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Title: John Calvin - Secret Providence - John Calvin’s Reply to the Calumniator’s Preface
Author: John Calvin
Language: English
00004-0005 Secret Providence - John Calvin's Reply to the Calumniator's John Calvin - Secret Providence - Preface

THAT my doctrine has many adversaries, is neither unknown nor astonishing to me: for it is no new thing for Christ, beneath whose standard I contend, to be the object of abuse to many babblers. On this account alone I grieve, that though my side is pierced the sacred and eternal truth of God, which ought to be reverently esteemed and adored by the whole world. But when I see that from the beginning, truth has been subject to the many calumnies of the wicked, and that Christ himself (for the Celestial Father has so decreed) must needs be the mark for contradiction, this also should be patiently endured. The virulent assaults of the wicked, however, shall never make me repent of that doctrine, which I am assured has God for its author. Nor have I so little profited, by the many conflicts in which God has exercised me, that I should now be alarmed at your futile outcry. Besides, so far as you are privately concerned, my masked adviser, this is some consolation, that you could not be ungrateful to a man, who had obliged you more than you deserved, without at the same time betraying foul impiety against God. I know indeed that to you Academicians, there is no sweeter game, than under color of doubt, to pluck up every particle of faith in the hearts of men: and how witty in your apprehension that raillery is, which you cast against the secret providence of God, is sufficiently evident from your style, dissemble it as you may. But I summon you and your companions to that Tribunal, whence by-and-by the Celestial Judge, by the lightning alone of his face and breath, will effectually prostrate your audacity. Meanwhile, I am confident, that I can soon render your smartness as offensive to honest and wise readers, as it is secretly pleasant to yourself.

You demand of me a refutation of your treatise which you sent to Paris from Geneva, by stealth; that unknown to me, the poison might be scattered far and wide, without its antidote; and while you affect some desire of information, you suppress your name, for no reason that I can imagine, but because you were aware, that I had something at hand, which would at once destroy the credit of you and your gang. From many marks, however, I can conjecture, nay I conclude, who you are; but it is of no importance to me, whether you wrote with your own hand, or whether you dictated to a Scottish preacher of your frenzies, with the design of his carrying to Paris, what is was unlawful to publish here. I could wish indeed, either that this pamphlet had another author, or that you were a different man from what you are; and that you will never bee till you have felt the loveliness of candor. Though in your intercourse with me you were never deficient in respect, yet it was easy to see how prone you are by nature to cavil. This vice, which you aggravated by childish whims, I endeavored to correct, but in vain; because your natural tendency had been aggravated by a wretched vanity, which strained after the praise of acuteness, on the ground of a few very silly, and worse than insipid jokes.

Nor can you defend yourself by the example of Socrates, who was wont to sift by his objections, opinions of every kind. For, while that man was illustrious, for many distinguished excellencies, they were all tarnished by that vice, in which alone, you, with no less impropriety than eagerness seek to rival him.
You demand of me a refutation of your treatise, such as the people can understand. Now, I have hitherto labored to accommodate myself, to the apprehension of the simplest, by a style of instruction, at once perspicuous and pure. But if you receive no statement as argument, except what the sense of carnal man approves, by such proud disdain, you do, with your own hand, but the approach to that doctrine, the knowledge of which begins in reverence. Nor am I ignorant of the jibes of you, and those like you, with which you assail God’s mysteries; just as if everything must lose its grace and authority, that does not strike your fancy. And what is meant by requiring me to refute every one who shall choose to rail at me? For even Socrates, whose authority you falsely allege, would have submitted to no such rule. I for my part have no fondness for indiscriminate imitation; but if there ever was, not only in this age, but in any other, a man who constantly set himself against the wicked, by dissipating their calumnies; even those who dislike and injure me, will give me some credit for that kind of industry. Wherefore your rant is the more intolerable, because, while with the blind impetuosity of impudence, you trample on all my labors, you enjoin a task already three or four times accomplished.

But you maintain there is one point, on which I am worsted by my adversaries; in so far as no sufficient materials for a defense, can be found in anything which I have hitherto published. That point, you say, is predestination or fate. I would it had been your design, either modestly to inquire, or at least to dispute with candor, rather than by outraging all decency, and for the sake of extinguishing the light, to confound things the most opposite. Fate, according to the Stoics, is a necessity springing out of a changeable, and complicated labyrinth by the Scriptures, I define predestination, as the free counsel of God, by which he regulates the human race, and all the individual parts of the universe, according to his own immense wisdom, and incomprehensible justice. Now, if the depravity of your disposition, and the lust of contention, and the pride of the devil so blind you, that you see nothing at midday, yet this distinction will demonstrate to all readers who have eyes, what fairness there is in your criticism. Besides, had you not grudged even a glance at my books, you might thence have inferred, how little pleased I am with that profane word fate; nay you would have read, that the same objection was long ago, malignantly and invidiously brought against Augustine, by foul fellows, and men like yourself; and in the reply of that pious and holy doctor, there is a brief statement of what is sufficient for my defense to day.

In the articles too, which you say have been extracted from my books, the case with me is the same as with that author of happy memory. As the malevolent were aware, that this doctrine was not popular, they with the design of aggravating the dislike of it, flung about passages, partly mutilated, partly distorted, so that it was impossible for the uninformed, to come to any but an unfavorable judgment. But though at first sight many supposed them extracted from his writings, yet he complains that they were falsely imputed to him; inasmuch as they had either industriously heaped together broken sentences or by changing a few words, had artfully corrupted pious and sound doctrine, in order to create offense in the minds of the simple. That those articles which you boast of propounding from my books, are precisely of the same kind, wise and honest readers will easily discover, even though I were silent; and to such it will not be troublesome, to compare my doctrine with your foul calumnies. And this I maintain, first of all, that you set neither a manly nor an ingenious part, when you specify no passages, to show intelligent readers, that I write what you allege. For what can be more unjust, when I have published so many books, than vaguely to declare, that out of about fifty volumes, fourteen articles have been gathered. It had unquestionably been better, were a drop of honesty in you, either to quote my sentences word for word; or if you perceived anything dangerous to have warned your readers of what passages to beware. Whereas, by branding all my works promiscuously, you would destroy the remembrance of them; and what in my books, might be read without any offense, you malignantly corrupt for your own convenience, and so render hateful. Now while I do not blame the prudence of Augustine, in so tempering his replies as to avoid odium, when he met the unprincipled craft of his adversaries, yet I think it better frankly to repel your slanders, than to give the smallest symptom of turning my back.