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that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." Such a revelation of grace being made in the Gospel; such invitations being addressed to perishing sinners; the Spirit of Truth, in effectual calling, gives them encouragement from these declarations to return to God, and enables them to look for life, and expect salvation, from the hand of Him, against whom they have sinned, and from whom they have so deeply revolted.
That any sinner is "called out of darkness into marvellous light," is entirely owing to divine grace, "God called me by his grace," is the language of Paul; Gal. i. 15. nor do any of the saints ascribe their conversion to any other cause.
Calling generally denotes God's invitation to man to participate in the blessings of salvation: it is termed effectual, to distinguish it from that external or common call of the light of nature, but espe cially of the Gospel, in which men are invited to come to God, but which has no saving effect upon the heart. Thus it is said, "Many are called, but few are chosen." Matt. xxii. 14. Effectual calling has been more particularly defined to be, "the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds with the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel." This may further be considered as a call from darkness to light; 1 Pet. ii. 9. from bondage to liberty; Gal. ii. 13. from the fellowship of the world to the fellowship of Christ; 1 Cor. i. 9. from misery to happiness; 1 Cor. vii. 15. from sin to holiness; 1 Thess. iv. 7. finally, from all created good to the en joyment of eternal felicity; 1 Pet. v. 10. It is considered in the scripture as an holy calling; Phil. iii. 14. an heavenly calling; Heb. iii. 1. and it is a calling without repentance; as God will never cast off any who are once called to him. Rom. xi. 29.
Do you desire to know the judgment of the Church upon point? You have it in her 17th Article; where, speaking of God's elect people, she asserts, that "they are called, according to his purpose, by his Spirit working in due season;" and immediately
adds, that "they, through grace, obey the calling." God's converting call, therefore, is such as produces obedience to it; i. e. it is triumphantly efficacious, and rendered successful, not by the will and towardliness of the person called, but by the power and grace of Him that calleth. Toplady.
By nature there is no difference between the elect and reprobate. Paul was as bloody a persecutor as Domitian or Julian; Zaccheus as unconscionable and covetous a worldling as was that rich glutton damned to hell. The elect and reprobate, before converting grace makes the difference, are like two men walking in one journey, of one mind, and of one heart. They resemble Elijah and Elisha walking and talking together, when lo! a chariot of fire suddenly severs them, and Elijah is wrapt up into heaven, while Elisha is left behind upon earth. So is it, when God's effectual calling, quite unlooked-for, comes and separates those two, who before were walking together; yea, running to the same excess of riot. The one returns back to the Lord, from whom he was fallen; while the other, being himself untouched by God, marvels that his former companion bath forsaken him, and walks on still in the old course of his sins, to his final condemnation.
When God called Paul, he found him a persecutor. Saul was seeking his father's asses, when Samuel came to call him to the kingdom. Peter and Andrew were mending their nets, and Matthew was sitting at the receipt of custom, when Christ called them. So, when we do inquire of our own consciences, how we were employed when the Lord called us by his grace; we shall find that we were employed either in vain, wicked, or worldly things, so that y we had no mind to his kingdom. Let the praise, therefore, of our calling be reserved to the Lord only.
Effectual calling is the middle link in the undividable chain of salvation; be that hath it is sure of both the ends; that is, of his past predestination to life, and of bis future glorification. Our calling is the manifestation of our secret election, and a sure forerunner of glory, being, in effect, the voice of God, telling us, beforehand, that he will glorify us. Bishop Cowper.
It is the peculiar work of the Spirit to open the eyes and enlighten the soul by an effective illumination and discovery to us of the evidence of divine truths; nor can the proposal of the object, with the greatest certainty of evidence, or any moral reason, cause men to discern spiritual things spiritually, since there must be a supernatural light and suiting of the visive faculty to the object.
There is much the same difference between election and effectual calling as between a private manuscript and a printed book. In election, God, as it were, wrote, and entered us in his heavenly register, but it is still kept by him, and none know the contents but himself; whereas, in effectual calling, God, as it were, prints off a sheet of the book of life, and publishes it, and makes it known to the soul. Gurnal.
Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby our understanding being enlightened with the knowledge of our miserable condition, and of Christ as our remedy, we are persuaded to close with Jesus Christ as our only Saviour and Redeemer.
The only infallible way of immortalizing our characters, a way equally open to the meanest and most exalted fortune, is " to make our calling and election sure," to gain some sweet evidence that our names are written in heaven. Then, however they may be disregarded or forgotten among men, they will not fail to be had in everlasting remembrance before the Lord. This is, of all distinctions, far the noblest ambition; be this thy object, O my soul, and every page of Scripture will sanctify thy passion; even grace itself will fan the flame.
REGENERATION, OR THE NEW BIRTH.
This is by far the most important link of the chain; it is the centre-link of the reversed arch-a kind of double link; for it has two names, though it is in fact but one and the same thing; for, to
regenerate, is to reproduce, to produce anew,
to make to be born anew, to renew, by the change of carnal nature to a Christian life. This is the link that is made fast to the soul of the child of Godso fast, that though
More happy, yet not more secure
The glorified spirits above.
For, whom he did foreknow, he predestinated; whom he predestinated, or elected, at the appointed time he called and quickened ; and whom he called and quickened, at the appointed time shall be brought to the birth; as was the case with myself in my natural birth. Before I was born, my soul was, by some process unknown to me, infused into my body, and my blood commenced its circulation long before I was brought into active being; so that, it may be said, I was a living soul, before I had a living being. Just so it is with the soul in the New Creation; it is perfectly safe, when effectually called and quickened, even before it is brought to the birth; but it must be born again.
Marvel not, Nicodemus; you must be born again, before you can enter into my Father's kingdom. John iii. 7.
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 1 Pet. i. 23.
Nor is it only thus, but must be so;
Who knows not this, though gray, is still a child.
I come to show why this change is called regeneration, a being born again. It is so called, because of the resemblance betwixt natural and spiritual generation, which lies in the following particulars.
Natural generation is a mysterious thing, and so is spiritual generation." The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." John iii. 8. The work of the Spirit is felt; but his way of working is a mystery we cannot comprehend. A new light is let into the mind, and the will is renewed; but how that light is conveyed thither, how the will is
fettered with the cords of love, and how the rebel is made a willing captive, we can no more tell, than we can tell "how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child," Eccl. xi. 5. As a man bears the sound of the wind, and finds it stirring; but knows not where it begins, and where it ends; "so is every one that is born of the Spirit;" he finds the change that is made upon him; but how it is produced, he knows not.
One thing he may know, that whereas he was blind, now he seeth; but "the seed of grace doth spring, and grow up, he knoweth not how." Mark iv. 20, 27.
In both, the creature comes to a being it had not before. The child is not, till it be generate; and a man has no gracious being, no being in grace, till he be regenerate. Regeneration is not so much the curing of a sick man, as " the quickening of a dead man." Eph. ii. 1, 5. Man in bis depraved state is a mere non-entity in grace, and is brought into a new being by the power of him "who calleth things that be not, as though they were; being created in Jesus Christ unto good works," Eph. ii. 10. Therefore our Lord Jesus, to give ground of hope to the Laodiceans, in their wretched and miserable state, proposed himself as the "beginning of the creation of God;" Rev. iii. 14. namely, the active beginning of it; for all things were made by him at first, John i. 3. From whence they might gather, that seeing he made them when they were nothing, he could make them over again, when worse than nothing: the same hand that made them his creatures, could make them new creatures.
As the child is merely passive in generation, so is the child of God in regeneration. The one contributes nothing to its own generation, neither does the other contribute any thing, by way of efficiency, to its own regeneration; for though a man lay himself down at the pool, yet he hath no hand in moving of the water, no efficacy in performing the cure. One is born the child of a king, another the child of a beggar: the child hath no hand at all in this difference. God leaves some in their depraved state; others he brings into a state of grace or regeneracy. If thou be thus honoured, no thanks to thee; for who maketh thee to differ from another? 1 Cor. iv. 17. Boston.