19 January, 2017

John Calvin Quotes



   
Here is a list of quotes from the writings of John Calvin (1509 – 1564) that either do not fit with, or out-rightly contradict central tenets of the theory of “common grace” and the “well-meant gospel offer.” I intend to add to these as time goes by. If anybody knows of others like these (with references), please pass them on.

[N.B. These quotes are not intended to imply, however, that Calvin never made erroneous statements on this subject or that all his writings were always entirely consistent on these points.]

For topical purposes, I have attempted to categorize the quotes as best as I can under the following headings:
1. Against General Blessings and the Delay of Punishment
2. Against the Theology behind the Well-Meant Offer/The Free Offer
3. Against the Restraint of Total Depravity in Man
4. Against Man Performing Good Works


1. Against General Blessings and the Delay of Punishment

(a) The theory of common grace equates earthly prosperity with God’s “blessing.” “The wicked are enjoying many good things … Behold how are blessed they are!” (so it is said). Calvin, however, in the following, makes a distinction between prosperity and God’s “blessing”:

“To avoid similar entanglements, the course which Christian men must follow is this: first, they must not long for, or hope for, or think of any kind of prosperity apart from the blessing of God; on it they must cast themselves, and there safely and confidently recline. For, however much the carnal mind may seem sufficient for itself when in the pursuit of honour or wealth, it depends on its own industry and zeal, or is aided by the favour of men, it is certain that all this is nothing, and that neither intellect nor labour will be of the least avail, except in so far as the Lord prospers both. On the contrary, his blessing alone makes a way through all obstacles, and brings every thing to a joyful and favourable issue. Secondly, though without this blessing we may be able to acquire some degree of fame and opulence (as we daily see wicked men loaded with honours and riches), yet since those on whom the curse of God lies do not enjoy the least particle of true happiness, whatever we obtain without his blessing must turn out ill. But surely men ought not to desire what adds to their misery” (Institutes 3.7.8, emphasis added.)

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(b) Longevity and length of days, according to some, is an evidence of common grace. God, so it is said, is being “favourable” to the wicked in allowing them to live long lives, though they deserve to be in hell right now. Calvin in the following, enlightens us to the fact that long life isn’t necessarily a “grace” of God, or a favour at all, but is very often a curse:

“Nevertheless, it can never be laid down as a general rule, that they who had a long life were thereby proved to be pleasing and acceptable to the Lord, whereas God has sometimes lengthened the life of reprobates, in aggravation of their punishment. We know that Cain survived his brother Abel many centuries ... Moreover, as the miseries of the present life, which spring from the corruption of nature, do not extinguish the first and special grace of God; so, on the other hand, death, which is in itself the curse of God, is so far from doing any injury, that it tends, by a supernatural remedy, to the salvation of the elect. Especially now, from the time that the first-fruits of the resurrection in Christ have been offered, the condition of those who are quickly taken out of life is in no way deteriorated; because Christ himself is gain both for life and death. But the vengeance of God was so clear and remarkable in the death of Er, that the earth might plainly appear to have been purged as from its filthiness” (Comm. on Gen. 38:7, emphasis added).

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(c) Calvin in the following attributes divine grace and the blessings of it to “the children of God,” in comparison to the ungodly, who are under God’s judgment:

“He obviously meant nothing more than that the children of God constantly flourish, and are always watered with the secret influences of divine grace, so that whatever may befall them is conducive to their salvation; while, on the other hand, the ungodly are carried away by the sudden tempest, or consumed by the scorching heat” (Comm. on Ps. 1:3, emphasis added).

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(d) Calvin describes the current situation of the ungodly who live prosperously, as being in a very dire and sad predicament, and not as objects of God’ grace:

“The meaning, therefore, is, although the ungodly now live prosperously, yet by and by they shall be like chaff; for when the Lord has brought them low, he shall drive them hither and thither with the blast of his wrath. Besides, by this form of speech, the Holy Spirit teaches us to contemplate with the eye of faith, what might otherwise seem incredible; for although the ungodly man rise high, and appear to great advantage, like a stately tree, we may rest assured that he will be even as chaff or refuse, whenever God chooses to cast him down from his high estate, with the breath of his mouth” (Comm. on Ps. 1:4).

