Chapter 13 - All Things For Good by Thomas Watson
This book was written by Thomas Watson in 1663, one year after he and 2000 other ministers were ejected from the Church of England. He wrote this book to buoy desponding hearts, by reflecting on the wonderful cordial, Romans 8:28 – “God causes all things to work together for good to them that love God.” To know that “nothing” hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort… that their crosses shall be turned into blessings… that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more – this should fill the believer’s heart with joy until it runs over.
Though the Christian does not have a “perfect knowledge” of the mysteries of the gospel, yet he has a “certain knowledge.” The Spirit of God imprints heavenly truths in the heart – a Christian may know infallibly that there is evil in sin, and beauty in holiness; he may know that he is in a state of grace (1 Jn 3:14); he may know that he will one day go to heaven (2 Cor 5:1). The Lord does not leave His children uncertain with regard to matters of salvation. Let us then not rest in skepticism or doubts, but labor to come to a certainty in the things of our salvation – be well grounded and confirmed in it. If we are doubting Christians, we will be wavering Christians. Believers become dejected because their “inward comforts” are dark-ened, or their “outward comforts” are disturbed. Men first question the truth before they fall from it.
All things work together for “good!” The expression “work together” refers to medicine. Several poisonous ingredients put together make a medicine that works together for the good of the patient. So, all God’s providences, being divinely tempered, work together for the best in His children’s lives – therefore, every thing conspires for our good. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to God’s children” (Ps 25:10). The best things and the worst things (from our perspective) work for our good, and it is “God’s power” that works the good – the verb “works together” is a causative verb in Greek. So God’s power works for “good” in supporting us in trouble – “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut 33:27). Consider the lives of Daniel, Jonah and David. How is a weak Christian not only able to endure affliction, but to rejoice in it? He is upheld by the arms of the Almighty – “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). The power of God subdues our corruptions (Mic 7:19) – Is your sin strong? God is stronger! Is your heart hard? God makes the heart soft (Job 23:16). The power of God conquers our enemies – “Thou shall break them with a rod of iron” (Ps 2:9). There may be rage in the enemy… malice in the devil… but there is power in God! “It is nothing for Thee, Lord, to help” (2 Chr 14:11). The wisdom of God works for good – His wisdom is our Instructor… He is the supreme Counselor (Is 9:6). When we are in seeming absolute darkness, God says “I will guide Thee with My eye” (Ps 32:8). The goodness of God works for good to the godly – God’s goodness is the means whereby He makes us good – “The goodness of God leads to repentance” (Rom 2:4). The goodness of God is a spiritual sunbeam that melts the heart into tears. God gives “common blessings” to everyone. . . but He only gives “crowning blessings” to His children – and He crowns them with “lovingkindness” (Ps 103:4). (8-15)
Are we under the guilt of sin? – “The Lord is merciful and gracious” (Ex 24:6). God is more willing to pardon than to punish – mercy is His nature. The bee naturally gives honey – it stings only when it is provoked. God does not give mercy because we deserve it, but because “He delights in it!” In working for our good, God says, “I will heal their backslidings” (Hos 14:4) – God gives us His Spirit to sanctify, cleanse, purify, and refine us. Are you in great trouble? – “I will be with you in trouble” (Ps 91:15). He will stand by you with strength in time of trouble (Ps 37:39). Do we fear outward wants? “They that seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Ps 34:10). If it is good for us, we shall receive it; if it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good. David: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken” (Ps 37:25).
The mercies of God humble us – David wondered why God would “confer kingship upon him” (2 Sam 7:18). “Lord, what am I, that it should be better with me than others? that I should have the mercies others want? when they are better than I?” The mercies of God have a “melting influence” upon the soul; His mercies make us love Him (cf. King Saul; 1 Sam 24:16). The mercies of God make the heart fruitful – when you lay out more cost upon a field, it bears a better crop; conversely, a gracious soul honors the Lord with his substance. The mercies of God make the heart thankful – “What shall I give to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” (Ps 116:12-13). Every mercy enlarges the soul in gratitude. The mercies of God work compassion to others – a Christian is a temporal savior; he feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and visits the widow and orphan in their distress. Charity drops from him freely. The Word preached works for good – it is a soul-transforming Word (1 Pet 1:23). Prayer works for good – prayer is the key that unlocks the treasury of God’s mercy. Prayer keeps the heart open to God, and shut to sin; prayer is the sovereign medicine of the soul (1 Sam 1:18). The Lord’s Supper works for good – it quickens the affections of the godly; it strengthens their graces; it mortifies their corruptions; it revives their hopes, and increases their joy.
