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Title: John Calvin - Secret Providence - Articles Gathered from the Latin and French Works Author: John Calvin
Language: English
00004-0006 Secret Providence - Articles Gathered from the Latin and John Calvin - Secret Providence - French Works of John Calvin
On the Subject of Predestination Article First I.e. Calumny First

God, by a simple and pure act of his will, created the greatest part of the world for destruction.

Against the First

Such is the first article; take likewise what is said against it. They say the first article is against nature, and against Scripture. Of nature they allege thus. Every animal naturally loves its offspring; now this nature is from God; from which it follows that God loves his offspring. For he would never make animals love their offspring, if he himself likewise did not love his. And this they prove by the following argument. The Lord hath said, “Shall I cause to bring forth, and shall I not bring forth,” ( Isaiah 66:9.)

Hence by a parity of reason, they deduce the argument, God makes animals love their offspring; therefore he himself loves his offspring. But all men are the offspring of God; for God is the Father of Adam, from whom all men are sprung: therefore he loves all men. But to create in order to destroy, is not the part of love, but of hatred. Therefore he created no man for destruction. Besides creation is a work of love, not of hatred; consequently in love, not in hatred, God created all men. Moreover, there is no beast so savage, (not to speak of man) as to design the misery of its young, in their production, how much less God? Were he not worse than even a wolf? Christ argues thus; “If you being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more God? Your adversaries also argue thus: If Calvin though wicked, would yet be unwilling to beget a son for misery, how much less God? These and such like things they speak concerning nature.

Of Scripture on the other hand, they speak thus: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good; therefore, man, whom he had made, was very good. But if God had created him for destruction, he had created a good thing for destruction, and loves to destroy what is good; which is impious even to think. Besides God created one man, to place him in paradise, which is a happy life; therefore, he created all men for a happy life. For all were created in one. And if all fell in Adam, all must have stood in Adam, and that on the same condition as Adam. Again, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Again, “God is not willing that any should perish; but would that all should come to the knowledge of the truth.” Again, if God created the greatest part of the world for destruction, it follows that his anger must be greater than his mercy; and yet the Scriptures declares that he is slow to anger; so that his anger extends only to the third or fourth generation, while his mercy reaches even to the thousandth.

The first article you take hold of, is, that God, by a simple and pure act of his will, created the greatest part of the world for destruction. Now, all that about “the greatest part of the world,” and “the simple pure act of the will of God” is fictitious, and the product of the workshop of your malice.

For, though God from the beginning decreed whatsoever was to come to pass with the whole human race; yet this way of talking is no where to be met with in my writings, that the end of creation is eternal destruction.

