I.Â—What is effectual calling?
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: e.g. Matt 20.16, and 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, i.e. 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.” Psa. 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 er to a call of God, e.g. in thunder and lightning, the sweeping storm, the raging fire, or racking pain; but the enmity will remain, if God goes no farther. 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 calamityÂ—the very first thing he would do after the sense of these had left him, would be to wander back to the pleasures of this life.
It is folly to say, “Nol 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 enter into the kingdom of God.” Ah I 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.
II.Â—Proofs from Scripture and Reason.
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,Â—the called are the glorified. But is every man glorified? Is every man that is called with an external call glorified? Nay, it is only they who are predestinated to this peculiar call, the internal and resistless call, who are glorified.
I would refer you to Ephesians 1.19,20. You will perceive by this scripture that it is by no ordinary operation, or providence of God, that a man believes, but by 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.
Now 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.
Look at Jeremiah 24.7, and 32.38-40; Ezekiel 36.26,27; Psalm 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 lieÂ—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, e.g., “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, &c.” 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;Â—they are God’s absolute promises, with no ifs, no buts, 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 AlmightyÂ—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 such people can be lost!
III. Arguments to prove effectual calling.
1. Calling must be effectual from the nature of God.
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,Â—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 condemns 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.
2. The will of God cannot be dependent upon the will of the creature.
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 man, to poor Darius, who though he set his heart on Daniel to save him, could not!
3. If God needed help, man could give Him none, so God must do the whole work Himself.
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 itÂ—for what concord hath Christ with Belial? 2 Cor. 6.2. Such mixtures are an abomination to the Lord!
IVÂ—I now come to some objections.
OBJECTION.Â—Men are exhorted not to grieve the Holy Spirit, hence it may be inferred they may effectually resist Him.
ANSWER.Â—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 parent.
OBJECTION.Â—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 freewill, and a plea against effectual calling.
ANSWER.Â—”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, &c.?” 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 themÂ—do this or thatÂ—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 cannot 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 threatenings 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 transgressions to abound,” i.e. to make them manifest where they were not manifest, and to make many acts and deeds that were considered righteousness appear in their true coloursÂ—those of sin! (Rom. 3.20; Gal. 3.19; Rom. 5.20.)
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!