and
no less power is required to make it shine into our hearts, 2 Cor.
5: 14. That day in which the soul is made willing to come to Christ,
is called, "the day of his power," Psalm. 110: 3. The scripture
expresses the work of conversion by a threefold metaphor, namely,
    That of a resurrection from the dead, Romans 4: 4.
    That of creation Eph. 2: 10. And
    That of victory or conquest, 2 Cor. 10: 4, 5. All these set
forth the infinite power of God in this work; for no less than
Almighty Power is required to each of them, and if you strictly
examine the distinct notions, you shall find the power of God more
and more illustriously displayed in each of them.
    To raise the dead, is the effect of Almighty Power; but then
the resurrection supposes pre-existent matter. In the work of
creation, there is no pre-existent matter; but then there is no
opposition: That which is not, rebels not against the power which
gives it being. But victory and conquest suppose opposition, all the
power of corrupt nature arming itself, and fighting against God: but
yet not able to frustrate his design.
    Let the soul whom the Father draws, struggle and reluctate as
much as it can, it shall come, yes, and come willingly too, when the
drawing power of God is upon it. O the self-conflicts, the contrary
resolves, with which the soul finds itself distracted, and rent
asunder! The hopes and fears; the encouragements and
discouragements; they will, and they will not: but victorious grace
conquers all opposition at last. We find an excellent example of
this in blessed Augustin, who speaks of this very work;, the drawing
of his soul to Christ, and how he felt in that day two wills in
himself, "one old, the other new; one carnal, the other spiritual;
and how in these their contrary motions and conflicts, he was torn
asunder in his own thoughts and resolutions, suffering that
unwillingly which he did willingly." And certainly, if we consider
how deep the soul is rooted by natural inclination, and long
continued custom in sin, how extremely averse it is to the ways of
strict godliness and mortification; how Satan, that invidious enemy,
that strong man armed, fortifies the soul to defend his possession
against Christ, and entrenches himself in the understanding, will,
and affections, by deep-rooted prejudices against Christ and
holiness, it is a wonder of wonders to see a soul quitting all its
beloved lusts, and fleshly interests and endearments, and coming
willingly under Christ's yoke.
    Fourthly, the drawings of God are very effectual: There is
indeed a common and ineffectual work upon hypocrites and apostates,
called in scripture a "morning cloud and early dew", Hos. 6: 4.
These may believe for a time, and fall away at last, Luke 8: 13.
Their wills may be half won, they may be drawn half way to Christ,
and return again. So it was with Agrippa, Acts 26: 28. "en oligoi me
peiteis", within a very little you persuades me to be a Christian:
But in God's elected ones it is effectual: Their wills are not only
almost, but altogether persuaded to embrace Christ, and quit the
ways of sin, however pleasant, gainful, and dear  they have been
to them. The Lord not only draws, but draws home those souls to
Christ, John 6: 37. "All that the Father has given me, shall come to
me."
    It is confessed, that in drawing home of the very elect to
Christ, there may be, and frequently are, many pauses, stands, and
demurs; they have convictions, affections, and resolutions stirring
in them, which, like early blossoms, seem to be nipped and die away
again. There is frequently, (in young ones especially), an hopeful
appearance of grace; they make conscience of avoiding sins, and
performing duties: they have sometimes great awakenings under the
Word, they are observed to retire for meditation and prayer; and
delight to be in the company of Christians: and after all this,
youthful lusts and vanities are found to stifle and cheek these
hopeful beginnings, and the work seems to stand, (it may be some
years), at a pause; however, at last, the Lord makes it victorious
over all opposition, and sets it home with power upon their hearts.
    Fifthly, To conclude, those whom the Father draws to Christ, he
draws them finally and forever. "The gifts and calling of God are
without repentance," Romans 11: 29. they are so, as to God the giver;
he never repents, that he has called his people into the fellowship
of his Son Christ Jesus: and they are so on the believer's part; he
is never sorry, whatever he afterwards meets with, that he is come
to Christ.
