Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 2 THES. II. 14.
AFTER the doctrine of Antichrist, and God's dreadful spiritual judgments on his abettors and followers, the apostle interposeth some matter of consolation to the Thessalonians; as before he comforted them from their election, so now from their vocation. Therefore, as we saw the doctrine of election set forth in the former verse, with all its appendant branches and circumstances, so now the doctrine of vocation, with what belongeth to it. Here calling is set forth - (1.) By the author of it: he calleth you; that is, God, who from the beginning hath chosen you to salvation. (2.) The outward means: by our gospel. (3.) The end, which is double: - First, Subordinate, in the word whereunto, viz., to faith and holiness; Secondly, Ultimate: to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 'Whereunto he called you,' &c.
Doct. All that are elected by God are in time effectually called by faith and holiness1 to obtain eternal life.
1. I shall open effectual calling by what is said of it in the text.
2. That all chosen by God are called in this way.
1. Let me explain effectual calling. The author of it: 'he called you;' namely, God, spoken of in the former verse. I prove it by these two reasons: - (1.) None else hath authority to call; (2.) None else hath power to call.
[1.] Authority to call, either to duties or privileges; for calling is an earnest invitation to duties upon the offer of several privileges.
(1.) Duties: God is our proper Lord and rightful sovereign. He may justly challenge our obedience. Being our Creator, he is our owner; and being our owner, he is our sovereign and lawgiver, and may enact what laws he pleaseth. Certainly creation giveth him an interest in us; for every man taketh himself to have an authority over what he hath made, to dispose of it as he pleaseth. Now he that properly made all things is God. Man is said to make a thing as he bestoweth art upon it, but God bestoweth being upon it. A potter may form his clay into what vessel he pleaseth, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour, Rom. ix. 21; that is, either a dish for food or a vessel to serve the vilest uses of nature, for meat or excrements. But we speak of rational creatures that are capable of proper government. Surely God made us, and hath a right to govern us. Our parents are but instruments of his providence; they know not how the child is framed in the womb, &c. Now he calleth upon us to do our duty with original supreme authority. We may refuse others; if they speak not to us in his name, they have no right over our consciences, to impose new duties upon us: James iv. 12, 'There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.' Now his calling being a powerful excitation to do our duty, it originally be-longeth to God.
(2.) As to privileges: The blessings God offereth are so great and glorious, that none else can give us a right to them but God; and the soul can have no security that it doth not usurp and intrude upon the possession of things that belong not to us till we have his warrant. As the apostle speaketh of an office, Heb. v. 4, 'No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron;' so it is true of all prerogatives; we have no leave to assume and take the honour of them to ourselves till we are called of God: that is our warrant. None came to the wedding-feast till they were bidden, Mat. xxii., or went into the vineyard till they were hired, Mat. xx. This is the difference between duties and privileges: that any man, who will prefer that office of charity and love to us, may excite us to our duties, to unquestionable duties, due from the creature to the Creator; but no man can assure us of right to privileges without the Creator's leave. Man cannot make that to be a necessary duty to the Creator which is not. But man may warn us of our danger when we disobey God; but man cannot assure us of our right to such privileges without God's grant. Therefore certainly it is God that must call us
[2.] None else can have power; for to calling there is necessary not only the invitations of the word, but also the effectual operation of the Spirit. None else can change the heart. A Christian is nothing, and hath nothing, but what God is pleased to work in him by his divine power: 2 Peter i. 3, 'According as his divine power hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. It is a work of an infinite power to give grace to graceless souls, to make those that are sensual and worldly to become spiritual and heavenly, there being so much opposition to hinder that work; for such is the corruption of men's hearts, the power of Satan over us, that he keepeth possession till a stronger than he overcometh him, Luke xi. 21. Therefore it is always made the work of his power, 'who calleth the things that are not as though they were,' Rom. iv. 17. It is still ascribed to his creating power; either the illumination of the mind, 2 Cor. iv. 6, 'For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;' or inclinations of the heart, Eph. ii. 10. We can neither think, nor effect, nor pursue spiritual and heavenly things without it. Therefore certainly it is God that calleth us.
