Chapter 34

Of Mr. John Hunt’s five errors in the Article of Free Will.

His first is this, “you that have diseased souls, and who have not, why do you not make use of this Rose of Sharon? Why do ye not come to this great Physician?” {Page 49} Mr. Hunt has quoted that text in the beginning of his book which knocked down this ignorant inquiry, that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I Cor.2:14. Here is the reason then, why all the natural men in the world agree, that they receive not the things of the Spirit of God, and among other things of the Spirit of God, that they make no use of the Rose of Sharon; that they come not to the Great Physician, nor can; because these things are only spiritually discerned. And when the true use of this Rose of Sharon, and the Holy Ghost’s own sense and way, in making use of that Remedy in the hands of the Great Physician {albeit ‘tis none of the Holy Ghost’s meaning in Song 2:1, as Mr. Hunt has mistaken} is doctrinally laid open to the natural man, and not experimentally laid open to make him a spiritual man, it’s foolishness unto him, this being understood spiritually and he able only to take it in naturally. So that Mr. Hunt had decided it before, and given a clear argument against this branch of his divided self; but it seems, as he has no consistent judgment, so no tenacious memory in the point of a reconciler to help out his thoughts. What a foolish comparison then does he bring in when he goes in spiritual matters to argue from bodily things unto natural men. “If you find any illness {says he} in your bodies, or distemper breaking forth there, how do you send for a Physician? What cost are you at? And what bitter potions do you drink down, and all for health?” {Page 49} Now what is all this to the purpose? A man is sick in his body, feels it, complains of it, groans under it, earnestly desires a physician, sends for one; because it is a case wherein he makes his own experimental judgment of the need of a physician; what consistence is there from hence, to go and argue for spiritual motion to a Spiritual Physician in a spiritual disease that is never spiritually felt, understood or believed by the natural man? What agreement is here in two cases of such an opposite distance? And who but a man at a loss to understand himself, when he had stolen the groundwork of his conceit out of my Gospel-Feast, would have arched it over with this roof for a covering, “but what reason can be given why as much care should not be taken of the soul?” No reason can be given from Arminian principles, because the natural free-will is put by Arminians to act above its own sphere, i.e., spiritually, while it is but a natural will. Making use of Christ as a Physician, believing, &c., are looked upon by Arminians to be in the power of every natural man; and these are spiritual Supernatural Acts, Phil.1:29, or Acts that do arise from the bestowment of Grace, which raises the agent in those proper acts to act above nature. The will of Man has a natural freedom for natural acts, as he is a reasonable creature; but he has no free will for spiritual acts, though he be a reasonable creature. For these are acts above his capacity as a natural man. Jn.6:44. The will of man in unregeneracy is a dead will, a hard, stony, inflexible will; the wills of all natural men are at enmity with God. Their wills cannot freely bow to will what God wills. No will can say, without eminent sanctification, “not my will, but thine be done.” Lk.22:42. The will of the creature is of itself a blind, enslaved, disobedient faculty. And for this will to be put immediately upon making use of the Rose of Sharon, and coming to Christ as he is the Great Physician, is putting it to act spiritually before it is made spiritual. It is bid to discern and look while it is blind; to come, while it is tied and bound with the chain of its own sin; vitally to close with Christ before it is quickened by the Spirit. This is evidently against Mr. Hunt from his own incogitant instance. For a man according to the laws of nature feels his own infirmities, and in seeking to a natural physician under his natural malady, he acts everything consistently. But now in a natural man’s seeking to a Spiritual Physician, ‘tis quite otherwise. There he puts the water to rise higher down in the stream, than it lies at the Fountain-Head. It is impossible for a dead will to put forth vital acts towards Christ; and yet here’s a rousing up to make haste to this spiritual Physician, and not one word about being Born Again in all the page. Ah! This won’t do! Poor souls under this in-and-out preaching are to be pitied! For principles must be before actions, life before motion, and the Spirit of God in the soul before Grace can be acted; whereas most certainly to make use of Christ as a Physician, is for the soul to act Grace; and goes beyond the power of any natural will, whilst the natural man acts never so consistently with his own principles, and never so seriously upon the bottom of flesh in any duties of religion he comes up unto.

