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Stephen Charnock on General Love and God’s Desire that All Men be Saved

August 29, 2007

This weakness doth not excuse from obedience to this command, because God denies no man strength to perform what he commands, if he seek it at his hands. No man can plead that he would have been regenerate, and turned to God, and could not; for though we have not power to renew ourselves, yet God is ready to confer power upon us if we seek it. Where did God ever deny any man sufficient strength, that did wait upon him in serious and humble supplications, and conscientiously used the means to procure it. A man cannot indeed merit grace, or dispose himself for it, so that it must by a natural necessity come into his soul, as a form doth into matter upon dispositions to it. But if a man will do what he can do, if he will put no obstacle to grace, by a course of sin, would not God, out of his infinite bounty to his creatures, and out of that general love whereby he would have all men saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, give him special grace? Hath not our Saviour made a promise in his first sermon to the multitude, that God “will give good things to them that ask him,” with a much more than men give good gifts to their children, Mat. vii. 11. They were not only his disciples that he preached that sermon to, but the multitude, comparing it with Mat. v. 1, and Mat. vii. 28. Hath not God declared, that he ‘delights not in the death of a sinner,’ Ezek. xxxiii. 11, and doth he not out of his infinite goodness condescend to beseech us to be reconciled to him ? Will not the same infinite goodness bow itself down to form a new image in them that use the means to be reconciled and conformed to him, as much as they can? Has not our blessed Saviour already given a testimony of his affection to such endeavours, in loving the young man for his outward observation of the law, Mark x. 21, who wanted but one thing only to pass him into a gracious state, the refusal whereof barred him of it? And shall not he have a choicer affection to those that strive to observe the rules he hath left in his gospel ? Will he not be pleased with such motions in his creatures towards their own happiness ? Will he not further that wherein he delights ? Think not therefore to justify yourselves at the bar of God for your sloth, because you are too weak to renew yourselves.

Charnock, “Regeneration,” in Works, 3:233-234.

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