Therefore like a swine, you upset with your snout, a doctrine of good odor, in order to find in it something offensive. Besides, though the will of God is to me the highest of all reasons, yet I everywhere teach, that where the reason of his counsels and his works, does not appear, the reason is hid with him; so that he has always decreed justly and wisely. Therefore I not only reject, I detest the trifling of the Schoolmen about absolute power, because they separate his justice from his authority. Now see, dog, what you gain by your froward barking. I, subjecting as I do the human race to the will of God, loudly declare that he decrees nothing without the best reason, which if unknown to us now, shall be cleared up at last. You, thrusting forward your “simple and pure act of will” impudently upbraid me with that, which I openly reject in a hundred places or more. At the same time, I do acknowledge this as my doctrine, that not merely by the permission of God, but by his secret counsel also, Adam fell, and in his fall, dragged down all his descendants into everlasting perdition. Both assertions, as I perceive, are offensive to you, as repugnant at once to nature and Scripture. Your argument, from nature, is founded on the love which every animal naturally feels towards its own offspring. You hence infer, that God who has inspired even brute beasts with this affliction must love men no less, since they are his offspring. But it is too gross to insist on finding in God the author of nature, whatever you discern in the ox, and the ass; as if God were bound by the very same laws which he has given to his creatures. To secure the continuance of every race of animals, God has endowed each with the appetite of generating offspring. Now expostulate with him, why from all eternity content with himself alone, he kept his energy, as it were, barren. Undoubtedly he must be always like himself. If then, you may be judge, he violated the order of nature, so long as he chose rather to be without offspring, than to put forth his productive power. Besides, while beasts fight even to death, in behalf of their young, how comes it that God allows little infants to be torn and devoured by tigers, or bears, or lions, or wolves? Is it because his arm is too short to reach forth protection to his own? You perceive how wide a field is open to me, if I cared about exposing your follies; but this alone is enough for me, that there are evidences of God’s love, toward the whole human race, sufficient to convict all who perish, of ingratitude. Nor yet is this inconsistent with that peculiar love which he restricts to the few, whom he is pleased to elect among many. Certainly he openly declared, by his ancient adoption of the family of Abraham, that he by no means embraces the whole human family, with equal regard. So by rejecting Esau, and preferring his younger brother Jacob, he gave an illustrious proof of that free favor, which he bestowed only on whom he pleases. Moses proclaims that one nation had been chosen by God to the rejection of all the rest. The prophets everywhere affirm, that the only reason of the superiority of the Jews, was the unmerited favor of God. Will you deny him to be God; because in this you discover no resemblance to a tiger or a bear? It was not in vain that Christ addressing the little flock (and not the human race, nor even indiscriminately the Jewish nation) said, “fear not, it has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom;” because none but those whom he reconciles to himself, in his Only Begotten Son, experience his paternal love, in the hope of eternal life. Now, if you mean to subject God to the laws of nature, you will accuse him of injustice, in condemning us all to the penalty of eternal death, on account of the sin of one. One sinned, all are dragged to punishment; and not only so, but from the crime of one they all contract contagion, and are born corrupted and tainted with a mortal malady. Worthy Critic! what have you to say to this? Will you condemn God as cruel, because he has precipitated all his offspring into ruin, for the fault of one man? For though Adam destroyed himself and his descendants, yet we must ascribe the corruption and the guilt, to the secret determination of God; because, the sin of one man were nothing to us, if the Celestial Judge did not doom us to eternal ruin on account of it.

And observe, how skillfully you quote a passage of Isaiah to gloze your error. Whereas it seemed incredible, that the Church of God, which in Babylonish captivity, not only was deprived of her children, but had become barren, should, with renovated vigor, be more fruitful than before; God speaks thus: “Shall not I, by whose strength women bring forth, be able also to produce offspring?” Under this pretext, you compel God to assume all the properties of the brutes. You audaciously argue, because God makes animals love their offspring, that he too must love his offspring. Though this were admitted, it would not follow that he loves them in the same way. Besides, this does not prove, that he may not as a just Judge reject those, whom, as the best of Fathers, he follows with affection and indulgence.

Again, you object that creation is a work of love, not of hatred; that consequently God creates from love, and not from hatred. But you do not distinguish, that though all are odious to God in Adam, yet his love shines in creation. Therefore, any one endowed with moderate judgment, and candor, will acknowledge the frivolity of that which you fancy so plausible. What follows, it is not so much for me to refute with my pen, as for the magistrate severely to punish by the sword. Shall it be imputed to my books, that men are undeniably born to misery? How comes it that we are exposed not merely to temporal miseries, but also to eternal death, if not because God has cast us into a common condemnation, on account of the sin of one man. In this miserable ruin of the human race, it is not my opinion of the human race, it is not my opinion that is read, but God’s manifest work that is beheld. You, with no misgiving, vomit the impious declaration, that God is worse than any wolf, if he resolves to create men for misery. Some are born blind, others deaf, and some are prodigiously deformed. If you, indeed, may be judge, God is cruel in afflicting his offspring with such disadvantages before they come into light. But byand- by you shall feel, how much better it had been for you, never to have seen it all, than to have been so perspicacious in discussing the secrets of God. You, forsooth, accuse God of injustice, nay call him a monster, if he mange the human race, in a manner different from what we do our children.

Why then does he create some dull, others stupid, and others idiots? As some of the Jews fables of the fauns and satyrs being unfinished, because their Maker was cut short by the Sabbath, will you be so absurd as to maintain that such persons slipped incomplete out of the hands of God?

