For thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence we shalt be your strength; and ye would not.
These words are cited in favor of free-will, as proving that men’s impotency to that which is good, is not owing to any disability by the fall of Adam, but to other causes acquired by, and not born with them; such as evil dispositions, customs, prejudices, hardness of heart, or blindness willfully contracted; and therefore irresistible and unfrustrable grace is not necessary to the conversion of a sinner; but of what service they are in this cause will be better understood when the following things are observed.
1. Admitting that the words regard the spiritual and eternal salvation of men, then they are expressive of the way and manner in which God saves such who are saved. In returning and rest shall ye be saved, that is, by faith and repentance; repentance may be meant by returning, and faith by rest; or by returning and rest, may be designed returning to rest, that is, to Christ, who is the only rest to weary souls; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Quietness may intend peace of conscience, and confidence assurance of faith, which make men strong Christians, though their strength does not barely lie in these graces, but in the object of them. Now faith and repentance are blessings of the covenant, gifts of God; the graces of the Spirit go together in the doctrine of salvation, and have a great concern in it; though they are not meritorious, procuring causes, nor conditions of it, yet in this way God brings his people to salvation; they enter into and are descriptive of the character of such that are saved; there is so close a connection between these and salvation, that none are saved without them.
2. If we take this to be the sense of the words, then the last clause, and ye would not, shows, that God’s way of saving men through repentance and faith, by gong to Christ alone for rest, by placing all confidence in, and deriving all peace and comfort from him, is disagreeable to unregenerate men; which is a proof of the wretched depravity, corruption, and perverseness of the will. Hence this scripture, viewed in this light, with Jeremiah 6:16, 17, and 13:11, 27, and 18:12, and 29:19, Ezekiel 20:8, Hosea 5:4, stand on record, as so many lasting reproaches to the will of man.
3. Let this depravity, corruption, perverseness, and obstinacy of the will, proceed from what cause soever, whether from any thing born with men, or acquired by them; such as evil dispositions, customs, prejudices hardness and blindness of heart; what else can conquer these evil dispositions, break such customs, destroy such prejudices, and remove this blindness and hardness of heart but the almighty power and efficacious grace of God? How necessary, therefore are irresistible and unfrustrable operations of the Spirit of God to the conversion of such sinners; when can it be reasonably expected they should be willing to be saved by Jehovah in his own way, but in the day of his power on their souls? who must work in them both to will and do of his good pleasure, if ever the perverseness of their wills is cured. But,
4. Though, no doubt, the depravity and stubbornness of the will is increased by prejudices, customs, etc., yet to what can its first taint be ascribed, or from whence had it its first blow, and received its original disability, at from the fall of Adam? Does not the Scripture, according to this doctrine, furnish us with the best account of the origin of moral evil? Does not the apostle (Eph. 2:8), attribute men’s conversation in the lusts of the flesh, their fulfilling, taqelhmata thV sarkoV the wills of the flesh, and of the mind, to their being by nature children of wrath? Why is it the wicked will not hearken to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely; but because they are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they be born speaking lies (Ps. 58:8). And what else can be the source and spring of such early practices in iniquity, but the corruption of nature, owing to the fall of man, they bring into the world with them? Do we not read (Isa. 48:4, 8) of some whose neck was an iron sinew, and their brow brass; whose obstinacy, disobedience, and treacherous, dealing, are accounted for by their being called transgressors from the womb?
5. After all, the words are not to be understood of the spiritual and eternal salvation of men, but of the temporal safety and happiness of the people of Israel, had they acted according to the advice given them; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; that is, if ye return from the evil counsel which ye have taken, which is not of me, saith the Lord, verse 1, and rest quietly in your own land, and do not walk to go down into Egypt, nor seek to Pharaoh for help, verses 2, 3, ye shall be saved; you shall be in safety, no enemy shall break in upon you, or disturb you: in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength; your strength is to sit still, verse 7, quietly to abide in Jerusalem, in your own cities, and trust in my power and protection, then ye need not fear any enemy; and ye would not; but ye said, for we will flee sws lצ, unto horses, to Egypt for horses, or upon horses, which we have had from thence; therefore shall flee; we will ride upon the swift; therefore they that pursue you shall be swift: meaning the Chaldeans; one thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one, at the rebuke of five shall ye flee, till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill. Now as this appears from the context to be the plain and genuine sense of the words, they can be of no use to prove what they are cited for, and ought to have no place in the controversy about free-will, and efficacious grace.
 Whitby, pp. 261, 262; ed. 2. 255.