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DOCTRINE CONCERNING DIVINE GRACE
Chapter IV—Sovereignty of Grace
SECTION III. —EFFECTUAL CALLING.
THE HOLY SPIRIT EFFECTUALLY CALLS
ALL THE ELECT TO REPENT AND BELIEVE.
John 6:37; Rom. 8:26, 30; 1 Cor. 1:24; 2 Tim. 1:9;
1 Pet. 2:9; Jude 1, 2; 1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Thess. 1:4-6
The gospel calls all who hear it to repent and believe. This call proceeds from the Holy Spirit, who qualifies the ministers of the gospel for their work, and gives them the written word. But men resist and disobey this call of the Spirit, and remain under condemnation. “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.” “Which of the prophets have not your father’s persecuted?” (Acts 7:51-52). “He shall be revealed, taking vengeance on all them that obey not the gospel,” (2 Thess. 1:7, 8).
Besides the call which is external, and often ineffectual, there is another, which is internal and effectual. This always produces repentance and faith, and therefore secures salvation. The former external call is intended in such passages of Scripture as the following: “Because I have called, and ye refused,” (Prov. 1:24). “Many be called, but few chosen,” (Matt. 20:16). The internal and effectual call is designed in the following passages: “Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling,” (2 Tim. 1:9). “Whom he predestinated, them he also called; whom he called, them he also justified,” (Rom. 8:30). “Called to be saints,” (Rom. 1:7). “Among whom are ye also called to Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6). “To them who love God who are the called according to his purpose,” (Rom. 8:28). It is not true of all who receive the external call, that they are predestinated to life, justified and saved. Whenever these blessings are represented as belonging to the called, the internal and effectual call must be meant.
We have before distinguished between the direct and the indirect influence of the Holy Spirit. The external call being by means of the written or preached word belongs to the indirect influence of the Spirit. To render this call effectual, the direct influence is superadded; and the gospel is then said to come, not in word only, (1 Thess. 1:5), but in demonstration of the Spirit and with power, (1 Cor. 2:4). The external call is disobeyed, because men will not come to Christ that they may have life: the internal call operates on the will itself, working in men to will and to do, and rendering God’s people willing in the day of his power. As distinguished from the external call the internal is always unresisted. In the process of conversion, the Holy Spirit is violently resisted; but his resistance is directed against the outward means. The internal grace softens and subdues the heart, and brings it into peaceful subjection to the gospel of Christ.
The internal grace, which renders the outward call effectual, is the grace of regeneration. Hence regeneration, considered as the work of the Holy Spirit, is the same as effectual calling; considered as the change of the sinner’s heart, it is the effect of this calling. The calling is effectual, because it produces regeneration in the subject on whom it operates.
In effectual calling, the Holy Spirit displays his omnipotence. “We believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead,” (Eph. 1:19, 20). The same power which created the world, and said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” is needed in the new creation of the sinner. “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts,” (2 Cor. 4:6). “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” (Eph. 2:10). “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue,” (2 Pet. 1:3). His power in creating the world was unresisted; and equally unresisted is the power by which he new-creates the heart. The outward means which the Spirit sends may be resisted; but when the Spirit himself comes in the omnipotence of his grace, resistance vanishes.
In effectual calling, the Holy Spirit acts as a sovereign. In bestowing the various gifts which he conferred on the ancient Christians, he acted as a sovereign: “All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will,” (1 Cor. 12:11). He is equally sovereign in giving regenerating grace. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,” (Jam. 1:18). Grace is sovereign in election by the Father, redemption by the Son, and effectual calling by the Holy Spirit. The discrimination which grace makes among the children of men, first appears in effectual calling. This work of the Holy Spirit leads up, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, to God the Father, to whose electing love we are taught to ascribe all the blessings of eternal salvation. In this reverse order we look back, along the stream of mercy, to the fountain from which it flows. The reverse order is observed in the precept, “Make your calling and election sure,” (2 Pet. 1:10). Our calling proceeds from our election; but we ascertain our election by first ascertaining our calling.
In effectual calling, the Holy Spirit operates on the elect. These are “sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called,” (Jude 1). They whom the Spirit calls are “chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world,” (Eph. 1:4-13). “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” (Acts 13:48). The Spirit’s effectual calling fulfils the word of Christ, “All that my Father giveth me, shall come to me,” (John 6:37). “Other sheep have I, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring,” (John 10:16).
It has been asked, for what purpose does God send his outward call to the non-elect, since it will be ineffectual, unless accompanied with his omnipotent grace. We might as well ask for what purpose does God give men his law, when they will not obey it; or why does he institute a moral government over them, when they will not submit to it. Instead of demanding God’s reasons for what he does, it becomes every man rather to inquire, what reason he can render to God, for violating his holy law, and rejecting the call of his gospel. We may be sure that God will do right, and will be able to vindicate his ways before the intelligent universe; and we should regard our propensity to call in question the wisdom and righteousness of his procedure, as an alarming evidence of our want of submission to his will.
Objection: If repentance and faith are gifts of grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit in effectual calling, men on whom this grace is not conferred are not blameworthy for being impenitent and unbelieving.
The objection virtually assumes, that men are under no obligation to serve God further than they please; or that if their unwillingness to serve him can be overcome by nothing less than omnipotent grace, it excuses their disobedience. Let the man who makes to himself this apology for his impenitence and unbelief, consider well, with what face he can present his plea before the great Judge. “I did not serve God, because I was wholly unwilling to serve him; and so exceedingly unwilling that nothing less than omnipotent grace could reconcile me to the hated service.” Who will dare offer this plea on the great day?
The efficacious grace which renders the gospel successful, is the grand peculiarity of the gospel dispensation.
This grace was bestowed in a smaller measure, before the coming of Christ, and during his personal ministry; but the abundant outpouring of it was reserved for the Pentecost that followed the Saviour’s ascension, and the times succeeding. The apostles were commanded to remain in Jerusalem, until they were endued with power from on high, and the power of the Holy Spirit which fell on them rendered their preaching far more successful than the ministry of Christ himself had been. Had God bound himself, by rule, to give an equal measure of grace to every human being, and to leave the result to the unaided volitions of men, the extraordinary success which marked the first period of Christianity would not have existed. It must be ascribed to the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit, whom the Saviour promised to send after he should go to the Father. To the power of the Spirit, the success of the word, in all ages, must be attributed: and the glorious millennial day so long expected by the church will not come, until the Spirit be poured out from on high (Isa. 32:15). Hence, all good men looking forward to this glorious day, have not relied for its coming on the superior morality and religious tendency of future generations, but have prayed for it and have hoped for success, only through the abundant influence of the Holy Spirit.
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