Such sad sights should rather teach us reverence and modesty, than produce a debate out of our brains with the Maker of heaven and earth. If I meet an idiot, I am admonished by the sight, what God might have created me. As many as are stupid and dull, just so many mirrors does God present, in which I may behold a power, no less awful than wonderful.
But you allow yourself to rail at him as worse than a wolf, for consulting so ill for his creatures.

True, Christ declares, that God who is good, acts more kindly towards hi sons, than men who are evil; but before you can turn this to your purpose, you must prove, that all are equally the sons of God. Now, it is clear, that all lost eternal life in Adam; whereas the grace of adoption is special.

Whence, it will rather follow, that so many as are alienated from God, are abhorred by him. Your texts, are darts hurled at random, by the hand of a madman. God saw the things which he had made, and they were very good; and again conclude, that God was unjust if he created a good being for destruction.

The nature of man’s original rectitude I have sufficiently expounded, and more than sufficiently, in many passages. Doubtless he was not better than the devil, before he had fallen from his integrity. Now were I to grant you, that man, as well as apostate angels, was created for happiness, and yet maintain, that in respect of future defection, they were destined to destruction; what will you make of it? For, undoubtedly, God knew what would happen to both; and what he himself would do, he at the same time decreed. As to permission, we shall consider it afterwards in its own place.

But now if you object that the foreknowledge of God, is not the cause of evil, I would only demand of you, if God foresaw the fall, both of the devil and of man before creation, why did he not by a timely precaution prevent their proneness to fall? From the beginning of the world, the devil forthwith alienated himself from the hope of salvation; man as soon as created, overwhelmed himself and posterity in fatal ruin. If their perseverance was in the hand of God, why did he suffer them to fall? Nay why was neither famished with even a moderate degree of constancy?

Turn as you will, I will hold this principle, that however weak and liable to fall, man might be created, is weakness was very good; because his ruin was so soon to show that out of God, there was no strength, no stability.

Whence it is also evident, that your prating about men being made for happiness, is lame and thoughtless assertion. For though I acknowledge that there was nothing in man contrary to salvation, I prove that happiness was not predestinated for all in the secret counselor God. I will briefly repeat the same thing in other words. If the natural completeness, with which man was endowed at his first creation, be alone considered, then he was made for happiness, inasmuch as no cause of death will there be found. If on the other hand we inquire concerning secret predestination, we come upon that deep abyss, which should call forth instant admiration.

Besides, if you were imbued with the slightest relish for piety, you would readily acknowledge that these words “all things were very good,” were not intended to express their perfection, as if the Holy Spirit declared, that nothing was wanting to the excellence of any creature, but rather to cut off occasion railing from you, and those like you.

For, however, you may deny that it was good for men to be created under this law, by which his fall was immediately to corrupt the whole world, yet God declares that this arrangement was pleasing to himself, and therefore most upright. That you may the better understand the meaning of Moses, he is not asserting how just or upright man was; but to quell your barking, he teaches that the constitution established by God in regard to man, could not be surpassed in rectitude. Accordingly, although in speaking of each of God’s works, he declares that God saw what he had made, and they were every one good, he does not affirm any such thing of man in particular; but to the narrative of his creation, he only adds in general, “whatever God made was very good,” under which declaration, it is unquestionable, we must comprehend what Solomon teaches, that the wicked are created for the day of evil. The sum is; though man by nature was good, this rectitude, which was frail and fading, was not inconsistent with the divine predestination, which doomed him to perish for his own sin, who, considering merely the purity of his nature, nay the excellence with which he was adorned, had been created for happiness. And therefore you falsely and foolishly infer that he was created to perish though good; when it is manifest he fell by his own infirmity, and did not perish till he became obnoxious to a just condemnation. That these two things are mutually harmonious, we shall see more clearly by-and-bye. You object that God does not desire the death of the sinner. But mark what follows in the prophet, the invitation of all to repentance. Pardon, therefore, is offered to all who return. Now we must ascertain, whether the conversion which God requires, depends: on every man’s free will, or whether it is the special gift of God. In so far then, as all are invited to repent, the prophet properly denies that the death of the sinner is desired. But the reason why he does not convert all, is hid with himself.

