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Title: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Vol. 1 of 2)
Author: Calvin, John, 1509-1564
Language: English
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                   Institutes of the Christian Religion

                                    by

                               John Calvin

 Translated from the original Latin, and collated with the author’s last
                            edition in French,

                              by John Allen

              Sixth American Edition, Revised and Corrected.

                             In Two Volumes.

                                 Vol. I.

                              Philadelphia:

                    Presbyterian Board of Publication

                                   1813



CONTENTS


Advertisement.
The Translator’s Preface.
The Author’s Preface to An Edition Published In The Year 1559, With His
Last Corrections And Additions.
Dedication.
General Syllabus.
Book I. On The Knowledge Of God The Creator.
   Argument.
   Chapter I. The Connection Between The Knowledge Of God And The
   Knowledge Of Ourselves.
   Chapter II. The Nature And Tendency Of The Knowledge Of God.
   Chapter III. The Human Mind Naturally Endued With The Knowledge Of God.
   Chapter IV. This Knowledge Extinguished Or Corrupted, Partly By
   Ignorance, Partly By Wickedness.
   Chapter V. The Knowledge Of God Conspicuous In The Formation And
   Continual Government Of The World.
   Chapter VI. The Guidance And Teaching Of The Scripture Necessary To
   Lead To The Knowledge Of God The Creator.
   Chapter VII. The Testimony Of The Spirit Necessary To Confirm The
   Scripture, In Order To The Complete Establishment Of Its Authority. The
   Suspension Of Its Authority On The Judgment Of The Church, An Impious
   Fiction.
   Chapter VIII. Rational Proofs To Establish The Belief Of The Scripture.
   Chapter IX. The Fanaticism Which Discards The Scripture, Under The
   Pretence Of Resorting To Immediate Revelations, Subversive Of Every
   Principle Of Piety.
   Chapter X. All Idolatrous Worship Discountenanced In The Scripture, By
   Its Exclusive Opposition Of The True God To All The Fictitious Deities
   Of The Heathen.
   Chapter XI. Unlawfulness Of Ascribing To God A Visible Form. All
   Idolatry A Defection From The True God.
   Chapter XII. God Contradistinguished From Idols, That He May Be Solely
   And Supremely Worshipped.
   Chapter XIII. One Divine Essence, Containing Three Persons; Taught In
   The Scriptures From The Beginning.
   Chapter XIV. The True God Clearly Distinguished In The Scripture From
   All Fictitious Ones By The Creation Of The World.
   Chapter XV. The State Of Man At His Creation, The Faculties Of The
   Soul, The Divine Image, Free Will, And The Original Purity Of His
   Nature.
   Chapter XVI. God’s Preservation And Support Of The World By His Power,
   And His Government Of Every Part Of It By His Providence.
   Chapter XVII. The Proper Application Of This Doctrine To Render It
   Useful To Us.
   Chapter XVIII. God Uses The Agency Of The Impious, And Inclines Their
   Minds To Execute His Judgments, Yet Without The Least Stain Of His
   Perfect Purity.
Book II. On The Knowledge Of God The Redeemer In Christ, Which Was
Revealed First To The Fathers Under The Law, And Since To Us In The
Gospel.
   Argument.
   Chapter I. The Fall And Defection Of Adam The Cause Of The Curse
   Inflicted On All Mankind, And Of Their Degeneracy From Their Primitive
   Condition. The Doctrine Of Original Sin.
   Chapter II. Man, In His Present State, Despoiled Of Freedom Of Will,
   And Subjected To A Miserable Slavery.
   Chapter III. Every Thing That Proceeds From The Corrupt Nature Of Man
   Worthy Of Condemnation.
   Chapter IV. The Operation Of God In The Hearts Of Men.
   Chapter V. A Refutation Of The Objections Commonly Urged In Support Of
   Free Will.
   Chapter VI. Redemption For Lost Man To Be Sought In Christ.
   Chapter VII. The Law Given, Not To Confine The Ancient People To
   Itself, But To Encourage Their Hope Of Salvation In Christ, Till The
   Time Of His Coming.
   Chapter VIII. An Exposition Of The Moral Law
      The First Commandment.
      The Second Commandment.
      The Third Commandment.
      The Fourth Commandment.
      The Fifth Commandment.
      The Sixth Commandment.
      The Seventh Commandment.
      The Eighth Commandment.
      The Ninth Commandment.
      The Tenth Commandment.
   Chapter IX. Christ, Though Known To The Jews Under The Law, Yet Clearly
   Revealed Only In The Gospel.
   Chapter X. The Similarity Of The Old And New Testaments.
   Chapter XI. The Difference Of The Two Testaments.
   Chapter XII. The Necessity Of Christ Becoming Man In Order To Fulfil
   The Office Of Mediator.
   Chapter XIII. Christ’s Assumption Of Real Humanity.
   Chapter XIV. The Union Of The Two Natures Constituting The Person Of
   The Mediator.
   Chapter XV. The Consideration Of Christ’s Three Offices, Prophetical,
   Regal, And Sacerdotal, Necessary To Our Knowing The End Of His Mission
   From The Father, And The Benefits Which He Confers On Us.
   Chapter XVI. Christ’s Execution Of The Office Of A Redeemer To Procure
   Our Salvation. His Death, Resurrection, And Ascension To Heaven.
   Chapter XVII. Christ Truly And Properly Said To Have Merited The Grace
   Of God And Salvation For Us.
Book III. On The Manner Of Receiving The Grace Of Christ, The Benefits
Which We Derive From It, And The Effects Which Follow It.
   Argument.
   Chapter I. What Is Declared Concerning Christ Rendered Profitable To Us
   By The Secret Operation Of The Spirit.
   Chapter II. Faith Defined, And Its Properties Described.
   Chapter III. On Repentance.
   Chapter IV. The Sophistry And Jargon Of The Schools Concerning
   Repentance, Very Remote From The Purity Of The Gospel. On Confession
   And Satisfaction.
   Chapter V. Indulgences And Purgatory. The Supplements To Their Doctrine
   Of Satisfactions.
   Chapter VI. The Life Of A Christian. Scriptural Arguments And
   Exhortations To It.
   Chapter VII. Summary Of The Christian Life. Self‐Denial.
   Chapter VIII. Bearing The Cross, Which Is A Branch Of Self‐Denial.
   Chapter IX. Meditation On The Future Life.
   Chapter X. The Right Use Of The Present Life And Its Supports.
   Chapter XI. Justification By Faith. The Name And Thing Defined.
   Chapter XII. A Consideration Of The Divine Tribunal, Necessary To A
   Serious Conviction Of Gratuitous Justification.
   Chapter XIII. Two Things Necessary To Be Observed In Gratuitous
   Justification.
Footnotes



                               [Cover Art]

[Transcriber’s Note: The above cover image was produced by the submitter
at Distributed Proofreaders, and is being placed into the public domain.]



ADVERTISEMENT.


The Presbyterian Board of Publication, in introducing to the public a new
edition of the inimitable “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” do not
wish to be regarded as adopting all the sentiments and forms of expression
of the venerated writer; although they agree with him in his general
views, and admire the skill and learning with which he has pointed out the
relative positions and bearings of the great doctrines of revelation.
Calvin was better qualified than any of his contemporaries, to present
revealed truth in a connected and systematic form. His great natural
abilities, his profound erudition, his well balanced and discriminating
judgment, and his habits of diligent investigation, eminently fitted him
to prepare such a work as the “Institutes,” in which the doctrines of the
gospel are so clearly developed and harmonized, that the system has been
closely associated with his name, from the period of its publication until
the present time.

The honour of Calvin consisted, not in suggesting ingenious theories and
speculations, but in his general accuracy in interpreting the Holy
Scriptures, and in detecting and pointing out the connection of Scripture
doctrines, which, instead of being insulated, were shown to occupy their
respective places in forming a complete and perfect system of Divine
truth. The doctrines embraced in the formularies of the Presbyterian
Church are termed Calvinistic, from their general accordance with Calvin’s
interpretation of scriptural truth; but the admission of this term, as
explanatory of their general character, is not understood as by any means
implying an entire coincidence in the views of Calvin, or a submission to
his authority as an umpire in theological controversies. Although a
learned and pious, he was a fallible man; and his opinions, although
deserving of profound respect, are not to be blindly followed.

While admitting that the “Institutes,” considering the times and
circumstances in which they were written, form an invaluable body of
divinity, still it must be acknowledged, that some of the doctrines
therein maintained have been more luminously set forth in modern times. We
would especially mention as an instance the doctrine of justification
through the imputed righteousness of Christ. Some of the expressions of
Calvin on the subject of reprobation may be regarded as too unqualified,
and we can no further endorse them than as they are incorporated in the
Presbyterian Confession of Faith. The most decidedly objectionable feature
in the “Christian Institutes,” is to be found in the explanation of the
Fourth Commandment, where the author asserts the abrogation of the
Sabbath. In Calvin’s view, this ordinance was a mere type of better
blessings, and, with the types and ceremonies of the old dispensation, was
done away by the introduction of a new and better dispensation. In this
opinion there can be no doubt that he greatly erred; and so universal is
the conviction of the Church on the perpetual obligation of the Sabbath as
a moral institution, that no danger is to be apprehended from a contrary
view, even under the sanction of so great a name as that of Calvin. In
justice to his opinion on this subject, however, it should be stated, that
he distinctly recognized not only the propriety but the necessity of a
consecration of stated days for public religious services, without which
regulation, he declares that “it is so far from being possible to preserve
order and decorum, that if it were abolished, the Church would be in
imminent danger of immediate convulsion and ruin.” It is much to be
lamented that so great a mind should have been led astray on so important
a point by attempting to avoid an opposite extreme.

The Board of Publication have been induced to undertake this edition, by
the very generous offer of the First and Second Presbyterian Churches in
Baltimore, of which the Rev. John Backus and the Rev. Dr. R. J.
Breckinridge are respectively Pastors, to defray the expense of
stereotyping the work. Under the direction of the Executive Committee of
the Board, the translation has been diligently compared throughout with
the original Latin and French, and various corrections have been made to
convey the meaning of the author more distinctly and accurately. This
laborious duty has been performed by a member of the Publishing Committee.
The intrinsic excellence of the work, taken in connection with the
attractive style, and comparative cheapness, of the present edition,
induces the Committee to hope, that it may be widely circulated and
carefully studied, both by the clergy and laymen of the Presbyterian
Church.

In behalf of the Executive Committee,

William M. Engles, EDITOR.



THE TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE.


The English Reader is here presented with a translation of one of the
principal theological productions of the sixteenth century. Few persons,
into whose hands this translation is likely to fall, will require to be
informed that the Author of the original work was one of an illustrious
triumvirate, who acted a most conspicuous part in what has been generally
and justly denominated THE REFORMATION. Of that important revolution in
ecclesiastical affairs, so necessary to the interests of true religion,
and productive of such immense advantages even to civil society, LUTHER,
ZUINGLE, and CALVIN, were honoured, by the providence of God, to be the
most highly distinguished instruments. It is no degradation to the memory
of the many other ornaments of that age, to consider them as brilliant
satellites in the firmament of the Church, revolving round these primary
luminaries, to whom they were indebted for much of that lustre which they
diffused over the earth; while they were all together revolving around one
and the same common centre, though, it must be confessed, with
considerable varieties of approximation, velocity, and obliquity in their
courses; yet all deriving more or less copious communications of light
from the great Sun of the moral system, THE TRUE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.

Differing in the powers of their minds, as well as in the temperament of
their bodily constitutions, placed in different circumstances, and called
to act in different scenes, these leading Reformers, though engaged in the
same common cause, displayed their characteristic and peculiar
excellences; which, it is no disparagement of that cause to admit, were
likewise accompanied by peculiar failings. It is not the design of this
preface to portray and discriminate their respective characters. They
alike devoted their lives and labours to rescue Christianity from the
absurdities, superstitions, and vices by which it had been so deplorably
deformed, mutilated, and obscured, and to recall the attention of mankind
from the doubtful traditions of men to the unerring word of God. But while
they were all distinguished Reformers, Calvin has been generally
acknowledged to have been the most eminent theologian of the three.

Such was the superiority of the talents and attainments of Calvin to those
of most other great men, that the strictest truth is in danger of being
taken for exaggeration. It is impossible for any candid and intelligent
person to have even a slight acquaintance with his writings, without
admiring his various knowledge, extensive learning, profound penetration,
solid judgment, acute reasoning, pure morality, and fervent piety.

His COMMENTARIES on the Scriptures have been celebrated for a juster
method of exposition than had been exhibited by any preceding writer.
Above a hundred years after his death, Poole, the author of the Synopsis,
in the preface to that valuable work, says, “Calvin’s Commentaries abound
in solid discussions of theological subjects, and practical improvements
of them. Subsequent writers have borrowed most of their materials from
Calvin, and his interpretations adorn the books even of those who repay
the obligation by reproaching their master.” And nothing can more
satisfactorily evince the high estimation to which they are still entitled
from the biblical student, than the following testimony, given, after the
lapse of another century, by the late learned Bishop Horsley: “I hold the
memory of Calvin in high veneration: his works have a place in my library;
and in the study of the Holy Scriptures, he is one of the commentators
whom I frequently consult.”

But perhaps, of all the writings of Calvin, none has excited so much
attention as his INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

His original design in commencing this work is stated by himself, in the
beginning of his dedication, to have been to supply his countrymen, the
French, with an elementary compendium for their instruction in the
principles of true religion. But we learn from Beza that, by the time of
its completion, existing circumstances furnished the Author with an
additional motive for sending it into the world, during his residence at
Basil, whither he had retired to avoid the persecution which was then
raging in France against all the dissentients from the Church of Rome.
Francis the First, king of France, courted the friendship of the
Protestant princes of Germany; and knowing their detestation of the
cruelties which he employed against his subjects of the reformed religion,
he endeavoured to excuse his conduct by alleging that he caused none to be
put to death except some few fanatics; who, so far from taking the word of
God as the rule of their faith, gave themselves up to the impulses of
their disordered imaginations, and even openly avowed a contempt of
magistrates and sovereign princes. Unable to bear such foul aspersions of
his brethren, Calvin determined on the immediate publication of this
treatise, which he thought would serve as an answer to the calumnies
circulated by the enemies of the truth, and as an apology for his pious
and persecuted countrymen.

The Dedication to Francis is one of the most masterly compositions of
modern times. The purity, elegance, and energy of style; the bold, yet
respectful, freedom of address; the firm attachment to the Divine word;
the Christian fortitude in the midst of persecution; the triumphant
refutation of the calumnies of detractors; with other qualities which
distinguish this celebrated remonstrance, will surely permit no reader of
taste or piety to withhold his concurrence from the general admiration
which it has received.

The Author composed this treatise in Latin and French, and though, at its
first appearance, it was little more than an outline of what it afterwards
became, it was received with uncommon approbation, and a second edition of
it was soon required. How many editions it passed through during his life,
it is difficult, if not impossible, now to ascertain; but it obtained a
very extensive circulation, and was reprinted several times, and every
time was further improved and enlarged by him, till, in the year 1559,
twenty‐three years after the first impression, he put the finishing hand
to his work, and published it in Latin and French, with his last
corrections and additions.

The circulation which it enjoyed was not confined to persons capable of
reading it in the languages in which it was written. It was translated
into High Dutch, Low Dutch, Italian, and Spanish.

Soon after the publication of the Author’s last edition, it was translated
from the Latin into English. In this language it appears to have reached
six editions in the life of the Translator. A reflection on the small
number of persons who may be supposed to have had inclination and ability
to read such a book at that period, compared with the number of readers in
the present age, may excite some wonder that there should have been a
demand for so many editions. But no surprise at this circumstance will be
felt by any person acquainted with the high estimation in which the works
of the Author were held by the venerable Reformers of the Church of
England, and their immediate successors, as well as by the great majority
of religious people in this country. This is not a question of opinion,
but an undeniable fact. Dr. Heylin, the admirer and biographer of
Archbishop Laud, speaking of the early part of the seventeenth century,
says, that Calvin’s “Book of Institutes was, for the most part, the
foundation on which the young divines of those times did build their
studies.” The great Dr. Saunderson, who was chaplain to King Charles I.,
and, after the restoration of Charles II., was created Bishop of Lincoln,
says, “When I began to set myself to the study of divinity as my proper
business, Calvin’s Institutions were recommended to me, as they were
generally to all young scholars in those times, as the best and perfectest
system of divinity, and the fittest to be laid as a ground‐work in the
study of this profession. And, indeed, my expectation was not at all
deceived in the reading of those Institutions.”(1)

The great changes which have taken place in our language render it
difficult to form a correct opinion of the merits of Mr. Norton’s
translation, which was first published about two hundred and fifty years
ago. It must give rather a favourable idea of its execution, that it was
carefully revised by the Rev. David Whitehead, a man of learning and
piety, who, in the reign of Henry VIII., was nominated by Archbishop
Cranmer to a bishopric in Ireland, and, soon after the accession of Queen
Elizabeth, was solicited by that Princess to fill the metropolitan see of
Canterbury, but declined the preferment. But, whatever were the merits or
defects of that translation at its first appearance, it has long been too
antiquated, uncouth, and obscure, to convey any just idea of the original
work, and abounds with passages which, to the modern English reader,
cannot but be altogether unintelligible.

The intrinsic excellence of the book, its importance in the history of
theological controversy, the celebrity of the Author, the application of
his name to designate the leading principles of the system he maintained,
and the frequent collision of sentiment respecting various parts of that
system, combine with other considerations to render it a matter of wonder,
that it has not long ago been given to the English public in a new dress.
The importance of it has also been much increased by the recent
controversy respecting Calvinism, commenced by Dr. Tomline, the present
Bishop of Lincoln, in which such direct and copious reference has been
made to the writings of this Reformer, and especially to his CHRISTIAN
INSTITUTES. These circumstances and considerations have led to the present
translation and publication, which, from the very respectable
encouragement it has received, the Translator trusts will be regarded as
an acceptable service to the religious public.

Among the different methods of translation which have been recommended, he
has adopted that which appeared to him best fitted to the present
undertaking. A servile adherence to the letter of the original, the style
of which is so very remote from the English idiom, he thought would convey
a very inadequate representation of the work; such extreme fidelity, to
use an expression of Cowper’s, being seldom successful, even in a faithful
transmission of the precise sentiments of the author to the mind of the
reader. A mere attention to the ideas and sentiments of the original, to
the neglect of its style and manner, would expose the Translator of a
treatise of this nature to no small danger of misrepresenting the meaning
of the Author, by too frequent and unnecessary deviations from his
language. He has, therefore, aimed at a medium between servility and
looseness, and endeavoured to follow the style of the original as far as
the respective idioms of the Latin and English would admit.

After the greater part of the work had been translated, he had the
happiness to meet with an edition in French of which he has availed
himself in translating the remainder, and in the revision of what he had
translated before. Every person, who understands any two languages, will
be aware that the ambiguity of one will sometimes be explained by the
precision of another; and, notwithstanding the acknowledged superiority of
the Latin to the French in most of the qualities which constitute the
excellence of a language, the case of the article is not the only one in
which Calvin’s French elucidates his Latin.

The scriptural quotations which occur in the work, the Translator has
given, generally, in the words of our common English version; sometimes
according to the readings in the margin of that version; and, in a few
instances, he has literally translated the version adopted by the Author,
where the context required his peculiar reading to be preserved. Almost
all the writers of that age, writing chiefly in a dead language, were
accustomed to speak of their adversaries in language which the polished
manners of the modern times have discarded, and which would now be deemed
illiberal and scurrilous. Where these cases occur, the Translator has not
thought himself bound to a literal rendering of every word, or at liberty
to refine them entirely away, but has adopted such expressions as he
apprehends will give a faithful representation of the spirit of the Author
to modern readers.

Intending this work as a complete system of theology, the Author has made
it the repository of his sentiments on all points of faith and practice.
The whole being distributed into four parts, in conformity to the
Apostles’ Creed, and this plan being very different from that of most
other bodies of divinity, the Translator has borrowed from the Latin
edition of Amsterdam a very perspicuous general syllabus, which will give
the reader a clear view of the original design and plan of the treatise.

He would not be understood to represent these Institutes as a perfect
summary of Christian doctrines and morals, or to profess an unqualified
approbation of all the sentiments they contain. This is a homage to which
no uninspired writings can ever be entitled. But the simplicity of the
method; the freedom from the barbarous terms, captious questions, minute
distinctions, and intricate subtilties of many other Divines; the
clearness and closeness of argument; the complete refutation of the
advocates of the Romish Church, sometimes by obvious conclusions from
their professed principles, sometimes by clear proofs of the absurdities
they involve; the intimate knowledge of ecclesiastical history; the
intimate acquaintance with former theological controversies; the
perspicuity of scriptural interpretation; and the uniform spirit of
genuine piety, which pervade the book, cannot escape the observation of
any judicious reader.

It has been advised by some persons that the translation should be
accompanied by a few notes, to elucidate and enforce some passages, and to
correct others; but, on all the consideration which the Translator has
been able to give to this subject, he has thought it would be best to
content himself with the humble office of placing the sentiments of Calvin
before the reader, with all the fidelity in his power, without any
addition or limitation. He hopes that the present publication will serve
the cause of true religion, and that the reputation of the work itself
will sustain no diminution from the form in which it now appears.

LONDON, _May 12, 1813_.



THE AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO AN EDITION PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR 1559, WITH HIS
LAST CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONS.


In the first edition of this work, not expecting that success which the
Lord, in his infinite goodness, hath given, I handled the subject for the
most part in a superficial manner, as is usual in small treatises. But
when I understood that it had obtained from almost all pious persons such
a favourable acceptance as I never could have presumed to wish, much less
to hope; while I was conscious of receiving far more attention than I had
deserved, I thought it would evince great ingratitude, if I did not
endeavour at least, according to my humble ability, to make some suitable
return for the attentions paid to me—attentions of themselves calculated
to stimulate my industry. Nor did I attempt this only in the second
edition; but in every succeeding one the work has been improved by some
further enlargements. But though I repented not the labour then devoted to
it, yet I never satisfied myself, till it was arranged in the order in
which it is now published; and I trust I have here presented to my readers
what their judgments will unite in approving. Of my diligent application
to the accomplishment of this service for the Church of God, I can produce
abundant proof. For, last winter, when I thought that a quartan ague would
speedily terminate in my death, the more my disorder increased, the less I
spared myself, till I had finished this book, to leave it behind me, as
some grateful return to such kind solicitations of the religious public.
Indeed, I would rather it had been done sooner; but it is soon enough, if
well enough. I shall think it has appeared at the proper time, when I
shall find it to have been more beneficial than before to the Church of
God. This is my only wish.

I should indeed be ill requited for my labour, if I did not content myself
with the approbation of God alone, despising equally the foolish and
perverse judgments of ignorant men, and the calumnies and detractions of
the wicked. For though God hath wholly devoted my mind to study the
enlargement of his kingdom, and the promotion of general usefulness; and I
have the testimony of my own conscience, of angels, and of God himself,
that, since I undertook the office of a teacher in the Church, I have had
no other object in view than to profit the Church by maintaining the pure
doctrine of godliness; yet I suppose there is no man more slandered or
calumniated than myself. When this Preface was actually in the press, I
had certain information, that at Augsburg, where the States of the Empire
were assembled, a report had been circulated of my defection to popery,
and received with unbecoming eagerness in the courts of the princes. This
is the gratitude of those who cannot be unacquainted with the numerous
proofs of my constancy, which not only refute such a foul calumny, but,
with all equitable and humane judges, ought to preserve me from it. But
the devil, with all his host, is deceived, if he think to overwhelm me
with vile falsehoods, or to render me more timid, indolent, or dilatory,
by such indignities. For I trust that God, in his infinite goodness, will
enable me to persevere with patient constancy in the career of his holy
calling; of which I afford my pious readers a fresh proof in this edition.

Now, my design in this work has been to prepare and qualify students of
theology for the reading of the divine word, that they may have an easy
introduction to it, and be enabled to proceed in it without any
obstruction. For I think I have given such a comprehensive summary, and
orderly arrangement of all the branches of religion, that, with proper
attention, no person will find any difficulty in determining what ought to
be the principal objects of his research in the Scripture, and to what end
he ought to refer any thing it contains. This way, therefore, being
prepared, if I should hereafter publish any expositions of the Scripture,
I shall have no need to introduce long discussions respecting doctrines,
or digressions on common topics, and therefore shall always compress them
within a narrow compass. This will relieve the pious reader from great
trouble and tediousness, provided he come previously furnished with the
necessary information, by a knowledge of the present work. But as the
reason of this design is very evident in my numerous Commentaries, I would
rather have it known from the fact itself, than from my declaration.

Farewell, friendly reader; and if you receive any benefit from my labours,
let me have the assistance of your prayers with God our Father.

GENEVA, _1st August, 1559_.



DEDICATION.


    _To His Most Christian Majesty_, FRANCIS, _King of the French, and
    his Sovereign, John Calvin wisheth peace and salvation in Christ_.


When I began this work, Sire, nothing was further from my thoughts than
writing a book which would afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My
intention was only to lay down some elementary principles, by which
inquirers on the subject of religion might be instructed in the nature of
true piety. And this labour I undertook chiefly for my countrymen, the
French, of whom I apprehended multitudes to be hungering and thirsting
after Christ, but saw very few possessing any real knowledge of him. That
this was my design, the book itself proves by its simple method and
unadorned composition. But when I perceived that the fury of certain
wicked men in your kingdom had grown to such a height, as to leave no room
in the land for sound doctrine, I thought I should be usefully employed,
if in the same work I delivered my instructions to them, and exhibited my
confession to you, that you may know the nature of that doctrine, which is
the object of such unbounded rage to those madmen who are now disturbing
the country with fire and sword. For I shall not be afraid to acknowledge,
that this treatise contains a summary of that very doctrine, which,
according to their clamours, deserves to be punished with imprisonment,
banishment, proscription, and flames, and to be exterminated from the face
of the earth. I well know with what atrocious insinuations your ears have
been filled by them, in order to render our cause most odious in your
esteem; but your clemency should lead you to consider that, if accusation
be accounted a sufficient evidence of guilt, there will be an end of all
innocence in words and actions. If any one, indeed, with a view to bring
an odium upon the doctrine which I am endeavouring to defend, should
allege that it has long ago been condemned by the general consent, and
suppressed by many judicial decisions, this will be only equivalent to
saying, that it has been sometimes violently rejected through the
influence and power of its adversaries, and sometimes insidiously and
fraudulently oppressed by falsehoods, artifices, and calumnies. Violence
is displayed, when sanguinary sentences are passed against it without the
cause being heard; and fraud, when it is unjustly accused of sedition and
mischief. Lest any one should suppose that these our complaints are
unfounded, you yourself, Sire, can bear witness of the false calumnies
with which you hear it daily traduced; that its only tendency is to wrest
the sceptres of kings out of their hands, to overturn all the tribunals
and judicial proceedings, to subvert all order and governments, to disturb
the peace and tranquillity of the people, to abrogate all laws, to scatter
all properties and possessions, and, in a word, to involve every thing in
total confusion. And yet you hear the smallest portion of what is alleged
against it; for such horrible things are circulated amongst the vulgar,
that, if they were true, the whole world would justly pronounce it and its
abettors worthy of a thousand fires and gibbets. Who, then, will wonder at
its becoming the object of public odium, where credit is given to such
most iniquitous accusations? This is the cause of the general consent and
conspiracy to condemn us and our doctrine. Hurried away with this impulse,
those who sit in judgment pronounce for sentences the prejudices they
brought from home with them; and think their duty fully discharged if they
condemn none to be punished but such as are convicted by their own
confession, or by sufficient proofs. Convicted of what crime? Of this
condemned doctrine, they say. But with what justice is it condemned? Now,
the ground of defence was not to abjure the doctrine itself, but to
maintain its truth. On this subject, however, not a word is allowed to be
uttered.

Wherefore I beseech you, Sire,—and surely it is not an unreasonable
request,—to take upon yourself the entire cognizance of this cause, which
has hitherto been confusedly and carelessly agitated, without any order of
law, and with outrageous passion rather than judicial gravity. Think not
that I am now meditating my own individual defence, in order to effect a
safe return to my native country; for, though I feel the affection which
every man ought to feel for it, yet, under the existing circumstances, I
regret not my removal from it. But I plead the cause of all the godly, and
consequently of Christ himself, which, having been in these times
persecuted and trampled on in all ways in your kingdom, now lies in a most
deplorable state; and this indeed rather through the tyranny of certain
Pharisees, than with your knowledge. How this comes to pass is foreign to
my present purpose to say; but it certainly lies in a most afflicted
state. For the ungodly have gone to such lengths, that the truth of
Christ, if not vanquished, dissipated, and entirely destroyed, is buried,
as it were, in ignoble obscurity, while the poor, despised church is
either destroyed by cruel massacres, or driven away into banishment, or
menaced and terrified into total silence. And still they continue their
wonted madness and ferocity, pushing violently against the wall already
bent, and finishing the ruin they have begun. In the mean time, no one
comes forward to plead the cause against such furies. If there be any
persons desirous of appearing most favourable to the truth, they only
venture an opinion, that forgiveness should be extended to the error and
imprudence of ignorant people. For this is the language of these moderate
men, calling _that_ error and imprudence which they know to be the certain
truth of God, and _those_ ignorant people, whose understanding they
perceive not to have been so despicable to Christ, but that he has
favoured them with the mysteries of his heavenly wisdom. Thus all are
ashamed of the Gospel. But it shall be yours, Sire, not to turn away your
ears or thoughts from so just a defence, especially in a cause of such
importance as the maintenance of God’s glory unimpaired in the world, the
preservation of the honour of divine truth, and the continuance of the
kingdom of Christ uninjured among us. This is a cause worthy of your
attention, worthy of your cognizance, worthy of your throne. This
consideration constitutes true royalty, to acknowledge yourself in the
government of your kingdom to be the minister of God. For where the glory
of God is not made the end of the government, it is not a legitimate
sovereignty, but a usurpation. And he is deceived who expects lasting
prosperity in that kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that
is, his holy word; for that heavenly oracle cannot fail, which declares
that “where there is no vision, the people perish.”(2) Nor should you be
seduced from this pursuit by a contempt of our meanness. We are fully
conscious to ourselves how very mean and abject we are, being miserable
sinners before God, and accounted most despicable by men; being (if you
please) the refuse of the world, deserving of the vilest appellations that
can be found; so that nothing remains for us to glory in before God, but
his mercy alone, by which, without any merit of ours, we have been
admitted to the hope of eternal salvation, and before men nothing but our
weakness, the slightest confession of which is esteemed by them as the
greatest disgrace. But our doctrine must stand, exalted above all the
glory, and invincible by all the power of the world; because it is not
ours, but the doctrine of the living God, and of his Christ, whom the
Father hath constituted King, that he may have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the river even to the ends of the earth, and that he may rule in
such a manner, that the whole earth, with its strength of iron and with
its splendour of gold and silver, smitten by the rod of his mouth, may be
broken to pieces like a potter’s vessel;(3) for thus do the prophets
foretell the magnificence of his kingdom.

Our adversaries reply, that our pleading the word of God is a false
pretence, and that we are nefarious corrupters of it. But that this is not
only a malicious calumny, but egregious impudence, by reading our
confession, you will, in your wisdom, be able to judge. Yet something
further is necessary to be said, to excite your attention, or at least to
prepare your mind for this perusal. Paul’s direction, that every prophecy
be framed “according to the analogy of faith,”(4) has fixed an invariable
standard by which all interpretation of Scripture ought to be tried. If
our principles be examined by this rule of faith, the victory is ours. For
what is more consistent with faith than to acknowledge ourselves naked of
all virtue, that we may be clothed by God; empty of all good, that we may
be filled by him; slaves to sin, that we may be liberated by him; blind,
that we may be enlightened by him; lame, that we may be guided; weak, that
we may be supported by him; to divest ourselves of all ground of glorying,
that he alone may be eminently glorious, and that we may glory in him?
When we advance these and similar sentiments, they interrupt us with
complaints that this is the way to overturn, I know not what blind light
of nature, pretended preparations, free will, and works meritorious of
eternal salvation, together with all their supererogations; because they
cannot bear that the praise and glory of all goodness, strength,
righteousness, and wisdom, should remain entirely with God. But we read of
none being reproved for having drawn too freely from the fountain of
living waters; on the contrary, they are severely upbraided who have
“hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”(5)
Again, what is more consistent with faith, than to assure ourselves of God
being a propitious Father, where Christ is acknowledged as a brother and
Mediator? than securely to expect all prosperity and happiness from Him,
whose unspeakable love towards us went so far, that “he spared not his own
Son, but delivered him up for us?”(6) than to rest in the certain
expectation of salvation and eternal life, when we reflect upon the
Father’s gift of Christ, in whom such treasures are hidden? Here they
oppose us, and complain that this certainty of confidence is chargeable
with arrogance and presumption. But as we ought to presume nothing of
ourselves, so we should presume every thing of God; nor are we divested of
vain glory for any other reason than that we may learn to glory in the
Lord. What shall I say more? Review, Sire, all the parts of our cause, and
consider us worse than the most abandoned of mankind, unless you clearly
discover that we thus “both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust
in the living God,”(7) because we believe that “this is life eternal, to
know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.”(8) For this
hope some of us are bound in chains, others are lashed with scourges,
others are carried about as laughing‐stocks, others are outlawed, others
are cruelly tortured, others escape by flight; but we are all reduced to
extreme perplexities, execrated with dreadful curses, cruelly slandered,
and treated with the greatest indignities. Now, look at our adversaries,
(I speak of the order of priests, at whose will and directions others
carry on these hostilities against us,) and consider a little with me by
what principles they are actuated. The true religion, which is taught in
the Scriptures, and ought to be universally maintained, they readily
permit both themselves and others to be ignorant of, and to treat with
neglect and contempt. They think it unimportant what any one holds or
denies concerning God and Christ, provided he submits his mind with an
implicit faith (as they call it) to the judgment of the Church. Nor are
they much affected, if the glory of God happens to be violated with open
blasphemies, provided no one lift a finger against the primacy of the
Apostolic See, and the authority of their holy Mother Church. Why,
therefore, do they contend with such extreme bitterness and cruelty for
the mass, purgatory, pilgrimages, and similar trifles, and deny that any
piety can be maintained without a most explicit faith, so to speak, in
these things; whereas they prove none of them from the Word of God? Why,
but because their belly is their god, their kitchen is their religion;
deprived of which they consider themselves no longer as Christians, or
even as men. For though some feast themselves in splendour, and others
subsist on slender fare, yet all live on the same pot, which, without this
fuel, would not only cool, but completely freeze. Every one of them,
therefore, who is most solicitous for his belly, is found to be a most
strenuous champion for their faith. Indeed, they universally exert
themselves for the preservation of their kingdom, and the repletion of
their bellies; but not one of them discovers the least indication of
sincere zeal.

Nor do their attacks on our doctrine cease here; they urge every topic of
accusation and abuse to render it an object of hatred or suspicion. They
call it novel, and of recent origin,—they cavil at it as doubtful and
uncertain,—they inquire by what miracles it is confirmed,—they ask whether
it is right for it to be received contrary to the consent of so many holy
fathers, and the custom of the highest antiquity,—they urge us to confess
that it is schismatical in stirring up opposition against the Church, or
that the Church was wholly extinct for many ages, during which no such
thing was known.—Lastly, they say all arguments are unnecessary; for that
its nature may be determined by its fruits, since it has produced such a
multitude of sects, so many factious tumults, and such great
licentiousness of vices. It is indeed very easy for them to insult a
deserted cause with the credulous and ignorant multitude; but, if we had
also the liberty of speaking in our turn, this acrimony, which they now
discover in violently foaming against us with equal licentiousness and
impunity, would presently cool.

In the first place, their calling it novel is highly injurious to God,
whose holy word deserves not to be accused of novelty. I have no doubt of
its being new to them, to whom Jesus Christ and the Gospel are equally
new. But those who know the antiquity of this preaching of Paul, “that
Jesus Christ died for our sins, and rose again for our justification,”(9)
will find no novelty among us. That it has long been concealed, buried,
and unknown, is the crime of human impiety. Now that the goodness of God
has restored it to us, it ought at least to be allowed its just claim of
antiquity.

From the same source of ignorance springs the notion of its being doubtful
and uncertain. This is the very thing which the Lord complains of by his
prophet; that “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s
crib,”(10) but that his people know not him. But however they may laugh at
its uncertainty, if they were called to seal their own doctrine with their
blood and lives, it would appear how much they value it. Very different is
our confidence, which dreads neither the terrors of death, nor even the
tribunal of God.

Their requiring miracles of us is altogether unreasonable; for we forge no
new Gospel, but retain the very same whose truth was confirmed by all the
miracles ever wrought by Christ and the apostles. But they have this
peculiar advantage above us, that they can confirm their faith by
continual miracles even to this day. But the truth is, they allege
miracles which are calculated to unsettle a mind otherwise well
established, they are so frivolous and ridiculous, or vain and false. Nor,
if they were ever so preternatural, ought they to have any weight in
opposition to the truth of God, since the name of God ought to be
sanctified in all places and at all times, whether by miraculous events,
or by the common order of nature. This fallacy might perhaps be more
specious, if the Scripture did not apprize us of the legitimate end and
use of miracles. For Mark informs us, that the miracles which followed the
preaching of the apostles were wrought in confirmation(11) of it, and Luke
tells us, that(12) “the Lord gave testimony to the word of his grace,”
when “signs and wonders” were “done by the hands” of the apostles. Very
similar to which is the assertion of the apostle, that “salvation was
confirmed” by the preaching of the Gospel, “God also bearing witness with
signs, and wonders, and divers miracles.”(13) But those things which we
are told were seals of the Gospel, shall we pervert to undermine the faith
of the Gospel? Those things which were designed to be testimonials of the
truth, shall we accommodate to the confirmation of falsehood? It is right,
therefore, that the doctrine, which, according to the evangelist, claims
the first attention, be examined and tried in the first place; and if it
be approved, then it ought to derive confirmation from miracles. But it is
the characteristic of sound doctrine, given by Christ, that it tends to
promote, not the glory of men, but the glory of God.(14) Christ having
laid down this proof of a doctrine, it is wrong to esteem those as
miracles which are directed to any other end than the glorification of the
name of God alone. And we should remember that Satan has his wonders,
which, though they are juggling tricks rather than real miracles, are such
as to delude the ignorant and inexperienced. Magicians and enchanters have
always been famous for miracles; idolatry has been supported by
astonishing miracles; and yet we admit them not as proofs of the
superstition of magicians or idolaters. With this engine also the
simplicity of the vulgar was anciently assailed by the Donatists, who
abounded in miracles. We therefore give the same answer now to our
adversaries as Augustine(15) gave to the Donatists, that our Lord hath
cautioned us against these miracle‐mongers by his prediction, that there
should arise false prophets, who, by various signs and lying wonders,
“should deceive (if possible) the very elect.”(16) And Paul has told us,
that the kingdom of Antichrist would be “with all power, and signs, and
lying wonders.”(17) But these miracles (they say) are wrought, not by
idols, or sorcerers, or false prophets, but by saints; as if we were
ignorant, that it is a stratagem of Satan to “transform” himself “into an
angel of light.”(18) At the tomb of Jeremiah,(19) who was buried in Egypt,
the Egyptians formerly offered sacrifices and other divine honours. Was
not this abusing God’s holy prophet to the purposes of idolatry? Yet they
supposed this veneration of his sepulchre to be rewarded with a cure for
the bite of serpents. What shall we say, but that it has been, and ever
will be, the most righteous vengeance of God to “send those who receive
not the love of the truth strong delusions, that they should believe a
lie”?(20) We are by no means without miracles, and such as are certain,
and not liable to cavils. But those under which they shelter themselves
are mere illusions of Satan, seducing the people from the true worship of
God to vanity.