2. The outward means: 'by our gospel.' Where - (1.) Consider the means itself: the gospel; (2.) The interest which the apostle challengeth in it: our gospel.
[1.] The means itself: the gospel. This God useth: -
(1.) Because if God will call and invite the creature by his duty to his happiness, it is necessary that his call should be evident to the creature by some visible sign. Now, the natural duty of man is much seen by the creation: Rom. i. 19, 'Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them;' Ps. xix. 1, 2, 'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork: day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.' But this call is made to man fallen, as a remedy to his lapsed estate, which, depending on the free grace of God, can only be known by his revelation, conveyed to us by extraordinary messengers, such as Christ, who was the principal revealer of the doctrine of God for the saving of the world, and him God authorised and sealed to this end: John vi. 27, 'Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed.' And then by the apostles, who were instituted by Christ, and sent forth to proselytise the world to the obedience of God; and they were also authorised from heaven by divers signs and wonders, as long as it was necessary to use that dispensation for the confirmation of their message, and to show how dangerous it was to neglect a doctrine so useful to mankind, and suitable to their great necessities, and so owned by God, Heb. ii. 3, 4. Therefore by the gospel God called them to this grace.
(2.) To convince and stop their mouths that refuse this calling, for the gospel bringeth grace home to us, and leaveth it upon our choice. If we will accept it, well and good; if not, we justly deserve to be rejected for ever: Acts xiii. 26, 'To you is this word of salvation sent.' What say you to it? God hath sent a gracious message to you in particular; will you accept or refuse? Acts iii. 26, 'He hath sent him to you, to bless every one of you,' &c. It doth excite all, and every man, to look after the recovery of his lapsed estate; surely God doth you no wrong if he severely punish your refusal after he hath invited you to his grace in Christ. Great is the misery of those that refuse this call: 'None of those that were bidden shall taste of my supper,' Luke xiv. 24. They are not only excluded from happiness, but they incur extreme wrath and misery: Prov. i. 24-26, 'Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.'
(3.) Because to the elect he will deal congruously, and preserve the liberty of his own workmanship, and therefore dealeth with man as man; doth not compel us to be good whether we will or no, but doth at the same time teach and draw us: John vi. 44, 45,'No man can come unto me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me; sweetly attempering the means to our liberty, but accompanying them with his powerful grace: Acts xi. 21, 'The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.' It is God doth all, prospering the labours of his servants. So Acts xvi. 14, 'God opened the heart of Lydia, so that she attended unto the things spoken by Paul.' God opened her heart, but by the things spoken by Paul. And God loveth to associate or accompany his power with his own means: Rom i. 16, 'It is the power of God unto salvation.'
[2.] The interest the apostle challengeth in it: our gospel. Doth it not derogate from the authority of it to appropriate it to any man? I answer - No. Elsewhere it is called God's gospel: 'The glorious gospel of the blessed God,' 1 Tim. i. 11. He is the author. It is not an invention of man, but a secret that came from the bosom of God. Again, it is called Christ's gospel: 'The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,' 2 Thes. i. 8; as the principal sub-revealer, who made known unto us most fully the mind of God. And then on the apostles, who were instruments chosen and intrusted by Christ to declare it to the world both by word and writing. The scripture is an authentic record, wherein all things are delivered to us both concerning our duties and privileges. Therefore, when he saith our gospel, he doth not mean it of principal revelation, but in regard of dispensation and trust: 1 Tim. i. 11, 'The glorious gospel of the blessed God is committed to my trust.' Therefore this word our gospel is - (1.) A word of fidelity, that argued the conscience to this duty, that owneth the trust committed to him, and that this was his chief work and charge: 1 Cor. ix. 17, 'A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.' (2.) It is a word of esteem, love, and affection; what we love we call ours: Rom. xvi. 25, 'Now to him that is able to stablish you according to my gospel.' Paul was glad he had such interest in it as to be a preacher of it; and believers should be glad they are partakers of the benefit: Eph. i. 13, 'In whom ye trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.' It is theirs and ours. Oh, blessed be God for this! (3.) It is a word importing diligence - our gospel; that which he preached with so much labour and hazard: he followed this work close: Acts xx. 24, 'I count not my life dear, that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.' He was willing to die and suffer anything for the gospel's sake. (4.) The consent and harmony between him and the rest of the apostles. Sometimes he calleth it my gospel, to assert his own apostolical authority, as Rom. ii. 16; sometimes our gospel, 2 Cor. iv. 3, to note their common consent, who were the authorised messengers of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is our gospel, the same jointly attested by all Christ's chosen messengers. 3. The ends of this calling. They are either subordinate or ultimate. First, Subordinate: in the word 'Whereunto he hath called you;' that is, to faith, holiness, and salvation; we are called to all.
