A Divine Cordial
by Thomas Watson, 1663
"And we know that all things work together for good to
those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
The second qualification of the people to whom this
privilege in the text belongs, is—they are the called by God. "All
things work for good to those who are called." Though this
word called is placed in order after loving of God—yet in reality, 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 (Romans 8:30) 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
1. A DISTINCTION about calling. There is a
(1.) There is an OUTWARD call,
which is nothing else but God's blessed offer of grace in the gospel, His
parleying with sinners, when He invites them to come in and accept of mercy.
Of this our Savior speaks: "Many are called—but few chosen" (Matt. 20:16).
This external call is insufficient to salvation—yet sufficient to leave men
(2.) There is an inward call, when God
wonderfully overpowers the heart, and draws the will to
embrace Christ. This is 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
2. Our deplorable CONDITION before we are called.
(1.) We are in a state of BONDAGE. Before God
calls a man, he is the devil's slave. If he says, "Go!" —the man goes. The
deluded sinner is like the slave who digs in the mine, hews in the quarry,
or tugs at the oar. He is at the command of Satan, as the donkey is at the
command of the driver.
(2.) We are in a state of DARKNESS. "You were
once 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. Just 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" (Romans 5:6). We had 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, "You do always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:51).
Besides indisposition to holiness, there is opposition to
(4.) We are in a state of POLLUTION. "I saw
you polluted in your blood" (Ezek. 16:6). The mind coins only earthly
thoughts; the heart is the devil's forge, where the sparks of lust fly.
(5.) We are in a state of DAMNATION. We are
born under a curse. The wrath of God abides 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 engulfed.
3. The MEANS of our effectual call. The
ordinary means which the Lord uses in calling us, is not by raptures and
(1.) By His WORD, which is "the rod of his
strength" (Psalm 105:2). 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 cause of our conversion. The ministers of God are only the
pipes and organs; it is the Spirit blowing in them, which effectually
changes the heart. "While Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who
heard the word" (Acts 10:44). It is not the farmer's industry in ploughing
and sowing, which will make the ground fruitful, without the early and
latter rain. Just so, it is not the seed of the Word that will effectually
convert, unless the Spirit puts 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 knocks at a gate of brass, it will not open; but if he
comes with a key in his hand, it will open. Just so, when God, who has the
key of David in His hand (Rev. 3:7) comes, He opens the heart, though it be
ever so fast locked against Him.
4. 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, often do not know how or when they were called. The Lord did
secretly and gradually instill grace into their hearts, as the
dew falls unnoticed. They know by the heavenly effects that they
are called—but the time or manner they know not. The hand
moves on the clock—but they do not perceive 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 is more visible than the other—yet is not more real. God's
method in calling sinners may vary—but the effect is still the
5. The PROPERTIES of this effectual calling.
(1.) This call 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. "Your
people shall be willing in the day of your power" (Psalm 110:3). After this
call there are no more disputes, the soul readily obeys God's call—as when
Christ called Zacchaeus, he joyfully welcomed Him into his heart and house.
(2.) This call is a HOLY call. "Who has 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. Just
so, those 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 Spirit; and shall they not be holy? Holiness is the
badge and livery of God's people. "The people of your 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, "God
has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives" (1 Thess. 4:7).
Let not any man say he is called by God—who lives in sin.
Has God called you 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 carcass 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
(3.) This call 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 says, "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 has
resisted his will?" (Romans 9:19). God bends the iron sinew, and cuts
asunder the gates of brass (Psalm 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. The man that before was as a
raging sea of sin, foaming forth wickedness; now he suddenly flies back and
trembles, he falls down as the jailer, "What shall I do to he saved?" (Acts
16:30). What has happened this man? The Lord has effectually called him. God
has been working powerfully by grace, and now his stubborn heart is
conquered by a sweet violence.
(4.) This call 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
piety—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 who is effectually called, is higher than
any of the kings of the earth.
