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§ 44. (1.) Vocation.

“The Call is the act of grace by which the Holy Spirit manifests by means of the Word of God His will in regard to the salvation of sinners to those persons who are out of the Church, and offers them benefits from Christ the Redeemer, that they may be led to the Church, converted, and obtain eternal salvation.” HOLL. (803). [2] The grace of God through which He desires to effect man’s salvation, begins with the Call, for God must present salvation to man, since uncalled, man would not even desire it. It is distinguished as indirect and direct, or, what is here equivalent, as general and special. [3] By the former is understood the call which reaches man through conscience and the natural knowledge of God, and thus awakens only in general an undefined longing for salvation, which is yet unknown to him; by the latter, the call which comes through the preaching of the Gospel, and directly invites to entrance into the kingdom of God, to conversion, and to the reception of salvation in Christ. It is only the latter which is here discussed. It is not merely an external call, but is invariably accompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit, of such a kind that the person so called cannot fail to perceive the drawing of the Holy Spirit, and that his conscience testifies that he has great reason to follow this call; it is, therefore, at once as seriously intended as it is always efficacious. [4] As, in the preaching of the Gospel, the only possibility is afforded, by which man can obtain salvation through Jesus Christ (the instrumental cause is the external preaching of the Word. Rom. 10:17; 2 Thess. 2:14), [5] God makes use of this as the means through which He sends the call to men; and, according as He calls them through men whom He appoints and urges to do this, [6] or immediately, and without their instrumentality, the call is designated as mediate or immediate, and consequently as ordinary or extraordinary. [7] Only in extraordinary cases, however, does God call otherwise than through human instrumentality. The reason of God’s calling is to be found altogether and only in His pity for the wretchedness in which men lie so long as they do not partake of the salvation of Christ. [8] Therefore, as all men are in the same condemnation, 443this call is addressed to all without distinction, and is therefore universal; and this (a) on account of the purpose of God, who earnestly wishes that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; (b) on account of the command of Christ, Matt. 11:28; (c) on account of the message itself, for all men in the whole world have been called, Mark 16:20; Rom. 10:18. The universality of the call consists, however, not in that God has called all individuals in the different ages of the world; but in that He provides that the preaching through which the call is to be extended to men, could, in general, in some way reach all nations, and thus also all individuals. [9]

The call is, therefore, extended equally to all men, inasmuch as saving grace is offered to all men through the same means. But an inequality occurs in regard to the order, the manner, and the time of the call: to some it comes earlier than to others; for some it continues longer than for others; some receive the preaching of the Gospel immediately from heralds sent by God, while others receive it at third hand. [10]

The proof that the call has reached all nations and all individuals it is not indeed easy for us to produce, but from history and revelation we know the following: First, that there were three times in which God caused the news of salvation to be solemnly proclaimed in such a manner that thereby, upon each occasion, opportunity was given to all then living to hear it; whereby, at the same time, it became possible for them to hand down these glad tidings to all their posterity. These periods were, the days of Adam, of Noah, and of the Apostles. [11]

If then, in the course of time, some people be found who are entirely ignorant of the preaching of the Gospel, this does not militate against the universality of the call, but arises from this, that these people did not faithfully preserve the truth preached to them or did not lay it to heart, in consequence of which their posterity have to suffer. It is through their guilt that the call which God designed to be universal became particular. [12]

Moreover, we know that God did not limit His solemn call to the three occasions we have cited, but that He also adopted all kinds of expedients whereby the call afterwards could reach nations and individuals. [13] Why God, however, caused 444the call to be more directly addressed to some nations than to others is indeed unknown to us; for the purposes and ways of God are confessedly unfathomable. But this cannot confuse us in regard to the doctrine that God’s purpose in the call was universal; for this purpose is most clearly declared in Scripture. [14]

[1] HOLL. (795): “The acts of applying grace, according to the order in which they cohere, and follow one another, are the call, illumination, conversion, regeneration, justification, mystical union with the Triune God, renovation, preservation of faith and holiness, glorification.” Thus they are enumerated by nearly all the later Dogmaticians. Justification, which we have already discussed, we now omit. HOLL. (ib.) thus vindicates this arrangement: “This order, and, as it were, concatenated series of acts of applying grace, we learn from Acts 20:17, where Christ says to Paul, ‘I send thee to the Gentiles;’ behold the grace of the call! ‘That thou mayest open their eyes;’ behold the illumination! ‘To turn them from darkness to light;’ behold the act of conversion! ‘And from the power of Satan unto God;’ behold regeneration itself, through which we become the sons of God! ‘That they may receive forgiveness of sins;’ behold justification! ‘And have inheritance among them which are sanctified through faith in me;’ behold union with Christ by faith, sanctification, the preservation of holiness, and glorification!” In the Symb. Books the same order is indicated (as also now and then by the Dogmaticians of the period next following their preparation), but only in passing, viz., in the SMALL CATECH., Art. 3, and FORM. CONC., Sol. Dec., II, 50. The “three ways of the Mystics” are rejected, according to which “he who is called to the Church can expeditiously reach the sacred mount of perfection and deification by three ways: the purifying, the illuminating, and the uniting.” The reason for this rejection: “because neither are these arranged in proper order, nor do the men who pursue them certainly reach the goal fixed by the Mystics.”