The “Angels” work for the good of Saints – “They are ministering spirits sent to minister to the heirs of salvation” (Heb 1:14). The whole hierarchy of angels is employed for the good of the saints – the highest angels take care of the lowest saints. Angels do service to the saints in this life – an angel comforted Mary (Lk 1:28); stopped the mouths of lions (Dan 6:22). Christians have an invisible guard of angels about them – “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps 91:11). As God comforts by His Spirit, so by His angels. As Christ was refreshed by an angel in His agony (Lk 22:43), so are believers in their agony – when the saints breathe their last, their souls are carried up to heaven by a convoy of angels (Lk 16:22).
“Christ’s intercession” works for good – Jesus said, “I do not pray for these alone, but for all who shall believe in Me” (Jn 17:20). When a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for himself, Jesus Christ is pray-ing for him. Jesus prays that believers be kept from sin (Jn 17:15); that they progress in holiness (Jn 17:17); that they be glorified (Jn 17:24). What a comfort this is – when Satan is tempting – Christ is praying!
The prayers of “Saints” work for good to the godly – The prayers of saints prevail much; for recovery from sickness (Jam 5:15); for victory over enemies (Is 37:4); for deliverance from hard times (Acts 12:5-7); for forgiveness of sins (Job 42:8). One of the amazing things about the body of Christ is the “efficacious” nature of intercessory prayer.
It is not that the “worst things” in life are good in and of themselves, but the overruling hand of God disposes and sanctifies them so that they have a morally good effect upon our lives. So things that seem to move contrary to the godly, yet by the wonderful providence of God work for their good. In all the afflictions that befall us, God has a special hand in them (Ruth 1:21; Jer 24:5; Ps 119:71). Afflictions to the godly are medicinal. No vessel can be made of gold without fire. Said Joseph, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20). As the hard frosts in winter bring on the flowers in the spring, so the evils of affliction produce much good to those that love God. We are prone to question the truth of this, as Mary did to the angel, “How can this be?” Luther said he could never rightly understand some of the Psalms, till he was in affliction – God makes us know affliction that we may better know ourselves; we see that corruption in our hearts in the time of affliction, which we would not otherwise believe was there. In the fire of affliction the impurities of the heart, impatience and unbelief raise to the surface. Afflictions work for good, in that they serve to conform us to Christ. Afflictions also serve to destroy sin – there is much corruption in the best heart; affliction does by degrees work it out, as the fire works out the dross from the gold. (16-31)
The “evil of temptation” is overruled for good to the godly. Satan walks about to tempt the saints; he labors to storm the castle of the heart; he throws in thoughts of blasphemy; he tempts to deny God; he tempts to inflame the passions. Satan will not tempt contrary to the “natural disposition and temperament” of the individual – the wind of temptation blows as the natural tide of the heart runs. Satan also knows the best time to tempt – just as a soldier, who after a battle leaves off his armor, not at all thinking of an enemy, Satan watches his time. Satan also makes use of close relationships – he handed over a temptation to Job by his wife (Job 2:9). Satan also uses godly men to tempt us – he used Peter to tempt Christ. Satan can propose the object… instill evil thoughts into the mind… and excite and irritate the corruption within.
These temptations are overruled for good to the children of God. A tree that is shaken by the wind is more settled and rooted; so, the blowing of a temptation settles the Christian more in grace. Tempta-tions are overruled for good in the following ways: Temptation sends the soul to prayer – the more furiously Satan tempts, the more fervently the saint prays. Consider Paul and his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:8). The more a child of God is tempted, the more he fights against the temptation. Temptation abates the swelling of pride – better is that temptation which humbles me, than that duty which makes me proud. Temptation is used by God to try us – temptation is a trial of our sincerity. Temptation makes us fit to comfort others in the same distress (cf. Paul and 2 Cor 1:3-4; 2:11). Temptation stirs up paternal compassion in God to them who are tempted. Temptation makes the believer long more for heaven – when believers are ascended to heaven, they will no longer be molested by the old serpent. Temptation engages the strength of Christ on our behalf – if a poor soul was to fight alone with the Goliath of hell, he would be sure to be vanquished – “through Him we are more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37). Sometimes temptation foils the believer – Peter was tempted to self-confidence; he presumed upon his own strength, so Christ let him fall; but this wrought good though it cost him many a tear (Mt 26:75). From that point on he would not say he loved Christ more than the other apostles (Jn 21:15) – his fall broke the neck of his pride. Luther said, “There are three things that make a Christian – prayer, meditation, and temptation.”
Sometimes God “withdraws” from us; however, we desert Him before He deserts us. We desert God when we leave off close communion with Him. So, when God withdraws, there is darkness and sorrow in the soul. Desertion is an agony of conscience – “the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinks up my spirit” (Job 6:4). In times of desertion the people of God are apt to think that God has cast them off. There may be the “seed of grace” where there is not the “flower of joy” – vessels at sea being tossed to and fro in a storm may be laden with jewels and spices. David, in a state of dejection, prays, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51:11). It should be noted that desertions are but for a time; God ultimately responds in mercy (Is 54:8; 57:16). The tender mother sets down her child in anger, but she will take it up again into her arms and kiss it. Desertion cures the soul of sloth. Desertion cures inordinate affection to the world – we may use it as an “inn” where we take a meal, but it must not be our home. Desertion makes the saints prize God’s countenance more than ever – “Thy lovingkindness is better than life” (Ps 63:3). God has no better way to make us value His love, than by withdrawing it awhile. If the sun shown once a year, how would it be prized? Desertion embitters sin to us – can there be a greater misery than to have God’s displeasure? What makes hell but the hiding of God’s face? And what makes God hide His face but sin? (Ps 66:18). Desertion sets the soul a weeping for the loss of God – when the sun goes down, the dew falls; when God is gone, tears drop from the eyes. Though it be sad to want God’s presence, yet it is good to lament His absence. Desertion sets the soul a seeking after God – when Christ was departed, the spouse pursues after Him; the deserted soul knocks at heaven’s gate by prayer. Desertion puts the Christian upon inquiry – He inquires the cause of God’s departure. Desertion gives us a sight of what Jesus Christ suffered for us – if the sipping of the cup be so bitter, how bitter was that which Christ drank upon the cross? (Mt 27:46). None can so appreciate Christ’s suffering as those who have been humbled by desertion, and have been held over the flames of hell for a time. Desertion prepares the saints for future comfort – it is God’s way to first cast down, then to comfort (2 Cor 7:6). The Lord brings us into the deep of desertion, that He may not bring us into the deep of damnation. (32-44)
“Sinful behavior” against a believer works for his good – Though sin by its own nature is damnable, God in His infinite wisdom overrules it, and causes good to arise from it. God overrules the sins of others for “good” in the life of the believer. Said Augustine, “God would never permit evil, if He could not bring good out of it.” The most heinous evil ever perpetrated by man (the cross) – purchased our salvation!
Why all things work together for “good”? – The grand reason why God causes all things to work together for good in the believer’s life, is the love God has for His people – “They shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Jer 32:38). By virtue of this compact, all things must work for our good. Ultimately, all of God’s dealings with us, though some are sharp and painful, yet they are safe and bring healing. “As a father chastens his son, so the Lord chastens His children” (Deut 8:5; Heb 12:6) – God chastens not to destroy but to reform. God will not ruin His children, for He is a tender-hearted Father – “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Ps 103:13). God is the tender-hearted “Father of mercies” (2 Cor 1:3). There is a marriage relation between God and His people – “Thy Maker is thy Husband” (Is 54:5). Jesus calls us “friends” – Augustine described a friend as “half one’s self.” (44-55)
Things do not work together for good of themselves – “God causes” them to work together for good. God is the great Disposer of all events and issues – “His kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps 103:19). The things in the world are not governed by second causes, by the counsels of men, by the stars and the planets, but by “divine providence.” God sets everything a working. That which is by some called “chance” is nothing else but the result of divine providence. Providence mingles the ingredients, and makes up the whole compound. The most dark, cloudy providences of God have some sunshine in them. What a blessed condition is a true believer in – when he dies, he goes to God; and while he lives, everything shall do him good. What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it! Though affliction has a bitter root, it bears a sweet fruit – “it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11).
By the “wisdom of God,” the worst things imaginable turn to the good of the saints – God can by divine chemistry extract gold out of dross – “Oh the depth of the wisdom of God!” (Rom 11:33). God enriches by impoverishing; He causes the augmentation of grace by the diminution of an estate. God works strangely. He brings order out of confusion, harmony out of discord. He frequently makes use of unjust men to do that which is just – either the wicked shall not do the hurt that they intend, or they shall do the good which they do not intend (Gen 50:20). God often helps when there is least hope, and saves His people in that way which they think will destroy. Incredible as it may seem, He made use of the high-priest’s malice and Judas’ treason to redeem the world! “God’s ways are not our ways!” (Is 55:8). God’s ways are “past finding out” (Rom 11:33). How stupendous and infinite is that wisdom that makes the most adverse dispensations work for the good of His children! (55-61)
Learn how little cause we have to be “discontented” at outward trials and emergencies. There are no sins God’s people are more subject to than “unbelief” and “impatience” – they are ready either to faint through unbelief, or fret through impatience. Discontent is an “ungrateful sin,” because we have far more mercies than afflictions; furthermore, shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? The Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us. Since afflictions work for us a weight of glory, shall we be discontented? God works out sin, and works in grace – is not that good? “We are chastened by the Lord that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor 11:32). The apostle Paul says, “In everything give thanks” (1 Th 5:18). Why so? Because God makes everything work for our good. Many thank God when He gives; Job thanked God when He took away (Job 1:21). Being thankful in affliction is a work peculiar only to a saint; only a true saint can be thankful in adversity. Therefore, let us endeavor to make the name of God glorious and renowned – if God seeks our good, let us seek His glory! If He makes all things tend to our edification, let us make all things tend to His exaltation. When we have done our best, we must vanish away in our own thoughts, and transfer all the glory to God. The apostle Paul said, “I labored more abundantly than all of them” (1 Cor 15:10) – does that not sound prideful? Keep reading – the apostle pulls off the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of “grace” – “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Constantine (Roman Emperor in 337 AD) used to write the “name of Christ” over the door – so should we over all our duties and efforts. (61-65)
Expressing “love to God” is an expansion of the soul, by which we breathe after God as the “sovereign good.” We love God because of His grace to cleanse us and forgive us, and ultimately to crown us. He is a sea of goodness without bottom. God has an innate propensity to dispense mercy and grace to those who will but believe in Him. When we esteem God above all else, everything else vanishes when He appears – like stars vanishing when the sun appears. All creatures vanish in our thoughts when the “Sun” of righteous-ness shines in His full splendor. We love God not for what He bestows; we love Him for His intrinsic excellencies. You don’t hire a mother to love her child – likewise, a soul deeply in love with God does not need to be hired by rewards. Additionally, many waters cannot quench love – neither the sweet waters of pleasure, nor the bitter waters of persecution. Love to God abides firm to the end. (66-73)
Our love to God will be best seen by the “fruits of it” – He who loves God, his thoughts are ever upon the object (Ps 139:18; Heb 12:2); conversely, God is scarcely ever in the thoughts of the unbeliever (Ps 10:4). He who loves God converses with God (Word and Prayer) – lovers cannot be long away from each other. Where there is love to God there is grieving for our sins (Mt 26:75). He who loves God will stand up in His cause, and be an advocate for Him – love for God casts out fear; he who loves his friend will stand up for him. He who loves God aches when God is dishonored (2 Pet 2:7). He who loves God purges out sin – the love of God and the love of sin cannot dwell together; our affections cannot be carried in two contrarieties at the same time; a man cannot love health and poison also. He who loves God is dead to the world (Gal 6:14); he who is in love with God is not much in love with anything else – love to God swallows up all other love (Acts 4:35). What is there in the earth that we should so set our hearts upon it? The world has no real intrinsic worth; it is but paint and deception. He who loves God fears displeasing Him (Gen 39:9). He who loves God is more afraid of the loss of spiritual blessings, than temporal ones. He who loves God loves what God loves (Ps 119:72, 103) – He loves God’s law; con-versely, the wicked pretend to love Christ as Savior, but hate Him as King and Lord – they would have Christ put a crown upon their heads, but not a yoke upon their necks. A saint in this life is like gold in the ore; much dross of infirmity cleaves to him, yet we love him for the grace that is in him. He who loves God thinks good thoughts about God (1 Cor 13:5) – how good is God, that He will not let me alone in my sins, but smites my body to save my soul. It is Satan that makes us have good thoughts of ourselves, and hard thoughts of God. He who loves God obeys God (Jn 14:15, 21); does that child love his father, who refuses to obey him? If we love God we will “forgive one another” (Eph 4:32) – this is hard, because we are apt to forget kindnesses and remember injuries; but if we love God we will pass by offences. Love made Christ suffer for us; if we love God, we should be willing to suffer for Him – Love endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). Stephen was stoned, Luke hanged, and Peter crucified… for Christ’s sake! He who loves God will proclaim His excellencies, that He will appear glorious in the eyes of others, and induce them to fall in love with Him. Love is like fire – where it burns in the heart, it will break forth in his speech. He who loves God will long for Christ’s appearing (2 Tim 4:8) – love desires union; when our union with Christ is perfect in glory, then our joy will be full. He who loves God will stoop to serve Christ and His members regardless of the cost – if we love God, we shall not think any work too mean for us, by which we may be helpful to Christ’s members – it will visit the sick, relieve the poor, and wash the saints’ wounds. (74-87)
“Loving God” is not easy as most imagine – Men are by nature “haters of God” (Rom 1:30); they would neither be under His rules, nor within His reach. It is only the almighty and invincible power of the Spirit of God that can infuse love into the soul. Following are a number of “MOTIVES” for loving God: It is not duty, but love to duty, that God looks at – duties not mingled with love are as burdensome to God as they are to us. It is by love that we grow in Christ’s likeness (1 Jn 4:16) – love is a grace which most delights in God. We cannot spend our love on a better object; there is nothing in God that can cause a loathing. Love facilitates religion – it oils the wheels of the affections; it takes off the tediousness of duty (cross reference Jacob’s love for Rachel); he that loves God is never weary of serving Him. God desires our love – what is there in our love that God should seek it? God deserves our love – what a miracle that God should love us, when there was nothing lovely in us. What love, that Christ should die for sinners! Charles Wesley: “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God shouldst die for me?” God set all the angels of heaven wondering at His love. Will we love the world more than He? Love to God is the best self-love; it is self-love to get the soul saved; by loving God – to love God is the truest self-love; he that does not love God does not truly love himself (seek his own highest good). We love God because He first loved us – knowing we are loved by God, can only result in a heart burning in love for Him.
It is better to “love God” than to love the world – worldly things cannot remove troubles in the soul (1 Sam 28:15); loving God gives you peace when nothing else can; if we love God, He will love us in return (Jn 14:23); when you love the world, you love that which is worth infinitely less than your soul; worldly things die and leave you – riches take wings, relations drop away, there is nothing abiding in worldly things. But if you love God, “He is your portion forever” (Ps 73:26). It is better to love God than sin – sin is a debtor – it binds you over to death. Sin is a disease – will you hug a disease? Sin is pollution – it is compared to poison. Sin is an enemy – it has four stings: shame, guilt, horror, and death. Will a man seek that which seeks his death? God our Maker is our Husband (Is 54:5) – His spouse is to Him the apple of His eye; He rejoices over her; shall a wife leave her husband? Love to God will never let sin thrive in the heart – love to God withers sin – though sin does not die perfectly, yet it dies daily. Love to God is an excellent means for growth of grace (2 Pet 3:18); love is like watering the root which makes the tree grow. Love to God accrues great benefits to us – “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor 2:9); God has promised a “crown consisting in life” to them that love Him (Jam 1:12). Love to God is the armor of proof against heresy – men give themselves up to strong delusions when they “receive not the love of the truth” (2 Th 2:10-11); the more we love God the more we despise the heterodox opinions that would draw us away from God. If we love God, everything in the world shall conspire for our good – every wind shall blow to a heavenly port. He who loves God will cleave to Him and keep himself from apostasy (Ruth 1:16-17) – a lack of love for God in the heart, will cause us to “fall away” in time of temptation. (88-97)
What shall we do to love God? The answer in a word is to STUDY GOD! Did we study Him more, we should love Him more. The angels know God better than we do; therefore they are more deeply enamored with Him. The more we believe, the more we love – faith is the root, and love is the flower that grows upon it. “Faith worketh love” (Gal 5:6). Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love Him. Surely this prayer pleases the Lord, and He will pour out His Spirit upon you. If you have love to God, labor to preserve it; don’t let it die or be quenched. “Thou hast left your first love” (Rev 2:4). Satan labors to blow out this flame, and through neglect of duty we lose it. Of all the graces, love is most apt to decay; therefore we have need to be more careful to preserve it. It is sad to see pastors and professors declining in their love for God. There are four signs by which Christians may know that their love is in a state of decaying:
1. When we lose our taste – When we lose our taste, we find no sweetness in a promise; it is a sign of spiritual consumption. Time was, when we found comfort in drawing nigh to God; His Word was like honey, delicious to the palate of the soul, but now it is otherwise – they taste no more sweetness. Have you lost your taste?
2. When we lose our appetite – Time was when we hungered and thirsted after righteousness (Mt 5:6). We minded things of heavenly aspect, but now the case is altered; our hearts no longer burn within us; our love is decaying.
3. When we grow in love with the world – When our thoughts and affections are encompassing the world, that is a sign we are going downhill spiritually. When rust cleaves to metal, it not only takes away the brightness of the metal, but it consumes it.
4. When we make little of God’s worship – When duties of religion are performed in a dead and formal manner; conversely, when the strings of a violin are slack, the violin will never make good music; additionally, when men grow slack in duty, they pray as if they prayed not – why? they have left their first love. A soldier may as well be without his weapons, an artist without his brush, a musician without his instrument, as a Christian can be without love. Love is to the soul what natural heat is to the body – there is no living without it. Love influences the graces; it excites the affections; it makes us grieve for sin; it makes us cheerful in God; it is like oil to the wheels; it quickens us in God’s service.
How may we keep our love from going out? Watch your heart EVERY DAY! Take notice of the first declinings in grace, and use all means for quickening. Be much in prayer, meditation, and holy conference. When the fire is going out you throw on “fuel” to get it going again. Make use of God’s promises to keep the fire of your love burning. They who have a few sparks of love should blow up those divine sparks into a flame. You who love God little, labor to love Him more. A godly man is contented with very little of this world. The disciples love to Christ at first was weak – they fled from Christ; but after Christ’s death it grew more vigorous, and they boldly preached Him. A corollary of “loving God” is “obeying Him” – we must labor to obey Him (that is faith), if we want our love for Him to grow. If our love to God does not increase, it will soon decrease. If you do not fan the flame of the fire, it will quickly go out. Christians should above all things endeavor to cherish and excite their love to God; as such, they must labor in the “spiritual disciplines” – spend time in the Word, Prayer, Meditation, Worship, Service, Fellowship, and affirming eternal realities (truth). (98-103)
All things work together for good to those who are “called” according to His purpose – When God wonderfully overpowers the heart, and draws the will to embrace Christ, this is the “effectual call” of the sinner to Christ. Before we are called, we are in bondage to Satan; in a state of darkness; without strength to grapple with temptation or inward corruption; in a state of pollution; in a state of damnation – born under a curse. The means of our effectual call is the ministry of the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit “draws” us to Himself (Jn 6:44); the Word is the instrumental cause of our conversion (Rom 10:17; 1 Pet 1:23); and the Spirit is the efficient who “opens the heart” to believe (Acts 10:44; 16:14). He comes in a still small voice to some, but to those who are more stubborn sinners, He has to plough up the fallow ground of their hearts by humiliation – whatever the case, the Lord secretly and gradually instills grace into their hearts. Though God’s method in calling sinners varies, the effect is the same – they become “children of God” (Jn 1:12). It should be noted that God so calls as He allures – He does not force us, but draws us. The freedom of the will is not taken away, but the stubbornness of it is conquered (Ps 110:3) – the soul readily obeys God’s call. The call of God calls men out of their sins; as such, they are separated from sin, and consecrated to God’s service – therefore the call of God is a “holy calling” (1 Th 4:7). Paul responded to God’s call as “being obedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Though many have the light brought to them, only a few have their eyes anointed to see – there are many formalists, but few genuine believers. The “Cyprian Diamond” says Pliny, “sparkles like the true diamond, but it is not the right kind – it will break with a hammer;” so will the hypocrite’s faith break under the hammer of persecution. There are many pebble stones, but only a few precious stones. God’s call is founded upon His decree, and His decree is immutable – “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). By the way, a man can no more convert himself than a dead man can raise himself. As God makes heaven fit for us, so He makes us fit for heaven. The “end” of our effectual calling is that we should live to the “praise of His glory” (Eph 1:12). (104-113)
Scripture exhorts us to “be diligent to make our calling sure” (2 Pet 1:10) – Do not satisfy yourself with an empty profession, but labor to evidence to your soul that you are indeed called of God. He who is genuinely called acknowledges that “he does not have a righteousness of his own” (Phil 3:9); as Augustine says, “self-renunciation is the first step to saving faith. Also, he who is effectively called has a “visible change” wrought in his life – he is altered from what he was before… his body is the same… but his mind is not the same; and he has another spirit. What a metamorphosis grace makes! “For such were some of you; but you are now sanctified and justified” (1 Cor 6:11). Grace changes the heart. There is a three-fold change wrought by an effectual calling –
1. There is a change in the understanding – before there was ignorance and darkness; now there is light that shines
2. There is a change in the will – the will, which before opposed Christ, now embraces Him (Acts 9:6; Heb 2:10). Before, the will kept Christ out; now it keeps sin out.
3. There is a change in the conduct – he who is called of God, walks directly contrary to what he did before he was saved. He walked before in envy and malice, now he walks in love; before he walked in pride, now he walks in humility.
Unbelievers are the same as they were years ago – they have seen many changes in their times, but they have had no change in their heart. (113-117)
He who is called of God esteems this call as the “highest blessing” – A king whom God has called by His grace, esteems it more that he is called to be a “saint,” than that he is called to be a king. He values his high-calling more than his high-birth. Theodosius thought it a greater honor to be a Christian than to be an emperor. A carnal person can no more value spiritual blessings than a baby can value a diamond necklace – he prefers his worldly grandeur, his ease, plenty, and titles of honor, before conversion. He had rather be called a “duke” than a “saint.” He who is effectually called, though he lives in the world, he is no longer of the world – though his body be from the earth, his affections are from heaven. (117-118)
What is it to “walk worthy” of our heavenly calling? It is to walk regularly – to walk according to the rules and axioms of the Word (Gal 1:6). It is to walk singularly – when others walked with the devil, Noah walked with God (Gen 7:1). It is better to go to heaven with a few, than to hell with a crowd. We must walk in an opposite course to the men of the world. It is to walk cheerfully – we are to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4); too much drooping of spirit disparages our high calling, and makes others suspect a godly life to be melancholy. Cheerfulness is a perfume to draw others to godliness. When the prodigal was converted, “they began to be merry” (Lk 15:24). It is to walk influentially – to do good to others, and to be rich in acts of mercy (Heb 13:16). Good works honor religion; though they are not the cause of salvation, they are “evidences” of it. God has magnified rich grace toward you as His child – you are called to be co-partners with angels, and co-heirs with Christ – this should revive you in the worst of times. Though the sea roars and the stars are shaken out of their places – you need not fear, for you have been called by the Creator of the universe to share in His glory.
God’s purpose is the “cause” of salvation – The reason for our effectual calling is “according to His purpose” (Eph 1:11). What is the reason that one man is called, and not another? It is from the eternal purpose of God. Let us then ascribe the whole work of grace to the pleasure of God’s will. God did not choose us because we were worthy – by choosing us He makes us worthy. God “saved us, and called us, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace” (2 Tim 1:9). There is no such thing as merit. Our best works have in them both defection and infection, and so are but “glittering sins” – therefore, if we are called and justified, it is God’s purpose that brings it to pass. God did not choose us “for” faith, but “to” faith. “He hath chosen us that we should be holy” (Eph 1:4). What could God foresee in us, but pollution and rebellion. If any man be saved, it is according to God’s purpose. Our graces are imperfect, our comforts ebb and flow, but God’s foundation standeth sure. They who are built upon this rock of God’s eternal purpose, need not fear falling away; neither the power of man, nor the violence of temptation, shall ever be able to overturn them.