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Benedict Pictet on Common Grace

September 26, 2007

1) We must also examine, as proposed, into the difference between temporary and true faith. Now it is not duration which always distinguishes them; for those who have the former often die in this faith, which yet does not save them, and therefore in regard to such persons, faith cannot be strictly said “to be for a time.” The first difference consists in their origin; God indeed may be said to produce both; but true faith proceeds from election, and hence it is called “the faith of God’s elect;” whereas temporary faith depends upon common grace, which bestows some spiritual blessings even upon the nonelect. The Spirit of regeneration and adoption is the principle of true faith, but the spirit of illumination is the author of temporary faith. The second difference is derived from the motives which influence temporary and true believers in their respective beliefs. The latter embrace the gospel principally as a system that is good and honorable in itself, though at the same time they embrace it as a system that is agreeable and useful; hence, when they cannot retain the gospel without renouncing all their worldly interests and pleasures, they prefer doing this to denying the gospel and casting off the profession of religion. But the former embrace the gospel principally as a system that is useful and agreeable, and therefore, if they cannot profess true religion without renouncing their worldly interests, they choose to renounce the former, rather than the latter. The third difference is derived from the root or foundation of faith; the faith that is temporary ”has no root,” (Matt. xiii. 21,) it is seated in the outward surface of the soul, i.e. in the understanding only; whereas true faith is seated in the heart; hence the faithful are said to be “rooted in Christ;” and “grounded in the faith,” (Col. i.23 ; ii. 7.) The fourth difference is seen in this, viz. that temporary faith is not connected with the sanctification of the heart, and therefore, if at any time its possessors perform some outwardly good actions, and appear to amend their lives and “escape the pollutions of the world,” yet whenever the allurements of the world and the flesh, or persecutions arise, they return to their former impurity. But true faith works by love; “and while it sets before us the exceeding great love of God and Christ, it inspires us with love towards them in return, and imprints the characters of holiness so deeply upon the soul, that it considers nothing to be more excellent than an entire dedication to God; and at the same time so deeply engraves on the heart the promises of eternal happiness, that the believer is ready to endure every thing for such happiness; hence those who have this faith are said to a bring forth fruit.” (Matt. xiii. 8-23.) In temporary faith there arises joy, partly from the novelty and uncommonness of the thing revealed, partly from the vain persuasion that the blessings offered in the gospel belong to it; but in true faith there is far nobler and more solid joy, springing from real love to the most precious truths, and from the sure expectation of glory. Benedict Pictet, Christian Theology trans., by Frederick Reyroux, (Fleet Street London: R.B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1834), 351-353. [Italics Pictet; underlining mine.]

2) But that the subject of inward or effectual calling, and of the mode in which the grace of God acts upon men, may be rightly understood, we shall explain our meaning in several propositions, only premising, what we have before observed, that man is of his own nature utterly impotent in reference to all spiritual good, being dead in sin, and utterly incapable of doing any thing that can please God; that he cannot even do the least thing which may influence or dispose God to bestow grace upon him, nor in any way dispose or make himself meet to receive divine grace, any more than a dead man can dispose himself to receive life, or a blind man sight. This being premised, we assert first, that those whom God pleases to convert by his grace, he generally disposes secretly and gradually to conversion, by means partly external, partly internal. He externally disposes them through the preaching of the word, either the law or the gospel; sometimes by temporal blessings; sometimes by chastisements and afflictions. He disposes them internally, when he terrifies their conscience with a sense of his displeasure, shows to them the heinousness of sin, implants in them a desire of conversion and amendment, and sets before them holiness in its most attractive forms. Secondly, this grace, which we may call disposing grace, is also given to many who are not elect. Hence they are said to be “enlightened,” and “to have tasted the heavenly gifts,” &c. (Heb. vi.4.) Benedict Pictet, Christian Theology trans., by Frederick Reyroux, (Fleet Street London: R.B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1834), 339-340. [Italics Pictet; underlining mine.]

 

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