concerning effectual calling
The second qualification of the persons to whom this privilege in the text belongs, is, They are the called of God. All things shall work for good to them who are called. Though this word called, be placed in order after loving of God, yet in nature it goes before it. Love is first named, but not first wrought; we must be called of God, before we can love God.
Calling is made, in the 30th verse of the 8th chapter of Romans, the middle link of the golden chain of salvation; it is placed between predestination and glorification; and if we have this middle link fast, we are sure of the two other ends of the chain. For the clearer illustration of this there are six things observable.
I. A distinction about calling
There is a two-fold call.
1. There is an outward call, which is nothing else but God's blessed tender of grace in the gospel, his parleying with sinners, when he invites them to come in and accept of mercy: of this our Saviour speaks: "Many are called, but few chosen," Matt. 20:16. This external call is insufficient to salvation, yet sufficient to leave men without excuse.
2. There is an inward call, when God wonderfully overpowers the heart, and draws the will to embrace Christ. This is, as Augustine speaks, an effectual call. God, by the outward call, blows a trumpet in the ear; by the inward call, he opens the heart, as he did the heart of Lydia. Acts 16:14. The outward call may bring men to a profession of Christ, the inward call brings them to a possession of Christ: the outward call curbs a sinner, the inward call changes him.
II. Our deplorable condition before we are called
1. We are in a state of vassalage.—Before God calls a man, he is at the devil's call. If he says, Go, he goes: the deluded sinner is like the slave that digs in the mine, hews in the quarry, or tugs at the oar; he is at the command of Satan, as the ass is at the command of the driver.
2. We are in a state of darkness.—"Ye were sometimes darkness." Ephes. 5:8. Darkness is very disconsolate. A man in the dark is full of fear, he trembles every step he takes. Darkness is dangerous: he who is in the dark may quickly go out of the right way, and fall into rivers or whirlpools; so in the darkness of ignorance, we may quickly fall into the whirlpool of hell.
3. We are in a state of impotency.—"When we were without strength." Rom. 5:6. No strength to resist a temptation, or grapple with a corruption; sin cut the lock where our strength lay. Judg. 16:20 Nay, there is not only impotency, but obstinacy, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." Acts 7:51. Besides indisposition to good, there is opposition.
4. We are in a state of pollution.—"I saw thee polluted in thy blood." Ezek. 16:6. The fancy coins earthly thoughts, the heart is the devil's forge, where the sparkles of lust fly.
5. We are in a state of damnation;—we are born under a curse. "The wrath of God abideth on us." John 3:36. This is our condition, before God is pleased by a merciful call to bring us near to himself, and free us from that misery in which we were before ingulfed.
III. The means of our effectual call. The ordinary means which the Lord uses in calling us, is not by raptures and revelations, but is,
1. By his word, which is, "the rod of his strength." Psal. 110:2.—The voice of the word is God's call to us; therefore he is said to speak to us from heaven. Heb. 12:25. That is, in the ministry of the word. When the word calls from sin, it is as if we heard a voice from heaven.
2. By his Spirit.—This is the loud call. The word is the instrumental cause of our conversion, the Spirit is the efficient. The ministers of God are only the pipes and organs; it is the Spirit blowing in them, that effectually changes the heart. "While Peter spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word." Acts 10:44. It is not the husbandman's industry in ploughing and sowing, that will make the ground fruitful, without the early and latter rain. So it is not the seed of the word that will effectually convert, unless the Spirit put forth his sweet influence, and drops as rain upon the heart; therefore the aid of God's Spirit is to be implored, that he would put forth his powerful voice, and awaken us out of the grave of unbelief. If a man knock at a gate of brass, it will not open; but if he come with a key in his hand, it will open: so when God, who hath the key of David in his hand, (Rev. 3:7.) comes, he opens the heart, though it be ever so fast locked against him.
IV. The method God uses in calling of sinners
The Lord does not tie himself to a particular way, or use the same order with all. He comes sometimes in a still small voice. Such as have had godly parents, and have sat under the warm sunshine of religious education, many times know not how or when they were called. The Lord did secretly and gradually instil grace into their hearts, as the dew falls insensibly in drops; they know by the heavenly effects, that they are called, but the time or manner they know not. The finger moves on the dial, but we are not sensible when it moves.
