'Them he also called' (Rom. 8:30).
Question: What is effectual calling?
Answer: It is a gracious work of the Spirit, whereby he causes us to embrace Christ freely, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
In this verse is the golden chain of salvation, made up of four links, of which one is vocation. 'Them he also called.' Calling is nova creation 'a new creation,' the first resurrection. There is a two-fold call: (1) An outward call: (2) An inward call.
(1) An outward call, which is God's offer of grace to sinners, inviting them to come and accept of Christ and salvation. 'Many are called, but few chosen' (Matt. 20:16). This call shows men what they ought to do in order to salvation, and renders them inexcusable in case of disobedience.
(2) There is an inward call, when God with the offer of grace works grace. By this call the heart is renewed, and the will is effectually drawn to embrace Christ. The outward call brings men to a profession of Christ, the inward to a possession of Christ.
What are the means of this effectual call?
Every creature has a voice to call us. The heavens call to us to behold God's glory (Ps. 19:1). Conscience calls to us. God's judgments call us to repent. 'Hear ye the rod' (Micah 6:9). But every voice does not convert. There are two means of our effectual call:
(1) The 'preaching of the word,' which is the sounding of God's silver trumpet in men's ears. God speaks not by an oracle, he calls by his ministers. Samuel thought it had been the voice of Eli only that called him; but it was God's voice (1 Sam. 3:6). So, perhaps, you think it is only the minister that speaks to you in the word, but it is God himself who speaks. Therefore Christ is said to speak to us from heaven (Heb. 12:25). How does he speak but by his ministers? As a king speaks by his ambassadors. Know, that in every sermon preached, God calls to you; and to refuse the message we bring, is to refuse God himself.
(2) The other means of our effectual call is the Holy Spirit. The ministry of the word is the pipe or organ; the Spirit of God blowing in it, effectually changes men's hearts. 'While Peter spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word of God' (Acts 10:44). Ministers knock at the door of men's hearts, the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door. 'A certain woman named Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened' (Acts 16:14).
From what does God call men?
(1) From sin. He calls them from their ignorance and unbelief (1 Peter 1:14). By nature the understanding is enveloped with darkness. God calls men 'from darkness to light,' as if one should be called out of a dungeon to behold the light of the sun (Eph. 5:8).
(2) From danger. As the angels called Lot out of Sodom, when it was ready to rain fire; so God calls his people from the fire and brimstone of hell, and from all those curses to which they were exposed.
(3) He calls them out of the world; as Christ called Matthew from the receipt of custom. 'They are not of the world' (John 17:16). Such as are divinely called, are not natives here, but pilgrims; they do not conform to the world, or follow its sinful fashions; they are not of the world; though they live here, yet they trade in the heavenly country. The world is a place where Satan's throne is (Rev. 2:13). It is a stage on which sin every day acts its part. Now such as are called are in the world but not of it.
To what does God call men?
(1) He calls them to holiness. 'God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness' (1 Thess. 4:7). Holiness is the livery, or silver star which the godly wear. Knam kodsheca, 'The people of thy holiness' (Is. 63:18). The called of God are anointed with the consecrating oil of the Spirit. 'Ye have an unction from the Holy One' (1 John 2:20).
(2) God calls them to glory, as if a man were called out of a prison to sit upon a throne. 'Who hath called you to his kingdom and glory' (1 Thess. 2:12). Whom God calls he crowns with a weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). The Hebrew word for glory (kabod) signifies pondus, a weight. The weight of glory adds to the worth, the weightier gold is the more it is worth. This glory is not transient, but permanent, an eternal weight; it is better felt than expressed.
What is the cause of the effectual call?
God's electing love. 'Whom he predestinated, them he also called' (Rom. 8:30). Election is the fountain-cause of our vocation. It is not because some are more worthy to partake of the heavenly calling than others, for we were 'all in our blood' (Ezek. 16:6). What worthiness is in us? What worthiness was there in Mary Magdalene, out of whom seven devils were cast? What worthiness in the Corinthians, when God began to call them by his gospel? They were fornicators, effeminate, idolaters. 'Such were some of you, but ye are washed' (1 Cor. 6:2). Before effectual calling, we are not only 'without strength' (Rom. 5:6), but 'enemies' (Col. 1:21). So that the foundation of vocation is election.
