No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. -- John vi. 44
1. THIS passage of Scripture is no inconsiderate proof of the doctrine of the powerful and efficacious grace of God in the work of faith and conversion. To come to Christ, is to believe in him. This is not to be attributed to the free will and power of man, but is owing to the Father's drawing; which is to be understood not of moral suasion, but of the internal and powerful influence of his grace. This act of drawing, is an act of power, even almighty power; as appears from its being something distinct from and superior to both doctrines and miracles. The Capernaites had heard the doctrine of Christ, which was taught with authority, and had seen his miracles, which were full proofs of his being the Messiah; and yet believed not, but continued murmuring at his person and parentage. This gave occasion to Christ to observe to them, that something more than these was necessary to their coming to him, or savingly believing in him, even the powerful and efficacious grace of the Father in drawing. Besides, if this act of drawing was only an act of moral suasion, and not of almighty power, then a lesser action is ascribed to the Father who sent Christ, than is to Christ himself; though he is here spoken of as Mediator; since he takes to himself the power of raising such up at the last day who come unto him, which must be allowed to be an act of omnipotence; when moral suasion is what belongs to every ordinary minister of the word. Add to this, if it be considered what men, in conversion, are drawn off from and to, from their beloved lusts and darling righteousness, to look unto and rely upon Christ alone for salvation; from what was before so very agreeable, to that which, previous to this work on their souls, was so very disagreeable; to what else can this be ascribed, but to unfrustrable and insuperable grace? But then, though this act of drawing is an act of power, yet not of force: God, in drawing of unwilling, makes willing in the day of his power; he enlightens the understanding, bends the will, elves a heart of flesh, sweetly allures by the power of his grace, and engages the soul to come to Christ, and give up itself unto him; he draws with the cords of a wan, with the bands of love. Drawing, though it supposes power, yet not always co-action, or violence. Music draws the ear, love the heart, and pleasure the mind, trahit sua quemque voluptas. The Jews have a saying, that the proselytes in the days of the Messiah shall be all of them proselytes drawn, that is, such as shall freely and voluntarily become proselytes.
2. In answer to this sense of the word it is said, "that to be drawn of God, cannot import our being moved by any inward and irresistible impressions to believe in Christ; for then no man could come to Christ without this irresistible impression; and then no other person could be blame-worthy for not believing on him, because they could not do it without that powerful attraction which God was not pleased to afford them; nor could it be praiseworthy to believe in him, because they only did so when they could not choose but do it, as being moved in so doing by a force they were not able to resist." To which I reply, that if by an irresistible impression, is meant such an internal influence of the grace of God upon the soul, which, though opposed, cannot be resisted so as to be overcome, and rendered ineffectual, we affirm, agreeable to these words of Christ, that without this no man can come to him; yet, notwithstanding this, persons may be blame-worthy, as the Jews were, for not believing on him as the Messiah; though without this powerful attraction they could not come to him, and believe in him to the saving of their souls. Besides, though the ability of coming to Christ in a spiritual manner is owing to the powerful grace of God in drawing; yet the disability of coming to Christ does not arise from a defect, or want of that powerful attraction, but from the corruption and vitiosity of nature, which being blameworthy, what springs from it must be so likewise. Moreover, we readily allow, that it is not praiseworthy in men to come to Christ, and believe in him, but that all the praise is due to God, and to his efficacious grace, by which they are what they are in conversion; since faith is the gift of God, and of his sole operation: nor could any come to Christ, unless it were given unto him of the Father; and therefore he ought to have all the praise and glory.
3. Whereas it is affirmed, that to be drawn of God can only signify,
(1.) "To be persuaded and prevailed upon to come to Christ, by the consideration of the mighty works which God had done to justify that he was the true Messiah; to which Christ appeals as divine testimonies of him, and by which the unbelieving Jews became inexcusable." I answer, it is true, that miracles were proofs of his Messiahship, and which left the Jews, who rejected him, without excuse; but then these works, properly speaking, were done by Christ himself, and the conviction of his being the Messiah from them, and the persuasion to come to him, and believe on him, on the account of them, were from the Spirit; and neither of them the acts of the Father, and so not intended by this act of drawing. Besides, multitudes of souls, both under the Old and New Testament, before, and since the coming of Christ, have been enabled to come to him for life and salvation, who never were persuaded and prevailed upon so to do, by the consideration of miracles. And many who did see the miracles of Christ, did not, in a spiritual manner, come to him, and believe in him. Wherefore our Lord ascribes faith in him to a superior power, to the unfrustrable influences of divine grace, which are here signified by the Father's drawing. Or,
(2.) It is said, to be drawn by the Father signifies "to be moved by the great promise of eternal life confirmed by these miracles to do it; for where there is a firm belief and lively sense of that inestimable blessing, it must strongly engage to come to Christ, from whom it is only to be expected." To which I answer, eternal life is, indeed, only to be expected from Christ; and when there is a firm belief and lively sense of it, as in him, and to be had from him, persons will be strongly engaged to go to him for it: but then, what is it that gives that firm belief, and fixes that lively sense of this blessing, so as strongly to engage to come to Christ for it, but the powerful and efficacious grace of God? The bare external revelation of the promise, though confirmed by miracles, will not do it. Instructions by the ministry of the word are not sufficient, unless accompanied with the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power. The following words are not a proof of it, It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God; every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, comes unto me: which do intend mere external instructions, or objective teachings, for multitudes are in that way instructed who never come to Christ; but special teachings, such as are attended with the energy of divine grace, with the laws and doctrines of Christ put into the inward part, and written on the heart. Add to all this, our Lord himself explains what he means by the Father's drawing, ver. 65, where he says, No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father; which is more than affording means and motives, it is giving faith itself. What is said to answer to the argument from Matt. vii. 18, and Rom. viii. 7, will be considered hereafter in the next chapter.