The Growth of Grace Part 1: Awakening Grace, or The Effectual Call

Ephesians 2:8; Mark 4:28

By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” As it very aptly describes the progress of the seed from first to last, so it very beautifully represents the gradual increase of the work of grace, under the instrumentality of the Word, accompanied with the Spirit and power of God.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): By grace in the blade, I would understand a person who is under the drawings of God, which will infallibly lead him to the Lord Jesus Christ for life and salvation. The beginning of this work is instantaneous. It is effected by a certain kind of light communicated to the soul, to which it was before an utter stranger. The eyes of the understanding are opened and enlightened.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): First, the Spirit makes his approach to the understanding, and on it He puts forth an act of illumination: the Spirit will not work in a dark shop; the first thing he does in order to faith, is to beat out a window in the soul, and let in some light from heaven: hence believers are said “to be renewed in the spirit of their mind,” Ephesians 4:23; which the same apostle calls being “renewed in knowledge,” Colossians 3:10. By nature we know little of God, and nothing of Christ, or the way of salvation by Him. The eye of the creature therefore must be opened to see the way of life, before he can by faith get into it.

JOHN NEWTON: The light at first afforded is weak and indistinct, like the morning dawn…We commonly speak as if conviction of sin was the first work of God upon the soul, that He is in mercy about to draw unto Himself. But I think this is inaccurate. Conviction is only a part, or rather an immediate effect of that first work; and there are many convictions which do not at all spring from it, and therefore are only occasional and temporary, though for a season they may be very sharp, and put a person upon doing many things. In order to a due conviction of sin, we must previously have some adequate conceptions of the God with whom we have to do. Sin may be feared as dangerous without this; but its nature and demerit can only be understood by being contrasted with the holiness, majesty, goodness, and truth, of the God against whom it is committed. No outward means, no mercies, judgments, or ordinances, can communicate such a discovery of God, or produce such a conviction of sin, without the concurrence of this Divine light and power to the soul.

WILLIAM GURNALL: When the Spirit of God has sprung with a divine light into the understanding, then He makes his address to the conscience, and the act which passes upon that is an act of conviction—this conviction is nothing but a reflection of the light that is in the understanding upon the conscience, whereby the creature feels the weight and force of those truths he knows, so as to be brought into a deep sense of them.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): No man can feel sin but by grace.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The grace of God works in, and by, the Word of God, brings that to mind, and sets that home to the conscience.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): None are converted, but are first convinced of their danger and evil estate; God’s first work is upon their understandings: “After that I was instructed, I smote upon the thigh,” Jeremiah 31:19. There is some light that breaks in upon the soul, which sets them seriously a-considering, “What am I? Whither am I going? What will become of me?”

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): He is like John Bunyan’s pilgrim, he has a heavy burden on his back, and he knows not how to get rid of it; he wrings his hands and cries, “What shall I do?  I am undone.  I have rebelled against God, and God is angry with me.”

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Persons under soul-trouble, and sore conviction, would be glad to do anything, or comply on any terms, to get peace with God…We all naturally are legalist, thinking to be justified by the works of the law. When somewhat awakened by the terrors of the Lord, we immediately, like the Pharisees of old, go about to establish our own righteousness, and think we shall find acceptance with God, if we seek it with tears; finding ourselves damned by nature and  our actual sins, we then think to recommend ourselves to God by our duties, and hope, by our doings of one kind or another, to inherit eternal life.  But whenever the Comforter comes into the heart, [He] convinces the soul of these false rests, and makes the sinner to see that all his righteousness is but as filthy rags: that his best works are but so many splendid sins.

JOHN NEWTON: There may be for a while some efforts to obtain the favour of God by prayer, repentance, and reformation; but, for the most part, it is not very long before these things are proved to be vain and ineffectual. The soul, like the woman mentioned Mark 5:26, wearied with vain expedients, finds itself worse and worse, and is gradually brought to see the necessity and sufficiency of the Gospel salvation.

MATTHEW HENRY: It must be resolved purely into the free grace of God, given through Jesus Christ to all true believers that receive it as a free gift.

HORATIUS BONAR (1808-1889): The reason why we so often find the awakened sinner so slow in apprehending the simple gospel of the grace of God, is that he cannot understand its freeness or fullness.

JOHN NEWTON: He wants to feel something that may give him a warrant to trust in the free promises of Christ. His views of the Redeemer’s gracefulness are very narrow: he sees not the harmony and glory of the Divine attributes in the salvation of a sinner: he sighs for mercy, but fears that justice is against him.

JOHANN VON STAUPITZ (1460-1524): Look to the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood which He has shed for thee: then thou shalt see the grace of God.

WILLIAM FENNER (1560-1640): This is for all poor broken hearts in whom God hath engendered the true desire of grace. Let such know that the first step to grace is to see that they have no grace; and the first degree of grace is the desire of grace.

 

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