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(e) The ungodly experiencing “happiness” is a supposed sign of God’s common grace and favour, according to some. Calvin, however, describes their condition as “miserable” and that “happiness” really depends upon one possessing a “good conscience”—something which the ungodly do not have. Their achievements and success in life is but an “imaginary felicity”:

“We now see how the Psalmist pronounces the ungodly to be miserable, because happiness is the inward blessing of a good conscience. He does not deny, that before they are driven to judgment, all things succeed well with them; but he denies that they are happy unless they have substantial and steadfast integrity of character to sustain them: for the true integrity of the righteous manifests itself when it comes at length to be tried ... Moreover, as things appear to be here driven about at the mercy of chance, and as it is not easy for us, in the midst of the prevailing confusion, to acknowledge the truth of what the Psalmist had said, he therefore presents to our consideration the grand principle, that God is the Judge of the world. Granting this, it follows that it cannot but be well with the upright and the just, while, on the other hand, the most terrible destruction must impend over the ungodly. According to all outward appearance, the servants of God may derive no advantage from their uprightness; but as it is the peculiar office of God to defend them and take care of their safety, they must be happy under his protection. And from this we may also conclude that, as he is the certain avenger of wickedness, although, for a time, he may seem to take no notice of the ungodly, yet at length he will visit them with destruction. Instead, therefore, of allowing ourselves to be deceived with their imaginary felicity, let us, in circumstances of distress, have ever before our eyes the providence of God, to whom it belongs to settle the affairs of the world, and to bring order out of confusion” (Comm. on Ps. 1:5-6, emphasis added).

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(f) Calvin, in the following, denies that the giving of good gifts to the reprobate is a sign that they are objects of divine favour:

“In the same way, the prosperity of the wicked is taken as an encouragement to commit sin; for we are ready to imagine, that, since God grants them so much of the good things of this life, they are the objects of his approbation and favour” (Comm. on Ps. 73:3, emphasis added).

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(g) The theory of common grace claims that the seeming “delay” of punishment upon the wicked is a sign of God’s grace towards them. Calvin warns us of falling into that error:

“If, on the contrary, we do not perceive any punishment inflicted on them [i.e., the ungodly] in this world, let us beware of thinking that they have escaped, or that they are the objects of the Divine favour and approbation; but let us rather suspend our judgment, since the end or the last day has not yet arrived. In short, if we would profit aright, when we address ourselves to the consideration of the works of God, we must first beseech him to open our eyes, (for these are sheer fools who would of themselves be clear-sighted, and of a penetrating judgment;) and, secondly, we must also give all due respect to his word, by assigning to it that authority to which it is entitled” (Comm. on Ps. 73:16-17, emphasis added).

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(h) Calvin states that outside the Kingdom of Christ, the church, is “nothing but curse”—no blessing, no happiness:

“Here it must also be observed that blessings of soul or of body are found only in the Kingdom of Christ, that is, in the Church, outside of which there is nothing but curse. Hence it follows that all those who are strangers to that kingdom are wretched and unhappy; and however flourishing and vigorous they may seem, they are nevertheless in the sight of God rotten and loathsome corpses” (Comm. on Isa. 65:20, emphasis added).

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(i) Calvin describes the happiness of God’s reprobate enemies as “evanescent,” and also that every good thing which they receive as “accursed.” Interestingly, he also intimates that God is “propitious and reconcilable” not to everyone without exception, but to “us” (the church)—whereas the well-meant offer teaches that God, in the gospel,  is propitious and reconcilable to all men:

“Grant, Almighty God, that though we are continually tossed here and there by various trials, and Satan ceases not to shake our faith,—O grant, that we may yet stand firm on the promise that thou hast once given us, and which thou hast also confirmed through thine only-begotten Son, even that thou wilt ever be propitious and reconcilable to us, so that we may not despair in our greatest troubles, but relying on thy goodness may utter our groans to thee, until the ripened time of our deliverance shall come: nor let us in the meantime envy the evanescent happiness of thy enemies; but patiently wait, while thou showest that the chief object of desire is to have thee propitious to us, and that accursed is every good thing which the ungodly receive while they provoke thee and make thee angry, until Christ shall at length reveal to us the real happiness and glory of thy Church, when he shall appear at the last day for our salvation—Amen” (Prayer after Comm. on Zech. 1:16-17, emphasis added).

