Select Page

Book 3 - Chapter 5: Of Effectual Calling - by Herman Witsius

The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

Check out these works on Covenant Theology.

Herman Witsius (1636-1708)

Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).

Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.

This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.

Chapter V: Of Effectual Calling

I. THE first immediate fruit of eternal election, and the principal act of God by which appointed salvation applied, is EFFECTUAL CALLING; of which the apostle saith, Rom. 8:30, “whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” And this CALLING is that act by which those who are chosen by God, and redeemed by Christ, are sweetly invited, and effectually brought from a state of sin, to a state of communion with God in Christ, both externally and internally.

II. The term from which they are called, is a state of sin and misery in which all men are involved, ever since the sin of our first parents. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” Eph. 4:18. For we are brought to such a pass, that we are wholly excluded from the saving communion of God and Christ. Being sunk in the deep gulf of misery, and having loft all notion of true happiness, we wallow in the mire of the wickedness and vanities of this world without end and without measure, and are enslaved to the devil, to whom we have submitted as conquered captives; “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23. But out of this darkness of ignorance, sin, and misery, “God calleth us unto his marvellous light,” 1 Pet. 2:9; “and delivers us from this present evil world,” Gal. 1:4. And we are never to forget our former state. “Remember that, at that time, ye were without Christ, being aliens from the common-wealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Eph. 2:12. The meditation of this tends to humble us the more deeply before God, who calleth us, the more to prize the riches of his glorious grace, and the more to quicken us to walk worthy of our calling, and of God, by whom we are called.

III. The term to which we are called, is Christ, and communion with him. For this he calls out, Is. 45:22, פנו אלי, “look to me (or incline yourselves to me) and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” In this communion with Christ consists that mystical and most delightful marriage of the elect soul with Christ, to which he invites him with all the allurements of his gospel, and whose exalted nuptial song Solomon sung: “Wisdom hath builded her house.—She hath sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the highest places of the city,—turn in hither,—come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled,” Prov. 9:1–5.

IV. From this communion results the communication of all the benefits of Christ, both in grace and in glory, to which we are likewise called. “Hearken diligently unto me, and eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in farness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Isa 55:2, 3. Thus he calleth us to his kingdom and glory, 1 Thess. 2:12.

V. And since Christ cannot be separated from his Father and his Spirit, we are, at the same time, called to the communion of the undivided Trinity. “That our fellowship may be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” 1 John 1:3; to which Paul joins “the communion of the Holy Ghost,” 2 Cor. 13:14. And it is the very summit of our of our happiness, to exult in God as ours, and sing aloud to him, my God, while he himself calls to us, my people, Hos. 2:23.

VI. Moreover, as all the elect are partakers of one and the same grace, they are all likewise called to mutual communion with one another, “that ye also may have fellowship with us,” 1 John 1:3. Believers of the New Testament with those of the Old, the Gentiles with the Jews, “being all of the same body,” Eph. 3:6, “in Christ, who hath made both one,” Eph. 2:14. Nay, those on earth with those in heaven: “for all things are gathered together in one in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance,” Eph. 1:10, 11. And this is that blessed state to which, by the holy and heavenly calling, we are invited; namely, communion with Christ, and, by him, with the undivided Trinity, and consequently with all the saints, both militant and triumphant, not even excepting the praising assembly of angels; in order with them to exult in the most delightful fruition of all the blessings of God. For all who obey this call “are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant,” Heb. 12:23, 24. What grander things can be spoken, what more noble and divine can be conceived, than these?

VII. But this calling is given, partly externally, by a persuasive power, called moral suasion; partly internally, by a real supernatural efficacy, which changes the heart. The external call is, in some measure, published by the word of nature, but more fully by that of supernatural revelation, without which every word of nature would be insufficient and ineffectual. The internal comes from the power of the Holy Spirit working inwardly on the heart; and without this every external revealed word, though objectively very sufficient, as it clearly discovers every thing to be known, believed, and done, yet is subjectively ineffectual, nor will ever bring any person to the communion of Christ.

