Some have complained of my great warmth in advocating the doctrines of grace; but it is unavoidable--it is necessary. For first, when a man is in earnest, and honest, he cannot help being warm; and secondly, a "preacher must ever bear in mind that his auditory is not only to be instructed and admonished, but terrified," as Luther has remarked.
Preaching, to be effectual, as far as means go, must be searching; it must not be "daubing with untempered mortar"--it must wound.
"I have known Dame Nature," says an old divine, "run for it, under faithful preaching, whilst a poor sensible sinner has been broken down and melted under it."
The poor ranter, though a mistaken fanatic, is a respectable character in comparison with him who professes to be an ambassador of Christ's, and yet is never moved to warmth in expounding his Master's Word, and in protesting against error.
I know that the feeling of many is that I am too precise in doctrine, too speculative, and too narrow in my views. "Let us be more expansive, more charitable, more catholic; let us have the Word, without 'Election,' 'Particular Redemption,' etc," say some. My answer is, I am most thoroughly for expansiveness--charity--catholicity: but I have yet to learn how the Word can be preached without continually, invariably, and unmistakably holding up to view its peculiar features. You might as well ask me to paint a landscape without trees, water, hills, sky, fields, etc, as ask me to "preach the gospel without electing love or predestinating grace." These are, as it were, the energies of the gospel; they are the revelations of Christ's counsel with the Father and the Holy Spirit--the titles of His glorious victories over death, hell, and the grave--the heirlooms left to His family, the contemplation of which was to cheer and comfort them amidst the suffering entailed upon them throughout their earthly pilgrimage.
"Preach the gospel without these?"
Impossible! And he that will attempt it, will find to his cost, that he has run when none has sent him!
But to come to our more immediate subject, effectual calling. I would first describe what it is, and show its indispensableness; secondly, prove my position by Scripture and argument; thirdly, notice objections.
The term "call," or "calling," or "Called," is used in the Scriptures in two chief senses, the one denoting an external call, the other an internal: (Matt. 20:16; Rom. 8:30) The one is sufficient to render man without excuse, yet insufficient for salvation, (Acts 17:27) it is made by nature, or conscience, or the Word; the other is made by the Holy Spirit efficaciously influencing the heart. The one is the result of generation, if I may so speak, the other of creation. By the one a man is induced to say to himself, "I ought to do this," "I ought not to do that," but there it leaves him; by the other a man is enabled to do what the Lord commands, and not to do what the Lord forbids, by flinging himself upon Christ.
They are as different from one another as your or my birth, by the medium of our parents, was from the creation of Adam. By the one, man followed the course of nature; by the other, God commanded and it was done!
Effectual calling is the result of the operation of the Spirit of God, whereby we are convinced of the sinfulness of sin, as sin, and of guilt and wrath; whereby our understandings are enlightened in the knowledge of Christ, our will bowed, and our heart inclined to embrace Christ as our Saviour, and obey Him as our Lord and King.
Effectual calling is resistless calling, a calling which, though resisted in the first instance, cannot finally be resisted. It is a calling from self and earth, to God and Christ and heaven; from sin and vanity, to grace and holiness. In short, effectual calling is that invitation by God to the elect sinner which results in conversion, and terminates in glorification. It is of this the apostle speaks in our text. It is no mere solicitation, but an act of MIGHTY POWER; yet wrought in such a manner as not to do violence to the will, and in many instances hardly apparent, until the thing is done. "God does not drag along the unwilling by the head and shoulders, but makes them willing." (Ps. 110:3; Phil. 2:13)
So far for the definition. Now for the indispensableness of effectual calling.
If you can subscribe to what has been laid before you in connection with the fall of man, you must see this in a moment.
Your common sense must tell you that if a man is so fallen as to be at enmity with God, his enmity must be removed before he will listen to God's call.
Man at enmity may be forced to give ear to a call of God, in thunder and lightning, the sweeping storm, the raging fire, or racking pain; but the enmity will remain, if God goes no further. God at best would be an object of terror, not of love; but eternity without love would be but the tedium of hell! Take a mere externally called man to heaven through pain, sickness, poverty, or calamity--the very first thing he would do after the sense of these had left him, would be to wander back for the pleasures of this life.
