The Chequered Life of A Christian – Chapter 2
I come now to treat of effectual calling. There is an outward or general call, and this is very common to the children of God, as when a man is alarmed by his natural conscience, which makes dreadful work in some, or by bodily, or family afflictions, or by afflictive providences, or by hearing an alarming preacher; these things may greatly shake a man, and bring him to reform, and into a profession. But this is not of itself effectual calling, though effectual calling very often begins this way. Now in this sense, “Many are called, but few chosen.” But in order to make clear work of it, it will be needful first, to show where we are called from; and second, where we are called to, and who it is that calls us.
1. Then we are called out of this world – a separation begins to take place, which may be imperceptible at first. Various are the means God uses to bring this about; a word faithfully spoken by a friend, or from hearing the Word, or on a sick bed, or by a dream, or the death of a friend, it matters not how it is done, but it is the effects it is sure to produce, and it is the voice of Christ that speaks and secretly communicates power to the heart. Hence we read, “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God.” This was wonderfully set forth to the Prophet Ezekiel in a vision, in which he saw a valley of dry bones, and God said to him, “Can these dry bones live? And he answered, Lord, Thou knowest: and He said, prophecy to these bones; and as I prophesied, bone came to his bone, and they stood on their feet an exceeding great army”; and then he was commanded to prophecy to the wind, etc. Now we are by nature in this state spiritually, till the voice of Christ reaches us, and calls us out of this world, saying to this effect, “Come out from amongst them, and be ye separate,” etc. “Forsake the foolish and live.” Now in this work there is light and life communicated to the soul, and we see more and more the state of this world, and what an awful end they will make, and ourselves also. Yes, and we feel wretched, and wonder what is the matter with us; and these wretched feelings sets us to work to alter our ways, to avoid what appears evil, and embrace what appears good; we therefore shun our former companions, and go to a place of worship, but it is ten to one we unite at first with formalists; however, in time God will have us out from these; and here He calls again, telling us to turn from them that have a form of godliness, without the power. But some go on long before this takes place; for it is not easy to believe that one who preaches the letter very sound is altogether destitute of the power; and therefore they hold us fast, and refuse to let us go; but God says, “My people shall know in that day that it is I that do speak; behold it is I!” How well do I remember running after these preachers, truly wretched and miserable, that my life was a burden to me! But I never found one to describe my state till God brought me under Mr. Huntington; neither could I believe that these preachers were only in the letter, but tried hard to unite them altogether, hearing him on the Tuesday night, and them on the Sunday; but the Lord called me in time from them.
Once more, we are called from Satan’s service; hence Paul says, “He hath translated us out of the kingdom of Satan.” We therefore cannot go on comfortably in the old way, but every step we attempt to take we pierce ourselves through with many sorrows, for our way is now hedged up with thorns. Then it is evident that we are called out of the world, out of darkness, out of the company of professors and letter-preachers, and out of the kingdom of Satan.
God calls us also to forsake everything that stands in competition with Him; hence you read, “He that will not forsake father, mother, houses, lands, wife, children, and his own life, cannot be My disciple.” It is easy enough, reader, to begin to profess Christ as thousands do; but finally to persevere through thick and thin, and endure to the end is no easy thing; nothing but the almighty power of God can enable you and me to obey this call. The world, flesh, and the devil, are too strong powerful enemies; and so sure as we begin in the flesh, in the flesh we shall end. This I am at a point in, from what I have experienced of the path of tribulation. Many fair beginnings have ended very bad, fair in appearance; many have been called to lose their lives for Jesus; and if the real love of God is not in us, we never can lose our lives for Him. Talking is one thing, and doing is another.