VIII. Nature itself is not silent, but many ways calls on man to lay aside his too eager care and pursuit of earthly things, and of this animal life, and to endeavour after the far better things of heaven and eternity. For when, with attentive eyes, he surveys that glittering canopy on high, bespangled with so many constellations, and sparkling with so many stars, above which, according to the general belief of mankind, the throne of the Supreme Being is placed, he feels a certain strong desire excited in his breast, that, when he leaves this earthly dross, he may, hereafter, ascend on high, be admitted into the inmost recesses of nature, and received into fellowship with God. And when his thoughts pursue the several beauties of the starry heavens, he then takes a secret pleasure to look down with contempt on the pavements of the rich, nay, on this whole earth, with all its gold, not only that which it has already produced, but that which still lies concealed for the avarice of posterity. And when he further traverses the whole universe, he learns to despise the most stately porticoes, ceilings inlaid with ivory, woods formed by art, and rivers conveyed home, and looking down from on high on this small terrestrial globe, a great part of which is covered with the sea, and much of what remains greatly uncultivated, many places being either scorched with heat, or frozen with cold, he thus says to himself, “Is this that insignificant spot, which so many nations divide among themselves by fire and sword? When thou hast been engaged in the contemplation of these things truly great, then, as oft as thou shalt espy armies with banners displayed, and, as if some great event was in agitation, the horse now advancing to gain intelligence, again pouring forth from the flanks, it may remind thee of the excursion of ants, toiling within a scanty compass. Whereas there are vastly extensive regions above, into the possession of which the soul is admitted; and thus, although it has suffered some inconvenience from the body, yet if, by being content with little, it has dropped all its dross, it is now light and ready to depart: unless, then, I be admitted into these regions, my birth has been in vain. For why should I rejoice for being numbered among the living? Without this inestimable good, life is not of such value, that I should sweat and fatigue myself therein. O! how contemptible is man, unless he is advanced above what is human!” Thus the book of nature, thus the contemplation of the heavens, taught Seneca both to think and speak. In Præfat. Quest. Natur.

IX. But seeing the same nature teacheth us, that God is far more excellent than those very heavens, which are his throne and the work of his hands, that he is both the creator and ruler of the heavens; the same works invite man to seek after the communion of God himself above all things. For happiness cannot consist in barely dwelling in heaven, unless one enjoys the fellowship and communion of God there. Thus by the voice of nature men are invited “to seek God, if haply they might feel after him,” Acts 17:27. “He left not himself without witness, in that he did good;” Acts 14:17; and that by discovering himself to be the fountain of all good, both the greatest and the best of Beings, whose communion alone can render any perfectly blessed. It is therefore an old saying, and handed down from our ancestors to mankind, “that all things were both framed by God and in him consist; and that no nature can be sufficient for its own safety, which is only entrusted with its own preservation, without God.” Thus the author of the book “de mundo,” extant among Aristotle’s works, c. 11, and who concludes with these excellent words: “Whoever would attain to a blessed and happy life, must partake of the Deity from the very beginning.”

X. But God not only invites men by the light of nature to seek him, but also gives some hope of enjoying him. For why else should he forbear sinners, with so much long-suffering, unless he had decreed to take pity on some of them? Would it be worthy of the most pure Deity to have preserved now for so many ages, the world subjected to vanity by the sins of men, unless there were some of mankind to whom he was willing to show himself glorious in their happiness? “The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Pet. 3:9. And as this consideration of the Divine patience and forbearance, shining forth in the whole government of the world, yields some hope of salvation, “and the long-suffering of our Lord ought to be accounted salvation,” ib. ver. 15. “so this goodness of God should lead every one to repentance,” Rom. 2:4.

XI. For nature also teaches, that it is not possible any one can enjoy converse and familiarity with God, who does not sincerely endeavour after purity and holiness, and, as the emperor Marcus Antoninus speaks, lib. ii. §. 5, labours not “to live a life resembling God.” For like delights in like, and rejoices to communicate itself thereto. Plato, de Legibus, lib. iv, says well, “What practice is it that is agreeable to, and in imitation of God? This, and that ancient one, that like delights in like.” Thus man is invited to the practice of the strictest purity, by the voice of nature herself, in order to the enjoyment of God. I cannot forbear adding the gradation of Agapetus, which is really fine, and strictly true. Thus he says to the emperor Justinian: “For he who knows himself shall know God. But he who knows God, shall be made like to God. He shall be like God, who is worthy of God. He shall be worthy of God, who does nothing unworthy of God, but meditates on the things of God, and what he thinks he speaks, and what he speaks he acts.”

