08 February, 2017

John Calvin (1509-1564) on Ezekiel 18:23

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezek. 18:23).


[Source: Commentary on Ezekiel 18:23; emphasis added]

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 this sentence is filled up. But we must remark that God 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 [returning sinners] 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.



Richard A. Muller

[Source: “A Tale of Two Wills? Calvin, Amyraut, and Du Moulin on Ezekiel 18:23,” in Calvin and the Reformed Tradition on the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012)]

The prophet’s words of universal promise [in Ezekiel 18:23] do not refer [according to Calvin] to the eternal counsel of God, nor do they set the universal promise of the gospel against the eternal counsel as a different will. Rather God always wills the same thing, presumably, the salvation of the elect, albeit in different ways, namely, in his eternal counsel and through the preaching of the gospel ... unlike Amyraut, Calvin is not referring to two revealed mercies. Indeed, Calvin specifically states that these two apparent ways of willing are actually ways in which God wills one and the same thing. Where Amyraut has begun to move toward an argument concerning two divine mercies and wills, Calvin insists on a single divine volition ... Calvin’s rather strenuous objections to a notion of two wills, specifically to a view that would place the universalizing promise of the gospel into some ultimately secret, and unfulfilled divine will ... What Calvin in no way countenanced was a notion of a double will in God, one hypothetical to save all, the other absolute to save the elect: there was in Calvin’s view, one divine will and one will only, and that, to save the elect ... Calvins intention was to identify, on the one hand, the particularity of God’s [saving will] and, on the other hand, the universality not of a distinct will to save but of the preaching of salvation. (pp. 114, 116, 122)

In the view of Amyraut’s indefatigable opponent, Pierre Du Moulin, Calvin never hypothesized two divine wills and certainly not ‘conseils de Dieu frustratoires’ [a frustratred will of God] ... Du Moulin indicates [that] Calvin never spoke [in connection with Ezekiel 18:23 or anywhere else] of ‘general Predestination, or of a first and second mercy, or of frustrated counsels of God.’ (pp. 109, 120).

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