Thus, then, some of these things we are sure to be called to, and we may be called for aught we know to them all; and if not outwardly in all, we may in the feeling experience of it, under sore inward conflicts of soul. Reader, examine thyself, whether thou art in the faith. It is not so easy, very likely, as you may think, when things go smooth and easy. Through head knowledge you may say, I could part with all for Christ; yes, and in some trials which you may have, you may still hold this confidence; but let them come heavier and heavier, sore conflicts, violent temptations, and if God does not hold you up (if not a vessel of mercy, if not the grace of God in you) you will never obey this call. Add to all this, the strong lusts of the flesh, which will day after day be calling for gratification – which believers in their nature love as well as the world; and they will work in all directions – in the world, and after the children of the flesh – in the house of God, and in a filthy way after God’s children. An object takes the eye, and our corrupt part is all on a flame, which will work for days, weeks, months, and years after a forbidden object; and nothing will satisfy this wayfaring man but to do as we like with them, and to have our full swing; yes, all this will come under the Word while preaching, in company with them, in and at our work, and in dreams – too bad to mention! Now we are called to forsake all this, and much more; “Flee also youthful lusts,” etc.
2. Having just hinted, and only hinted at what we are called from; let us take notice of the more pleasing part of this calling, namely, what we are called to. And if you and I can make it out that we are effectually called of God, well for us! For all things work together for our good. But here I must keep within bounds, and therefore shall confine myself to these nine things; and as the Lord shall assist, we will go through them as brief as we can.
1) Then we are called to repentance; hence our Lord says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”; and this repentance is a turn from this world, from sin, from self, and all fleshly religion – to God-hating, loathing, and abhorring everything of the flesh; it is attended with hatred to ourselves for all our abominations, and a love to God, His truth, His family, and His ways; and such as have real repentance, loath themselves in their own sight for their iniquities, and at the same time believing that God is pacified towards them. It was after Ephraim was turned that he repented, etc. When our Lord looked on Peter he was turned (not that this was his first turn, but after his backsliding) and he went out (out of self, out of the flesh) and wept bitterly. David found this also, and cries for mercy, confessing, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned.” The turn took place afresh with him, when Nathan came to him, saying, “Thou art the man.” I have sinned, says he, against the Lord. When the Lord turned Job’s captivity, he says, “I abhor myself,. and repent in dust and ashes.” Such feel for God’s honour and for His cause, and look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn. I shall not enlarge here, having treated upon this repentance already in my other books. This, wherever it is found, proves that such are effectually called.
2) We are called to be saints; not to be sinners, to live in a course of sin; no – but to be saints (Rom. 1:7). Hence Peter says, “The time past of our life may suffice us, wherein we have wrought the will of the flesh,” etc. If you ask what a saint is? I answer, he is one that is set apart for God and His service in God’s eternal purpose; and therefore Jude says, “Sanctified by God the Father,” etc., or set apart, as David says, “But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself.” Take notice, that it is said “Him that is godly,” in the present tense; for in God’s eternal purpose they were all set apart, godly, cleansed, pardoned, and justified; hence God told Peter that He had cleansed all those creeping things that were in the sheet; and told him not to call them common nor unclean. But all this you and I are ignorant of, and therefore there is a threefold sanctification takes place.
Cleansing us from all sin in the blood of Jesus, as you read, “That He might sanctify the people with His own blood, He suffered without the gate”; and nothing short of this can manifest us to be saints. Various things have been invented by men to remove sin; but faith in the atonement of Christ is the only way. This is sanctification.
The Holy Spirit takes possession of our hearts; and though the old nature is not in the least altered, yet there is a grace put in the heart to oppose every corruption, and this will go on till death; and there is a constant work goes on, which is to wash away sin, and renew or raise up this crop of grace, “Of His mercy He saves us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” And if you watch, you will find this work go on under the Word preached; “Then I thoroughly washed away thy blood, and I anointed thee with oil.” Such are saints; and this work is done in none else. “I shall be anointed with fresh oil,” says David.
