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Edward Polhill (1622-1694) on Common Grace: Informal References

September 3, 2009

Polhill:

1) This holy principle [persevering faith] is not produced by assistant grace, as if a natural man did by divine assistance work it in himself. The principle or power of believing is either natural or supernatural; if natural, it is by creation; if supernatural, it is by infusion or inspiration; neither way is it produced in a way of assistance. An assistance is not accommodated to a thing to produce a new power, but to bring forth an act from thence. The light is assistant to the eye in the act of vision, but it gives not the visive power, to it: assisting grace concurs to the act of believing, but it confers not a believing principle. The greatest saint in the world stands in need of assisting grace, that his gracious principles may come into actual exercise; he must have help from the holy one, a supply of the Spirit of Christ; the heavenly roots do not cast forth themselves unless God be as dew to them; the sweet spices do not flow out actually, unless God breathe upon them by auxiliary grace; still he wants assistance to the doing of good as he ought; the greatest saint though a man full of divine principles, stands in need of assistance. And does a natural man, one void of good, fraught with evil, need no more: is regenerating, quickening, renewing, new-creating grace, nothing but an assistance only? May one believe that the Holy Spirit in Scripture should give such high, stately titles to an assistance only? May a man be a co-operator, or co-partner with God in the raising up faith and a new creature in himself? It is true, a natural man may by a common grace enter upon preparatories; he may attend upon on the means, but what can he contribute to the work itself? he is merely natural, the new creature is totally supernatural, and what can he do towards it? could he contribute ought, what would the new creature be? must it not be part natural as from man, part supernatural as from God; part old as from nature part new as from grace? Thus it must be if this great work be divided between God and man.     Edward Polhill, ‘A View of Some Divine Truths,” in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA.: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 70-71. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; square bracket inserts and underlining mine.]

2) Thus the Holy Spirit shows forth its glory, and flows in men as rivers of living water: and this glory and out-flowing is so precious, that before it came, in esse, according to the rich measures of gospel-grace, it is said of the eternal Spirit, epo en Pneuma agion, “the Holy Spirit was npt yet,” John vii. 30); as if the Spirit’s flowing in men were a kind of second being to it. But now after all this, if conversion be not wrought in an insuperable way, the Holy Spirit may be barred out of every heart, and then how shall his work be done? Where shall his glory and spiritual miracles appear? The Father hath a world to appear in, the Son has flesh to tabernacle in, but possibly the Holy Spirit can get never a heart to inhabit in, never a temple to fill with his glory; the Holy Spirit would tabernacle with men, but what if the iron sinew in the will will not come out? What if the stone in the heart will not break? Then the Holy Spirit is robbed of his glory. But is this so strange a thing? will you say. What saith holy Stephen? “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye,” (Acts vii. 51). To which I answer; That the Spirit may be said to be resisted two ways; either as it is in the external or as it comes in the internal operations. It may be resisted in the external ministry: “He that despises you despises me,” says Christ, (Luke x. 16). ” He that despises, despises not man but God,” saith the apostle, (1 Thess. iv. 8). When, therefore, it is said, that they resisted the Holy Ghost, the meaning is not, that they resisted him as to his internal operations, but that they resisted hin as to the external ministry. This appears by the context, for they resisted him as their fathers did, (v. 51), and how was that? The next verse tells us ; which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted, (v. .52)? Their resistance of the Spirit was in persecution of the prophets. But you will say, might they not also resist him as to his internal operations? I answer: so much doth not appear in the text; but however, the internal operations of the Spirit are twofold; some are for the production of common graces, some for the production of saving graces, such as the new heart and new spirit. Now, if the Holy Ghost may be resisted as to the former operations, yet it cannot as to the latter; for in these it takes away the heart of stone, the resisting principle, and gives a heart of flesh capable of divine impressions.    Edward Polhill, ‘A View of Some Divine Truths,” in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA.: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 202 . [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

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