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(j) In the following, Calvin states that there is no “temporal or eternal happiness” outside of Jesus Christ, and that He alone is the true fountain of “all blessings.” The theory of common grace, however, teaches that there is a grace of God outside of Jesus Christ, in which the reprobate ungodly experience temporal blessings, and temporal happiness:

“Grant, Almighty God, that as we cannot look for temporal or eternal happiness, except through Christ alone, and as thou settest him forth to us as the only true fountain of all blessings,—O grant, that we, being content with the favour offered to us through him, may learn to renounce the whole world, and so strive against all unbelief; that we may not doubt but that thou wilt ever be one kind and gracious Father, and fully supply whatever is necessary for our support: and may we at the same time live soberly and temperately, so that we may not be under the power of earthly things; but with our hearts raised above, aspire after that heavenly bliss to which thou invitest us, and to which thou also guidest us by such helps as are earthly, so that being really united to our head, we may at length reach that glory which has been procured for us by his blood.—Amen” (Prayer after Comm. on Zech. 9:17, emphasis added).

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(k) In the following, Calvin warns us to flee from thinking that God is bestowing blessings upon the ungodly reprobate in loading them with good gifts, peace, prosperity and what appears to be a form of happiness. He explains their condition as God ‘fattening them for the day of slaughter’something which today would earn one the label “Hyper-Calvinist.”

“Very useful is this doctrine; for we hence first conclude that many, not only from the world, are led into perdition, but also from the bosom of the Church: for when three hundred shall profess to worship God, one hundred only, says Zechariah, will be saved. There are always among the people many hypocrites; nay, the grains lie hid in the midst of much chaff and refuse; it is therefore necessary to devote to ruin and eternal death a larger number than those who shall be saved. Let us then not envy the ungodly, though their prosperity may disturb us and cause us to grieve (Psalm 37:2). We think them happy; for while God spares and supports them, they deride us and triumph over our miseries. But under this circumstance, the Holy Spirit exhorts us to bear patiently our afflictions; for though for a time the happiness of the ungodly may goad us, yet God himself declares that they are fattened in order to be presently slain, when they shall have gathered much fatness. This is one thing” (Comm. on Zech. 13:9, emphasis added).

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(l) Calvin states that God in His providence, in causing the reprobate ungodly to live prosperity, rejoicing, and earthly well-being, is in reality “fattening them for the day of slaughter.” He would be accused of Hyper-Calvinism for saying such a thing had he been around today.

“He indeed puts forth his hand indifferently against his own people and against strangers; for we see that both are in common subjected to adversities; and if a comparison be made, he seems in a manner to spare the reprobate, and to be severe towards the elect. Hence the complaints of the godly, that the wicked pass their life in continual pleasures, and delight themselves with wine and the harp, and at length descend without pains in an instant into the grave—that fatness covers their eyes—that they are exempt from troubles—that they securely and joyfully spend their life, looking down with contempt on others, so that they dare to set their mouth against heaven (Job 21:13; Psalm 73:3-9). In short, God so regulates his judgments in this world, that he fattens the wicked for the day of slaughter. He therefore passes by their many sins, and, as it were, connives at them. In the meantime, he restores by corrections his own children, for whom he has a care, to the right way, whenever they depart from it” (Comm. on I Pet. 4:17, emphasis added).


2. Against the Theology behind the Well-Meant Offer/The Free Offer

(a) Calvin says that God’s mercy is offered in the preaching only to those whom He has predestined to salvation:

“His sole design in thus promising, is to offer His mercy to all who desire and seek it, which none do but those whom he has enlightened, and He enlightens all whom He has predestined to salvation.” (Institutes 3.24.17, emphasis added).

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(b) Calvin states that God’s intention and purpose in causing the exhortations and commands to fall on the ears of the reprobate ungodly, is not to save them, but to render them more inexcusable:
  
“What purpose then is served by exhortations? It is this: As the wicked, with obstinate heart, despise them, they will be a testimony against them when they stand at the judgment seat of God; nay, they (the exhortations of the word) even now strike and lash their consciences.” (Institutes 2.5.10, emphasis added).