Another calumny is their charging us with opposition to the fathers,—I
mean the writers of the earlier and purer ages,—as if those writers were
abettors of their impiety; whereas, if the contest were to be terminated
by this authority, the victory in most parts of the controversy—to speak
in the most modest terms—would be on our side. But though the writings of
those fathers contain many wise and excellent things, yet in some respects
they have suffered the common fate of mankind; these very dutiful children
reverence only their errors and mistakes, but their excellences they
either overlook, or conceal, or corrupt; so that it may be truly said to
be their only study to collect dross from the midst of gold. Then they
overwhelm us with senseless clamours, as despisers and enemies of the
fathers. But we do not hold them in such contempt, but that, if it were
consistent with my present design, I could easily support by their
suffrages most of the sentiments that we now maintain. But while we make
use of their writings, we always remember that “all things are ours,” to
serve us, not to have dominion over us, and that “we are Christ’s”(21)
alone, and owe him universal obedience. He who neglects this distinction
will have nothing decided in religion; since those holy men were ignorant
of many things, frequently at variance with each other, and sometimes even
inconsistent with themselves. There is great reason, they say, for the
admonition of Solomon, “not to transgress or remove the ancient landmarks,
which our fathers have set.”(22) But the same rule is not applicable to
the bounding of fields, and to the obedience of faith, which ought to be
ready to “forget her own people and her father’s house.”(23) But if they
are so fond of allegorizing, why do they not explain the apostles, rather
than any others, to be those fathers, whose appointed landmarks it is so
unlawful to remove? For this is the interpretation of Jerome, whose works
they have received into their canons. But if they insist on preserving the
landmarks of those whom they understand to be intended, why do they at
pleasure so freely transgress them themselves? There were two fathers,(24)
of whom one said, that our God neither eats nor drinks, and therefore
needs neither cups nor dishes; the other, that sacred things require no
gold, and that gold is no recommendation of that which is not purchased
with gold. This landmark therefore is transgressed by those who in sacred
things are so much delighted with gold, silver, ivory, marble, jewels, and
silks, and suppose that God is not rightly worshipped, unless all things
abound in exquisite splendour, or rather extravagant profusion. There was
a father(25) who said he freely partook of flesh on a day when others
abstained from it, because he was a Christian. They transgress the
landmarks therefore when they curse the soul that tastes flesh in Lent.
There were two fathers,(26) of whom one said, that a monk who labours not
with his hands is on a level with a cheat or a robber; and the other, that
it is unlawful for monks to live on what is not their own, notwithstanding
their assiduity in contemplations, studies, and prayers; and they have
transgressed this landmark by placing the idle and distended carcasses of
monks in cells and brothels, to be pampered on the substance of others.
There was a father(27) who said, that to see a painted image of Christ, or
of any saint, in the temples of Christians, is a dreadful abomination. Nor
was this merely the sentence of an individual; it was also decreed by an
ecclesiastical council, that the object of worship should not be painted
on the walls. They are far from confining themselves within these
landmarks, for every corner is filled with images. Another father(28) has
advised that, after having discharged the office of humanity towards the
dead by the rites of sepulture, we should leave them to their repose. They
break through these landmarks by inculcating a constant solicitude for the
dead. There was one of the fathers(29) who asserted that the substance of
bread and wine in the eucharist ceases not, but remains, just as the
substance of the human nature remains in the Lord Christ united with the
divine. They transgress this landmark therefore by pretending that, on the
words of the Lord being recited, the substance of bread and wine ceases,
and is transubstantiated into his body and blood. There were fathers(30)
who, while they exhibited to the universal Church only one eucharist, and
forbade all scandalous and immoral persons to approach it, at the same
time severely censured all who, when present, did not partake of it. How
far have they removed these landmarks, when they fill not only the
churches, but even private houses, with their masses, admit all who choose
to be spectators of them, and every one the more readily in proportion to
the magnitude of his contribution, however chargeable with impurity and
wickedness! They invite none to faith in Christ and a faithful
participation of the sacraments; but rather for purposes of gain bring
forward their own work instead of the grace and merit of Christ. There
were two fathers,(31) of whom one contended that the use of Christ’s
sacred supper should be wholly forbidden to those who, content with
partaking of one kind, abstained from the other; the other strenuously
maintained that Christian people ought not to be refused the blood of
their Lord, for the confession of whom they are required to shed their
own. These landmarks also they have removed, in appointing, by an
inviolable law, that very thing which the former punished with
excommunication, and the latter gave a powerful reason for disapproving.
There was a father(32) who asserted the temerity of deciding on either
side of an obscure subject, without clear and evident testimonies of
Scripture. This landmark they forgot when they made so many constitutions,
canons, and judicial determinations, without any authority from the word
of God. There was a father(33) who upbraided Montanus with having, among
other heresies, been the first imposer of laws for the observance of
fasts. They have gone far beyond this landmark also, in establishing fasts
by the strictest laws. There was a father(34) who denied that marriage
ought to be forbidden to the ministers of the Church, and pronounced
cohabitation with a wife to be real chastity; and there were fathers who
assented to his judgment. They have transgressed these landmarks by
enjoining on their priests the strictest celibacy. There was a father who
thought that attention should be paid to Christ only, of whom it is said,
“Hear ye him,” and that no regard should be had to what others before us
have either said or done, only to what has been commanded by Christ, who
is preëminent over all. This landmark they neither prescribe to
themselves, nor permit to be observed by others, when they set up over
themselves and others any masters rather than Christ. There was a
father(35) who contended that the Church ought not to take the precedence
of Christ, because his judgment is always according to truth; but
ecclesiastical judges, like other men, may generally be deceived. Breaking
down this landmark also, they scruple not to assert, that all the
authority of the Scripture depends on the decision of the Church. All the
fathers, with one heart and voice, have declared it execrable and
detestable for the holy word of God to be contaminated with the subtleties
of sophists, and perplexed by the wrangles of logicians. Do they confine
themselves within these landmarks, when the whole business of their lives
is to involve the simplicity of the Scripture in endless controversies,
and worse than sophistical wrangles? so that if the fathers were now
restored to life, and heard this art of wrangling, which they call
speculative divinity, they would not suspect the dispute to have the least
reference to God. But if I would enumerate all the instances in which the
authority of the fathers is insolently rejected by those who would be
thought their dutiful children, my address would exceed all reasonable
bounds. Months and years would be insufficient for me. And yet such is
their consummate and incorrigible impudence, they dare to censure us for
presuming to transgress the ancient landmarks.

Nor can they gain any advantage against us by their argument from custom;
for, if we were compelled to submit to custom, we should have to complain
of the greatest injustice. Indeed, if the judgments of men were correct,
custom should be sought among the good. But the fact is often very
different. What appears to be practised by many soon obtains the force of
a custom. And human affairs have scarcely ever been in so good a state as
for the majority to be pleased with things of real excellence. From the
private vices of multitudes, therefore, has arisen public error, or rather
a common agreement of vices, which these good men would now have to be
received as law. It is evident to all who can see, that the world is
inundated with more than an ocean of evils, that it is overrun with
numerous destructive pests, that every thing is fast verging to ruin, so
that we must altogether despair of human affairs, or vigorously and even
violently oppose such immense evils. And the remedy is rejected for no
other reason, but because we have been accustomed to the evils so long.
But let public error be tolerated in human society; in the kingdom of God
nothing but his eternal truth should be heard and regarded, which no
succession of years, no custom, no confederacy, can circumscribe. Thus
Isaiah once taught the chosen people of God: “Say ye not, A confederacy,
to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;” that is, that they
should not unite in the wicked consent of the people; “nor fear their
fear, nor be afraid,” but rather “sanctify the Lord of hosts,” that he
might “be their fear and their dread.”(36)Now, therefore, let them, if
they please, object against us past ages and present examples; if we
“sanctify the Lord of hosts,” we shall not be much afraid. For, whether
many ages agree in similar impiety, he is mighty to take vengeance on the
third and fourth generation; or whether the whole world combine in the
same iniquity, he has given an example of the fatal end of those who sin
with a multitude, by destroying all men with a deluge, and preserving Noah
and his small family, in order that his individual faith might condemn the
whole world. Lastly, a corrupt custom is nothing but an epidemical
pestilence, which is equally fatal to its objects, though they fall with a
multitude. Besides, they ought to consider a remark, somewhere made by
Cyprian,(37) that persons who sin through ignorance, though they cannot be
wholly exculpated, may yet be considered in some degree excusable; but
those who obstinately reject the truth offered by the Divine goodness, are
without any excuse at all.

Nor are we so embarrassed by their dilemma as to be obliged to confess,
either that the Church was for some time extinct, or that we have now a
controversy with the Church. The Church of Christ has lived, and will
continue to live, as long as Christ shall reign at the right hand of the
Father, by whose hand she is sustained, by whose protection she is
defended, by whose power she is preserved in safety. For he will
undoubtedly perform what he once promised, to be with his people “even to
the end of the world.”(38) We have no quarrel against the Church, for with
one consent we unite with all the company of the faithful in worshipping
and adoring the one God and Christ the Lord, as he has been adored by all
the pious in all ages. But our opponents deviate widely from the truth
when they acknowledge no Church but what is visible to the corporeal eye,
and endeavour to circumscribe it by those limits within which it is far
from being included. Our controversy turns on the two following
points:—first, they contend that the form of the Church is always apparent
and visible; secondly, they place that form in the see of the Roman Church
and her order of prelates. We assert, on the contrary, first, that the
Church may exist without any visible form; secondly, that its form is not
contained in that external splendour which they foolishly admire, but is
distinguished by a very different criterion, viz. the pure preaching of
God’s word, and the legitimate administration of the sacraments. They are
not satisfied unless the Church can always be pointed out with the finger.
But how often among the Jewish people was it so disorganized, as to have
no visible form left? What splendid form do we suppose could be seen, when
Elias deplored his being left alone?(39) How long, after the coming of
Christ, did it remain without any external form? How often, since that
time, have wars, seditions, and heresies, oppressed and totally obscured
it? If they had lived at that period, would they have believed that any
Church existed? Yet Elias was informed that there were “left seven
thousand” who had “not bowed the knee to Baal.” Nor should we entertain
any doubt of Christ’s having always reigned on earth ever since his
ascension to heaven. But if the pious at such periods had sought for any
form evident to their senses, must not their hearts have been quite
discouraged? Indeed it was already considered by Hilary in his day as a
grievous error, that people were absorbed in foolish admiration of the
episcopal dignity, and did not perceive the dreadful mischiefs concealed
under that disguise. For this is his language:(40) “One thing I advise
you—beware of Antichrist, for you have an improper attachment to walls;
your veneration for the Church of God is misplaced on houses and
buildings; you wrongly introduce under them the name of peace. Is there
any doubt that they will be seats of Antichrist? I think mountains, woods,
and lakes, prisons and whirlpools, less dangerous; for these were the
scenes of retirement or banishment in which the prophets prophesied.” But
what excites the veneration of the multitude in the present day for their
horned bishops, but the supposition that those are the holy prelates of
religion whom they see presiding over great cities? Away, then, with such
stupid admiration. Let us rather leave it to the Lord, since he alone
“knoweth them that are his,”(41) sometimes to remove from human
observation all external knowledge of his Church. I admit this to be a
dreadful judgment of God on the earth; but if it be deserved by the
impiety of men, why do we attempt to resist the righteous vengeance of
God? Thus the Lord punished the ingratitude of men in former ages; for, in
consequence of their resistance to his truth, and extinction of the light
he had given them, he permitted them to be blinded by sense, deluded by
absurd falsehoods, and immerged in profound darkness, so that there was no
appearance of the true Church left; yet, at the same time, in the midst of
darkness and errors, he preserved his scattered and concealed people from
total destruction. Nor is this to be wondered at; for he knew how to save
in all the confusion of Babylon, and the flame of the fiery furnace. But
how dangerous it is to estimate the form of the Church by I know not what
vain pomp, which they contend for; I shall rather briefly suggest than
state at large, lest I should protract this discourse to an excessive
length. The Pope, they say, who holds the Apostolic see, and the bishops
anointed and consecrated by him, provided they are equipped with mitres
and crosiers, represent the Church, and ought to be considered as the
Church. Therefore they cannot err. How is this?—Because they are pastors
of the Church, and consecrated to the Lord. And did not the pastoral
character belong to Aaron, and the other rulers of Israel? Yet Aaron and
his sons, after their designation to the priesthood, fell into error when
they made the golden calf.(42) According to this mode of reasoning, why
should not the four hundred prophets, who lied to Ahab, have represented
the Church?(43) But the Church remained on the side of Micaiah, solitary
and despised as he was, and out of his mouth proceeded the truth. Did not
those prophets exhibit both the name and appearance of the Church, who
with united violence rose up against Jeremiah, and threatened and boasted,
“the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor
the word from the prophet”?(44) Jeremiah is sent singly against the whole
multitude of prophets, with a denunciation from the Lord, that the “law
shall perish from the priest, counsel from the wise, and the word from the
prophet.”(45) And was there not the like external respectability in the
council convened by the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees, to consult
about putting Christ to death?(46) Now, let them go and adhere to the
external appearance, and thereby make Christ and all the prophets
schismatics, and, on the other hand, make the ministers of Satan
instruments of the Holy Spirit. But if they speak their real sentiments,
let them answer me sincerely, what nation or place they consider as the
seat of the Church, from the time when, by a decree of the council of
Basil, Eugenius was deposed and degraded from the pontificate, and Amadeus
substituted in his place. They cannot deny that the council, as far as
relates to external forms, was a lawful one, and summoned not only by one
pope, but by two. There Eugenius was pronounced guilty of schism,
rebellion, and obstinacy, together with all the host of cardinals and
bishops who had joined him in attempting a dissolution of the council. Yet
afterwards, assisted by the favour of princes, he regained the quiet
possession of his former dignity. That election of Amadeus, though
formally made by the authority of a general and holy synod, vanished into
smoke; and he was appeased with a cardinal’s hat, like a barking dog with
a morsel. From the bosom of those heretics and rebels have proceeded all
the popes, cardinals, bishops, abbots, and priests, ever since. Here they
must stop. For to which party will they give the title of the Church? Will
they deny that this was a general council, which wanted nothing to
complete its external majesty, being solemnly convened by two papal bulls,
consecrated by a presiding legate of the Roman see, and well regulated in
every point of order, and invariably preserving the same dignity to the
last? Will they acknowledge Eugenius to be a schismatic, with all his
adherents, by whom they have all been consecrated? Either, therefore, let
them give a different definition of the form of the Church, or, whatever
be their number, we shall account them all schismatics, as having been
knowingly and voluntarily ordained by heretics. But if it had never been
ascertained before, that the Church is not confined to external pomps,
they would themselves afford us abundant proof of it, who have so long
superciliously exhibited themselves to the world under the title of the
Church, though they were at the same time the deadly plagues of it. I
speak not of their morals, and those tragical exploits with which all
their lives abound, since they profess themselves to be Pharisees, who are
to be heard and not imitated. I refer to the very doctrine itself, on
which they found their claim to be considered as the Church. If you devote
a portion of your leisure, Sire, to the perusal of our writings, you will
clearly discover that doctrine to be a fatal pestilence of souls, the
firebrand, ruin, and destruction of the Church.

Finally, they betray great want of candour, by invidiously repeating what
great commotions, tumults, and contentions, have attended the preaching of
our doctrine, and what effects it produces in many persons. For it is
unfair to charge it with those evils which ought to be attributed to the
malice of Satan. It is the native property of the Divine word, never to
make its appearance without disturbing Satan, and rousing his opposition.
This is the most certain and unequivocal criterion by which it is
distinguished from false doctrines, which are easily broached when they
are heard with general attention, and received with applauses by the
world. Thus, in some ages, when all things were immerged in profound
darkness, the prince of this world amused and diverted himself with the
generality of mankind, and, like another Sardanapalus, gave himself up to
his ease and pleasures in perfect peace; for what would he do but amuse
and divert himself, in the quiet and undisturbed possession of his
kingdom? But when the light shining from above dissipated a portion of his
darkness—when that Mighty One alarmed and assaulted his kingdom—then he
began to shake off his wonted torpor, and to hurry on his armour. First,
indeed, he stirred up the power of men to suppress the truth by violence
at its first appearance; and when this proved ineffectual, he had recourse
to subtlety. He made the Catabaptists, and other infamous characters, the
instruments of exciting dissensions and doctrinal controversies, with a
view to obscure and finally to extinguish it. And now he continues to
attack it in both ways; for he endeavours to root up this genuine seed by
means of human force, and at the same time tries every effort to choke it
with his tares, that it may not grow and produce fruit. But all his
attempts will be vain, if we attend to the admonitions of the Lord, who
hath long ago made us acquainted with his devices, that we might not be
caught by him unawares, and has armed us with sufficient means of defence
against all his assaults. But to charge the word of God with the odium of
seditions, excited against it by wicked and rebellious men, or of sects
raised by impostors,—is not this extreme malignity? Yet it is not without
example in former times. Elias was asked whether it was not he “that
troubled Israel.”(47) Christ was represented by the Jews as guilty of
sedition.(48) The apostles were accused of stirring up popular
commotions.(49) Wherein does this differ from the conduct of those who, at
the present day, impute to us all the disturbances, tumults, and
contentions, that break out against us? But the proper answer to such
accusations has been taught us by Elias, that the dissemination of errors
and the raising of tumults is not chargeable on us, but on those who are
resisting the power of God. But as this one reply is sufficient to repress
their temerity, so, on the other hand, we must meet the weakness of some
persons, who are frequently disturbed with such offences, and become
unsettled and wavering in their minds. Now, that they may not stumble and
fall amidst this agitation and perplexity, let them know that the apostles
in their day experienced the same things that now befall us. There were
“unlearned and unstable” men, Peter says, who “wrested” the inspired
writings of Paul “to their own destruction.”(50) There were despisers of
God, who, when they heard that “where sin abounded grace did much more
abound,” immediately concluded, Let us “continue in sin, that grace may
abound.” When they heard that the faithful were “not under the law,” they
immediately croaked, “We will sin, because we are not under the law, but
under grace.”(51) There were some who accused him as an encourager of sin.
Many false apostles crept in, to destroy the churches he had raised. “Some
preached” the gospel “of envy and strife, not in sincerity,” maliciously
“supposing to add affliction to his bonds.”(52) In some places the Gospel
was attended with little benefit. “All were seeking their own, not the
things of Jesus Christ.”(53) Others returned “like dogs to their vomit,
and like swine to their wallowing in the mire.”(54) Many perverted the
liberty of the spirit into the licentiousness of the flesh. Many
insinuated themselves as brethren, who afterwards brought the pious into
dangers. Various contentions were excited among the brethren themselves.
What was to be done by the apostles in such circumstances? Should they not
have dissembled for a time, or rather have rejected and deserted that
Gospel which appeared to be the nursery of so many disputes, the cause of
so many dangers, the occasion of so many offences? But in such
difficulties as these, their minds were relieved by this reflection, that
Christ is the “stone of stumbling and rock of offence,”(55) “set for the
fall and rising again of many, and for a sign which shall be spoken
against;”(56) and armed with this confidence, they proceeded boldly
through all the dangers of tumults and offences. The same consideration
should support us, since Paul declares it to be the perpetual character of
the Gospel, that it is “a savour of death unto death in them that
perish,”(57) although it was rather given us to be the “savour of life
unto life,” and “the power of God to” the “salvation” of the faithful;(58)
which we also should certainly experience it to be, if we did not corrupt
this eminent gift of God by our ingratitude, and pervert to our
destruction what ought to be a principal instrument of our salvation.

But I return to you, Sire. Let not your Majesty be at all moved by those
groundless accusations with which our adversaries endeavour to terrify
you; as that the sole tendency and design of this new Gospel—for so they
call it—is to furnish a pretext for seditions, and to gain impunity for
all crimes. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace;”(59)
nor is “the Son of God,” who came to “destroy the works of the devil, the
minister of sin.”(60) And it is unjust to charge us with such motives and
designs, of which we have never given cause for the least suspicion. Is it
probable that we are meditating the subversion of kingdoms?—we, who were
never heard to utter a factious word, whose lives were ever known to be
peaceable and honest while we lived under your government, and who, even
now in our exile, cease not to pray for all prosperity to attend yourself
and your kingdom! Is it probable that we are seeking an unlimited license
to commit crimes with impunity? in whose conduct, though many things may
be blamed, yet there is nothing worthy of such severe reproach! Nor have
we, by Divine Grace, profited so little in the Gospel, but that our life
may be an example to our detractors of chastity, liberality, mercy,
temperance, patience, modesty, and every other virtue. It is an undeniable
fact, that we sincerely fear and worship God, whose name we desire to be
sanctified both by our life and by our death; and envy itself is
constrained to bear testimony to the innocence and civil integrity of some
of us, who have suffered the punishment of death for that very thing which
ought to be accounted their highest praise. But if the Gospel be made a
pretext for tumults, which has not yet happened in your kingdom; if any
persons make the liberty of divine grace an excuse for the licentiousness
of their vices, of whom I have known many,—there are laws and legal
penalties, by which they may be punished according to their deserts; only
let not the Gospel of God be reproached for the crimes of wicked men. You
have now, Sire, the virulent iniquity of our calumniators laid before you
in a sufficient number of instances, that you may not receive their
accusations with too credulous an ear.—I fear I have gone too much into
the detail, as this preface already approaches the size of a full apology;
whereas I intended it not to contain our defence, but only to prepare your
mind to attend to the pleading of our cause; for, though you are now
averse and alienated from us, and even inflamed against us, we despair not
of regaining your favour, if you will only once read with calmness and
composure this our confession, which we intend as our defence before your
Majesty. But, on the contrary, if your ears are so preoccupied with the
whispers of the malevolent, as to leave no opportunity for the accused to
speak for themselves, and if those outrageous furies, with your
connivance, continue to persecute with imprisonments, scourges, tortures,
confiscations, and flames, we shall indeed, like sheep destined to the
slaughter, be reduced to the greatest extremities. Yet shall we in
patience possess our souls, and wait for the mighty hand of the Lord,
which undoubtedly will in time appear, and show itself armed for the
deliverance of the poor from their affliction, and for the punishment of
their despisers, who now exult in such perfect security. May the Lord, the
King of kings, establish your throne with righteousness, and your kingdom
with equity.

BASIL, _1st August, 1536_.



GENERAL SYLLABUS.


The design of the Author in these Christian Institutes is twofold,
relating, First, to the knowledge of God, as the way to attain a blessed
immortality; and, in connection with and subservience to this, Secondly,
to the knowledge of ourselves.

In the prosecution of this design, he strictly follows the method of the
Apostles’ Creed, as being most familiar to all Christians. For as the
Creed consists of four parts, the first relating to God the Father, the
second to the Son, the third to the Holy Spirit, the fourth to the Church;
so the Author distributes the whole of this work into Four Books,
corresponding respectively to the four parts of the Creed; as will clearly
appear from the following detail:—

I. The first article of the Creed relates to God the Father, and to the
creation, conservation, and government of all things, which are included
in his omnipotence.

So the first book is on the knowledge of God, considered as the Creator,
Preserver, and Governor of the universe at large, and of every thing
contained in it. It shows both the nature and tendency of the true
knowledge of the Creator—that this is not learned in the schools, but that
every man from his birth is self‐taught it—Yet that the depravity of men
is so great as to corrupt and extinguish this knowledge, partly by
ignorance, partly by wickedness; so that it neither leads him to glorify
God as he ought, nor conducts him to the attainment of happiness—And
though this internal knowledge is assisted by all the creatures around,
which serve as a mirror to display the Divine perfections, yet that man
does not profit by it—Therefore, that to those, whom it is God’s will to
bring to an intimate and saving knowledge of himself, he gives his written
word; which introduces observations on the sacred Scripture—That he has
therein revealed himself; that not the Father only, but the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit, united, is the Creator of heaven and earth; whom neither
the knowledge innate by nature, nor the very beautiful mirror displayed to
us in the world, can, in consequence of our depravity, teach us to know so
as to glorify him. This gives occasion for treating of the revelation of
God in the Scripture, of the unity of the Divine Essence, and the trinity
of Persons.—To prevent man from attributing to God the blame of his own
voluntary blindness, the Author shows the state of man at his creation,
and treats of the image of God, free‐will, and the primitive integrity of
nature.—Having finished the subject of creation, he proceeds to the
conservation and government of all things, concluding the first book with
a full discussion of the doctrine of divine providence.

II. But since man is fallen by sin from the state in which he was created,
it is necessary to come to Christ. Therefore it follows in the Creed, “And
in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,” &c.

So in the second book of the Institutes our Author treats of the knowledge
of God as the Redeemer in Christ; and having shown the fall of man, leads
him to Christ the Mediator. Here he states the doctrine of original
sin—that man possesses no inherent strength to enable him to deliver
himself from sin and the impending curse, but that, on the contrary,
nothing can proceed from him, antecedently to reconciliation and
renovation, but what is deserving of condemnation—Therefore, that, man
being utterly lost in himself, and incapable of conceiving even a good
thought by which he may restore himself, or perform actions acceptable to
God, he must seek redemption out of himself, in Christ—That the Law was
given for this purpose, not to confine its observers to itself, but to
conduct them to Christ; which gives occasion to introduce an exposition of
the Moral Law—That he was known, as the Author of salvation, to the Jews
under the Law, but more fully under the Gospel, in which he is manifested
to the world.—Hence follows the doctrine of the similarity and difference
of the Old and New Testament, of the Law and Gospel.—It is next stated,
that, in order to the complete accomplishment of salvation, it was
necessary for the eternal Son of God to become man, and that he actually
assumed a real human nature:—it is also shown how these two natures
constitute one person—That the office of Christ, appointed for the
acquisition and application of complete salvation by his merit and
efficacy, is sacerdotal, regal, and prophetical.—Next follows the manner
in which Christ executed his office, or actually performed the part of a
Mediator, being an exposition of the Articles respecting his death,
resurrection, and ascension to heaven.—Lastly, the Author shows the truth
and propriety of affirming that Christ merited the grace of God and
salvation for us.

III. As long as Christ is separate from us, he profits us nothing. Hence
the necessity of our being ingrafted into him, as branches into a vine.
Therefore the doctrine concerning Christ is followed, in the third part of
the Creed, by this clause, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” as being the
bond of union between us and Christ.

So in the third book our Author treats of the Holy Spirit, who unites us
to Christ—and consequently of faith, by which we embrace Christ, with his
twofold benefit, free righteousness, which he imputes to us, and
regeneration, which he commences within us, by bestowing repentance upon
us.—And to show that we have not the least room to glory in such faith as
is unconnected with the pursuit of repentance, before proceeding to the
full discussion of justification, he treats at large of repentance and the
continual exercise of it, which Christ, apprehended by faith, produces in
us by his Spirit.—He next fully discusses the first and chief benefit of
Christ when united to us by the Holy Spirit, that is, justification—and
then treats of prayer, which resembles the hand that actually receives
those blessings to be enjoyed, which faith knows, from the word of
promise, to be laid up with God for our use.—But as all men are not united
to Christ, the sole Author of salvation, by the Holy Spirit, who creates
and preserves faith in us, he treats of God’s eternal election; which is
the cause that we, in whom he foresaw no good but what he intended freely
to bestow, have been favoured with the gift of Christ, and united to God
by the effectual call of the Gospel.—Lastly, he treats of complete
regeneration, and the fruition of happiness; that is, the final
resurrection, towards which our eyes must be directed, since in this world
the felicity of the pious, in respect of enjoyment, is only begun.

IV. But as the Holy Spirit does not unite all men to Christ, or make them
partakers of faith, and on those to whom he imparts it he does not
ordinarily bestow it without means, but employs for this purpose the
preaching of the Gospel and the use of the sacraments, with the
administration of all discipline, therefore it follows in the Creed, “I
believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” whom, though involved in eternal
death, yet, in pursuance of the gratuitous election, God has freely
reconciled to himself in Christ, and made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
that, being ingrafted into Christ, they may have communion with him as
their head, whence flows a perpetual remission of sins, and a full
restoration to eternal life.

So in the fourth book our Author treats of the Church—then of the means
used by the Holy Spirit in effectually calling from spiritual death, and
preserving the church—the word and sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s
supper—which are as it were Christ’s regal sceptre, by which he commences
his spiritual reign in the Church by the energy of his Spirit, and carries
it forwards from day to day during the present life, after the close of
which he perfects it without those means.

And as political institutions are the asylums of the Church in this life,
though civil government is distinct from the spiritual kingdom of Christ,
our Author instructs us respecting it as a signal blessing of God, which
the Church ought to acknowledge with gratitude of heart, till we are
called out of this transitory state to the heavenly inheritance, where God
will be all in all.

This is the plan of the Institutes, which may be comprised in the
following brief summary:—

Man, created originally upright, being afterwards ruined, not partially,
but totally, finds salvation out of himself, wholly in Christ; to whom
being united by the Holy Spirit, freely bestowed, without any regard of
future works, he enjoys in him a twofold benefit, the perfect imputation
of righteousness, which attends him to the grave, and the commencement of
sanctification, which he daily increases, till at length he completes it
at the day of regeneration or resurrection of the body, so that in eternal
life and the heavenly inheritance his praises are celebrated for such
stupendous mercy.



BOOK I. ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE CREATOR.



Argument.


The first book treats of the knowledge of God the Creator; but, this being
chiefly manifested in the creation of man, man also is made the subject of
discussion. Thus the principal topics of the whole treatise are two—the
knowledge of God, and the knowledge of man. In the first chapter, they are
considered together; in the following chapters, separately; yet some
things are introduced, which may be referred to either or both. What
respects the Scripture and images may belong to the knowledge of God; what
respects the formation of the world, the holy angels, and the devils, to
the knowledge of man; and what respects the manner in which God governs
the world, to both.

On the first of these topics, the knowledge of God, this book shows,

First, What kind of knowledge God himself requires—Chap. II.

Secondly, Where it must be sought—Chap. III.‐IX., as follows:

1. Not in man; because, though the human mind is naturally endued with it,
yet it is extinguished, partly by ignorance, partly by wickedness—Chap.
III. IV.

2. Nor in the structure of the world; because, though it shines there with
the brightest evidence, testimonies of that kind, however plain, are,
through our stupidity, wholly useless to us—Chap. V.

3. But in the Scripture—Chap. VI.‐IX.

Thirdly, What kind of a being God is—Chap. X.

Fourthly, The impiety of ascribing to God a visible form, with
observations on the adoration and origin of images—Chap. XI.

Fifthly, The reasonableness that God alone should be supremely
worshipped—Chap. XII.

Lastly, The unity of the Divine Essence, and the distinction of three
Persons—Chap. XIII.

On the other of these topics, the knowledge of man, it contains,

First, A dissertation on the creation of the world, and on the good and
evil angels, all which relate to man—Chap. XIV.

Secondly, Proceeding to man himself, an examination of his nature and
powers—Chap. XV.

But, in order to a clearer illustration of the knowledge of God and man,
the three remaining chapters treat of the government of all human actions
and of the whole world, in opposition to fortune and fate, stating the
pure doctrine, and showing its use; and conclude with proving that, though
God uses the agency of the wicked, he is pure from all pollution, and
chargeable with no blame.



Chapter I. The Connection Between The Knowledge Of God And The Knowledge
Of Ourselves.


True and substantial wisdom principally consists of two parts, the
knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves. But, while these two
branches of knowledge are so intimately connected, which of them precedes
and produces the other, is not easy to discover. For, in the first place,
no man can take a survey of himself but he must immediately turn to the
contemplation of God, in whom he “lives and moves;”(61) since it is
evident that the talents which we possess are not from ourselves, and that
our very existence is nothing but a subsistence in God alone. These
bounties, distilling to us by drops from heaven, form, as it were, so many
streams conducting us to the fountain‐head. Our poverty conduces to a
clearer display of the infinite fulness of God. Especially, the miserable
ruin, into which we have been plunged by the defection of the first man,
compels us to raise our eyes towards heaven, not only as hungry and
famished, to seek thence a supply for our wants, but, aroused with fear,
to learn humility. For, since man is subject to a world of miseries, and
has been spoiled of his divine array, this melancholy exposure discovers
an immense mass of deformity: every one, therefore, must be so impressed
with a consciousness of his own infelicity, as to arrive at some knowledge
of God. Thus a sense of our ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity,
depravity, and corruption, leads us to perceive and acknowledge that in
the Lord alone are to be found true wisdom, solid strength, perfect
goodness, and unspotted righteousness; and so, by our imperfections, we
are excited to a consideration of the perfections of God. Nor can we
really aspire toward him, till we have begun to be displeased with
ourselves. For who would not gladly rest satisfied with himself? where is
the man not actually absorbed in self‐complacency, while he remains
unacquainted with his true situation, or content with his own endowments,
and ignorant or forgetful of his own misery? The knowledge of ourselves,
therefore, is not only an incitement to seek after God, but likewise a
considerable assistance towards finding him.

II. On the other hand, it is plain that no man can arrive at the true
knowledge of himself, without having first contemplated the divine
character, and then descended to the consideration of his own. For, such
is the native pride of us all, we invariably esteem ourselves righteous,
innocent, wise, and holy, till we are convinced, by clear proofs, of our
unrighteousness, turpitude, folly, and impurity. But we are never thus
convinced, while we confine our attention to ourselves, and regard not the
Lord, who is the only standard by which this judgment ought to be formed.
Because, from our natural proneness to hypocrisy, any vain appearance of
righteousness abundantly contents us instead of the reality; and, every
thing within and around us being exceedingly defiled, we are delighted
with what is least so, as extremely pure, while we confine our reflections
within the limits of human corruption. So the eye, accustomed to see
nothing but black, judges that to be very white, which is but whitish, or
perhaps brown. Indeed, the senses of our bodies may assist us in
discovering how grossly we err in estimating the powers of the soul. For
if at noon‐day we look either on the ground, or at any surrounding
objects, we conclude our vision to be very strong and piercing; but when
we raise our eyes and steadily look at the sun, they are at once dazzled
and confounded with such a blaze of brightness, and we are constrained to
confess, that our sight, so piercing in viewing terrestrial things, when
directed to the sun, is dimness itself. Thus also it happens in the
consideration of our spiritual endowments. For as long as our views are
bounded by the earth, perfectly content with our own righteousness,
wisdom, and strength, we fondly flatter ourselves, and fancy we are little
less than demigods. But, if we once elevate our thoughts to God, and
consider his nature, and the consummate perfection of his righteousness,
wisdom, and strength, to which we ought to be conformed,—what before
charmed us in ourselves under the false pretext of righteousness, will
soon be loathed as the greatest iniquity; what strangely deceived us under
the title of wisdom, will be despised as extreme folly; and what wore the
appearance of strength, will be proved to be most wretched impotence. So
very remote from the divine purity is what seems in us the highest
perfection.

III. Hence that horror and amazement with which the Scripture always
represents the saints to have been impressed and disturbed, on every
discovery of the presence of God. For when we see those, who before his
appearance stood secure and firm, so astonished and affrighted at the
manifestation of his glory, as to faint and almost expire through fear,—we
must infer that man is never sufficiently affected with a knowledge of his
own meanness, till he has compared himself with the Divine Majesty. Of
this consternation we have frequent examples in the Judges and Prophets;
so that it was a common expression among the Lord’s people—“We shall die,
because we have seen God.”(62) Therefore the history of Job, to humble men
with a consciousness of their pollution, impotence, and folly, derives its
principal argument from a description of the Divine purity, power, and
wisdom. And not without reason. For we see how Abraham, the nearer he
approached to behold the glory of the Lord, the more fully acknowledged
himself to be but “dust and ashes;”(63) and how Elias(64) could not bear
his approach without covering his face, his appearance is so formidable.
And what can man do, all vile and corrupt, when fear constrains even the
cherubim themselves to veil their faces? This is what the prophet Isaiah
speaks of—“the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the
Lord of hosts shall reign:”(65) that is, when he shall make a fuller and
nearer exhibition of his splendour, it shall eclipse the splendour of the
brightest object besides. But, though the knowledge of God and the
knowledge of ourselves be intimately connected, the proper order of
instruction requires us first to treat of the former, and then to proceed
to the discussion of the latter.



Chapter II. The Nature And Tendency Of The Knowledge Of God.


By the knowledge of God, I intend not merely a notion that there is such a
Being, but also an acquaintance with whatever we ought to know concerning
Him, conducing to his glory and our benefit. For we cannot with propriety
say, there is any knowledge of God where there is no religion or piety. I
have no reference here to that species of knowledge by which men, lost and
condemned in themselves, apprehend God the Redeemer in Christ the
Mediator; but only to that first and simple knowledge, to which the
genuine order of nature would lead us, if Adam had retained his innocence.
For though, in the present ruined state of human nature, no man will ever
perceive God to be a Father, or the Author of salvation, or in any respect
propitious, but as pacified by the mediation of Christ; yet it is one
thing to understand, that God our Maker supports us by his power, governs
us by his providence, nourishes us by his goodness, and follows us with
blessings of every kind, and another to embrace the grace of
reconciliation proposed to us in Christ. Therefore, since God is first
manifested, both in the structure of the world and in the general tenor of
Scripture, simply as the Creator, and afterwards reveals himself in the
person of Christ as a Redeemer, hence arises a twofold knowledge of him;
of which the former is first to be considered, and the other will follow
in its proper place. For though our mind cannot conceive of God, without
ascribing some worship to him, it will not be sufficient merely to
apprehend that he is the only proper object of universal worship and
adoration, unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of all
good, and seek for none but in him. This I maintain, not only because he
sustains the universe, as he once made it, by his infinite power, governs
it by his wisdom, preserves it by his goodness, and especially reigns over
the human race in righteousness and judgment, exercising a merciful
forbearance, and defending them by his protection; but because there
cannot be found the least particle of wisdom, light, righteousness, power,
rectitude, or sincere truth which does not proceed from him, and claim him
for its author: we should therefore learn to expect and supplicate all
these things from him, and thankfully to acknowledge what he gives us. For
this sense of the divine perfections is calculated to teach us piety,
which produces religion. By piety, I mean a reverence and love of God,
arising from a knowledge of his benefits. For, till men are sensible that
they owe every thing to God, that they are supported by his paternal care,
that he is the Author of all the blessings they enjoy, and that nothing
should be sought independently of him, they will never voluntarily submit
to his authority; they will never truly and cordially devote themselves to
his service, unless they rely upon him alone for true felicity.

II. Cold and frivolous, then, are the speculations of those who employ
themselves in disquisitions on the essence of God, when it would be more
interesting to us to become acquainted with his character, and to know
what is agreeable to his nature. For what end is answered by professing,
with Epicurus, that there is a God, who, discarding all concern about the
world, indulges himself in perpetual inactivity? What benefit arises from
the knowledge of a God with whom we have no concern? Our knowledge of God
should rather tend, first, to teach us fear and reverence; and, secondly,
to instruct us to implore all good at his hand, and to render him the
praise of all that we receive. For how can you entertain a thought of God
without immediately reflecting, that, being a creature of his formation,
you must, by right of creation, be subject to his authority? that you are
indebted to him for your life, and that all your actions should be done
with reference to him? If this be true, it certainly follows that your
life is miserably corrupt, unless it be regulated by a desire of obeying
him, since his will ought to be the rule of our conduct. Nor can you have
a clear view of him without discovering him to be the fountain and origin
of all good. This would produce a desire of union to him, and confidence
in him, if the human mind were not seduced by its own depravity from the
right path of investigation. For, even at the first, the pious mind dreams
not of any imaginary deity, but contemplates only the one true God; and,
concerning him, indulges not the fictions of fancy, but, content with
believing him to be such as he reveals himself, uses the most diligent and
unremitting caution, lest it should fall into error by a rash and
presumptuous transgression of his will. He who thus knows him, sensible
that all things are subject to his control, confides in him as his
Guardian and Protector, and unreservedly commits himself to his care.
Assured that he is the author of all blessings, in distress or want he
immediately flies to his protection, and expects his aid. Persuaded of his
goodness and mercy, he relies on him with unlimited confidence, nor doubts
of finding in his clemency a remedy provided for all his evils. Knowing
him to be his Lord and Father, he concludes that he ought to mark his
government in all things, revere his majesty, endeavour to promote his
glory, and obey his commands. Perceiving him to be a just Judge, armed
with severity for the punishment of crimes, he keeps his tribunal always
in view, and is restrained by fear from provoking his wrath. Yet he is not
so terrified at the apprehension of his justice, as to wish to evade it,
even if escape were possible; but loves him as much in punishing the
wicked as in blessing the pious, because he believes it as necessary to
his glory to punish the impious and abandoned, as to reward the righteous
with eternal life. Besides, he restrains himself from sin, not merely from
a dread of vengeance, but because he loves and reveres God as his Father,
honours and worships him as his Lord, and, even though there were no hell,
would shudder at the thought of offending him. See, then, the nature of
pure and genuine religion. It consists in faith, united with a serious
fear of God, comprehending a voluntary reverence, and producing legitimate
worship agreeable to the injunctions of the law. And this requires to be
the more carefully remarked, because men in general render to God a formal
worship, but very few truly reverence him; while great ostentation in
ceremonies is universally displayed, but sincerity of heart is rarely to
be found.



Chapter III. The Human Mind Naturally Endued With The Knowledge Of God.