Thus God deals with some. Others are more stubborn and knotty sinners, and God comes to them in a rough wind; he uses more wedges of the law, to break their hearts; he deeply humbles them, and shows them they are damned without Christ. Then having ploughed up the fallow ground of their hearts by humiliation, he sows the seed of consolation; he presents Christ and mercy to them, and draws their wills, not only to accept Christ, but passionately to desire, and faithfully to rest upon him. Thus he wrought upon Paul, and called him from a persecutor to a preacher. This call, though it be more visible than the other, yet is not more real. God's method in calling sinners may vary, but the effect is still the same
V. The properties of this call,
1. It is a sweet call.—God so calls as he allures; he does not force, but draw. The freedom of the will is not taken away, but the stubbornness of it is conquered. "Thy people shall be a willing people in the day of thy power." Psal. 110:3. After this call there are no more disputes, the soul readily obeys God's call: as when Christ called Zaccheus, he joyfully welcomed him into his heart and house.
2. It is a holy call.—"Who hath called us with a holy calling." 2 Tim. 1:9. This call of God, calls men out of their sins: by it they are consecrated, and set apart for God. The vessels of the tabernacle were taken from common use, and set apart to a holy use; so they who are effectually called, are separated from sin, and consecrated to God's service, The God whom we worship is holy, the work we are employed in is holy, the place we hope to arrive at is holy; all this calls for holiness. A christian's heart is to be the presence-chamber of the blessed Trinity; and shall not holiness to the Lord be written upon it? Believers are children of God the Father, members of God the Son, and temples of God the Holy Ghost; and shall not they be holy? Holiness is the badge and livery of God's people. "The people of thy holiness." Isaiah 63:18. As chastity distinguishes a virtuous woman from a harlot: so holiness distinguishes the godly from the wicked. It is a holy calling; "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." 1 Thess. 4:7. Let not any man say he is called of God, that lives in sin. Hath God called thee to be a swearer, to be a drunkard? Nay, let not the merely moral person say he is effectually called: what is civility without sanctity? It is but a dead carcase strewed with flowers. The king's picture stamped upon brass will not go current for gold. The merely moral man looks as if he had the King of heaven's image stamped upon him; but he is no better than counterfeit metal, which will not pass for current with God.
3. It is an irresistible call.—When God calls a man by his grace, he cannot but come. You may resist the minister's call, but you cannot the Spirit's call: the finger of the blessed Spirit can write upon a heart of stone, as once he wrote his laws upon tables of stone. God's words are creating words; when he said, "Let there be light, there was light;" and when he saith, "Let there be faith, it shall be so. When God called Paul, he answered to the call. "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." Acts 26:19. God rides forth conquering in the chariot of his gospel; he makes the blind eyes see, and the stony heart bleed. If God will call a man, nothing shall lie in the way to hinder; difficulties shall be untied, the powers of hell shall disband. "Who hath resisted his will?" Rom. 9:19. God bends the iron sinew, and cuts asunder the "gates of brass." Psa. 107:16. When the Lord touches a man's heart by his Spirit, all proud imaginations are brought down, and the fort-royal of the will yields to God. I may allude to that. "What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? and thou Jordan, that thou wert driven back?" Psa. 114:5. The man that before was as a raging sea, foaming forth wickedness, now on a sudden flies back and trembles, he falls down as the jailor, "What shall I do to be saved?" Acts 16:30. What ails thee, O sea? What ails this man? the Lord has been effectually calling him, he has been working a work of grace, and now his stubborn heart is conquered by a sweet violence.
4. It is a high calling.—"I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God." Phil. 3:14. It is a high calling, because we are called to high exercises of religion; to die to sin, to be crucified to the world, to live by faith, to "have fellowship with the Father." 1 John 1:3. This is a high calling; here is a work too high for men in a state of nature to perform. It is a high calling, because we are called to high privileges, to justification and adoption, to be made co-heirs with Christ. He that is effectually called is higher than the princes of the earth.