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(c) For the reprobate, Calvin states that the external call is a testimony of God’s judgment:

“That the Lord sends his Word to many whose blindness he intends to increase cannot indeed be called into question. For what purpose does he cause so many demands to be made upon Pharaoh? … [As far as the reprobate are concerned, God] directs his voice to them but in order that they may become even more deaf; he kindles a light but that they may be made even more blind; he sets forth doctrine but that they may grow even more stupid; he employs a remedy but so that they may not be healed.” (Institutes, 3.24.8, emphasis added).

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(d) Calvin sees the intention of the external call with regards to the reprobate not as an “offer of actual salvation” but as a sign of his judgment upon human unbelief. This is even very clear from his discussion of calling:

“There is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation.” (Institutes 3.24.8, emphasis added.)

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(e) Calvin responds to Pighius’ claim, based on I Timothy 2:4 and Ezekiel 33:11, that God desires the salvation of all persons, stating that these passages are written for the encouragement of the elect only:

“Now we reply, that as the language of the prophet here is an exhortation to repentance, it is not at all marvellous in him to declare that God wills all men to be saved. For the mutual relation between these threats and promises shows that such forms of speaking are conditional. In this same manner God declared to the Ninevites, and to the kings of Gerar and Egypt, that he would do that which, in reality, he did not intend to do, for their repentance averted the punishment which he had threatened to inflict upon them ... Just so it is with respect to the conditional promises of God, which invite all men to salvation. They do not positively prove that which God has decreed in his secret counsel, but declare only what God is ready to do to all those who are brought to faith and repentance. (Calvin’s Calvinism)

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(f) Regarding the promise of the gift of conversion in Jeremiah 31:33, Calvin impresses upon us that it is a particular promise, made to some people only, and therefore actual salvation is not offered to all:

“It is quite certain, that men do not ‘turn from their evil ways’ to the Lord, of their own accord, nor by any instinct of nature. Equally certain is it, that the gift of conversion is not common to all men. Because, this is that one of the two covenants, which God promises that He will not make with any, but with His own children and His own elect people: concerning whom, He has recorded His promise, that ‘He will write his law in their hearts!’ (Jer. 31:33) Now, a man must be utterly beside himself to assert, that this promise is made to all men generally and indiscriminately.” (Calvin’s Calvinism)

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(g) Calvin argues that the proposition that God desires the salvation of every individual cannot be maintained because not even the external preaching of the word comes to everyone, let alone the illumination of the Spirit:

“Now let Pighius boast, if he can, that God wills all men to be saved. The above arguments, founded on the Scriptures, prove that even the external preaching of the doctrine of salvation, which is very far inferior to the illumination of the Spirit, was not made of God common to all men” (Calvin’s Calvinism)

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(h) Calvin makes it quite clear that he rejects the concept of a universal atonementone of the foundations of the well-meant offer theology. Combating Tilemann Heshusius’ doctrine of the physical presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, Calvin poses the following rhetorical question:

“I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins?” (Tracts and Treatises of John Calvin, vol. 1, p. 527)


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(i) In the following commentary on Ezekiel 18:23, Calvin explains in what sense God can “invite” all men to salvation though He does not wish all men to be saved. His answer is that in this passage from Ezekiel He promises salvation only to those that are converted and repent. Calvin then reasons from the truth of sovereign grace in the work of conversion and also the fact that repentance is a gift sovereignly bestowed by God alone that, therefore, this passage must be a promise of salvation only to the elect:


God is said not to wish the death of a sinner. How so? Since he wishes all to be converted. Now we must see how God wishes all to be converted; for repentance is surely his peculiar gift: As it is his office to create men, so it is his province to renew them, and restore his image within them. For this reason we are said to be his workmanship, that is, his fashioning (Ephesians 2:10). Since, therefore, repentance is a kind of second creation, it follows that it is not in man’s power; and if it is equally in God’s power to convert men as well as to create them, it follows that the reprobate are not converted, because God does not wish their conversion; for if he wished it, he could do it; and hence it appears that he does not wish it. But again they argue foolishly: Since God does not wish all to be converted, he is himself deceptive, and nothing can be certainly stated concerning his paternal benevolence. But this knot is easily untied, for he does not leave us in suspense when he says that he wishes all to be saved. Why so? For if no one repents without finding God propitious, then his sentence is filled up. But we must remark that he puts on a twofold character, for he here wishes to be taken at his word. As I have already said, the Prophet does not here dispute with subtlety about his incomprehensible plans, but wishes to keep our attention close to God’s Word. Now, what are the contents of this Word? The law, the prophets, and the gospel. Now all are called to repentance, and the hope of salvation is promised them when they repent: This is true since God rejects no returning sinner: He pardons all without exception; meanwhile, this will of God which he sets forth in his Word does not prevent him from decreeing before the world was created what he would do with every individual, and as I have now said, the Prophet only shows here, that when we have been converted we need not doubt that God immediately meets us and shows himself propitious.” (Comm. on Ezek. 18:23)