    There is a time when Christians are drawn to Christ, but there
shall never be a time in which they shall be drawn away from Christ,
John 10: 29. There is no plucking them out of the Father's hand. It
was common to a proverb, in the primitive times, when they would
express an impossibility, to say, "You may as soon draw a Christian
from Christ, as do it." When Christ asked that question of the
disciples, "Will you also go away? Lord, (said Peter, in the name of
them all), to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal
life," John 6: 68. They who are thus drawn, do with full purpose of
heart, cleave unto the Lord. And thus of the manner and quality of
effectual drawing.
    Thirdly, In the last place, I am to evince the impossibility of
coming to Christ without the Father's drawings; and this will
evidently appear upon the consideration of these two particulars.
    First, The difficulty of this work is above all the power of
nature to overcome.
    Secondly, That little power and ability that nature has, it
will never employ to such a purpose as this, until the drawing power
of God be upon the will of a sinner.
    First, If all the power of nature were employed in this design,
yet such are the difficulties of this work, that it surmounts all
the abilities of nature. This the scripture very plainly affirms,
Eph. 2: 8. "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God." To think of Christ is easy, but
to come to Christ, is to nature impossible. To send forth cold and
ineffectual wishes to Christ we may, but to bring Christ and the
soul together, requires the Almighty power of God, Eph. 1: 19. The
grace of faith by which we come to Christ, is as much the free gift
of God, as Christ himself, who is the object of faith, Phil. 1: 29.
"To you it is freely given to believe." And this will easily appear
to your understandings, if you do but consider
    
The Subject, Act, and Enemies of this work of faith,
or coming to Christ.

    First, Consider the subject of faith in which it is wrought; or
what it is that is drawn to Christ: It is the heart of a sinner
which is naturally as indisposed for this work, as the wood which
Elijah laid in order upon the altar was to catch fire, when he had
poured so much water upon it, as did not only wet the wood, but also
filled up the trench round about it, 1 Kings 18: 33. For it is
naturally a dark, blind, and ignorant heart, Job 11: 12. And such an
heart can never believe, until he who commanded the light to shine
out of darkness do shine into it, 2 Cor. 4: 6.
    Nor will it avail anything to say, though man be born in
darkness and ignorance, yet afterwards he may acquire knowledge in
the use of means, as we see many natural men do to a very high
degree: For this is not that light that brings the soul to Christ,
yes, this natural unsanctified light blinds the soul, and prejudices
it more against Christ than ever it was before, 1 Cor. 1: 21, 26.
    As it is a blind, ignorant heart, so it is a selfish heart by
nature: All its designs and aims terminate in self; this is the
center and weight of the soul, no righteousness but its own is
sought after, that, or none, Romans 10: 3. Now, for a soul to renounce
and deny self, in all its forms, modes, and interests, as everyone
does that comes to Christ; to disclaim and deny natural, moral, and
religious self, and come to Christ as a poor, miserable, wretched
empty creature; to live upon his righteousness forever, is as
supernatural and wonderful, as to see the hills and mountains start
from their bases and centers, and fly like wandering atoms in the
air.
    Nay, this heart which is to come to Christ, is not only dark
and selfish, but full of pride. O, it is a desperate proud heart by
nature, it cannot submit to come to Christ, as Benhadad's servant
came to the king of Israel, with sackcloth on their loins, and ropes
upon their heads. To take guilt, shame, and confusion of face to
ourselves, and acknowledge the righteousness of God in our eternal
damnation; to come to Christ naked and empty, as one that justifies
the ungodly. I say, nature left to itself, would as soon be damned
as do this; the proud heart can never come to this, until the Lord
has humbled and broken it by his power.
    Secondly, Let us take the act of faith into consideration also,
as it is here described by the soul's coming to Jesus Christ; and
you will find a necessity of the Father's drawings; for this
evidently implies, that which is against the stream and current of
corrupt nature, and that which is above the sphere and capacity of
the most refined and accomplished nature.