5. It is a gracious call, it is the fruit and product of free grace.—That God should call some, and not others; some taken, and others left; one called who is of a more rugged, morose disposition, another of acuter parts, of a sweeter temper, rejected,—here is free grace: that the poor should be "rich in faith, heirs of a kingdom," (James 2:5.) and the nobles and great ones of the world for the most part rejected. "Not many noble are called." 1 Cor. 1:26. This is free and rich grace. "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Matt. 11:26. That under the same sermon, one should be effectually wrought upon, another no more moved than a dead man with the sound of music; that one should hear the Spirit's voice in the word, another not hear it; that one should be softened and moistened with the influence of heaven; another, like Gideon's dry fleece, has no dew upon him: behold here distinguishing grace! The same affliction converts one, and hardens another; affliction to one, is as the bruising of spices, which cast forth a fragrant smell; to the other, it is as the crushing of weeds in a mortar, which are more unsavoury. Whence is this, but the free grace of God? It is a gracious calling, it is all enamelled and interwoven with free grace.
6. It is a glorious call.—"Who hath called us unto his eternal glory." 1 Pet. 5:10. We are called to the enjoyment of the ever-blessed God: as if a man were called out of a prison to sit upon a throne. Quintus Curtius writes of one, who while digging in his garden was called to be king. Thus God calls us "to glory and virtue." 2 Pet. 1:3. First to virtue, then to glory. At Athens there were two temples, the temple of Virtue, and the temple of Honour; and no man could go to the temple of honour, but through the temple of virtue. So God calls us first to virtue, and then to glory. What is the glory among men, which most so hunt after, but a feather blown in the air? what is it to the weight of glory? Is there not great reason we should follow God's call? He calls to preferment; can there be any loss or prejudice in this? God would have us part with nothing for him, but that which will damn us, if we keep it; he has no design upon us, but to make us happy; he calls us to salvation, he calls us to a kingdom. O how should we then, with Bartimeus, throw off our ragged coat of sin, and follow Christ when he calls!
7. It is a rare call;—but few are savingly called. "Few are chosen." Matt. 22:14. Few, not collectively, but comparatively. The word to call, signifies to choose out some from among others. Many have the light brought to them, but few have their eyes anointed to see that light. "Thou hast a few names in Sardis that have not defiled their garments." Rev. 3:4. How many millions sit in the region of darkness! and in those climates where the Sun of righteousness does shine, there are many who receive the light of the truth, without the love of it. There are many formalists, but few believers. There is something looks like faith, which is not. The Cyprian diamond, says Pliny, sparkles like the true diamond, but it is not of the right kind, it will break with the hammer: so the hypocrite's faith will break with the hammer of persecution. But few are truly called. The number of precious stones is few, to the number of pebble stones. Most men shape their religion according to the fashion of the times; they are for the music and the idol. Dan. 3:7. The serious thought of this, should make us work out our salvation with fear, and labour to be in the number of those few whom God hath translated into a state of grace.
8. It is an unchangeable call.—"The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Rom. 11:29. That is, as a learned writer saith, those gifts which flow from election. When God calls a man, he does not repent of it: God does not, as many friends do, love one day, and hate another; or as princes, who make their subjects favourites, and afterwards throw them into prison. This is the blessedness of a saint; his condition admits of no alteration. God's call is founded upon his decree, and his decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be reversed. God blots out his people's sins, but not their names. Let the world ring changes every hour, a believer's condition is fixed and unalterable.
VI. The end of our heavenly calling; and that is, the honour of God. "That we should be to the praise of his glory." Ephes. 1:12. He that is in the state of nature, is no more fit to honour God, than a brute is to put forth acts of reason. A man before conversion continually reflects dishonour upon God. As black vapours which arise out of fenny, moorish grounds, cloud and darken the sun, so out of the natural man's heart arise black vapours of sin, which cast a cloud upon God's glory. The sinner is versed in treason, but understands nothing of loyalty to the King of heaven. But there are some whom the lot of free-grace falls upon, and these shall be taken as jewels from among the rubbish, and be effectually called, that they may lift up God's name in the world. The Lord will have some in all ages who shall oppose the corruptions of the times, bear witness to his truths, and convert sinners from the error of their ways; he will have his worthies, as king David had. They who have been monuments of God's mercies, will be trumpets of his praise.
