Effectual Calling

Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:30

And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:30

And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And he gave them right standing with himself, and he promised them his glory. Romans 8:30

The truth of God must necessarily be a perfect whole, a chain of doctrines in which not a single link is lacking to connect together the different parts binding and weaving them into a beautiful and harmonious system. To a mind not thoroughly skilled in the deep things of God, this chain may appear broken and incomplete, because to such an individual there may appear truths which are either irreconcilable or are invisible altogether. But this apparent discrepancy and invisibility of truth forms no real evidence of an actual lack of continuity or harmony, any more than a chain thrown across the channel of a river would be regarded as broken and incomplete simply because some of its links were submerged beneath the stream, or its two extremes were invisible to the eye. A beautiful chain of truth is presented to our view in the present verse. The first and extreme link has already been examined. The second, a sequence from the first, is now to engage our attention; the effectual calling of those who are predestinated.

"Whom he predestinated, them he also CALLED." While we maintain that the calling here referred to is a particular and effectual vocation, we yet as strenuously maintain that there is an external call lying at the door of every individual who hears the Gospel. Recognizing human responsibility, the Gospel meets man as a sinful and accountable being. It lifts up its voice in silver tones, and exclaims, "Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men." When our Lord returned from his grave, he enlarged the commission of his apostles, and placed the call of the Gospel upon a broader basis. "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Thus to every creature the external call of the Gospel is to be addressed. Who will dare to limit and circumscribe what God has made as wide and boundless as man's moral necessity? "Many are called." Oh, it is a real and a solemn call, the call of the Gospel. He who hears it is brought beneath a responsibility the most tremendous. From its obligations nothing can ever release him. For every summons he has had to repent, to lay down his arms, to give up his enmity, to turn to the Lord, to believe in Christ, to escape from the wrath to come, he will be called to an account when all shall appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Dear reader, has the music of this call, breaking so sweetly and so solemnly upon your external ear, penetrated your soul, echoing through the chambers of your heart, and awaking a response of love, surrender, and obedience? Or- solemn conclusion!- or, are you wilfully turning from the sound "like the deaf adder that stops her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming ever so wisely?"

But the call here referred to is the especial call of the Gospel- the secret, effectual call which has found its way to the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. The connection of these two truths- an especial people, and an especial call- is thus conclusively shown- "And that he might make known the riches of his glory in the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he has called." "Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began." "Those who are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Christ Jesus, and called." Honored Church! Happy people! Called to be saints. Oh, to have the Divine testimony that we are among them!

But from what, and into what, are the Lord's people called? The Apostle answers- "That you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." It is indeed "marvellous light;" and marvellous grace, that calls us out of a deeper than Egyptian darkness, to see and rejoice in the glory of God beaming in the face of Jesus Christ. We find it, too, a calling into liberty. "Brethren, you have been called unto liberty." Bond-slaves to sin and Satan, we become Christ's freemen, those whom his Spirit and truth have made free. It is also a call into fellowship. "God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord;" -called into a oneness with Christ, privileged to open the heart to him in all the confidence and affection of a child, while in return he reveals the secret of the Lord to us.

And what are some of the attributes of this calling? It is holy. "Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling." They who are the subjects of this call desire to be holy. Their direst evil is sin. It is, in their experience, not a silken chain, but a galling fetter, beneath whose weight they mourn, and from whose bondage they sigh to be delivered. It is a high and heavenly calling. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." How does this calling elevate a man- his principles, his character, his aims, his hopes! It is emphatically a "high vocation." So heavenly is it, too, it brings something of heaven into the soul. It imparts heavenly affections, heavenly joys, and heavenly aspirations. It leads to heaven. Could he look within the veil, each called saint would see a prepared mansion, a vacant throne, a jeweled crown, a robe, and a palm, all ready for the wearing and the waving, awaiting him in glory. Thus it is a call from heaven and to heaven. It is an irrevocable calling. "For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn." God has never for a moment repented that he chose, nor has the Savior repented that he redeemed, nor has the Spirit repented that he called, any of his people. Not all their wanderings, nor failures, nor unfruitfulness, has ever awakened one regret in the heart of God that he has called them to be saints. "I knew that you would deal treacherously." "He will visit their transgressions with his rod, and their iniquities with his stripes, but his loving-kindness he will not take from them, nor allow his faithfulness to fail." "Faithful is he that calls you."