XII. All these things the royal Seer, Psa. 19:1–4, has exhibited in a concise but very strong manner. “The heavens declare the glory of God;” for as they are his throne, curiously framed, so they display his power, majesty, greatness and holiness, before which the heavens themselves confess they are not clean: however their very excellence invites men to endeavour, within their circuit, to the utmost, after the enjoyment of communion with the great and good God. “And the firmament showeth his handy-work,” proclaiming, that by his word only, it was framed together. “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” These vicissitudes of light and darkness mutually corresponding in so exact and constant an order, prove a most wise Director. And there is no day nor night but speaks something of God, and declares it to the next, as the scholar of the preceding and the master of the following. “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” If they were words, the instruction would cease with their sound; but now what the heavens declare, they do it always, and in the same manner. If speeches, and sentences deduced with much subtlety from their reasons and causes, they would labour under obscurity; if their voice was heard, it would stun us with its noise. But now the heavens instruct both constantly, clearly, and sweetly. For though their voice is not heard, yet they have a voice, no less strongly adapted to strike the mind, than the sound of a trumpet, or of thunder; seeing they exhibit to the eyes of all the magnificence of their Creator so clearly, as to escape the observation of none but the wilfully blind. Or possibly this may be the meaning: “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” Though people differ in languages, and the Greek understands not the barbarian; yet the heavens have a common language adapted to the instruction of all alike and nothing but a culpable carelessness can hinder the most distant people from improving by the instruction, as it were, of one teacher. “Their line is gone out through all the earth.” The instruction of the heavens resembles that of school-masters, who teach children their letters by drawing their strokes before them. Thus the heavens draw lines or strokes with their rays, and as it were letters of the alphabet, from which, combined and variously joined together, an entire volume of wisdom is formed. This is the signification of קו, as Isa. 28:10, “line upon line:” from which the Greek φθογγος, which the apostle uses, Rom. 10:18, does not differ much, denoting not only a sound, but also a letter of the alphabet, as Plutarch, in fabio, notes, as Scapula has observed in his lexicon. Nor is it necessary to say, that the test is here corrupted, or that the Septuagint read קולם their voice. And this line “is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” All mankind, whether in a habitable or desert country, are taught by this master. There is no corner of the world, where the figures of the heavens, as so many arguments of the divine perfections, are not to be seen. And this is the reason why I have just now proposed the reasonings of those (if you except the quotation from Agapetus, a deacon of the church of Constantinople) who had no other master but nature.

XIII. But though the invitation, which nature gives to seek God, be sufficient to render them without excuse who do not comply with it, Rom. 1:20; yet it is not sufficient, even objectively, for salvation. For it does not afford that lively hope, which maketh not ashamed;” for this is only revealed by the gospel; whence the Gentiles are said to have been “without hope in the world,” Eph. 2:12. It does not show the true way to the enjoyment of God, which is no other than faith in Christ. It does not sufficiently instruct us about the manner in which we ought to worship and please God, and do what is acceptable to him. In short, this call by nature never did, nor is it even possible that it ever can, bring any to the saving knowledge of God; the gospel alone “is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth.” Rom. 1:16.

XIV. We cannot agree with those, whether they be ancients, a list of whom Casaubon, Exercit. I. ad Apparat. Annal. Baronii, and after him Vossius, Histor. Pelag. lib. iii. p. 3. Thes. 11, have drawn up; or whether they be moderns, who maintain, that good men, among the Gentiles, were brought to salvation by this call of nature, without the knowledge of Christ. And we think some of our brethren ascribe too much to nature, who tell us “that men, if not wilfully blind, could, by what is known of God, have attained to some knowledge of the divine mercy, by which they might obtain salvation, in a manner perhaps unknown to us; though destitute of the distinct knowledge of some mysteries, which they could no way discover of themselves,” Amyraldus, Specim. Animad. in Exerc. de Gratia. Univ. P. 2. p. 133. For we are persuaded, there is no salvation without Christ, Acts 4:12: no communion of adult persons with Christ, but by faith in him, Eph. 3:17: no faith in Christ, without the knowledge of him, John 17:3; no knowledge, but by the preaching of the Gospel, Rom. 10:14: no preaching of the Gospel in the works of nature. For it is that “mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.” Rom. 16:25.

