IV. To the ELEVENTH and TWELFTH OBJECTIONS the same general answers may be given, they both depending on the same phrase, and making thus one argument: " What God gives we only receive, and so are only passive; but God gives faith and repentance." (Acts 11:18, Ephesians 2:8)
ANSWER FIRST. To show the vanity of such objections, I shall confront them thus, what God commands we must do, and therefore must be active in it; but God ' commands all men every where to repent,' (Acts 17:30) and ' this is his commandment that we believe in the name of the Son of God,' (1 John 3:23) therefore we must be active in the works of faith, (John 6:29) and of repentance. Yea, by this way of arguing, all that hardness of heart the Jews contracted must be ascribed to God, and they must have been purely passive in it, God having 'green them a spirit of slumber:' (Romans 11:8) Ahab's false prophets must be purely passive; for, says Micaiah, ' the Lord hath given a lying spirit in the mouth of all thy prophets: ' (1 Kings 22:23)
The enemies of God's church must be passive in all the evils they do to her, God having 'given them to take peace from the earth, and to slay some and in the blasphemies they utter against him, ' God having given to the beast to speak blasphemies' (Revelations 13:5)
ANSWER SECOND. In answer to all the sayings of like nature to these, I lay down this as a general and certain rule, — that where God is said to give anything, the exercise of that faculty is still supposed which he hath given us already, and God is only said to give it by giving us those faculties by which we are enabled to obtain it, and the means and motives which are sufficient to excite those faculties to the performance of their proper actions; I say, the exercise of those faculties is always presupposed, when God said to give that which it is our duty to perform, and which will turn to our advantage and reward.
And, First . Thus is it always with respect to natural gifts ; for thus God "gives riches," (Ecclesiastes 5:19-6:2) because he 'gives power to get wealth,' (Deuteronomy 8:18) but yet it is ' the diligent hand, and the blessing of God on our labors that makes rich.' (Proverbs 10:4, 22) He ' gives us our daily bread,' yea, he ' gives food to all flesh," (Psalm 136:25) yet we must eat it ' in the sweat of our brows," and with the labor of our hands procure it.
So ' he gives all things to all men,' (Acts 17:25) and ' to the beasts their food.' (Psalm 147:9) But then they must employ those faculties which God has given them to procure it: wherefore to argue thus, — " God gives faith and repentance, therefore we do nothing to obtain them, but God does all," is as if I should argue, that, because God gives us our daily bread, we were not to labor for it, because he gives food to all flesh, they were not to seek out after it.
Secondly, thus is it also with respect to spirituals; for ' God gives wisdom,' (Ecclesiastes 2:26) but it is only the 'man of understanding' who has it. (Proverbs 10:23) We must be at some pains to get it; (Proverbs 4:5) and must apply our hearts to seek her out. (Ecclesiastes 7:25) So that, to argue as these men do in this case, is plainly to contradict the mind of the Holy Ghost, who for this very reason that God is the giver of it, requires us to ' incline our ear to wisdom, and apply our hearts to understanding, to cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding; to seek for her as (men do) for silver, and to search for her as for hid treasure, 'suspending our enjoyment of her upon all this diligence, by saying, 'then shall than understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God, for (to such persons) the Lord gives wisdom.' (Proverbs 2:2-6)
And thus has God given us an 'understanding to know the true God,' (1 John 5:20) by sending his Son to reveal him to the world. (John 1:18) Thus the Jews say, that God hath 'given repentance to the Gentiles,' when by Peter preaching to them peace through Jesus Christ, and promising remission of sins upon their repentance, they repented and believed in Christ. (Acts 10:36, 43)
So also though faith be an assent to a divine revelation, and so an act of the understanding, requiring only the evidence of the truth of that revelation to produce it, yet is it said to be the 'gift of God,' because the objects of our faith are only by divine revelation made known to us, and only are confirmed, and so made credible to us, by the testimony which God hath given to them.