It is folly to say, "No! he would be so enraptured with God and heaven that he would wonder why he had thought so much of earth," for his nature is the same as ever, he is unchanged, and "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Ah! be assured, heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Is there not, then, an indispensableness for effectual calling?
Let us now proceed to examine the Scriptures.
Our text, Rom. 8:30, is clearly upon our side: for mark the connection. The "calling" here is the connecting link of a chain stretching from eternity to eternity. The "called" are the foreknown or the predestinated,--the called are the glorified. But is every man glorified? Is every man that is called glorified? Nay, it is only they who are predestinated to this peculiar call, the internal and resistless call, who are glorified.
A vain and dishonest attempt has often been made to get rid of this passage by saying that the calling and predestination spoken of here are simply a desire on the part of God that men should be conformed to the image of His Son, but by no means guarantees the conformity of any. An honest and reflecting mind is astonished and disgusted at the impudence or ignorance of such deceitful handling of the Word of God as this. How the devil will twist and turn to avoid the arrows of God and the flaming Sword of the Spirit! Anything but predestination for proud, inflated, yet fallen man! The most arrant nonsense, the veriest trash, the most insane rhapsody, and the very gambols of a mountebank, will all be tolerated by poor deluded man; but God's word in its awfulness, and grandeur, and dignity, and majesty, and glory, will be scouted and abhorred by him until he is changed!
O man! Art thou not fallen?
But to the refutation of this flimsy sophistry.
If God were to content Himself with these desires or commands, no man could be saved: for as all men are ruinously fallen, and at enmity with God, no man could conform himself to the image of Christ. In case, then, of any man being thus conformed, he must have had extraordinary help. It is folly to say, "All men have this extraordinary help;" for if they have, why are they not all conformed to the image of Christ? Perhaps it will be said, "Because all men do not use their help." This, again, is rank folly: for what power has one man more than another "to use his help?"
But those spoken of in the text are they whom God predestinated, determined, fixed, ordained beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son. Is there anything like mere desire without efficacious call here? Any mere wishing without settled purpose, or prearrangement in all details? I trow not. It is those, then, whom God has marked out as His chosen vessels of mercy, that are to be conformed to the image of His Son. It is those that are "called" with an effectual call in time, and "glorified" in eternity.
I would refer you to Ephesians 1:19,20. You will perceive by this scripture that it is by no ordinary operation, that a man believes, but by the THE WORKING OF HIS MIGHTY POWER, the same power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. Did God's act prove a failure at the resurrection of Christ? If not, it cannot but effect a similar result upon every individual on whom it is put forth, whether in a physical or a spiritual resurrection.
Pray look into John 6:37.
On this passage it is only necessary to remark that the word "come" means the same as "believe" or "receive" (as the context clearly shows) and that this believing has attached to it the possession of everlasting life (compare the 40th and 47th verses with the passage.) Those given to Christ, then, shall believe on Him unto everlasting life. It must, then, be by an effectual calling; for if it were a calling, or solicitation, or invitation, or exhortation, left to the sway or caprice of the human will, a will that is fallen and depraved, or to a will assisted by the Spirit of God in some measure, which assistance might or might not prove efficacious, how could Christ say, "they shall come, or believe, unto everlasting life?" If there were no other text and context than this in the entire Bible to prove effectual calling, we might undertake to conquer all opponents as far as logical argument goes.
Read John 10:16. Mark here, this "must" imports a duty not to be dispensed with. Christ had received a commandment from the Father (verse 18) and this "shall" is that effectual working whereby He subdues all things to Himself. "The sheep, of themselves, lie as cross to this work as other men. 'What have I to do with Thee?' cries the possessed Gadarene; (Mark 5:7) but being a sheep of Christ, he must come he must be made willing."*From Elisha Coles on the Sovereignty of God.
Look at Jeremiah 24:7, and 32:38-40; Ezekiel 36:26,27; Ps. 110:3)
Now, I ask, if God will give a new heart, must we not have it? If God will take away the resisting principle, must we not let it go? If not, we change God's truth into a lie--His omnipotence into weakness, and His glory into the idol of man's free will.