[1.] God calleth us to the faith of the gospel; he hath not only ordained us to believe, but called us to believe. Without calling there can be no faith: Rom. x. 14, 'How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?' But upon calling there must be faith, or else we make void the dispensation of God which we are under.
(1.) There must be a belief of the gospel in general. The voice of the creatures calleth upon the Gentiles to believe an infinite, eternal power, that made man and all things; and the condemnation of the Gentile world is that they know not God, and glorify not God as God, after this revelation made to them. But to believe in Christ is a mystery to nature, and dependeth upon God's special revelation in the gospel. Therefore the external and internal power of the Spirit accompanieth it, to convince the world that it is sin not to believe in Christ - the external power in miracles, and the internal in the illumination of the mind: John xvi. 9, 'The Spirit shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not in me;' that is, receive not the faith of the gospel, or believe not that Christ was the true Messiah, the great prophet and doctor of the church.
(2.) This call doth aim at not only a belief of the truth of the gospel in general, but also a particular affiance in Christ according to the terms of the new covenant. General assent to the truth of the gospel is only considerable as it leadeth on other things. Now, that I may not wander, I will refer them to two things - (1.) A fiducial assent; (2.) An obediential confidence. This is the belief of the truth we are called unto.
(1st.) The assent must be fiducial, or accompanied with a trust in Christ: Eph. i. 13, 'In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.' The meaning is, the Gentiles, after they heard the gospel and believed the truth, they did trust themselves in the hands of Christ, to be brought by his saving and healing methods to eternal happiness. It is a mighty thing to have such a belief as may produce trust, or a venturing ourselves in the hands of Christ against all hazards, and, whatever befalleth us, be content to save our souls on his terms. This breedeth holy security or courage: 2 Tim. i. 12, 'For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.'
(2dly.) This confidence must be obediential, not a devout sloth or carelessness. To trust in his mercies and neglect his precepts crosseth the tenor of his covenant: Ps. cxix. 60, 'I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.' It is true religion when faith, hope, and love concur: Jude, vers. 20, 21, 'But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.' I know there is a trusting in his pardon for our failings, and that justification is a great privilege, as well as salvation; but pardon is promised to the sincere, that with an honest heart perform their duty: Ps. xxxii. 2, 'Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile;' and Rom. viii. 1, 'There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.' So that still our confidence in Christ must be obediential.