Nor must we overlook the Divine sovereignty which appears so illustrious in this especial calling. All ground of human boasting is removed, and God has secured to himself, from eternity, the entire glory of his people's salvation. So conspicuously appears the sovereignty of God in this effectual calling, that all foundation of creature-glory is annihilated. And if it be asked by the disputers of this truth, why one is called and another is left? Why Jacob, and not Esau? Why David, and not Saul? Why Cornelius the Gentile, and not Tertullus the Jew? Why the poor beggars in the highway, and not the bidden guests? Why the woman who laved with her tears the Savior's feet, and not Simon, in whose house the grateful act was performed? The answer is, "He will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy." To this acquiescence in the sovereignty of the Divine Will our Lord was brought when he beheld the mysteries of the Gospel veiled from the wise of this world: "I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and have revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seems good in your sight." To this precious truth let us bow; and if the efficacious grace of God has reached our hearts, let us ascribe its discriminating choice to the sovereign pleasure of that Divine and supreme Will, which rules among the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth, and to which no creature dare say, "What are you doing?"

But let us pass for a moment to a more experimental and practical view of this subject. The question has often been asked by the trembling lip, "How may I be assured of an interest in the eternal purpose and everlasting love of God? By what evidence may I conclude that I am one I whom he predestinated?" Listen to the words of the Apostle, addressed to the Thessalonian saints, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." But how did he know this? Had he read their names in the Lamb's book of Life? No! See how he solves the mystery: "For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance." By this he knew their election of God. And by a similar test you must bring the question to an issue. Has the Gospel come to your heart by the Holy Spirit? In other words, have you been called by the inward call? Have you fled as a poor sinner to Christ, and is he all your salvation and all your desire? Assume the truth of nothing, take nothing for granted as to your salvation, until thus is the case. We recur to a thought advanced in the preceding chapter, that it is with the fact of your open call, and not with the fact of your secret predestination, that you have mainly to do. It is this central and visible link in the chain that you must grasp. Secret things belong to God. The things revealed belong to us. You are assuming an attitude of the most appalling temerity in attempting to force your way into the secret counsels of the Most High, plunging into the fathomless depths of a past eternity, and intruding into those mysteries, veiled and unsearchable, upon whose awful threshold an angel's foot dare not tread. But oh, how near, how visible, how precious, the truth with which you have to do- God standing in the most impressive and winning attitude of a gracious, sin-pardoning God- inviting you, imploring you, all guilty, and burdened, and sorrowful as you are, to accept his mercy, to avail yourself of his forgiveness, to believe in his Son; and thus by grasping the outstretched hand, by heeding the earnest call, and accepting the gracious invitation, you may set forever at rest the question of your salvation. Oh, let the great, the all-absorbing question with you be, "What shall I do to be saved?" Postpone every other question, adjourn every other debate, until this is met and fairly settled, that you are the called of God. Take hold of the full and free invitations of the Gospel- and Christ, and salvation, and heaven are yours.

And for your encouragement we would say, that the feeblest puttings forth of grace in the soul are indisputable evidences of the inward and effectual call of the Spirit. If in the spring time I mark the gentle buddings of the costly plant, I rejoice, yet with trembling. The cold wind may blow and the hoar frost may light upon those buds, and so nip and kill those who they shall never burst into the beautiful and fragrant flower. But when I trace the buddings of grace in the heart of a poor sinner, when I observe the evidence of the Spirit's operation in the soul, I feel no misgiving, I cherish no fear, for I am assured that He who has begun the good work will carry it on and perfect it in glory. No worm shall kill its root, no frosts shall nip its leaf, no winds shall scatter its fruit, it shall never, never be destroyed. God will complete the work to which he puts his hand. Oh, precious truth, replete with encouragement to the sorrow-stricken, sin-burdened, Christ-seeking soul! Sweeter music is not heard in heaven than chimes in these words addressed to you- "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away."

Are we called? Then let us heed the earnest entreaty of the Apostle, "Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God." Let the lowliest and the highest vocation of life be dignified and sanctified by the heavenly calling. Wherever you are, and in whatever engaged, forget not your high calling of God. You are called to be saints; called to a separation from the world; called to a holy, heavenly life; called to live for God, to labor for Christ; and soon will be called to be with the Lord forever!