(5.) This call is a GRACIOUS call. It is the
fruit and product of free grace. That God should call some, and not others;
that some should be taken, and others left; that one should be called who is
of a more wicked disposition, while another of a sweeter temper, is
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 your
sight" (Matt. 11:26). That under the same sermon one should be effectually
wrought upon—while another is no more moved than a dead man with the sound
of music; that one should hear the Spirit's voice in the Word—while another
does not hear it; that one should be softened and moistened with the
influence of heaven—while another, like Gideon's dry fleece, has no dew upon
him; behold here distinguishing, sovereign grace! The same affliction which
converts one—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 unsavory. What is the cause of
this—but the free grace of God! It is a gracious calling; it is all enameled
and interwoven with free grace! "Brothers, think of what you were when you
were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were
influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to
shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised
things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that
no one may boast before Him." 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
(6.) This call is a GLORIOUS call. "In his
kindness God called you to his eternal glory." (1 Peter 5:10). We are
called to the enjoyment of the ever blessed God. It is as if a man were
called out of a prison to sit upon a throne. 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
Honor; and no man could go to the temple of honor—but through the temple of
virtue. Just 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, compared to the weight of eternal
glory? Is there not great reason we should follow God's call? He calls to
eternal glory; can there be any loss or harm 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 heavenly kingdom! Oh, how should we then, with Bartimeus, throw off our
ragged coat of sin, and follow Christ when He calls!
(7.) This call 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. "You have a few names in Sardis who
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 that looks like faith, which is not. The Cyprian
diamond sparkles like the true diamond—but it is not of the right kind,
it will break with the hammer. Just so, the hypocrite's faith will break
with the hammer of persecution. But few are truly called. The number of
precious stones is few, compared 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 labor to be in the number of those few
whom God has translated into a state of grace.
(8.) This call is an UNCHANGEABLE call. "God's
gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). That is, as a
learned writer says, 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 favorites, 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 unchangeable and unalterable.
6. The END of our effectual calling is the honor of God.
"That we should be to the praise of his glory" (Ephes. 1:12). He who is in
the state of nature, is no more fit to honor God, than a brute beast can put
forth acts of reason. A man before conversion continually reflects dishonor
upon God. As black vapors which arise out of moorish grounds, cloud and
darken the sun, so out of the natural man's heart arise black vapors 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. Those 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 fit for
the inheritance" (Col. 1:12). As God makes heaven fit for us, so He makes us
fit for heaven; and what gives this fitness—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 do not mind the evidences of their effectual
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 who has 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 asleep; 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
Answer. To this I answer, Every man is by sin bound in
fetters. "I perceive that you are in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 7:23). 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
Use. An exhortation to make your calling sure.
"Give diligence to make your calling sure" (2 Peter
1:10). This is the great business of our lives—to get sound evidences of our
effectual calling. Do not acquiesce in outward privileges, do not cry
as the Jews, "The temple of the Lord!" (Jer. 7:4). Do not rest in baptism;
what is it to have the water—and lack the Spirit? Do not be
content that Christ has been preached to you. Do not satisfy yourselves with
an empty profession; all this may be, and yet you are no better than empty
professors. But labor to evidence to your souls that you are called of God.
Give diligence to make your calling sure—it is both feasible and probable.
God is not lacking to those 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
If you are not effectually called, you are strangers
to God. The prodigal went into a far country (Luke 14:13), which implies
that every sinner, before conversion, is afar off from God. "At that time
you 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
to God. "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. "Bring here these
enemies of mine, who did not want me to rule over them, and slaughter
them in my presence!" (Luke 19:27). Oh, how it should concern you therefore
to make your calling sure! How miserable and damnable will your condition
be, if death calls you before the Spirit calls you!
Question. But is there any hope of my being effectually
called? I have been a great sinner.
Answer. Great sinners have been called. Paul was a
violent 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?
1. He who is savingly called is called out of himself,
not only out of sinful self—but out of righteous self.