XV. To what purpose then, you will say, is this call by the light of nature? Not to speak of the being without excuse, just now mentioned, which, indeed, may be the end of him who calls, though not of the call itself: that calling serves to prepare the way for a further, a more perfect, and a more explicit call by the Gospel, and as a prelude of a fuller instruction. For as grace supposes nature, and makes it perfect, so the truths revealed in the Gospel are built on those made known by the light of nature. When a person, under that glimmering light, has discovered that there is a God; that happiness consists in communion with him, and that in comparison of him all things are nothing; and that he is the rewarder of those who seek him; and that, if he is sought in a proper way and manner, he is not sought in vain; he has now a foundation laid, on which to build the gospel, which declares what that God is, in what manner he becomes propitious to men in Christ, how he is to be sought, and in what method he will certainly be found. And thus the knowledge he learns from nature being sanctified by the Spirit, better prepares the mind for embracing those truths which, though they surpass, are yet so far from destroying, that they perfect nature. And it is very expedient for believers, who live under the Gospel, to have always the book of nature before their eyes: which furnishes them with useful instructions, and lashes the conscience with continual reproaches, unless they love, worship, and celebrate the Deity, who is every where present. Which the heathens themselves, as Epictetus and others, have represented in their own way.

XVI. We must therefore add the other call by the word of God, supernaturally revealed, either immediately from God’s own mouth, as was formerly done to the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and others; or mediately by the ministers of God, whether they preached it by word of mouth, or consigned it to writing. Thus Paul says, Rom. 10:14, “How shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” And here indeed both parts of the word are to be made use of; thus the law convincing man of sin, Rom. 3:20, awakens him to a sense of his misery, drives the sinner out of himself, stirs him up to desire deliverance, and makes him sigh in this manner, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of death!” Rom. 7:24. Therefore the law ought certainly to be preached, in its full vigour and force, that “knowing the terror of the Lord, we may persuade men.” 2 Cor. 5:11. But yet the principal part is performed by the Gospel, which revealing Christ, and the fulness of all grace and salvation in him, allures, by its endearing sweetness, awakened and concerned sinners to communion with God. Nothing more powerfully sinks into the inmost soul, than that most alluring invitation of Jesus, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matt. 11:28. “Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Rev. 22:17. This word is “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth,” Rom. 1:16. If the law only was preached, it would, by its horrors, harden souls, driven to despair, into a hatred of God, as a severe avenger of sin. But by adding the Gospel, which makes a bright hope of grace to shine, even on the most abandoned and wretched sinner, if, displeased with himself, he heartily desires it: obstinate hearts come to relent, and to be melted down into a love of God, and of his Christ. And therefore, nothing ought to be more sweet and dear to us than the most delightful word of the Gospel, in which are rivers of honey and butter. Job 20:17.

XVII. This word of grace, though variously dispensed, was published in the world from the very first sin of man. Heb. 1:1. But in such a manner, as to be sufficient for the instruction of the elect to salvation, in all ages, according to that measure of grace and knowledge, which the providence of God distributed in each period of time. When the revelation was more sparing and obscure, God being satisfied with a less measure of knowledge, did, by the secret power of his Spirit, unite the elect to Christ, and keep them united by an almost invisible band, which yet no force could break asunder. But when he had more brightly discovered himself, he called for a more exact knowledge and faith. And as he clearly teaches his people, how they ought to walk and to please God, so he also requires them to “abound more and more.” 1Thess. 4:1.

XVIII. We do not agree with those who think, that by the unwritten word of God, those only were called to salvation through faith in Christ, who were eminent for the spirit of prophesy, but the rest of the church was so rude and ignorant, that they were brought to an unknown Christ, by the help of the law of nature alone, without the spirit of faith. For, down from Adam, the true church had one and the same precious faith, and the same common salvation with the prophets. God did not only speak to the prophets, for their private use, but by the Prophets to the fathers, Heb. 1:1. The prophets would have acted perfidiously, had they put the candle that was lighted for them under a bushel, and indolently wrapt in a napkin the talent intrusted with them. Nor is it consistent with the piety of the ancient fathers, not to have inculcated, with care and diligence, upon their children, what they themselves had learned about the promised seed of the woman. So that though we are not to determine any thing rashly, as to the manner and measure of knowledge, yet we are not to doubt, but that the revelation of a Saviour was made to the elect from the beginning.

