This is the full quotation to which I alluded in this morning’s message. In it John Gano, the first pastor of our church, articulates the meaning of “effectual calling.” He wrote this in 1784 as part of a circular letter to the Philadelphia Baptist Association.
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 Savior; 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 conscious towards God, and disposes its subects 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 holily, 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 [i.e., calling] 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.
Quoted in Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory (Lake Charles, LA: Cor Meum Tibi, 2002), 295-96.