These considerations show us the necessity of effectual calling; without it there is no going to heaven: we must be "made meet for the inheritance." Col. 1:12. As God makes heaven fit for us, so he makes us fit for heaven; and what gives this meetness, but effectual calling? A man remaining in the filth and rubbish of nature, is no more fit for heaven, than a dead man is fit to inherit an estate. The high calling is not a thing arbitrary, or indifferent, but as needful as salvation; yet alas, how is this one thing needful neglected! Most men, like the people of Israel, wander up and down to gather straw, but mind not evidences of their effectual calling.
Take notice what a mighty power God puts forth in calling of sinners! God does so call, as to draw. John 6:44. Conversion is styled a resurrection. "Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection." Rev. 20:6. that is, a rising from sin to grace. A man can no more convert himself, than a dead man can raise himself. It is called a creation. Col. 3:10. To create, is above the power of nature.
Objection. But say some, the will is not dead, but sleepeth, and God, by a moral persuasion, does only awaken us, and then the will can obey God's call, and move of itself to its own conversion.
Answer. To this I answer, Every man is by sin bound in fetters. "I perceive that thou art in the bond of iniquity." Acts 8:23. A man that is in fetters, if you use arguments, and persuade him to go, is that sufficient? there must be a breaking of his fetters, and setting him free, before he can walk: so it is with every natural man; he is fettered with corruption; now the Lord by converting grace must file off his fetters, nay, give him legs to run too, or he can never obtain salvation.
I now proceed to give an exhortation to the heavenly calling.
Labour to clear this to your own souls, that you are savingly called.—"Give diligence to make your calling sure." 2 Pet. 1:10. This is the great business of our lives, to get sound evidences of our effectual calling. Acquiesce not in outward privileges, do not cry as the Jews, "The temple of the Lord!" Jer. 7:4. Rest not in baptism; what is it to have the water, and want the Spirit? Be not content that Christ hath been preached to you; satisfy not yourselves with an empty profession; all this may be, and yet you be no better than blazing comets; but labour to evidence to your souls that you are called of God. Be not Athenians, to inquire news. What is the state and complexion of the times? What changes are likely to happen in such a year? What is all this, if you are not effectually called? What if the times should have a fairer aspect? What though glory did dwell in our land, if grace does not dwell in our hearts? O my brethren, when things are dark without, let all be clear within, give diligence to make your calling sure; it is both feasible and probable. God is not wanting to them that seek him; let not this great business hang in hand any longer. If there were a controversy about your land, you would use all means to clear your title; and is salvation nothing? will you not clear your title here? Consider how sad your case is, if you are not effectually called.
You are strangers to God.—The prodigal went into a far country; (Luke 15:13.) which implies that every sinner, before conversion, is afar off from God. "At that time ye were without Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise." Ephes. 2:12. Men dying in their sins have no more right to promises than strangers have to the privilege of free-born citizens. If you are strangers, what language can you expect from God, but this, "I know you not!"
If you are not effectually called, you are enemies.—"Alienated and enemies." Col. 1:21. There is nothing in the bible you can lay claim to, but the threatenings: you are heirs to all the plagues written in the book of God: though you may resist the commands of the law, you cannot flee from the curses of the law. Such as are enemies to God, let them read their doom. "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." Luke 19:27. Therefore, oh how nearly doth it concern you to make your calling sure! How miserable and damnable will your condition be, if death call you before the Spirit call you!
Question. But is there any hope of my being called? I have been a great sinner.
Answer. Great sinners have been called.—Paul was a persecutor, yet he was called. Some of the Jews who had a hand in crucifying Christ, were called. God loves to display his free grace to sinners. Therefore be not discouraged; you see a golden cord let down from heaven for poor trembling souls to lay hold upon.
Question. But how shall I know I am effectually called?