[2.] We are called to holiness; this is everywhere asserted in the scripture: I Thes. iv. 7, 'For God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness.' And it enforceth it on several grounds; as -
(1.) That there may be a likeness between the person calling and the persons called: I Peter i. 15, 'But as he that called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.' It is true religion to imitate what we worship; for knowledge and esteem always work an assimilation; and therefore, if we know the true God, and love him, we will study to be like him. Certainly, we have not a true knowledge of God if we do not know him to be a pure and holy God. He hath showed it in his laws, showed in his providence, and showed in his gospel by which we are called. The gods of the heathen taught sin by their own example. Their impure lives are recorded by their poets. Austin telleth us of a young man who was incited to wantonness by seeing the picture of Jupiter on the wall committing adultery. Quo pacto non faceret, cum in templo adorare cogeretur Jovem potius Catonem quam? But our God is pure, as appeareth by his laws, which are all 'holy, just, and good,' Ps. cxix. 140. Surely such holy precepts could come from none but a pure and holy God. As also by the work of his Spirit on his people: Eph. iv. 24, 'And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;' and 2 Cor. iii. 18, 'We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.' He puts us into a nature that is very tender and shy of sin, troubled at it in others: 2 Peter ii. 7, 8, 'And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; for that righteous man dwelling amongst them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.' He that made the eye, shall not he see? He that put into us a clean heart, is not he pure and holy? This appeareth also by the dispensations of his providence: Hab. i. 13, 'Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity. Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue, when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?' Judgments on sinners, so on his own people: Prov. xi. 31, 'Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in earth; much more the wicked and the sinner.' As, for instance, in David: the child died, his daughter is deflowered, Amnon slain, Absalom is in rebellion, his wives ravished, himself banished from his house and kingdom. Eli's sons slain, the ark taken, his daughter-in-law died, himself brake his neck. But chiefly in the very foundation of the gospel: the Son of God dieth a shameful, painful, accursed death before God would relax the rigour of his law and set afoot the gospel, and all that there might be a perfect demonstration of his justice and holiness, and displeasure against sin: Rom. viii. 3, 'For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin, in the flesh.'
(2.) The very nature of this calling enforceth this sanctification, or setting man apart from a common to a sacred use; for it is a calling us not only from misery to happiness, but from sin to holiness, and the one is indispensably necessary to the other; for none but those who are in a holy estate can be in a blessed condition. Our calling is sometimes called 'a heavenly calling,' Heb. iii. 1; sometimes 'an holy calling,' 2 Tim. i. 9. Therefore the chief subordinate end is holiness: Rom. i. 7, 'Called to be saints,' from the devil, the world, and the flesh, to God.
(3.) The grace and favour which is showed in our calling obligeth us to be holy in point of gratitude; for when we consider in what a sinful estate God found us, how freely he loved us, and that with a discriminating, differencing love, when he passed by others worthier than we, and to what estate he is ready to advance us - to the enjoyment of himself, amongst all those that are sanctified by faith; - all these are as so many strong bonds and obligations upon us to 'walk worthy of God, who hath called us to his kingdom and glory in Jesus Christ,' 1 Thes. ii. 12 - worthy of his grace in calling; worthy of the glory to which we are called; that is, with the worthiness of condecency, not of condignity. We cannot fully answer this grace, but we must do that which will become it.
(4.) This calling enableth us to be holy, because it giveth us all things necessary both to holiness of heart and life: 2 Peter i. 3, '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.' Now this grace must not lie idle, otherwise we receive the Spirit in vain.
Secondly, The ultimate end: 'To obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.' The same expression in I Peter v. 10, 'The God of all grace, who hath called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.' It is 'his glory.' Mark - (1.) Here is glory; (2.) It is the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1.] It is glory for body and soul. The glory is so great we cannot utter it, and conceive it. Now a little is revealed to us, but then it shall be revealed in us. (1.) The soul is not annihilated after death, nor doth it sleep till the resurrection, nor is it detained by the way from immediate passing into glory; but as soon as it is loosed from the body, is admitted into God's presence, and gathered unto the souls of just men made perfect, where it seeth God and loveth him, and enjoyeth what it seeth and loveth; for as soon as we are loosed from the body, we are present with the Lord. And therefore the first benefit we receive in the other world is the salvation of the soul: 1 Peter i. 9, 'Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.' It flitteth hence to God. (2.) The body hath its glory also in due time; for when it is raised up out of the grave, it will be another kind of body than we now have, both for impassibility, clarity, agility - for impassibility, called incorruption; clarity, called glory; agility, called power; subtilty, called a spiritual body by the apostle: 1 Cor. xv. 42, 43, 'It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body': -
(1.) Impassability doth not only exclude corruption, for so the bodies of the damned are preserved forever; but all grievances and pain: Rev. xxi. 4, 'There shall not be any more pain.'
