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that it was of grace, and not of their own will and ability, that they so repented, believed, and came to the knowledge of the truth.
Now, divine grace operates in a twofold way to bring about conversion : first, providentially; secondly, spiritually. Its operation providentially is manifold, as when, for example, to take some broad outlines of illustration, either nations or individuals are brought within the hearing of the gospel, which had not before been proclaimed to them; an instance in point being the mission of St. Paul to the heathen in Asia and Europe. Or, as when by their very birth and social relations men are placed within the range and reach of the means of grace, like the natives of a Christian land such as England. Or as when, to distinguish between one and another of the last named class, some are born of truly pious parents, and from their earliest infancy grow up under godly influences and hallowed associations ; while others, born of parents nominally Christian indeed, but cold, indifferent, or positively ungodly, are brought up in a moral atmosphere utterly unfavourable, if not absolutely prejudicial, to religious culture. Or as when, in the case of individuals, special visitations occur to them, of either an alarming or an alluring character, calculated to awaken them to anxiety, or tenderly to draw their hearts to God. Diverse also is the working of the grace of God as it operates spiritually to produce conversion, by its inner action on the human heart. This is the office of the Holy Ghost in the economy of redemption. As the Spirit of Christ He applies and makes effectual, as to individuals, the grace of that re
1 Cor. xii. 3.
demption, striving with the children of men, drawing gently some as with the cords of a man, striking terrible convictions into the hearts of others, opening the eyes of the understanding, illuminating the mind, influencing the will, shedding abroad the love of God in the heart, emancipating from the love and power of sin, strengthening against temptation, and leading in the way everlasting. Marvellous and manifold are the operations of the Spirit in quickening souls from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, and in carrying them forward in that life. To Him is attributed whatever of spiritual good there be in a man. "No man,' says St. Paul, can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.'
And as faith is of his operation, so is obedience to Ezek. xxxvi. 27. the divine will : ‘I will put my Spirit within you
and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.'
Now, from the foregoing, does it not seem legitimate to infer, that as God willeth not the death of a sinner, but that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth ; that as, in accordance with that will, He sent his Son, in order that the world through Him should be saved ; that as repentance and faith are the subjective links between the sinner and the Saviour ; that as men can only repent and believe as the grace of God enables them to do so; therefore in fulfilment of his will, sooner or later, grace will so operate on every heart as to bring it unto God. Otherwise, if this inference be denied, we seem to be driven to the conclusion that while, on the one hand, God willeth all men should be saved, yet, on the other hand, that that grace,
through and by which only they could repent and believe, is withheld from some, or at least that it operates less effectually upon some than upon others.
At this point we are confronted with a startling and a stupendous fact. Out of the whole mass of human beings which have been born into the world since its creation, two thirds at least I suppose, at any rate millions upon millions, have passed away from this life without any communication to them, either under the law or under the gospel, of the way of salvation, without any opportunity being afforded to them of “coming to the knowledge of the truth.' Place this fact alongside of the inspired declaration that God willeth all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, and is not the inference absolutely irresistible, that as on the one hand the divine will cannot be thwarted, but must in one way or other take effect; and as on the other hand myriads of human souls have never in the present life come within the range of either the law of the Old Testament, or the gospel of the New, therefore assuredly will that grace, which bringeth salvation to all men, be brought to bear upon them in ages yet to come?
Here, however, it may be perhaps suggested that the case of those in question is covered by the language of St. Paul, when he says that God will render Rom. ii. 6–16. to every man according to his deeds, and that those who have sinned without law shall perish without law, etc.
But whatever the whole passage may mean (and the case of the virtuous heathen will be considered hereafter), it will scarcely, I suppose, be inferred that it predicates salvation, in the gospel
Acts xxvi. 18.
sense of the word, of even the very best of the heathen ; for if this were so, it would be hard to understand wherein would lie the superiority of the position of Christians over that of heathens, or why such effort should be used to convert the latter to Christianity, if after all, by virtue of obedience to the law of conscience, they can attain to life in the gospel significance of the term. But the grace that bringeth salvation to all men is grace that was manifested in the mission of Christ. Salvation, in the gospel acceptation of the word, is salvation in and through Christ, and therefore was St. Paul sent to the heathen to open their eyes, to turn them from their former darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among the sanctified, by faith that is in Jesus. If then, in the case of those who have passed away from this life without hearing of Christ, and therefore without believing in Him (“for how,' pleads the Apostle, “shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard '), and if to these, in realization of the divine will, salvation in the true sense is to be brought near, then must opportunity hereafter be given them of looking on Him who was pierced for them, and of turning to Him.
Another fact confronts us. Even on those within the pale of the visible Church, and within the range and reach of the means of grace, how varied both in time of visitation, and in degree of force and efficacy, is the operation of grace. Some are savingly impressed in early life, while others not till old age are so wrought upon as to turn their hearts to God. Some are constantly and continuously subject to
Rom. x. 14.
constraining movements within, and to hallowing influences from without, while others pass through life and out of it scarcely conscious of any special strivings and searchings of heart. Two men, alike unconverted, listen to the same sermon ; to one the word comes in power and demonstration of the Spirit, so that being pricked in his heart, he cries out “What must I do to be saved?' the other departs untouched, anmoved. Here is one who for many years has sat under the ministry of the gospel, and remained a hearer only ; suddenly, a passage which scores of times he had heard before, flashes upon his heart and conscience with convincing and converting power. Instances like these might be multiplied to any extent, all illustrating the same truth, that converting grace is sovereign grace, that it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy,' TOÙ ÊMEOÛVTOS Deou. In each Rom. ic. 16. instance, only to grace working after the counsel of the divine will can conversion be attributed. Yet in no case is there such coercion of the will as to violate its freedom, but in each and all it is grace operating on the human will with convincing and persuasive efficacy, disposing, constraining, and enabling it to turn to God. At what point and in what way the human will meets and co-operates with the divine will, we cannot and we care not to explain. This only we know, both from Holy Scripture and from the experience and acknowledgment of all converted men, that conversion is the work of grace exemplifying and realizing that word, “Thy people Ps. cx. 3. shall be willing in the day of thy power. Why grace operates effectually in some cases and not in