"Not having my own righteousness" (Phil. 3:9). He whose heart God has
touched by His Spirit, lays down the idol of self-righteousness at
Christ's feet, for Him to tread upon. The true Christian denies not only
sinful self—but righteous self. He becomes moral and pious--but
he does not trust to his morality or piety. Noah's dove made use of her
wings to fly—but trusted to the ark for safety. This is to be
effectually called—when a man is called out of himself. Self-renunciation is
the first step to saving faith.
2. He who is effectually called—has a great 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 has 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! "Do you not know that the wicked will not
inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral
nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will
inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were! But
you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Grace changes the heart!
In effectual calling there is a three-fold change
(1). There is a change wrought in the UNDERSTANDING.
Before, there was ignorance—but now there is light, "Now you 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
says with that man in the gospel: "I once was blind—but now I see!" (John
9:25). He sees 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 marvelous light. "That you should show forth the praises of
Him who has called you into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). It is a
marvelous light in six respects.
(1.) Because it is supernaturally conveyed. It does not
come from the celestial orbs where the planets are—but from the Sun of
(2.) It is marvelous 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 marvelous light, because it is more
penetrating. Other light may shine upon the face—but this light shines into
the heart, and enlightens the conscience (2 Cor. 4:6).
(4.) It is a marvelous light, because it sets those who
have it a marveling. They marvel at themselves, 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 their previous hatred and
opposition this light—yet it should shine in their souls. This is what the
saints will stand wondering at to all eternity.
(5.) It is a marvelous light, because it is more vital
than any others. 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" (John7:12).
(6.) It is a marvelous light, because it is the beginning
of everlasting light. The light of grace is the morning star which ushers in
the sunlight of glory.
Now then, reader, can you say that this marvelous light
of the Spirit has dawned upon you? When you were enveloped in ignorance, and
neither knew God nor yourself—did suddenly a light from heaven shined in
your mind? This is one part of that blessed change which is wrought in the
(2). There is a change wrought in the WILL.
"To will is present with me" (Romans 8:18). The will, which before opposed
Christ, now embraces Him. The will, which was an iron sinew against Christ,
is now like melting wax—it readily receives the stamp and impression of the
Holy Spirit. The will moves heavenward, 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 will you 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 CONDUCT. 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 he walks in humility. The current is carried quite another way. As
in the heart there is a new birth, so in the life a new conduct. Thus we see
what a mighty change is wrought, in all who are called by God.
How far are they from this effectual call, who never had
any change! They are the same as they were forty or fifty years ago—as proud
and carnal as ever! They have seen many changes in their times—but they have
had no change in their heart. Let not men think to leap out of the harlot's
lap (the world) into Abraham's bosom! They must either have a gracious
change while they live—or a cursed change when they die!
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone,
the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
3. 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 honor to be a Christian,
than to be an emperor. A carnal person can no more value spiritual blessings
than an infant can value a diamond necklace. He prefers his worldly
grandeur, his ease, plenty, and titles of honor, before conversion. He had
rather be called duke than saint—this is 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 choicest
blessing. When he has taken this degree, he is a candidate for heaven.
4. He who is effectually called—is called out of the
world. It is a "heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1). He who 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 luster is from the
influence of the heavens. So it is with a godly man—though his body is 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
5. Another sign of our effectual calling—is diligence in
our ordinary calling. Some boast of their high calling—but they
lie idly at anchor. True religion does not give warrant 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, after searching you find that you are effectually
called, I have three exhortations to you.
1. 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 saving mercy. There are none so deep in debt to free grace—as you are;
and none should be so high mounted upon the pinnacle of thanksgiving. Say as
the sweet singer; "I will extol you, O God my King, every day will I bless
you, and I will praise your name forever!" (Psalm 145:1, 2). Those who are
monuments 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!
2. 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! What if death should cast them in! O pity unconverted sinners. If you
pity an ox or an donkey going astray, will you not pity a soul going astray
from God, who has lost his way and his wits, and is upon the precipice of
Nay, not only pity sinners—but pray for
them. Though they curse you—you must pray for them. You will pray for people
who are demented; sinners are demented. "When he came to his senses" (Luke
15:17). It seems the prodigal before conversion, was in his senses. Wicked
men are going to execution; sin is the halter which strangles them; death
removes them off the ladder; and hell is their burning place! Will you not
pray for them, when you see them in such danger?