We lay it down as a position not to be controverted, that the human mind,
even by natural instinct, possesses some sense of a Deity. For that no man
might shelter himself under the pretext of ignorance, God hath given to
all some apprehension of his existence,(66) the memory of which he
frequently and insensibly renews; so that, as men universally know that
there is a God, and that he is their Maker, they must be condemned by
their own testimony, for not having worshipped him and consecrated their
lives to his service. If we seek for ignorance of a Deity, it is nowhere
more likely to be found, than among tribes the most stupid and furthest
from civilization. But, as the celebrated Cicero observes, there is no
nation so barbarous, no race so savage, as not to be firmly persuaded of
the being of a God.(67) Even those who in other respects appear to differ
but little from brutes, always retain some sense of religion; so fully are
the minds of men possessed with this common principle, which is closely
interwoven with their original composition. Now, since there has never
been a country or family, from the beginning of the world, totally
destitute of religion, it is a tacit confession, that some sense of the
Divinity is inscribed on every heart. Of this opinion, idolatry itself
furnishes ample proof. For we know how reluctantly man would degrade
himself to exalt other creatures above him. His preference of worshipping
a piece of wood or stone, to being thought to have no god, evinces the
impression of a Deity on the human mind to be very strong, the
obliteration of which is more difficult than a total change of the natural
disposition; and this is certainly changed, whenever man leaves his
natural pride, and voluntarily descends to such meannesses under the
notion of worshipping God.

II. It is most absurd, then, to pretend, as is asserted by some, that
religion was the contrivance of a few subtle and designing men, a
political machine to confine the simple multitude to their duty, while
those who inculcated the worship of God on others, were themselves far
from believing that any god existed. I confess, indeed, that artful men
have introduced many inventions into religion, to fill the vulgar with
reverence, and strike them with terror, in order to obtain the greater
command over their minds. But this they never could have accomplished, if
the minds of men had not previously been possessed of a firm persuasion of
the existence of God, from which the propensity to religion proceeds. And
that they who cunningly imposed on the illiterate, under the pretext of
religion, were themselves wholly destitute of any knowledge of God, is
quite incredible. For though there were some in ancient times, and many
arise in the present age, who deny the existence of God, yet, in spite of
their reluctance, they are continually receiving proofs of what they
desire to disbelieve. We read of no one guilty of more audacious or
unbridled contempt of the Deity than Caligula; yet no man ever trembled
with greater distress at any instance of Divine wrath, so that he was
constrained to dread the Divinity whom he professed to despise. This you
may always see exemplified in persons of similar character. For the most
audacious contemners of God are most alarmed, even at the noise of a
falling leaf. Whence arises this, but from the vengeance of the Divine
Majesty, smiting their consciences the more powerfully in proportion to
their efforts to fly from it? They try every refuge to hide themselves
from the Lord’s presence, and to efface it from their minds; but their
attempts to elude it are all in vain. Though it may seem to disappear for
a moment, it presently returns with increased violence; so that, if they
have any remission of the anguish of conscience, it resembles the sleep of
persons intoxicated, or subject to frenzy, who enjoy no placid rest while
sleeping, being continually harassed with horrible and tremendous dreams.
The impious themselves, therefore, exemplify the observation, that the
idea of a God is never lost in the human mind.

III. It will always be evident to persons of correct judgment, that the
idea of a Deity impressed on the mind of man is indelible. That all have
by nature an innate persuasion of the Divine existence, a persuasion
inseparable from their very constitution, we have abundant evidence in the
contumacy of the wicked, whose furious struggles to extricate themselves
from the fear of God are unavailing. Though Diagoras, and others like him,
turn to ridicule what all ages have believed of religion;(68) though
Dionysius scoff at the judgment of Heaven,—it is but a forced laughter,
for the worm of a guilty conscience torments them within, worse than if
they were seared with hot irons. I agree not with Cicero, that errors in
process of time become obsolete, and that religion is increased and
ameliorated daily. For the world, as will shortly be observed, uses its
utmost endeavours to banish all knowledge of God, and tries every method
of corrupting his worship. I only maintain, that while the stupid
insensibility which the wicked wish to acquire, to promote their contempt
of God, preys upon their minds, yet the sense of a Deity, which they
ardently desire to extinguish, is still strong, and frequently discovers
itself. Whence we infer, that this is a doctrine, not first to be learned
in the schools, but which every man from his birth is self‐taught, and
which, though many strain every nerve to banish it from them, yet nature
itself permits none to forget. Now, if the end for which all men are born
and live, be to know God,—and unless the knowledge of God have reached
this point, it is uncertain and vain,—it is evident, that all who direct
not every thought and action of life to this end, are degenerated from the
law of their creation. Of this the heathen philosophers themselves were
not ignorant. This was Plato’s meaning, when he taught that the chief good
of the soul consists in similitude to God, when the soul, having a clear
knowledge of him, is wholly transformed into his likeness.(69) The
reasoning also of Gryllus, in Plutarch, is very accurate, when he affirms,
that men entirely destitute of religion, not only do not excel the brutes,
but are in many respects far more wretched, being obnoxious to evil under
so many forms, and always dragging on a tumultuous and restless life. The
worship of God is therefore the only thing which renders men superior to
brutes, and makes them aspire to immortality.



Chapter IV. This Knowledge Extinguished Or Corrupted, Partly By Ignorance,
Partly By Wickedness.


While experience testifies that the seeds of religion are sown by God in
every heart, we scarcely find one man in a hundred who cherishes what he
has received, and not one in whom they grow to maturity, much less bear
fruit in due season. Some perhaps grow vain in their own superstitions,
while others revolt from God with intentional wickedness; but all
degenerate from the true knowledge of him. The fact is, that no genuine
piety remains in the world. But, in saying that some fall into
superstition through error, I would not insinuate that their ignorance
excuses them from guilt; because their blindness is always connected with
pride, vanity, and contumacy. Pride and vanity are discovered, when
miserable men, in seeking after God, rise not, as they ought, above their
own level, but judge of him according to their carnal stupidity, and leave
the proper path of investigation in pursuit of speculations as vain as
they are curious. Their conceptions of him are formed, not according to
the representations he gives of himself, but by the inventions of their
own presumptuous imaginations. This gulf being opened, whatever course
they take, they must be rushing forwards to destruction. None of their
subsequent attempts for the worship or service of God can be considered as
rendered to him; because they worship not him, but a figment of their own
brains in his stead. This depravity Paul expressly remarks: “Professing
themselves to be wise, they became fools.”(70) He had before said, “they
became vain in their imaginations.” But lest any should exculpate them, he
adds that they were deservedly blinded, because, not content within the
bounds of sobriety, but arrogating to themselves more than was right, they
wilfully darkened, and even infatuated themselves with pride, vanity, and
perverseness. Whence it follows, that their folly is inexcusable, which
originates not only in a vain curiosity, but in false confidence, and an
immoderate desire to exceed the limits of human knowledge.

II. David’s assertion, that “the fool hath said in his heart, There is no
God,”(71) is primarily, as we shall soon see in another place, to be
restricted to those who extinguish the light of nature, and wilfully
stupefy themselves. For we see many, become hardened by bold and habitual
transgressions, striving to banish all remembrance of God, which the
instinct of nature is still suggesting to their minds. To render their
madness more detestable, he introduces them as expressly denying the
existence of God; not that they deprive him of his being, but because they
rob him of his justice and providence, shutting him up as an idler in
heaven. Now, as nothing would be more inconsistent with Deity, than to
abandon the government of the world, leave it to fortune, and connive at
the crimes of men, that they might wanton with impunity,—whoever
extinguishes all fear of the heavenly judgment, and indulges himself in
security, denies that there is any God. After the impious have wilfully
shut their own eyes, it is the righteous vengeance of God upon them, to
darken their understandings, so that, seeing, they may not perceive.(72)
David is the best interpreter of his own meaning, in another place, where
he says, “The wicked have no fear of God before their eyes;”(73) and
again, that they encourage themselves in their iniquities with the
flattering persuasion that God doth not see them.(74) Though they are
constrained to acknowledge the existence of God, yet they rob him of his
glory, by detracting from his power. For as God, according to the
testimony of Paul, “cannot deny himself,”(75) because he perpetually
remains like himself,—those who feign him to be a vain and lifeless image,
are truly said to deny God. It must also be remarked, that, though they
strive against their own natural understanding, and desire not only to
banish him thence, but even to annihilate him in heaven, their
insensibility can never prevail, so as to prevent God from sometimes
recalling them to his tribunal. But as no dread restrains them from
violent opposition to the divine will, it is evident, as long as they are
carried away with such a blind impetuosity, that they are governed by a
brutish forgetfulness of God.

III. Thus is overthrown the vain excuse pleaded by many for their
superstition; for they satisfy themselves with any attention to religion,
however preposterous, not considering that the Divine Will is the
perpetual rule to which true religion ought to be conformed; that God ever
continues like himself; that he is no spectre or phantasm, to be
metamorphosed according to the fancy of every individual. It is easy to
see how superstition mocks God with hypocritical services, while it
attempts to please him. For, embracing only those things which he declares
he disregards, it either contemptuously practises, or even openly rejects,
what he prescribes and declares to be pleasing in his sight. Persons who
introduce newly‐invented methods of worshipping God, really worship and
adore the creature of their distempered imaginations; for they would never
have dared to trifle in such a manner with God, if they had not first
feigned a god conformable to their own false and foolish notions.
Wherefore the apostle pronounces a vague and unsettled notion concerning
the Deity to be ignorance of God. “When ye knew not God, (says he,) ye did
service unto them which by nature were no gods.”(76) And in another place
he speaks of the Ephesians as having been “without God,”(77) while they
were strangers to a right knowledge of the only true God. Nor, in this
respect, is it of much importance, whether you imagine to yourself one god
or more; for in either case you depart and revolt from the true God, and,
forsaking him, you have nothing left you but an execrable idol. We must
therefore decide, with Lactantius, that there is no legitimate religion
unconnected with truth.

IV. Another sin is, that they never think of God but against their
inclinations, nor approach him till their reluctance is overcome by
constraint; and then they are influenced, not by a voluntary fear,
proceeding from reverence of the Divine Majesty, but by a servile and
constrained fear, extorted by the divine judgment, which they dread
because it is inevitable, at the same time that they hate it. Now, to
impiety, and to this species of it alone, is applicable that assertion of
Statius, that fear first made gods in the world.(78) They, whose minds are
alienated from the righteousness of God, earnestly desire the subversion
of that tribunal, which they know to be established for the punishment of
transgressions against it. With this disposition, they wage war against
the Lord, who cannot be deprived of his judgment; but when they apprehend
his irresistible arm to be impending over their heads, unable to avert or
evade it, they tremble with fear. That they may not seem altogether to
despise him, whose majesty troubles them, they practise some form of
religion; at the same time not ceasing to pollute themselves with vices of
every kind, and to add one flagitious act to another, till they have
violated every part of God’s holy law, and dissipated all its
righteousness. It is certain, at least, that they are not prevented by
that pretended fear of God from enjoying pleasure and satisfaction in
their sins, practising self‐adulation, and preferring the indulgence of
their own carnal intemperance to the salutary restraints of the Holy
Spirit. But that being a false and vain shadow of religion, and scarcely
worthy even to be called its shadow,—it is easy to infer the wide
difference between such a confused notion of God, and the piety which is
instilled only into the minds of the faithful, and is the source of
religion. Yet hypocrites, who are flying from God, resort to the artifices
of superstition, for the sake of appearing devoted to him. For whereas the
whole tenor of their life ought to be a perpetual course of obedience to
him, they make no scruple of rebelling against him in almost all their
actions, only endeavouring to appease him with a few paltry sacrifices.
Whereas he ought to be served with sanctity of life and integrity of
heart, they invent frivolous trifles and worthless observances, to
conciliate his favour. They abandon themselves to their impurities with
the greater licentiousness, because they confide in being able to
discharge all their duty to him by ridiculous expiations. In a word,
whereas their confidence ought to be placed on him, they neglect him, and
depend upon themselves or on other creatures. At length they involve
themselves in such a vast accumulation of errors, that those sparks which
enable them to discover the glory of God are smothered, and at last
extinguished by the criminal darkness of iniquity. That seed, which it is
impossible to eradicate, a sense of the existence of a Deity, yet remains;
but so corrupted as to produce only the worst of fruits. Yet this is a
further proof of what I now contend for, that an idea of God is naturally
engraved on the hearts of men, since necessity extorts a confession of it,
even from reprobates themselves. In the moment of tranquillity, they
facetiously mock the Divine Being, and with loquacious impertinence
derogate from his power. But if any despair oppress them, it stimulates
them to seek him, and dictates concise prayers, which prove that they are
not altogether ignorant of God, but that what ought to have appeared
before had been suppressed by obstinacy.



Chapter V. The Knowledge Of God Conspicuous In The Formation And Continual
Government Of The World.


As the perfection of a happy life consists in the knowledge of God, that
no man might be precluded from attaining felicity, God hath not only sown
in the minds of men the seed of religion, already mentioned, but hath
manifested himself in the formation of every part of the world, and daily
presents himself to public view, in such a manner, that they cannot open
their eyes without being constrained to behold him. His essence indeed is
incomprehensible, so that his Majesty is not to be perceived by the human
senses; but on all his works he hath inscribed his glory in characters so
clear, unequivocal, and striking, that the most illiterate and stupid
cannot exculpate themselves by the plea of ignorance. The Psalmist
therefore, with great propriety, exclaims, “He covereth himself with light
as with a garment;”(79) as if he had said, that his first appearance in
visible apparel was at the creation of the world, when he displayed those
glories which are still conspicuous on every side. In the same place, the
Psalmist compares the expanded heavens to a royal pavilion;—he says that
“he layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; maketh the clouds his
chariot; walketh upon the wings of the wind;” and maketh the winds and the
lightnings his swift messengers. And because the glory of his power and
wisdom is more refulgently displayed above, heaven is generally called his
palace. And, in the first place, whithersoever you turn your eyes, there
is not an atom of the world in which you cannot behold some brilliant
sparks at least of his glory. But you cannot at one view take a survey of
this most ample and beautiful machine in all its vast extent, without
being completely overwhelmed with its infinite splendour. Wherefore the
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews elegantly represents the worlds as
the manifestations of invisible things;(80) for the exact symmetry of the
universe is a mirror, in which we may contemplate the otherwise invisible
God. For which reason the Psalmist(81) attributes to the celestial bodies
a language universally known; for they afford a testimony of the Deity too
evident to escape the observation even of the most ignorant people in the
world. But the Apostle more distinctly asserts this manifestation to men
of what was useful to be known concerning God; “for the invisible things
of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood
by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead.”(82)

II. Of his wonderful wisdom, both heaven and earth contain innumerable
proofs; not only those more abstruse things, which are the subjects of
astronomy, medicine, and the whole science of physics, but those things
which force themselves on the view of the most illiterate of mankind, so
that they cannot open their eyes without being constrained to witness
them. Adepts, indeed, in those liberal arts, or persons just initiated
into them, are thereby enabled to proceed much further in investigating
the secrets of Divine Wisdom. Yet ignorance of those sciences prevents no
man from such a survey of the workmanship of God, as is more than
sufficient to excite his admiration of the Divine Architect. In
disquisitions concerning the motions of the stars, in fixing their
situations, measuring their distances, and distinguishing their peculiar
properties, there is need of skill, exactness, and industry; and the
providence of God being more clearly revealed by these discoveries, the
mind ought to rise to a sublimer elevation for the contemplation of his
glory. But since the meanest and most illiterate of mankind, who are
furnished with no other assistance than their own eyes, cannot be ignorant
of the excellence of the Divine skill, exhibiting itself in that endless,
yet regular variety of the innumerable celestial host,—it is evident, that
the Lord abundantly manifests his wisdom to every individual on earth.
Thus it belongs to a man of preëminent ingenuity to examine, with the
critical exactness of Galen, the connection, the symmetry, the beauty, and
the use of the various parts of the human body. But the composition of the
human body is universally acknowledged to be so ingenious, as to render
its Maker the object of deserved admiration.

III. And therefore some of the philosophers(83) of antiquity have justly
called man a microcosm, or world in miniature; because he is an eminent
specimen of the power, goodness, and wisdom of God, and contains in him
wonders enough to occupy the attention of our minds, if we are not
indisposed to such a study. For this reason, Paul, having remarked that
the blind “might feel after God and find him,” immediately adds, that “he
is not far from every one of us;”(84) because every man has undoubtedly an
inward perception of the celestial goodness, by which he is quickened. But
if, to attain some ideas of God, it be not necessary for us to go beyond
ourselves, what an unpardonable indolence is it in those who will not
descend into themselves that they may find him! For the same reason,
David, having briefly celebrated the wonderful name and honour of God,
which are universally conspicuous, immediately exclaims, “What is man,
that thou art mindful of him?”(85) Again, “Out of the mouths of babes and
sucklings thou hast ordained strength.” Thus declaring not only that the
human race is a clear mirror of the works of God, but that even infants at
the breast have tongues so eloquent for the publication of his glory, that
there is no necessity for other orators; whence he hesitates not to
produce them as fully capable of confuting the madness of those whose
diabolical pride would wish to extinguish the name of God. Hence also what
Paul quotes from Aratus, that “we are the offspring of God;”(86) since his
adorning us with such great excellence has proved him to be our Father.
So, from the dictates of common sense and experience, the heathen poets
called him the Father of men. Nor will any man freely devote himself to
the service of God, unless he have been allured to love and reverence him,
by first experiencing his paternal love.

IV. But herein appears the vile ingratitude of men—that, while they ought
to be proclaiming the praises of God for the wonderful skill displayed in
their formation, and the inestimable bounties he bestows on them, they are
only inflated with the greater pride. They perceive how wonderfully God
works within them, and experience teaches them what a variety of blessings
they receive from his liberality. They are constrained to know, whether
willingly or not, that these are proofs of his divinity: yet they suppress
this knowledge in their hearts. Indeed, they need not go out of
themselves, provided they do not, by arrogating to themselves what is
given from heaven, smother the light which illuminates their minds to a
clearer discovery of God. Even in the present day, there are many men of
monstrous dispositions, who hesitate not to pervert all the seeds of
divinity sown in the nature of man, in order to bury in oblivion the name
of God. How detestable is this frenzy, that man, discovering in his body
and soul a hundred vestiges of God, should make this very excellence a
pretext for the denial of his being! They will not say that they are
distinguished from the brutes by chance; but they ascribe it to nature,
which they consider as the author of all things, and remove God out of
sight. They perceive most exquisite workmanship in all their members, from
the head to the feet. Here also they substitute nature in the place of
God. But above all, the rapid motions of the soul, its noble faculties,
and excellent talents, discover a Divinity not easily concealed; unless
the Epicureans, like the Cyclops, from this eminence should audaciously
wage war against God. Do all the treasures of heavenly wisdom concur in
the government of a worm five feet in length? and shall the universe be
destitute of this privilege? To state that there is in the soul a certain
machinery corresponding to every part of the body, is so far from
obscuring the divine glory, that it is rather an illustration of it. Let
Epicurus answer; what concourse of atoms in the concoction of food and
drink distributes part into excrements and part into blood, and causes the
several members to perform their different offices with as much diligence
as if so many souls by common consent governed one body?

V. But my present concern is not with that sty of swines: I rather address
those who, influenced by preposterous subtilties, would indirectly employ
that frigid dogma of Aristotle to destroy the immortality of the soul, and
deprive God of his rights. For, because the organs of the body are
directed by the faculties of the soul, they pretend the soul to be so
united to the body as to be incapable of subsisting without it; and by
their eulogies of nature do all they can to suppress the name of God. But
the powers of the soul are far from being limited to functions subservient
to the body. For what concern has the body in measuring the heavens,
counting the number of the stars, computing their several magnitudes, and
acquiring a knowledge of their respective distances, of the celerity or
tardiness of their courses, and of the degrees of their various
declinations? I grant, indeed, the usefulness of astronomy, but only
remark that, in these profound researches relating to the celestial orbs,
there is no corporeal coöperation, but that the soul has its functions
distinct from the body. I have proposed one example, whence inferences may
readily be drawn by the readers. The manifold agility of the soul, which
enables it to take a survey of heaven and earth; to join the past and the
present; to retain the memory of things heard long ago; to conceive of
whatever it chooses by the help of imagination; its ingenuity also in the
invention of such admirable arts,—are certain proofs of the divinity in
man. Besides, in sleep, it not only turns and moves itself round, but
conceives many useful ideas, reasons on various subjects, and even divines
future events. What shall we say, but that the vestiges of immortality
impressed upon man are absolutely indelible? Now, what reason can be
given, why man, who is of divine original, should not acknowledge his
Creator? Shall we indeed, by the judgment with which we are endued,
discern right from wrong, and shall there be no judge in heaven? Shall we,
even in our sleep, have some remains of intelligence, and shall there be
no God to govern the world? Shall we be esteemed the inventers of so many
useful arts, that God may be defrauded of his praise? Whereas experience
abundantly teaches, that all we have is variously distributed to us by
some superior Being. The clamour of some, about a secret inspiration
animating the whole world, is not only weak, but altogether profane. They
are pleased with the celebrated passage of Virgil—


    “Know, first, a spirit, with an active flame,
    Fills, feeds, and animates this mighty frame;
    Runs through the watery worlds, the fields of air,
    The ponderous earth, the depths of heaven; and there
    Glows in the sun and moon, and burns in every star.
    Thus, mingling with the mass, the general soul
    Lives in the parts, and agitates the whole.
    From that celestial energy began
    The low‐browed brute, th’ imperial race of man,
    The painted birds who wing th’ aërial plain,
    And all the mighty monsters of the main;
    Their souls at first from high Olympus came,” &c.(87)


Just as if the world, which is a theatre erected for displaying the glory
of God, were its own creator! For thus writes the same poet in another
place, following the common opinion of the Greeks and Latins—


    “Led by such wonders, sages have opined,
    That bees have portions of a heavenly mind;
    That God pervades, and, like one common soul,
    Fills, feeds, and animates the world’s great whole;
    That flocks, herds, beasts, and men, from him receive
    Their vital breath; in him all move and live;
    That souls discerpt from him shall never die,
    But back resolved to God and heaven shall fly,
    And live for ever in the starry sky.”(88)


See the efficacy of that jejune speculation concerning a universal mind
animating and actuating the world, in the production and encouragement of
piety in the human heart. This more fully appears also from the profane
expressions of the filthy Lucretius, which are deductions from the same
principle.(89) Its true tendency is to set up a shadowy deity, and to
banish all ideas of the true God, the proper object of fear and worship. I
confess, indeed, that the expression, that nature is God, may be used in a
pious sense by a pious mind; but, as it is harsh and inconsistent with
strict propriety of speech, nature being rather an order prescribed by
God, it is dangerous in matters so momentous, and demanding peculiar
caution, to confound the Deity with the inferior course of his works.

VI. Let us remember, then, in every consideration of our own nature, that
there is one God, who governs all natures, and who expects us to regard
him, to direct our faith to him, to worship and invoke him. For nothing is
more preposterous than to enjoy such splendid advantages, which proclaim
within us their divine origin, and to neglect the Author who bountifully
bestows them. Now, what illustrious specimens of his power have we to
arrest our attention! unless it be possible for us not to know what
strength is required to sustain with his word this immense fabric of
heaven and earth; now by his mere nod to shake the heaven with roaring
peals of thunder, to consume whatever he choose with lightnings, and set
the atmosphere on fire with the flame; now to disturb it with tempests in
various forms, and immediately, if he please, to compose all to
instantaneous serenity; to restrain, suspended as it were in air, the sea,
which, by its elevation, seems to threaten the earth with continual
devastation; now raising it in a tremendous manner, by the tumultuous
violence of the winds, and now appeasing the waves to render it calm. To
this purpose are the numerous praises of the power of God, drawn from the
testimonies of nature, particularly in the book of Job, and in the
prophecies of Isaiah; which I now purposely omit, as they will be more
suitably introduced, when I discuss the scriptural account of the creation
of the world. Only I wished at present to hint, that this way of seeking
God, by tracing the lineaments which, both above and below us, exhibit
such a lively adumbration of him, is common to aliens, and to those who
belong to his family. His power leads us to the consideration of his
eternity; because he, from whom all things derive their origin, must
necessarily be eternal and self‐existent. But if we inquire the reason
that induced him first to create all things, and now to preserve them, we
shall find the sole cause to be his own goodness. But though this be the
only cause, it should be more than sufficient to attract us to love him;
since, according to the Psalmist,(90) there is no creature that does not
participate in the effusions of his mercy.

VII. In the second species of his works, such as happen out of the
ordinary course of nature, the proofs of his perfections are equally
clear. For he so regulates his providence in the government of human
society, that, while he exhibits, in innumerable ways, his benignity and
beneficence to all, he likewise declares, by evident and daily
indications, his clemency to the pious, and his severity to the wicked and
ungodly. For no doubt can be entertained respecting his punishment of
flagitious crimes; inasmuch as he clearly demonstrates himself to be the
guardian and avenger of innocence, in prospering with his blessing the
life of good men, in assisting their necessities, assuaging and comforting
their sorrows, alleviating their calamities, and providing in all things
for their safety. Nor should it perplex or eclipse his perpetual rule of
righteousness, that he frequently permits the wicked and guilty for a time
to exult in impunity; but suffers good men to be undeservedly harassed
with much adversity, and even to be oppressed by the iniquitous malice of
the ungodly. We ought rather to make a very different reflection; that,
when he clearly manifests his wrath in the punishment of one sin, he hates
all sins; and that, since he now passes by many sins unpunished, there
will be a judgment hereafter, till which the punishment is deferred. So,
also, what ample occasion he supplies us for the consideration of his
mercy, while, with unwearied benignity, he pursues the miserable, calling
them back to himself with more than paternal indulgence, till his
beneficence overcomes their depravity!

VIII. To this end the Psalmist,(91) mentioning that God, in desperate
cases, suddenly and wonderfully succors, beyond all expectation, those who
are miserable and ready to perish, either protecting from beasts of prey
such as are wandering in deserts, and, at length, reconducting them into
the right way, or supplying with food the needy and hungry, or delivering
captives from dreary dungeons and iron chains, or bringing the shipwrecked
safe into port, or healing the diseases of some who are almost dead, or
scorching the earth with excessive heat and drought, or fertilizing it
with the secret showers of his mercy, or elevating the meanest of the
vulgar, or degrading nobles from their dignified stations,—the Psalmist, I
say, having proposed such examples as these, infers from them that what
are accounted fortuitous accidents, are so many proofs of his heavenly
providence, especially of his paternal clemency; and that hence the pious
have cause to rejoice, while the mouths of the impious and reprobate are
stopped. But, since the majority of men, immersed in their errors, are
blind amidst the greatest opportunities of seeing, he accounts it a rare
instance of singular wisdom discreetly to consider these works of God;(92)
from the sight of which, some, who, in other instances, discover the
greatest acuteness, receive no benefit. And, notwithstanding all the
displays of the glory of God, scarcely one man in a hundred, is really a
spectator of it. His power and wisdom are equally conspicuous. His power
is illustriously manifested, when the ferocity of the impious, universally
deemed insuperable, is quelled in an instant, their arrogance subdued,
their strongest fortresses demolished, their weapons and armour broken in
pieces, their strength diminished, their machinations confounded, and they
fall by their own exertions; when the audacity, which exalted itself above
the heavens, is thrown down to the centre of the earth; when, on the
contrary, “the poor are raised out of the dust, and the needy out of the
dunghill;”(93) the oppressed and afflicted extricated from distressing
extremities, and the desperate restored to a good hope; when the unarmed
are victorious over those who are armed, the few over the many, the weak
over the strong. But his wisdom is eminently displayed in ordering every
dispensation at the best possible time, confounding the greatest worldly
sagacity, “taking the wise in their own craftiness,”(94) and finally
disposing all things according to the dictates of the highest reason.

IX. We see that there is no need of any long or laborious argumentation,
to obtain and produce testimonies for illustrating and asserting the
Divine Majesty; since, from the few which we have selected and cursorily
mentioned, it appears that they are every where so evident and obvious, as
easily to be distinguished by the eyes, and pointed out with the fingers.
And here it must again be observed, that we are invited to a knowledge of
God; not such as, content with empty speculation, merely floats in the
brain, but such as will be solid and fruitful, if rightly received and
rooted in our hearts. For the Lord is manifested by his perfections:
perceiving the influence and enjoying the benefits of which, we must
necessarily be more acutely impressed with such a knowledge, than if we
imagined a Deity of whose influence we had no perception. Whence we
conclude this to be the right way, and the best method of seeking God; not
with presumptuous curiosity to attempt an examination of his essence,
which is rather to be adored than too curiously investigated; but to
contemplate him in his works, in which he approaches and familiarizes,
and, in some measure, communicates himself to us. To this the Apostle
referred, when he said, that he is not to be sought far off, since, by his
attribute of omnipresence, he dwells in every one of us.(95) Therefore
David, having before confessed his greatness ineffable, after he descends
to the mention of his works, adds, that he will “declare this
greatness.”(96) Wherefore it becomes us also to apply ourselves to such an
investigation of God, as may fill our understanding with admiration, and
powerfully interest our feelings. And, as Augustine somewhere teaches,
being incapable of comprehending him, and fainting, as it were, under his
immensity, we must take a view of his works, that we may be refreshed with
his goodness.(97)

X. Now, such a knowledge ought not only to excite us to the worship of
God, but likewise to awaken and arouse us to the hope of a future life.
For when we consider, that the specimens given by the Lord, both of his
clemency and of his severity, are only begun, and not completed, we
certainly should esteem these as preludes to greater things, of which the
manifestation and full exhibition are deferred to another life. When we
see that pious men are loaded with afflictions by the impious, harassed
with injuries, oppressed with calumnies, and vexed with contumelious and
opprobrious treatment; that the wicked, on the contrary, flourish,
prosper, obtain ease and dignity, and all with impunity,—we should
immediately conclude, that there is another life, to which is reserved the
vengeance due to iniquity, and the reward of righteousness. Moreover, when
we observe the faithful frequently chastised by the Lord’s rod, we may
conclude, with great certainty, that the impious shall not always escape
his vengeance. For that is a wise observation of Augustine—“If open
punishment were now inflicted for every sin, it would be supposed that
nothing would be reserved till the last judgment. Again, if God now did
not openly punish any sin, it would be presumed that there was no divine
providence.”(98) It must therefore be confessed, that in each of the works
of God, but more especially in the whole considered together, there is a
bright exhibition of the divine perfections; by which the whole human race
is invited and allured to the knowledge of God, and thence to true and
complete felicity. But, though those perfections are most luminously
portrayed around us, we only discover their principal tendency, their use,
and the end of our contemplation of them, when we descend into our own
selves, and consider by what means God displays in us his life, wisdom,
and power, and exercises towards us his righteousness, goodness, and
mercy. For, though David justly complains that unbelievers are fools,
because they consider not the profound designs of God in the government of
mankind,(99) yet there is much truth in what he says in another place—that
the wonders of Divine Wisdom in this respect exceed in number the hairs of
our head.(100) But as this argument must be treated more at large in due
course, I at present omit it.

XI. But, notwithstanding the clear representations given by God in the
mirror of his works, both of himself and of his everlasting dominion, such
is our stupidity, that, always inattentive to these obvious testimonies,
we derive no advantage from them. For, with regard to the structure and
very beautiful organization of the world, how few of us are there, who,
when lifting up their eyes to heaven, or looking round on the various
regions of the earth, direct their minds to the remembrance of the
Creator, and do not rather content themselves with a view of his works, to
the total neglect of their Author! And with respect to those things that
daily happen out of the ordinary course of nature, is it not the general
opinion, that men are rolled and whirled about by the blind temerity of
fortune, rather than governed by the providence of God? Or if, by the
guidance and direction of these things, we are ever driven (as all men
must sometimes be) to the consideration of a God, yet, when we have rashly
conceived an idea of some deity, we soon slide into our own carnal dreams,
or depraved inventions, corrupting by our vanity the purity of divine
truth. We differ from one another, in that each individual imbibes some
peculiarity of error; but we perfectly agree in a universal departure from
the one true God, to preposterous trifles. This disease affects, not only
the vulgar and ignorant, but the most eminent, and those who, in other
things, discover peculiar sagacity. How abundantly have all the
philosophers, in this respect, betrayed their stupidity and folly! For, to
spare others, chargeable with greater absurdities, Plato himself, the most
religious and judicious of them all, loses himself in his round
globe.(101) And what would not befall others, when their principal men,
whose place it was to enlighten the rest, stumble upon such gross errors!
So also, while the government of human actions proves a providence too
plainly to admit of a denial, men derive no more advantage from it, than
if they believed all things to be agitated forwards and backwards by the
uncertain caprice of fortune; so great is our propensity to vanity and
error! I speak exclusively of the excellent of mankind, not of the vulgar,
whose madness in the profanation of divine truth has known no bounds.

XII. Hence that immense flood of errors, which has deluged the whole
world. For every man’s understanding is like a labyrinth to him; so that
it is not to be wondered at, that the different nations were drawn aside
into various inventions, and even that almost every individual had his own
particular deity. For, amidst the union of temerity and wantonness with
ignorance and darkness, scarcely a man could be found who did not frame to
himself some idol or phantasm instead of God. Indeed, the immense
multitude of gods proceeding from the mind of man, resembles the
ebullition of waters from a vast and ample spring, while every one, with
an extreme licentiousness of error, invents one thing or another
concerning God himself. It is not necessary here to compose a catalogue of
the superstitions which have perplexed the world; for it would be an
endless task; and, without a word more being said, the horrible blindness
of the human mind sufficiently appears from such a multiplicity of
corruptions. I pass over the rude and unlearned vulgar. But among the
philosophers,(102) who attempted with reason and learning to penetrate
heaven, how shameful is the diversity! In proportion to the vigour of his
natural genius, and the polish acquired by art and science, each of them
seemed to give the more specious colouring to his own opinion; but, on a
close inspection, you will find them all fading colours. The Stoics said,
in their own opinion very shrewdly, that from all the parts of nature may
be collected various names of God, but yet that the one God is not
therefore divided;(103) as if we were not already too much inclined to
vanity, without being further and more violently seduced into error, by
the notion of such a various abundance of gods. The mystical theology of
the Egyptians also shows that they all sedulously endeavoured to preserve
the appearance of reason in the midst of their folly.(104) And any thing
apparently probable might at first sight, perhaps, deceive the simple and
incautious; but there never was any human invention by which religion was
not basely corrupted. And this confused diversity imboldened the
Epicureans, and other gross despisers of piety, to reject all idea of God.
For, seeing the wisest of men contending with each other for contrary
opinions, they hesitated not, from their dissensions, and from the
frivolous and absurd doctrines maintained by the different parties, to
infer, that it was vain and foolish for men to torment themselves with
investigations concerning God, who does not exist. And this they thought
they might do with impunity, supposing that a compendious denial of any
God at all would be better than feigning uncertain gods, and thereby
occasioning endless controversies. They reason very ignorantly, or rather
endeavour to conceal their own impiety behind the ignorance of men, which
not at all justifies any encroachment on God. But from the general
confession, that there is no subject productive of so many dissensions
among the learned as well as the unlearned, it is inferred, that the minds
of men, which err so much in investigations concerning God, are extremely
blind and stupid in celestial mysteries. Others commend the answer of
Simonides,(105) who, being asked by Hiero the Tyrant what God was,
requested a day to consider it. When the tyrant, the next day, repeated
the inquiry, he begged to be allowed two days longer; and, having often
doubled the number of days, at length answered, “The longer I consider the
subject, the more obscure it appears to me.” He prudently suspended his
opinion on a subject so obscure to him; yet this shows that men, who are
taught only by nature, have no certain, sound, or distinct knowledge, but
are confined to confused principles; so that they worship an unknown God.

XIII. Now, it must also be maintained, that whoever adulterates the pure
religion, (which must necessarily be the case of all who are influenced by
their own imagination,) he is guilty of a departure from the one God. They
will profess, indeed, a different intention; but what they intend, or what
they persuade themselves, is of little importance; since the Holy Spirit
pronounces all to be apostates, who, in the darkness of their minds,
substitute demons in the place of God. For this reason Paul declares the
Ephesians to have been “without God”(106)—till they had learned from the
gospel the worship of the true God. Nor should this be restricted to one
nation only, since, in another place, he asserts of men in general, that
they “became vain in their imaginations,”(107) after the majesty of the
Creator had been discovered to them in the structure of the world. And
therefore the Scripture, to make room for the only true God, condemns, as
false and lying, whatever was formerly worshipped as divine among the
Gentiles,(108) and leaves no Deity but in Mount Sion, where flourished the
peculiar knowledge of God. Indeed, among the Gentiles, the Samaritans, in
the days of Christ, seemed to approach very nearly to true piety; yet we
hear, from the mouth of Christ, that they “worshipped they knew not
what;”(109) whence it follows, that they were under a vain and erroneous
delusion. In fine, though they were not all the subjects of gross vices,
or open idolaters, there was no pure and approved religion, their notions
being founded only in common sense. For, though there were a few
uninfected with the madness of the vulgar, this assertion of Paul remains
unshaken, that “none of the princes of this world knew the wisdom of
God.”(110) But if the most exalted have been involved in the darkness of
error, what must be said of the dregs of the people! Wherefore it is not
surprising if the Holy Spirit reject, as spurious, every form of worship
which is of human contrivance; because, in the mysteries of heaven, an
opinion acquired by human means, though it may not always produce an
immense mass of errors, yet always produces some. And though no worse
consequence follow, it is no trivial fault to worship, at an uncertainty,
an unknown god; of which, however, Christ pronounces all to be guilty who
have not been taught by the law what god they ought to worship. And indeed
the best legislators have proceeded no further than to declare religion to
be founded upon common consent. And even Socrates, in Xenophon,(111)
praises the answer of Apollo, which directed that every man should worship
the gods according to the rites of his country, and the custom of his own
city. But whence had mortals this right of determining, by their own
authority, what far exceeds all the world? or who could so acquiesce in
the decrees of the rulers or the ordinances of the people, as without
hesitation to receive a god delivered to him by the authority of man?
Every man will rather abide by his own judgment, than be subject to the
will of another. Since, then, the following of the custom of a city, or
the consent of antiquity, in divine worship, is too weak and frail a bond
of piety, it remains for God himself to give a revelation concerning
himself from heaven.

XIV. Vain, therefore, is the light afforded us in the formation of the
world to illustrate the glory of its Author; which, though its rays be
diffused all around us, is insufficient to conduct us into the right way.
Some sparks, indeed, are kindled, but smothered before they have emitted
any great degree of light. Wherefore the Apostle, in the place before
cited, says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the
word of God;”(112) thus intimating, that the invisible Deity was
represented by such visible objects, yet that we have no eyes to discern
him, unless they be illuminated through faith by an internal revelation of
God. Nor does Paul, where he observes, that “that which may be known of
God is manifest”(113) in the creation of the world, design such a
manifestation as human sagacity may comprehend; but rather shows, that its
utmost extent is to render men inexcusable. The same writer also, though
in one place(114) he denies that God is to be traced far off, seeing he
dwells within us, yet teaches, in another place,(115) the consequences of
such a proximity. God, says he, “in times past suffered all nations to
walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness,
in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,
filling our hearts with food and gladness.”(116) Though the Lord, then, is
not destitute of a testimony concerning himself, while with various and
most abundant benignity he sweetly allures mankind to a knowledge of him,
yet they persist in following their own ways, their pernicious and fatal
errors.

XV. But whatever deficiency of natural ability prevents us from attaining
the pure and clear knowledge of God, yet, since that deficiency arises
from our own fault, we are left without any excuse. Nor indeed can we set
up any pretence of ignorance, that will prevent our own consciences from
perpetually accusing us of indolence and ingratitude. Truly it would be a
defence worthy to be admitted, if a man should plead that he wanted ears
to hear the truth, for the publication of which even the mute creatures
are supplied with most melodious voices; if he should allege that his eyes
are not capable of seeing what is demonstrated by the creatures without
the help of the eyes; if he should plead mental imbecility, while all the
irrational creatures instruct us. Wherefore we are justly excluded from
all excuse for our uncertain and extravagant deviations, since all things
conspire to show us the right way. But, however men are chargeable with
sinfully corrupting the seeds of divine knowledge, which, by the wonderful
operation of nature, are sown in their hearts, so that they produce no
good and fair crop, yet it is beyond a doubt, that the simple testimony
magnificently borne by the creatures to the glory of God, is very
insufficient for our instruction. For as soon as a survey of the world has
just shown us a deity, neglecting the true God, we set up in his stead the
dreams and phantasms of our own brains; and confer on them the praise of
righteousness, wisdom, goodness, and power, due to him. We either obscure
his daily acts, or pervert them by an erroneous estimate; thereby
depriving the acts themselves of their glory, and their Author of his
deserved praise.



Chapter VI. The Guidance And Teaching Of The Scripture Necessary To Lead
To The Knowledge Of God The Creator.