Some, no doubt, would interpret such passages as conditional offers of God to men, "I will give you a heart of flesh, I will take away your heart of stone, if you are not unwilling, or if you have no objection, or if you ask Me." But what outrageous mockery is this! what tampering with God's truth, what impertinent obtrusion of wretched man's amendments and suggestions is here! Can a heart of stone ask or pray to God? Can a heart that is enmity against God be willing for God to improve it? Can the devil love? or can man who, by nature, is worse than a devil (James 2:19) be willing for God to work holiness in him? No! most assuredly no!
But in the passages we have just quoted there is a declaration or promise of God, by His mighty power, to do that for poor man which he cannot do for himself;--they are God's absolute promises, with no ifs, no perhapses, no peradventures, no conditions whatever attached to them, but sheer dead lifts to the poor lost and undone sinners given to Christ from all eternity! "I will, and they shall," is language that needs no explanation to any but professors "dead in trespasses and sins." "I will work, and who shall let it?" says the Lord Almighty--Isa. 43:13; and if God has declared of any people under heaven, "they shall not depart from Me," we defy all the Arminians in the world to show us how that people can be lost!
Now for a few arguments to prove effectual calling.
Whatever God does He must be supposed to have before determined to do, otherwise He would be deficient in wisdom; and whatever God determined to do He must accomplish, otherwise He would be deficient in power. It is not possible, as has been observed already, that God should by His mighty concurrence influence any creature to act, and yet that creature suspend its acting,--hence we argue that nothing can resist God when He comes to convert a soul.
Some will say, "But the Jews resisted the Holy Spirit." To whom I reply, you must first prove that God wanted to convert them, ere your objection can be entertained. Every man who hears the gospel preached, and remains unchanged, may be said to resist God (but this is evidently speaking after the manner of men,) for he contemns God's Word; but this by no means proves that man can resist the mighty power of God when put forth with the purpose of converting him. For as God works in all, without exception (Acts 17:28) and yet few are converted, it follows that as all are equally fallen, those who are converted must have had other than the ordinary power of God applied to them.
If God does not effectually call, He must be supposed as saying, "I will that all men should be saved, nevertheless, it must finally be, not as I will but as they will!" This is, in fact, to take away the will of God, for He can have no absolute will if it is possible to frustrate it.
If God does not effectually call, then Jehovah's Election, Christ's Redemption, and the Holy Spirit's Sanctification, may all miscarry! which is horrid blasphemy to suppose.
O what folly and impertinence it is to liken God in His will to save men, to poor Darius, who though he set his heart of Daniel to save him could not!
The natural man is "without strength;" and even if we should suppose the flesh able in any respect to give assistance, the Holy Spirit would none of it--for what concord hath Christ with Belial? (2 Cor. 6:2) Such mixtures are an abomination to the Lord!
The miracles and sermons of Christ Himself produced no lasting effect upon the majority of those who saw and heard them. Neither prosperity nor adversity, neither sacraments nor judgments, produce any change upon the vast mass of the professing world; we see this with our eyes; it is palpable and patent to every man of common observation. See what different effect the reading of the Scriptures, or the hearing of the Word, has upon some in comparison with others! And what can be the reason? It is an insult to one's understanding to say, because the one will, and the other will not hearken, and take it to heart, and improve his opportunity; for it is proved to a demonstration that all are alike fallen, and at enmity with God by nature,--how then can one child of wrath, with a heart of stone, without strength, an enemy of God, receive, and another not receive, the gospel? Why common sense, even, answers, because of some extraneous influence upon one that has been withheld from the other.--Yes, it is GOD that makes the difference.
OBJECTION.--God is often represented as complaining of the unwillingness of people to be converted; and Christ is represented in a like manner, and hence it may be argued that grace may be effectually resisted.