    First, It is against the stream and current of our corrupt
nature to come to Christ. For let us but consider the term from
which the soul departs, when it comes to Christ. In that day it
leaves all its lusts, and ways of sin, however pleasant, sweet, and
profitable they have been unto it, Isaiah 55: 7. "Let the wicked
forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and
let him return unto the Lord." Way and thoughts, that is both the
practice of, and delight he had in sin, must be forsaken, and the
outward and inward man must be cleansed from it. Now there are in
the bosoms of unregenerate men such darling lusts, that have given
them so much practical and speculative pleasure, which have brought
so much profit to them, which have been born and bred up with them;
and which, upon all these accounts, are endeared to their souls to
that degree, that it is easier for them to die, than to forsake
them, yes, nothing is more common among such men, than to venture
eternal damnation, rather than suffer a separation from their sins.
    And which is yet more difficult in coming to Christ, the soul
forsakes not only its sinful self; but its righteous self, that is not
only its worst sins, but its best performances, accomplishments, and
excellencies. Now this is one of the greatest straits that nature
can be put to. Righteousness by works was the first liquor that ever
was put into the vessel, and it still retains the tang and savor of
it, and will to the end of the world, Romans 10: 3 "For they, being
ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their
own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the
righteousness of God." "ouk hupetagesan", they have not submitted.
To come naked and empty to Christ, and receive all from him as a
free gift, is, to proud corrupt nature, the greatest abasement and
submission in the world.
    Let the gospel furnish its table with the richest and costliest
dainties that ever the blood of Christ purchased, such is the pride
of nature, that it disdains to taste them, except it may also pay
for the same. If the old hive be removed from the place where it was
accustomed to stand, the bees will come home to the old place, yes, and
many of them you shall find will die there, rather than go to the
hive, though it stand in a far better place than it did before. Just
so stands the case with men. The hive is removed, that is we are not to
expect righteousness as Adam did, by obeying and working, but by
believing and coming to Christ; but nature had as soon be damned as
do it is: It still goes about to establish its own righteousness.
    Virtues, duties, and moral excellencies, these are the
ornaments of nature; here is nature set off in its sumptuous attire,
and rich embellishments, and now to renounce it, disclaim and
despise it, as dross and dung, in comparison of Christ, as believers
do, Phil. 3: 8. this, I say, is against the grain of nature. We
reckon it the strange effect of self-denial in Mahomet the Great,
who being so enamored with his beautiful Irene, would be persuaded,
upon reasons of state, with his own hand to strike off her head: and
that even when she appeared in all her rich ornaments before him,
rather like such a goddess, as the poets in their ecstasies use to
feign, than a mortal creature. And yet certainly this is nothing to
that self-denial which is exercised in our coming to Christ.
    Secondly, And if we look to the other term to which the soul
moves, we shall find it acting as much above the sphere and ability
of improved nature, as here it acts and moves against the stream and
current of corrupted nature: for how wonderful and supernatural an
adventure is that, which the soul makes in the day that it comes to
Jesus Christ.
    Surely, for any poor soul to venture itself forever upon Jesus
Christ whom it never saw, nay, upon Christ, whose very existence its
own unbelief calls in question whether he be or no: and that when it
is even weighed down to the dust, with the burdensome sense of its
own vileness and total unworthiness, feeling nothing in itself but
sin and misery, the workings of death and fears of wrath: to go to
Christ, of whose pardoning grace and mercy it never had any the
least experience, nor can find any ground of hope in it self that it
shall be accepted; this is as much above the power of nature, as it
is for a stone to rise from the earth, and fix itself among the
stars. Well might the apostle ascribe it to that Almighty Power
which raised up Christ from the dead, Eph. 1: 19, 20. If the Lord
draw not the soul, and that omnipotently, it can never come from
itself to Christ. And yet farther,
    Thirdly, The natural impossibility of coming to Christ, will
more clearly appear, if we consider the enemies to faith, or what
blocks are rolled by Satan and his instruments into the way to
Christ: to mention, in this place, no more but our own carnal
reason, as it is armed and managed by the subtlety of Satan, what a
wonder is it that any soul should come to Christ?
    These are the strong holds, (mentioned 2 Cor. 10: 4.) out of
which those objections, fears, and discouragements sally, by which
the soul is fiercely assaulted in the way to Christ.