What are the qualifications of this call?
(1) It is a powerful call. Verba Dei sunt opera [The words of God are works]. Luther. God puts forth infinite power in calling home a sinner to himself; he not only puts forth his voice but his arm. The apostle speaks of the exceeding greatness of his power, which he exercises towards them that believe (Eph. 1:19). God rides forth conquering in the chariot of his gospel; he conquers the pride of the heart, and makes the will, which stood out as a fort-royal, to yield and stoop to his grace; he makes the stony heart bleed. Oh, it is a mighty call! Why then do the Arminians seem to talk of a moral persuasion, that God in the conversion of a sinner only morally persuades and no more; sets his promises before men to allure them to good, and his threatenings to deter them from evil; and that is all he does? But surely moral persuasions alone are insufficient to the effectual call. How can the bare proposal of promises and threatenings convert a soul? This amounts not to a new creation, or that power which raised Christ from the dead. God not only persuades, but enables (Ezek. 36:27). If God, in conversion, should only morally persuade, that is, set good and evil before men, then he does not put forth so much power in saving men as the devil does in destroying them. Satan not only propounds tempting objects to men, but concurs with his temptations: therefore he is said to 'work in the children of disobedience' (Eph. 2:2). The Greek word, to work, signifies imperii vim, Camerarius, the power Satan has in carrying men to sin. And shall not God's power in converting be greater than Satan's power in seducing? The effectual call is mighty and powerful. God puts forth a divine energy, nay, a kind of omnipotence; it is such a powerful call, that the will of man has no power effectually to resist.
(2) 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, (i) Because we are called to high exercises of religion; to be crucified to the world, to live by faith, to do angels' work, to love God, to be living organs of his praise, to hold communion with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3).
(ii) It is a high calling, because we are called to high privileges; to justification and adoption, to be kings and priests unto God. We are called to the fellowship of angels, to be co-heirs with Christ (Heb. 12:22; Rom. 8:17). They who are effectually called are candidates for heaven, they are princes in all lands, though princes in disguise (Ps. 45:16).
(3) It is an immutable call. 'The gifts and calling of God are without repentance' (Rom. 11:29); that is, those gifts that flow from election (as vocation and justification) are without repentance. God repented he called Saul to be a king; but he never repents of calling a sinner to be a saint.
Use one: See the necessity of the effectual call. A man cannot go to heaven without it. First, we must be called before we are glorified (Rom. 8:30). A man uncalled can lay claim to nothing in the Bible but threatenings: a man in the state of nature is not fit for heaven, no more than a man in his faith and his rags is fit to come into a king's presence. A man in his natural state is a God-hater, and is he fit for heaven (Rom. 1:30)? Will God lay his enemy in his bosom?
Use two: Of trial whether we are effectually called. This we may know by its antecedent and consequent.
(1) By the antecedent. Before this effectual call, a humbling work passes upon the soul. A man is convinced of sin, he sees he is a sinner and nothing but a sinner; the fallow ground of his heart is broken up (Jer. 4:3). As the husbandman breaks the clods, then casts in the seed; so God, by the convincing work of the law, breaks a sinner's heart, and makes it fit to receive the seeds of grace. Such as were never convinced are never called. 'He shall convince the world of sin' (John 16:8). Conviction is the first step in conversion.
(2) By the consequents, which are two. (i) He who is savingly called answers to God's call. When God called Samuel, he answered, 'Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth' (1 Sam. 3:10). When God calls thee to an act of religion, dost thou run at God's call? 'I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision' (Acts 26:19). If God calls to duties contrary to flesh and blood, we obey his voice in everything; true obedience is like the needle, which points that way which the loadstone draws. Such as are deaf to God's call show they are not called by grace. (ii) He who is effectually called stops his ears to all other calls which would call him off from God. As God has his call, so there are other contrary calls. Satan calls by a temptation, lust calls, evil company calls; but as the adder stops its ear against the voice of the charmer, so he who is effectually called stops his ear against all the charms of the flesh and the devil.