Answer. He who is savingly called, is called out of himself.—Not only out of sinful self, but out of righteous self; he denies his duties and moral endowments. "Not having mine own righteousness." Phil. 3:9. He whose heart God hath touched by his Spirit, lays down the idol of self-righteousness at Christ's feet, for him to tread upon; he uses morality, and duties of piety, but does not trust to them. Noah's dove made use of her wings to fly, but trusted to the ark for safety. This is excellent, when a man is called out of himself. This self-renunciation is, as Augustine saith, the first step to saving faith.
He who is effectually called, has a visible change wrought.—Not a change of the faculties, but of the qualities. He is altered from what he was before; his body is the same, but not his mind; he hath another spirit Paul was so changed after his conversion, that people did not know him, Acts 9:21. Oh what a metamorphosis does grace make! "And such were some of you; but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified." 1 Cor. 6:11. Grace turns the heart.
In effectual calling there is a three-fold change wrought:
1. There is a change wrought in the understanding.—Before, there was ignorance, darkness was upon the face of the deep; but now there is light; "Now ye are light in the Lord." Ephes. 5:8. The first work of God, in the creation of the world, was light; so it is in the new creation. He who is savingly called, saith as that man in the gospel; "Whereas I was blind, now I see." John 9:25. He see such evil in sin, and excellency in the ways of God, as he never saw before. Indeed, this light which the blessed Spirit brings, may well be called a marvellous light. "That ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you into his marvellous light." 1 Pet. 2:9. It is a marvellous light in six respects. 1. Because it is strangely conveyed; it does not come from the celestial orbs, where the planets are, but from the Sun of righteousness. 2. It is marvellous in the effect: this light does that which no other light can: it makes a man perceive himself to be blind. 3. It is a marvellous light, because it is more penetrating; other light may shine upon the face, this light shines into the heart, and enlightens the conscience. 2 Cor. 4:6. 4. It is a marvellous light, because it sets those who have it a marvelling: they marvel at hemselves, how they could be contented to be so long without it; they marvel that their eyes should be opened, and not others; they marvel that notwithstanding they hated and opposed this light, yet it should shine in the firmament of their souls. This is what the saints will stand wondering at to all eternity. 5. It is a marvellous light, because it is more vital than any other; it not only enlightens, but quickens, it makes alive those who "were dead in trespasses and sins." Ephes. 2:1. Therefore it is called the "light of life." John 8:12, 6. It is a marvellous light, because it is the beginning of everlasting light. The light of grace is the morning-star which ushers in the sun-light of glory.
Now then, reader, canst thou say that this marvellous light of the Spirit hath dawned upon thee? When thou wast enveloped in ignorance, and didst neither know God nor thyself, suddenly a light from heaven shined round about thee. This is one part of that blessed change, which is wrought in the effectual calling.
2. There is a change wrought in the will.—"To will is present with me." Rom. 7:18. The will, which before opposed Christ, now embraces him; the will, which was an iron sinew, is now like melting wax; it readily receives the stamp and impression of the Holy Ghost. The will moves heaven-ward, and carries all the orbs of the affections along with it. The regenerate will answers to every call of God, as the echo answers to the voice. "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts 9:6. The will now becomes a volunteer, it enlists itself under the "Captain of salvation." Heb. 2:10. Oh what a happy change is wrought here!—before, the will kept Christ out; now, it keeps sin out.
3. There is a change in the conversation.—He who is called of God, walks directly contrary to what he did before. He walked before in envy and malice, now he walks in love; before he walked in pride, now in humility. The current is carried quite another way. As in the heart there is a new-birth, so in the life a new edition. Thus we see what a mighty change is wrought in such as are called of God.
How far are they from this effectual call, who never had any change! They are the same they were forty or fifty years ago, as proud and carnal as ever; they have seen many changes in their times, but they here had no change in their heart. Let not men think to leap out of the harlot's lap (the world) into Abraham's bosom; either they must have a gracious change while they live, or a cursed change when they die.