    Will you forsake all your pleasures, merry company, and
sensible comforts, to live a sad, retired, pensive life? Will you
beggar and undo yourself, let go all your comforts in hand, for an
hope of that which your eyes never saw, nor have you any certainty
that it is any more than a fancy! Will you that have lived in
reputation and credit all your life, now become the scorn and
contempt of the world? Think you yourself able to live such a
strict, severe, mortified, and self-denying, life, as the word of
God requires? And what if persecution should arise, (as you may
expect it will,) can you forsake father and mother, wife and
children, yes, and give up your own life too, to a cruel and bloody
death! be advised better, before you resolve in so important a
matter. What think you of your forefathers, that lived and died
in that way you are now living? Are you wiser than they? Do not
the generality of men walk in the same paths you have hitherto
walked in? If this way lead to hell, as you fear it may, think
then how many millions of men must perish as well as yourself; and is
such a supposition consistent with the gracious and merciful nature
of God? Besides, think what sort of people those are, unto whom you
are about to join yourself in this new way? Are there not to be found
among them many things to discourage you, and cool your zeal? They
are generally of the lower and baser sort of men, poor and
despicable: Sees you not, though their profession be holy, how
earthly, carnal, proud, factious, and hypocritical, many of them are
found to be! And doubtless, the rest are like them, though their
hypocrisy be not yet discovered.
    O what stands and demurs, what hesitations and doubts, is the
soul clogged with in its way to Christ! But yet none of these can
withhold and detain the soul when the Father draws: Greater then is
he who is in us, than he who is in the world. And thus you see the
nature, manner, and efficacy of divine drawings, and how impossible
it is for any soul to come to Christ without them.
    The inferences and improvements of the point follow.
    Inference 1. How deeply and thoroughly is the nature of man
corrupted, and what an enemy is every man to his own happiness, that
he must be drawn to it? John 5: 40 "You will not come unto me, that
you might have life."
    Life is desirable in every man's eyes, and eternal life is the
most excellent: yet, in this, the world is rather agreed to die and
perish forever than come to Christ for life. Had Christ told us of
fields and vineyards, sheep and oxen, gold and silver, honors and
sensual pleasures, who would not have come to him for these? But to
tell of mortification, self denial, strictness of life, and
sufferings for his sake, and all this for an happiness to be enjoyed
in the world to come, nature will never like such a proposition as
this.
    You see where it sticks, not in a simple inability to believe,
but in an inability complicated with enmity; they neither call come,
nor will come to Christ. It is true, all that do come to Christ,
come willingly, but thanks be to the grace of God, that has freed
and persuaded the will, else they never had been willing to come.
Who ever found his own heart first stir and move towards Christ? How
long may we wait and expect before we shall feel our hearts
naturally burn with desires after, and love to Jesus Christ?
    This aversion of the will and affections from God is one of the
main roots of original sin. No argument can prevail to bring the
soul to Christ, until this be mastered and overpowered by the
Father's drawing. In our motions to sin we need restraining, but in
all our motions to Christ we as much need drawing. He who comes to
heaven may say, Lord, if I had had mine own way and will, I had
never come here: if you had not drawn me, I should never have
come to you. O the riches of the grace of God! Oh unparalleled
mercy and goodness! not only to prepare such a glory as this for an
unworthy soul, but to put forth the exceeding greatness of your
power, afterwards to draw an unwilling soul to the enjoyment of it.
    Infer. 2 What enemies are they to God and the souls of men that
do all they can to discourage and hinder the conversion of men to
Christ? God draws forward, and these do all that in them lies to
draw backward, that is to prejudice and discourage them from coming to
Jesus Christ in the way of faith: this is a direct opposition to
God, and a plain confederacy with the devil.
    O how many have been thus discouraged in their way to Christ by
their carnal relations, I cannot say friends! Their greatest enemies
have been the men of their own house. These have pleaded (as if the
devil had hired and feed them) against the everlasting welfare of
their own flesh. O cruel parents, brethren, and sisters, that jeer,
frown, and threaten, where they should encourage, assist, and
rejoice! Such parents are the devil's children Satan chooses such
instruments as you are, above all others, for this work: he knows
what influence and authority you have upon them, and over them; and
what fear, love, and dependence they have for you, and upon you; so
that none in all the world are like to manage the design of their
damnation so effectually, as you are like to do.