Use three: Of comfort to those who are the called of God. This call evidences election. 'Whom he predestinated, them he also called' (Rom. 8:30). Election is the cause of our vocation, and vocation is the sign of our election. Election is the first link of the golden chain of salvation, vocation is the second. He who has the second link of the chain is sure of the first. As by the stream we are led to the fountain, so by vocation we ascend to election. Calling is an earnest and pledge of glory. 'God hath chosen you to salvation, through sanctification' (2 Thess. 2:13). We may read God's predestinating love in the work of grace in our heart.
Use four: Let such as are called be thankful to God for that unspeakable blessing. Be thankful to all the persons in the Trinity, to the Father's mercy, to the Son's merit, to the Spirit's efficacy. To make you thankful, consider, when you had offended God, he called you; when God needed you not, but had millions of glorified saints and angels to praise him, he called you. Consider what you were before God called you. You were in your sins. When God called Paul, he found him persecuting; when he called Matthew, he found him at the receipt of custom; when he called Zacchaeus, he found him using extortion. When God calls a man by his grace, he finds him seeking after his lusts; as when Saul was called to the kingdom, he was seeking the asses. That God should call thee when thou wast in the hot pursuit of sin, admire his love, exalt his praise. Again, that God should call you, and pass by others, what mercy is this! 'Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight' (Matt. 11:26). That God should pass by wise and noble persons, of sweeter disposition, acuter parts, guilty of less vice, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon you--oh astonishing love of God! It was a great favour to Samuel that God called to him, and revealed his mind to him, and passed by Eli, though a priest and a judge in Israel (1 Sam. 3:6); so, that God should call to thee, a flagitious sinner, and pass by others of higher birth and better morals, calls aloud for praise. As God so governs the clouds, that he makes them rain upon one place, and not upon another; so at a sermon the Lord opens the heart of one, and another is no more affected with it than a deaf man with the sound of music. Here is the banner of free grace displayed, and here should the trophies of praise be erected. Elijah and Elisha were walking together; on a sudden there came a chariot of fire, and carried Elijah up to heaven, but left Elisha behind; so, when two are walking together, husband and wife, father and child, that God should call one by his grace, but leave the other, carry up one in a triumphant chariot to heaven, but let the other perish eternally--oh infinite rich grace! How should they that are called be affected with God's discriminating love! How should the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness! How should they stand upon Mount Gerizim, blessing and praising God! Oh begin the work of heaven here! Such as are patterns of mercy should be trumpeters of praise. Thus Paul being called of God, and seeing what a debtor he was to free grace, breaks forth into admiration and gratitude (1 Tim. 1:12).
Use five: To the called. Walk worthy of your high calling. 'I beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called' (Eph. 4:1); in two things.
(1) Walk compassionately. Pity such as are yet uncalled. Hast thou a child that God has not yet called, a wife, a servant? Weep over their souls; they are in their blood, 'under the power of Satan.' Oh pity them! Let their sins more trouble you than your own sufferings. If you pity an ox or ass going astray, will you not pity a soul going astray? Show your piety by your pity.
(2) Walk holy. Yours is a holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9). You are called to be saints (Rom. 1:7). Show your vocation by a Bible conversation. Shall not flowers smell sweeter than weeds? Shall not they who are ennobled with grace have more fragrance in their lives than sinners? 'As he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation' (1 Peter 1:15). Oh dishonour not your high calling by any sordid carriage! When Antigonus was going to defile himself with women, one told him, 'he was a king's son.' Oh remember your dignity; 'called of God!' of the blood-royal of heaven. Do nothing unworthy of your honourable calling. Scipio refused the embraces of an harlot, because he was general of an army. Abhor all motions to sin, because of your high calling. It is not fit for those who are the called of God, to do as others; though others of the Jews did drink wine, it was not fit for the Nazarite, because he had a vow of separation upon him, and had promised abstinence. Though Pagans and nominal Christians take liberty to sin, yet it is not fit for those who are called out of the world, and have the mark of election upon them, to do so. Ye are consecrated persons, your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and your bodies must be a sacristy, or holy of holies.