He who is called of God, esteems this call as the highest blessing.—A king whom God has called by his grace, esteems it more that he is called to be a saint, than that he is called to be a king. He values his high-calling more than his high-birth. Theodosius thought it a greater honour to be a christian than to be an emperor A carnal person can no more value spiritual blessings, than a child can value a knot of diamonds. He prefers his worldly grandeur, his ease, plenty, and titles of honour, before conversion. He had rather be called duke than saint; a sign he is a stranger to effectual calling. He who is enlightened by the Spirit, counts holiness his best heraldry, and looks upon his effectual calling as his preferment; when he has taken this degree, he is a candidate for heaven.
He who is effectually called, is called out of the world.—It is a "heavenly calling." Heb. 3:1. He that is called of God, minds the things of a heavenly aspect; he is in the world, but not of the world. Naturalists say of precious stones, though they have their matter from the earth, yet their sparkling lustre is from the influence of the heavens: so it is with a godly man, though his body be from the earth, yet the sparkling of his affections is from heaven; his heart is drawn into the upper region, as high as Christ. He not only casts off every wicked work, but every earthly weight; he is not a worm, but an eagle.
Another sign of our effectual calling, is diligence in our ordinary calling.—Some boast of their high calling, but they lie idly at anchor. Religion does not seal warrants to idleness. Christians must not be slothful. Idleness is the devil's bath; a slothful person becomes a prey to every temptation. Grace, while it cures the heart, does not make the hand lame. He who is called of God, as he works for heaven, so he works in his trade.
exhortations to those who are called
If, upon search, you can find that you are effectually called, I have three exhortations to you.
I. Admire and adore God's free-grace in calling you—that God should pass over so many, that he should pass by the wise and noble, and that the lot of free-grace should fall upon you! That he should take you out of a state of vassalage, from grinding the devil's mill, and should set you above the princes of the earth, and call you to inherit the throne of glory! Fall upon your knees, break forth into a thankful triumph of praise; let your hearts be ten-stringed instruments, to sound forth the memorial of God's mercy. None so deep in debt to free grace as you, and none should be so high mounted upon the pinnacle of thanksgiving. Say as the sweet singer; "I will extol thee, O God my King, every day will I bless thee, and I will praise thy name for ever." Psalm 145:1, 2. Those who are patterns of mercy, should be trumpets of praise. O long to be in heaven, where your thanksgivings shall be purer, and shall be raised a note higher.
II. Pity those who are not yet called.—Sinners in scarlet are not objects of envy, but pity; they are under "the power of Satan." Acts 26:18. They tread every day on the brink of the bottomless pit; and what if death should cast them in! O pity unconverted sinners. If you pity an ox or an ass going astray, will not you pity a soul going astray from God, who has lost his way, and his wits, and is upon the precipice of damnation.
Nay, not only pity sinners, but pray for them; though they curse, do you pray; you will pray for persons distracted; sinners are distracted. "When he came to himself." Luke 15:17. It seems the prodigal before conversion was not himself. Wicked men are going to execution; sin is the halter which strangles them, death turns them off the ladder, and hell is their burning place; and will not you pray for them, when you see them in such danger?
III. You who are effectually called, honour your high calling.—"I, therefore, beseech you, that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called." Ephes. 4:1. Christians must keep a decorum; they must observe what is comely. This is a seasonable advice, when many who profess to be called of God, yet by their loose and irregular walking, cast a blemish on religion, whereby the ways of God are evil spoken of. It is Salvian's speech, What do pagans say, when they see christians live scandalously? Surely Christ taught them no better. Will you reproach Christ, and make him suffer again, by abusing your heavenly calling? It is one of the saddest sights, to see a man lift up his hands in prayer, and with those hands oppress; to hear the same tongue praise God at one time, and at another lie and slander; to hear a man in words profess God, and in works deny him. Oh how unworthy is this! Yours is a holy calling, and will you be unholy? Do not think you may take liberty as others do. The Nazarite that had a vow on him, separated himself to God, and promised abstinence; though others did drink wine, it was not fit for the Nazarite to do it. So, though others are loose and vain, it is not fit for those who are set apart for God by effectual calling. Are not flowers sweeter than weeds? You must be now, "a peculiar people;" 1 Pet. 2:9. not only peculiar in regard of dignity, but deportment. Abhor all motions of sin, because it would disparage your high calling.