    Will you neither come to Christ yourselves, nor suffer your
dear relations that would? Had you rather find them in the ale-house
than in the closet? Did you instrumentally give them their being,
and will you be the instruments of ruining forever those beings
they had from you? Did you so earnestly desire children, so tenderly
nurse and provide for them; take such delight in them and, after all
this, do what in you lies to damn and destroy them? If these lines
shall fall into any such hands, O that God would set home the
conviction and sense of this horrid evil upon their hearts.
    And no less guilty of this sin are scandalous and loose
professors, who serve to furnish the devil with the greatest
arguments he has to dissuade men from coming to Christ; it is your
looseness and hypocrisy by which he hopes to scare others from
Christ. It is said, Cant. 2: 7. "I charge you by the roes and hinds
of the field, that you stir not up, nor awake my beloved until he
please."
    Roes and hinds, like young converts and comers towards Christ,
are shy and timorous creatures, that start at the least sound, or
yelp of a dog, and fly away. Take heed what you do in this case,
lest you go down to hell under the guilt of damning more souls than
your own.
    Infer. 3. Learn hence the true ground and reason of those
strange, amazing, and supernatural effects, that you behold and so
admire in the world, as often as you see sinners forsaking their
pleasant, profitable corruptions and companions, and embracing the
ways of Christ, godliness, and mortification.
    It is said, 1 Pet. 4: 4. "They think it strange, that you run
not with them into the same excess of riot." The word is "en hoi
ksenidzontai", they stand at a gaze, as the hen that has hatched
partridge eggs does, when she sees them take the wing and fly away
from her.
    Beloved, it is the world's wonder to see their companions in
sin forsake them; those that were once as profane and vain as
themselves, it may be more, to forsake their society, retire into
their closets, mourn for sin, spend their time in meditation and
prayer, embrace the severest duties, and content to run the greatest
hazards in the world for Christ; but they see not that Almighty
Power that draws them, which is too strong for all the sinful ties
and engagements in the world to withhold and detain them.
    A man would have wondered to see Elisha leave the oxen, and run
after Elijah, saying, "Let me go, I pray you, and kiss my father
and mother, and then I will follow you; when Elijah had said
nothing to persuade him to follow him only as he passed by him, he
cast his mantle on him, 1 Kings 10: 19, 20. Surely that soul whom
God draws, must needs leave all and follow Christ, for the power of
God rests on it. All carnal ties and engagements to sin break and
give way, when the Father draws the soul to Christ in the day of his
power.
    Infer. 4. Is this the first spring of spiritual motion after
Christ? Learn then from hence, how it comes to pass that so many
excellent sermons and powerful persuasions are ineffectual, and
cannot draw and win one soul to Christ. Surely it is because
ministers draw alone; and the special saving power of God goes not
forth at all times alike with their endeavors.
    Paul was a chosen vessel, filled with a greater measure of
gifts and graces by the Spirit, than any that went before him or
followed after him; and, as his talents, so his diligence in
improving them was beyond any recorded example we read of among
men; "He rather flew like a seraphim, than traveled upon his
Master's errand about the world." Apollos was an eloquent preacher,
and mighty in the scriptures, yet Paul is "nothing, and Apollos
nothing; but God that gives the increase," 1 Cor. 3: 7. We are too
apt to admire men, yes, and the best are but too apt to go forth in
the strength of their own parts and preparations; but God secures
his own glory, and magnifies his own power, frequently, in giving
success to weaker endeavors, and men of lower abilities, when he
withholds it from men of more raised, refined, and excellent gifts
and abilities.
    It is our great honor, who are the ministers of the gospel,
that we are "sunergoi", workers together with God, 1 Cor. 3: 9. in
his strength we can prevail; "the weapons of our warfare are mighty
through God," 2 Cor. 10: 4. But if his presence, blessing, and
assistance be not with us, we are nothing, we can do nothing.
