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Experience Mayhew (1673-1758) on Common Grace

April 21, 2009

Mayhew:

1) 2. Another Thing wherein, I think, the good Actions of the Regenerate differ from the best: that can be performed by any unregenerate Persons, is this, that they are performed out of such a Love to God, as has his infinite Perfections for the formal Reason and Ground of it. Here I shall observe, (i) That unregenerate Persons may perform Actions that are materially good, tho’ they have no Love to God at all; yea, tho’ they have no Regard to him. It is not to be doubted, but that unregenerate Sinners may believe there is a God; and have a Fear and Dread of him, as well as Devils, Jam. 2. 19. And out of such a Fear of him they may yield Obedience to his Commands, tho’ they love him not. (2) Unregenerate Persons may have some Kind of Love to God, which may put them on doing many Things which he requires them to do. There be some unregenerate Persons that have a very considerable Respect and Veneration for the great God that made them, and continually preserves them. They therefore love not to hear his Name blasphemed; and the Kindness they may apprehend they have received from him, may influence them to do many Things, which they may think good in themselves, and pleasing in his Sight; and they may apprehend that God is so gracious as to reward them well for the good Works which they perform. There may be in the Unregenerate, a Kind of natural Love to God, answerable to the Apprehensions they have of some Goodness in him, as well as such a Love to their Neighbors; even common Grace may go thus far. (3) But no unregenerate Person ever loved and obeyed God, on the Account of the admirable Perfections of his Nature; so that his Persuasion of his infinite Goodness, arising from his own experimental Acquaintance with him, was the formal Reason of this his Love to him, and Desire to do that which would please him; fo that they would do the same, tho’ they themselves had no Benefit by it. I suppose. That he that cannot do thus, is still in a State of Nature, and does not know and love God in a gracious Manner: And has not, in the Sense of the Scripture, “tasted that the Lord is gracious,” 1 Pet. 2, 3. Psal, 34. 8. Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 66. [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

2) That those spoken to are said to have obtained the Faith mentioned “thro’ the Righteousness of God, and our Savior Jesus Christ,” is a great Truth, whether the Faith intended be of one of the Kinds mentioned, or the other; for common Grace, as well as that which is saving, is an Effect of the Merits of Christ’s Righteousness. But if his Faithfulness in fulfilling his Promises may be intended by the Righteousness here spoken of Verse 1, as some suppose, this would seem to favour the Hypothesis for which I plead. Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 91. [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

3) I further observe fifthly, that the Time when those here spoken to may by the mentioned Promises be made Partakers of the divine Nature intended, is when they have “escaped the Corruption that is in the World thro’ Lust:” For thus the Words run, Having escaped., &c. Which escaping the Corruption that is in the World, is not effected by Regeneration, but by a Work, in the Nature of it, preparatory to it; and of which Persons not savingly converted may be the Subjects, as evidently appears in Chap. 2. Verse 20, 21, 22, of the same Epistle; where such as had “escaped the Pollution of the Worlds thro’ the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” are yet mentioned as finally miscarrying. Now I am not here discoursing with such as hold, that true Saints may fall from Grace. In the Words therefore under Consideration, it is plainly intimated, that God will not ordinarily, at least, make Persons Partakers of the divine Nature ’till they have first reformed their Lives, in such a Manner and Degree as Persons may before they are born again. And this is plainly intimated to us in other Texts of Scripture, as in Prov. i. 22, 23. And I Cor, 6. 9. as I shall afterwards more fully shew. Men have no Reason to expect, that God will pour out his Spirit upon them, to. their saving Conversion, that will not repent and reform their Lives, in such a Manner as by the Help of common Grace they may. This, I say, is necessary in order to Men’s being “made Partakers of the divine Nature.” Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 91-92.  [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

4) 4. All unregenerate Sinners do not thus obstinately shut their Eyes against the Light. They are by common Grace prevailed with to make a better Improvement os the Advantages they enjoy, than others do. Nor is the Sin of those that refuse Instruction, in this Way offered to them, unavoidable, so that they cannot come to the Knowledge os the Truth, but must necessarily remain Infidels or Unbelievers.