Question. What is it to walk worthy of our heavenly calling?
Answer. 1. It is to walk regularly, to tread with an even foot, and walk according to the rules and axioms of the word. A true saint is for canonical obedience, he follows the canon of scripture. "As many as walk according to this canon." Gal. 6:16. When we leave men's inventions, and cleave to God's institutions; when we walk after the word, as Israel after the pillar of fire; this is walking worthy of our heavenly calling.
2. To walk worthy of our calling, is to walk singularly.—"Noah was upright in his generation." Gen. 7:1. When others walked with the devil, Noah walked with God. We are forbidden to run with the multitude. Exod. 23:2. Though in civil things singularity is not commendable, yet in religion it is good to be singular. Melancthon was the glory of the age he lived in. Athanasius was singularly holy, he appeared for God when the stream of the times ran another way. It is better to be a pattern of holiness, than a partner in wickedness. it is better to go to heaven with a few, than to hell in the crowd. We must walk in an opposite course to the men of the world.
3. To walk worthy of our calling, is to walk cheerfully.—"Rejoice in the Lord evermore." Phil. 4:4. Too much drooping of sprit disparages our high calling, and makes others suspect a godly life to be melancholy. Christ loves to see us rejoicing in him. Causinus, in his hieroglyphics, speaks of a dove, whose wings being perfumed with sweet ointments, drew the other doves after her. Cheerfulness is a perfume, to draw others to godliness. Religion doth not banish all joy. As there is a seriousness without sourness, so there is a cheerful liveliness without lightness. When the prodigal was converted "they began to be merry." Luke 15:24. Who should be cheerful, if not the people of God? They are no sooner born of the Spirit, but they are heirs to a crown. God is their portion, and heaven is their mansion, and shall not they rejoice?
4. To walk worthy of our calling is to walk wisely. Walking wisely implies three things.
(1.) To walk warily.—"The wise man's eyes are in his head." Eccles. 2:14. Others watch for our halting, therefore we had need look to our standing. We must beware, not only of scandals, but of all that is unbecoming, lest thereby we open the mouth of others with a fresh cry against religion. If our piety will not convert men, our prudence may silence them.
(2.) To walk courteously.—The spirit of the gospel is full of meekness and candour. "Be courteous." 1 Pet. 3:8. Take heed of a morose supercilious behaviour. Religion does not take away civility, but refines it. "Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the children of Heth." Gen. 23:7. Though they were of a heathenish race, yet Abraham gave them a civil respect. St. Paul was of an affable temper. "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1 Cor. 9:22. In lesser matters the apostle yielded to others, that by his obliging carriage he might win upon them.
(3.) To walk magnanimously.—Though we must be humble, yet not base. It is unworthy to prostitute ourselves to the lusts of men. What is sinfully imposed ought to be zealously opposed. Conscience is God's diocese, where none hath right to visit, but he who is "the Bishop of our souls." 1 Peter 2:25. We must not be like hot iron, which may be beaten into any form. A brave spirited christian will rather suffer, than let his conscience be violated. Here is the serpent and the dove united, sagacity and innocence; this prudential walking comports with our high calling, and doth not a little adorn the gospel of Christ.
5. To walk worthy of our calling, is to walk influentially;—to do good to others, and to be rich in acts of mercy. Heb. 13:16. Good works honour religion. As Mary poured the ointment on Christ, so by good works we pour sweet ointments on the head of the gospel, and make it give forth a fragrant smell. Good works, though they are not causes of salvation, yet they are evidences. When with our Saviour we go about doing good, and send abroad the refreshing influence of our liberality, we walk worthy of our high calling.