Though the light which presents itself to all eyes, both in heaven and in
earth, is more than sufficient to deprive the ingratitude of men of every
excuse, since God, in order to involve all mankind in the same guilt, sets
before them all, without exception, an exhibition of his majesty,
delineated in the creatures,—yet we need another and better assistance,
properly to direct us to the Creator of the world. Therefore he hath not
unnecessarily added the light of his word, to make himself known unto
salvation, and hath honoured with this privilege those whom he intended to
unite in a more close and familiar connection with himself. For, seeing
the minds of all men to be agitated with unstable dispositions, when he
had chosen the Jews as his peculiar flock, he enclosed them as in a fold,
that they might not wander after the vanities of other nations. And it is
not without cause that he preserves us in the pure knowledge of himself by
the same means; for, otherwise, they who seem comparatively to stand firm,
would soon fall. For, as persons who are old, or whose eyes are by any
means become dim, if you show them the most beautiful book, though they
perceive something written, but can scarcely read two words together, yet,
by the assistance of spectacles, will begin to read distinctly,—so the
Scripture, collecting in our minds the otherwise confused notions of
Deity, dispels the darkness, and gives us a clear view of the true God.
This, then, is a singular favour, that, in the instruction of the Church,
God not only uses mute teachers, but even opens his own sacred mouth; not
only proclaims that some god ought to be worshipped, but at the same time
pronounces himself to be the Being to whom this worship is due; and not
only teaches the elect to raise their view to a Deity, but also exhibits
himself as the object of their contemplation. This method he hath observed
toward his Church from the beginning; beside those common lessons of
instruction, to afford them also his word; which furnishes a more correct
and certain criterion to distinguish him from all fictitious deities. And
it was undoubtedly by this assistance that Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the
rest of the patriarchs, attained to that familiar knowledge which
distinguished them from unbelievers. I speak not yet of the peculiar
doctrine of faith which illuminated them into the hope of eternal life.
For, to pass from death to life, they must have known God, not only as the
Creator, but also as the Redeemer; as they certainly obtained both from
his word. For that species of knowledge, which related to him as the
Creator and Governor of the world, in order, preceded the other. To this
was afterwards added the other internal knowledge, which alone vivifies
dead souls, and apprehends God, not only as the Creator of the world, and
as the sole Author and Arbiter of all events, but also as the Redeemer in
the person of the Mediator. But, being not yet come to the fall of man and
the corruption of nature, I also forbear to treat of the remedy. Let the
reader remember, therefore, that I am not yet treating of that covenant by
which God adopted the children of Abraham, and of that point of doctrine
by which believers have always been particularly separated from the
profane nations, since that is founded on Christ; but am only showing how
we ought to learn from the Scripture, that God, who created the world, may
be certainly distinguished from the whole multitude of fictitious deities.
The series of subjects will, in due time, lead us to redemption. But,
though we shall adduce many testimonies from the New Testament, and some
also from the Law and the Prophets, in which Christ is expressly
mentioned, yet they will all tend to prove, that the Scripture discovers
God to us as the Creator of the world, and declares what sentiments we
should form of him, that we may not be seeking after a deity in a
labyrinth of uncertainty.

II. But, whether God revealed himself to the patriarchs by oracles and
visions, or suggested, by means of the ministry of men, what should be
handed down by tradition to their posterity, it is beyond a doubt that
their minds were impressed with a firm assurance of the doctrine, so that
they were persuaded and convinced that the information they had received
came from God. For God always secured to his word an undoubted credit,
superior to all human opinion. At length, that the truth might remain in
the world in a continual course of instruction to all ages, he determined
that the same oracles which he had deposited with the patriarchs should be
committed to public records. With this design the Law was promulgated, to
which the Prophets were afterwards annexed, as its interpreters.—For,
though the uses of the law were many, as will be better seen in the proper
place; and particularly the intention of Moses, and of all the prophets,
was to teach the mode of reconciliation between God and man, (whence also
Paul calls Christ “the end of the law,”)(117)—yet I repeat again, that,
beside the peculiar doctrine of faith and repentance, which proposes
Christ as the Mediator, the Scripture distinguishes the only true God by
certain characters and titles, as the Creator and Governor of the world,
that he may not be confounded with the multitude of false gods. Therefore,
though every man should seriously apply himself to a consideration of the
works of God, being placed in this very splendid theatre to be a spectator
of them, yet he ought principally to attend to the word, that he may
attain superior advantages. And, therefore, it is not surprising, that
they who are born in darkness grow more and more hardened in their
stupidity; since very few attend to the word of God with teachable
dispositions, to restrain themselves within the limits which it
prescribes, but rather exult in their own vanity. This, then, must be
considered as a fixed principle, that, in order to enjoy the light of true
religion, we ought to begin with the doctrine of heaven; and that no man
can have the least knowledge of true and sound doctrine, without having
been a disciple of the Scripture. Hence originates all true wisdom, when
we embrace with reverence the testimony which God hath been pleased
therein to deliver concerning himself. For obedience is the source, not
only of an absolutely perfect and complete faith, but of all right
knowledge of God. And truly in this instance God hath, in his providence,
particularly consulted the true interests of mankind in all ages.

III. For, if we consider the mutability of the human mind,—how easy its
lapse into forgetfulness of God; how great its propensity to errors of
every kind; how violent its rage for the perpetual fabrication of new and
false religions,—it will be easy to perceive the necessity of the heavenly
doctrine being thus committed to writing, that it might not be lost in
oblivion, or evaporate in error, or be corrupted by the presumption of
men. Since it is evident, therefore, that God, foreseeing the inefficacy
of his manifestation of himself in the exquisite structure of the world,
hath afforded the assistance of his word to all those to whom he
determined to make his instructions effectual,—if we seriously aspire to a
sincere contemplation of God, it is necessary for us to pursue this right
way. We must come, I say, to the word, which contains a just and lively
description of God as he appears in his works, when those works are
estimated, not according to our depraved judgment, but by the rule of
eternal truth. If we deviate from it, as I have just observed, though we
run with the utmost celerity, yet, being out of the course, we shall never
reach the goal. For it must be concluded, that the light of the Divine
countenance, which even the Apostle says “no man can approach unto,”(118)
is like an inexplicable labyrinth to us, unless we are directed by the
line of the word; so that it were better to halt in this way, than to run
with the greatest rapidity out of it. Therefore David, inculcating the
necessity of the removal of superstitions out of the world, that pure
religion may flourish, frequently introduces God as “reigning;”(119) by
the word “reigning,” intending, not the power which he possesses, and
which he exercises in the universal government of nature, but the doctrine
in which he asserts his legitimate sovereignty; because errors can never
be eradicated from the human heart, till the true knowledge of God is
implanted in it.

IV. Therefore the same Psalmist, having said, that “the heavens declare
the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy‐work; day unto day
uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge,”(120) afterwards
proceeds to the mention of the word: “The law of the Lord is perfect,
converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the
simple: the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the
commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” For, though he
also comprehends other uses of the law, yet he suggests, in general, that,
since God’s invitation of all nations to him by the view of heaven and
earth is ineffectual, this is the peculiar school of the children of God.
The same is adverted to in the twenty‐ninth Psalm, where the Psalmist,
having preached the terrors of the Divine voice, which in thunders, in
winds, in showers, in whirlwinds, and in tempests, shakes the earth, makes
the mountains tremble, and breaks the cedars, adds, at length, towards the
close, “in his temple doth every one speak of his glory;” because
unbelievers are deaf to all the voices of God, which resound in the air.
So, in another Psalm, after describing the terrible waves of the sea, he
concludes thus: “Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine
house, O Lord, for ever.”(121) Hence also proceeds the observation of
Christ to the Samaritan woman, that her nation and all others worshipped
they knew not what; and that the Jews were the only worshippers of the
true God.(122) For, since the human mind is unable, through its
imbecility, to attain any knowledge of God without the assistance of his
sacred word, all mankind, except the Jews, as they sought God without the
word, must necessarily have been wandering in vanity and error.



Chapter VII. The Testimony Of The Spirit Necessary To Confirm The
Scripture, In Order To The Complete Establishment Of Its Authority. The
Suspension Of Its Authority On The Judgment Of The Church, An Impious
Fiction.


Before I proceed any further, it is proper to introduce some remarks on
the authority of the Scripture, not only to prepare the mind to regard it
with due reverence, but also to remove every doubt. For, when it is
admitted to be a declaration of the word of God, no man can be so
deplorably presumptuous, unless he be also destitute of common sense and
of the common feelings of men, as to dare to derogate from the credit due
to the speaker. But since we are not favoured with daily oracles from
heaven, and since it is only in the Scriptures that the Lord hath been
pleased to preserve his truth in perpetual remembrance, it obtains the
same complete credit and authority with believers, when they are satisfied
of its divine origin, as if they heard the very words pronounced by God
himself. The subject, indeed, merits a diffuse discussion, and a most
accurate examination. But the reader will pardon me, if I attend rather to
what the design of this work admits, than to what the extensive nature of
the present subject requires. But there has very generally prevailed a
most pernicious error, that the Scriptures have only so much weight as is
conceded to them by the suffrages of the Church; as though the eternal and
inviolable truth of God depended on the arbitrary will of men. For thus,
with great contempt of the Holy Spirit, they inquire, Who can assure us
that God is the author of them? Who can with certainty affirm, that they
have been preserved safe and uncorrupted to the present age? Who can
persuade us that this book ought to be received with reverence, and that
expunged from the sacred number, unless all these things were regulated by
the decisions of the Church? It depends, therefore, (say they,) on the
determination of the Church, to decide both what reverence is due to the
Scripture, and what books are to be comprised in its canon. Thus
sacrilegious men, while they wish to introduce an unlimited tyranny, under
the name of the Church, are totally unconcerned with what absurdities they
embarrass themselves and others, provided they can extort from the
ignorant this one admission, that the Church can do every thing. But, if
this be true, what will be the condition of those wretched consciences,
which are seeking a solid assurance of eternal life, if all the promises
extant concerning it rest only on the judgment of men? Will the reception
of such an answer cause their fluctuations to subside, and their terrors
to vanish? Again, how will the impious ridicule our faith, and all men
call it in question, if it be understood to possess only a precarious
authority depending on the favour of men!

II. But such cavillers are completely refuted even by one word of the
Apostle. He testifies that the church is “built upon the foundation of the
apostles and prophets.”(123) If the doctrine of the prophets and apostles
be the foundation of the Church, it must have been certain, antecedently
to the existence of the Church. Nor is there any foundation for this
cavil, that though the Church derive its origin from the Scriptures, yet
it remains doubtful what writings are to be ascribed to the prophets and
apostles, unless it be determined by the Church. For if the Christian
Church has been from the beginning founded on the writings of the prophets
and the preaching of the apostles, wherever that doctrine is found, the
approbation of it has certainly preceded the formation of the Church;
since without it the Church itself had never existed. It is a very false
notion, therefore, that the power of judging of the Scripture belongs to
the Church, so as to make the certainty of it dependent on the Church’s
will. Wherefore, when the Church receives it, and seals it with her
suffrage, she does not authenticate a thing otherwise dubious or
controvertible; but, knowing it to be the truth of her God, performs a
duty of piety, by treating it with immediate veneration. But, with regard
to the question, How shall we be persuaded of its divine original, unless
we have recourse to the decree of the Church? this is just as if any one
should inquire, How shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness,
white from black, sweet from bitter? For the Scripture exhibits as clear
evidence of its truth, as white and black things do of their colour, or
sweet and bitter things of their taste.

III. I know, indeed, that they commonly cite the opinion of Augustine,
where he says, “that he would not believe the Gospel unless he were
influenced by the authority of the Church.”(124) But how falsely and
unfairly this is cited in support of such a notion, it is easy to discover
from the context. He was in that contending with the Manichees, who wished
to be credited, without any controversy, when they affirmed the truth to
be on their side, but never proved it. Now, as they made the authority of
the Gospel a pretext in order to establish the credit of their Manichæus,
he inquires what they would do if they met with a man who did not believe
the Gospel; with what kind of persuasion they would convert him to their
opinion. He afterwards adds, “Indeed, I would not give credit to the
Gospel,” &c., intending, that he himself, when an alien from the faith,
could not be prevailed on to embrace the Gospel as the certain truth of
God, till he was convinced by the authority of the Church. And is it
surprising that any one, yet destitute of the knowledge of Christ, should
pay a respect to men? Augustine, therefore, does not there maintain that
the faith of the pious is founded on the authority of the Church, nor does
he mean that the certainty of the Gospel depends on it; but simply, that
unbelievers would have no assurance of the truth of the Gospel, that would
win them to Christ, unless they were influenced by the consent of the
Church. And a little before, he clearly confirms it in these words: “When
I shall have commended my own creed, and derided yours, what judgment,
think you, ought we to form, what conduct ought we to pursue, but to
forsake those who invite us to acknowledge things that are certain, and
afterwards command us to believe things that are uncertain; and to follow
those who invite us first to believe what we cannot yet clearly see, that,
being strengthened by faith, we may acquire an understanding of what we
believe; our mind being now internally strengthened and illuminated, not
by men, but by God himself?” These are the express words of Augustine;
whence the inference is obvious to every one, that this holy man did not
design to suspend our faith in the Scriptures on the arbitrary decision of
the Church, but only to show (what we all confess to be true) that they
who are yet unilluminated by the Spirit of God, are, by a reverence for
the Church, brought to such a docility as to submit to learn the faith of
Christ from the Gospel; and that thus the authority of the Church is an
introduction to prepare us for the faith of the Gospel. For we see that he
will have the certainty of the pious to rest on a very different
foundation. Otherwise I do not deny his frequently urging on the Manichees
the universal consent of the Church, with a view to prove the truth of the
Scripture, which they rejected. Whence his rebuke of Faustus, “for not
submitting to the truth of the Gospel, so founded, so established, so
gloriously celebrated, and delivered through certain successions from the
apostolic age.” But he nowhere insinuates that the authority which we
attribute to the Scripture depends on the definitions or decrees of men:
he only produces the universal judgment of the Church, which was very
useful to his argument, and gave him an advantage over his adversaries. If
any one desire a fuller proof of this, let him read his treatise “Of the
Advantage of Believing;” where he will find, that he recommends no other
facility of believing, than such as may afford us an introduction, and be
a proper beginning of inquiry, as he expresses himself; yet that we should
not be satisfied with mere opinion, but rest upon certain and solid truth.

IV. It must be maintained, as I have before asserted, that we are not
established in the belief of the doctrine till we are indubitably
persuaded that God is its Author. The principal proof, therefore, of the
Scriptures is every where derived from the character of the Divine
Speaker. The prophets and apostles boast not of their own genius, or any
of those talents which conciliate the faith of the hearers; nor do they
insist on arguments from reason; but bring forward the sacred name of God,
to compel the submission of the whole world. We must now see how it
appears, not from probable supposition, but from clear demonstration, that
this use of the divine name is neither rash nor fallacious. Now, if we
wish to consult the true interest of our consciences; that they may not be
unstable and wavering, the subjects of perpetual doubt; that they may not
hesitate at the smallest scruples,—this persuasion must be sought from a
higher source than human reasons, or judgments, or conjectures—even from
the secret testimony of the Spirit. It is true that, if we were inclined
to argue the point, many things might be adduced which certainly evince,
if there be any God in heaven, that he is the Author of the Law, and the
Prophecies, and the Gospel. Even though men of learning and deep judgment
rise up in opposition, and exert and display all the powers of their minds
in this dispute, yet, unless they are wholly lost to all sense of shame,
this confession will be extorted from them, that the Scripture exhibits
the plainest evidences that it is God who speaks in it, which manifests
its doctrine to be divine. And we shall soon see, that all the books of
the sacred Scripture very far excel all other writings. If we read it with
pure eyes and sound minds, we shall immediately perceive the majesty of
God, which will subdue our audacious contradictions, and compel us to obey
him. Yet it is acting a preposterous part, to endeavour to produce sound
faith in the Scripture by disputations. Though, indeed, I am far from
excelling in peculiar dexterity or eloquence, yet, if I were to contend
with the most subtle despisers of God, who are ambitious to display their
wit and their skill in weakening the authority of Scripture, I trust I
should be able, without difficulty, to silence their obstreperous clamour.
And, if it were of any use to attempt a refutation of their cavils, I
would easily demolish the boasts which they mutter in secret corners. But
though any one vindicates the sacred word of God from the aspersions of
men, yet this will not fix in their hearts that assurance which is
essential to true piety. Religion appearing, to profane men, to consist
wholly in opinion, in order that they may not believe any thing on foolish
or slight grounds, they wish and expect it to be proved by rational
arguments, that Moses and the prophets spake by divine inspiration. But I
reply, that the testimony of the Spirit is superior to all reason. For, as
God alone is a sufficient witness of himself in his own word, so also the
word will never gain credit in the hearts of men, till it be confirmed by
the internal testimony of the Spirit. It is necessary, therefore, that the
same Spirit, who spake by the mouths of the prophets, should penetrate
into our hearts, to convince us that they faithfully delivered the oracles
which were divinely intrusted to them. And this connection is very
suitably expressed in these words: “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my
word which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor
out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, for
ever.”(125) Some good men are troubled that they are not always prepared
with clear proof to oppose the impious, when they murmur with impunity
against the divine word; as though the Spirit were not therefore
denominated a “seal,” and “an earnest,” for the confirmation of the faith
of the pious; because, till he illuminate their minds, they are
perpetually fluctuating amidst a multitude of doubts.

V. Let it be considered, then, as an undeniable truth, that they who have
been inwardly taught by the Spirit, feel an entire acquiescence in the
Scripture, and that it is self‐authenticated, carrying with it its own
evidence, and ought not to be made the subject of demonstration and
arguments from reason; but it obtains the credit which it deserves with us
by the testimony of the Spirit. For though it conciliate our reverence by
its internal majesty, it never seriously affects us till it is confirmed
by the Spirit in our hearts. Therefore, being illuminated by him, we now
believe the divine original of the Scripture, not from our own judgment or
that of others, but we esteem the certainty, that we have received it from
God’s own mouth by the ministry of men, to be superior to that of any
human judgment, and equal to that of an intuitive perception of God
himself in it. We seek not arguments or probabilities to support our
judgment, but submit our judgments and understandings as to a thing
concerning which it is impossible for us to judge; and that not like some
persons, who are in the habit of hastily embracing what they do not
understand, which displeases them as soon as they examine it, but because
we feel the firmest conviction that we hold an invincible truth; nor like
those unhappy men who surrender their minds captives to superstitions, but
because we perceive in it the undoubted energies of the Divine power, by
which we are attracted and inflamed to an understanding and voluntary
obedience, but with a vigour and efficacy superior to the power of any
human will or knowledge. With the greatest justice, therefore, God
exclaims by Isaiah,(126) that the prophets and all the people were his
witnesses; because, being taught by prophecies, they were certain that God
had spoken without the least fallacy or ambiguity. It is such a
persuasion, therefore, as requires no reasons; such a knowledge as is
supported by the highest reason, in which, indeed, the mind rests with
greater security and constancy than in any reasons; it is, finally, such a
sentiment as cannot be produced but by a revelation from heaven. I speak
of nothing but what every believer experiences in his heart, except that
my language falls far short of a just explication of the subject. I pass
over many things at present, because this subject will present itself for
discussion again in another place. Only let it be known here, that that
alone is true faith which the Spirit of God seals in our hearts. And with
this one reason every reader of modesty and docility will be satisfied:
Isaiah predicts that “all the children” of the renovated Church “shall be
taught of God.”(127) Herein God deigns to confer a singular privilege on
his elect, whom he distinguishes from the rest of mankind. For what is the
beginning of true learning but a prompt alacrity to hear the voice of God?
By the mouth of Moses he demands our attention in these terms: “Say not in
thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? or, Who shall descend into the
deep? The word is even in thy mouth.”(128) If God hath determined that
this treasury of wisdom shall be reserved for his children, it is neither
surprising nor absurd, that we see so much ignorance and stupidity among
the vulgar herd of mankind. By this appellation I designate even those of
the greatest talents and highest rank, till they are incorporated into the
Church. Moreover, Isaiah, observing that the prophetical doctrine would be
incredible, not only to aliens, but also to the Jews, who wished to be
esteemed members of the family, adds, at the same time, the reason—Because
the arm of the Lord will not be revealed to all.(129) Whenever, therefore,
we are disturbed at the paucity of believers, let us, on the other hand,
remember that none, but those to whom it was given, have any apprehension
of the mysteries of God.



Chapter VIII. Rational Proofs To Establish The Belief Of The Scripture.


Without this certainty, better and stronger than any human judgment, in
vain will the authority of the Scripture be either defended by arguments,
or established by the consent of the Church, or confirmed by any other
supports; since, unless the foundation be laid, it remains in perpetual
suspense. Whilst, on the contrary, when, regarding it in a different point
of view from common things, we have once religiously received it in a
manner worthy of its excellence, we shall then derive great assistance
from things which before were not sufficient to establish the certainty of
it in our minds. For it is admirable to observe how much it conduces to
our confirmation, attentively to study the order and disposition of the
Divine Wisdom dispensed in it, the heavenly nature of its doctrine, which
never savours of any thing terrestrial, the beautiful agreement of all the
parts with each other, and other similar characters adapted to conciliate
respect to any writings. But our hearts are more strongly confirmed, when
we reflect that we are constrained to admire it more by the dignity of the
subjects than by the beauties of the language. For even this did not
happen without the particular providence of God, that the sublime
mysteries of the kingdom of heaven should be communicated, for the most
part, in a humble and contemptible style; lest, if they had been
illustrated with more of the splendour of eloquence, the impious might
cavil that their triumph is only the triumph of eloquence. Now, since that
uncultivated and almost rude simplicity procures itself more reverence
than all the graces of rhetoric, what opinion can we form, but that the
force of truth in the sacred Scripture is too powerful to need the
assistance of verbal art? Justly, therefore, does the apostle argue that
the faith of the Corinthians was founded, “not in the wisdom of men, but
in the power of God,” because his preaching among them was, “not with
enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of
power.”(130) For the truth is vindicated from every doubt, when,
unassisted by foreign aid, it is sufficient for its own support. But that
this is the peculiar property of the Scripture, appears from the
insufficiency of any human compositions, however artificially polished, to
make an equal impression on our minds. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read
Plato, Aristotle, or any others of that class; I grant that you will be
attracted, delighted, moved, and enraptured by them in a surprising
manner; but if, after reading them, you turn to the perusal of the sacred
volume, whether you are willing or unwilling, it will affect you so
powerfully, it will so penetrate your heart, and impress itself so
strongly on your mind, that, compared with its energetic influence, the
beauties of rhetoricians and philosophers will almost entirely disappear;
so that it is easy to perceive something divine in the sacred Scriptures,
which far surpasses the highest attainments and ornaments of human
industry.

II. I grant, indeed, that the diction of some of the prophets is neat and
elegant, and even splendid; so that they are not inferior in eloquence to
the heathen writers. And by such examples the Holy Spirit hath been
pleased to show, that he was not deficient in eloquence, though elsewhere
he hath used a rude and homely style. But whether we read David, Isaiah,
and others that resemble them, who have a sweet and pleasant flow of
words, or Amos the herdsman, Jeremiah, and Zechariah, whose rougher
language savours of rusticity,—that majesty of the Spirit, which I have
mentioned, is every where conspicuous. I am not ignorant that Satan in
many things imitates God, in order that, by the fallacious resemblance, he
may more easily insinuate himself into the minds of the simple; and has
therefore craftily disseminated, in unpolished and even barbarous
language, the most impious errors, by which multitudes have been miserably
deceived, and has often used obsolete forms of speech as a mask to conceal
his impostures. But the vanity and fraud of such affectation are visible
to all men of moderate understanding. With respect to the sacred
Scripture, though presumptuous men try to cavil at various passages, yet
it is evidently replete with sentences which are beyond the powers of
human conception. Let all the prophets be examined; not one will be found,
who has not far surpassed the ability of men; so that those to whom their
doctrine is insipid must be accounted utterly destitute of all true taste.

III. This argument has been copiously treated by other writers; wherefore
it may suffice at present merely to hint at a few things which chiefly
relate to the subject in a general view. Beside what I have already
treated on, the antiquity of the Scripture is of no small weight. For,
notwithstanding the fabulous accounts of the Greek writers concerning the
Egyptian theology, yet there remains no monument of any religion, but what
is much lower than the age of Moses. Nor does Moses invent a new deity; he
only makes a declaration of what the Israelites had, through a long series
of years, received by tradition from their forefathers concerning the
eternal God. For what does he aim at, but to recall them to the covenant
made with Abraham? If he had advanced a thing till then unheard of, it
would not have been received; but their liberation from the servitude in
which they were detained must have been a thing well known to them all; so
that the mention of it immediately excited universal attention. It is
probable also that they had been informed of the number of four hundred
years. Now, we must consider, if Moses (who himself preceded all other
writers by such a long distance of time) derives the tradition of his
doctrine from so remote a beginning, how much the sacred Scripture exceeds
in antiquity all other books.

IV. Unless any would choose to credit the Egyptians, who extend their
antiquity to six thousand years before the creation of the world. But
since their garrulity has been ridiculed even by all the profane writers,
I need not trouble myself with refuting it. Josephus, in his book against
Appion, cites from the most ancient writers testimonies worthy of being
remembered; whence we may gather, that the doctrine contained in the law
has, according to the consent of all nations, been renowned from the
remotest ages, although it was neither read nor truly understood. Now,
that the malicious might have no room for suspicion, nor even the wicked
any pretence for cavilling, God hath provided the most excellent remedies
for both these dangers. When Moses relates what Jacob had, almost three
hundred years before, by the spirit of inspiration pronounced concerning
his posterity, how does he disgrace his own tribe! He even brands it, in
the person of Levi, with perpetual infamy. “Simeon,” says he, “and Levi,
instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou
into their secret: unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou
united.”(131) He certainly might have been silent on that disgraceful
circumstance, not only to spare his father, but also to avoid aspersing
himself, as well as all his family, with part of the same ignominy. How
can any suspicion be entertained of him, who, voluntarily publishing, from
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the first of the family from
which he was descended was guilty of detestable conduct, neither consults
his own personal honours, nor refuses to incur the resentment of his
relations, to whom this must undoubtedly have given offence? When he
mentions also the impious murmurings of Aaron, his brother, and Miriam,
his sister,(132) shall we say that he spake according to the dictates of
the flesh, or obeyed the command of the Holy Spirit? Besides, as he
enjoyed the supreme authority, why did he not leave to his own sons, at
least, the office of the high‐priesthood, but place them in the lowest
station? I only hint at a few things out of many. But in the law itself
many arguments will every where occur, which challenge a full belief,
that, without controversy, the legation of Moses was truly divine.

V. Moreover, the miracles which he relates, and which are so numerous and
remarkable, are so many confirmations of the law which he delivered, and
of the doctrine which he published. For that he was carried up into the
mountain in a cloud; that he continued there forty days, deprived of all
human intercourse; that, in the act of proclaiming the law, his face shone
as with the rays of the sun; that lightnings flashed all around; that
thunders and various noises were heard through the whole atmosphere; that
a trumpet sounded, but a trumpet not blown by human breath; that the
entrance of the tabernacle was concealed from the view of the people by an
intervening cloud; that his authority was so miraculously vindicated by
the horrible destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all their
impious faction; that a rock smitten with a rod immediately emitted a
river; that manna rained from heaven at his request;(133)—are not all
these so many testimonies from heaven of his being a true prophet? If any
one object that I assume, as granted, things which are the subjects of
controversy, this cavil is easily answered. For, as Moses published all
these things in an assembly of the people, what room was there for fiction
among those who had been eye‐witnesses of the events? Is it probable that
he would make his appearance in public, and, accusing the people of
infidelity, contumacy, ingratitude, and other crimes, boast that his
doctrine had been confirmed in their sight by miracles which they had
never seen?

VI. For this also is worthy of being remarked, that all his accounts of
miracles are connected with such unpleasant circumstances, as were
calculated to stimulate all the people, if there had been but the smallest
occasion, to a public and positive contradiction; whence it appears, that
they were induced to coincide with him only by the ample conviction of
their own experience. But since the matter was too evident for profane
writers to take the liberty of denying the performance of miracles by
Moses, the father of lies has suggested the calumny of ascribing them to
magical arts. But by what kind of conjecture can they pretend to charge
him with having been a magician, who had so great an abhorrence of that
superstition, as to command, that he who merely consulted magicians and
soothsayers should be stoned?(134) Certainly no impostor practises such
juggling tricks, who does not make it his study, for the sake of acquiring
fame, to astonish the minds of the vulgar. But what is the practice of
Moses? Openly avowing that himself and his brother Aaron are nothing,(135)
but that they only execute the commands of God, he sufficiently clears his
character from every unfavourable aspersion. Now, if the events themselves
be considered, what incantation could cause manna to rain daily from
heaven sufficient to support the people, and, if any one laid up more than
the proper quantity, cause it to putrefy, as a punishment from God for his
unbelief? Add also the many serious examinations which God permitted his
servant to undergo, so that the clamour of the wicked can now be of no
avail. For as often as this holy servant of God was in danger of being
destroyed, at one time by proud and petulant insurrections of all the
people, at another by the secret conspiracies of a few,—how was it
possible for him to elude their inveterate rage by any arts of deception?
And the event evidently proves, that by these circumstances his doctrine
was confirmed to all succeeding ages.

VII. Moreover, who can deny that his assigning, in the person of the
patriarch Jacob, the supreme power to the tribe of Judah, proceeded from a
spirit of prophecy,(136) especially if we consider the eventual
accomplishment of this prediction? Suppose Moses to have been the first
author of it; yet after he committed it to writing, there elapsed four
hundred years in which we have no mention of the sceptre in the tribe of
Judah. After the inauguration of Saul, the regal power seemed to be fixed
in the tribe of Benjamin. When Samuel anointed David, what reason appeared
for transferring it? Who would have expected a king to arise out of the
plebeian family of a herdsman? And of seven brothers, who would have
conjectured that such an honour was destined for the youngest? And by what
means did he attain a hope of the kingdom? Who can assert that this
unction was directed by human art, or industry, or prudence, and was not
rather a completion of the prediction of heaven? And in like manner do not
his predictions, although obscure, concerning the admission of the
Gentiles into the covenant of God, which were accomplished almost two
thousand years after, clearly prove him to have spoken under a divine
inspiration? I omit other predictions, which so strongly savour of a
divine inspiration, that all who have the use of their reason must
perceive that it is God who speaks. In short, one song of his is a clear
mirror in which God evidently appears.(137)

VIII. But in the other prophets this is yet far more conspicuous. I shall
only select a few examples; for to collect all would be too laborious.
When, in the time of Isaiah, the kingdom of Judah was in peace, and even
when they thought themselves safe in the alliance of the Chaldeans, Isaiah
publicly spake of the destruction of the city and the banishment of the
people.(138) Now, even if to predict long before things which then seemed
false, but have since appeared to be true, were not a sufficiently clear
proof of a divine inspiration, to whom but God shall we ascribe the
prophecies which he uttered concerning their deliverance? He mentions the
name of Cyrus, by whom the Chaldeans were to be subdued, and the people
restored to liberty.(139) More than a century elapsed after this prophecy
before the birth of Cyrus; for he was not born till about the hundredth
year after the prophet’s death. No man could then divine, that there would
be one Cyrus, who would engage in a war with the Babylonians, who would
subjugate such a powerful monarchy, and release the people of Israel from
exile. Does not this bare narration, without any ornaments of diction,
plainly demonstrate that Isaiah delivered the undoubted oracles of God,
and not the conjectures of men? Again, when Jeremiah, just before the
people were carried away, limited the duration of their captivity to
seventy years, and predicted their liberation and return, must not his
tongue have been under the direction of the Spirit of God?(140) What
impudence must it be to deny that the authority of the prophets has been
confirmed by such proofs, or that what they themselves assert, in order to
vindicate the credit due to their declarations, has been actually
fulfilled! “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do
I declare: before they spring forth, I tell you of them.”(141) I shall not
speak of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who, living in distant countries, but
prophesying at the same time, so exactly accord in their declarations, as
though they had mutually dictated the words to each other. What shall we
say of Daniel? Has not he prophesied of the events of nearly six hundred
years in such a connected series, as if he were composing a history of
transactions already past and universally known? If pious men properly
consider these things, they will be sufficiently prepared to curb the
petulance of the wicked; for the demonstration is too clear to be liable
to any cavils.

IX. I know what is objected by some clamorous men, who would
ostentatiously display the force of their understanding in opposing divine
truth. For they inquire, Who has assured us that Moses and the prophets
actually wrote those books which bear their names? They even dare to
question whether such a man as Moses ever existed. But if any man should
call in question the existence of Plato, or Aristotle, or Cicero, who
would deny that such madness ought to receive corporal punishment? The law
of Moses has been wonderfully preserved, rather by the providence of
heaven than by the endeavours of men. And though, through the negligence
of the priests, it lay for a short time concealed, since it was found by
the pious king Josiah, it has continued in the hands of men through every
succeeding age.(142) Nor, indeed, did Josiah produce it as a thing unknown
or new, but as what had always been public, and the memory of which was
then famous. The protograph had been appointed to be kept in the temple,
and a transcript of it to be deposited in the royal archives;(143) only
the priests had discontinued their ancient custom of publishing the law,
and the people themselves had neglected their wonted reading of it: yet
there scarcely passed an age in which its sanction was not confirmed and
renewed. Were they, who had the writings of David, ignorant of Moses? But,
to speak of all at once, it is certain, that their writings descended to
posterity only from hand to hand, (so to speak,) through a long series of
years transmitted from the fathers, who partly had heard them speak, and
partly learned from others who heard them, while it was fresh in their
memory, that they had thus spoken.

X. With regard to what they object from the history of the Maccabees, to
diminish the credit of the Scripture, nothing could be conceived more
adapted to establish it. But first let us divest it of their artificial
colouring, and then retort upon them the weapon which they direct against
us. When Antiochus, say they, commanded all the books to be burned, whence
proceeded the copies which we now have? I, on the contrary, inquire, where
they could so speedily be fabricated. For it is evident, that, as soon as
the persecution subsided, they immediately appeared, and were, without
controversy, acknowledged as the same by all pious men; who, having been
educated in their doctrine, had been familiarly acquainted with them. Nay,
even when all the impious, as if by a general conspiracy, so wantonly
insulted the Jews, no man ever dared to charge them with forging their
books. For, whatever be their opinion of the Jewish religion, yet they
confess that Moses was the author of it. What, then, do these clamorous
objectors, but betray their own consummate impudence, when they slander,
as supposititious, books whose sacred antiquity is confirmed by the
consent of all histories? But, to waste no more useless labour in refuting
such stale calumnies, let us rather consider how carefully the Lord
preserved his own word, when, beyond all hope, he rescued it from the fury
of the most cruel of tyrants, as from a devouring fire;—that he endued the
pious priests and others with so much constancy, that they hesitated not
to redeem this treasure, if necessary, with their lives, to transmit it to
posterity; and that he frustrated the most diligent inquisition of so many
governors and soldiers. Who is there but must acknowledge it to have been
an eminent and wonderful work of God, that those sacred monuments, which
the impious had flattered themselves were utterly destroyed, were soon
public again, as it were, fully restored to mankind, and, indeed, with far
greater honour? For soon after followed the Greek Translation, which
published them throughout the world. Nor was God’s preserving the tables
of his covenant from the sanguinary edicts of Antiochus, the only instance
of his wonderful operation, but that, amidst such various miseries, with
which the Jewish nation was diminished and laid waste, and at last nearly
exterminated, these records still remained entire. The Hebrew language lay
not only despised, but almost unknown; and surely, had not God consulted
the interest of religion, it had been totally lost. For how much the Jews,
after their return from captivity, departed from the genuine use of their
native language, appears from the prophets of that age; which it is
therefore useful to observe, because this comparison more clearly evinces
the antiquity of the law and the prophets. And by whom hath God preserved
to us the doctrine of salvation contained in the law and the prophets,
that Christ might be manifested in due time? By his most inveterate
enemies, the Jews; whom Augustine therefore justly denominates the
librarians of the Christian Church, because they have furnished us with a
book of which themselves make no use.

XI. If we proceed to the New Testament, by what solid foundations is its
truth supported? Three Evangelists recite their history in a low and mean
style. Many proud men are disgusted with that simplicity, because they
attend not to the principal points of doctrine; whence it were easy to
infer, that they treat of heavenly mysteries which are above human
capacity. They who have a spark of ingenuous modesty will certainly be
ashamed, if they peruse the first chapter of Luke. Now, the discourses of
Christ, a concise summary of which is comprised in these three
Evangelists, easily exempt their writings from contempt. But John,
thundering from his sublimity, more powerfully than any thunderbolt,
levels to the dust the obstinacy of those whom he does not compel to the
obedience of faith. Let all those censorious critics whose supreme
pleasure consists in banishing all reverence for the Scripture out of
their own hearts and the hearts of others, come forth to public view. Let
them read the Gospel of John: whether they wish it or not, they will there
find numerous passages, which, at least, arouse their indolence; and which
will even imprint a horrible brand on their consciences to restrain their
ridicule. Similar is the method of Paul and of Peter, in whose writings,
though the greater part be blind, yet their heavenly majesty attracts
universal attention. But this one circumstance raises their doctrine
sufficiently above the world, that Matthew, who had before been confined
to the profit of his table, and Peter and John, who had been employed in
fishing‐boats,—all plain, unlettered men,—had learned nothing in any human
school which they could communicate to others. And Paul, from not only a
professed, but a cruel and sanguinary enemy, being converted to a new man,
proves, by his sudden and unhoped for change, that he was constrained, by
a command from heaven, to vindicate that doctrine which he had before
opposed. Let these men deny that the Holy Spirit descended on the
Apostles; or, at least, let them dispute the credibility of the history;
yet the fact itself loudly proclaims, that they were taught by the Spirit,
who, though before despised as some of the meanest of the people, suddenly
began to discourse in such a magnificent manner on the mysteries of
heaven.

XII. Besides, there are also other very substantial reasons why the
consent of the Church should have its weight. For it is not an unimportant
consideration, that, since the publication of the Scripture, so many
generations of men should have agreed in voluntarily obeying it; and that
however Satan, together with the whole world, has endeavoured by strange
methods to suppress or destroy it, or utterly to erase and obliterate it
from the memory of man, yet it has always, like a palm‐tree, risen
superior to all opposition, and remained invincible. Indeed, there has
scarcely ever been a sophist or orator of more than common abilities, who
has not tried his strength in opposing it; yet they have all availed
nothing. All the powers of the earth have armed themselves for its
destruction; but their attempts have all evaporated into smoke. How could
it have so firmly resisted attacks on every quarter, if it had been
supported only by human power? Indeed, an additional proof of its Divine
origin arises from this very circumstance, that, notwithstanding all the
strenuous resistance of men, it has, by its own power, risen superior to
every danger. Moreover, not one city, or one nation, only, has conspired
to receive and embrace it; but, as far as the world extends, it has
obtained its authority by the holy consent of various nations, who agreed
in nothing besides. And as such an agreement of minds, so widely distant
in place, and so completely dissimilar in manners and opinions, ought to
have great influence with us, since it is plain that it was effected only
by the power of heaven, so it acquires no small weight from a
consideration of the piety of those who unite in this agreement; not
indeed of all, but of those, who, it hath pleased the Lord, should shine
as luminaries in his Church.

XIII. Now, with what unlimited confidence should we submit to that
doctrine, which we see confirmed and witnessed by the blood of so many
saints! Having once received it, they hesitated not, with intrepid
boldness, and even with great alacrity, to die in its defence: transmitted
to us with such a pledge, how should we not receive it with a firm and
unshaken conviction? Is it therefore no small confirmation of the
Scripture, that it has been sealed with the blood of so many martyrs?
especially when we consider that they died to bear testimony to their
faith, not through intemperate fanaticism, as is sometimes the case with
men of erroneous minds, but through a firm and constant, yet sober zeal
for God. There are other reasons, and those neither few nor weak, by which
the native dignity and authority of the Scripture are not only maintained
in the minds of the pious, but also completely vindicated against the
subtleties of calumniators; but such as alone are not sufficient to
produce firm faith in it, till the heavenly Father, discovering his own
power therein, places its authority beyond all controversy. Wherefore the
Scripture will then only be effectual to produce the saving knowledge of
God, when the certainty of it shall be founded on the internal persuasion
of the Holy Spirit. Thus those human testimonies, which contribute to its
confirmation, will not be useless, if they follow that first and principal
proof, as secondary aids to our imbecility. But those persons betray great
folly, who wish it to be demonstrated to infidels that the Scripture is
the word of God, which cannot be known without faith. Augustine therefore
justly observes,(144) that piety and peace of mind ought to precede, in
order that a man may understand somewhat of such great subjects.



Chapter IX. The Fanaticism Which Discards The Scripture, Under The
Pretence Of Resorting To Immediate Revelations, Subversive Of Every
Principle Of Piety.