[2] QUEN.’s extended definition (III, 466): “Calling is the act of the applying grace of the Holy Spirit, by which He manifests towards the whole race of fallen man the most gracious will of God through the external preaching of the Word, in itself always sufficient and effective, and offers to all men the benefits obtained through the merit of the Redeemer, with the serious intention that all may be saved by Christ, and be presented with eternal life.”

[3] In the former manner KG. and QUEN. distinguish; in the 445latter, HOLL. QUEN. (III, 461): “Taken widely, it includes likewise the indirect call, which arises from the consideration of the universe, its government, and the divine beneficence towards creatures, Rom. 1:19, 20; 2:14, 15; Acts 17:27; likewise by the general and obscure rumor concerning a certain assembly in which it is said the true God is known and worshiped, 1 Kings 10:1; 2 Kings 5:2, 3; 1 Thess. 1:8. The methods of vocation just enumerated are rather invitations and incitements to inquire about the true worship of God and the assembly in which it flourishes, than the call properly so called; the reason is, they have not for their proximate and immediate end the eternal salvation of man or the knowledge of Christ, the Redeemer, and the mysteries necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation, but only the leading of man to the gate of the true Church.”

The term is strictly taken, as it signifies the direct call by which God calls men to faith and repentance, by means of the Word read or preached, and offers to them the grace of conversion by which they may be converted and partake of salvation.

HOLL. (803): “A general and pedagogical call to the Church is that by which God more obscurely and from afar invites sinners who are out of the Church to inquire in regard to the true worship of God and the assembly in which it flourishes, and leads them to the gate of the Church. The general call occurs: (a) Objectively, by the manifestation of the government and the divine beneficence towards creatures; (b) Efficaciously, by the efficacious divine influence and impulse, by which, both from theoretic and practical innate notions, and from proofs of the divine benignity, practical conclusions are produced in the minds of unbelievers to inquire, although in an unequal degree, concerning the true worship of God; (c) Cumulatively, through the rumor concerning the Church spread over the world.”

[4] QUEN. (III, 463): “The form of the call consists in a serious (Matt. 23:37) and by the divine intention always sufficient (Rom. 8:30) and always efficacious (Rom. 1:16) manifestation of the will of God and offer of the blessings procured by Christ.” (Id. 464): “No call of God, whether of itself and its intrinsic quality or of the intention of God, is inefficacious, so that it cannot and should not produce a salutary effect; but every call is efficacious (for the preached Word of God has a divine and sufficient power and efficacy to effect regeneration, conversion, etc., by the ordination and appointment of God Himself), although it may be prevented from attaining its effect by men presenting an obstacle, and thus becomes inefficacious by the fault of the wicked and perverse will of 446men.” The distinction made by the Calvinists between an external and an internal call is therefore rejected. QUEN. (III, 466): “The Calvinists make a distinction between an external and internal call, and exhibit both: (a) In reference to their origin: because the former is made through the ministry of the Word offered to all or some externally, the other by the Holy Spirit illuminating and guiding within the hearts of the elect. (b) In reference to their subjects: because the former is common to the elect and the reprobate, the other peculiar to the elect, so that the reprobate never partake of it. (c) In reference to the efficacy: because the latter, alone being efficacious and irresistible, not only enlightens the mind, but also bends the will, and never, when it once takes possession of the mind, can be abolished or extinguished; but the former without this would be useless and ineffectual to salvation. We admit the distinction, but not so as to oppose the external to the internal call, nor to separate one from the other, as the external call is the medium and instrument of the internal, and by this God works efficaciously in the hearts of men. If the external did not exactly correspond to the internal call, if a person might be called externally and not internally, it would be vain, fallacious, illusory.”

