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The Potter's Clay

Scripture, Theology, the Christian worldview, and other ramblings.

14 September 2005

The One Thing Necessary - Pt. 5


And so I proceed to the use of exhortation, to persuade you all in the bowels of Christ to set about this great work, "the working out your salvation." Beloved, here is a plot for heaven, and I would have you all in this plot; rally together all the powers of your souls; give neither God nor yourselves rest till you have "made your election sure." Christians, fall to work; do it early, earnestly, incessantly. Pursue salvation as in a holy chase; other things are but matters of convenience; salvation is a matter of necessity. You must either do the work that Christians are doing, or you must do the work that devils are doing. Oh, you that never yet took one stitch in this work of salvation, begin now. Religion is a good trade if it be well-followed. Be assured there is no salvation without working. But here I must lay down a caution to prevent mistakes.

Though we shall not be saved without working, yet not for our working. We do not work out salvation by way of merit. Bellarmine saith, "We merit heaven out of worthiness." No, though we are saved in the use of means, yet by grace too (Eph. 2:5). There must be ploughing and sowing the ground, but yet no crop can be expected without the influence of the sun; so there must be working, but no crop of salvation can be hoped for without the sunshine of free grace: "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Give? Why, might some say, we have wrought hard for it? Ay, but heaven is a donative; though you work for it, yet it is the good pleasure of God to bestow it. Still look up to Christ's merit; it is not your sweat, but His blood that saves. That your working cannot merit salvation is clear, "It is God that works in you to will and to do" (ver. 13). It is not your working, but God's co-working. For as the scrivener guides the child's hand, or he cannot write; so the Spirit of God must afford His auxiliary concurrence, or our work stands still. How then can any man merit by working, when it is God that helps him to work?

I shall now, having laid down this caution, resume the exhortation, and persuade you to the working out salvation. But I must first remove two objections which lie in the way.

Objection 1. You bid us work out salvation, but we have no power to work.

Answer. It is true, we have not power; I deny that we have the liberty to work. Man before conversion is purely passive; therefore the Scripture calls it a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). A man by nature can no more prepare himself to his own converting than the stone can prepare itself to its own softening. But yet when God begins to draw, we may follow. Those dry bones in Ezekiel could not of themselves live, but when breath came into them, then "they lived, and stood up upon their feet" (Ezek. 37: 10).

Question. But suppose God hath not dropped in a principle of grace? Suppose He hath not caused breath to enter?

Answer. Yet use the means. Though you cannot work spiritually, yet work physically; do what you are able, and that for two reasons.
1. Because a man by neglecting the means, doth destroy himself. It is like a man by not going to the physician, may be said to be the cause of his own death.
2. God is not wanting to us when we do what we are able. Urge the promise, "Seek and ye shall find" (Matt. 7:7). Put this bond in suit by prayer; you say you have no power, but have you not a promise? Act so far as you can. Though I dare not say as the Arminian, when we do exert and put forth nature, God is bound to give grace; yet this I say, God is not wanting to them that seek his grace. Nay, I will say more, He denies His grace to none but them that wilfully refuse it (John 5:40).

Objection 2. The second objection is this; But to what purpose should I work? There is a decree past; if God hath decreed I shall be saved, I shall be saved.

Answer. God decrees salvation in a way of working (2 Thes. 2:13). Origen, in his book against Celsus, observes a subtle argument of some who disputed about Fate and Destiny. One gave counsel to his sick friend not to send for the physician, because, saith he, it is appointed by destiny whether thou shalt recover or not. If it be thy destiny to recover, then thou needest not the physician; if it be not thy destiny, then the physician will do thee no good. The like fallacy doth the devil use to men; he bids them not work; if God hath decreed they shall be saved, they shall be saved, and there is no need of working; if He hath not decreed their salvation, then their working will do them no good; this is an argument fetched out of the devil's topics. But we say, God decrees the end in the use of means. God did decree that Israel should enter into Canaan, but first they must fight with the sons of Anak. God decreed that Hezekiah should recover from his sickness, but let him lay a fig to the boil (Isa. 38:21). We do not argue thus in other things. A man doth not say, "If God hath decreed I shall have a crop this year, I shall have a crop; what need I plough, or sow, or manure the land?" No, he win use the means, and expect a crop. Though "the blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich" (Prov. 10:22), yet it is as true, "the hand of the diligent maketh rich" (Prov. 10:4). God's decreeing is carried on by our working.

And thus having removed these objections, let me now persuade you to set about this blessed work, the working out your salvation; and that my words may the better prevail, I shall propound several arguments by way of motive to excite you to this work.

--Thomas Watson


Blogger JIBBS said...

This stuff has been awesome, Joe. I think I'm getting hooked on Watson.

15 September, 2005 13:14  

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