Persons who, abandoning the Scripture, imagine to themselves some other
way of approaching to God, must be considered as not so much misled by
error as actuated by frenzy. For there have lately arisen some unsteady
men, who, haughtily pretending to be taught by the Spirit, reject all
reading themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who still attend to
(what they style) the dead and killing letter. But I would ask them, what
spirit that is, by whose inspiration they are elevated to such a
sublimity, as to dare to despise the doctrine of the Scripture, as puerile
and mean. For, if they answer that it is the Spirit of Christ, how
ridiculous is such an assurance! for that the apostles of Christ, and
other believers in the primitive Church, were illuminated by no other
Spirit, I think they will concede. But not one of them learned, from his
teaching, to contemn the Divine word; they were rather filled with higher
reverence for it, as their writings abundantly testify. This had been
predicted by the mouth of Isaiah. For where he says, “My Spirit that is
upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart
out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, for ever,”(145) he
does not confine people under the old dispensation to the external letter,
as though they were children learning to read, but declares, that it will
be the true and complete felicity of the new Church, under the reign of
Christ, to be governed by the word of God, as well as by his Spirit.
Whence we infer, that these persons are guilty of detestable sacrilege, in
disjoining these two things, which the prophet has connected in an
inviolable union. Again; Paul, after he had been caught up into the third
heaven, did not cease to study the doctrine of the law and the prophets;
as he also exhorted Timothy, a teacher of more than common excellence, to
“give attendance to reading.”(146) And worthy of remembrance is his
eulogium on the Scripture, that it “is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of
God may be perfect.”(147) How diabolical, then, is that madness which
pretends that the use of the Scripture is only transient and temporary,
which guides the sons of God to the highest point of perfection! I would
also ask them another question—whether they have imbibed a different
spirit from that which the Lord promised to his disciples? Great as their
infatuation is, I do not think them fanatical enough to hazard such an
avowal. But what kind of Spirit did he promise? One, truly, who should
“not speak of himself,”(148) but suggest and instil into their minds those
things which he had orally delivered. The office of the Spirit, then,
which is promised to us, is not to feign new and unheard of revelations,
or to coin a new system of doctrine, which would seduce us from the
received doctrine of the Gospel, but to seal to our minds the same
doctrine which the Gospel delivers.

II. Hence we readily understand that it is incumbent on us diligently to
read and attend to the Scripture, if we would receive any advantage or
satisfaction from the Spirit of God; (thus also Peter(149) commends those
who studiously attended to the doctrine of the prophets, which yet might
be supposed to have retired after the light of the Gospel was risen;) but,
on the contrary, that if any spirit, neglecting the wisdom of the word of
God, obtrude on us another doctrine, he ought justly to be suspected of
vanity and falsehood. For, as Satan transforms himself into an angel of
light, what authority will the Spirit have with us, unless we can
distinguish him by the most certain criterion? We find him clearly
designated, indeed, in the word of the Lord; but these unhappy men are
fondly bent on delusion, even to their own destruction, seeking a spirit
rather from themselves than from him. But they plead, that it is unworthy
of the Spirit of God, to whom all things ought to be subject, to be made
subject to the Scripture; as though it were ignominious to the Holy Spirit
to be every where equal and uniform, in all things invariably consistent
with himself. If he were to be conformed to the rules of men, or of
angels, or of any other beings, I grant he might then be considered as
degraded, or even reduced to a state of servitude; but while he is
compared with himself, and considered in himself, who will assert that he
is thereby injured? This is bringing him to the test of examination. I
confess it is. But it is the way which he has chosen for the confirmation
of his majesty among us. We ought to be satisfied, as soon as he
communicates himself to us. But, lest the spirit of Satan should insinuate
himself under his name, he chooses to be recognized by us from his image,
which he hath impressed in the Scriptures. He is the author of the
Scriptures: he cannot be mutable and inconsistent with himself. He must
therefore perpetually remain such as he has there discovered himself to
be. This is not disgraceful to him; unless we esteem it honourable for him
to alter and degenerate from himself.

III. But their cavilling objection, that we depend on “the letter that
killeth,” shows, that they have not escaped the punishment due to the
despisers of the Scripture. For it is sufficiently evident, that Paul is
there contending against the false apostles,(150) who, recommending the
law to the exclusion of Christ, were seducing the people from the
blessings of the New Covenant, in which the Lord engages to engrave his
law in the minds of believers, and to inscribe it on their hearts. The
letter therefore is dead, and the law of the Lord slays the readers of it,
where it is separated from the grace of Christ, and only sounds in the
ears, without affecting the heart. But if it be efficaciously impressed on
our hearts by the Spirit,—if it exhibit Christ,—it is the word of life,
“converting the soul, making wise the simple,” &c.(151) But in the same
place the Apostle also calls his preaching “the ministration of the
Spirit;”(152) doubtless intending, that the Holy Spirit so adheres to his
own truth, which he hath expressed in the Scriptures, that he only
displays and exerts his power where the word is received with due
reverence and honour. Nor is this repugnant to what I before asserted,
that the word itself has not much certainty with us, unless when confirmed
by the testimony of the Spirit. For the Lord hath established a kind of
mutual connection between the certainty of his word and of his Spirit; so
that our minds are filled with a solid reverence for the word, when by the
light of the Spirit we are enabled therein to behold the Divine
countenance; and, on the other hand, without the least fear of mistake, we
gladly receive the Spirit, when we recognize him in his image, that is, in
the word. This is the true state of the case. God did not publish his word
to mankind for the sake of momentary ostentation, with a design to destroy
or annul it immediately on the advent of the Spirit; but he afterwards
sent the same Spirit, by whose agency he had dispensed his word, to
complete his work by an efficacious confirmation of that word. In this
manner Christ opened the understanding of his two disciples;(153) not
that, rejecting the Scriptures, they might be wise enough of themselves,
but that they might understand the Scriptures. So when Paul exhorts the
Thessalonians to “quench not the Spirit,”(154) he does not lead them to
empty speculations independent of the word; for he immediately adds,
“despise not prophesyings;” clearly intimating, that the light of the
Spirit is extinguished when prophecies fall into contempt. What answer can
be given to these things, by those proud fanatics, who think themselves
possessed of the only valuable illumination, when, securely neglecting and
forsaking the Divine word, they, with equal confidence and temerity,
greedily embrace every reverie which their distempered imaginations may
have conceived? A very different sobriety becomes the children of God;
who, while they are sensible that, exclusively of the Spirit of God, they
are utterly destitute of the light of truth, yet are not ignorant that the
word is the instrument, by which the Lord dispenses to believers the
illumination of his Spirit. For they know no other Spirit than that who
dwelt in and spake by the apostles; by whose oracles they are continually
called to the hearing of the word.



Chapter X. All Idolatrous Worship Discountenanced In The Scripture, By Its
Exclusive Opposition Of The True God To All The Fictitious Deities Of The
Heathen.


But, since we have shown that the knowledge of God, which is otherwise
exhibited without obscurity in the structure of the world, and in all the
creatures, is yet more familiarly and clearly unfolded in the word, it
will be useful to examine, whether the representation, which the Lord
gives us of himself in the Scripture, agrees with the portraiture which he
had before been pleased to delineate in his works. This is indeed an
extensive subject, if we intended to dwell on a particular discussion of
it. But I shall content myself with suggesting some hints, by which the
minds of the pious may learn what ought to be their principal objects of
investigation in Scripture concerning God, and may be directed to a
certain end in that inquiry. I do not yet allude to the peculiar covenant
which distinguished the descendants of Abraham from the rest of the
nations. For in receiving, by gratuitous adoption, those who were his
enemies into the number of his children, God even then manifested himself
as a Redeemer; but we are still treating of that knowledge which relates
to the creation of the world, without ascending to Christ the Mediator.
But though it will be useful soon to cite some passages from the New
Testament, (since that also demonstrates the power of God in the creation,
and his providence in the conservation of the world,) yet I wish the
reader to be apprized of the point now intended to be discussed, that he
may not pass the limits which the subject prescribes. At present, then,
let it suffice to understand how God, the former of heaven and earth,
governs the world which he hath made. Both his paternal goodness, and the
beneficent inclinations of his will, are every where celebrated; and
examples are given of his severity, which discover him to be the righteous
punisher of iniquities, especially where his forbearance produces no
salutary effects upon the obstinate.

II. In some places, indeed, we are favoured with more explicit
descriptions, which exhibit to our view an exact representation of his
genuine countenance. For Moses, in the description which he gives of it,
certainly appears to have intended a brief comprehension of all that it
was possible for men to know concerning him—“The Lord, the Lord God,
merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and
sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of
the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children.”(155)
Where we may observe, first, the assertion of his eternity and self‐
existence, in that magnificent name, which is twice repeated; and
secondly, the celebration of his attributes, giving us a description, not
of what he is in himself, but of what he is to us, that our knowledge of
him may consist rather in a lively perception, than in vain and airy
speculation. Here we find an enumeration of the same perfections which, as
we have remarked, are illustriously displayed both in heaven and on
earth—clemency, goodness, mercy, justice, judgment, and truth. For power
is comprised in the word Elohim, God. The prophets distinguish him by the
same epithets, when they intend a complete exhibition of his holy name.
But, to avoid the necessity of quoting many passages, let us content
ourselves at present with referring to one Psalm;(156) which contains such
an accurate summary of all his perfections, that nothing seems to be
omitted. And yet it contains nothing but what may be known from a
contemplation of the creatures. Thus, by the teaching of experience, we
perceive God to be just what he declares himself in his word. In Jeremiah,
where he announces in what characters he will be known by us, he gives a
description, not so full, but to the same effect—“Let him that glorieth
glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord,
which exercise loving‐kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the
earth.”(157) These three things it is certainly of the highest importance
for us to know—mercy, in which alone consists all our salvation; judgment,
which is executed on the wicked every day, and awaits them in a still
heavier degree to eternal destruction; righteousness, by which the
faithful are preserved, and most graciously supported. When you understand
these things, the prophecy declares that you have abundant reason for
glorying in God. Nor is this representation chargeable with an omission of
his truth, or his power, or his holiness, or his goodness. For how could
we have that knowledge, which is here required, of his righteousness,
mercy, and judgment, unless it were supported by his inflexible veracity?
And how could we believe that he governed the world in judgment and
justice, if we were ignorant of his power? And whence proceeds his mercy,
but from his goodness? If all his ways, then, are mercy, judgment, and
righteousness, holiness also must be conspicuously displayed in them.
Moreover, the knowledge of God, which is afforded us in the Scriptures, is
designed for the same end as that which we derive from the creatures: it
invites us first to the fear of God, and then to confidence in him; that
we may learn to honour him with perfect innocence of life, and sincere
obedience to his will, and to place all our dependence on his goodness.

III. But here I intend to comprise a summary of the general doctrine. And,
first, let the reader observe, that the Scripture, in order to direct us
to the true God, expressly excludes and rejects all the gods of the
heathen; because, in almost all ages, religion has been generally
corrupted. It is true, indeed, that the name of one supreme God has been
universally known and celebrated. For those who used to worship a
multitude of deities, whenever they spake according to the genuine sense
of nature, used simply the name of God, in the singular number, as though
they were contented with one God. And this was wisely remarked by Justin
Martyr, who for this purpose wrote a book _On the Monarchy of God_, in
which he demonstrates, from numerous testimonies, that the unity of God
was a principle universally impressed on the hearts of men. Tertullian
also proves the same point from the common phraseology.(158) But since all
men, without exception, have by their own vanity been drawn into erroneous
notions, and so their understandings have become vain, all their natural
perception of the Divine unity has only served to render them inexcusable.
For even the wisest of them evidently betray the vagrant uncertainty of
their minds, when they wish for some god to assist them, and in their vows
call upon unknown and fabulous deities. Besides, in imagining the
existence of many natures in God, though they did not entertain such
absurd notions as the ignorant vulgar concerning Jupiter, Mercury, Venus,
Minerva, and the rest, they were themselves by no means exempt from the
delusions of Satan; and, as we have already remarked, whatever subterfuges
their ingenuity has invented, none of the philosophers can exculpate
themselves from the crime of revolting from God by the corruption of his
truth. For this reason Habakkuk, after condemning all idols, bids us to
seek “the Lord in his holy temple,”(159) that the faithful might
acknowledge no other God than Jehovah, who had revealed himself in his
word.



Chapter XI. Unlawfulness Of Ascribing To God A Visible Form. All Idolatry
A Defection From The True God.


Now, as the Scripture, in consideration of the ignorance and dulness of
the human understanding, generally speaks in the plainest manner,—where it
intends to discriminate between the true God and all false gods, it
principally contrasts him with idols; not that it may sanction the more
ingenious and plausible systems of the philosophers, but that it may
better detect the folly and even madness of the world in researches
concerning God, as long as every one adheres to his own speculations. That
exclusive definition, therefore, which every where occurs, reduces to
nothing whatever notions of the Deity men may form in their own
imaginations; since God alone is a sufficient witness concerning himself.
In the mean time, since the whole world has been seized with such brutal
stupidity, as to be desirous of visible representations of the Deity, and
thus to fabricate gods of wood, stone, gold, silver, and other inanimate
and corruptible materials, we ought to hold this as a certain principle,
that, whenever any image is made as a representation of God, the Divine
glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood. Therefore God, in the law,
after having asserted the glory of Deity to belong exclusively to himself,
when he intends to show what worship he approves or rejects, immediately
adds, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness.”
In these words he forbids us to attempt a representation of him in any
visible figure; and briefly enumerates all the forms by which superstition
had already begun to change his truth into a lie. For the Persians, we
know, worshipped the sun; and the foolish heathen made for themselves as
many gods as they saw stars in the heavens. There was scarcely an animal,
indeed, which the Egyptians did not consider as an image of God. The
Greeks appeared wiser than the rest, because they worshipped the Deity
under the human form.(160) But God compares not idols with each other, as
though one were better or worse than another; but rejects, without a
single exception, all statues, pictures, and other figures, in which
idolaters imagined that he would be near them.

II. This it is easy to infer from the reasons which he annexes to the
prohibition. First, in the writings of Moses: “Take ye therefore good heed
unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude, on the day that the
Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the
voice of the words, but saw no similitude; lest ye corrupt yourselves, and
make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure,” &c.(161) We see
how expressly God opposes his “voice” to every “manner of similitude,” to
show, that whoever desires visible representations of him, is guilty of
departing from him. It will be sufficient to refer to one of the Prophets,
Isaiah,(162) who insists more than all the others on this argument, that
the Divine Majesty is dishonoured by mean and absurd fiction, when he that
is incorporeal is likened to a corporeal form; he that is invisible, to a
visible image; he that is a spirit, to inanimate matter; and he that fills
immensity, to a log of wood, a small stone, or a lump of gold. Paul also
reasons in the same manner: “Forasmuch, then, as we are the offspring of
God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver,
or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”(163) Whence it follows, that
whatever statues are erected, or images painted, to represent God, they
are only displeasing to him, as being so many insults to the Divine
Majesty. And why should we wonder at the Holy Spirit thundering forth such
oracles from heaven, since he compels the blind and wretched idolaters to
make a similar confession on earth? Well known is the complaint of Seneca,
which is cited by Augustine: “They dedicate (says he) the vilest and
meanest materials to represent the sacred, immortal, and inviolable gods;
and give them some a human form, and some a brutal one, and some a double
sex, and different bodies; and they confer the name of gods upon images
which, if animated, would be accounted monsters.” Hence it further appears
that the pretence set up by the advocates for idols, that they were
forbidden to the Jews because they were prone to superstition, is only a
frivolous cavil, to evade the force of the argument. As if truly that were
peculiarly applicable to one nation, which God deduces from his eternal
existence, and the invariable order of nature! Besides, Paul was not
addressing the Jews, but the Athenians, when he refuted the error of
making any similitude of God.

III. Sometimes indeed God hath discovered his presence by certain signs,
so that he was said to be seen “face to face;”(164) but all the signs
which he ever adopted, were well calculated for the instruction of men,
and afforded clear intimations of his incomprehensible essence. For “the
cloud, and the smoke, and the flame,”(165) though they were symbols of
celestial glory, nevertheless operated as a restraint on the minds of all,
to prevent their attempting to penetrate any further. Wherefore even Moses
(to whom he manifested himself more familiarly than to any other) obtained
not by his prayers a sight of the face of God, but received this answer:
“Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see my face and
live.”(166) The Holy Spirit once appeared in the form of a dove;(167) but,
as he presently disappeared again, who does not perceive that by this
momentary symbol the faithful are taught that they should believe the
Spirit to be invisible? that, being content with his power and grace, they
might make no external representation of him. The appearances of God in
the human form were preludes to his future manifestation in Christ.
Therefore the Jews were not permitted to make this a pretext for erecting
a symbol of Deity in the figure of a man. “The mercy seat”(168) also, from
which, under the law, God displayed the presence of his power, was so
constructed, as to suggest that the best contemplation of the Divine Being
is when the mind is transported beyond itself with admiration. For “the
cherubim” covered it with their extended wings; the veil was spread before
it; and the place itself was sufficiently concealed by its secluded
situation. It is manifestly unreasonable therefore to endeavour to defend
images of God and of the saints, by the example of those cherubim. For,
pray, what was signified by those little images but that images are not
calculated to represent the Divine mysteries? since they were formed in
such a manner as, by veiling the mercy seat with their wings, to prevent
not only the eyes, but all the human senses, from prying into God, and so
to restrain all temerity. Moreover, the Prophet describes the seraphim
whom he saw in a vision, as having “their faces covered;”(169) to signify,
that the splendour of the Divine glory is so great, that even the angels
themselves cannot steadfastly behold it; and the faint sparks of it, which
shine in the angels, are concealed from our view. The cherubim, however,
of which we are now speaking, are acknowledged by all persons of sound
judgment to have been peculiar to the old state of tutelage under the
legal dispensation. To adduce them, therefore, as examples for the
imitation of the present age, is quite absurd. For that puerile period, as
I may call it, for which such rudiments were appointed, is now past. And,
indeed, it is a shameful consideration, that heathen writers are more
expert interpreters of the Divine law than the papists. Juvenal reproaches
and ridicules the Jews for worshipping the white clouds and Deity of
heaven. This language, indeed, is perverse and impious; but in denying
that there was any image of God among them, he speaks with more truth than
the papists, who idly pretend that there was some visible figure of him.
But as that nation frequently broke out into idolatry, with great and
sudden impetuosity, resembling the violent ebullition of water from a
large spring, hence let us learn the strong propensity of the human mind
to idolatry, lest, imputing to the Jews a crime common to all, we should
be fascinated by the allurements of sin, and sleep the sleep of death.

IV. To the same purpose is that passage, “The idols of the heathen are
silver and gold, the work of men’s hands;”(170) for the Prophet concludes,
from the very materials, that they are no gods, whose images are made of
gold or of silver; and takes it for granted, that every conception we form
of the Deity, merely from our own understandings, is a foolish
imagination. He mentions gold and silver rather than clay or stone, that
the splendour or the value of the materials may procure no reverence for
the idols. But he concludes in general, that nothing is more improbable,
than that gods should be manufactured from any inanimate matter. At the
same time he insists equally on another point—that it is presumption and
madness in mortal men, who are every moment in danger of losing the
fleeting breath which they draw, to dare to confer upon idols the honour
due to God. Man is constrained to confess that he is a creature of a day,
and yet he will have a piece of metal to be worshipped as a god, of the
deity of which he is the author; for whence did idols originate, but in
the will of men? There is much propriety in that sarcasm of a heathen
poet, who represents one of their idols as saying, “Formerly, I was the
trunk of a wild fig‐tree, a useless log; when the artificer, after
hesitating whether he would make me a stool or a deity, at length
determined that I should be a god.”(171)

A poor mortal, forsooth, who is, as it were, expiring almost every moment,
will, by his workmanship, transfer to a dead stock the name and honour of
God. But as that Epicurean, in his satirical effusions, has paid no
respect to any religion,—leaving this sarcasm, and others of the same
kind, we should be stung and penetrated by the rebuke which the
Prophet(172) has given to the extreme stupidity of those, who, with the
same wood, make a fire to warm themselves, heat an oven for baking bread,
roast or boil their meat, and fabricate a god, before which they prostrate
themselves, to address their humble supplications. In another place,
therefore, he not only pronounces them transgressors of the law, but
reproaches them for not having learned from the foundations of the
earth;(173) since, in reality, there is nothing more unreasonable than the
thought of contracting the infinite and incomprehensible God within the
compass of five feet. And yet this monstrous abomination, which is
manifestly repugnant to the order of nature, experience demonstrates to be
natural to man. It must be further observed, that idols are frequently
stigmatized as being the works of men’s hands, unsanctioned by Divine
authority; in order to establish this principle, that all modes of worship
which are merely of human invention, are detestable. The Psalmist
aggravates this madness, forasmuch as men implore the aid of dead and
insensible things, who are imbued with understanding to know that all
things are directed solely by the power of God. But since the corruption
of nature carries all nations in general, and each individual in
particular, to such an excess of frenzy, the Spirit at length thunders out
this direful imprecation: “Let those that make them be like unto them and
every one that trusteth in them.”(174) Let it be observed, that all
similitudes are equally as much forbidden as graven images; which refutes
the foolish subterfuge of the Greeks; for they think themselves quite
safe, if they make no sculpture of Deity, while in pictures they indulge
greater liberty than any other nations. But the Lord prohibits every
representation of him, whether made by the statuary, or by any other
artificer, because all similitudes are criminal and insulting to the
Divine Majesty.

V. I know that it is a very common observation, that images are the books
of the illiterate. Gregory said so; but very different is the decision of
the Spirit of God, in whose school had Gregory been taught, he would never
have made such an assertion. For, since Jeremiah pronounces that “the
stock is a doctrine of vanities,”(175) since Habakkuk represents “a molten
image” as “a teacher of lies,”(176)—certainly the general doctrine to be
gathered from these passages is, that whatever men learn respecting God
from images is equally frivolous and false. If any one object, that the
Prophets only reprehended those who abuse images to the impious purposes
of superstition,—that indeed I grant; but affirm also, what is evident to
every one, that they utterly condemn what is assumed by the papists as an
indubitable axiom, that images are substitutes for books. For they
contrast images with the true God, as contraries, which can never agree.
This comparison, I say, is laid down in those passages which I have just
cited; that, since there is only one true God, whom the Jews worshipped,
there can be no visible figures made, to serve as representations of the
Divine Being, without falsehood and criminality; and all who seek the
knowledge of God from such figures are under a miserable delusion. Were it
not true, that all knowledge of God, sought from images, is corrupt and
fallacious, it would not be so uniformly condemned by the Prophets. This
at least must be granted to us, that, when we maintain the vanity and
fallaciousness of the attempts of men to make visible representations of
God, we do no other than recite the express declarations of the Prophets.

VI. Read likewise what has been written on this subject by Lactantius and
Eusebius, who hesitate not to assume as a certainty, that all those whose
images are to be seen, were mortal men. Augustine also confidently asserts
the unlawfulness, not only of worshipping images, but even of erecting any
with reference to God. Nor does he advance any thing different from what
had, many years before, been decreed by the Elibertine council, the
thirty‐sixth chapter of which is as follows: “It hath been decreed, that
no pictures be had in the churches, and that what is worshipped or adored
be not painted on the walls.” But most remarkable is what Augustine
elsewhere cites from Varro, and to the truth of which he subscribes—“That
they who first introduced images of the gods, removed fear and added
error.” If this had been a mere assertion of Varro alone, it might have
perhaps but little authority; yet it should justly fill us with shame,
that a heathen, groping as it were in the dark, attained so much light as
to perceive that corporeal representations were unworthy of the Divine
Majesty, being calculated to diminish the fear of God, and to increase
error among mankind. The fact itself demonstrates this to have been spoken
with equal truth and wisdom; but Augustine, having borrowed it from Varro,
advances it as his own opinion. And first he observes that the most
ancient errors concerning God, in which men were involved, did not
originate from images, but were increased by them, as by the superaddition
of new materials. He next explains that the fear of God is thereby
diminished, and even destroyed; since the foolish, ridiculous, and absurd
fabrication of idols would easily bring his Divinity into contempt. Of the
truth of this second remark, I sincerely wish that we had not such proofs
in our own experience. Whoever, therefore, desires to be rightly
instructed, he must learn from some other quarter than from images, what
is to be known concerning God.

VII. If the papists have any shame, let them no longer use this
subterfuge, that images are the books of the illiterate; which is so
clearly refuted by numerous testimonies from Scripture. Yet, though I
should concede this point to them, it would avail them but little in
defence of their idols. What monsters they obtrude in the place of Deity
is well known. But what they call the pictures or statues of their
saints—what are they but examples of the most abandoned luxury and
obscenity? which if any one were desirous of imitating, he would deserve
corporal punishment. Even prostitutes in brothels are to be seen in more
chaste and modest attire, than those images in their temples, which they
wish to be accounted images of virgins. Nor do they clothe the martyrs in
habits at all more becoming. Let them adorn their idols, then, with some
small degree of modesty, that the pretence of their being books of some
holiness, if not less false, may be less impudent. But even then, we will
reply, that this is not the method to be adopted in sacred places for the
instruction of the faithful, whom God will have taught a very different
doctrine from any that can be learned from such insignificant trifles. He
hath commanded one common doctrine to be there proposed to all, in the
preaching of his word, and in his sacred mysteries; to which they betray
great inattention of mind, who are carried about by their eyes to the
contemplation of idols. Whom, then, do the papists call illiterate, whose
ignorance will suffer them to be taught only by images? Those, truly, whom
the Lord acknowledges as his disciples; whom he honours with the
revelation of his heavenly philosophy; whom he will have instructed in the
healthful mysteries of his kingdom. I confess, indeed, as things are now
circumstanced, that there are at present not a few who cannot bear to be
deprived of such books. But whence arises this stupidity, but from being
defrauded of that teaching which alone is adapted to their instruction? In
fact, those who presided over the churches, resigned to idols the office
of teaching, for no other reason but because they were themselves dumb.
Paul testifies, that in the true preaching of this gospel, Christ is
“evidently set forth,” and, as it were, “crucified before our eyes.”(177)
To what purpose, then, was the erection of so many crosses of wood and
stone, silver and gold, every where in the temples, if it had been fully
and faithfully inculcated, that Christ died that he might bear our curse
on the cross, expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, cleanse us by
his blood, and, in a word, reconcile us to God the Father? From this
simple declaration they might learn more than from a thousand crosses of
wood or stone; for perhaps the avaricious fix their minds and their eyes
more tenaciously on the gold and silver crosses, than on any part of the
Divine word.

VIII. Respecting the origin of idols, the generally received opinion
agrees with what is asserted in the book of Wisdom;(178) namely, that the
first authors of them were persons who paid this honour to the dead, from
a superstitious reverence for their memory. I grant that this perverse
custom was very ancient, and deny not that it greatly contributed to
increase the rage of mankind after idolatry; nevertheless, I cannot
concede that it was the first cause of that evil. For it appears from
Moses, that idols were in use long before the introduction of that
ostentatious consecration of the images of the dead, which is frequently
mentioned by profane writers. When he relates that Rachel stole her
father’s idols,(179) he speaks as of a common corruption. Whence we may
infer, that the mind of man is, if I may be allowed the expression, a
perpetual manufactory of idols. After the deluge, there was, as it were, a
regeneration of the world; but not many years elapsed before men
fabricated gods according to their own fancy. And it is probable, that
while the holy patriarch was yet alive, his posterity were addicted to
idolatry, so that, with the bitterest grief, he might, with his own eyes,
behold the earth which God had lately purged from its corruptions by such
a dreadful judgment, again polluted with idols. For Terah and Nachor,
before the birth of Abraham, were worshippers of false gods, as is
asserted by Joshua.(180) Since the posterity of Shem so speedily
degenerated, what opinion must we entertain of the descendants of Ham, who
had already been cursed in their father? The true state of the case is,
that the mind of man, being full of pride and temerity, dares to conceive
of God according to its own standard; and, being sunk in stupidity, and
immersed in profound ignorance; imagines a vain and ridiculous phantom
instead of God. These evils are followed by another; men attempt to
express in the work of their hands such a deity as they have imagined in
their minds. The mind then begets the idol, and the hand brings it forth.
The example of the Israelites proves this to have been the origin of
idolatry, namely, that men believe not God to be among them, unless he
exhibit some external signs of his presence. “As for this Moses,” they
said, “we wot not what is become of him; make us gods which shall go
before us.”(181) They knew, indeed, that there was a God, whose power they
had experienced in so many miracles; but they had no confidence in his
being present with them, unless they could see some corporeal symbol of
his countenance, as a testimony of their Divine Guide. They wished,
therefore, to understand, from the image going before them, that God was
the leader of their march. Daily experience teaches, that the flesh is
never satisfied, till it has obtained some image, resembling itself, in
which it may be foolishly gratified, as an image of God. In almost all
ages, from the creation of the world, in obedience to this stupid
propensity, men have erected visible representations, in which they
believed God to be presented to their carnal eyes.

IX. Such an invention is immediately attended with adoration; for when men
supposed that they saw God in images, they also worshipped him in them. At
length, both their eyes and their minds being wholly confined to them,
they began to grow more stupid, and to admire them, as though they
possessed some inherent divinity. Now, it is plain that men did not rush
into the worship of images, till they had imbibed some very gross opinion
respecting them; not, indeed, that they believed them to be gods, but they
imagined that something of Divinity resided in them. When you prostrate
yourself, therefore, in adoration of an image, whether you suppose it to
represent God or a creature, you are already fascinated with superstition.
For this reason the Lord hath prohibited, not only the erection of statues
made as representations of him, but also the consecration of any
inscriptions or monuments to stand as objects of worship. For the same
reason, also, another point is annexed to the precept in the law
concerning adoration. For as soon as men have made a visible figure of
God, they attach Divine power to it. Such is the stupidity of men, that
they confine God to any image which they make to represent him, and
therefore cannot but worship it. Nor is it of any importance, whether they
worship simply the idol, or God in the idol; it is always idolatry, when
Divine honours are paid to an idol, under any pretence whatsoever. And as
God will not be worshipped in a superstitious or idolatrous manner,
whatever is conferred on idols is taken from him. Let this be considered
by those who seek such miserable pretexts for the defence of that
execrable idolatry, with which, for many ages, true religion has been
overwhelmed and subverted. The images, they say, are not considered as
gods. Neither were the Jews so thoughtless as not to remember, that it was
God by whose hand they had been conducted out of Egypt, before they made
the calf. But when Aaron said that those were the gods by whom they had
been liberated from Egypt, they boldly assented;(182) signifying,
doubtless, that they would keep in remembrance, that God himself was their
deliverer, while they could see him going before them in the calf. Nor can
we believe the heathen to have been so stupid, as to conceive that God was
no other than wood and stone. For they changed the images at pleasure, but
always retained in their minds the same gods; and there were many images
for one god; nor did they imagine to themselves gods in proportion to the
multitude of images: besides, they daily consecrated new images, but
without supposing that they made new gods. Read the excuses, which,
Augustine says,(183) were alleged by the idolaters of the age in which he
lived. When they were charged with idolatry, the vulgar replied, that they
worshipped, not the visible figure, but the Divinity that invisibly dwelt
in it. But they, whose religion was, as he expresses himself, more
refined, said, that they worshipped neither the image, nor the spirit
represented by it; but that in the corporeal figure they beheld a sign of
that which they ought to worship. What is to be inferred from this, but
that all idolaters, whether Jewish or Gentile, have been guided by the
notion which I have mentioned? Not content with a spiritual knowledge of
God, they thought that they should receive more clear and familiar
impressions of him by means of images. After they had once pleased
themselves with such a preposterous representation of God, they ceased not
from being deluded with new fallacies, till they imagined that God
displayed his power in images. Nevertheless, the Jews were persuaded that,
under such images, they worshipped the eternal God, the one true Lord of
heaven and earth; and the heathen, that they worshipped their false gods,
whom they pretended to be inhabitants of heaven.

X. Those who deny that this has been done in time past, and even within
our own remembrance, assert an impudent falsehood. For why do they
prostrate themselves before images? And when about to pray, why do they
turn themselves towards them, as towards the ears of God? For it is true,
as Augustine says,(184) “That no man prays or worships thus, looking on an
image, who is not impressed with an opinion that he shall be heard by it,
and a hope that it will do for him as he desires.” Why is there so great a
difference between images of the same god, that one is passed by with
little or no respect, and another is honoured in the most solemn manner?
Why do they fatigue themselves with votive pilgrimages, in going to see
images resembling those which they have at home? Why do they at this day
fight, even to slaughter and destruction, in defence of them, as of their
country and religion, so that they could part with the only true God more
easily than with their idols? Yet I am not here enumerating the gross
errors of the vulgar, which are almost infinite, and occupy nearly the
hearts of all; I only relate what they themselves allege, when they are
most anxious to exculpate themselves from idolatry. “We never,” say they,
“call them our gods.” Nor did the Jews or heathen in ancient times call
them their gods; and yet the Prophets, in all their writings, were
constantly accusing them of fornication with wood and stone, only on
account of such things as are daily practised by those who wish to be
thought Christians; that is, for worshipping God, by corporeal adoration
before figures of wood or stone.

XI. I am neither ignorant, nor desirous of concealing, that they evade the
charge by a more subtle distinction, which will soon be noticed more at
large. They pretend that the reverence which they pay to images is
ειδωλοδουλεια, (service of images,) but deny that it is ειδωλολατρεια
(worship of images.) For in this manner they express themselves, when they
maintain, that the reverence which they call _dulia_, may be given to
statues or pictures, without injury to God. They consider themselves,
therefore, liable to no blame, while they are only the servants of their
idols, and not worshippers of them; as though worship were not rather
inferior to service. And yet, while they seek to shelter themselves under
a Greek term, they contradict themselves in the most childish manner. For
since the Greek word λατρευειν signifies nothing else but to worship, what
they say is equivalent to a confession that they adore their images, but
without adoration. Nor can they justly object, that I am trying to insnare
them with words: they betray their own ignorance in their endeavours to
raise a mist before the eyes of the simple. But, however eloquent they may
be, they will never be able, by their rhetoric, to prove one and the same
thing to be two different things. Let them point out, I say, a difference
in fact, that they may be accounted different from ancient idolaters. For
as an adulterer, or homicide, will not escape the imputation of guilt, by
giving his crime a new and arbitrary name, so it is absurd that these
persons should be exculpated by the subtle invention of a name, if they
really differ in no respect from those idolaters whom they themselves are
constrained to condemn. But their case is so far from being different from
that of former idolaters, that the source of all the evil is a
preposterous emulation, with which they have rivalled them by exercising
their minds in contriving, and their hands in forming, visible symbols of
the Deity.

XII. Nevertheless, I am not so scrupulous as to think that no images ought
ever to be permitted. But since sculpture and painting are gifts of God, I
wish for a pure and legitimate use of both; lest those things, which the
Lord hath conferred on us for his glory and our benefit, be not only
corrupted by preposterous abuse, but even perverted to our ruin. We think
it unlawful to make any visible figure as a representation of God, because
he hath himself forbidden it, and it cannot be done without detracting, in
some measure, from his glory. Let it not be supposed that we are singular
in this opinion; for that all sound writers have uniformly reprobated the
practice, must be evident to persons conversant with their works. If,
then, it be not lawful to make any corporeal representation of God, much
less will it be lawful to worship it for God, or to worship God in it. We
conclude, therefore, that nothing should be painted and engraved but
objects visible to our eyes: the Divine Majesty, which is far above the
reach of human sight, ought not to be corrupted by unseemly figures. The
subjects of those arts consist partly of histories and transactions,
partly of images and corporeal forms, without reference to any
transactions. The former are of some use in information or recollection;
the latter, as far as I see, can furnish nothing but amusement. And yet it
is evident, that almost all the images, which have hitherto been set up in
the churches, have been of this latter description. Hence it may be seen,
that they were placed there, not with judgment and discrimination, but
from a foolish and inconsiderate passion for them. I say nothing here of
the impropriety and indecency conspicuous in most of them, and the wanton
licentiousness displayed in them by the painters and statuaries, at which
I have before hinted: I only assert, that even if they were intrinsically
faultless, still they would be altogether unavailing for the purposes of
instruction.

XIII. But, passing over that difference also, let us consider, as we
proceed, whether it be expedient to have any images at all in Christian
temples, either descriptive of historical events, or representative of
human forms. In the first place, if the authority of the ancient Church
have any influence with us, let us remember, that for about five hundred
years, while religion continued in a more prosperous state, and purer
doctrine prevailed, the Christian churches were generally without images.
They were then first introduced, therefore, to ornament the churches, when
the purity of the ministry had begun to degenerate. I will not dispute
what was the reason which influenced the first authors of them; but if you
compare one age with another, you will see that they were much declined
from the integrity of those who had no images. Who can suppose, that those
holy fathers would have permitted the Church to remain so long destitute
of what they judged useful and salutary for it? The fact was, that,
instead of omitting them through ignorance or negligence, they perceived
them to be of little or no use, but, on the contrary, pregnant with much
danger; and, therefore, intentionally and wisely rejected them. This is
asserted in express terms by Augustine: “When they are fixed,” says he,
“in those places in an honourable elevation, to attract the attention of
those who are praying and sacrificing, though they are destitute of sense
and life, yet, by the very similitude of living members and senses, they
affect weak minds, so that they appear to them to live and breathe,”
&c.(185) And in another place: “For that representation of members leads,
and, as it were, constrains, the mind, which animates a body, to suppose
that body to be endued with perception, which it sees to be very similar
to its own,” &c. And a little after: “Idols have more influence to bow
down an unhappy soul, because they have a mouth, eyes, ears, and feet,
than to correct it, because they neither speak, nor see, nor hear, nor
walk.” This indeed appears to be the reason of John’s exhortation to “keep
ourselves,” not only from the worship of idols, but “from idols”
themselves. And we have found it too true, that, through the horrible
frenzy, which, almost to the total destruction of piety, hath heretofore
possessed the world, as soon as images are set up in churches, there is,
as it were, a standard of idolatry erected; for the folly of mankind
cannot refrain from immediately falling into idolatrous worship. But, even
if the danger were less, yet, when I consider the use for which temples
were designed, it appears to me extremely unworthy of their sanctity, to
receive any other images, than those natural and expressive ones, which
the Lord hath consecrated in his word; I mean Baptism, and the Supper of
the Lord, and the other ceremonies, with which our eyes ought to be more
attentively engaged, and more sensibly affected, than to require any
others formed by human ingenuity. Behold the incomparable advantages of
images! the loss of which, if you believe the papists, nothing can
compensate.

XIV. The remarks already made on this subject, I think, would be
sufficient, if it were not necessary to take some notice of the Council of
Nice; not that very celebrated one, which was convened by Constantine the
Great, but that which was held about eight hundred years ago, by the
command, and under the auspices, of the Empress Irene. For that Council
decreed, not only that images should be had in churches, but also that
they should be worshipped. And, notwithstanding what I have advanced, the
authority of the Council would raise a strong prejudice on the contrary
side. Though, to confess the truth, I am not much concerned at this, as I
am to show the reader their extreme madness, whose fondness for images
exceeded any thing that was becoming in Christians. But let us despatch
this point first: the present advocates for the use of images, allege the
authority of that Nicene Council in their defence. There is a book extant,
written in refutation of this practice, under the name of Charlemagne;
which, from the diction, we may conclude was composed at the same time. In
this work are recited the opinions of the bishops who attended the
Council, and the arguments they used in the controversy. John, the
delegate of the Eastern churches, said, “God created man in his own
image;” and hence he inferred that we ought to have images. The same
prelate thought that images were recommended to us by this sentence: “Show
me thy face, for it is glorious.” Another, to prove that they ought to be
placed on the altars, cited this testimony: “No man lighteth a candle, and
putteth it under a bushel.” Another, to show the contemplation of these to
be useful to us, adduced a verse from a Psalm: “The light of thy
countenance, O Lord, is sealed upon us.” Another pressed this comparison
into his service: “As the patriarchs used the sacrifices of the heathen,
so Christians ought to have the images of saints, instead of the idols of
the heathen.” In the same manner they tortured that expression, “Lord, I
have loved the beauty of thy house.” But the most ingenious of all was
their interpretation of this passage: “As we have heard, so have we seen;”
that therefore God is known, not only by the hearing of his word, but by
the contemplation of images. Similar is the subtlety of Bishop Theodore:
“God is glorious in his saints.” And in another place it is said, “In the
saints that are in the earth:” therefore this ought to be referred to
images. But their impertinencies and absurdities are so disgusting, that I
am quite ashamed to repeat them.

XV. When they dispute concerning adoration, they bring forward Jacob’s
worshipping of Pharaoh, and of the staff of Joseph, and of the inscription
erected by himself; although, in this last instance, they not only corrupt
the sense of the Scripture, but allege what is nowhere to be found. These
passages also, “Worship his footstool;” “Worship in his holy hill;” and,
“All the rich of the people shall supplicate thy face;” they consider as
apposite and conclusive proofs. If any one wished to represent the
advocates for images in a ridiculous point of view, could he possibly
ascribe to them greater and grosser instances of folly? But, that no doubt
of this might remain, Theodosius, bishop of Mira, defends the propriety of
worshipping images from the dreams of his archdeacon, as seriously as if
he had an immediate revelation from heaven. Now, let the advocates of
images go and urge upon us the decree of that Council; as though those
venerable fathers had not entirely destroyed all their credit by such
puerile treatment of the sacred Scriptures, or such impious and shameful
mutilation of them.