[5] In regard to the call which comes to men by the preaching of the Gospel and by that of the Law, HOLL. (807): “God calls poor sinners directly and savingly to the Church by the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), to which also Baptism pertains (John 3:5). Nevertheless the divine Law contributes something to the call of sinners, but only indirectly, negatively, and accidentally.”

AP. CONF. (V, 51): “God terrifies by the Law, that there may be place for consolation and vivification, because hearts secure and not perceiving the wrath of God despise consolation.”

[6] QUEN. (III, 463): “The ministerial cause is either the ordinary minister of the Word, Matt. 22:3, or whenever any other person out of the usual order, with whatever intention, shall have announced the Word, 2 Kings 5:7.”

[7] QUEN. (III, 462): “The mediate call is that by which God in the Old Testament called some by the ministry of angels, or men, and now, since the institution of the Gospel ministry, calls by men alone. We use the term immediate, not with reference to the medium or Word, without which no salutary call can take place, but in reference to men, because God Himself presented the Word without human assistance. Thus Gen. 12:1; Acts 9:3-4.”

Ordinary vocation is that which is accomplished by the divinely appointed means, that is, by the external and visible ministry of the Word. Extraordinary is when any one is called to the light of 447the Gospel, not by the ordinary ministry, but by miracles, trances and other extraordinary means. Thus the Magi, Matt. 2:1; the robber, Luke 23:42. The extraordinary call is special and very rare: formerly, indeed, under the Old Testament and in the commencement of the New, it occurred; but now, since the Gospel has been universally preached and the Church planted by the apostles, it has clearly ceased. Further, a distinction is made between the solemn call, which occurs through the preached Word, and the less solemn, which occurs through the read Word or that which may be read.”

[8] QUEN. (III, 463): “The impelling and moving internal cause is nothing but the mercy and goodness of God founded in the merit of Christ, 2 Tim. 1:9; the external is the utter misery of man.” HOLL. (806): “Human wretchedness is not the cause of God’s gracious call, but it gave occasion to His commiseration.”

[9] HOLL. (809): “When we say that the call to God’s kingdom is universal, we do not assert that the doctrine of the Gospel was actually announced to each and every man openly and immediately by ministers specially sent; but that God most merciful has so clearly made known the doctrine of the Gospel concerning obtaining salvation by faith in Christ, that all men, without exception, can arrive at the knowledge of it, so that God has not by a divine decree denied to any nation or any person the benefit of the doctrine or the way by which he may attain to its knowledge.”

[10] HOLL. (816): “Ordinary calling is equal in substance, or so far as it is essentially considered (because we are called by grace equally salutary; because the same powers of believing are offered to all; because we are called by the same means, by the same Gospel, by the same baptism of equal efficacy, if you regard the divine purpose); but it is unequal in regard to order, mode, degree, time, and interval. As to the order, the Gospel was first to be preached to the Jews and afterwards to the Gentiles, Acts 13:46. As to the mode and degree, some have received more, others less light. Some nations are called by the Word solemnly preached, others by the Word written and read, others by the diffused rumors of the Church, of which some are nearer and clearer and others more remote and obscure. In regard to time and interval, some nations are called earlier, others later. To some the light of the Gospel shone for a longer time, to others it became obscure after a few years. Inasmuch as we cannot, in this present mortal state, entirely fathom this accidental inequality, let us acquiesce in God’s dispensation of the means of salvation; let us acknowledge and admire, but not anxiously explore, the abyss of the divine judgments inscrutable to human minds. Rom. 11:33.”


[11] HUTT. (Loc. Com., 788): “God has revealed His Word at least three times to the whole world. First, after the creation of the world, in the Adamitic Church. Then, after the deluge, in the house and family of Noah. Then, after the ascension of Christ to heaven, in the departure and dispersion of the apostles into the whole world. (Concerning the apostolic age it was said: ‘Where the Apostolate does not come, the Epistle does.’ — quo non venit αποστολη, εο επιστολη. Rom. 10:18.) Here doubtless it became altogether easy that the Word of divine grace should be always retained by their posterity, and, what could just as well happen, be similarly propagated to others.” N. B. — Very properly, the Dogmaticians do not date the call from the time of the New Testament revelation, since the antecedent revelations have the same end in view, and together constitute but one revelation; wherefore, also, when they designate the Church as the terminus vocationis ad quem, i.e., the place to which we are called, they understand this in the widest sense, embracing Israel, also, as belonging to it.