Your hacknied quotation from Paul, that God would have all men saved, I have, in my judgment, elsewhere sufficiently shown, lends no countenance your error. For it is more certain than certainty itself, that Paul is not there speaking of individuals, but refers to orders and classes of employments, he had been enjoining prayers, in behalf of kings and other governors, and all who exercised the office of magistrate. But inasmuch as all who then bore the sword, were the professed enemies of the church, it might seem absurd that the church should pray for their salvation. To obviate the difficulty Paul extends the grace of God even to them.

There is perhaps more color in the words of Peter, that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” if, however, there be any ambiguity in the former clause, it is removed by the explanation, which is immediately subjoined. Certainly in so far as God would receive all to repentance, he would have no one perish. But in order to be received they must come. Now, the Spirit every where proclaims, that divine grace first comes to men, who till they are drawn remain the willing slaves of carnal contumacy. If you had the smallest judgment remaining, would you not perceive the wide difference between these two that the stony hearts of men, become hearts of flesh, so as to lose all selfcomplacency, and suppliantly entreat for pardon, then, when they are thus changed, that pardon is received. God declares that both those are the gifts of his kindness, the new heart for repentance, and the gracious pardon of the suppliants. Unless God were ready to receive all who truly implore his mercy, he would not say, “return unto me, and I will return unto you.”

But if repentance were the effect of the will of man, Paul would not say, “if peradventure God may give them repentance.” Nay, unless the same God, who with his own voice calls all to repentance, drew his elect by the secret influences of his Spirit, Jeremiah would not say, “Turn me, Oh Lord, and I shall be turned; for when thou turnedst me, I repented.”
If any modesty could be looked for in a dog, this solution should have been familiar to you from my writings, as a thing ten times repeated. But even reject it if you will, you will yet derive no more countenance from Paul, than from Ezekiel. There is no occasion for anxious debate, regarding the mode in which God would have all men saved; for these two things salvation and the knowledge of the truth, are not to be separated. Now answer! If God determined to make known his truth to all, why since the time that the Gospel began to be proclaimed, are there so many nations that his pure truth never reached? Besides, why has he not equally opened the eyes of all, when the interior illumination of the Spirit, vouchsafed but to few, is necessary to faith? This knot also you have to untie. As no one comes to God, except he who is drawn by the secret influence of his Spirit, why are not all indiscriminately drawn, if he is determined that all should be saved? For the discrimination demonstrates, that is some secret way, in which he many from salvation. How it is that the mercy of God reaches to the thousandth generation, you will never perceive while you are blinded by the pride which puffs you up. For there is no promise of such a mercy, as was to utterly the curse, with which the progeny of Adam was overwhelmed; but the mercy promised, was to make its way forever to the unworthy, in spite of all the obstacles which might oppose.

Thus God passed by many sons of Abraham when he chose Isaac alone.

So when Isaac had begotten twins, the same God determined that his mercy should rest only on Jacob. Yet though God gives proof of his anger against many, still this remains undeniable, that he is inclined to goodness, slow to anger; because in the long suffering with which he tolerates the reprobate, there is no obscure display of his goodness.

Now observe how your frivolous quibbles entangle yourself while I escape with such ease. That the mercy of God may exceed his anger, you insist that more must be chosen to salvation than destruction; now though I were to grant this, yet God will be unjust to those few, if your calumnies may be believed. If he do not love his offspring you pronounce him worse than a wolf. If then there is but one against whom he exercises his anger, how will he escape the charge of cruelty? Nor may you object, that the causes of anger are in men themselves; because comparing anger with mercy, you contend merely concerning relative extent; as if by choosing more to salvation, God might prove himself merciful. Whereas God commends his love toward us in a totally different way, viz. on the one hand, by pardoning so many, and so various offenses, and on the other by contending with the obstinate malice of men, till it come to its height.