    If we prepare diligently, pray heartily, preach zealously, and
our hearers go as they came, without any spiritual effects and
fruits of our labors, what shall we say, but as Martha said to
Christ, "Lord, if you had been here my brother had not died:" Had
the Spirit of God gone forth with his especial efficacy and
blessing, with this prayer, or that sermon, these souls had not
departed dead and senseless from under it.
    Infer. 5. Does all success and efficacy depend upon the
Father's drawings? Let none then despair of their unregenerate and
carnal relations, over whose obstinacy they do, and have cause to
mourn.
    What, if they have been as many years under the preaching of
the gospel, as the poor man lay at the pool of Bethesda, and
hitherto to no purpose? A time may come at last, (as it did for him)
when the Spirit of God may move upon the waters; I mean put a
quickening and converting power into the means, and then the desire
of your souls for them shall be fulfilled.
    It may be you have poured out many prayers and tears to the
Lord for them; you have cried for them as Abraham for his son, "O
that Ishmael might live before you!" O that this poor husband,
wife, child, brother, or sister, might live in your sight; and still
you see them continue carnal, dead, and senseless: Well, but yet not
give up your hopes, nor cease your pious endeavors, the time may
come when the Father may draw as well as you, and them you shall see
them quit all, and come to Christ; and nothing shall hinder them.
They are now drawn away of their own lusts; they are easily drawn
away by their sinful companions; but when God draws, none of these
shall withdraw them from the Lord Jesus. What is their ignorance,
obstinacy, and hardness of heart, before that mighty power that
subdues all things to itself? Go therefore to the Lord by prayer for
them, and say, Lord, I have labored for my poor relations in vain,
I have spent my exhortations to little purpose; the work is too
difficult for me, I can carry it no farther, but you can: O let
your power go forth; they shall be willing in the day of your power.
    Inference. 6. If none can come to Christ except the Father draw them,
then surely none can be drawn from Christ except the Father leave
them: That power which at first drew them to Christ can secure and
establish them in Christ to the end. John 10: 29. "My Father which
gave them me is greater then all, and non man is able to pluck them
out of my Father's hand."
    When the power of God at first draws us out of our natural
state to Christ, it finds us not only impotent but obstinate, not
only unable, but unwilling to come; and yet this power of God
prevails against all opposition;  how much more is it able to
preserve and secure us, when his fear is put into our inward parts,
so that we dare not depart, we have no will to depart from him? Well
then if the world say, I will ensnare you; if the devil say, I will
destroy you; if the flesh say, I will betray you; yet you are
secure and safe, as long as God has said, "I will never leave you
nor forsake you,", Heb. 13:5.
    Infer. 7. Let this engage you to a constant attendance upon the
ordinances of God, in which this drawing power of God is sometimes
put forth upon the hearts of men.
    Beloved, there are certain seasons in which the Lord comes near
to men in the ordinances and duties of his worship; and we know not
at what time the Lord comes forth by his Spirit upon this design:
he many times comes in an hour when we think not of him! "I am found
of them that sought me not", Isaiah 65:1. It is good therefore to be
found in the way of the Spirit. Had that poor man, that lay so long
at the pool of Bethesda, reasoned thus with himself, So long have I
lain here in vain expecting a cure, it is to no purpose to wait
longer, and so had been absent at that very time when the angel came
down, he had, in all likelihood, carried his disease to the grave
with him.
    How do you know but this very sabbath, this sermon, this
prayer, which you have no heart to attend, and are tempted to
neglect, may be the season and instrument wherein, and by which, the
Lord may do that for your soul which was never done before?
    Infer. 8. To conclude, How are all the saints engaged to put
forth all the power and ability they have for God, who has put forth
his infinite Almighty Power to draw them to Christ?
    God has done great things for your souls; he has drawn you out
of the miserable state of sin and wrath; and that when he let others
go, by nature as good as you, he has drawn you into union with
Christ, and communion with his glorious privileges. O that you would
henceforth employ all the power you have for God in the duties of
obedience, and in drawing others to Christ, as much as in you lies,
and say continually with the Church, "Draw me, we will run after
you," Cant. 1: 4.
    
                 Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.
 




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