The Nature of Vocation opened in re∣spect of the Efficient and Instrumental Causes of it.
ROM. 8. 30.
WE have considered the Work of Grace under several emi∣nent Titles that the Scripture giveth to it. The next I shall pitch upon, is, Vocation or Calling; for Conversion is often notified by this term. And this Text will afford a just occasion to treat of it. To understand the Text, let us consider the divine and admirable Connexion of this verse with the precedent Matter at the 28th verse. The Apostle after other Consolations administred to af∣flicted believers, he giveth them this soveraign Cordial, All things work together for good to them that are called according to Gods purpose. This promise or faithful saying is enough to bear up the heart of any troubled believer, for what can he desire more? If this will not satisfie, what can? Though thy adversities, temptations are called evils in respect of sense, yet in respect of thy spiritual advantage, so they are good adversities, they are good evils without any contradiction; and see how emphatical every word is. We know, not only Paul, but all the godly by their ex∣perience, and wise comparing of things together, come to know this. This is such a truth, that no Christian should be ignorant of; And then All things; he doth not say Some, but all things; not only prosperity, not only spiritual mercies, but even all miseries and afflictions whatsoever, yea sins themselves by Gods good∣nesse being repented of, make them more wary and humble; as fire driveth out Page 582 pain by fire: and then they work together; though this or that particular affli∣ction of it self may seem to make thee worse, to cause thy Sunne to goe many degrees backwards, yet all together promote thy good; They do that in a Con∣stell•tion, which a simple aspect would not do. So that this true and faithful say∣ing if imbraced by all acceptation of believing, is enough to make a man in a con∣tinual transfiguration. Such a beleever may truly say, Soul, take thy spiritual ease, for •ere is much spiritual good treasured up for thee; but this bread is only given to children; This pearl is not cast to dogs and swine; for in the next place we are told who they are, to whom this priviledge belongs, and they are set out,
1. By their Duty or Grace, They love God.
2. By Gods mercy vouchsafed to them, They are called according to his purpose. Whereupon the Apostle makes a golden chain of all the causes of Salvation, inse∣parably linked together, that none may be taken away one from another. It was a saying that A man might sooner wrest Hercules his Club out of his hand, then divide one of Homers verses from another, the matter was so dependant and con∣nexed together; but certainly all these causes are so divinely joyned together, that none can part them. And the first Round in this Chain is Gods fore-know∣ledge, or rather Gods fore-acknowledging; For by fore-knowledge is not meant any prescience or prevision of such as would use their free-will and natu∣ral power well. No, that to repugneth the whole currant of the Scripture, which makes all good works the fruit and effect of Predestination, not the motive or cause of it, otherwise it would be Postdestination, rather then Predestination; but to fore-know is as much as to approve of, and to love, according to that rule, Words signifying acts of the understanding, are many times put for the conco∣mitant and subsequent affections and effects thereof. Thus the simple word To know, is many times put for approbation, care and love. Thus Psal. 1. The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous. John 10. I know my Sheep; and the compound to fore-know also is used in this sense, Rom. 11. God hath not cast away the people whom he for•-knew, i. e. did approve and love. So 1 Pet. 1. 2. Elect according to the fore-knowledge of God; And so it is applied to Christ vers. 20. in that Chapter. Upon this fore-knowledge succeeds Predestination, and these are acts of God from all eternity; and from these as the fountain, streams the first effect in time, and that is Calling, Whom he hath predestinated he hath called.
There is a twofold calling, one External only, consisting in the tender and of∣fer * of grace, inviting of men to come in; in which sense our Saviour said, Many are called, but few are chosen. The other internal and efficacious also, when God with the outward offer changeth the heart, making it to imbrace Christ; and in this sense it is said here Called; upon this follow two further benefits, Justified and Glorified. It is not my purpose to insist on them, nor to dispute the order, Whether Calling or Justification precede; or, Whether Sanctification be inclu∣ded in this word Calling. These things are not within my compasse; onely take notice of this, That the phrase in the Preterperfect Tense, He hath justified, doth not imply a Justification from all eternity, no more then that we are called and glorified from eternity; but the Apostle speaks in the past time, either to shew the certainty of it; or else because we are glorified already in Christ our Head, and have the sure pledges of it in this life; or else because he had begun in that Tense when he spake of Predestination, and could use no other, he continued the same expression in the other priviledges.