5. The Persuasion which some unregenerate Sinners do, in this Way, attain, is so firm and strong, that it has a great Influence on their Lives. They receive the Word with Joy, and do many Things that are required of them. Such a Persuasion as these have, or may have, of the Truth, is sufficient to produce “Repentance in Sackcloth and Ashes;” insomuch that such are sometimes said to have “escaped the Pollutions that are in the Worlds thro’ the Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” 2 Pet. 2. 20, 21. and to have been enlightened and to have “tasted the heavenly Gift,” and to have been “made Partakers of the Holy Ghost and to have tasted the good Word of God, and the Powers of the World to come,” Heb. 6.4,5. Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 115-116. [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

5) Sixthly, Many of the materially good Actions which unregenerate Persons perform, are the Effects of the Grace of God, in and upon them; and therefore, I think, not Sins. I cannot think that Actions which Men perform by the Help and Influence of the Word and Spirit of God, are well called Sins. God may be truly said to be the Author of such Actions: It is he, of his Grace, who stirs up and excites poor sinful Creatures to perform the Actions I speak of. He enables and excites them to hear, read, meditate, and pray, &c., and he is the Author of such Faith as they have, who believe sometimes only for a while, as in Luke 8.13. Or may it not be granted, that such Faith, Repentance, &c. as the best, of which unregenerate Persons are sometimes the Subjects, are Effects of the Grace of God, wrought by God’s Word and Spirit in their Souls, and frequently called common Grace. And are they, this notwithstanding, all Sin, and an Abomination in God’s Sight, and, as some say, contrary to saving Grace? I constantly maintain, that there is a specific Difference betwixt common Grace, and that which is special; but I fee no Reason to oppose them one to the other, as Contraries are opposed. Whether by common Grace we intend those gracious Influences of God’s holy Spirit, with which the Unregenerate are sometimes favored, or the good Effects produced in them by these gracious Operations, I am not, for my Part, willing to allow them to be Sin. Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 151. [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

6) I shall proceed to consider how sinful Men resist and quench the Spirit, in these Operations. And here 1 shall briefly .name some of the principal Ways in which this is done. And,

(1) Sinners resist and quench the Spirit when they will not hearken and attend to what he says to them. All that God iiu’s to sinful Men in his written and preached Word, by the Voice of his Providence, and by the Ministry of his Angels; by all which they are put in Remembrance of their many Sins, and the Duties required of them; all these, I say, are the Voice of the Holy Spirit to them, unto whom the Application of Redemption most especially belongs. Now, when Sinners refuse to hear and consider what the Holy Spirit does in these Ways say to them, this is evidently to resist and quench him. By thus refusing to hear the Voice of the Holy Spirit, Sinners refuse to receive Influences and Convictions, the giving of which is the special End of the Spirit’s being sent into the World to them, as appears in John 16, and 30.

(2) Sinners resist the Spirit of God in their Refusal of the Offers of his Mercy made to them, thro’ a Redeemer, by neglecting the great Salvation offered, to them, as in Heb. 2, 3. The Application of that Redemption which has been purchased for sinful Men, does especially belong to the Holy Spirit, as, his Work; and to this End he labors with Sinners to prepare and qualify them to be Partakers of it, and make them willing to go to Jesus Christ for the Benefits offered to them: He calls, invites and persuades them to do so. Now, when they refuse to obey these Calls, they in this, in a very especial Manner, resist and quench the Holy Spirit of God. This especially was the Sin with which the Jews were charged. John 5. 40. “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have Life.” The like we have in Matth. 20.37. The same Sin. is called a doing Despite to the Spirit of Grace: Because the Tendency of the Influences of the .Holy Spirit, in the Work of common Grace, is to bring Sinners to an Acceptance of the Savior, and Salvation offered to them, k which Work of his, they wickedly resist him. See Heb. 10.29. Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 165-166. [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