His second is like unto it, “if then you would be truly beautiful, if you would have the better part comely in God’s sight, throw away your paint, and make use of the Rose of Sharon.” {Page 53} Here is a project! And a woeful one, set on foot, to make you truly beautiful, and the better part comely in God’s sight, all done by your own act and deed! No Operation of God so much as minded, but free will, free will! As if it were all in your own hand! The Operation of the Father shut out! The Operation of the Son not thought on! The Operation of the Spirit, in the language of this natural advice, has nothing to do but stand still and wait, whilst Mr. Hunt’s free-willer transforms himself into all this beautiful piece of work! Ah! Vile piece of stuff, when set in a true light, and not wrapped up in the natural darkness of the aforesaid exhortation! Souls, throw away Mr. Hunt’s book-paint, and under the lively breathings of the Holy Ghost, being sanctified by Christ’s blood, Heb.10:14, as he is the Great High-Priest over the House of God, Heb.10:21, that sprinkles you in drawing near, so approach, and in sweet Communion, a branch of your Everlasting Grace-Union, looking forwards to the appearing and bloom of his open Glory-Kingdom, II Tim.4:1, make use of this Rose of Sharon. What man is there that can make himself truly beautiful in God’s sight? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots; then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Jer.13:23. And yet when the Arminian prints are set forth, we must not print against them.

“If you think, sir, says one of my dissuaders; there are any weak passages in Mr. Hunt’s book, in my opinion it would be better and more regular to write unto him in a spirit of love than to appear in print upon this occasion.” Thus have I plainly signified what I think in this matter. “Love the truth and peace,” Zech.8:19, says the Spirit of Christ. Let’s not then be cajoled out of our vindications of the Truth by such sons of peace as the adhering to will bring down war from God upon our consciences. Hath the Truth done so much for me, and can I refuse under God’s Call to do so little for the Truth, as stand up and maintain a good warfare, I Tim.1:18, in defending it? ‘Tis love of my brother to fight against his lusts that war against the soul. When the Truth is openly wronged, what rule of Christ has this dissuader given me to draw my pen in a corner? Why is a man’s name dearer than Christ’s? And why must he have liberty to abuse the Rose of Sharon in print, and I allowed none by the dissuader to vindicate him in print after it? What if the Spirit of God will stir up a man to this work, what has any man to do to kick against the pricks, Acts 9:5, and pretend to peace, when he fights against God? How many poor souls are pinched when the Truth is set in stocks! Who can be loosened when the Gospel’s bound? How can it run and be glorified, II Thes.3:1, but must be supposed, in the very advances, to run over them that planted themselves to stand in its way? Will the dissuader take every thing I have confuted for weak passages? Then I do not see but the dissuader is as great a divine as the author of them. Some of the errors in Mr. Hunt’s book have been particularly complained of to me by brethren of our Congregation I watch over, Heb.13:17, and their complaints have not been without reason; much of the doctrine in his book which he takes for Gospel, being for the destruction of Grace, cannot be for the Edification of the gracious, nor for the Conversion of the ungracious. Now if our people apprehend these errors, why not other people, and other people? And when the glorious Gospel of Christ is seen to be thus mixed and blended by an unskillful workman, why should not I, though a poor worm, set upon this work, in the Lord’s strength? Why should I not write against the abuse of the Sharon-Rose, if the Lord hath been pleased to take off the objection to my vindication, from my own unskillfulness? And therefore as it was the dissuader’s opinion, {poor man in these things to go by his own opinion,} it would be better and more regular to write to Mr. Hunt {he means a private letter to him} than to appear in print upon this occasion; so it is my belief, {I act it in faith upon that word to “love the truth and peace”,} that it’s the best way and the only regular one to publish my vindication of abused truth, as much as I can, to all Saints. But to go on, and dismiss the interruption.

