How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? Turn ye at my reproof, etc.
These are the words of Christ, who, hinder the name of Wisdom, is represented crying without, and uttering his voice in the city in the streets, in the chief place of concourse, in the opening of the gates; which is to be understood of the public preaching of the word, either by Christ himself, or by his ministers. What is advanced from these passages in favor of any part of the Arminian scheme, will be considered in the following order:
I. It, is said, that from hence "it is very evident, that it was primarily the counsel and will of God, that even they who would not turn, would not repent and accept of salvation, should believe and come to repentance, and be made partakers of it:" in which I observe,
1. That this writer, with the Remonstrants, supposes an antecedent and consequent will in God, when he says, that it was primarily the counsel and will of God, etc., as if what was once the will of God is not now his will; which is contrary to the immutability of his nature and will; who is in one mind; and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doth. What is once his will, is always so; nor can it be made null and void by the will of man.
2. That he mistakes the counsel of God here, as also in Luke 7:30, for the intentional will of God, respecting the faith, repentance, and salvation of persons; when it designs in both places, God’s will of command and approbation; and is expressive, not of what God intended and designed concerning these persons; but of what was their duty, and which would be grateful to him, and approved of by him: for had it been his intentional determining will that these persons, who rejected and despised his counsel, should believe, repent, and be saved, they would have believed, repented, and been made partakers of salvation; for who hath resisted his will?
II. It; is intimated from hence, that man does not lie under a disability to believe, repent, and turn to God; and it is asked, "To what purpose did wisdom say to them, who were thus disabled, Turn you at my reproof? Or could she, without insulting over the misery of fallen man, thus laugh at the calamity they could never prevent?" To which I reply,
1. That the exhortation, Turn ye at my. reproof, is not to repentance and conversion, but to an attendance to the external ministry of the word. Reproof is the same with counsel, in verses 25, 30, where they are joined together, and put for each other, and design the word preached, which reproves of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and it is not turning at, but to this reproof, which is exhorted to; for the ythkytl wbmt, should not be rendered, turn ye at, but to my reproof; so Arias Montanus, Mercerus, Gejerus, Junius, and Tremellius, read them; and the meaning is either as the Targum interprets them zwnptt ytwgskml, turn your face to my reproof, and not your backs; or as Aben Ezra, turn ye, that is, your ears, to hear my reproof; and do not pull away the shoulder, or stop your ears. Now it is certain, that man does not lie under a disability to turn his face and ears to the external ministry of the word; though so depraved are the inclinations and will of man, and such a lover is he of simplicity and scorning, and such a hater of true, useful, and spiritual knowledge, that he had rather hear an idle story told, or the Scriptures burlesqued, than an honest, serious sermon, which is reproving, searching, and informing.
2. The calamity of these persons did not arise from a disability to do what they were exhorted to, but was owing to a neglect of what they might have done: for they could have attended the ministry of the word, observed ordinances, and turned their faces and ears to the reproof of Wisdom; but they hated knowledge, and the means of it; they despised sermons, laughed at ordinances, and treated with the utmost contempt every admonition, counsel, and reproof; therefore they did eat of the fruit of their own ways, and were filled with their own devices, verse 31; there was a just retaliation made to them; they were paid in their own way; it was a righteous thing with Wisdom, and no insult on their misery, to laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear came upon them.
III. This passage is produced in favor of sufficient grace given to men, to repent, believe, and convert themselves; and to prove that God’s calls, invitations, and messages, by his prophets, are sufficient inducements to procure reformation and repentance. To which I answer,
1. It is plain that the persons here spoken of, called unto, exhorted, and threatened, had not sufficient grace; since they are represented as fools, scorners, lovers of folly, haters of knowledge; who despised the counsel of Wisdom, and rejected her reproof.
2. Nor should this be concluded from the encouragement that Wisdom gives, to turn to her reproof; saying, Behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you; since this is not to be understood of the Holy Ghost, and of the dispensation of his extraordinary gifts, or of saving grace; for when he is promised in either of these senses, it is expressed by a different phrase than what is here used; he is promised to be poured out upon, and not as here, unto the sons of men: (see Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28). I observe that Dr. Whitby, whenever he cites the passage before us, inadvertently transcribes it as though it was read, I will pour out my Spirit upon you, when it is unto you. By the Spirit, we are to understand the mind of Wisdom; so the word hwr is used in Proverbs 29:11; and by pouring it out, a large and full revelation of it to the sons of men, as it is explained in the next clause, I will make known my words unto you.