The Text thus opened, I come to that particular benefit I intend, viz. Called; and for the sence of the word, you must know it signifies to have a being and existence, yet such, as that it is celebrated and publickly taken notice of. Bles∣sed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God; Matth. 5. 9. And, behold what love he hath shewn, that we should be called the sons of God, 1 Joh. 3. 1. And we read of a three-fold Calling;
First, That external and civil condition of life which a man lives in; in Page 583 which sense every one is bid to continue in the calling he is called unto, 1 Cor 7. 20.
Secondly, For any spiritual function or office in the Church. Thus the Apo∣stleship is often stiled a Calling.
And lastly, for that grace of God whereby he cals us out of the state of igno∣rance, Paganism and prophanenesse, to a state of truth, godlinesse and glory; which is either meerly external, vouchsafed even to hypocrites and reprobates, or internal, bestowed on the godly only; and this the Apostle meaneth in the Text. From whence observe,
That whom God hath predestinated from all eternity, and will glorifie in the world*to come, he doth in this life powerfully call out of their sins and ignorance.
As they are regenerated, or converted, so they are a called people: I shall first treat of this powerful calling which the godly onely have: And to consider this distinctly, let us open the nature of it:
- 1. In respect of the efficient cause. *
- 2. The instrumental.
- 3. The nature of it.
- 4. The terms from whence we are called, and to which we are called.
And for the efficient Cause, God is he that calleth us with this powerfull live∣ly calling: and herein consider,
First, The omnipotent power and strength of God, who by his word can make such a wonderful change; He doth but call, and man who is naturally such an enemy and adversary to what is good, doth presently become a friend; so that the Scri∣pture expressing this work of conversion, doth therein allude to Gods Creation at first, when by his Word all things were made, he said, Let there be light, and there was light; Verba Dei sunt opera, said Luther, Gods words are works; this made the Apostle say, He calleth those things that are not, as if they were, 1 Cor. 1. Gods call gives a ready being to those things that had no existency at all before. So that herein is declared the soveraign power of God; God at the first Creation called for those things to appear which lay in the dark womb of nothing, and they presently came out; Even as if a Master should give a call to his servant who stands in the next room ready to receive his commands. Behold then and admire at the great power of God, who hath made this wonderfull change on thee. Christ did no sooner call from Heaven to Paul, but he present∣ly answers, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? So that Gods call even to the deaf is not in vain, because at the same time he giveth ears to hear. Oh then let the godly consider, How comes grace, any godly affections or desires to be in thy heart? It had been impossible for such things to lodge in thy soul, had not God given this mighty call, saying, Let there be faith, repentance, godly sorrow; and presently there is.
Secondly, Take notice of the full sufficiency and happinesse of God, who thus cals*thee to communion with him. It is not for any want or indigency, that day by day he thus cals and invites thee to come in: No, God is blessed, and all-sufficient: had he not created Angels, or the visible world, he had been gloriously happy in the enjoying of himself, but yet out of his goodness he is willing to invite and call in men, that they also may be made happy; Christ in his Parable ex∣pressed this, when he sent out his servants to invite men unto the feast, and when they refused then he sent for the lame and blinde, Luk. 14. 21. such as he could have no need of, but they did exceedingly need him; and so there is no day that God sends us his servants to invite you to this spiritual feast, but this consideration should wound thee and make thee ashamed: Oh why doth God thus call me? Why am I thus invited? Is not God happy and glorious enough? though I perish and be damned in my sins? What is man, Lord, and the sonne of man that thou shouldst be thus mindfull of him? as if God could not be a God, a happy, blessed God, unless thou also wert brought into happiness.