3. You who are effectually called, honor your high
calling. "I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling" (Ephes.
4:1). Christians must keep a decorum, they must observe what is lovely. 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 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
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
2. To walk worthy of our calling is to walk SINGULARLY.
"Among all the people of the earth, I consider you alone to be
righteous." (Genesis 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. Melanchthon 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 people of the world.
3. To walk worthy of our calling is to walk CHEERFULLY.
"Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4). Too much drooping of spirit
disparages our high calling, and makes others suspect a godly life to be
melancholy. Christ loves to see us rejoicing in Him. Causinus 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. True
religion does not banish 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 Himself is their portion, and heaven is their
mansion—and shall they not rejoice?
4. To walk worthy of our calling is to walk WISELY.
Walking wisely implies three things.
(a) To walk WATCHFULLY. "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 unfitting, 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.
(b) To walk COURTEOUSLY. The spirit of the
gospel is full of meekness and politeness. "Be courteous" (1 Pet. 3:8). Take
heed of a morose, or haughty behavior. 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. Paul was of an affable temper. "I am made
all things to men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor. 9:22). In
lesser matters the apostle yielded to others—that by his winning manner, he
might win upon them.
(c) 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 has right to visit—but He who is the Bishop of our
souls (1 Pet. 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
corresponds with our high calling, and much adorns 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
honor religion. As Mary poured the ointment on Christ, so by good works we
pour 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 Savior we go about doing good, and send
abroad the refreshing influence of our liberality, we walk worthy of our
Here is matter of consolation to you who are effectually
called. God has magnified rich grace toward you. You are called to great
honor to be 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 roars, though the earth is unsettled, though
the stars are shaken out of their places, you need not fear. You are
effectually called—and therefore are sure to be crowned!
Concerning God's purpose
1. God's purpose is the cause of salvation.
The last thing in the text, which I shall but briefly
glance at, is the ground and origin 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 fountainhead of our
spiritual blessings. It is the moving cause of our effectual calling,
justification, and glorification. It is the highest link in the golden chain
of salvation. What is the reason that one man is effectually called, and not
another? It is from the eternal purpose of God! God's decree gives the
casting vote 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 against
church sacrilege, they are in the meantime 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 evidences of salvation are in the saints—but the cause of
salvation is in God.
If it is God's purpose which saves—then it is not free
will. Pelagians are strenuous asserters of free will. They tell us that
a man has 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 who wills" (Romans 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 is God's purpose which saves—then it is not
merit. Bellarmine holds that good works do expiate sin and merit glory;
but the text says that we are called according to God's purpose, and there
is a parallel Scripture, "Who has 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 fudge, 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
Reply. To this I answer, God gives a reward as a just
Judge, not to the worthiness of our works—but to the worthiness of Christ.
God as a just Judge rewards us, not because we have deserved it—but because
He has promised it. God has 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 is the spring-head of
happiness, then we are not saved for foreseen faith. It is
absurd to think anything in us could have the least influence upon our
election. Some say that God foresaw that such people would believe—and
therefore choose them. Just so, they would make the business of salvation to
depend upon something within us. Whereas God does not choose us for
faith—but to faith. "He has chosen us—that we should be holy" (Eph.
1:4), not because we were holy—but that we might be holy. We are elected to
holiness, not for any inherent holiness. What could God foresee in us—but
pollution and rebellion! If any man be saved, it is according to God's
Question. How shall we know that God has a purpose to
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 has 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. Though I cannot 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. Whoever finds the word of God transcribed and copied out
into his heart, may undeniably conclude his election.
2. God's purpose is the ground of assurance.
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 stands sure, having this seal. The Lord knows those
who are his. Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity"
(2 Tim. 2:19). Our graces are imperfect, our comforts ebb and
flow—but God's foundation stands 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!