(2.) For glory, a shining brightness: Mat. xiii. 43, 'The righteous shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father.' Stephen's face shone, in this life, 'as it were the face of an angel,' Acts vi. 15. And Moses' face shone by converse with God in the mount, Exod. xxxiv. 30. Our bodies shall be 'likened unto his glorious body,' Phil. iii. 21. In the transfiguration, 'His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment did shine as the light.'
(3.) For vigour, activity, and strength. It shall always be in the height and excellency of it. God preserved Moses' natural vigour for a long time, Deut. xxxiv. 7; but glorified bodies shall for ever remain in an eternal spring of youth.
(4.) Subtilty, a spiritual body. Here we live an animal life, after the manner of sensitive creatures, maintained by meat, drink, sleep; but hereafter the body shall live after the manner of spirits, having no need or use of these things. There we are isaggeloi, 'as the angels of God,' Mat. xxii. 30; and I Cor. vi. 19, 'Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost.' Well, then, this is the glory put upon us. [2.] Why is it called 'the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ?'
(1.) It is purchased by Christ. We were redeemed or bought by the price of his blood, that we might attain to this glory: Eph. i. 7, 'In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.'
(2.) It is promised by Christ: John x. 28, 'I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.' All that obey this call have eternal life already begun, nay, completed: 1 John ii. 25, 'And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.'
(3.) It is prayed for by Christ, which is a copy of his intercession: John xvii. 14, 'Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me.'
(4.) It is actually bestowed by Christ on his followers and called people. He receiveth our departing souls as soon as they flit out of the body: Acts vii. 59, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' They are with him: Phil. i. 23, and 2 Cot. v. 8, when 'absent from the body,' they are 'present with the Lord,' which is a mighty comfort to us. At the last day he will solemnly introduce us into heaven: John xiv. 3, 'I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.' The great shepherd of the sheep will lead the flock into their everlasting fold.
(5.) We have not only glory by Christ, but with Christ. We shall have the same glory Christ now hath, but in our measure; the same glory in kind whereunto Christ's humanity is advanced, referring to him only his privilege in the degree. So Rom. viii. 17, 'And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together;' Rev. iii. 21, 'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.' We share with him in his own blessedness, so far as we are capable.
II. That all those who are elected and chosen by God are thus called. Election and vocation have a great respect one to another; and though we cannot say that none are called that are not elected, for the Lord calleth others not only by the voice of nature, but the gospel: Mat. xxii. 14, 'Many are called, but few are chosen;' yet we may say that none are chosen, but they are in time called, so that vocation is, as it were, actual election. They are often put one for another; as John xv. 19, 'I have chosen you out of the world; therefore the world hateth you;' that is, called them, or pursued his choice. So 1 Cor. i. 26, 'Ye see your calling, brethren, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many noble, not many mighty are called: for God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty,' ver. 27; as if choosing and calling were all one. So Rom. xi. 28, 29, 'As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sake; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the Father's sake: for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.' So that calling is an infallible consequent of election. And Rom. viii. 30, 'Whom he did predestinate, them he also called.' Reason showeth it. (1.) Effectual calling is that powerful operation of God, wherein he beginneth to execute the purposes of his grace: Rom. viii. 28, 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose' (kata proqesin). The first discovery of it to the creature is by drawing us to himself. (2.) This act proceedeth immediately from his choice, as anteceding all that we can do, all worthiness of ours, or supposed worthiness: 2 Tim. i. 9, 'Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.' Nothing induced God to do it on our part, for what good thing could we do before we were made good by calling? (3.) The effect doth infallibly follow: John vi. 37, 'All that the Father hath given me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.' In due time they are called, and are obedient to the call, Rom. viii. 28.
Use 1. If it be so, then here is advice to all.
1. Let us apply ourselves to the means with reverence and seriousness; because God's power is shown in them, in converting souls to himself: Ps. lxv. 4, 'Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to draw nigh unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts.' It is a good thing to be in grace's way. The means have a ministerial efficacy: Acts xiv. 1, 'They so spake, that a great multitude of the Jews and Greeks believed;' with such clearness and force; so far God is with the minister. A dart flung by a skilful hand will pierce deeper than by its own weight. But yet, if you can but tarry, the hand of the Lord may be with you also. You do not know the seasons of the Lord's grace; all are not called at the first hour; some lie long at the pool, but yet wait still. Ere ever you are aware, the Holy Ghost may fall upon you and open your hearts. That heavenly doctrine may have its effect upon you.