Page 584 Thirdly, In Gods calling of us, consider the freenesse of his grace, and the absolute∣nesse of his purpose and good pleasure therein. He cals some, and leaves others; yea the farre greater part of mankinde, and those who have the greatest pomp and glory in this world, on whom the eyes of the world are most open. Thus the Apostle, Not many noble, not many wise hath God called, 1 Cor. 1. 28. but the poor and despicable things of the world hath God chosen. Indeed God partly by his Word to some, and partly by the works of Creation to others, hath left every man without excuse; he hath given to all men pregnant witnesses of his goodnesse, wisdom and power, that they might seek after him; but this is not the call of grace that is the fruit of Election; for that takes effect and cannot be totally and finally resisted; Thou therefore who hast been thus called, cry out, Oh the depths and unsearchable riches of Gods mercy! There are two in a bed, one is called the other is left: Two in a family, one is taken and the other left. As in Pauls Conversion, when there was a voice from Heaven, Paul heard distinctly, but his companions did not; so in the same Sermon, which is Gods call, one heareth it distinctly, receiveth the power of it in his heart, knoweth the experi∣mental meaning of it; but others hear only a general sound, they understand nothing of it. Certainly this freeness of Gods grace in calling thee and not others, who happily have not been such sinners as thou hast been, never com∣mitted such foul abominations as thou hast done; that hath not called others of better parts, abilities and greater wisdom, who thereby if converted, might have brought more glory and honour to God then thou ever art likely to doe. This free arbitrary grace (I say) of which a man can give no reason in the world but his own good pleasure, may justly fill thy heart with all astonishment and ravishing amazements. This is the mystery of Gods grace that thou shouldst al∣waies be contemplating and beholding, Oh Lord! Why am I called and not another? Why doth the Word of God come home to my soul, and others feel and understand nothing at all? It was a great favour of God to little Samuel, 1 Sam. 3. 9. when God called him twice or thrice, and did reveal his will to him, and took no notice of Eli the Priest and Judge in Israel. Oh hath not the Lord done as wonderfully in visiting thy soul, calling unto thee often, when those of greater parts, and greater pomp, and glory are passed by?
Fourthly, This Call of God it doth alwayes speed. There is a present hearing and obedience in those that are thus called. Indeed there is an outward calling, and many who are so called do sinfully and wickedly reject it, and of such, few are saved comparatively; but of those who are called according to his purpose, as the Apostle here speaketh, there God giveth a ready ear, a ready heart; that they stand up presently and say, Behold I come to do thy will; My ears hast thou opened; Thy Law is written within my heart: So that however for a long time thou maiest not either understand this Call of God, as little Samuel did not, but give a little listning, and then lie down to sleep again; after that a second time to give a little listning, and then lie down to sleep again; so thou have some affections and desires, then presently they give over, and thou goest to thy lusts and thy sins again, then God a second, a third, yea many a time, who knoweth how often, gives thee further calling, and that makes thee more startle and more awakened, but thou doest again return to thy old lusts, thy old follies, thy old distempers, yet at last God takes away all that blindenesse and wilfulnesse which is upon thee, and makes thee readily and fully give up thy self to obey him.
Lastly, This Call of God is very various in respect of the time when it is vouchsa∣fed to them: Some are called in their infancy, some in their youth, some in their old-age; even as in the Parable, Matth. 20. some were hired in to worke in the Vineyard at the ninth, others at the eleventh hour; not that this should make a man procrastinate and put off his conversion to God; for by the 12th hour in that Parable, is not meant the later days of a mans life, but the later days of the Page 585 world; The Jews they were called at the 9th hour, the Gentiles they were called at the 12th, yet God giveth the same Heaven to both, that is the proper meaning of that Parable. Indeed we have an instance of one, and but of one called at the end of his days, the Thief on the Crosse, of whom Austins observation is obvious; There is one, that none should despair, thinking it impossible for him to be converted, who hath put off this work till death hath arrested him: and yet it is but one, that none may presume: Of many men that have poisoned themselves it may be one doth recover, but this would be no encouragement to thee to swallow down poison: How many dreadfull and sad examples maist thou see and hear of those who as they lived wickedly, so died as desperately? Howsoever therefore Gods calling be various, to some sooner, to some later, yet happy are they who are called out of sinne betimes in their younger years, they have lesse wounded their consciences, dishonoured God, and they have the longer time to do him service, and the best service: Oh how happy is it when the daies of thy youth have been filled with the strength and power of God! Oh therefore that the younger sort of people, would expect and look after this call of God! Do not think its for old men ready to drop in the grave, for them only to repent, and to leave off their sins, but you must enjoy the pleasures and lusts of youth: Oh Remember thy Creator in the dayes of thy youth! When God cals thee in thy tender years, thou wilt not then make those sad shipwracks of thy soul, as others doe.
In the next place consider, The instrument of Gods Call, and that is the prea∣ching*of the Word. You may say, Where doth God call, and when doth he call, we have no immediate voice from Heaven speaking to us, How then can this be? The answer is, God cals you by the Ministers, we are Embassadors coming in his name to you; so that you who refuse them speaking the word of God, you refuse God himself calling to you. They are the voice of God crying, Prepare ye a way for the Lord; so that every Sabbath-day God cals you by the Ministers, and you that think that if you should have an immediate voice from Heaven cal∣ling to you, then you would obey and submit; know you would not do it, if you refuse the word of God delivered to you by the Ministry: Our Saviour said, That they who would not believe Moses, nor the Prophets, neither would if one should rise from the dead, and come unto them, Luk. 16. 29. It is neither our cal∣ling or speaking, but Christ by us that you refuse and contemn; and how great and farre your judgement will be who neglect this great salvation, the Scripture bids every man think within himself, Heb. 2. 3. Indeed there are many things have a voice to call us besides the Word; The Heavens and all the crea∣tures are so many tongues calling unto us; The rod of affliction, that hath a voice, * and we are commanded to hear what that speaks; but the preaching of the word that is the powerfull voice, and the immediate motions and inspirations of the Spirit accompanying it, these give life and quickning in speaking: That as God hath a voice of the Trumpet and the Archangel, to raise men from the dead; so he hath also of the Word, to raise men out of their security in sinning. Thus you have the efficient and instrumental cause of Gods calling. Many practicall Uses may be made of this: As
First, To magnifie and adore the love of God to mankinde, that doth vouch∣safe * such a gracious and merciful call to man fallen. This is more then he hath done to the Apostate Angels, Heb. 2. 16. To which of them hath he appointed a word of Ministery and Reconciliation? not only the Priest and the Levite, but even the good Samaritan hath passed by these, and taken no notice of them: yea come we to man, Is there not farre the greater number of mankinde, that though they have a witness enough to condemn them, yet have not the external offer and call of God? The name of Christ and faith hath not sounded within their coasts; yea come we closer still, How many thousands and thousands are there who have the outward call, but are wholly destitute of the inward call? Now Page 586 if God pass by so many thousands of Angels, and ten thousands of men, and give thee this inward call, May not this fill thy heart with hot burning love to God? Canst thou contain thy self? As a wicked tongue, set on fire from hell, doth also set the whole creation on fire; so thy tongue set on fire with this heavenly love, should make thee cry out to all creatures, To bless God for his mercy. David had his heart thus burning within him, when he calls upon the whole creation, and every creature by name to praise God. The Queen of Sheba fainted to hear the wisdom, and behold all the glory of Solomon; how much rather may thy heart sink within thee, through admiration of Gods love in this particular!
Use 2. Of terrror to those who willfully resist the outward call of God. * God speaks once, twice, yea many times, and thou hearest not; Oh consider, that if thou callest thy servant again, and again, if yet he will not come, thou presently judgest it disobedience and rebellion; How then shall God account of thee otherwise? Again, remember this time of Gods gracious calling is very uncertain; this may be the last day, the last hour: To day, if ye will hear, harden not your hearts; you have put off many days already, tremble exceed∣ingly, lest this day of grace be setting in a black dismal night. Lastly, consi∣der, now God calls you, and you hear not; the day of death, and other miseries will be coming on thee, when thou wilt call on God, and he will mete thy own measure to thee: See Proverbs 1. and the latter end; then thou wilt call to God, to Christ, to Angels, to Saints; And none will hear.