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John Owen on Common Grace: Select Comments

September 16, 2007

Owen:

vol 3:

1) And this is farther to prove that this habit or gracious principle of holiness is specifically distinct from all other habits of the mind whatever, whether intellectual or moral, connate or acquired, as also from all that common grace and the effects of it whereof any persons not really sanctified may be made partakers.

2) All that we have taught before concerning the purification of our minds and consciences by the blood of Christ is peculiar unto gospel holiness, and distinguisheth it essentially from all common grace or moral virtues. And they do but deceive themselves who rest in a multitude of duties, it may be animated much with zeal, and set off with a profession of the most rigid mortification, whose hearts and consciences are not thus purged by the blood of Christ.

3) All gracious actings of our minds and souls, whether internal only, in faith, love, or delight, or whether they go out unto external duties required in the gospel, being wrought in us by the immediate efficacy of the Spirit of grace, differ in their kind, in their essence and substance of the acts themselves, from whatever is not so wrought or effected in us; for whatever may be done by anyone, in any acting of common grace or performance of any duty of obedience, being educed out of the power of the natural faculties of men, excited by convictions, as directed and enforced by reasons and exhortations, or assisted by common aids, of what nature soever, they are natural as to their kind, and they have no other substance or being but what is so.

vol 6

1) Rule 11: Rule 11. — [Consider where lies the hinderance to peace] Second general head of the application of the truth insisted on — Grounds of spiritual disquietments considered — The first, afflictions — Ways and means of the aggravation of afflictions — Rules about them — Objections against believing from things internal — The person knows not whether he be regenerate or no — State of regeneration asserted — Difference of saving and common grace — This difference discernible

2) OBJECTIONS AGAINST BELIEVING FROM THINGS INTERNAL – THE PERSON KNOWS NOT WHETHER HE BE REGENERATE OR NO – STATE OF REGENERATION ASSERTED – DIFFERENCE OF SAVING AND COMMON GRACE – THIS DIFFERENCE DISCERNIBLE – MEN MAY KNOW THEMSELVES TO HE REGENERATE – THE OBJECTION ANSWERED.

3) God having designed us unto salvation as the end, hath also appointed the sanctification of the Spirit to be the means to bring us orderly unto the attainment of that end. But the best of common grace or gifts that may be in men unregenerate are but products of the providence of God, ordering all things in general unto his own glory and the good of them that shall be heirs of salvation. They are not fruits of electing eternal love, nor designed means for the infallible attaining of eternal salvation.

4) The graces of those that are regenerate have a manifold respect or relation to the Lord Christ, that the common graces of others have not.

5) Moreover, it hath an especial relation unto his intercession, and that in a distinguishing manner from any other gifts or common graces that other men may receive.

6) Now, the common grace of unregenerate persons, whereby they are distinguished from other men, whatever it be, it hath not this especial relation to the oblation and intercession of Christ.

7) And thus it is with the saving grace that is in a regenerate, and those common graces that are in others which are not so.

8) They may sometimes, with Peter, think Simon Magus to be a true believer, or, with Eli, an Hannah to be a daughter of Belial. Many hypocrites are set forth with gifts, common graces, light, and profession, so that they pass amongst all believers for such as are born of God; and many poor saints may be so disguised, under darkness, temptation, sin, as to be looked on as strangers from that family whereunto indeed they do belong. The judgment of man may fail, but the judgment of God is according unto righteousness.

vol 10:

1) So that though Almighty God, according to the unsearchableness of his wisdom, worketh divers ways and in sundry manners, for the translating of his chosen ones from the power of darkness into his marvelous light,—calling some powerfully in the midst of their march in the way of ungodliness, as he did Paul,—preparing others by outward means and helps of common restraining grace, moralizing nature before it be begotten anew by the immortal seed of the word,—yet this is certain, that all good in this kind is from his free grace; there is nothing in ourselves, as of ourselves, but sin. Yea, and all those previous dispositions wherewith our hearts are prepared, by virtue of common grace, do not at all enable us to concur, by any vital operation, with that powerful, blessed, renewing grace of regeneration whereby we become the sons of God.