2. Let us mind not only privileges, but duties. We have great privileges; we are called to enjoy sweet fellowship with Christ here: 1 Cor. i. 9, 'Faithful is he who hath called you to the communion of Christ Jesus our Lord,' and to a glorious estate hereafter. But we are also called to the sanctification of the Spirit and the belief of the truth; and we cannot obtain the one without the other. Do not so mind comfort as to slight holiness, and divide one part of your calling from the other. Comfort is consequent to holiness, and followeth it as heat doth fire. The Spirit is more necessarily a sanctifier than a comforter; for our duty and obedience to God is a greater thing than our own peace. Holiness is the image of God upon the soul,
and the blessed perfection wherein we were created: Gen. i. 27, 'So God created man in his own image.' And when it was lost by sin, Christ came and paid our ransom, that he might renew us by his Spirit: Titus iii. 5, 'According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.' Yea, much of our everlasting blessedness lieth in it. For heaven is to be looked upon not only as a state of complete felicity, but exact holiness: I John iii. 2, 'We know that when he doth appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is;' Eph. v. 27, 'That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.' Then it is a glorious church. Christ hath done his whole work. Holiness is the beauty of God himself, Exod: xv. 11, and puts an excellency on us, if we love it, and imitate it: Prov. xii. 26, 'The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.' We do not only excel other men, but we are more amiable in the sight of God: Prov. xi. 20, 'The upright is his delight.' In short, it is a part of salvation itself, and a means to that which remaineth: Acts xxvi. 18, 'Inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus.'
3. Let us reflect upon ourselves. Have we God's call? Have we obeyed the gospel? This will clear up your election to you: 2 Peter i. 10, 'Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.' Do you find such a belief wrought in you by the Spirit as begins in brokenness of heart, and ends in holiness? For Christ came to 'call sinners to repentance,' Mat. ix. 13; that is, men sensible of sin to holiness of heart and life; to return to God, that we may first live to him, and then with him.
4. To improve the belief of the glory promised. (1.) To sweeten obedience, or a cause of holiness which for the present is so tedious to the flesh. Now here is our labour, hereafter our recompense, 1 Cor. xv. 58. Every day we should grow more meet for his glory, Col. i. 12. (2.) To a contempt of all worldly things, good or evil. If good, many are pleased with this world's good things, but have no affection to spiritual and heavenly things; like the rebellious Israelites, who more desired the onions and garlic of Egypt than the milk and honey of the promised land, or the celestial manna, Num. xi. 5, 6; worse than prodigals, that rest more satisfied with husks of swine, than bread which is in their father's house: they have their good things. Now, we should remember we are called off from these things, from dreggy contentments, base enjoyments, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (3.) The evils of the world - crosses, afflictions: 'After ye have suffered a while, the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you;' and 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12, 'It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.' Our afflictions are both breves and leves, light and momentary: 2 Cor. iv. 17, 'For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.' Our sufferings are small if compared with the reward; the time short, if compared with eternity. There is a twofold eternity - that eternal death which the wicked must endure; that eternal life which we enter into. This should sweeten all bitter waters. (4.) To dispose and prepare us for death. The contemplation of immortality hath left strong impressions on the hearts of heathens; some burnt themselves as impatient to tarry longer. If a dark view, vain hope cause this, what should a sure promise and earnest of the Spirit do?
Use 2. To the called. (1.) Bless God for this calling. The woful estate out of which we are called, and the blessed estate into which we are entered, compared together, should make us wonder: I Peter ii. 9, 'Ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (2.) Walk answerably: Eph. iv. 1, 'I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.' And 1 Thes. ii. 12, ' That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.'
1. Qu. 'called by the gospel to faith and holiness'? - ED.