XIX. This Gospel-call was never given universally to all men, unless in the beginning of the world, just springing from Adam, or rising again from Noah. Though, even then, God gave warning of the seclusion of some from his grace, by the distinction he made between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; and by separating Ham from his brethren by a dreadful curse, and the ancient prophecy of alluring, in after times, the posterity of Japhet into the tents of Shem, which insinuated that the posterity of Japhet should, for some time, be aliens from the communion of the people of God. Afterwards, the greatest part of mankind were left to themselves; and though God vouchsafed the word of his grace to the posterity of Abraham, yet not to them all In fine, when he claimed Israel to himself for a people, he rejected the other nations, and suffered them all to go on in their own ways, Acts 14:16. And though, upon breaking down the wall of partition, the apostles were enjoined to preach the Gospel to every creature, without distinction, yet it was never so universally preached, but that there were always very many nations, and still are at this day, whom the report of the Gospel never reached. They are therefore mistaken who, having feigned an universal redemption by Christ, and an universal objective grace, as it is called, have at the same time devised, for supporting it, an universal call to Christ.

XX. This call contains the command of faith, by which all men without exception, to whom God vouchsafes the same, are enjoined to believe in Christ, in that way and manner which is revealed in the Gospel, Isa. 45:22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” But the method of believing is this: first, that a person do heartily acknowledge all men, without exception, and himself among the rest, to be liable to condemnation because of sin: and then, that he embrace the principal truths of the Gospel; namely, that there is no salvation but in Christ, nor any communion with Christ, but by a true and lively faith: moreover, that he do not neglect so great salvation, but renouncing all earthly enjoyments, and every false remedy for his sins that, he only desire the righteousness of Christ, receive him as his Saviour, give himself up wholly to him, not doubting but, in so doing, he shall find rest to his soul. All, and every one in particular, therefore, to whom the Gospel is preached, are not commanded directly to believe, that Christ died for them. For that is a falsehood: but are commanded to proceed in that method, I have now described; and not to take comfort to themselves from the death of Christ, before, having acknowledged their own misery, and renounced every thing but Christ, they have given themselves up sincerely to him. We cannot therefore conclude from this general call, who they are for whom Christ died; but only this, that there is no other name given under heaven, in which we can be saved; and that in him, as an all-sufficient Saviour, every believer shall have life.

XXI. But that external call will bring none to communion with Christ, unless it be accompanied with the internal, which is accomplished not only by persuasion and command, but by the powerful operation of the Spirit. There is a certain call of God, whereby he makes the things he calls, to exist by that very call. By such a call “he calleth those things which be not, as though they were,” Rom. 4:17. For when he said, “Let there be light,” immediately “there was light,” Gen. 1:3. Not unlike this is that internal call of the Spirit, of which the apostle writes, 2 Cor. 4:6, “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts.” But when he says to the elect, in the hour of their happy visitation, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light,” Eph. 5:14, it is no more possible for them to remain any longer in the sleep of death, than it was possible for Lazarus to continue in the grave, after Christ had said to him, “Lazarus, come forth,” John 11:43.

XXII. Here God exerts his infinite power, by which he converts the soul no less powerfully than sweetly. While the Gospel is externally proposed to his chosen people, “He gives them the eyes of their understanding to be enlightened, that they may know what is the hope of their calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” Eph. 1:18; “he openeth their heart, that they may attend unto the things which are spoken,” Acts 16:14; and causes them “to receive the word with all readiness of mind,” Acts 17:11. He writes his laws on their heart, Jer. 31:33: puts the reverence of himself there, Ezek. 11:20: and not only calls them from darkness to his marvellous light, but also, by the call, draws them, not to stand still in the path of doubtful deliberation, but to run after him, Cant. 1:4; not only puts them in an equal poise, but turns them, Jer. 31:18; not only advises, but persuades, and “he is stronger and prevails,” Jer. 20:7. Nor does he solicit, but translate, Col. 1:13; not by an ordinary, but by that mighty power, by which he raised Christ from the dead, Eph. 1:20. Let changeable human nature put on what form it will, it must be obliged to confess, that in this matter, these are so many displays of divine omnipotence, like so many thunderbolts thrown out to bring down its pride.