7) DIRECTION II. Confider well, and rightly underftand,what it is that God requires of you, in order to your Salvation. Take heed left you be mistaken in the Terms of the new Covenant. If you are mistaken in this, the Mistake may be fatal to you. There are here two Ways in which Persons may be mistaken to their own Hurt. As (i) by thinking the Terms so low, that Perfons may attain to, and perform what they think is required, and yet never be saved: As when Persons think an external Reformation will answer the End, without any Heart-Reformation; and so have no Regard to the inner Man but content themselves with fuch an Amendment of their Lives, that Men cannot accuse them; but take no Care to do what is required in Jer. 4.14. “O Jerusalem, wash thine Heart from Wickedness, that thou mayst he saved: How long shall thy vain Thoughts lodge within thee! And Ezek, 18. 31. —“Make you a new Hearty and a new Spirit; for why will ye die, O House of Israel!” Joel 2. 13. “Rent your Hearts, and not your Garments; and turn to the Lord thy God”—. Observe that here is Heart- Humiliation and Reformation required; yet I do not think that Sinners in these and such like Texts, are required to regenerate themselves ; which never any Sinner did or will do. There is a Reformation of the Heart which is a Work very much short of, and inferior

to, the great Work of Regeneration, which God only can work. Sinners may very much reform and amend their own Hearts, as well as then’ external Actions. Such as please may for this see the Supplement to Mr. Pool’s English Notes, on the mentioned Ezek, 18. 31. There is such a Thing as a moral as well as a gracious Sincerity; and the former of these God requires Sinners, by the Help of his common Grace, to work upon their own Hearts, but not the latter: This he reserves to himself as his own Prerogative, as appears in Ezek. 11. 19, and 36, 26. Wherefore (2) Persons may also wrong themselves greatly, by supposing that to be required of them which is not. If Sinners suppose, that God requires of them, as the Condition of his Covenant, that which no Sinner ever did, or can do; no, not by Grace received from God himself, it is no wonder if they are discouraged, and never attempt this.

And here I will mention two Things which I suppose God never required of any Sinner, in order to his Salvation. As (i) God never required any Sinner to regenerate himself. I do not understand that God requires Men themselves to work that great Change which is wrought in Men’s Regeneration; or so much as to have any Hand in it. Calvinists I think, generally own, that in this the Soul is wholly passive; and I cannot but understand the Scripture to speak of it as such a Work, in Ezek, 11.19, and 36, 26, before mentioned; also Jer. 31.18. “Turn thou me and I shall he turned;” and this is spoken of as the Effect of the mighty Power of God, in the Texts before quoted. This therefore is a Work which I cannot think God requires Sinners themselves to perform. (2) I do not think that God requires Sinners to “exercise saving Grace,” while they have it not. One of my Reasons, is, because this is physically impossible; as impossible as it is for a Man void of natural Life, to and and move himself. Another Reason of this may be, that it seems to imply a plain Contradiction, as much as it is for a Person to see while he is blind. If God gives a Man Grace, he can exercise it, but he cannot be enabled to exercise Grace while he has it not: Neither does God require this of any Man living. Man’s present Duty, while unregenerate, is not to exercise that Kind of Grace which he is without; but to wait on God in the Use of Means for the obtaining of it; attending the Ordinances instituted by him for that End, and performing the Duties unto that End demanded of him, as hearing and reading his Word, meditating on it, and calling on him for his Blessing on the Means of Grace, and praying earnestly to him for the Pardon of his Sins, for Christ’s Sake, and to give him his Holy Spirit in the converting and saving Influences of it, &c. Now these are Duties which Persons by the Help of common Grace may perform.