XVI. I come now to those prodigies of impiety, which it is wonderful that
they ever ventured to broach; and more wonderful still, that they have not
been opposed with universal detestation. It is right to expose this
flagitious madness, that the worship of images may at least be deprived of
the pretence of antiquity, which the papists falsely urge in its favour.
Theodosius, bishop of Amorum, denounces an anathema against all who are
averse to the worship of images. Another imputes all the calamities of
Greece and the East to the crime of not having worshipped them. What
punishments, then, did the Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs deserve, in
whose time images were unknown? They add further, If the image of the
emperor be met by processions with perfumes and incense, much more is this
honour due to the images of the saints. Constantius, bishop of Constance,
in Cyprus, professes his reverence for images, and avows that he will pay
them the same worship and honour as is due to the Trinity, the source of
all life; and whoever refuses to do the same, he anathematizes and
dismisses with the Manichees and Marcionites. And, lest you should suppose
this to be the private opinion of an individual, they all declare their
assent to it. John, the delegate of the Eastern churches, carried by the
fervour of his zeal to still greater lengths, asserts it to be better to
admit all the brothels of the world into one city, than to reject the
worship of images. At length it was unanimously decreed, that the
Samaritans were worse than all heretics, and that the adversaries of
images were worse than the Samaritans. But, that the farce might not want
its usual plaudit, they add this clause: “Let them rejoice and exult, who
have the image of Christ, and offer sacrifice to it.” Where is now the
distinction of _latria_ and _dulia_, with which they attempt to deceive
both God and men? For the Council gives the same honour, without any
exception, to images and to the living God.



Chapter XII. God Contradistinguished From Idols, That He May Be Solely And
Supremely Worshipped.


We said, at the beginning, that the knowledge of God consists not in
frigid speculation, but is accompanied by the worship of him. We also
cursorily touched on the right method of worshipping him, which will be
more fully explained in other places. I now only repeat, in few words,
that whenever the Scripture asserts that there is but one God, it contends
not for the bare name, but also teaches, that whatever belongs to the
Deity, should not be transferred to another. This shows how pure religion
differs from idolatry. The Greek word ευσεβεια certainly signifies right
worship, since even blind mortals, groping in the dark, have always
perceived the necessity of some certain rule, that the worship of God may
not be involved in disorder and confusion. Although Cicero ingeniously and
correctly derives the word _religion_ from a verb signifying “to read over
again,” or “to gather again;” yet the reason he assigns for it, that good
worshippers often recollect, and diligently reconsider what is true, is
forced and far‐fetched. I rather think the word is opposed to a liberty of
wandering without restraint; because the greater part of the world rashly
embrace whatever they meet with, and also ramble from one thing to
another; but piety, in order to walk with a steady step, collects itself
within its proper limits. The word _superstition_ also appears to me to
import a discontent with the method and order prescribed, and an
accumulation of a superfluous mass of vain things. But to leave the
consideration of words, it has been generally admitted, in all ages, that
religion is corrupted and perverted by errors and falsehoods; whence we
infer, that when we allow ourselves any thing from inconsiderate zeal, the
pretext alleged by the superstitious is altogether frivolous. Although
this confession is in the mouths of all, they betray, at the same time, a
shameful ignorance, neither adhering to the one true God, nor observing
any discrimination in his worship, as we have before shown. But God, to
assert his own right, proclaims that he is “jealous,” and will be a severe
avenger, if men confound him with any fictitious deity; and then, to
retain mankind in obedience, he defines his legitimate worship. He
comprises both in his law, where he first binds the faithful to himself,
as their sole legislator; and then prescribes a rule for the right worship
of him according to his will. Now, of the law, since the uses and ends of
it are various, I shall treat in its proper place: at present, I only
remark, that it sets up a barrier to prevent men turning aside to corrupt
modes of worship. Let us remember, what I have already stated, that,
unless every thing belonging to Divinity remain in God alone, he is
spoiled of his honour, and his worship is violated. And here it is
necessary to animadvert more particularly on the subtle fallacies of
superstition. For it revolts not to strange gods, in such a manner as to
appear to desert the supreme God, or to degrade him to a level with
others; but, allowing him the highest place, it surrounds him with a
multitude of inferior deities, among whom it distributes his honours; and
thus, in a cunning and hypocritical manner, the glory of Divinity is
divided among many, instead of remaining wholly in one. Thus the ancient
idolaters, Jews as well as Gentiles, imagined one God, the Father and
Governor of all, and subordinate to him a vast multitude of other deities;
to whom, in common with the supreme God, they attributed the government of
heaven and earth. Thus the saints, who departed out of this life some ages
ago, are exalted to the society of God, to be worshipped, and invoked, and
celebrated like him. We suppose, indeed, the glory of God not to be
sullied with this abomination; whereas it is, in a great measure,
suppressed and extinguished, except that we retain some faint notion of
his supreme power; but, at the same time, deceived with such impostures,
we are seduced to the worship of various deities.

II. On this account was invented the distinction of _latria_ and _dulia_,
as they express themselves, by which they conceived they might safely
ascribe divine honours to angels and deceased men. For it is evident, that
the worship which papists pay to the saints, differs not in reality from
the worship of God; for they adore God and them promiscuously; but when
they are accused of it, they evade the charge with this subterfuge, that
they preserve inviolate to God what belongs to him, because they leave him
λατρεια. But since the question relates to a thing, not to a word, who can
bear their careless trifling on the most important of all subjects? But,
to pass this also, they will gain nothing at last by their distinction,
but that they render worship to God alone, and service to the saints. For
λατρεια, in Greek, signifies the same as _cultus_ in Latin, [and _worship_
in English;] but δουλεια properly signifies _servitus_, [_service_;] and
yet, in the Scriptures, this distinction is sometimes disregarded. But,
suppose it to be a constant distinction, it remains to be inquired, what
is the meaning of each term. Λατρεια is _worship_; δουλεια is _service_.
Now, no one doubts, that to serve is more than to worship or honour. For
it would be irksome to serve many persons, whom you would not refuse to
honour. So unjust is the distribution, to assign the greater to the
saints, and leave to God that which is less. But many of the ancients, it
is urged, have used this distinction. What is that to the purpose, if
every one perceives it to be not only improper, but altogether frivolous?

III. Leaving these subtleties, let us consider the subject itself. Paul,
when he reminds the Galatians what they had been before they were
illuminated in the knowledge of God, says, that they “did service to them
which by nature were no gods.”(186) Though he mentions not λατρεια,
(worship,) is their idolatry therefore excusable? He certainly condemns
that perverse superstition, which he denominates δουλεια, (service,)
equally as much as if he had used the word λατρεια, (worship.) And when
Christ repels the assault of Satan with this shield, “It is written, Thou
shalt worship the Lord thy God,”(187) the word λατρεια came not into the
question; for Satan required nothing but προσκυνησις, (prostration, or
adoration.) So, when John is reprehended by an angel, for having fallen on
his knees before him,(188) we must not understand that John was so stupid
as to intend to transfer to an angel the honour due exclusively to God.
But since all worship, that is connected with religion, cannot but savour
of Divine, he could not (προσκυνειν) prostrate himself before the angel,
without detracting from the glory of God. We read, indeed, frequently, of
men having been worshipped; but that was civil honour, so to speak;
religion has a different design; and no sooner is religion connected with
worship, or homage, than it produces a profanation of the Divine honour.
We may see the same in Cornelius, who had not made such a small progress
in piety, as not to ascribe supreme worship to God alone. When he “fell
down” before Peter, therefore, it certainly was not with an intention of
worshipping him instead of God:(189) yet Peter positively forbade him to
do it. And why was this, but because men never so particularly distinguish
between the worship or homage of God, and that of the creatures, as to
avoid transferring to a creature what belongs exclusively to God?
Wherefore, if we desire to have but one God, let us remember, that his
glory ought not, in the least, to be diminished; but that he must retain
all that belongs to him. Therefore Zechariah, when speaking of the
restoration of the Church, expressly declares, not only that “there shall
be one Lord,” but also “that his name shall be one;”(190) signifying,
without doubt, that he will have nothing in common with idols. Now, what
kind of worship God requires, will be seen, in due course, in another
place. For he hath been pleased, in his law, to prescribe to mankind what
is lawful and right; and so to confine them to a certain rule, that every
individual might not take the liberty of inventing a mode of worship
according to his own fancy. But, since it is not proper to burden the
reader, by confounding many subjects together, I shall not enter on that
point yet; let it suffice to know, that no religious services can be
transferred to any other than God alone, without committing sacrilege. At
first, indeed, superstition ascribed Divine honours either to the sun, or
to the other stars, or to idols. Afterwards followed ambition, which,
adorning men with the spoils of God, dared to profane every thing that was
sacred. And although there remained a persuasion, that they ought to
worship a supreme God, yet it became customary to offer sacrifices
promiscuously to genii, and inferior deities, and deceased heroes. So
steep is the descent to this vice, to communicate to a vast multitude that
which God particularly challenges to himself alone!



Chapter XIII. One Divine Essence, Containing Three Persons; Taught In The
Scriptures From The Beginning.


What is taught in the Scriptures concerning the immensity and spirituality
of the essence of God, should serve not only to overthrow the foolish
notions of the vulgar, but also to refute the subtleties of profane
philosophy. One of the ancients,(191) in his own conception very shrewdly,
said, that whatever we see, and whatever we do not see, is God. But he
imagined that the Deity was diffused through every part of the world. But,
although God, to keep us within the bounds of sobriety, speaks but rarely
of his essence, yet, by those two attributes, which I have mentioned, he
supersedes all gross imaginations, and represses the presumption of the
human mind. For, surely, his immensity ought to inspire us with awe, that
we may not attempt to measure him with our senses; and the spirituality of
his nature prohibits us from entertaining any earthly or carnal
speculations concerning him. For the same reason, he represents his
residence to be “in heaven;” for though, as he is incomprehensible, he
fills the earth also; yet, seeing that our minds, from their dulness, are
continually dwelling on the earth, in order to shake off our sloth and
inactivity, he properly raises us above the world. And here is demolished
the error of the Manichees, who, by maintaining the existence of two
original principles, made the devil, as it were, equal to God. This
certainly was both dividing the unity of God, and limiting his immensity.
For their daring to abuse certain testimonies of Scripture betrayed a
shameful ignorance; as the error itself evidenced an execrable madness.
The Anthropomorphites also, who imagined God to be corporeal, because the
Scripture frequently ascribes to him a mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet,
are easily refuted. For who, even of the meanest capacity, understands
not, that God lisps, as it were, with us, just as nurses are accustomed to
speak to infants? Wherefore, such forms of expression do not clearly
explain the nature of God, but accommodate the knowledge of him to our
narrow capacity; to accomplish which, the Scripture must necessarily
descend far below the height of his majesty.

II. But he also designates himself by another peculiar character, by which
he may be yet more clearly distinguished; for, while he declares himself
to be but One, he proposes himself to be distinctly considered in Three
Persons, without apprehending which, we have only a bare and empty name of
God floating in our brains, without any idea of the true God. Now, that no
one may vainly dream of three gods, or suppose that the simple essence of
God is divided among the three Persons, we must seek for a short and easy
definition, which will preserve us from all error. But since some
violently object to the word Person, as of human invention, we must first
examine the reasonableness of this objection. When the Apostle denominates
the Son the express image of the hypostasis of the Father, he undoubtedly
ascribes to the Father some subsistence, in which he differs from the Son.
For to understand this word as synonymous with Essence, (as some
interpreters have done, as though Christ, like wax impressed with a seal,
represented in himself the substance of the Father,) were not only harsh,
but also absurd. For the essence of God being simple and indivisible, he
who contains all in himself, not in part, or by derivation, but in
complete perfection, could not, without impropriety, and even absurdity,
be called the express image of it. But since the Father, although
distinguished by his own peculiar property, hath expressed himself
entirely in his Son, it is with the greatest reason asserted that he hath
made his hypostasis conspicuous in him; with which the other appellation,
given him in the same passage, of “the brightness of his glory,” exactly
corresponds. From the words of the Apostle, we certainly conclude, that
there is in the Father a proper hypostasis, which is conspicuous in the
Son. And thence also we easily infer the hypostasis of the Son, which
distinguishes him from the Father. The same reasoning is applicable to the
Holy Spirit; for we shall soon prove him also to be God; and yet he must,
of necessity, be considered as distinct from the Father. But this is not a
distinction of the essence, which it is unlawful to represent as any other
than simple and undivided. It follows, therefore, if the testimony of the
Apostle be credited, that there are in God three _hypostases_. And, as the
Latins have expressed the same thing by the word _person_, it is too
fastidious and obstinate to contend about so clear a matter. If we wish to
translate word for word, we may call it _subsistence_. Many, in the same
sense, have called it _substance_. Nor has the word _person_ been used by
the Latins only; but the Greeks also, for the sake of testifying their
consent to this doctrine, taught the existence of three προσωπα (persons)
in God. But both Greeks and Latins, notwithstanding any verbal difference,
are in perfect harmony respecting the doctrine itself.

III. Now, though heretics rail at the word _person_, or some morose and
obstinate men clamorously refuse to admit a name of human invention; since
they cannot make us assert that there are three, each of whom is entirely
God, nor yet that there are more gods than one, how very unreasonable is
it to reprobate words which express nothing but what is testified and
recorded in the Scriptures! It were better, say they, to restrain not only
our thoughts, but our expressions also, within the limits of the
Scripture, than to introduce exotic words, which may generate future
dissensions and disputes; for thus we weary ourselves with verbal
controversies; thus the truth is lost in altercation; thus charity expires
in odious contention. If they call every word exotic, which cannot be
found in the Scriptures in so many syllables, they impose on us a law
which is very unreasonable, and which condemns all interpretation, but
what is composed of detached texts of Scripture connected together. But if
by exotic they mean that which is curiously contrived, and superstitiously
defended, which tends to contention more than to edification, the use of
which is either unseasonable or unprofitable, which offends pious ears
with its harshness, and seduces persons from the simplicity of the Divine
word, I most cordially embrace their modest opinion. For I think that we
ought to speak of God with the same religious caution, which should govern
our thoughts of him; since all the thoughts that we entertain concerning
him merely from ourselves, are foolish, and all our expressions absurd.
But there is a proper medium to be observed: we should seek in the
Scriptures a certain rule, both for thinking and for speaking; by which we
may regulate all the thoughts of our minds, and all the words of our
mouths. But what forbids our expressing, in plainer words, those things
which, in the Scriptures, are, to our understanding, intricate and
obscure, provided our expressions religiously and faithfully convey the
true sense of the Scripture, and are used with modest caution, and not
without sufficient occasion? Of this, examples sufficiently numerous are
not wanting. But, when it shall have been proved, that the Church was
absolutely necessitated to use the terms Trinity and Persons, if any one
then censures the novelty of the words, may he not be justly considered as
offended at the light of the truth? as having no other cause of censure,
but that the truth is explained and elucidated?

IV. But such verbal novelty (if it must have this appellation) is
principally used, when the truth is to be asserted in opposition to
malicious cavillers, who elude it by crafty evasions; of which we have too
much experience in the present day, who find great difficulty in refuting
the enemies of pure and sound doctrine: possessed of serpentine lubricity,
they escape by the most artful expedients, unless they are vigorously
pursued, and held fast when once caught. Thus the ancients, pestered with
various controversies against erroneous dogmas, were constrained to
express their sentiments with the utmost perspicuity, that they might
leave no subterfuges to the impious, who availed themselves of obscure
expressions, for the concealment of their errors. Unable to resist the
clear testimonies of the Scriptures, Arius confessed Christ to be God, and
the Son of God; and, as though this were all that was necessary, he
pretended to agree with the Church at large. But, at the same time, he
continued to maintain that Christ was created, and had a beginning like
other creatures. To draw the versatile subtlety of this man from its
concealment, the ancient Fathers proceeded further, and declared Christ to
be the eternal Son of the Father, and consubstantial with the Father. Here
impiety openly discovered itself, when the Arians began inveterately to
hate and execrate the name ὁμοούσιος, (consubstantial.) But if, in the
first instance, they had sincerely and cordially confessed Christ to be
God, they would not have denied him to be consubstantial with the Father.
Who can dare to censure those good men, as quarrelsome and contentious,
for having kindled such a flame of controversy, and disturbed the peace of
the Church on account of one little word? That little word distinguished
Christians, who held the pure faith, from sacrilegious Arians. Afterwards
arose Sabellius, who considered the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
as little more than empty sounds; arguing, that they were not used on
account of any real distinction, but were different attributes of God,
whose attributes of this kind are numerous. If the point came to be
controverted, he confessed, that he believed the Father to be God, the Son
God, and the Holy Spirit God; but he would readily evade all the force of
this confession, by adding, that he had said no other than if he had
called God potent, and just, and wise. And thus he came to another
conclusion, that the Father is the Son, and that the Holy Spirit is the
Father, without any order or distinction. The good doctors of that age,
who had the interest of religion at heart, in order to counteract the
wickedness of this man, maintained, on the contrary, that they ought
really to acknowledge three peculiar properties in one God. And, to defend
themselves against his intricate subtleties, by the plain and simple
truth, they affirmed, that they truly subsisted in the one God; or, what
is the same, that in the unity of God there subsisted a trinity of
Persons.

V. If, then, the words have not been rashly invented, we should beware
lest we be convicted of fastidious temerity in rejecting them. I could
wish them, indeed, to be buried in oblivion, provided this faith were
universally received, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are the one
God; and that nevertheless the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit the
Son, but that they are distinguished from each other by some peculiar
property. I am not so rigidly precise as to be fond of contending for mere
words. For I observe that the ancients, who otherwise speak on these
subjects with great piety, are not consistent with each other, nor, in all
cases, with themselves. For what forms of expression, adopted by councils,
does Hilary excuse! To what extremes does Augustine sometimes proceed! How
different are the Greeks from the Latins! But of this variation, let one
example suffice: when the Latins would translate the word ὁμοούσιος, they
called it _consubstantial_, signifying the _substance_ of the Father and
the Son to be one, and thus using _substance_ for _essence_. Whence also
Jerome, writing to Damasus, pronounces it to be sacrilege to say that
there are three _substances_ in God. Yet, that there are three
_substances_ in God, you will find asserted in Hilary more than a hundred
times. But how perplexed is Jerome on the word _hypostasis_! For he
suspects some latent poison in the assertion, that there are three
_hypostases_ in God. And if any one uses this word in a pious sense, he
refrains not from calling it an improper expression; if, indeed, he was
sincere in this declaration, and did not rather knowingly and wilfully
endeavour to asperse, with a groundless calumny, the bishops of the East,
whom he hated. He certainly discovers not much ingenuousness in affirming
that, in all the profane schools, οὐσία (essence) is the same as
ὑπόστασις, (hypostasis,) which the trite and common use of the words
universally contradicts. More modesty and liberality are discovered by
Augustine, who, though he asserts that the word _hypostasis_, in this
sense, is new to Latin ears, yet leaves the Greeks their usual
phraseology, and even peaceably tolerates the Latins, who had imitated
their language; and the account of Socrates, in the sixth book of his
Tripartite History, seems to imply, that it was by ignorant men that it
had first been improperly applied to this subject. The same Hilary accuses
the heretics of a great crime, in constraining him, by their wickedness,
to expose to the danger of human language those things which ought to be
confined within the religion of the mind; plainly avowing that this is to
do things unlawful, to express things inexpressible, to assume things not
conceded. A little after, he largely excuses himself for his boldness in
bringing forward new terms; for, when he has used the names of nature,
Father, Son, and Spirit, he immediately adds, that whatever is sought
further, is beyond the signification of language, beyond the reach of our
senses, beyond the conception of our understanding. And, in another place,
he pronounces that happy were the bishops of Gaul, who had neither
composed, nor received, nor even known, any other confession but that
ancient and very simple one, which had been received in all the churches
from the days of the Apostles. Very similar is the excuse of Augustine,
that this word was extorted by necessity, on account of the poverty of
human language on so great a subject, not for the sake of expressing what
God is, but to avoid passing it over in total silence, that the Father,
Son, and Spirit are three. This moderation of those holy men should teach
us, not to pass such severe censures on those who are unwilling to
subscribe to expressions adopted by us, provided they are not actuated by
pride, perverseness, or disingenuous subtlety. But let them also, on the
other hand, consider the great necessity which constrains us to use such
language, that, by degrees, they may at length be accustomed to a useful
phraseology. Let them also learn to beware, since we have to oppose the
Arians on one side, and the Sabellians on the other, lest, while they take
offence at both these parties being deprived of all opportunity of
evasion, they cause some suspicion that they are themselves the disciples
either of Arius or of Sabellius. Arius confesses, “that Christ is God;”
but maintains also, “that he was created, and had a beginning.” He
acknowledges that Christ is “one with the Father;” but secretly whispers
in the ears of his disciples, that he is “united to him,” like the rest of
the faithful, though by a singular privilege. Say that he is
_consubstantial_, you tear off the mask from the hypocrite, and yet you
add nothing to the Scriptures. Sabellius asserts, “that the names Father,
Son, and Spirit, are expressive of no distinction in the Godhead.” Say
that they are three, and he will exclaim, that you are talking of “three
gods.” Say, “that in the one essence of God there is a trinity of
Persons,” and you will at once express what the Scriptures declare, and
will restrain such frivolous loquacity. Now, if any persons are prevented,
by such excessive scrupulousness, from admitting these terms, yet not one
of them can deny, that, when the Scripture speaks of one God, it should be
understood of a unity of substance; and that, when it speaks of three in
one essence, it denotes the Persons in this trinity. When this is honestly
confessed, we have no further concern about words. But I have found, by
long and frequent experience, that those who pertinaciously contend about
words, cherish some latent poison; so that it were better designedly to
provoke their resentment, than to use obscure language for the sake of
obtaining their favour.

VI. But, leaving the dispute about terms, I shall now enter on the
discussion of the subject itself. What I denominate a Person, is a
subsistence in the Divine essence, which is related to the others, and yet
distinguished from them by an incommunicable property. By the word
_subsistence_ we mean something different from the word _essence_. For, if
the _Word_ were simply God, and had no peculiar property, John had been
guilty of impropriety in saying that he was always _with God_.(192) When
he immediately adds, that _the Word_ also _was God_, he reminds us of the
unity of the essence. But because he could not be _with God_, without
subsisting in the Father, hence arises that subsistence, which, although
inseparably connected with the essence, has a peculiar mark, by which it
is distinguished from it. Now, I say that each of the three subsistences
has a relation to the others, but is distinguished from them by a peculiar
property. We particularly use the word _relation_, (or _comparison_,)
here, because, when mention is made simply and indefinitely of God, this
name pertains no less to the Son and Spirit, than to the Father. But
whenever the Father is compared with the Son, the property peculiar to
each distinguishes him from the other. Thirdly, whatever is proper to each
of them, I assert to be incommunicable, because whatever is ascribed to
the Father as a character of distinction, cannot be applied or transferred
to the Son. Nor, indeed, do I disapprove of the definition of Tertullian,
if rightly understood: “That there is in God a certain distribution or
economy, which makes no change in the unity of the essence.”

VII. But before I proceed any further, I must prove the Deity of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit; after which we shall see how they differ from each
other. When the Scripture speaks of _the Word of God_, it certainly were
very absurd to imagine it to be only a transient and momentary sound,
emitted into the air, and coming forth from God himself; of which nature
were the oracles, given to the fathers, and all the prophecies. It is
rather to be understood of the eternal wisdom residing in God, whence the
oracles, and all the prophecies, proceeded. For, according to the
testimony of Peter,(193) the ancient Prophets spake by the Spirit of
Christ no less than the Apostles and all the succeeding ministers of the
heavenly doctrine. But, as Christ had not yet been manifested, we must
necessarily understand that the Word was begotten of the Father before the
world began. And if the Spirit that inspired the Prophets was the Spirit
of the Word, we conclude, beyond all doubt, that the Word was truly God.
And this is taught by Moses, with sufficient perspicuity, in the creation
of the world, in which he represents the Word as acting such a conspicuous
part. For why does he relate that God, in the creation of each of his
works, said, Let this or that be done, but that the unsearchable glory of
God may resplendently appear in his image? Captious and loquacious men
would readily evade this argument, by saying, that the _Word_ imports an
order or command; but the Apostles are better interpreters, who declare,
that the worlds were created by the Son, and that he “upholds all things
by the word of his power.”(194) For here we see that the _Word_ intends
the nod or mandate of the Son, who is himself the eternal and essential
Son of the Father. Nor, to the wise and sober, is there any obscurity in
that passage of Solomon, where he introduces Wisdom as begotten of the
Father before time began, and presiding at the creation of the world, and
over all the works of God. For, to pretend that this denotes some
temporary expression of the will of God, were foolish and frivolous;
whereas God then intended to discover his fixed and eternal counsel, and
even something more secret. To the same purpose also is that assertion of
Christ, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”(195) For, by affirming
that, from the beginning of the world, he had continually coöperated with
the Father, he makes a more explicit declaration of what had been briefly
glanced at by Moses. We conclude, therefore, that God spake thus at the
creation, that the Word might have his part in the work, and so that
operation be common to both. But John speaks more clearly than all others,
when he represents _the Word_, who from the beginning _was God with God_,
as in union with the Father, the original cause of all things. For to the
Word he both attributes a real and permanent essence, and assigns some
peculiar property; and plainly shows how God, by speaking, created the
world. Therefore, as all Divine revelations are justly entitled _the word
of God_, so we ought chiefly to esteem that substantial Word the source of
all revelations, who is liable to no variation, who remains with God
perpetually one and the same, and who is God himself.

VIII. Here we are interrupted by some clamorous objectors, who, since they
cannot openly rob him of his divinity, secretly steal from him his
eternity. For they say, that the Word only began to exist, when God opened
his sacred mouth in the creation of the world. But they are too
inconsiderate in imagining something new in the substance of God. For, as
those names of God, which relate to his external works, began to be
ascribed to him after the existence of those works, as when he is called
the Creator of heaven and earth, so piety neither acknowledges nor admits
any name, signifying that God has found any thing new to happen to
himself. For, could any thing, from any quarter, effect a change in him,
it would contradict the assertion of James, that “every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of
lights, with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning.”(196) Nothing,
then, is more intolerable, than to suppose a beginning of that Word, which
was always God, and afterwards the Creator of the world. But they argue,
in their own apprehension most acutely, that Moses, by representing God as
having then spoken for the first time, implies also, that there was no
Word in him before; than which nothing is more absurd. For it is not to be
concluded, because any thing begins to be manifested at a certain time,
that it had no prior existence. I form a very different conclusion; that,
since, in the very instant when God said, “Let there be light,”(197) the
power of the Word was clearly manifested, the Word must have existed long
before. But if any one inquires, how long, he will find no beginning. For
he limits no certain period of time, when he himself says, “O Father,
glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee
before the world was.”(198) Nor is this omitted by John; for, before he
descends to the creation of the world, he declares that the Word “was in
the beginning with God.”(199) We therefore conclude again, that the Word,
conceived of God before time began, perpetually remained with him, which
proves his eternity, his true essence, and his divinity.

IX. Though I advert not yet to the person of the Mediator, but defer it to
that part of the work which will relate to redemption, yet, since it
ought, without controversy, to be believed by all, that Christ is the very
same Word clothed in flesh, any testimonies which assert the Deity of
Christ, will be very properly introduced here. When it is said, in the
forty‐fifth Psalm, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,” the Jews
endeavour to evade its force, by pleading that the name Elohim is
applicable also to angels, and to men of dignity and power. But there
cannot be found in the Scripture a similar passage, which erects an
eternal throne for a creature; for he is not merely called God, but is
also declared to possess an eternal dominion. Besides, this title is never
given to a creature, without some addition, as when it is said that Moses
should be “a god to Pharaoh.”(200) Some read it in the genitive case, “Thy
throne is of God,” which is extremely insipid. I confess, indeed, that
what is eminently and singularly excellent, is frequently called Divine;
but it sufficiently appears from the context, that such a meaning would be
uncouth and forced, and totally inapplicable here. But, if their
perverseness refuse to yield this point, there certainly is no obscurity
in Isaiah, where he introduces Christ as God, and as crowned with supreme
power, which is the prerogative of God alone. “His name,” says he, “shall
be called the Mighty God, the Father of eternity,” &c.(201) Here also the
Jews object, and invert the reading of the passage in this manner: “This
is the name by which the mighty God, the Father of eternity, shall call
him,” &c.; so that they would leave the Son only the title of Prince of
peace. But to what purpose would so many epithets be accumulated in this
passage on God the Father, when the design of the prophet is to
distinguish Christ by such eminent characters as may establish our faith
in him? Wherefore, there can be no doubt that he is there denominated the
Mighty God, just as, a little before, he is called Immanuel. But nothing
can be required plainer than a passage in Jeremiah, that this should be
the name whereby the Branch of David shall be called “Jehovah our
righteousness.”(202) For since the Jews themselves teach, that all other
names of God are mere epithets, but that this alone, which they call
ineffable, is a proper name expressive of his Essence, we conclude, that
the Son is the one eternal God, who declares, in another place, that he
“will not give his glory to another.”(203) This also they endeavour to
evade, because Moses imposed this name on an altar which he built, and
Ezekiel on the city of the new Jerusalem. But who does not perceive, that
the altar was erected as a monument of Moses having been exalted by God,
and that Jerusalem is honoured with the name of God, only as a testimony
of the Divine presence? For thus speaks the prophet: “The name of the city
shall be, Jehovah is there.”(204) But Moses expresses himself thus: He
“built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah‐nissi,” (my
exaltation.)(205) But there is more contention about another passage of
Jeremiah, where the same title is given to Jerusalem in these words: “This
is the name wherewith she shall be called, Jehovah our
righteousness.”(206) But this testimony is so far from opposing the truth
which we are defending, that it rather confirms it. For, having before
testified that Christ is the true Jehovah, from whom righteousness
proceeds, he now pronounces that the church will have such a clear
apprehension of it, as to be able to glory in the same name. In the former
place, then, is shown the original cause of righteousness, in the latter
the effect.

X. Now, if these things do not satisfy the Jews, I see not by what cavils
they can evade the accounts of Jehovah having so frequently appeared in
the character of an angel. An angel is said to have appeared to the holy
fathers. He claims for himself the name of the eternal God. If it be
objected, that this is spoken with regard to the character which he
sustains, this by no means removes the difficulty. For a servant would
never rob God of his honour, by permitting sacrifice to be offered to
himself. But the angel, refusing to eat bread, commands a sacrifice to be
offered to Jehovah. He afterwards demonstrates that he is really Jehovah
himself. Therefore Manoah and his wife conclude, from this evidence, that
they have seen, not a mere angel, but God himself. Hence he says, “We
shall surely die, because we have seen God.” When his wife replies, “If
the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received” a sacrifice
“at our hands,”(207) she clearly acknowledges him to be God, who before is
called an angel. Moreover, the reply of the angel himself removes every
doubt: “Why askest thou after my name, seeing it is wonderful?” So much
the more detestable is the impiety of Servetus, in asserting that God
never appeared to Abraham and the other patriarchs, but that they
worshipped an angel in his stead. But the orthodox doctors of the church
have truly and wisely understood and taught, that the same chief angel was
the Word of God, who even then began to perform some services introductory
to his execution of the office of Mediator. For though he was not yet
incarnate, he descended, as it were, in a mediatorial capacity, that he
might approach the faithful with greater familiarity. His familiar
intercourse with men gave him the name of an angel; yet he still retained
what properly belonged to him, and continued the ineffably glorious God.
The same truth is attested by Hosea, who, after relating the wrestling of
Jacob with an angel, says, “The Lord (Jehovah) God of hosts; Jehovah is
his memorial.”(208) Servetus again cavils, that God employed the person of
an angel; as though the prophet did not confirm what had been delivered by
Moses,—“Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?” And the
confession of the holy patriarch, when he says, “I have seen God face to
face,”(209) sufficiently declares, that he was not a created angel, but
one in whom resided the fulness of Deity. Hence, also, the representation
of Paul, that Christ was the conductor of the people in the wilderness;
because, though the time of his humiliation was not yet arrived, the
eternal Word then exhibited a type of the office to which he was
appointed. Now, if the second chapter of Zechariah be strictly and coolly
examined, the angel who sends another angel is immediately pronounced the
God of hosts, and supreme power is ascribed to him. I omit testimonies
innumerable on which our faith safely rests, although they have little
influence on the Jews. For when it is said in Isaiah, “Lo, this is our
God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is Jehovah;”(210)
all who have eyes may perceive that this is God, who arises for the
salvation of his people. And the emphatical repetition of these pointed
expressions forbids an application of this passage to any other than to
Christ. But still more plain and decisive is a passage of Malachi, where
he prophesies, that “the Lord, who was then sought, should come into his
temple.”(211) The temple was exclusively consecrated to the one Most High
God; yet the prophet claims it as belonging to Christ. Whence it follows,
that he is the same God that was always worshipped among the Jews.

XI. The New Testament abounds with innumerable testimonies. We must,
therefore, endeavour briefly to select a few, rather than to collect them
all. Though the Apostles spake of him after he had appeared in flesh as
the Mediator, yet all that I shall adduce will be adapted to prove his
eternal Deity. In the first place, it is worthy of particular observation,
that the apostle represents those things which were predicted concerning
the eternal God, as either already exhibited in Christ, or to be
accomplished in him at some future period. The prediction of Isaiah, that
the Lord of Hosts would be “for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of
offence to both the houses of Israel,”(212) Paul asserts to have been
fulfilled in Christ.(213) Therefore he declares, that Christ is the Lord
of Hosts. There is a similar instance in another place: “We shall all
stand,” says he, “before the judgment‐seat of Christ. For it is written,
As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue
shall confess to God.”(214) Since God, in Isaiah,(215) declares this
concerning himself, and Christ actually exhibits it in his own person, it
follows, that he is that very God, whose glory cannot be transferred to
another. The apostle’s quotation from the Psalms also, in his Epistle to
the Ephesians, is evidently applicable to none but God: “When he ascended
up on high, he led captivity captive:”(216) understanding that ascension
to have been prefigured by the exertions of the Divine power in the signal
victories of David over the heathen nations, he signifies, that the text
was more fully accomplished in Christ. Thus John attests that it was the
glory of the Son which was revealed in a vision to Isaiah; whereas the
prophet himself records that he saw the majesty of God.(217) And those
praises which the Apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ascribes to the
Son, beyond all doubt most evidently belong to God: “Thou, Lord, in the
beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the
works of thine hands,” &c. Again, “Let all the angels of God worship
him.”(218) Nor is it any misapplication of them, when he refers them to
Christ; since all that is predicted in those Psalms has been accomplished
only by him. For it was He who arose and had mercy upon Zion; it was He
who claimed as his own the dominion over all nations and islands. And why
should John, after having affirmed, at the commencement of his
Gospel,(219) that the Word was always God, have hesitated to attribute to
Christ the majesty of God? And why should Paul have been afraid to place
Christ on the tribunal of God,(220) after having so publicly preached his
Divinity, when he called him “God blessed for ever?”(221) And, to show how
consistent he is with himself on this subject, he says, also, that “God
was manifest in the flesh.”(222) If he is “God blessed for ever,” he is
the same to whom this apostle, in another place, affirms all glory and
honour to be due. And he conceals not, but openly proclaims, that, “being
in the form of God,” he “thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but
made himself of no reputation.”(223) And, lest the impious might object,
that he is a sort of artificial God, John goes further, and affirms, that
“This is the true God, and eternal life;”(224) although we ought to be
fully satisfied by his being called God, especially by a witness who
expressly avers that there are no more gods than one; I mean Paul, who
says, “though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in
earth; to us there is but one God, of whom are all things.”(225) When we
hear, from the same mouth, that “God was manifested in the flesh,” that
“God hath purchased the Church with his own blood,”—why do we imagine a
second God, whom he by no means acknowledges? And there is no doubt that
all the pious were of the same opinion. Thomas, likewise, by publicly
confessing him to be “his Lord and God,” declares him to be the same true
God whom he had always worshipped.(226)

XII. If we judge of his Divinity from the works which the Scriptures
attribute to him, it will thence appear with increasing evidence. For when
he said, that he had, from the beginning, continually coöperated with the
Father, the Jews, stupid as they were about his other declarations, yet
perceived, that he assumed to himself Divine power; and, therefore, as
John informs us, they “sought the more to kill him; because he not only
had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making
himself equal with God.”(227) How great, then, must be our stupidity, if
we perceive not this passage to be a plain assertion of his Divinity! To
preside over the world by his almighty providence, and to govern all
things by the rod of his own power, (which the Apostle attributes to
him,)(228) belongs exclusively to the Creator. And he participates with
the Father, not only in the government of the world, but also in all other
offices, which cannot be communicated to creatures. The Lord proclaims, by
the prophet, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for
mine own sake.”(229) According to this declaration, when the Jews thought
that Christ committed an injury against God, by undertaking to forgive
sins,(230) he not only asserted in express terms, that this power belonged
to him, but proved it by a miracle. We see, therefore, that he hath not
the ministry, but the power of remission of sins, which the Lord declares
shall never be transferred from himself to another. Is it not the
prerogative of God alone to examine and penetrate the secret thoughts of
the heart? Yet Christ possessed that power; which is a proof of his
Divinity.

XIII. But with what perspicuity of evidence does it appear in his
miracles! Though I grant that the Prophets and Apostles performed miracles
similar and equal to his, yet there is a considerable difference in this
respect, that they, in their ministry, dispensed the favours of God,
whereas his miracles were performed by his exertions of his own power. He
sometimes, indeed, used prayer, that he might glorify the Father; but, in
most instances, we perceive the manifest displays of his own power. And
how should not he be the true author of miracles, who, by his own
authority, committed the dispensation of them to others? For the
Evangelists relate, that he gave his Apostles power to raise the dead, to
heal the leprous, to cast out devils, &c.(231) And they performed that
ministry in such a manner, as plainly to discover, that the power
proceeded solely from Christ. “In the name of Jesus Christ,” says Peter,
“arise and walk.”(232) It is no wonder, therefore, that Christ should
bring forward his miracles,(233) to convince the incredulity of the Jews,
since, being performed by his own power, they afforded most ample evidence
of his Divinity. Besides, if out of God there be no salvation, no
righteousness, no life, but Christ contains all these things in himself,
it certainly demonstrates him to be God. Let it not be objected, that life
and salvation are infused into him by God; for he is not said to have
received salvation, but to be himself salvation. And if no one be good but
God alone,(234) how can he be a mere man who is, I will not say good and
righteous, but goodness and righteousness itself? Even from the beginning
of the creation, according to the testimony of an Evangelist, “in him was
life; and the life” then existed as “the light of men.” Supported by such
proofs, therefore, we venture to repose our faith and hope on him; whereas
we know that it is impious and sacrilegious for any man to place his
confidence in creatures. He says, “Ye believe in God, believe also in
me.”(235) And in this sense Paul interprets two passages of
Isaiah—“Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Again, “There
shall be a root of Jesse, that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in
him shall the Gentiles trust.”(236) And why should we search for more
testimonies from Scripture, when this declaration occurs so frequently,
“He that believeth on me hath everlasting life”?(237) The invocation,
arising from faith, is also directed to him; which, nevertheless,
peculiarly belongs, if any thing peculiarly belongs, to the Divine
majesty. For a prophet says, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord
(Jehovah) shall be delivered.”(238) And Solomon, “The name of the Lord is
a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”(239) But the
name of Christ is invoked for salvation: it follows, therefore, that he is
Jehovah. Moreover, we have an example of such invocation in Stephen, when
he says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”(240) And afterwards in the whole
Church, as Ananias testifies in the same book: “Lord, I have heard by many
of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints—that call on thy
name.”(241) And to make it more clearly understood, that “all the fulness
of the Godhead dwelleth bodily in Christ,” the Apostle confesses that he
had introduced among the Corinthians no other doctrine than the knowledge
of him, and that this had been the only subject of his preaching.(242)
What a remarkable and important consideration is it, that the name of the
Son only is preached to us, whereas God commands us to glory in the
knowledge of himself alone!(243) Who can dare to assert that he is a mere
creature, the knowledge of whom is our only glory? It must also be
remarked, that the salutations prefixed to the epistles of Paul implore
the same blessings from the Son as from the Father; whence we learn, not
only that those things, which our heavenly Father bestows, are obtained
for us by his intercession, but that the Son, by a communion of power, is
himself the author of them. This practical knowledge is unquestionably
more certain and solid than any idle speculation. For then the pious mind
has the nearest view of the Divine presence, and almost touches it, when
it experiences itself to be quickened, illuminated, saved, justified, and
sanctified.