Truth is put in the hidden parts of the heart. This truth is Christ; “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” No man living has got truth in his heart but these saints; truth as it respects their fallen state – truth respecting God in His righteousness, holiness, and justice – and truth, as it respects the Lord Jesus being their Surety, and discharging their infinite debt, delivering them from the curse of a broken Law. This truth makes them free, and is their shield and buckler; “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth.” And what is written in the Word, that is essential to salvation, is engraven in their hearts, and this proves they are called of God, “called to be saints.”
3) They are called to a feast of fat things full of marrow, and fatness and wines on the lees well refined. “A certain king made a marriage for his son, and said, my oxen and fatlings are killed, all things are ready,” etc., and those that partook of it were the poor, halt, lame, maimed, and blind. Now God the Father is the King, His Son is the Lord Jesus – the provision He has made is His own Son, “God so loved the world, that He gave His Son,” etc., “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast.” The marriage consists in uniting souls to Jesus; and therefore He sends His ministers as instruments for this work. “I have espoused you to a good Husband, that I may present you as chaste virgins to Christ.” The characters are the poor, they feel destitute of all good – the halt, they halt between the world and Christ; “How long halt ye between two opinions? If Baal be God, serve him; but if the Lord be God, serve Him.” The lame are such as have a strong faith in the threatening, and not a proportion of faith in the promises, they limp – “The legs of the lame are not equal”: the blind can see everything against them, but nothing for them –“Bring forth the blind people that have eyes.” Now if you see and feel your wretched state, you are heartily welcome to this feast; “For the great (Gospel) trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come that were ready to perish.” A sensible sinner knows well when he is at this feast; he believes that Jesus Christ died for his sin, and that His perfect righteousness is placed to his account: such are fully satisfied – “I will satisfy her poor with bread” – “I am the bread of God that came down from heaven, to give life to the world” – “I am the bread of life” – “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved” – “Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
4) They are called to liberty, which is as follows: we now delight in God’s service; we choose it in preference to everything beneath the sun; we are not driven to prayer, reading, or hearing, with the lashes of conscience, to merit God’s favour; but we are sure He loved us from everlasting, and that Christ suffered for us, and therefore we are willing servants; being delivered from a legal spirit, the curses of the Law, and the tyranny of Satan, so that we say, “How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the house of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” – “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” These things I know for myself (that am writing) by blessed experience. Those that talk of liberty, who go on in sin, prove that they are not called of God; “For God has called us to liberty, only use it not for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another”: and therefore to establish this liberty
5) Let us come to the next thing we are called to, which is holiness, and not uncleanness. Jesus Christ is not the minister of sin, no; “Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” It is true we are plagued as Paul was, with a body of sin and death, but what is our plague cannot be called our element, no; glad should we be to be delivered from it altogether, but this will not be till death. Now holiness consists not in outside work only, this is at best nothing but the sheepskin, which skin when belonging to a sheep, is the fruits and effects of this holiness; but in others it is only a mock thing, appearing outwardly righteous, but within are ravenous wolves. Now real holiness principally consists in union to Christ, and being a partaker of His Spirit. Such have the same fear in them that was on Christ; and therefore Paul says, “Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
To have that faith that He is the Author and Finisher of, as the Apostle Jude says, “Building yourselves up on your most holy faith,” and lastly, to be “rooted and grounded in love”; for we are to be holy and without blame before Him in love. Now if you take these things altogether, union to Christ, the indwelling of His Spirit, fear, faith, and love, and then join them to that liberty which I treated of, you will see both together called to liberty, and also called unto holiness.
6) Jesus Christ calls us to Himself. This you may clearly see in Proverbs 8, it is the Saviour there speaking, called wisdom; and it is to the children of men that He calls – “Unto you, O men, do I call, and My voice is to the sons of men: for His delights were with them from everlasting.” You know that literally if anyone calls you, the intention is that you may hear their voice; and so it is in this Divine call. There is nothing heard with the outward ear, but it is the ear of the soul, and power attends it: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” So that if you and I are quickened, we are called, and this life makes us feel sin to be a sore burden. This life gives us an appetite for spiritual provision; and this life it is that makes us feed upon Jesus Christ. Now “Blessed is the man that heareth Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My door; for he that findeth Me, findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” And this is not all, for He calls us to Him for rest “Come unto Me, all ye that labour (to please God, and to keep His Law) and are heavy laden (with the burden of sin and legal labour) and I will give you rest”; and by faith we enter into Him, and find rest: we cease from our works, and He works in us, and we rest satisfied.