Direction III. Consider well, and understand, how very difficult the Conditions required are to be performed. Tho’ I suppose these Conditions may be complied with, by the Help of common Grace, by Persons not yet born of the Spirit; because if these Conditions are complied with by any, it must be in order to their Regeneration; and so before, not after, that Work is wrought in them. Tho’ therefore I affirm, that these Conditions are not such as the Unregenerate cannot, by the Help of common Grace, perform; yet I by no Means say, that the Conditions required in order to their Salvation, and consequently in order to their Regeneration, are such as may by them be easily complied with, while they are in a State of Nature. Even those Duties which unregenerate Persons can, by the Help of common Grace, perform, and must perform, if they would be saved, are very contrary to Flesh and Blood, and difficult to be performed by them. That Corruption which they have in them, greatly disinclines them to the Performance of them. They do not find their Hearts well inclined to read the Word of God, hear it preached, and meditate on it; and to examine themselves, and pray earnestly to God for the convincing and converting Influences of his Holy Spirit, diff. Tho’ Men may possibly do these Things by such Help as the Unregenerate may receive; yet this is to them hard Work: There is a hard Striving required to it, and great Self-Denial in it. Even in such Actions of the Unregenerate, there is a “Wrestling with Flesh and Bloody and against Principalities,” and “Powers,” and “against the Rulers of the Darkness of this World,” and against spiritual Wickedness in high Places Eph. 6.12. Which Words I think may be understood not of the Regenerate only, but of the Unregenerate also, when awakened, and excited to begin to “work out their own Salvation;” and to begin to “press into” (or towards) “the Kingdom of God,” Luke i6. 16. and to “strive to enter in at the strait Gate,” Luke 1 3. 24. The Kingdom of Heaven must be taken by “Violence” by such as would enjoy it; and this Violence must be used in order to Men’s obtaining; not after they have it, Matth. 11. 12. “Striving to enter” into it, is in order to Entrance; not after Persons are in it. “The strait Gate” and “the narrow Way” must be found, entered into, and walked in, before we enter into Life, and in order to it; and not only after we have obtained it. Nor does the Difficulty of this consist in the Work of Regeneration it self, which Men themselves have no Hand in, it being wholly performed by God for them; but in the Duties that are preparatory to it. Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 201-203. [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

8) Direction VII. Persevere in well doing, when you have begun well; and take heed of Apostasy. Some begin well, but fall away and lose all they have done. This is the sad Case supposed in Heb. 6. 4,5 6. and in 2 Pet. 2. 20,21,22. also in Ezek. 18.24,26. And I doubt not also in Heb. 10.38, 39. Nor is this a Supposition of what never falls out: There be many to whom it may be truly said, as in Gal 5. 4. “Ye are fallen from Grace:” And this not only on Account of fundamental Errors in Doctrine, which they embrace; but also in Respect: of abominable Practices into which they fall, and in which they continue, as in the mentioned Text, 2 Pet. 2.20. Not that regenerate and justified Persons ever do thus, or are liable to it; for these are all “kept by the Power of God, thro’ Faith unto Salvation,” 21 Pet.1.5. They are become “Pillars in the Temple of God, and shall go no more out,” Rev. 3.12. I cannot believe, that the Suppositions of Apostasy which we have in Scripture, relate to the Regenerate, who are expressly secured against it; but to those, on whom a Work of common Grace only has been wro’t, and so are liable to fall away: And such had need beware, lest “being led away hy the Error of the Wicked, they fall from their own Steadfastness,” 2 Pet. 3. 17 At least, I think that this may be accommodated to the Condition of the Unregenerate, under a Work preparatory to Regeneration, and must be so, if a total Apostasy be intended. It is certain that many Professors of Religion have totally fallen away, after great Convictions and Reformation. Nor is the Promise of Salvation made to any Measure of such Grace as the Unregenerate have; but to such as persevere in that Way of well-doing, which some who are not savingly converted, are engaged in, as I think I have sufficiently showed, Part II. Chap. XIV. To such I say, as in Heb. 10. 35, 36. “Cast not away therefore your Confidence, which hath great Recompense of Reward. For ye have need of Patience, that after ye have done the Will of God, ye might receive the Promise.” Experience Mayhew, Grace Defended in a Most Plea For an Important Truth; Namely, That the offer of Salvation made to Sinners in the Gospel comprises in it an Offer of the Grace given in Regeneration (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhil, 1744), 206. [Some spelling modernized; underlining mine.]

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