[12] GRH. (IV, 188): “The call is universal, as to God who issues it, but it becomes special through the fault of man: First, inasmuch as some reject it with Epicurean contempt; some also persecuting and violently repelling it. Then, inasmuch as, by the fault of ancestors, the lost Word is not always in fact preached in all nations and places.” HOLL. (810): “That the Gentiles were formerly, and many nations now are, destitute of the preaching of the Gospel, is their own fault, not the will and plan of God, denying them arbitrarily the light of the Gospel. For, (1) Those nations despise the Word of God and maliciously reject it: (2) They neglect the call and knowledge of Christian doctrines and rites in general, known by report to all the world; (3) They do not apply to a proper use the instructive and effective call, viz., so as to inquire after the true worship of God and the assembly in which it prevails. For which reason they deprive themselves, by their own faults, of the salutary call which is made by the preaching of the Gospel.” To the objection, the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, HUTT. (789) replies: “The meaning of our thesis is this, that the descendants suffer on account of the fault of their parents in this, that they are born without the Church; but not that, on account of the ingratitude of their parents, all power of hearing the divine Word, or even salvation itself, is cut off from or denied to them. The former we assert, the latter we deny. The former is merely a temporal punishment, which still does not exclude or prevent them from coming to the Church and hearing the Word of God, although born without the Church . . . . For now, just as formerly, God 449has placed the Church in a prominent position, so that the tidings concerning God and the religion of Christians diffuse themselves among all nations and people that are under heaven. But now, because those people partly cling contumaciously to the idolatrous folly of their parents and ancestors, and partly ridicule the true worship of God, and treat it with contempt, they surely do not now bear the sins of their parents, but are to be regarded as perishing and being condemned by the just judgment of God for their own fault.”

And GRH. (IV, 190): “If the case of Gentile children be adduced, the answer to this and similar things is: The judgments of God may be hidden; they can never be unjust. Many things pertaining to this head of doctrine are beyond our reach by the light of nature and of grace, which we will at some time understand better by the light of glory. These children not only derive a taint of corruption from their parents, but likewise spring from such ancestors as were intrusted with the precious deposit of His Word, that was to be handed down to their descendants, and of the Sacraments, by which also their children might be received to the grace of God. Let them accuse, therefore, the sins of parents, not the justice and mercy of God. Nor do we improperly require that such objectors should satisfy us that these children, if they had attained maturity, would have received the proffered grace of God, and not rather have imitated the sins of their parents.”

[13] HUTT. (Loc. Com., 789): “So foul was the ingratitude of the greater portion in this matter (at the time of the preaching in those three great periods), that it cast away that treasure, as well to its own loss, as what is worse, by its own fault. But nevertheless, in the midst of this stupendous ingratitude of the world and contempt of the Word, God still wished that the rays of His mercy should shine forth in this, that the Church of God (or the people who for the time being carefully cherished the incomparable treasure of the divine Word) was always assigned a prominent place in the world, so that any nation or people, if not extremely unconcerned, could readily be acquainted with the preaching of the divine Word. As indeed, even to-day, the Christian religion cannot but be sufficiently accessible to Jews and Turks, as those who are everywhere living in the midst of Christians, unless they themselves prevent it by extreme obstinacy.” HOLL. (810): “Although except in most recent times, the universal, stated and actual preaching of the divine Word, did not always and everywhere extend to all nations; yet God did not altogether withhold the universal call from any nation, nor refuse to any man access to the Church. For God calls many nations, (a) by a less formal 450call; (b) through the tidings concerning the Church, diffused far and wide; (c) through the proofs of the divine goodness everywhere obvious in the kingdom of nature; (d) through an effective divine impulse, by which practical inferences are suggested and consciences are stimulated to inquire concerning the true worship of God and the assembly in which it flourishes.”

[14] QUEN. (III, 465): “That God bestows the light of the Gospel upon one nation, while another is neglected; that some Turks, Americans, and other barbarians are converted to the faith, others who are their equals are left in their unbelief — this must also be ascribed to the hidden and unsearchable judgment of God. It must be acknowledged that God does some things in regard to the order, mode, time, and degree of the call according to His sovereign pleasure.” But GRH. (IV, 191): “But let us admit, that in these and similar special cases, we cannot find out and explain exactly the causes of the divine counsels; nevertheless we must buy no means have recourse to the absolute decree of reprobation, but adhere firmly to those asserted general statements, 1 Tim. 2:4; Ez. 33:11.”

The Symbolical Books abide by the simple statement: “That not only the preaching of repentance, but likewise the promise of the Gospel is universal, that is, it pertains to all men” (FORM. CONC., II, 28), and that the call is effected by the Word, without investigating further special cases which occur, and which present a seeming contradiction to the doctrine of the universality of the call.”

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