ANSWER.--You must first get rid of all that has been scripturally and logically advanced, ere this objection can have any weight. But it by no means follows because God and Christ complain, that They have been disappointed or frustrated in Their design. It is highly absurd to suppose God, or Christ as God, to complain at all. God is essentially happy. It matters not to His happiness whether all men are lost or saved. But we are to suppose in those figures of speech that God and Christ are speaking of the wicked hardening themselves against the external call in the ministry of the Word.
OBJECTION.--Men are exhorted not to grieve the Holy Spirit, hence it may be inferred they may effectually resist.
ANSWER.--This by no means follows. Men "grieve" the Spirit when they resist His Word preached by His ministers. The saints themselves "grieve" the Spirit by their occasional indulgence of the flesh and of the mind; but this no more militates against effectual calling, than the occasional follies of a child nullify the yearning affection of a doting parent.
OBJECTION.--There are many passages in the Bible such as "if thou wilt," "if thou wilt hearken," "if thou wilt do it, thou shalt," from which we may infer there is a plea for free will, and a plea against effectual calling.
ANSWER.--"A conditional assertion or observation asserts nothing." It by no means follows that because God commands, or because God proposes, man is able to obey or to do. But it will be objected: But would it not be ridiculous to say to a blind man, "If thou wilt see;" or to a deaf man, "If thou wilt hear, thou shalt?" To which I reply in the words of Martin Luther, this is nothing but carnal reasoning, and seems to aver thus: because the nature of words, and the common use of speech among men seem to lead to such conclusions, therefore when God speaks He is to be interpreted after a like fashion. But do men never use the phrase, "if thou wilt," "if thou shalt," in any other sense than the ordinary? Yea. How often do parents play with their children when they bid them come to them--do this or that--for the purpose of showing them their inability, and to induce them to call for the aid of the parent's hand?
Now, it is in this sense that God speaks both to the world and to His people with His "ifs" and His proposals, such as, "Behold, this day do I set before thee the way of life and the way of death." The world thinks when God uses such language that of course it follows power must be in man, and like the self-conceited lawyer in the gospel, to whom Christ said, "Do this, and thou shalt live," goes away with the idea that it can and may live by its works and deeds; whereas, on the other hand, the people of God when they hear such language, and are taught of God, know they cannot do this or that to inherit eternal life, and so cry out to their Father to undertake for them.
The apostle Paul replies to all objections of this kind in one sentence, "By the law is the knowledge of sin," which I may simplify thus. The command, "Do this, do that," and the offer, "If thou wilt do this, thou shalt live, are nothing but the Law of God to test man, and to show unto him his weakness and impotence. Now man by nature is blind and corrupt, yet he is full of self-conceit; to remedy this, God employs those means of "do this," "do that," "if thou wilt," to make it manifest who continue fools, and who are willing to be wise. The fool takes it for granted that because God commands, he is able to obey! The wise sees he cannot, and cries out for help, and so acknowledges his ruin. In short, in all such passages, man is admonished and taught what he ought to do, not what he can do; and woe be to him who is so blind as not to see thus far, for till he sees thus, he can not understand the use of Christ!
Ay, it is a never-ending question with free willers, "If we can do nothing, to what purpose are so many laws and precepts, so many threatnings and promises?"
We reply to all such, "By the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:20) "The law entered that sin might abound." (Rom. 5:20) This is the answer of inspiration: how different to that of carnal reason! Reason would answer thus: "The law is given that we obey it, and show our diligence and strength, and free-will-power, and that we may co-operate with it unto righteousness. But what does God say? This, "The law was given to prove man's impotency, to give him a knowledge of his sin; it was added because of transgressions, not to restrain them either, but to cause transgression to abound," to make them manifest where they were not manifest, and to make many acts and deeds that were considered righteousness appear in their true colors--those of sin! (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19; Rom. 5:20)
Here are thunderbolts against free will, self-righteousness, and co-operation!
Wretched man! get thee to thy place! put thy hand upon thy mouth, and thy mouth in the dust, and let us hear no more of ineffectual or tentative calling or salvation! Those who are called of God are "the called according to His purpose," are the privileged and blessed subjects of His MIGHTY POWER, AND MUST BE SAVED WITH AN EVERLASTING SALVATION!