He gives us living water – “Jesus stood and cried with a loud voice, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water; which water shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life”; which I have proved times without number. Now then, reader, has this voice reached thy heart? For He speaks as one having authority. Has it brought life and rest to thee, and have you drank of this living water? If so, He has called you effectually to Himself, and you have come, for these things clearly prove it.
7) We are called to the fellowship of Christ. This is twofold; first, communion and fellowship, agreeable to what John says, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” This is sweet work; for we receive from His fullness every supply of grace; we are joint heirs, “That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee; that they all may be one in us.” He leads us into the secret purposes of grace from everlasting, and shows us His covenant, and we are delighted with these blessed things, and conclude that we shall have sunshine all our journey through. But, alas! We are, in the second place, “To drink of the cup which He drank of,” and thus have fellowship with Him in His sufferings. Oh, the scene of distress and afflictions I have waded through, both in soul and circumstances! For it is not only given in our behalf to believe, but also to suffer for His name sake. Nevertheless this fellowship is manifested in that He speaks a word in season to us when weary; props up our hearts in a storm, for He is a hiding place, a rock, a fortress, a high tower, and a deliverer; knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation-succours the tempted-is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and in all our afflictions He is afflicted. Now this is fellowship, and we are called to it.
8) If you are called, you will know it by being justified freely from all things. Hence the golden chain runs thus, “Whom He did foreknow, them He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called; whom He called, them He also justified.” Thus justification proves our calling to a demonstration: and I will tell you how you may know this – before it takes place, you will find Satan, sin, Law, conscience, and the world, all accusing you; you will view God angry, feel terror, slavish fear, and bondage, and your soul will sink lower and lower; you will appear the vilest sinner that ever lived on the earth, and expect nothing but the execution of the sentence, the threatening part of God’s Word will cut you off. Now in this state the Good Spirit puts a cry in your heart for mercy, testifies of Jesus to you, and works a confidence in the heart which ventures upon Him, and every accuser is gone directly. See Joshua, the high priest, and the publican in the temple; the one was clothed with change of raiment, and the other went down to his house justified: and this is what Paul calls being justified by faith. You will feel peace with God, quietness, rest, full assurance of faith, joy, love, and a witness which removes all condemnation.
But, lastly, we are called to fight in the field of battle all our days till death. Say you, some say they are called, and yet are not engaged in this war, and old standers too; yes, but they are not the elect of God, neither are they effectually called. Take it from Paul, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, unto which thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” No, no, as Mr. Hart says,
Believers are not called we see
To sleep, nor play, but fight.
And therefore after we have been borne on Zion’s side, and dandled on her knee, at which time we conclude that we shall die in our nest, God hides His face, and every enemy appears, the devil, corruption, the world with its smiles and frowns, hypocrites and the Law, and these will fight hard against us, so that we shall often expect to be overcome and give up all for lost again and again; and God will try some sorely in providence, that they shall at times expect a workhouse for them and their family, and damnation at last. O fellow traveller, you and I did not expect this some years back, when we were so indulged; but let this be our comfort, that all our enemies are conquered; and though we are to keep fighting till death, yet “we are more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us.” The last enemy we shall have to encounter will be death; and the sting being removed, it cannot hurt us, but open a way for our everlasting felicity and happiness.
Having showed where we are called from, and where we are called to, and that by the voice of Christ, as also the Spirit, and the bride, the Lamb’s wife – for the “Spirit and the bride say, come; and he that heareth, says come; and whosoever will (made willing in the day of God’s power) let him take of the water of life freely.”