XXIII. Nevertheless, God deals here with the rational creature in such a manner, that the liberty of the human will is not, in the least, affected: which he is so far from destroying, by the energy of his power, that, on the contrary, he rescues and maintains it. He put, indeed, into the heart of Titus the earnest care of going, yet so as to undertake the journey of his own accord, 2 Cor. 8:16, 17. It is a violence, indeed, but that of heavenly love, the greater the sweeter. A certain kind of compulsion, but that of the most charming friendship, to the end that the soul being loosed from the chains of sin and Satan, may rejoice in the most delightful liberty. God does not drag along the unwilling by head and shoulders, but makes them willing, Phil. 2:13. bringing his truths so clearly to their understanding, that they cannot but assent, so effectually gaining upon their will by the charms of his goodness, that they are not able to reject them; but yield themselves conquered, and that with the highest complacency; exulting with joy, “O Lord, thou hast enticed me, and I was enticed; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed,” Jer. 20:7. “I may well exult in this victory and triumph over the devil, for that I myself am conquered by thee.” And who can be so rude as to complain of any violence done to human liberty, by this winning power (so to speak) of the Deity?

XXIV. It was certainly inconsistent with the power and majesty of God, to attempt any thing and leave it in suspense, and not bring it to a final issue; it was likewise unworthy both of his goodness and wisdom, so to vex and distress a man endowed with reason and will, as, in a matter of the far greatest moment act, to without knowledge or against his will, by a certain fatal and blind instinct of his own. He therefore employs the highest degree of force, thereby to conquer the highest degree of the corruption of nature; but a pleasant force, a force under the direction of wisdom, as became an intelligent and rational nature; which is so willingly overcome, as not only not to resist, because nothing can resist God, when he comes to convert the soul; but also because, should it resist, it would think itself most unhappy. But yet we are here to distinguish between the beginning and accomplishment of the call; as also between the object and the end, or that in which it terminates. For at the beginning of the call, man necessarily resists, and cannot but resist, because the object is an unbelieving and rebellious sinner, and a child of disobedience: but in the consummation, he necessarily makes no resistance, and cannot now resist, because the end of this call, or that in which it terminates, is a Believer, who owns himself conquered, and glories in the obedience of faith. This is what the Greek authors emphatically call πειθανάγκη, the contracting persuasion, of God who calls.

XXV. The many admonitions, promises, and threatenings by which we are invited, make nothing against this truth; for, as they inform us of our duty, so they are made effectual to conversion by the internal operation of the Spirit. Nor ought the complaints of God and of Christ, of the unwillingness of people to be converted, be objected to it; because these do not speak of any inward power that would bring about their conversion, as if they were able to weaken that, but of the external ministry of the word, against which the wicked harden their heart. Neither are we to urge what we elsewhere find about grieving the Spirit of God: because we are to distinguish between the common operations of the Spirit of God, and the special operations of the Spirit of grace: between the moral and the supernatural actions of the Spirit of grace. Between some more feeble impulses to certain exercises of virtue and piety, and that grand attempt of the Spirit when he goes to convert an elect person. They grieve the Spirit of God, because they rather choose to obey the impulses of the flesh and of the devil, than his holy admonitions, which are partly proposed externally by the word, partly insinuated into their mind by conscience. Believers themselves also grieve the Spirit of grace whereby they are sealed, as often as they refuse to comply with his holy admonitions; and though conscience, in which the Spirit has set up his throne, in vain struggles with them, yet they suffer themselves to be carried away by the flesh and the world: and likewise every time that, with a becoming greverence of soul, they refuse to receive, cherish, and follow his holy impulses, when he quickens them to duty. Whence nothing can be concluded against the invincible efficacy of God, when he calls internally, and effectually undertakes the conversion of his people.

XXVI. We ought then attentively to consider, carefully hearken to, and willingly comply with the call of God, both the external by the light of nature and revelation, and the internal by the Spirit; so that, upon being brought to communion with God and Christ, “we may show forth the praises of him, who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light,” 1 Pet. 2:9.

Offsite Banner Ad:

Help Support APM

Search the Site

Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind