To the churches with whom we are connected, send greeting:
Dearly belovedThe preceding minutes will give you every necessary information relative to our meeting, the state of our churches, and our endeavors for their prosperity. We trust, you will unite your efforts with ours, to the same good purpose; and that our thanksgivings for the present peace, harmony, and increase of our churches, our prayers for their further growth, with a more powerful effusion of the Divine Spirit and grace upon them, will be mutually offered up. May the consideration of our effectual calling prove an incentive thereunto! Which is the subject now to be considered, as in the tenth chapter of our Confession of faith.
That we may investigate this subject as fully as the limits of a letter will allow, we will consider, first, the call; secondly, the Author of the call; thirdly, the called; and fourthly, its efficacy.
I. The call. This is an act of sovereign grace, which flows from the everlasting love of God, and is such an irresistible impression made by the Holy Spirit upon the human soul, as to effect a blessed change. This impression or call is sometimes immediate, as in the instance of Paul and others; though more ordinarily through the instrumentality of the word and providence of God. Though in both the impression or power upon the soul or rational principle of operation must be the same. This may be considered as one power capable of exerting itself in various modes; as in perceiving, choosing, refusing, loving, hating, &c. Likewise the impression before mentioned may be viewed as one spiritual principle of operation in the soul, exerting itself in divers ways, rather than as different principles of grace.
II. We are to consider the Author of the call. The Author is God, the Father, Son, and Spirit. As in 1 Thess. ii. 12, "That ye walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory." Also, in 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," &c. In others it more directly applies to the Father, who is said to call them unto the fellowship of his Son. Sometimes it is ascribed to the Son, as in Proverbs i. 20, viii., where saints are said to be called of Jesus Christ. Lastly, it is ascribed to the Holy Ghost, as in Phil. i. 6; "Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Upon the whole this call is heard as it is in deed and in truth, the call of God, and not the voice of man.
III. We are to consider who are the called. They are such as God hath chosen and predestinated both to grace and glory, elected and set apart in Christ, as redeemed by his blood, although by nature children of wrath even as others; not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. This is an holy, heavenly, and, consequently, an high calling.
IV. Its efficacy. It is effectual to bring the subjects of it to a piercing sense of their guilt and impurity. The mind is deeply convicted, that the fountain is in his very heart or nature, from which all its criminal actions have sprung; and that the lust within disposes us to violate the laws of God in as great a variety of ways as nature is capable of exerting itself, agreeable to Paul's expression, "Sin revived and I died." The soul is affected with a view of its sinfulness and the malignity of sin in its nature, as entirely opposed to the holy law of God; hence arises an abhorrence of sin, as vile and odious, and a sense of its demerit as deserving eternal death. This call produces a consciousness of the absolute impossibility of our contributing in the least degree towards a recovery from this wretched condition, and destroys all confidence of help in the flesh. It is a call to Christ, and gives a view of him in his suitableness and ability as a Saviour; the merit of his obedience and sacrifice, and the treasures of his grace are all brought into view, which creates desires of an interest in him, and resolutions of looking unto and relying wholly upon him for salvation; at the same time cordially acknowledging desert of rejection from him, and yet strengthened to rely entirely upon and surrender all unto the disposal of Christ; setting to our seals that God is true; believing the record he has given of his Son, which is eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. The changes produced are from darkness to light, from bondage to liberty, from alienation and estrangedness to Christ to a state of nearness and fellowship with him and his saints. This call administers peace of conscience towards God, and disposes its subjects to peace with mankind, so far as is consistent with righteousness.
This is an holy calling, and is effectual to produce the exercise
of holiness in the heart, even as the saints are created in Christ Jesus
unto good works. God having called us, not to uncleanness, but to holiness,
yea, even to glory and virtue, and "to live holly, righteously, and godly
in this present evil world;" and to conform us, both as men and as Christians,
to the pure dictates of nature and the authority of revelation, in all virtuous
actions. To believe what is divinely revealed, and to obey what is
divinely enjoined; in which the saints are required to persevere unto "an
inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, which
is reserved in heaven for them," and unto which this effectual vocation
ultimately tends. From all which considerations, we learn what it is to be
both good and great, and that the way to advance in durable riches and
righteousness; to live on high; live above the vanities and pomp of this
trifling world, and to shame those who walk unworthily, is to retain a sense
of our heavenly vocation. Thus will the hearts and hands of all God's people,
and especially his ministers, be supported and strengthened; thus will the
religion of our adorable Redeemer be honored in the world; thus shall we
glorify God in life and enjoy his peace in death, and leave behind a finished
testimony that our calling was effectual and our profession sincere.