XIV. Wherefore the proof of the Deity of the Spirit must be derived
principally from the same sources. There is no obscurity in the testimony
of Moses, in the history of the creation, that the Spirit of God was
expanded on the abyss or chaos;(244) for it signifies, not only that the
beautiful state of the world which we now behold owes its preservation to
the power of the Spirit, but that, previously to its being thus adorned,
the Spirit was engaged in brooding over the confused mass. The declaration
of Isaiah bids defiance to all cavils: “And now the Lord God, and his
Spirit, hath sent me.”(245) For the Holy Spirit is united in the exercise
of supreme power in the mission of Prophets, which is a proof of his
Divine majesty. But the best confirmation, as I have remarked, we shall
derive from familiar experience. For what the Scriptures ascribe to him,
and what we ourselves learn by the certain experience of piety, is not at
all applicable to any creature. For it is he who, being universally
diffused, sustains and animates all things in heaven and in earth. And
this very thing excludes him from the number of creatures, that he is
circumscribed by no limits, but transfuses through all his own vigorous
influence, to inspire them with being, life, and motion: this is clearly a
work of Deity. Again, if regeneration to an incorruptible life be more
important and excellent than any present life, what must we think of him
from whose power it proceeds? But the Scripture teaches, in various
places, that he is the author of regeneration by a power not derived, but
properly his own; and not of regeneration only, but likewise of the future
immortality. Finally, to him, as well as to the Son, are applied all those
offices which are peculiar to Deity. For he “searcheth even the deep
things of God,”(246) who admits no creature to a share in his councils. He
bestows wisdom and the faculty of speech;(247) whereas the Lord declares
to Moses, that this can only be done by himself.(248) So through him we
attain to a participation of God, to feel his vivifying energy upon us.
Our justification is his work. From him proceed power, sanctification,
truth, grace, and every other blessing we can conceive; since there is but
one Spirit, from whom every kind of gifts descends. For this passage of
Paul is worthy of particular attention: “There are diversities of gifts,
and there are differences of administrations, but the same Spirit;”(249)
because it represents him, not only as the principle and source of them,
but also as the author; which is yet more clearly expressed a little after
in these words: “All these worketh that only and the self‐same Spirit,
dividing to every man severally as he will.” For if he were not a
subsistence in the Deity, judgment and voluntary determination would never
be ascribed to him. Paul, therefore, very clearly attributes to the Spirit
Divine power, and thereby demonstrates him to be an hypostasis or
subsistence in God.

XV. Nor does the Scripture, when it speaks of him, refrain from giving him
the appellation of God. For Paul concludes that we are the temple of God,
because his Spirit dwelleth in us.(250) This must not be passed over
without particular notice; for the frequent promises of God, that he will
choose us for a temple for himself, receive no other accomplishment, than
by the inhabitation of his Spirit in us. Certainly, as Augustine
excellently observes, “If we were commanded to erect to the Spirit a
temple of wood and stone, forasmuch as God is the sole object of worship,
it would be a clear proof of his Divinity; how much clearer, then, is the
proof, now that we are commanded, not to erect one, but to be ourselves
his temples!” And the Apostle calls us sometimes the temple of God, and
sometimes the temple of the Holy Spirit, both in the same signification.
Peter, reprehending Ananias for having “lied to the Holy Ghost,” told him
that he had “not lied unto men, but unto God.”(251) And where Isaiah(252)
introduces the Lord of hosts as the speaker, Paul(253) informs us that it
is the Holy Spirit who speaks. Indeed, while the Prophets invariably
declare, that the words which they utter are those of the Lord of hosts,
Christ and the Apostles refer them to the Holy Spirit; whence it follows,
that he is the true Jehovah, who is the primary author of the prophecies.
Again, God complains that his anger was provoked by the perverseness of
the people; Isaiah, in reference to the same conduct, says, that “they
vexed his Holy Spirit.”(254) Lastly, if blasphemy against the Spirit be
not forgiven, either in this world or in that which is to come,(255)
whilst a man may obtain pardon who has been guilty of blasphemy against
the Son, this is an open declaration of his Divine majesty, to defame or
degrade which is an inexpiable crime. I intentionally pass over many
testimonies which were used by the fathers. To them there appeared much
plausibility in citing this passage from David, “By the word of the Lord
were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his
mouth;”(256) to prove that the creation of the world was the work of the
Holy Spirit, as well as of the Son. But since a repetition of the same
thing twice is common in the Psalms, and in Isaiah “the spirit of his
mouth” means the same as “his word,” this is but a weak argument.
Therefore I have determined to confine myself to a sober statement of
those evidences on which pious minds may satisfactorily rest.

XVI. As God afforded a clearer manifestation of himself at the advent of
Christ, the three Persons also then became better known. Among many
testimonies, let us be satisfied with this one: Paul connects together
these three, Lord, Faith, and Baptism,(257) in such a manner as to reason
from one to another. Since there is but one faith, hence he proves that
there is but one Lord; since there is but one baptism, he shows that there
is also but one faith. Therefore, if we are initiated by baptism into the
faith and religion of one God, we must necessarily suppose him to be the
true God, into whose name we are baptized. Nor can it be doubted but that
in this solemn commission, “Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” Christ intended to testify, that the
perfect light of faith was now exhibited. For this is equivalent to being
baptized into the name of the one God, who hath clearly manifested himself
in the Father, Son, and Spirit; whence it evidently appears, that in the
Divine Essence there exist three Persons, in whom is known the one God.
And truly, since faith ought not to be looking about hither and thither,
or to be wandering through the varieties of inconstancy, but to direct its
views towards the one God, to be fixed on him, and to adhere to him,—it
may easily be proved from these premises, that, if there be various kinds
of faith, there must also be a plurality of gods. Baptism, being a
sacrament of faith, confirms to us the unity of God, because it is but
one. Hence, also, we conclude, that it is not lawful to be baptized,
except into the name of the one God; because we embrace the faith of him,
into whose name we are baptized. What, then, was intended by Christ, when
he commanded baptism to be administered in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, but that one faith ought to be exercised
in the Father, Son, and Spirit? and what is that but a clear testimony,
that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are the one God? Therefore,
since it is an undeniable truth, that there is one God, and only one, we
conclude the Word and Spirit to be no other than the very Essence of the
Deity. The greatest degree of folly was betrayed by the Arians, who
confessed the Divinity of the Son, but denied him to possess the substance
of God. Nor were the Macedonians free from a similar delusion, who would
explain the term “Spirit” to mean only the gifts of grace conferred upon
man. For as wisdom, understanding, prudence, fortitude, and the fear of
the Lord, proceed from him, so he alone is the Spirit of wisdom, prudence,
fortitude, and piety. Nor is he himself divided according to the
distribution of his graces; but, as the Apostle declares, how variously
soever they are divided, he always remains one and the same.(258)

XVII. On the other hand, also, we find in the Scriptures a distinction
between the Father and the Word, between the Word and the Spirit; in the
discussion of which the magnitude of the mystery reminds us that we ought
to proceed with the utmost reverence and sobriety. I am exceedingly
pleased with this observation of Gregory Nazianzen: “I cannot think of the
_one_, but I am immediately surrounded with the splendour of the _three_;
nor can I clearly discover the _three_, but I am suddenly carried back to
the _one_.” Wherefore let us not imagine such a trinity of Persons, as
includes an idea of separation, or does not immediately recall us to the
unity. The names of Father, Son, and Spirit, certainly imply a real
distinction; let no one suppose them to be mere epithets, by which God is
variously designated from his works; but it is a distinction, not a
division. The passages already cited show, that the Son has a property, by
which he is distinguished from the Father; because the Word had not been
with God, or had his glory with the Father, unless he had been distinct
from him. He likewise distinguishes the Father from himself, when he says,
“that there is another that beareth witness of him.”(259) And to the same
effect is what is declared in another place, that the Father created all
things by the Word; which he could not have done, unless he had been in
some sense distinct from him. Besides, the Father descended not to the
earth, but he who came forth from the Father. The Father neither died nor
rose again, but he who was sent by the Father. Nor did this distinction
commence at the incarnation, but it is evident, that, before that period,
he was the only begotten in the bosom of the Father.(260) For who can
undertake to assert, that the Son first entered into the bosom of the
Father, when he descended from heaven to assume a human nature? He,
therefore, was in the bosom of the Father before, and possessed his glory
with the Father. The distinction between the Holy Spirit and the Father is
announced by Christ, when he says, that he “proceedeth from the
Father.”(261) But how often does he represent him as another, distinct
from himself! as when he promises that “another Comforter”(262) should be
sent, and in many other places.

XVIII. I doubt the propriety of borrowing similitudes from human things,
to express the force of this distinction. The fathers sometimes practise
this method; but they likewise confess the great disproportion of all the
similitudes which they introduce. Wherefore I greatly dread, in this
instance, every degree of presumption; lest the introduction of any thing
unseasonable should afford an occasion of calumny to the malicious, or of
error to the ignorant. Yet it is not right to be silent on the distinction
which we find expressed in the Scriptures; which is this—that to the
Father is attributed the principle of action, the fountain and source of
all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the arrangement of all
operations; and the power and efficacy of the action is assigned to the
Spirit. Moreover, though eternity belongs to the Father, and to the Son
and Spirit also, since God can never have been destitute of his wisdom or
his power, and in eternity we must not inquire after any thing prior or
posterior,—yet the observation of order is not vain or superfluous, while
the Father is mentioned as first; in the next place the Son, as from him;
and then the Spirit, as from both. For the mind of every man naturally
inclines to the consideration, first, of God; secondly, of the wisdom
emanating from him; and lastly, of the power by which he executes the
decrees of his wisdom. For this reason the Son is said to be from the
Father, and the Spirit from both the Father and the Son; and that in
various places, but nowhere more clearly than in the eighth chapter of the
Epistle to the Romans, where the same Spirit is indifferently denominated
“the Spirit of Christ,” and “the Spirit of him that raised up Christ from
the dead,” and that without any impropriety. For Peter also testifies that
it was the Spirit of Christ by whom the prophets prophesied;(263) whereas
the Scripture so frequently declares that it was the Spirit of God the
Father.

XIX. This distinction is so far from opposing the most absolute simplicity
and unity of the Divine Being, that it affords a proof that the Son is one
God with the Father, because he has the same Spirit with him; and that the
Spirit is not a different substance from the Father and the Son, because
he is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. For the whole nature is in
each hypostasis, and each has something peculiar to himself. The Father is
entirely in the Son, and the Son entirely in the Father, according to his
own declaration, “I am in the Father, and the Father in me;”(264) nor do
ecclesiastical writers allow that one is divided from the other by any
difference of essence. “These distinctive appellations,” says Augustine,
“denote their reciprocal relations to each other, and not the substance
itself, which is but one.” This explanation may serve to reconcile the
opinions of the fathers, which would otherwise appear totally repugnant to
each other. For sometimes they state that the Son originates from the
Father, and at other times assert that he has essential Divinity from
himself, and so is, together with the Father, the one first cause of all.
Augustine, in another place, admirably and perspicuously explains the
cause of this diversity, in the following manner: “Christ, considered in
himself, is called God; but with relation to the Father, he is called the
Son.” And again, “The Father, considered in himself, is called God; but
with relation to the Son, he is called the Father. He who, with relation
to the Son, is called the Father, is not the Son; he who, with relation to
the Father, is called the Son, is not the Father; they who are severally
called the Father and the Son, are the same God.” Therefore, when we speak
simply of the Son, without reference to the Father, we truly and properly
assert him to be self‐existent, and therefore call him the sole first
cause; but, when we distinctly treat of the relation between him and the
Father, we justly represent him as originating from the Father. The first
book of Augustine on the Trinity is entirely occupied with the explication
of this subject; and it is far more safe to rest satisfied with that
relation which he states, than by curiously penetrating into the sublime
mystery, to wander through a multitude of vain speculations.

XX. Therefore, let such as love sobriety, and will be contented with the
measure of faith, briefly attend to what is useful to be known; which is,
that, when we profess to believe in one God, the word _God_ denotes a
single and simple essence, in which we comprehend three Persons, or
hypostases; and that, therefore, whenever the word _God_ is used
indefinitely, the Son and Spirit are intended as much as the Father; but
when the Son is associated with the Father, that introduces the reciprocal
relation of one to the other; and thus we distinguish between the Persons.
But, since the peculiar properties of the Persons produce a certain order,
so that the original cause is in the Father, whenever the Father and the
Son or Spirit are mentioned together, the name of God is peculiarly
ascribed to the Father: by this method the unity of the essence is
preserved, and the order is retained; which, however, derogates nothing
from the Deity of the Son and Spirit. And indeed, as we have already seen
that the Apostles assert him to be the Son of God, whom Moses and the
Prophets have represented as Jehovah, it is always necessary to recur to
the unity of the essence. Wherefore it would be a detestable sacrilege for
us to call the Son another God different from the Father; because the
simple name of God admits of no relation; nor can God, with respect to
himself, be denominated either the one or the other. Now, that the name
“Jehovah,” in an indefinite sense, is applicable to Christ, appears even
from the words of Paul: “for this thing I besought the Lord thrice;”(265)
because, after relating the answer of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for
thee,” he immediately subjoins, “That the power of Christ may rest upon
me.” For it is certain that the word “Lord” is there used for “Jehovah;”
and to restrict it to the person of the Mediator, would be frivolous and
puerile, since it is an absolute declaration, containing no comparison
between the Son and the Father. And we know that the Apostles, following
the custom of the Greek translators, invariably use the word Κυριος,
(Lord,) instead of Jehovah. And, not to seek far for an example of this,
Paul prayed to the Lord in no other sense than is intended in a passage of
Joel, cited by Peter: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall
be saved.”(266) But for the peculiar ascription of this name to the Son,
another reason will be given in its proper place; suffice it at present to
observe that, when Paul had prayed to God absolutely, he immediately
subjoins the name of Christ. Thus also the whole Deity is by Christ
himself denominated “a Spirit.” For nothing opposes the spirituality of
the whole Divine essence, in which are comprehended the Father, the Son,
and the Spirit; which is plain from the Scripture. For as we there find
God denominated a Spirit, so we find also the Holy Spirit, forasmuch as he
is an hypostasis of the whole essence, represented both as the Spirit of
God, and as proceeding from God.

XXI. But since Satan, in order to subvert the very foundations of our
faith, has always been exciting great contentions concerning the Divine
essence of the Son and Spirit, and the distinction of the Persons; and in
almost all ages has instigated impious spirits to vex the orthodox
teachers on this account; and is also endeavouring, in the present day,
with the old embers, to kindle a new flame; it becomes necessary here to
refute the perverse and fanciful notions which some persons have imbibed.
Hitherto it has been our principal design to instruct the docile, and not
to combat the obstinate and contentious: but now, having calmly explained
and proved the truth, we must vindicate it from all the cavils of the
wicked; although I shall make it my principal study, that those who
readily and implicitly attend to the Divine word, may have stable ground
on which they may confidently rest. On this, indeed, if on any of the
secret mysteries of the Scripture, we ought to philosophize with great
sobriety and moderation; and also with extreme caution, lest either our
ideas or our language should proceed beyond the limits of the Divine word.
For how can the infinite essence of God be defined by the narrow capacity
of the human mind, which could never yet certainly determine the nature of
the body of the sun, though the object of our daily contemplation? How can
the human mind, by its own efforts, penetrate into an examination of the
essence of God, when it is totally ignorant of its own? Wherefore let us
freely leave to God the knowledge of himself. For “he alone,” as Hilary
says, “is a competent witness for himself, being only known by himself.”
And we shall certainly leave it to him, if our conceptions of him
correspond to the manifestations which he has given us of himself, and our
inquiries concerning him are confined to his word. There are extant on
this argument five homilies of Chrysostom against the Anomœi; which,
however, were not sufficient to restrain the presumptuous garrulity of
those sophists. For they discovered no greater modesty in this instance
than in every other. The very unhappy consequences of this temerity should
warn us to study this question with more docility than subtlety, and not
allow ourselves to investigate God any where but in his sacred word, or to
form any ideas of him but such as are agreeable to his word, or to speak
any thing concerning him but what is derived from the same word. But if
the distinction of Father, Son, and Spirit, in the one Deity, as it is not
easy to be comprehended, occasions some understandings more labour and
trouble than is desirable, let them remember that the mind of man, when it
indulges its curiosity, enters into a labyrinth; and let them submit to be
guided by the heavenly oracles, however they may not comprehend the height
of this mystery.

XXII. To compose a catalogue of the errors, by which the purity of the
faith has been attacked on this point of doctrine, would be too prolix and
tedious, without being profitable; and most of the heretics so strenuously
exerted themselves to effect the total extinction of the Divine glory by
their gross reveries, that they thought it sufficient to unsettle and
disturb the inexperienced. From a few men there soon arose numerous sects,
of whom some would divide the Divine essence, and others would confound
the distinction which subsists between the Persons. But if we maintain,
what has already been sufficiently demonstrated from the Scripture, that
the essence of the one God, which pertains to the Father, to the Son, and
to the Spirit, is simple and undivided, and, on the other hand, that the
Father is, by some property, distinguished from the Son, and likewise the
Son from the Spirit, the gate will be shut, not only against Arius and
Sabellius, but also against all the other ancient heresiarchs. But since
our own times have witnessed some madmen, as Servetus and his followers,
who have involved every thing in new subtleties, a brief exposure of their
fallacies will not be unuseful. The word _Trinity_ was so odious and even
detestable to Servetus, that he asserted all Trinitarians, as he called
them, to be Atheists. I omit his impertinent and scurrilous language, but
this was the substance of his speculations: That it is representing God as
consisting of three parts, when three Persons are said to subsist in his
essence, and that this triad is merely imaginary, being repugnant to the
Divine unity. At the same time, he maintained the Persons to be certain
external ideas, which have no real subsistence in the Divine essence, but
give us a figurative representation of God, under this or the other form;
and that in the beginning there was no distinction in God, because the
Word was once the same as the Spirit; but that, after Christ appeared God
of God, there emanated from him another God, even the Spirit. Though he
sometimes glosses over his impertinencies with allegories, as when he
says, that the eternal Word of God was the Spirit of Christ with God, and
the reflection of his image, and that the Spirit was a shadow of the
Deity, yet he afterwards destroys the Deity of both, asserting that,
according to the mode of dispensation, there is a part of God in both the
Son and the Spirit; just as the same Spirit, substantially diffused in us,
and even in wood and stones, is a portion of the Deity. What he broached
concerning the Person of the Mediator, we shall examine in the proper
place. But this monstrous fiction, that a Divine Person is nothing but a
visible appearance of the glory of God, will not need a prolix refutation.
For when John pronounces that the Word (Λογος) was God before the creation
of the world, he sufficiently discriminates him from an ideal form. But if
then also, and from the remotest eternity, that Word (Λογος) who was God,
was with the Father, and possessed his own glory with the Father, he
certainly could not be an external or figurative splendour; but it
necessarily follows, that he was a real hypostasis, subsisting in God
himself. But although no mention is made of the Spirit, but in the history
of the creation of the world, yet he is there introduced, not as a shadow,
but as the essential power of God, since Moses relates that the chaotic
mass was supported by him.(267) It then appeared, therefore, that the
eternal Spirit had always existed in the Deity, since he cherished and
sustained the confused matter of the heaven and earth, till it attained a
state of beauty and order. He certainly could not then be an image or
representation of God, according to the dreams of Servetus. But in other
places he is constrained to make a fuller disclosure of his impiety,
saying that God, in his eternal reason, decreeing for himself a visible
Son, has visibly exhibited himself in this manner; for if this be true,
there is no other Divinity left to Christ, than as he has been appointed a
Son by an eternal decree of God. Besides, he so transforms those
phantasms, which he substitutes instead of the hypostases, that he
hesitates not to imagine new accidents or properties in God. But the most
execrable blasphemy of all is, his promiscuous confusion of the Son of God
and the Spirit with all the creatures. For he asserts that in the Divine
essence there are parts and divisions, every portion of which is God; and
especially that the souls of the faithful are coëternal and consubstantial
with God; though in another place he assigns substantial Deity, not only
to the human soul, but to all created things.

XXIII. From the same corrupt source has proceeded another heresy, equally
monstrous. For some worthless men, to escape the odium and disgrace which
attended the impious tenets of Servetus, have confessed, indeed, that
there are three Persons, but with this explanation, that the Father, who
alone is truly and properly God, hath created the Son and Spirit, and
transfused his Deity into them. Nor do they refrain from this dreadful
manner of expressing themselves, that the Father is distinguished from the
Son and Spirit, as being the sole possessor of the Divine essence. Their
first plea in support of this notion is, that Christ is commonly called
the Son of God; whence they conclude that no other is properly God but the
Father. But they observe not, that although the name of God is common also
to the Son, yet that it is sometimes ascribed to the Father (κατ᾽ ἐξοχην)
by way of eminence, because he is the fountain and original of the Deity;
and this in order to denote the simple unity of the essence. They object,
that if he is truly the Son of God, it is absurd to account him the Son of
a Person. I reply, that both are true; that he is the Son of God, because
he is the Word begotten of the Father before time began, for we are not
yet speaking of the Person of the Mediator; and to be explicit, we must
notice the Person, that the name of God may not be understood absolutely,
but for the Father; for if we acknowledge no other to be God than the
Father, it will be a manifest degradation of the dignity of the Son.
Whenever mention is made of the Deity, therefore, there must no opposition
be admitted between the Father and the Son, as though the name of the true
God belonged exclusively to the Father. For surely the God who appeared to
Isaiah, was the only true God;(268) whom, nevertheless, John affirms to
have been Christ.(269) He likewise, who by the mouth of Isaiah declared
that he was to be a rock of offence to the Jews, was the only true
God;(270) whom Paul pronounces to have been Christ.(271) He who proclaims
by Isaiah, “As I live, every knee shall bow to me,”(272) is the only true
God; but Paul applies the same to Christ.(273) To the same purpose are the
testimonies recited by the Apostle—“Thou, Lord, hast laid the foundation
of the earth and the heavens;” and “Let all the angels of God worship
him.”(274) These ascriptions belong only to the one true God; whereas he
contends that they are properly applied to Christ. Nor is there any force
in that cavil, that what is proper to God is transferred to Christ,
because he is the brightness of his glory. For, since the name Jehovah is
used in each of these passages, it follows that in respect of his Deity he
is self‐existent. For, if he is Jehovah, he cannot be denied to be the
same God, who in another place proclaims by Isaiah, “I am the first and I
am the last; and beside me there is no God.”(275) That passage in Jeremiah
also deserves our attention—“The gods that have not made the heavens and
the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these
heavens;”(276) whilst, on the contrary, it must be acknowledged, that the
Deity of the Son of God is frequently proved by Isaiah from the creation
of the world. But how shall the Creator, who gives existence to all, not
be self‐existent, but derive his essence from another? For whoever asserts
that the Son owes his essence to the Father, denies him to be self‐
existent. But this is contradicted by the Holy Spirit, who gives him the
name of Jehovah. Now, if we admit the whole essence to be solely in the
Father, either it will be divisible, or it will be taken away from the
Son; and so, being despoiled of his essence, he will be only a titular
god. The Divine essence, according to these triflers, belongs solely to
the Father, inasmuch as he alone possesses it, and is the author of the
essence of the Son. Thus the Divinity of the Son will be a kind of
emanation from the essence of God, or a derivation of a part from the
whole. Now, they must of necessity concede, from their own premises, that
the Spirit is the Spirit of the Father only; because if he be a derivation
from the original essence, which belongs exclusively to the Father, he
cannot be accounted the Spirit of the Son; which is refuted by the
testimony of Paul, where he makes him common to Christ and the Father.
Besides, if the Person of the Father be expunged from the Trinity, wherein
will he differ from the Son and Spirit, but in being himself the sole
Deity? They confess that Christ is God, and yet differs from the Father.
Some distinctive character is necessary, also, to discriminate the Father
from the Son. They who place this in the essence, manifestly destroy the
true Deity of Christ, which cannot exist independently of the essence,
that is, of the entire essence. The Father certainly cannot differ from
the Son, unless he have something peculiar to himself, which is not common
to the Son. What will they find, by which to distinguish him? If the
difference be in the essence, let them tell us whether he has communicated
the same to the Son. But this could not be done partially; for it would be
an abomination to fabricate a demigod. Besides, this would miserably
dismember the Divine essence. The necessary conclusion then is, that it is
entirely and perfectly common to the Father and the Son. And if this be
true, there cannot, in respect of the essence, be any difference between
them. If it be objected that the Father, notwithstanding this
communication of his essence, remains the only God with whom the essence
continues, then Christ must be a figurative god, a god in appearance and
name only, not in reality; because nothing is more proper to God than to
be, according to that declaration, “I AM hath sent me unto you.”(277)

XXIV. We might readily prove from many passages the falsehood of their
assumption, that, whenever the name of God is mentioned absolutely in the
Scripture, it means only the Father. And in those places which they cite
in their own defence, they shamefully betray their ignorance, since the
Son is there added; from which it appears, that the name of God is used in
a relative sense, and therefore is particularly restricted to the Person
of the Father. Their objection, that, unless the Father alone were the
true God, he would himself be his own Father, is answered in a word. For
there is no absurdity in the name of God, for the sake of dignity and
order, being peculiarly given to him, who not only hath begotten of
himself his own wisdom, but is also the God of the Mediator, of which I
shall treat more at large in its proper place. For since Christ was
manifested in the flesh, he is called the Son of God, not only as he was
the eternal Word begotten of the Father before time began, but because he
assumed the person and office of a Mediator, to unite us to God. And since
they so presumptuously exclude the Son from Divine honours, I would wish
to be informed, when he declares that there is none good but the one
God,(278) whether he deprives himself of all goodness. I speak not of his
human nature, lest they should object, that, whatever goodness it had, it
was gratuitously conferred on it. I demand whether the eternal Word of God
be good or not. If they answer in the negative, they are sufficiently
convicted of impiety; and if in the affirmative, they cut the throat of
their own system. But though, at the first glance, Christ seems to deny
himself the appellation of good, he furnishes, notwithstanding, a further
confirmation of our opinion. For, as that is a title which peculiarly
belongs to the one God, forasmuch as he had been saluted as good, merely
according to a common custom, by his rejection of false honour, he
suggested that the goodness which he possessed was Divine. I demand, also,
when Paul affirms that God alone is immortal, wise, and true,(279) whether
he thereby degrades Christ to the rank of those who are mortal, unwise,
and false. Shall not he then be immortal who from the beginning was life
itself, and the giver of immortality to angels? Shall not he be wise who
is the eternal Wisdom of God? Shall not he be true who is truth itself? I
demand further, whether they think that Christ ought to be worshipped.
For, if he justly claims this as his right, that every knee should bow
before him,(280) it follows that he is that God, who, in the law,
prohibited the worship of any one but himself. If they will have this
passage in Isaiah, “I am, and there is no God besides me,” to be
understood solely of the Father, I retort this testimony on themselves;
since we see that whatever belongs to God is attributed to Christ. Nor is
there any room for their cavil, that Christ was exalted in the humanity in
which he had been abased; and that, with regard to his humanity, all power
was given to him in heaven and in earth; because, although the regal and
judicial majesty extends to the whole Person of the Mediator, yet, had he
not been God manifested in the flesh, he could not have been exalted to
such an eminence, without God being in opposition to himself. And Paul
excellently determines this controversy, by informing us that he was equal
with God, before he abased himself under the form of a servant.(281) Now,
how could this equality subsist, unless he had been that God whose name is
JAH and JEHOVAH, who rides on the cherubim, whose kingdom is universal and
everlasting? No clamour of theirs can deprive Christ of another
declaration of Isaiah: “Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him;”(282)
since in these words he describes the advent of God the Redeemer, not only
for the deliverance of the people from exile in Babylon, but also for the
complete restoration of the church. Nor do they gain any thing by another
cavil, that Christ was God in his Father. For although we confess, in
point of order and degree, that the Father is the fountain of the Deity,
yet we pronounce it a detestable figment, that the essence belongs
exclusively to the Father, as though he were the author of the Deity of
the Son; because, on this supposition, either the essence would be
divided, or Christ would be only a titular and imaginary god. If they
admit that the Son is God, but inferior to the Father, then in him the
essence must be begotten and created, which in the Father is unbegotten
and uncreated. I know that some scorners ridicule our concluding a
distinction of Persons from the words of Moses, where he introduces God
thus speaking: “Let us make man in our image.”(283) Yet pious readers
perceive how frigidly and foolishly Moses would have introduced this
conference, if in one God there had not subsisted a plurality of Persons.
Now, it is certain that they whom the Father addressed, were uncreated;
but there is nothing uncreated, except the one God himself. Now,
therefore, unless they grant that the power to create, and the authority
to command, were common to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, it will
follow, that God did not speak thus within himself, but directed his
conversation to some exterior agents. Lastly, one place will easily remove
their two objections at once. For when Christ himself declares, that God
is a Spirit, it would be unreasonable to restrict this solely to the
Father, as though the Word were not also of a spiritual nature. But if the
name of Spirit is equally as applicable to the Son as to the Father, I
conclude that the Son is comprehended under the indefinite name of God.
Yet he immediately subjoins, that none are approved worshippers of the
Father, but those who worship him in spirit and in truth.(284) Whence
follows another consequence, that, because Christ performs the office of a
Teacher, in a station of inferiority, he ascribes the name of God to the
Father, not to destroy his own Deity, but by degrees to raise us to the
knowledge of it.

XXV. But they deceive themselves in dreaming of three separate
individuals, each of them possessing a part of the Divine essence. We
teach, according to the Scriptures, that there is essentially but one God;
and, therefore, that the essence of both the Son and the Spirit is
unbegotten. But since the Father is first in order, and hath of himself
begotten his wisdom, therefore, as has before been observed, he is justly
esteemed the original and fountain of the whole Divinity. Thus God,
indefinitely, is unbegotten; and the Father also is unbegotten with regard
to his Person. They even foolishly suppose, that our opinion implies a
quaternity; whereas they are guilty of falsehood and calumny, in ascribing
to us a figment of their own; as though we pretended that the three
Persons are as so many streams proceeding from one essence, when it is
evident, from our writings, that we separate not the Persons from the
essence, but, though they subsist in it, make a distinction between them.
If the persons were separated from the essence, there would perhaps be
some probability in their argument; but then there would be a trinity of
Gods, not a trinity of persons contained in one God. This solves their
frivolous question, whether the essence concurs to the formation of the
Trinity; as though we imagined three Gods to descend from it. Their
objection, that then the Trinity would be without God, is equally
impertinent. Because, though it concurs not to the distinction as a part
or member, yet the Persons are not independent of it, nor separate from
it; for the Father, unless he were God, could not be the Father; and the
Son is the Son only as he is God. Therefore we say, that the Deity is
absolutely self‐existent; whence we confess, also, that the Son, as God,
independently of the consideration of Person, is self‐existent; but as the
Son, we say, that he is of the Father. Thus his essence is unoriginated;
but the origin of his Person is God himself. And, indeed, the orthodox
writers, who have written on the Trinity, have referred this name only to
the Persons; since to comprehend the essence in that distinction, were not
only an absurd error, but a most gross impiety. For it is evident that
those who maintain that the Trinity consists in a union of the Essence,
the Son, and the Spirit, annihilate the essence of the Son and of the
Spirit; otherwise the parts would be destroyed by being confounded
together; which is a fault in every distinction. Finally, if the words
_Father_ and _God_ were synonymous—if the Father were the author of the
Deity—nothing would be left in the Son but a mere shadow; nor would the
Trinity be any other than a conjunction of the one God with two created
things.

XXVI. Their objection, that Christ, if he be properly God, is not rightly
called the Son of God, has already been answered; for when a comparison is
made between one Person and another, the word _God_ is not used
indefinitely, but is restricted to the Father, as being the fountain of
the Deity, not with regard to the essence, as fanatics falsely pretend,
but in respect of order. This is the sense in which we ought to understand
that declaration of Christ to his Father: “This is life eternal, that they
might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast
sent.”(285) For, speaking in the capacity of Mediator, he holds an
intermediate station between God and men; yet without any diminution of
his majesty. For, although he abased himself, yet he lost not his glory
with the Father, which was hidden from the world. Thus the Apostle to the
Hebrews,(286) though he acknowledges that Christ was made for a short time
inferior to the angels, yet, nevertheless, hesitates not to assert, that
he is the eternal God, who laid the foundation of the earth. We must
remember, therefore, that whenever Christ, in the capacity of Mediator,
addresses the Father, he comprehends, under the name of God, the Divinity
which belongs also to himself. Thus, when he said to his Apostles, “I go
unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I,”(287) he attributes not
to himself a secondary Divinity, as if he were inferior to the Father with
respect to the eternal essence, but because, having obtained the glory of
heaven, he gathers together the faithful to a participation of it with
him; he represents the Father to be in a station superior to himself, just
as the illustrious perfection of the splendour which appears in heaven
excels that degree of glory which was visible in him during his incarnate
state. For the same reason, Paul says, in another place, that Christ
“shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that God may be all
in all.”(288) Nothing would be more absurd than to deny perpetual duration
to the Deity of Christ. Now, if he will never cease to be the Son of God,
but will remain for ever the same as he has been from the beginning, it
follows, that by the name _Father_ is intended the one sole Divine
essence, which is common to them both. And it is certain that Christ
descended to us, in order that, exalting us to the Father, he might at the
same time exalt us to himself also, as being one with the Father. It is
therefore neither lawful nor right to restrict the name of God exclusively
to the Father, and to deny it to the Son. For even on this very account
John asserts him to be the true God,(289) that no one might suppose, that
he possessed only a secondary degree of Deity, inferior to the Father. And
I wonder what can be the meaning of these fabricators of new gods, when,
after confessing that Christ is the true God, they immediately exclude him
from the Deity of the Father; as though there could be any true God but
one alone, or as though a transfused Divinity were any thing but a novel
fiction.

XXVII. Their accumulation of numerous passages from Irenæus, where he
asserts the Father of Christ to be the only and eternal God of Israel, is
a proof either of shameful ignorance, or of consummate wickedness. For
they ought to have considered, that that holy man was then engaged in a
controversy with some madmen, who denied that the Father of Christ was the
same God that has spoken by Moses and the Prophets, but maintained that he
was I know not what sort of phantasm, produced from the corruption of the
world. His only object, therefore, is to show that no other God is
revealed in the Scripture than the Father of Christ, and that it is
impious to imagine any other; and therefore we need not wonder at his
frequently concluding, that there never was any other God of Israel than
he who was preached by Christ and his Apostles. So, now, on the other
hand, when a different error is to be opposed, we shall truly assert, that
the God who appeared formerly to the patriarchs, was no other than Christ.
If it be objected that it was the Father, we are prepared to reply, that,
while we contend for the Divinity of the Son, we by no means reject that
of the Father. If the reader attends to this design of Irenæus, all
contention will cease. Moreover, the whole controversy is easily decided
by the sixth chapter of the third book, where the good man insists on this
one point: That he who is absolutely and indefinitely called God in the
Scripture, is the only true God; but that the name of God is given
absolutely to Christ. Let us remember that the point at issue, as appears
from the whole treatise, and particularly from the forty‐sixth chapter of
the second book, was this: That the appellation of Father is not given in
an enigmatical and parabolical sense to one who is not truly God. Besides,
in another place he contends, that the Son is called God, as well as the
Father, by the Prophets and Apostles. He afterwards states how Christ, who
is Lord, and King, and God, and Judge of all, received power from him who
is God of all; and that is with relation to the subjection in which he was
humbled even to the death of the cross. And a little after he affirms,
that the Son is the Creator of heaven and earth, who gave the law by the
hand of Moses, and appeared to the patriarchs. Now, if any one pretends
that Irenæus acknowledges the Father alone as the God of Israel, I shall
reply, as is clearly maintained by the same writer, that Christ is one and
the same; as also he applies to him the prophecy of Habakkuk: “God shall
come from the south.” To the same purpose is what we find in the ninth
chapter of the fourth book: “Therefore Christ himself is, with the Father,
the God of the living.” And in the twelfth chapter of the same book he
states, that Abraham believed in God, inasmuch as Christ is the Creator of
heaven and earth, and the only God.

XXVIII. Their pretensions to the sanction of Tertullian are equally
unfounded, for, notwithstanding the occasional harshness and obscurity of
his mode of expression, yet he unequivocally teaches the substance of the
doctrine which we are defending; that is, that whereas there is one God,
yet by dispensation or economy there is his Word; that there is but one
God in the unity of the substance, but that the unity, by a mysterious
dispensation, is disposed into a trinity; that there are three, not in
condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but
in order. He says, indeed, that he maintains the Son to be second to the
Father; but he applies this only to the distinction of the Persons. He
says somewhere, that the Son is visible; but after having stated arguments
on both sides, he concludes that, as the Word, he is invisible. Lastly,
his assertion that the Father is designated by his Person, proves him to
be at the greatest distance from the notion which we are refuting. And
though he acknowledges no other God than the Father, yet the explanations
which he gives in the immediate context show that he speaks not to the
exclusion of the Son, when he denies the existence of any other God than
the Father; and that therefore the unity of Divine government is not
violated by the distinction of persons. And from the nature and design of
his argument it is easy to gather the meaning of his words. For he
contends, in opposition to Praxeas, that although God is distinguished
into three Persons, yet neither is there a plurality of gods, nor is the
unity divided. And because, according to the erroneous notion of Praxeas,
Christ could not be God, without being the Father, therefore Tertullian
bestows so much labour upon the distinction. His calling the Word and
Spirit a portion of the whole, though a harsh expression, yet is
excusable; since it has no reference to the substance, but only denotes
the disposition and economy, which belongs solely to the Persons,
according to the testimony of Tertullian himself. Hence also that
question, “How many Persons suppose you that there are, O most perverse
Praxeas, but as many as there are names?” So, a little after, “that they
may believe the Father and the Son, both in their names and Persons.”
These arguments, I conceive, will suffice to refute the impudence of those
who make use of the authority of Tertullian in order to deceive the minds
of the simple.

XXIX. And certainly, whoever will diligently compare the writings of the
fathers, will find in Irenæus nothing different from what was advanced by
others who succeeded him. Justin Martyr is one of the most ancient; and he
agrees with us in every point. They may object that the Father of Christ
is denominated the one God by him as well as by the rest. The same is
asserted also by Hilary, and even in harsher terms: he says, that eternity
is in the Father; but does this imply a denial of the Divine essence to
the Son? On the contrary, he had no other design than to maintain the same
faith which we hold. Nevertheless, they are not ashamed to cull out
mutilated passages, in order to induce a belief that he patronized their
error. If they wish any authority to be attached to their quotation of
Ignatius, let them prove that the Apostles delivered any law concerning
Lent, and similar corruptions; for nothing can be more absurd than the
impertinencies which have been published under the name of Ignatius.
Wherefore their impudence is more intolerable, who disguise themselves
under such false colours for the purpose of deception. Moreover, the
consent of antiquity manifestly appears from this circumstance, that in
the Nicene Council, Arius never dared to defend himself by the authority
of any approved writer; and not one of the Greek or Latin fathers, who
were there united against him, excused himself as at all dissenting from
his predecessors. With regard to Augustine, who experienced great
hostility from these disturbers, his diligent examination of all the
writings of the earlier fathers, and his respectful attention to them,
need not be mentioned. If he differs from them in the smallest
particulars, he assigns the reasons which oblige him to dissent from them.
On this argument also, if he finds any thing ambiguous or obscure in
others, he never conceals it. Yet he takes it for granted, that the
doctrine which those men oppose has been received without controversy from
the remotest antiquity; and yet that he was not uninformed of what others
had taught before him, appears even from one word in the first book of his
Treatise on the Christian Doctrine, where he says, that unity is in the
Father. Will they pretend that he had then forgotten himself? But he
elsewhere vindicates himself from this calumny, where he calls the Father
the fountain of the whole Deity, because he is from no other; wisely
considering that the name of God is especially ascribed to the Father,
because, unless the original be from him, it is impossible to conceive of
the simple unity of the Deity. These observations, I hope, will be
approved by the pious reader, as sufficient to refute all the calumnies,
with which Satan has hitherto laboured to pervert or obscure the purity of
this doctrine. Finally, I trust that the whole substance of this doctrine
has been faithfully stated and explained, provided my readers set bounds
to their curiosity, and are not unreasonably fond of tedious and intricate
controversies. For I have not the least expectation of giving satisfaction
to those who are pleased with an intemperance of speculation. I am sure I
have used no artifice in the omission of any thing, from a supposition
that it would make against me. But, studying the edification of the
Church, I have thought it better not to touch upon many things, which
would be unnecessarily burdensome to the reader, without yielding him any
profit. For to what purpose is it to dispute, whether the Father be always
begetting? For it is foolish to imagine a continual act of generation,
since it is evident that three Persons have subsisted in God from all
eternity.



Chapter XIV. The True God Clearly Distinguished In The Scripture From All
Fictitious Ones By The Creation Of The World.