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[j] If someone had written the following from Calvin’s Calvinism in this day and age, they would immediately be characterized as a “rationalist.” For Calvin here harmonizes Ezekiel 18:23 with God’s eternal counsel of election and reprobation, and that, too, in such a way that he explains the former in the light of the latter. When he explains that in such passages as Ezekiel 18:23 God promises “conditional life” to all, he evidently means that through the Gospel God declares that He will give life to all that repent. And since it is God who must give repentance, in reality He promises life only to the elect, and to none other:

“All this Pighius loudly denies, adducing that passage of the apostle (1 Timothy 2:4): “Who will have all men to be saved”; and referring to Ezekiel 18:23, he argues thus: “That God wills not the death of a sinner may be taken upon his oath, where he says by that prophet: As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked that dies, but rather that he should return from his ways and live.” Now we reply, that as the language of the prophet here is an exhortation to repentance, it is not at all marvelous in him to declare that he wills all men to be saved. For the mutual relation between threats and promises shows that such forms of speaking are conditional. In this same manner God declared to the Ninevites, and to the kings of Gerar and Egypt, that He would do that which in reality He did not intend to do, for their repentance averted the punishment which He had threatened to inflict upon them. Whence it is evident that the punishment was announced on condition of their remaining obstinate and impenitent. And yet, the denunciation of punishment was positive, as if it had been an irrevocable decree. But after God had terrified them with the apprehension of His wrath, and had fully humbled them as not being utterly desperate, He encouraged them with the hope of pardon, that they might feel that there was yet left open a space for remedy. Just so it is with the conditional promises of God which invite all men to salvation. They do not positively prove that which God has decreed in His counsel, but declare only that which God is ready to do to all those that are brought to faith and repentance

… But men untaught of God, not understanding these things, allege that we here attribute to God a twofold or double will. Whereas God is so far from being variable, that no shadow of such variableness appertains to Him, even in the most remote degree. Hence, Pighius ignorant of the divine nature of these things, thus argues: “What else is this but making of God the mocker of men, if God is represented as really not willing that which He professes to will, and as not having pleasure in that which in reality He has pleasure?” But if these two members of the sentence be read in conjunction, as they ought to be—“I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked”; and: “But that the wicked turn from his way and live”—read these two propositions in connection with each other, and the calumny is washed off at once. God requires of us this conversion or “turning away from our iniquity,” and in whomsoever He finds it He disappoints not such a one of the promised reward of eternal life. Wherefore, God is as much said to have pleasure in, and to will, this eternal life, as to have pleasure in the repentance; and He has pleasure in the repentance, because He invites all men to it by His Word. Now all this is in perfect harmony with His secret and eternal counsel, by which He decreed to convert none but His own elect. None but God’s elect, therefore, ever turn from their wickedness. And yet, the adorable God is not, on these accounts, to be considered variable or capable of change, because as a Lawgiver He enlightens all men with the external doctrine of conditional life. In this primary sense He calls or invites all men to eternal life. But in the latter case, He brings to eternal life those whom He willed according to His eternal purpose, regenerating by His Spirit, as an eternal Father, His own children only.”” (Calvin’s Calvinism)

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[k] Calvin admits that his opponents seem to have more reason on their side when they quote II Peter 3:9 to prove that God wills all men to be saved. But he nevertheless “unties this knot at once” by calling attention to the second part of the text which states that God wills that all men should come to repentance. For, he argues, by this will of God to receive unto repentance none other can be understood than that which is taught everywhere in Scripture (quia voluntas recipiendi ad poenitentiam non alia intelligi potest nisi quase passim traditur). And then he argues that conversion is in the hand of God, and it is proper to ask him whether he will convert all men. But since it is evident that he does not will to convert all men, it is equally evident that he does not will that all men be saved, and that the text in II Peter 3:9 teaches only that God wills that those be saved whom he brings to repentance (i.e., the elect):