His third error appertaining to free will, is this, “thou that art yet in thy blood, beg of him to wash thee.” {Page 41} Note here, Mr. Hunt professeth on this third particular of his explication {an explication, it is plain, of what he never understood} the cleansing virtue of Christ, and methinks in that very word “virtue” he should have remembered, cleansing, on the side of the virtue-ransom, goes before a begging to be cleansed. For God in and by Christ cleanses me when he does not presently through Christ discover my cleanness in his eyesight. Psal.18:24. I am clean to Him in the virtue of the blood of Jesus, when I am otherwise unclean, and very foul to myself, and question whether any cleansing virtue has been used for my soul, or no. “Beg of God?” Here’s all free-will; for Mr. Hunt refusing to be the Gospel-Antinomian, or owning the cleansing act where there is no begging act, must be an Arminian, and put in for the begging virtue of the will, before the cleansing virtue applied from the Object, or {to trace his own way of similitudes} before the cleansing virtue of the Sharon Rose-Water. He gives more honor to the creature’s act in petitioning than to the Creator’s Act in performing or persuading, by giving forth his Holy Spirit.

His fourth instance of complying with this article of free-will is this, “if thou art but unfeignedly willing to receive Him, thou mayest be sure he will receive thee.” {Page 202} As if Christ’s free-will stood behind our free-will. Whereas His free-will is a true free-will in the Gospel. Our will is but a power to do many acts of moral righteousness, civility, honesty, and things that with men are praiseworthy, and wherein if we fail, we are inexcusable. Rom.2:14-15, 1:19-20. Yet still Christ’s will tarries not for this, Mic.5:7, nor depends upon it. His free-will in the Gospel is before ours in the acts of our very civil righteousness; so as often to convert to Himself before the soul hath been brought to a course of morality. The Lord’s will stands far above ours, is transcendently influential, and so the true cause of ours, when ours is made free by His willingness. What if one that secretly belongs to God doesn’t find unfeigned willingness in his own soul, doth the Gospel teach him ever the more to believe Christ is not unfeignedly willing, even whilst the soul wants an unfeigned will to come? Arminians put Christ’s will behind the creatures, and Mr. Hunt hath done it in the same natural way. Whereas in truth, there is not a poor sinner in the whole world, not one of Adam’s race to be found, who is endued with an unfeigned self-willingness to come to Christ, and rely sincerely upon Him, as the words of his motive are, upon which he founds this corrupt instance of his free will. All men are deprived of that which is free-will Evangelically, till the Lord hath severed by Grace His own {elect} from among the rest. So that notwithstanding man differs in his essence from a brute, yet he must be made by Grace to differ from himself, by one who is unfeignedly willing before the creature’s own will to good. Though man is no lifeless stock, or stone, yet he is opposite in his nature to Grace till the fruit of Electing Grace is given. He is no unreasonable creature without faculties, and yet he is a graceless creature till the Spirit of Life enters him from above. Though he is not without the use of reason, yet he is without the Life of Grace to receive Christ, until Christ from his own Antecedent Will receive him. Man is not without natural wisdom, parts, gifts, wit, abilities for things above beasts, Job 35:11, yet is without Spiritual Wisdom, Spiritual Gifts and the like, till he be endued with the Holy Ghost. A graceless man has a brutishness, Prov.30:2, proper to man fallen, though it is not a brutishness common to man and beast together. Again, though men are willing and able sometimes to practice duties and works of Godliness that are positively revealed to be the will of God, that they should be done by man, as praying, hearing the Word, giving alms, &c., which for the substance of them are good; yet as they are things of which men will soon be weary by nature, Matt.13:20-21, so if held on, are still defective, and short of the kind of acts proper to a Spiritual or Evangelical freed will. Matt.12:33-35. Now sinner, let me not flatter thee, but in Faithfulness give thee more encouragement than Mr. Hunt hath done; thy dead will must be quickened by a being born from above, Jn.3:3; life and motion of another kind than what thou hast from Adam to hear, and pray, and read, and give alms, must