3. This external revelation of the mind of Christ, ought not to be called sufficient grace; it is indeed the means of conveying and implanting grace, when it comes not in word only, but the Holy Ghost and with power: it is not sufficient means of grace to all men; for all men have it not, nor is it so to all that have it; for to some it is the savor of death unto death, whilst it is to others the savor of life unto life; nor is it of itself sufficient means to any, without the efficacious grace of God. Hence,
4. Though the calls, invitations, and messages of God to men, by his ministers, may be sometimes (for they are not always) sufficient inducements to procure an external reformation, an outward repentance, as in the people of Nineveh; yet these are not sufficient of themselves, without powerful grace, to produce true faith in Christ, evangelical repentance towards God, and new spiritual obedience, in life and conversation.
IV. These words, I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded, are used to prove the resistibility of the grace of God, and that an irresistible power is not necessary to the conversion of a sinner. But,
1. It ought to be observed, that there is a twofold call; the one is internal, which is by the powerful operations of the Spirit of God on the soul, either with or without the word; which cannot be so resisted, as to be made to cease, to become void, and of no effect; the other is external, by the ministry of the word; and may be resisted, rejected, and despised, and become useless: now it is of the latter call, and not of the former, that the text speaks, and therefore no way militates against the irresistible, unfrustrable grace of God in conversion: and in this sense are we to understand some other places of Scripture, as Proverbs 2:3, 4, and Proverbs 11:3, 4; Isaiah 65:2; Matthew 20:16.
2. It is said, that "were such an irresistible power necessary to the conversion of a sinner, no man could be converted sooner than he is; because before this irresistible action came upon him, he could not be converted; and when it came upon him, he could not choose but be converted." To which I reply, I see no absurdity in the consequence: for, as all our times are in the hands of God, a time to be born, and a time to die; so likewise the time of conversion, which is called a time of love (Ezek. 16:8). Now as a man cannot be born sooner or later than he is, nor die sooner or later than he does; so neither can he be converted sooner or later than he is. But then,
3. It is objected, that if this be the case, "no man could reasonably be blamed that he lived so long in his impenitent and unconverted state." To which I answer, that living in an impenitent and unconverted state, is living in sin, and therefore blameworthy. And though man, by sinning, has involved himself in a state, out of which he cannot extricate himself; yet is he not the less culpable on that score for living in it.
4. It is further objected, that if man cannot be converted sooner than he is, God must unreasonably make these inquiries, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? With others, in the following places, Exodus 16:28; Numbers 14:11; Jeremiah 4:14, and 13:27. In answer to which, it will be enough to say, that these passages speak not of conversion, but of external obedience and reformation; which might be sooner done, though conversion cannot.
5. It is said, that if it is so, "it would not be praiseworthy in persons that they were then converted, it being not in their power then to be otherwise; since an unfrustrable operation is that which no man can frustrate." It is very true; for all the praise of conversion is due to the powerful and efficacious grace of God, and none to the power and will of man.
6. It is asked, "If there be some physical and unfrustrable operation on God’s part, necessary to the new birth, why is the want of this new birth and spiritual renovation imputed to men’s voluntary want of consideration, to their rejecting the counsel of God, and not choosing the fear of the Lord?" (Prov. 1:24, 25, 29, 30). I reply, that the want of the new birth and spiritual renovation, is not the thing spoken of in the place referred to; but a non-attention to, and a contempt of, the ministry of the word, though these indeed are a sign of it; much less is this imputed to men’s rejecting the counsel of God, and not choosing the fear of the Lord.; for the tables must be turned; and if we speak truth, we must say, that man’s rejecting the counsel of God, and not choosing the fear of the Lord, are owing, and to be imputed, to a want of the new birth and spiritual renovation. Besides, as the new birth and spiritual renovation are the effects of, and owing to the Spirit and grace of God, and therefore called a being born of water and of the Spirit, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; so a want thereof is owing to a man’s not having that grace which is in the power of God only to bestow upon him.
 Whitby, p. 72; ed. 2. 71.
 Ibid. p. 252; ed. 2. 246.
 Whitby, p. 250, 251; ed. 2. 244, 245.
 Ibid., p. 181, 251; ed. 2. 177, 245.
 Remonstr. in Coll. Hag. art. 3. 4. p. 215.
 Ibid. art. 3. 4. p. 221; Whitby, p. 260; ed. 2, 254.
 Whitby, ib.
 Whitby, p. 261; ed. 2.255.
 Ibid. p. 224, 257; ed. 2. 218, 251.