“‘God does not will that any should perish but that he should receive all to repentance’ [II Peter 3:9]. But the solution of the difficulty occurs immediately in the second phrase, because the will to receive to repentance can only be understood in the sense generally taught [in Scripture]. Conversion is obviously in God’s hand: when he promises that he will give a certain few a heart of flesh but leave the rest with a heart of stone [Ezek. 36:26], let him be asked whether he wills to convert all ... God is said to have ordained from eternity those whom he wills to embrace in love, and those upon whom he wills to vent his wrath” (Institutes 3.24.16, 17, pp. 984, 985).


3. Against the Restraint of Total Depravity in Man

(a) The teaching of common grace states that God restrains sin and corruption of man by an inward, gracious operation of the Holy Spirit (or simply “an operation of grace”) upon the hearts of men. Calvin, however, in the following, attributes a restraint of God upon wickedness to “providence”:

“Hence, how much soever men may disguise their impurity, some are restrained only by shame, others by fear of the laws, from breaking out into many kinds of wickedness. Some aspire to an honest life, as deeming it most conducive to their interest, while others are raised above the vulgar lot, that, by the dignity of their station, they may keep inferiors to their duty. Thus God by his providence, curbs the perverseness of nature, preventing it from breaking forth into action, yet without rendering it inwardly pure.” (Institutes 2.3.3)

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(b) Calvin, in the following, presents an example of how God providentially orders the earthly circumstances of life to curb and restrain sin in the lives of men (whereas the theory of common grace says this is accomplished by an inward gracious operation of the Spirit). External means are utilized to prevent the breaking out or manifestation of sin. Note also that Calvin describes God’s forbearance towards the wicked is a judgment and a curse to them:

“And whereas Rachel died in childbirth, through the fatigue of the journey, before they reached a resting-place; this would prove no small accession to his grief. But, as to his being bereaved of his most beloved wife, this was probably the cause, that the Lord intended to correct the exorbitance of his affection for her. The Holy Spirit fixes no mark of infamy upon Leah, seeing that she was a holy woman, and endowed with greater virtue; but Jacob more highly appreciated Rachel’s beauty. This fault in the holy man was cured by a bitter medicine, when his wife was taken away from him: and the Lord often deprives the faithful of his own gifts, to correct their perverse abuse of them. The wicked, indeed, more audaciously profane the gifts of God; but if God connives longer at their misconduct, a more severe condemnation remains to them on account of his forbearance. But in taking away from his own people the occasion of sinning, he promotes their salvation. Whoever, therefore, desires the continued use of God’s gifts, let him learn not to abuse them, but to enjoy them with purity and sobriety” (Comm. on Gen. 35:16, emphasis added).


4. Against Man Performing Good Works

(a) Calvin, in the following, attributes the preservation of peace and order in society not to a “grace” of God operative in the hearts of men, but rather to human means and motives (providence). And though he acknowledges that their works appear good and right on the outside, yet because they are not performed to a holy “end/goal” (e.g. the glory of God) all their good works are “sin” and not worthy of the name “right”:

“Yet what Augustine writes is nonetheless true: that all who are estranged from the religion of the one God, however admirable they may be regarded on account of their reputation for virtue, not only deserve no reward but rather punishment, because by the pollution of their hearts they defile God’s good works. For even though they are God’s instruments for the preservation of human society in righteousness, continence, friendship, temperance, fortitude, and prudence, yet they carry out these good works of God very badly. For they are restrained from evildoing not by genuine zeal for good but either by mere ambition or by self-love, or some other perverse motive. Therefore, since by the very impurity of men’s hearts these good works have been corrupted as from their source, they ought no more to be reckoned among virtues than the vices that commonly deceive on account of their affinity and likeness to virtue. In short, when we remember the constant end of that which is right—namely, to serve God—whatever strives to another end already deservedly loses the name ‘right.’ Therefore, because they do not look to the goal that God’s wisdom prescribes, what they do, though it seems good in the doing, yet by its perverse intention is sin. He [i.e., Augustine] therefore concludes that all Fabriciuses, Scipios, and Catos in their excellent deeds have sinned in that, since they lacked the light of faith, they did not apply their deeds to the end to which they ought to have applied them. Therefore, true righteousness was not in them, because duties are weighed not by deeds but by ends” (Institutes 3.14.3, emphasis added).