2) Fourthly, Concerning grace itself, it is either common or special. Common or general grace consisteth in the external revelation of the will of God by his word, with some illumination of the mind to perceive it, and correction of the affections not too much to contemn it; and this, in some degree or other, to some more, to some less, is common to all that are called. Special grace is the grace of regeneration, comprehending the former, adding more spiritual acts, but especially presupposing the purpose of God, on which its efficacy doth chiefly depend.

3) Yea, and all those previous dispositions wherewith our hearts are prepared, by virtue of common grace, do not atYea, and all those previous dispositions wherewith our hearts are prepared, by virtue of common grace, do not at all enable us to concur, by any vital operation, with that powerful, blessed, renewing grace of regeneration whereby we become the sons of God. all enable us to concur, by any vital operation, with that powerful, blessed, renewing grace of regeneration whereby we become the sons of God.

vol 11:

1) Now, the truth is, it is properly no part of the controversy under consideration, whether, or how far, and in what sense, men, by reason of the profession and participation of ordinances, with the work and effect of common grace upon them, may be said to be true believers; but the whole, upon the matter of what we plead for, is comprised in the assertions now ascribed to them: which that it is done upon sufficient grounds will be manifest by calling in some few of the most eminent of them, to speak in their own words what their thoughts were in this matter.

2) So that, notwithstanding any thing said to the contrary, the comminations under consideration may principally belong to some kind of professors, who, notwithstanding all the gifts and common graces which they have received, yet in a large sense may be termed hypocrites, as they are opposed to them who have received the Spirit with true and saving grace.

3) The next privilege insisted on which to these persons is ascribed is, that they are “made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” In men’s participation of the Holy Ghost, either the gifts or graces of the Holy Ghost are intended. The graces of the Holy Ghost are either more common and inchoative, or special and completing of the work of conversion. That it is the peculiar, regenerating grace of God that is intended in this expression, of being “made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” and not the gifts of the Spirit, or those common graces of illumination, unto which persons not truly converted, but only wrought upon by an effectual conviction in the preaching of the word, may attain, Mr. Goodwin is no way able to prove.

4) How far men may proceed in the ways of God; what progress they may make in amendment of life; what gifts and common graces they may receive; what light and knowledge they may be endued withal; what kind of faith, joy, repentance, sorrow, delight, love, they may have in and about spiritual things; what desires of mercy and heaven; what useful gifts for the church’s edification they may receive; how far they may persuade their own souls, and upon what grounds, that their condition God-ward is good and saving, and beget an opinion in others that they are true believers, — and yet come short of union with Christ, building their houses on the sand, etc., is the daily task of the preachers of the gospel to manifest, in their pressing that exhortation of the apostle unto their hearers, to “examine and try themselves,” in the midst of their profession, “whether Christ be in them of a truth” or no.

vol 13:

1) That it may be credible, or appear of a truth that God had sent them for this purpose, they were always furnished with such gifts and abilities as the utmost reach of human endeavors, with the assistance of common grace, cannot possibly attain. The general opinion is, that God always supplies such with the gift of miracles.

vol 21:

1) For in common grace, one single grace may appear very evident, and win great honor to the profession of them in whom it is, whilst there is a total want of all or many others: but in saving grace it is not so; for though different graces may exceedingly differ in their exercise, yet all of them are equal in their root and principle.

2) There are spiritual things which differ in their whole kind and nature from other things, and are better than they as to their essence and being. Such is all saving grace, with all the fruits of it. I shall not now stay to prove that true saving grace differs specifically from all common grace, however advanced in its exercise by the company and help of spiritual gifts, much less to wrangle about what doth formally constitute a specifical difference between things.

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