be put into thee by a Supernatural Power, even by the Holy Ghost Himself, given to be and dwell in thee. I Cor.3:16, II Tim.1:14. So that this dead will of thine must be Quickened by the will, and willingness of Another. Jam.1:18. The Quickening of this will and freeing it must be pure Grace, without any motive or desert of the creature. {John 1:13; Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:7-8} This Grace must be Preventing Grace, Rom.10:20, 5:6; this Preventing Grace must be Omnipotent Grace. The same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead must go along with the Prevention of that Grace that raises a dead will. {Ephesians 1:19-20; Romans 6:4} This Omnipotent Grace must be put forth through Jesus Christ. {John 8:36; John 12:32} This Conveyance through Jesus Christ too must be by the Holy Ghost. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Tit.3:5-6. Oh! What a number of things do go together to the Quickening of a dead sinner! All this must be done before vital acts, or spiritual believing and receiving of Christ; all must go before a Supernatural freedom of the soul, and a spiritual, holy motion of the will raised from the dead, and brought away to Christ. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph.2:10. It is transformed first, Rom.12:2, before we are Nonconformists, Matt.7:18, good for anything to the purpose next. These things must precede in the Supreme Will and Act of God, and do so, before a vital act of Faith. For a dead will can’t believe, because Faith on the Son of God is a spiritual action and a living act. “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” Deut.29:4. The will must be taught of the Father, Jn.6:44-45, by sending down his Holy Spirit before the will goes to Jesus. It must be strengthened with all the might of life, and drawings of the inner man. “And he said, therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” Jn.6:65. None can believe but he that is born again. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” I Jn.5:1. Thou canst not sit up, poor bed-rid soul, to put on the new man, Eph.4:24, though thy preacher flatters thee with directions, as if thou couldest do half as much as the Spirit of God! Ah! Thou canst do nothing till thy poor, withered, dried will be taught. Eph.4:21-24. Grace must melt thee, thou stony heart; before thou canst put forth a vital act of brokenness. Thy will must be broken Evangelically, melted powerfully and sweetly before it drops into Christ’s hand or bows at Christ’s feet. Whereas, a touch of His power, it being the great Power of God, and works not like other power, merely from measure, but because it is of an Omnipotent Kind, also makes the soul run, Psal.119:32, at Christ’s Commands. Acts 11:18; I Corinthians 12:3. Grace must transform thee before thou canst put forth a vital act of love, or before any act of Communion with God in prayer, even the vital act of Supplication. This will is first quickened by the Spirit of prayer, and then thou canst look up to God, and breathe thy heart into his bosom in the very life of Prayer. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.” Zech.12:10. Whereas in unregenerate men prayer in distress is but howling, Hos.7:14, and if the Holy Ghost vouchsafes to call it prayer, he calls it abomination too. Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 15:8. To talk of a man’s being willing to receive Christ argues Mr. Hunt knows little of his own heart in this matter according to the Word. Regenerate men cannot use their own Grace received, much less can unregenerate men use their own nature conveyed, to act with free will in Gospel matters. Gracious men can’t uphold their own received Grace, how then can natural man be expected to have the will to receive Christ? That gracious men can’t uphold Grace is evident not only from their daily Experience, but the ground of that Experience in God’s Word. Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:20; Jude 24; I Peter 1:5. Gracious men can’t open the pipes of Heaven when there is a stop; obstacles are above them to remove. Psalms 51:12. If they go aside, they lose their way and can’t bring themselves back. Psalms 119:176. They can’t carry on the work, II Thessalonians 1:11; Philippians 1:6; I Corinthians 1:8; I Peter 5:10; Psalms 18:23, upright before him. ‘Tis as the LORD alone looks on, and looks down and under-props. They can’t think a good thought of themselves, though Grace hath already made them good in Christ. II Corinthians 3:5. They can do nothing without uninterrupted influences and communications from Jesus Christ. John 15:5; Jeremiah 31:19. They are made to cry for all their help from above. Psalms 86:11; Luke 17:5; Psalms 25:4; Psalms 27:11. They groan often under burdens both in body and spirit. II Corinthians 5:4; Romans 7:14-23. They have all their victory through Christ. Romans 7:25. And if it be thus with the New Born, how can an unregenerate sinner have a will to receive Jesus Christ? {The words of a free-will divine in Cambridge, fellow of a College, and lately brought to me in manuscripts under his own hand. “I never thought that it was in the power of any man without the Grace of God to work out his own salvation. I think it absolutely impossible for any man; but I think it agreeable to the whole tenor of the Gospel that God has or does afford sufficiency of Grace to every baptized Christian; which Grace he may so use as shall be to his salvation through Christ, and that it is wholly through the man’s fault if he be not saved.” But know oh vain man, it is through man’s fault he is righteously damned, and wholly through God’s Omnipotent Good will into Faith and Holiness he is saved.} If there were in man a free-will, then man should make himself to differ, as Nicolaas Grevinckhoven blasphemously asserted of himself; but man can’t make himself to differ. I Corinthians 4:7. How can he then receive Christ? Then the elect {was it not for God’s willingness and Christ’s willingness before theirs} should not give thanks to God for faith, but to themselves. Romans 1:8; I Corinthians 1:4-7; Ephesians 1:3,15-16; Colossians 1:3-4; II Thessalonians 1:3. Then also a Man may direct his own steps; but he cannot direct his own steps, as appears by Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 20:24; Psalms 139:24. Then likewise he might boast and plead his own free will; but that he can’t do, Eph.2:9, all boasting is in the Lord. Psalms 32:11. And in a word, God does challenge it as his own prerogative; therefore it is in no man’s power to receive Christ, till a demonstration of Christ’s own Power be put forth upon the soul. Romans 9:16. It is his own prerogative to pardon sin, and therefore his own work to give a sinner Christ. Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 54:17. Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord, then Christ’s willingness to receive the sinner unfeignedly is before the sinner’s unfeigned willingness to receive Christ. ‘Tis his own prerogative to work up the heart and will of man to good. Philippians 2:13; Jeremiah 32:39. ‘Tis his own prerogative to do all this by Covenant, by the Covenant of Grace for them. Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Ezekiel 11:19. It copiously appears to be a vain suggestion, quite beside the Foundations of the Gospel, to pretend, as Mr. Hunt does, that “if thou art but unfeignedly willing to receive Christ, thou mayest be sure he will receive thee.” That’s his fifth error in free-will, diminishing the Glorious Will of Christ, and yet mocking his book with a title of “Christ the Most Excellent.”

His last error upon this point is in these words; I say his last, only as I range them under this head; for otherwise absolutely, it is none of his last neither. However it be, these are the free-will words, “say as Elisha to Elijah, when he heard he was to be taken into Heaven, and be left behind, as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.” {Page 193} ‘Tis very strangely adapted! Elisha said he would not leave him, that is leave him locally, which required only a natural power to go after him from place to place; but would continue as long as he could in Elijah’s company, to be an eyewitness of his rapture, and see what was become of that prophet. But what’s this to sinners “sad parting from Christ,” of which Mr. Hunt, in the close of his eleventh inference, is speaking? He that makes these two cases meet, must either be an Arminian, or attempt it upon Arminian principles. As if a local parting with a friend, Elisha’s being left behind, when Elijah was taken up into Heaven, or Ruth’s parting from Naomi her mother-in-law, Ruth 1:16, {which is likewise an instance he makes to meet in this case} were suited to a Spiritual Motion of the will in coming and cleaving to Jesus Christ. But this is just as the Arminians do in the point of their free-will; they confound different acts in the argument. As if natural and spiritual where both one and the same things; so does Mr. Hunt {you see} by these plain instances. But so much may suffice to shake his ignorant confidences in the point of free-will. I’ll pass to the next.