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(b) Many maintain that there is a common grace of God operating in mankind, acting as a common ground to enable the church and the world to have fellowship, friendship, and to be joined and united together to fight for common causes. Calvin, however, in the following commentary on Psalm 1, repudiates the idea of saints having “fellowship with the ungodly” and maintains that it is the duty of the student of the word to “withdraw” and “separate” from their society and company. Note that he also says God’s favour is particular:

“The greater part of mankind being accustomed to deride the conduct of the saints as mere simplicity, and to regard their labour as entirely thrown away, it was of importance that the righteous should be confirmed in the way of holiness, by the consideration of the miserable condition of all men without the blessing of God, and the conviction that God is favourable to none but those who zealously devote themselves to the study of divine truth. Moreover, as corruption has always prevailed in the world, to such a degree, that the general character of men’s lives is nothing else but a continual departure from the law of God, the Psalmist, before asserting the blessedness of the students of the divine law, admonishes them to beware of being carried away by the ungodliness of the multitude around them. Commencing with a declaration of his abhorrence of the wicked, he teaches us how impossible it is for any one to apply his mind to meditation upon God’s laws who has not first withdrawn and separated himself from the society of the ungodly. A needful admonition surely; for we see how thoughtlessly men will throw themselves into the snares of Satan; at least, how few comparatively there are who guard against the enticements of sin. That we may be fully apprised of our danger, it is necessary to remember that the world is fraught with deadly corruption, and that the first step to living well is to renounce the company of the ungodly, otherwise it is sure to infect us with its own pollution. As the prophet, in the first place, enjoins the godly to beware of temptations to evil, we shall follow the same order. His affirmation, that they are blessed who have no fellowship with the ungodly, is what the common feeling and opinion of mankind will scarcely admit; for while all men naturally desire and seek after happiness, we see how securely they can indulge themselves in their sins, yea, that those of them who have departed farthest from righteousness, in the gratification of their lusts, are accounted happy, because they obtain the desires of their heart. The prophet, on the contrary, here teaches that no man can be duly animated to the fear and service of God, and to the study of his law, until he is firmly persuaded that all the ungodly are miserable, and that they who do not withdraw from their company shall he involved in the same destruction with them. But as it is no easy matter to shun the ungodly with whom we are mingled in the world, so as to be wholly estranged from them, the Psalmist, in order to give the greater emphasis to his exhortation, employs a multiplicity of expressions. In the first place, he forbids us to walk in their counsel; in the second place, to stand in their way; and, lastly, to sit in their seat. The sum of the whole is, that the servants of God must endeavor utterly to abhor the life of ungodly men. But as it is the policy of Satan to insinuate his deceits, in a very crafty way, the prophet, in order that none may be insensibly deceived, shows how by little and little men are ordinarily induced to turn aside from the right path. They do not, at the first step, advance so far as a proud contempt of God but having once begun to give ear to evil counsel, Satan leads them, step by step, farther astray ...” (Comm. on Ps. 1:1-2, emphasis added).

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(c) The theory of common grace teaches that man, by a work of grace, is enabled to perform good works in the realm of civil society that are pleasing, laudable and worthy of God’s approval. Calvin in the following quote, howver, states that all these remarkable instances of gentleness, integrity, temperance, and generosity in the unregenerate as “specious disguises” and that only in the sight of men are they so distinguished.

“In the former part of the description he condemned the whole nature of man as producing nothing but evil and worthless fruits. He now informs us that all virtues, all proper and well regulated affections, proceed from the Spirit, that is, from the grace of God, and the renewed nature which we derive from Christ. As if he had said, 'Nothing but what is evil comes from man; nothing good comes but from the Holy Spirit.' There have often appeared in unrenewed men remarkable instances of gentleness, integrity, temperance, and generosity; but it is certain that all were but specious disguises. Curius and Fabrieius were distinguished for courage, Cato for temperance, Scipio for kindness and generosity, Fabius for patience; but it was only in the sight of men, and as members of civil society, that they were so distinguished. In the sight of God nothing is pure but what proceeds from the fountain of all purity” (Comm. on Gal. 5:22, emphasis added).



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