6. Here is matter of consolation to you who are effectually called. God hath magnified rich grace toward you; you are called to great honour to be co-partners with the angels, and co-heirs with Christ; this should revive you in the worst of times. Let men reproach and miscall you; set God's calling of you against man's miscalling; let men persecute you to death, they do but give you a pass, and send you to heaven the sooner; how may this cure the trembling of the heart! What, though the sea roar, though the earth be unquiet, though the stars are shaken out of their places, you need not fear; you are called, and therefore are sure to be crowned.
concerning god's purpose
The third and last thing in the text, which I shall but briefly glance at, is the ground and original of our effectual calling, in these words, "according to his purpose." Eph. 1:11. Anselm renders it, According to his good will. Peter Martyr reads it, According to his decree. This purpose, or decree of God, is the fountain-head of all our spiritual blessings; it is the impulsive cause of our vocation, justification, glorification; it is the highest link in the golden chain of salvation. What is the reason that one man is called, and not another? It is from the eternal purpose of God. God's decree gives the casting voice in man's salvation.
Let us then ascribe the whole work of grace to the pleasure of God's will. God did not choose us because we were worthy, but by choosing us he makes us worthy. Proud men are apt to assume and arrogate too much to themselves, in being sharers with God. While many cry out of church-sacrilege, they are in the mean time guilty of a far greater sacrilege, in robbing God of his glory, while they go to set the crown of salvation upon their own head; but we must resolve all into God's purpose. The signs of salvation are in the saints, but the cause of salvation is in God.
If it be God's purpose that saves, then it is not free-will.—The Pelagians are strenuous asserters of free-will; they tell us, that a man hath an innate power to effect his own conversion: but this text confutes it; our calling is "according to God's purpose." The scripture plucks up the root of free-will. "It is not of him that willeth." Rom. 9:16. All depends upon the purpose of God. When the prisoner is cast at the bar, there is no saving him, unless the king has a purpose to save him. God's purpose is his prerogative royal.
If it be God's purpose that saves, then it is not merit.—Bellarmine holds, that good works do expiate sin, and merit glory; but the text saith, We are called according to God's purpose:—and there is a parallel scripture, "Who hath saved us, and called us, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace." 2 Tim. 1:9. There is no such thing as merit: our best works have in them, both defection and infection, and so are but glittering sins; therefore if we are called and justified, it is God's purpose brings it to pass.
Objection. But the papists allege that scripture for merit: "Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." 2 Tim. 4:8. This is the force of their argument, If God in justice rewards our works, then they merit salvation.
Reply. To this I answer,
1. God gives a reward as a just judge, not to the worthiness of our works, but to the worthiness of Christ.
2. God as a just judge rewards us, not because we have deserved it, but because he hath promised it. God hath two courts, a court of mercy, and a court of justice: the Lord condemns those works in the court of justice, which he crowns in the court of mercy: therefore that which carries the main stroke in our salvation, is the purpose of God.
Again, If the purpose of God be the springhead of happiness, then we are not saved for faith foreseen.—It is absurd to think any thing in us could have the least influence upon our election. Some say, that God did foresee that such persons would believe, and therefore did choose them; so they would make the business of salvation to depend upon something in us. Whereas God doth not choose us for faith, but to faith. "He hath chosen us, that we should be holy." Eph. 1:4. Not because we would be holy, but that we might be holy. We are elected to holiness, not for it. What could God foresee in us, but pollution and rebellion! If any man be saved, it is according to God's purpose.
Question. How shall we know that God hath a purpose to save us?
Answer. By being effectually called. "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure." 2 Pet. 1:10. We make our election sure, by making our calling sure. "God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification." 2 Thess. 2:13. By the stream, we come at last to the fountain. If we find the stream of sanctification running in our souls, we may by this come to the spring-head of election. When a man cannot look up to the firmament, yet he may know the moon is there, by seeing it shine upon the water: so, though I do not look up into the secret of God's purpose, yet I may know I am elected, by the shining of sanctifying grace in my soul. Whosoever he be that can find the word of God transcribed and copied out into his heart, may undeniably conclude his election.
Here is a sovereign elixir, of unspeakable comfort to those who are the called of God: their salvation rests upon God's purpose. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." 2 Tim. 2:19. Our graces are imperfect, our comforts ebb and flow, but God's foundation standeth sure. They who are built upon this rock of God's eternal purpose, need not fear falling away; neither the power of man, nor the violence of temptation, shall ever be able to overturn them.
Watson, T. (1846). A Divine Cordial; The Saint's Spiritual Delight; The Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises (pp. 71–142). The Religious Tract Society.
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