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Edward Leigh on God's Grace

April 11, 2008

Leigh:

So much in general of God’s virtues.
Secondly, in special, the virtues which imply not imperfection in the reasonable creature, are attributed to God.

The principal of which are,

1, Bounty or graciousness, by which God shows favor to the creatures freely, and that either commonly or specially: 1 Commonly, when he exercises beneficence and liberality toward all creatures, pouring upon them plentifully all goods of nature, body, mind and fortune, so that there is nothing which tastes not of the inexhausted fountain of his blessing and goodness, Matth. 5:44, 45. Psal. 36: 5, 6. God’s bounty is a will in him to bestow store of comfort and beneficial things on the creature of this kind. This bounty he shows to all things in the creation, even to all Spirits, all men and all creatures, and does in great part show still, for he opens his hand, and fills every living thing with his bounty, and gives all things richly to enjoy.

2. Specially toward the church, by which he bestows eternal life on certain men fallen by sin, and redeemed by Christ, Titus 2:11. And 3:4. As this is exercised toward the whole church, so in a special manner toward some members of it, as toward Enoch, Moses, Jacob, Paul, and especially Abraham, who is therefore often called The friend of God; he made with him and his seed a perpetual league of friendship, and he constantly kept his laws and statutes, John 15: 14, 15.

God’s Graciousness is an essential property, whereby he is in and of himself most gracious and amiable, Psal 145:8. God is only gracious in and of himself, and whatsoever is amiable and gracious is so from him.

God’s Graciousness is that awhereby he is truly amiable in himself, and freely bountiful unto his creatures, cherishing them tenderly without any desert of theirs, Psal. 86:15. and 111:5. Gen 43:29. Pelagius taught, that grace is given to men in respect to their merits, Gratia Dei datur secondum merita nostra, he said that God’s will had respect to the merits foreseen, so this Pelagius was condemned for an Heretic in three Synods. St. Austin refuted this error, and referred the matter to God’s will and purpose only. B Carleton against Mountagne, Ch. 3. Vide Bellarm. De Gratia & lib. Arbitrol. 6.c.4,5,6. John Scotus was the greatest Pelagian that in his time; for it was he that brought in the doctrine of meritum ex congruo, he teaches that Faith, Charity, Repentance, may be had ex puris naturalibus, which some of the most learned Papists do confess to be the true Doctrine of Pelagius, Vide Bellarminum de Gratia & libero arbitrio 1.6.c.2. [marginal reference in Latin: a Gratia in seipso est amabilis, siteque creatura favet & bene facit, unde hoc respecta gratia Dei est favoir quo creaturas suas & imprimis homines prosequitur. Wendelinus.]

God is gracious to all, Psal. 145:8,9,10. But especially to such whom he does respect in his well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Exod. 22:19. Isa. 30:19. Luke 1:30. Gen. 6:8. 1 Cor. 15:10. God’s free favour is the cause of our salvation, and of all the means tending thereunto, Rom. 3:24 and 5:15, 16. Ephes. 1:5,6. and 2:4. Rom. 9:16. Titus 3:5. Heb. 4:16. Rom. 6:23. I Cor. 2:4,9. The gospel sets forth the freeness, fulness, and the powerfulness of God’s grace to his Church, therefore it is called The word of his grace, Acts 14:3. and 20:32. The Gospel is the grace of God, Acts 20:24. Deus expandit gratia immensum Calum, Luther.

God’s Graciousness is firm and unchangeable, so that those which are once beloved can never be rejected, or utterly cast off, Psal. 77:10. [Marginal Reference: The Arminians speak much of God’s offering mercy, all giving Christ and faith, is with them, but an offering of Christ and faith, if we will receive them. God does not only conditionally offer them, upon such performances of ours, but actually givens them to his people, 2 Pet. 1:5. And he gives them absolutely, he sees no loveliness in us to invite him thereunto.]

God bestows, 1. Good things. 2. Freely. 3. Plentifully, Psal. 111:4. 4 In a special manner he is gracious to the godly.

Love is 1. Grounded often in something which may deserve it; the grace of God is that love of which is altogether free. 2. Grace is a kind of love as flows from a superior to an inferior; love may be in inferiors toward their superiors.

We should be also liberal in our services toward God, in our prayers and good works.

We should desire and strive to obtain the grace and favor of God, David often called on God to cause his face to shone upon him, and to lift up the light of his countenance upon him. The holy Patriarchs often desired to find grace in the eyes of the Lord. It is better then life to him that has it; it is the most satisfying content in the world, to have the soul firmly settled in the apprehension of God’s goodness to him in Christ. It will comfort and stablish the soul in the want of all outward things, in the very hour of death. 2. It is attainable, Those that seek God’s face shall find him.

The means of purchasing God’s favor:
1. Take notice that your sins have worthily deprived you of his favour, and press these thoughts upon you till you feel your misery; meditate on the law to show that your cursedness.
2. Consider the gracious promises of the Gospel, and see the grace of God in Christ. His grace was exceeding abundant, says the Apostle.
3.Confess and bewail your sins, with a full purpose of amendment, and cry to God for grace in Christ.
4. This stays our hearts, when we apprehend our own unworthiness; God is gracious, and shows mercy to the undeserving, the ill-deserving. 2. We should acknowledge that all grace in us does come from him the fountain of grace and should go boldly to the throne of grace, and beg Grace be unto you. The Apostle, Ephes. 1:3. and so on, speaks of Redemption, Vocation, Justification Glorification, And all this, says he, is to the praise of his glory, and 12:14. Verses, we should give God the praise of all: He is the first cause, and the last end. The Arminians will seem to say, That all comes from grace, and that faith is the grace of God, but they will say it is a power given to all, and that God has done alike to all, only some improve the power and reason and will better then others, without any special discriminating grace from God: then God is not the first cause, that, I believe it is the free working of God within me. We should take heed of encouraging ourselves in sin, because God is gracious; this is to turn God’s grace into wantonness. We should frequent the Ordinances where God is graciously present, and ready to bestow all his graces on us: the word begets grace, prayer increases it, and the Sacraments seal it.

Edward Leigh, A System or Body of Divinity, (Printed by William Lee, at the Sign of the Turk’s-head in Fleet-street over against Fetter-lane, 1654), 175-176

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