Although Isaiah(290) brings a just accusation of stupidity against the
worshippers of fictitious deities, for not having learned, from the
foundations of the earth, and the circuit of the heavens, who was the true
God, yet such is the slowness and dulness of our minds, as to induce a
necessity for a more express exhibition of the true God, lest the faithful
should decline to the fictions of the heathen. For, since the most
tolerable description given by the philosophers, that God is the soul of
the world, is utterly vain and worthless, we require a more familiar
knowledge of him, to prevent us from wavering in perpetual uncertainty.
Therefore he hath been pleased to give us a history of the creation, on
which the faith of the Church might rest, without seeking after any other
God than him whom Moses has represented as the former and builder of the
world. The first thing specified in this history is the time, that by a
continued series of years the faithful might arrive at the first original
of the human race, and of all things. This knowledge is eminently useful,
not only to contradict the monstrous fables formerly received in Egypt and
other countries, but also to give us clearer views of the eternity of God,
and to fill us with greater admiration of it. Nor ought we to be moved
with that profane sneer, that it is marvellous that God did not form the
design of creating heaven and earth at an earlier period, but suffered an
immeasurable duration to pass away unemployed, since he could have made
them many thousands of ages before; whereas the continuance of the world,
now advancing to its last end, has not yet reached six thousand years. For
the reason why God deferred it so long, it would be neither lawful nor
expedient to inquire; because, if the human mind strive to penetrate it,
it will fail a hundred times in the attempt; nor, indeed, could there be
any utility in the knowledge of that which God himself, in order to prove
the modesty of our faith, has purposely concealed. Great shrewdness was
discovered by a certain pious old man, who, when some scoffer ludicrously
inquired what God had been doing before the creation of the world, replied
that he had been making hell for over curious men. This admonition, no
less grave than severe, should repress the wantonness which stimulates
many, and impels them to perverse and injurious speculations. Lastly, let
us remember that God, who is invisible, and whose wisdom, power, and
justice, are incomprehensible, has placed before us the history of Moses,
as a mirror which exhibits his lively image. For as eyes, either dim
through age, or dull through any disease, see nothing distinctly without
the assistance of spectacles, so, in our inquiries after God, such is our
imbecility, without the guidance of the Scripture we immediately lose our
way. But those who indulge their presumption, since they are now
admonished in vain, will perceive too late, by their horrible destruction,
how much better it would have been to look up to the secret counsels of
God with reverential awe, than to disgorge their blasphemies to darken the
heaven. Augustine justly complains, that it is an offence against God, to
inquire for any cause of things, higher than his will. He elsewhere
prudently cautions us, that it is as absurd to dispute concerning an
infinite duration of time, as concerning an infinite extent of place.
However extensive the circuit of the heavens, yet certainly it has some
dimensions. Now, if any one should expostulate with God, that the vacuity
of space is a hundred times larger, would not such arrogance be detested
by all pious persons? The same madness is chargeable on those who censure
the inaction of God, for not having, according to their wishes, created
the world innumerable ages before. To gratify their inordinate curiosity,
they desire to pass beyond the limits of the world; as though, in the very
ample circumference of heaven and earth, we were not surrounded by
numerous objects capable of absorbing all our senses in their inestimable
splendour; as though, in the course of six thousand years, God had not
given us lessons sufficient to exercise our minds in assiduous meditation
on them. Then let us cheerfully remain within these barriers with which
God has been pleased to circumscribe us, and as it were to confine our
minds, that they might not be wandering in the boundless regions of
uncertain conjecture.

II. To the same purpose is the narration of Moses, that the work of God
was completed, not in one moment, but in six days. For by this
circumstance also we are called away from all false deities to the only
true God, who distributed his work into six days, that it might not be
tedious to us to occupy the whole of life in the consideration of it. For
though, whithersoever we turn our eyes, they are constrained to behold the
works of God, yet we see how transient our attention is, and, if we are
touched with any pious reflections, how soon they leave us again. Here,
also, human reason murmurs, as though such progressive works were
inconsistent with the power of Deity; till, subdued to the obedience of
faith, it learns to observe that rest, to which the sanctification of the
seventh day invites us. Now, in the order of those things, we must
diligently consider the paternal love of God towards the human race, in
not creating Adam before he had enriched the earth with an abundant supply
of every thing conducive to his happiness. For had he placed him in the
earth while it remained barren and vacant, had he given him life before
there was any light, he would have appeared not very attentive to his
benefit. Now, when he has regulated the motions of the sun and the stars
for the service of man, replenished the earth, the air, and the waters,
with living creatures, and caused the earth to produce an abundance of all
kinds of fruits sufficient for sustenance, he acts the part of a provident
and sedulous father of a family, and displays his wonderful goodness
towards us. If the reader will more attentively consider with himself
these things, which I only hint at as I proceed, he will be convinced that
Moses was an authentic witness and herald of the one God, the Creator of
the world. I pass over what I have already stated, that he not only speaks
of the mere essence of God, but also exhibits to us his eternal Wisdom and
his Spirit, in order that we may not dream of any other God except him who
will be known in that express image.

III. But before I begin to enlarge on the nature of man, something must be
said concerning angels. Because, though Moses, in the history of the
creation, accommodating himself to the ignorance of the common people,
mentions no other works of God than such as are visible to our eyes, yet,
when he afterwards introduces angels as ministers of God, we may easily
conclude, that he is their Creator, whom they obey, and in whose service
they are employed. Though Moses, therefore, speaking in a popular manner,
does not, in the beginning of his writings, immediately enumerate the
angels among the creatures of God, yet nothing forbids our here making a
plain and explicit statement of those things which the Scripture teaches
in other places; because, if we desire to know God from his works, such an
excellent and noble specimen should by no means be omitted. Besides, this
point of doctrine is very necessary for the confutation of many errors.
The excellence of the angelic nature has so dazzled the minds of many,
that they have supposed them to be injured, if they were treated as mere
creatures, subject to the government of one God. Hence they were falsely
pretended to possess a kind of divinity. Manichæus has also arisen, with
the sect which he founded, who imagined to himself two original
principles, God and the devil; and attributed to God the origin of all
good things, but referred evil natures to the production of the devil. If
our minds were bewildered in this wild and incoherent system, we should
not leave God in full possession of his glory in the creation of the
world. For, since nothing is more peculiar to God than eternity and self‐
existence, does not the ascription of this to the devil dignify him with a
title of Divinity? Now, where is the omnipotence of God, if such an empire
be conceded to the devil, as that he can execute whatever he pleases,
notwithstanding the aversion of the Divine will, or opposition of the
Divine power? But the only foundation of the system of Manichæus, that it
is unlawful to ascribe to a good God the creation of any evil thing, in no
respect affects the orthodox faith, which admits not that any thing in the
universe is evil in its nature; since neither the depravity and wickedness
of men and devils, nor the sins which proceed from that source, are from
mere nature, but from a corruption of nature; nor from the beginning has
any thing existed, in which God has not given a specimen both of his
wisdom and of his justice. To oppose these perverse notions, it is
necessary to raise our minds higher than our eyes can reach. And it is
very probable that it was with this design, when, in the Nicene creed, God
is called the Creator of all things, that particular mention is made of
things invisible. Yet it shall be my study to observe the limit which the
rule of piety prescribes, lest, by indulging an unprofitable degree of
speculation, I should lead the reader astray from the simplicity of the
faith. And certainly, since the Spirit invariably teaches us in a
profitable manner, but, with regard to things of little importance to
edification, either is wholly silent, or but lightly and cursorily touches
on them,—it is also our duty cheerfully to remain in ignorance of what it
is not for our advantage to know.

IV. Since angels are ministers of God appointed to execute his
commands,(291) that they are also his creatures, ought to be admitted
without controversy. And does it not betray obstinacy rather than
diligence, to raise any contention concerning the time or the order in
which they were created? Moses narrates, that “the heavens and the earth
were finished, and all the host of them:”(292) to what purpose is it
anxiously to inquire, on what day, besides the stars and the planets, the
other more concealed hosts of heaven began to exist? Not to be too prolix,
let us remember on this point (as on the whole doctrine of religion) to
observe one rule of modesty and sobriety; which is, not to speak, or
think, or even desire to know, concerning obscure subjects, any thing
beyond the information given us in the Divine word. Another rule to be
followed is, in reading the Scripture, continually to direct our attention
to investigate and meditate upon things conducive to edification; not to
indulge curiosity or the study of things unprofitable. And, since the Lord
has been pleased to instruct us, not in frivolous questions, but in solid
piety, the fear of his name, true confidence, and the duties of holiness,
let us content ourselves with that knowledge. Wherefore, if we wish to be
truly wise, we must forsake the vain imaginations propagated by triflers
concerning the nature, orders, and multitude of angels. I know that these
things are embraced by many persons with greater avidity, and dwelt upon
with more pleasure, than such things as are in daily use. But, if it be
not irksome to be the disciples of Christ, it should not be irksome to
follow that method which he has prescribed. Then the consequence will be,
that, content with his discipline, we shall not only leave, but also
abhor, those unprofitable speculations from which he calls us away. No man
can deny that great subtlety and acuteness is discovered by Dionysius,
whoever he was, in many parts of his treatise on the Celestial Hierarchy;
but, if any one enters into a critical examination of it, he will find the
greatest part of it to be mere babbling. But the duty of a theologian is,
not to please the ear with empty sounds, but to confirm the conscience by
teaching things which are true, certain, and profitable. A reader of that
book would suppose that the author was a man descended from heaven, giving
an account of things that he had not learned from the information of
others, but had seen with his own eyes. But Paul, who was “caught up to
the third heaven,”(293) not only has told us no such things, but has even
declared, that it is not lawful for men to utter the secret things which
he had seen. Taking our leave, therefore, of this nugatory wisdom, let us
consider, from the simple doctrine of the Scripture, what the Lord has
been pleased for us to know concerning his angels.

V. We are frequently informed in the Scripture, that angels are celestial
spirits, whose ministry and service God uses for the execution of whatever
he has decreed; and hence this name is given to them, because God employs
them as messengers to manifest himself to men. Other appellations also, by
which they are distinguished, are derived from a similar cause. They are
called Hosts, because, as life‐guards, they surround their prince,
aggrandizing his majesty, and rendering it conspicuous; and, like
soldiers, are ever attentive to the signal of their leader; and are so
prepared for the performance of his commands, that he has no sooner
signified his will than they are ready for the work, or rather are
actually engaged in it. Such a representation of the throne of God is
exhibited in the magnificent descriptions of the Prophets, but
particularly of Daniel; where he says, when God had ascended the judgment‐
seat, that “thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times
ten thousand stood before him.”(294) Since by their means the Lord
wonderfully exerts and declares the power and strength of his hand, thence
they are denominated Powers.(295) Because by them he exercises and
administers his government in the world, therefore they are called
sometimes Principalities, sometimes Powers, sometimes Dominions. Lastly,
because the glory of God in some measure resides in them, they have also,
for this reason, the appellation of Thrones;(296) although on this last
name I would affirm nothing, because a different interpretation is equally
or even more suitable. But, omitting this name, the Holy Spirit often uses
the former ones, to magnify the dignity of the angelic ministry. Nor,
indeed, is it right that no honour should be paid to those instruments, by
whom God particularly exhibits the presence of his power. Moreover, they
are more than once called gods; because in their ministry, as in a mirror,
they give us an imperfect representation of Divinity. Though I am pleased
with the interpretation of the old writers, on those passages where the
Scripture records the appearance of an angel of God to Abraham, Jacob,
Moses, and others,(297) that Christ was that angel, yet frequently, where
mention is made of angels in general, this name is given to them. Nor
should this surprise us; for, if that honour be given to princes and
governors, because, in the performance of their functions, they are
vicegerents of God, the supreme King and Judge,(298) there is far greater
reason for its being paid to angels, in whom the splendour of the Divine
glory is far more abundantly displayed.

VI. But the Scripture principally insists on what might conduce most to
our consolation, and the confirmation of our faith—that the angels are the
dispensers and administrators of the Divine beneficence towards us; and
therefore it informs us, that they guard our safety, undertake our
defence, direct our ways, and exercise a constant solicitude that no evil
befall us. The declarations are universal, belonging primarily to Christ
the head of the Church, and then to all the faithful: “He shall give his
angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear
thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”(299)
Again, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him,
and delivereth them.”(300) In these passages God shows that he delegates
to his angels the protection of those whom he has undertaken to preserve.
Accordingly, the angel of the Lord consoles the fugitive Hagar, and
commands her to be reconciled to her mistress.(301) Abraham promises his
servant that an angel should be the guide of his journey.(302) Jacob, in
his benediction of Ephraim and Manasseh, prays that the angel of the Lord,
by whom he had been redeemed from all evil, would cause them to
prosper.(303) Thus an angel was appointed to protect the camp of the
Israelites;(304) and whenever it pleased God to deliver them from the
hands of their enemies, he raised up avengers by the ministry of
angels.(305) And finally, to supersede the necessity of adducing more
examples, angels ministered to Christ and attended him in all his
difficulties; they announced his resurrection to the women, and his
glorious advent to the disciples.(306) And thus, in the discharge of their
office as our protectors, they contend against the devil and all our
enemies, and execute the vengeance of God on those who molest us; as we
read that an angel of God, to deliver Jerusalem from a siege, slew a
hundred and eighty‐five thousand men in the camp of the king of Assyria in
one night.(307)

VII. But whether each of the faithful has a particular angel assigned him
for his defence, I cannot venture certainly to affirm. When Daniel
introduces the angel of the Persians and the angel of the Greeks,(308) he
clearly signifies that certain angels are appointed to preside over
kingdoms and provinces. Christ also, when he says that the angels of
children always behold the face of the Father,(309) suggests, that there
are certain angels who are charged with their safety. But I know not
whether this justifies the conclusion, that every one of them has his
particular guardian angel. Of this, indeed, we may be certain, that not
one angel only has the care of every one of us, but that they all with one
consent watch for our salvation. For it is said of all the angels
together, that they rejoice more over one sinner turned to repentance,
than over ninety and nine just persons who have persevered in their
righteousness.(310) Of more than one angel it is said, that they carried
the soul of Lazarus into the bosom of Abraham.(311) Nor is it in vain that
Elisha shows his servant so many fiery chariots, which were peculiarly
assigned to him for his protection.(312) There is one place which seems
clearer than the rest in confirmation of this point. For when Peter, on
his liberation from prison, knocked at the door of the house in which the
brethren were assembled, as they could not suppose it to be Peter himself,
they said it was his angel.(313) This conclusion seems to have arisen in
their minds from the common opinion that each of the faithful has his
guardian angel assigned him. But here it may also be replied, that nothing
prevents this being understood of any one of the angels, to whom the Lord
might have committed the care of Peter on that occasion, and who yet might
not be his perpetual guardian; as it is vulgarly imagined that every
person has two angels, a good one and a bad one, according to the heathen
notion of different genii. But it is not worth while anxiously to
investigate what it little concerns us to know. For if any one be not
satisfied with this, that all the orders of the celestial army watch for
his safety, I see not what advantage he can derive from knowing that he
has one particular angel given him for his guardian. But those who
restrict to one angel the care which God exercises over every one of us,
do a great injury to themselves, and to all the members of the Church; as
though those auxiliaries had been promised in vain, who, by surrounding
and defending us on all sides, contribute to increase our courage in the
conflict.

VIII. Let those, who venture to determine concerning the multitude and
orders of the angels, examine on what foundation their opinions rest.
Michael, I confess, is called in Daniel “the great prince,” and in Jude
“the archangel.”(314) And Paul informs us that it will be an archangel,
who, with the sound of a trumpet, shall summon men to judgment.(315) But
who, from these passages, can determine the degrees of honour among the
angels, distinguish the individuals by their respective titles, and assign
to every one his place and station? For the two names which are found in
the Scripture, Michael and Gabriel, and the third, if you wish to add it
from the history of Tobias,(316) may appear, from their significations, to
be given to angels on account of our infirmity; though I would rather
leave this undetermined. With respect to their numbers, we hear, from the
mouth of Christ, of many legions;(317) from Daniel, of many myriads:(318)
the servant of Elisha saw many chariots; and their being said to encamp
round about them that fear God,(319) is expressive of a great multitude.
It is certain that spirits have no form; and yet the Scripture, on account
of the slender capacity of our minds, under the names of cherubim and
seraphim, represents angels to us as having wings, to prevent our doubting
that they will always attend, with incredible celerity, to afford us
assistance as soon as our cases require it; as though the lightning darted
from heaven were to fly to us with its accustomed velocity. All further
inquiries on both these points, we should consider as belonging to that
class of mysteries, the full revelation of which is deferred to the last
day. Wherefore let us remember that we ought to avoid too much curiosity
of research, and presumption of language.

IX. But this, which is called in question by some restless men, must be
received as a certain truth, that angels are ministering spirits, whose
service God uses for the protection of his people, and by whom he
dispenses his benefits among mankind, and executes his other works. It was
the opinion of the ancient Sadducees, indeed, that the term _angels_
signified nothing but the motions which God inspires into men, or those
specimens which he gives of his power. But this foolish notion is
repugnant to so many testimonies of Scripture, that it is surprising how
such gross ignorance could have been tolerated among that people. For, to
omit the places before cited, where mention is made of thousands and
legions of angels; where joy is attributed to them; where they are said to
sustain the faithful in their hands, to carry their souls into rest, to
behold the face of the Father,(320) and the like,—there are others which
most clearly evince, that they are spirits possessing an actual existence
and their own peculiar nature. For the declarations of Stephen and
Paul,—that the law was given by the hand of angels,(321) and of Christ,
that the elect, after the resurrection, shall be like angels; that the day
of judgment is not known even to the angels; that he then will come with
his holy angels,(322)—however tortured, must necessarily be thus
understood. Likewise, when Paul charges Timothy, before Christ and the
elect angels, to keep his precepts,(323) he intends, not unsubstantial
qualities or inspirations, but real spirits. Nor otherwise is there any
meaning in what we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that Christ is made
more excellent than the angels, that the world is not subject to them,
that Christ assumed not their nature, but the nature of man,(324) unless
we understand that there are happy spirits, to whom these comparisons may
apply. And the author of the same epistle explains himself, where he
places angels and the souls of the faithful together in the kingdom of
God.(325) Besides, we have already quoted, that the angels of children
always behold the face of God; that we are always defended by their
protection; that they rejoice for our safety; that they admire the
manifold grace of God in the church;(326) and are subject to Christ as
their head.(327) The same truth is proved by their having so often
appeared to the patriarchs in the form of men, conversed with them, and
been entertained by them. And Christ himself, on account of the
preëminence which he obtains in the capacity of Mediator, is called an
angel.(328) I have thought proper cursorily to touch on this point, in
order to fortify the simple against those foolish and absurd notions,
which were disseminated by Satan many ages ago, and are frequently
springing up afresh.

X. It remains for us to encounter the superstition, which generally
insinuates itself into men’s minds when angels are said to be the
ministers and dispensers of all our blessings. For human reason soon falls
into an opinion, that there is no honour that ought not to be paid to
them. Thus it happens that what belongs solely to God and Christ, is
transferred to them. Thus we see, that for some ages past the glory of
Christ has in many ways been obscured; while angels have been loaded with
extravagant honours without the authority of the word of God. And among
the errors which we combat in the present day, there is scarcely one more
ancient than this. For even Paul appears to have had a great controversy
with some, who exalted angels in such a manner as almost to degrade Christ
to an inferior station. Hence the solicitude with which he maintains, in
the Epistle to the Colossians, not only that Christ is to be esteemed
above angels, but also that he is the author of all blessings to
them,(329) in order that we may not forsake him and turn to them, who are
not even sufficient for themselves, but draw from the same fountain as we
do. Since the splendour of the Divine majesty, therefore, is eminently
displayed in them, there is nothing more natural than for us to fall down
with astonishment in adoration of them, and to attribute every thing to
them which exclusively belongs to God. Even John, in the Revelation,
confesses this to have happened to himself; but adds at the same time,
that he was thus answered: “See thou do it not: I am thy fellow‐servant:
worship God.”(330)

XI. But this danger we shall happily avoid, if we consider why God is
accustomed to provide for the safety of the faithful, and to communicate
the gifts of his beneficence by means of angels, rather than by himself to
manifest his own power without their intervention. He certainly does this
not from necessity, as though he were unable to do without them; for
whenever he pleases he passes them by, and performs his work with a mere
nod of his power; so far is he from being indebted to their assistance for
relieving him in any difficulty. This, therefore, conduces to the
consolation of our imbecility, that we may want nothing that can either
raise our minds to a good hope, or confirm them in security. This one
thing, indeed, ought to be more than sufficient for us, that the Lord
declares himself to be our Protector. But while we see ourselves
encompassed with so many dangers, so many annoyances, such various kinds
of enemies,—such is our weakness and frailty, that we may sometimes be
filled with terror, or fall into despair, unless the Lord enables us,
according to our capacity, to discover the presence of his grace. For this
reason he promises, not only that he will take care of us himself, but
also that we shall have innumerable life‐guards, to whom he has committed
the charge of our safety; and that, as long as we are surrounded by their
superintendence and protection, whatever danger may threaten, we are
placed beyond the utmost reach of evil. I confess, indeed, that it is
wrong for us, after that simple promise of the protection of God alone,
still to be looking around to see from what quarter our aid may come. But
since the Lord, from his infinite clemency and goodness, is pleased to
assist this our weakness, there is no reason why we should neglect this
great favour which he shows us. We have an example of this in the servant
of Elisha, who, when he saw that the mountain was besieged by an army of
Syrians,(331) and that no way of escape was left, was filled with
consternation, as though himself and his master had been ruined. Then
Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes, and he immediately saw the
mountain full of horses and chariots of fire; that is, of a multitude of
angels who were to guard him and the Prophet. Encouraged by this vision,
he came to himself again, and was able to look down with intrepidity on
the enemies, the sight of whom before had almost deprived him of life.

XII. Therefore, whatever is said concerning the ministry of angels, let us
direct it to this end, that, overcoming all diffidence, our hope in God
may be more firmly established. For the Lord has provided these guards for
us, that we may not be terrified by a multitude of enemies, as though they
could prevail in opposition to his assistance, but may have recourse to
the sentiment expressed by Elisha, “There are more for us than against
us.” How preposterous is it, then, that we should be alienated from God by
angels, who are appointed for this very purpose, to testify that his aid
is more especially present with us! But they do alienate us from him,
unless they lead us directly to him, to regard him, call on him, and
celebrate him as our only helper; unless they are considered by us as his
hands, which apply themselves to do nothing without his direction; unless
they attach us to Christ, the only Mediator, to depend entirely on him, to
lean upon him, to aspire to him, and to rest satisfied in him. For what is
described in the vision of Jacob(332) ought to be firmly fixed in our
minds, that the angels descend to the earth to men, and ascend from earth
to heaven, by a ladder above which stands the Lord of hosts. This implies,
that it is only through the intercession of Christ, that we are favoured
with the ministry of angels, as he himself affirms: “Hereafter ye shall
see heaven open, and the angels descending upon the Son of man.”(333)
Therefore the servant of Abraham, having been commended to the care of an
angel,(334) does not therefore invoke him for his aid, but, trusting to
that committal, pours out his prayers before the Lord, and entreats him to
display his mercy towards Abraham. For as God does not make them the
ministers of his power and goodness, in order to divide his glory with
them, so neither does he promise his assistance in their ministry, that we
may divide our confidence between them and him. Let us take our leave,
therefore, of that Platonic philosophy, which seeks access to God by means
of angels, and worships them in order to render him more propitious to us;
which superstitious and curious men have endeavoured from the beginning,
and even to this day persevere in attempting, to introduce into our
religion.

XIII. The design of almost every thing that the Scripture teaches
concerning devils, is that we may be careful to guard against their
insidious machinations, and may provide ourselves with such weapons as are
sufficiently firm and strong to repel the most powerful enemies. For when
Satan is called the god and prince of this world,(335) the strong man
armed,(336) the prince of the power of the air,(337) a roaring lion,(338)
these descriptions only tend to make us more cautious and vigilant, and
better prepared to encounter him. This is sometimes signified in express
words. For Peter, after having said that “the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about seeking whom he may devour,” immediately subjoins an
exhortation to “resist him, steadfast in the faith.” And Paul, having
suggested that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this
world, against spiritual wickedness,”(339) immediately commands us to put
on suitable armour for so great and so perilous a conflict. Wherefore,
having been previously warned that we are perpetually threatened by an
enemy, and an enemy desperately bold and extremely strong, skilled in
every artifice, indefatigable in diligence and celerity, abundantly
provided with all kinds of weapons, and most expert in the science of war,
let us make it the grand object of our attention, that we suffer not
ourselves to be oppressed with slothfulness and inactivity, but, on the
contrary, arousing and collecting all our courage, be ready for a vigorous
resistance; and as this warfare is terminated only by death, let us
encourage ourselves to perseverance. But, above all, conscious of weakness
and ignorance, let us implore the assistance of God, nor attempt any thing
but in reliance on him; since he alone can supply us with wisdom, and
strength, and courage, and armour.

XIV. But, the more to excite and urge us to such conduct, the Scripture
announces that there are not one, or two, or a few enemies, but great
armies who wage war against us. For even Mary Magdalene is said to have
been delivered from seven demons, by whom she was possessed;(340) and
Christ declares it to be a common case, that, if you leave the place open
for the re‐entrance of a demon who has once been ejected, he associates
with himself seven spirits more wicked still, and returns to his vacant
possession.(341) Indeed, one man is said to have been possessed by a whole
legion.(342) By these passages, therefore, we are taught, that we have to
contend with an infinite multitude of enemies; lest, despising their
paucity, we should be more remiss to encounter them, or, expecting
sometimes an intermission of hostility, should indulge ourselves in
idleness. But when one Satan or devil is frequently mentioned in the
singular number, it denotes that principality of wickedness which opposes
the kingdom of righteousness. For as the Church and society of saints have
Christ as their head, so the faction of the impious, and impiety itself,
are represented to us with their prince, who exercises the supreme power
among them; which is the meaning of that sentence, “Depart, ye cursed,
into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”(343)

XV. It also ought to stimulate us to a perpetual war with the devil, that
he is every where called God’s adversary and ours. For, if we feel the
concern which we ought to feel for the glory of God, we shall exert all
our power against him who attempts the extinction of it. If we are
animated by a becoming zeal for defending the kingdom of Christ, we must
necessarily have an irreconcilable war with him who conspires its ruin. On
the other hand, if we are solicitous for our salvation, we ought to make
neither peace nor truce with him who assiduously plots its destruction.
Now, such is the description given of him in the third chapter of Genesis,
where he seduces man from the obedience owed by him to God, so that he at
once robs God of his just honour, and precipitates man into ruin. Such,
also, is he described in the Evangelists, where he is called an enemy, and
said to sow tares in order to corrupt the seed of eternal life.(344) In
short, the testimony of Christ concerning him, that he was a murderer and
a liar from the beginning,(345) we find verified in all his actions. For
he opposes Divine truth with lies; obscures the light with shades of
darkness; involves the minds of men in errors; stirs up animosities, and
kindles contentions and wars;—and all for the purpose of subverting the
kingdom of God, and plunging mankind with himself into eternal
destruction. Whence it is evident, that he is naturally depraved, vicious,
malignant, and mischievous. For there must be extreme depravity in that
mind which is bent on opposing the glory of God and the salvation of men.
And this is suggested by John in his Epistle, when he says, that “he
sinneth from the beginning.” For he intends, that he is the author,
conductor, and principal contriver of all wickedness and iniquity.

XVI. But since the devil was created by God, we must remark, that this
wickedness which we attribute to his nature is not from creation, but from
corruption. For whatever evil quality he has, he has acquired by his
defection and fall. And of this the Scripture apprizes us; lest, believing
him to have come from God, just as he now is, we should ascribe to God
himself that which is in direct opposition to him. For this reason Christ
declares, that Satan, “when he speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own;”(346)
and adds the reason—“because he abode not in the truth.” When he says that
he abode not in the truth, he certainly implies that he had once been in
it; and when he calls him the father of a lie, he precludes his imputing
to God the depravity of his nature, which originated wholly from himself.
Though these things are delivered in a brief and rather obscure manner,
yet they are abundantly sufficient to vindicate the majesty of God from
every calumny. And what does it concern us to know, respecting devils,
either more particulars, or for any other purpose? Some persons are
displeased that the Scripture does not give us, in various places, a
distinct and detailed account of their fall, with its cause, manner, time,
and nature. But, these things being nothing to us, it was better for them,
if not to be passed over in total silence, yet certainly to be touched on
but lightly; because it would ill comport with the dignity of the Holy
Spirit to feed curiosity with vain and unprofitable histories; and we
perceive it to have been the design of the Lord, to deliver nothing in his
sacred oracles, which we might not learn to our edification. That we
ourselves, therefore, may not dwell upon unprofitable subjects, let us be
content with this concise information respecting the nature of devils;
that at their creation they were originally angels of God, but by
degenerating have ruined themselves, and become the instruments of
perdition to others. This being useful to be known, it is clearly stated
by Peter and Jude. “God,” say they, “spared not the angels that sinned,
and kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation.”(347) And
Paul, mentioning the elect angels,(348) without doubt tacitly implies that
there are reprobate ones.

XVII. The discord and contention, which we say Satan maintains against
God, ought to be understood in a manner consistent with a firm persuasion,
that he can do nothing without God’s will and consent. For we read in the
history of Job, that he presented himself before God to receive his
commands, and dared not to undertake any enterprise without having
obtained his permission.(349) Thus, also, when Ahab was to be deceived, he
undertook to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets; and,
being commissioned by God, he performed it.(350) For this reason he is
also called the “evil spirit from the Lord,” who tormented Saul,(351)
because he was employed as a scourge to punish the sins of that impious
monarch. And elsewhere it is recorded, that the plagues were inflicted on
the Egyptians by the “evil angels.”(352) According to these particular
examples, Paul declares generally, that the blinding of unbelievers is the
work of God,(353) whereas he had before called it the operation of Satan.
It appears, then, that Satan is subject to the power of God, and so
governed by his control, that he is compelled to render obedience to him.
Now, when we say that Satan resists God, and that his works are contrary
to the works of God, we at the same time assert that this repugnance and
contention depend on the Divine permission. I speak now, not of the will
or the endeavour, but only of the effect. For the devil, being naturally
wicked, has not the least inclination towards obedience to the Divine
will, but is wholly bent on insolence and rebellion. It therefore arises
from himself and his wickedness, that he opposes God with all his desires
and purposes. This depravity stimulates him to attempt those things which
he thinks the most opposed to God. But since God holds him tied and bound
with the bridle of his power, he executes only those things which are
divinely permitted; and thus, whether he will or not, he obeys his
Creator, being constrained to fulfil any service to which he impels him.

XVIII. While God directs the courses of unclean spirits hither and thither
at his pleasure, he regulates this government in such a manner, that they
exercise the faithful with fighting, attack them in ambuscades, harass
them with incursions, push them in battles, and frequently fatigue them,
throw them into confusion, terrify them, and sometimes wound them, yet
never conquer or overwhelm them; but subdue and lead captive the impious,
tyrannize over their souls and bodies, and abuse them like slaves by
employing them in the perpetration of every enormity. The faithful, in
consequence of being harassed by such enemies, are addressed with the
following, and other similar exhortations: “Give not place to the
devil.”(354) “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about,
seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, steadfast in the faith.”(355)
Paul confesses that he himself was not free from this kind of warfare,
when he declares that, as a remedy to subdue pride, “the messenger of
Satan was given to him to buffet him.”(356) This exercise, then, is common
to all the children of God. But, as the promise respecting the breaking of
the head of Satan(357) belongs to Christ and all his members in common, I
therefore deny that the faithful can ever be conquered or overwhelmed by
him. They are frequently filled with consternation, but recover themselves
again; they fall by the violence of his blows, but are raised up again;
they are wounded, but not mortally; finally, they labour through their
whole lives in such a manner, as at last to obtain the victory. This,
however, is not to be restricted to each single action. For we know that,
by the righteous vengeance of God, David was for a time delivered to
Satan, that by his instigation he might number the people;(358) nor is it
without reason that Paul admits a hope of pardon even for those who may
have been entangled in the snares of the devil.(359) Therefore the same
Apostle shows, in another place, that the promise before cited is begun in
this life, where we must engage in the conflict; and that after the
termination of the conflict it will be completed. “And the God of peace,”
he says, “shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”(360) In our Head
this victory, indeed, has always been complete, because the prince of this
world had nothing in him:(361) in us, who are his members, it yet appears
only in part, but will be completed when we shall have put off our flesh,
which makes us still subject to infirmities, and shall be full of the
power of the Holy Spirit. In this manner, when the kingdom of Christ is
erected, Satan and his power must fall; as the Lord himself says, “I
beheld Satan as lightning falling from heaven.”(362) For by this answer he
confirms what the Apostles had reported concerning the power of his
preaching. Again: “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods
are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him and overcome
him,” &c.(363) And to this end Christ by his death overcame Satan, who had
the power of death, and triumphed over all his forces, that they might not
be able to hurt the Church; for otherwise it would be in hourly danger of
destruction. For such is our imbecility, and such the strength of his
fury, how could we stand even for a moment against his various and
unceasing attacks, without being supported by the victory of our Captain?
Therefore God permits not Satan to exercise any power over the souls of
the faithful, but abandons to his government only the impious and
unbelieving, whom he designs not to number among his own flock. For he is
said to have the undisturbed possession of this world, till he is expelled
by Christ.(364) He is said also to blind all who believe not the
Gospel,(365) and to work in the children of disobedience;(366) and this
justly, for all the impious are vessels of wrath.(367) To whom, therefore,
should they be subjected, but to the minister of the Divine vengeance?
Finally, they are said to be of their father the devil;(368) because, as
the faithful are known to be the children of God from their bearing his
image,(369) so the impious, from the image of Satan into which they have
degenerated, are properly considered as his children.

XIX. But as we have already confuted that nugatory philosophy concerning
the holy angels, which teaches that they are nothing but inspirations, or
good motions, excited by God in the minds of men, so in this place we must
refute those who pretend that devils are nothing but evil affections or
perturbations, which our flesh obtrudes on our minds. But this may be
easily done, and that because the testimonies of Scripture on this subject
are numerous and clear. First, when they are called unclean spirits and
apostate angels,(370) who have degenerated from their original condition,
the very names sufficiently express, not mental emotions or affections,
but rather in reality what are called minds, or spirits endued with
perception and intelligence. Likewise, when the children of God are
compared with the children of the devil, both by Christ and by John,(371)
would not the comparison be absurd, if nothing were intended by the word
_devil_ but evil inspirations? And John adds something still plainer, that
the devil sins from the beginning. Likewise, when Jude introduces Michael
the archangel contending with the devil,(372) he certainly opposes to the
good angel an evil and rebellious one; to which agrees what is recorded in
the history of Job, that Satan appeared with the holy angels before
God.(373) But the clearest of all are those passages, which mention the
punishment which they begin to feel from the judgment of God, and are to
feel much more at the resurrection: “Thou Son of God, art thou come hither
to torment us before the time?”(374) Also, “Depart, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”(375) Again, “If
God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and
delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,”
&c.(376) How unmeaning were these expressions, that the devils are
appointed to eternal judgment; that fire is prepared for them; that they
are now tormented and vexed by the glory of Christ, if there were no
devils at all! But since this point is not a subject of dispute with those
who give credit to the word of the Lord, but with those vain speculators
who are pleased with nothing but novelty, little good can be effected by
testimonies of Scripture. I consider myself as having done what I
intended, which was to fortify the pious mind against such a species of
errors, with which restless men disturb themselves and others that are
more simple. But it was requisite to touch on it, lest any persons
involved in that error, under a supposition that they have no adversary,
should become more slothful and incautious to resist him.

XX. Yet let us not disdain to receive a pious delight from the works of
God, which every where present themselves to view in this very beautiful
theatre of the world. For this, as I have elsewhere observed, though not
the principal, is yet, in the order of nature, the first lesson of faith,
to remember that, whithersoever we turn our eyes, all the things which we
behold are the works of God; and at the same time to consider, with pious
meditation, for what end God created them. Therefore to apprehend, by a
true faith, what it is for our benefit to know concerning God, we must
first of all understand the history of the creation of the world, as it is
briefly related by Moses, and afterwards more copiously illustrated by
holy men, particularly by Basil and Ambrose. Thence we shall learn that
God, by the power of his Word and Spirit, created out of nothing the
heaven and the earth; that from them he produced all things, animate and
inanimate; distinguished by an admirable gradation the innumerable variety
of things; to every species gave its proper nature, assigned its offices,
and appointed its places and stations; and since all things are subject to
corruption, has, nevertheless, provided for the preservation of every
species till the last day; that he therefore nourishes some by methods
concealed from us, from time to time infusing, as it were, new vigour into
them; that on some he has conferred the power of propagation, in order
that the whole species may not be extinct at their death; that he has thus
wonderfully adorned heaven and earth with the utmost possible abundance,
variety, and beauty, like a large and splendid mansion, most exquisitely
and copiously furnished; lastly, that, by creating man, and distinguishing
him with such splendid beauty, and with such numerous and great
privileges, he has exhibited in him a most excellent specimen of all his
works. But since it is not my design to treat at large of the creation of
the world, let it suffice to have again dropped these few hints by the
way. For it is better, as I have just advised the reader, to seek for
fuller information on this subject from Moses, and others who have
faithfully and diligently recorded the history of the world.

XXI. It is useless to enter into a prolix disputation respecting the right
tendency and legitimate design of a consideration of the works of God,
since this question has been, in a great measure, determined in another
place, and, as much as concerns our present purpose, may be despatched in
few words. Indeed, if we wished to explain how the inestimable wisdom,
power, justice, and goodness, of God are manifested in the formation of
the world, no splendour or ornament of diction will equal the magnitude of
so great a subject. And it is undoubtedly the will of the Lord, that we
should be continually employed in this holy meditation; that, while we
contemplate in all the creatures, as in so many mirrors, the infinite
riches of his wisdom, justice, goodness, and power, we might not only take
a transient and cursory view of them, but might long dwell on the idea,
seriously and faithfully revolve it in our minds, and frequently recall it
to our memory. But, this being a didactic treatise, we must omit those
topics which require long declamations. To be brief, therefore, let the
readers know, that they have then truly apprehended by faith what is meant
by God being the Creator of heaven and earth, if they, in the first place,
follow this universal rule, not to pass over, with ungrateful inattention
or oblivion, those glorious perfections which God manifests in his
creatures; and, secondly, learn to make such an application to themselves
as thoroughly to affect their hearts. The first point is exemplified, when
we consider how great must have been the Artist who disposed that
multitude of stars, which adorn the heaven, in such a regular order, that
it is impossible to imagine any thing more beautiful to behold; who fixed
some in their stations, so that they cannot be moved; who granted to
others a freer course, but so that they never travel beyond their
appointed limits; who so regulates the motions of all, that they measure
days and nights, months, years, and seasons of the year; and also reduces
the inequality of days, which we constantly witness, to such a medium that
it occasions no confusion. So, also, when we observe his power in
sustaining so great a mass, in governing the rapid revolutions of the
celestial machine, and the like. For these few examples sufficiently
declare, what it is to recognize the perfections of God in the creation of
the world. Otherwise, were I desirous of pursuing the subject to its full
extent, there would be no end; since there are as many miracles of Divine
power, as many monuments of Divine goodness, as many proofs of Divine
wisdom, as there are species of things in the world, and even as there are
individual things, either great or small.

XXII. There remains the other point, which approaches more nearly to
faith; that, while we observe how God has appointed all things for our
benefit and safety, and at the same time perceive his power and grace in
ourselves, and the great benefits which he has conferred on us, we may
thence excite ourselves to confide in him, to invoke him, to praise him,
and to love him. Now, as I have just before suggested, God himself has
demonstrated, by the very order of creation, that he made all things for
the sake of man. For it was not without reason that he distributed the
making of the world into six days; though it would have been no more
difficult for him to complete the whole work, in all its parts, at once,
in a single moment, than to arrive at its completion by such progressive
advances. But in this he has been pleased to display his providence and
paternal solicitude towards us, since, before he would make man, he
prepared every thing which he foresaw would be useful or beneficial to
him. How great would be, now, the ingratitude to doubt whether we are
regarded by this best of fathers, whom we perceive to have been solicitous
on our account before we existed! How impious would it be to tremble with
diffidence, lest at any time his benignity should desert us in our
necessities, which we see was displayed in the greatest affluence of all
blessings provided for us while we were yet unborn! Besides, we are told
by Moses,(377) that his liberality has subjected to us all that is
contained in the whole world. He certainly has not made this declaration
in order to tantalize us with the empty name of such a donation. Therefore
we never shall be destitute of any thing which will conduce to our
welfare. Finally, to conclude, whenever we call God the Creator of heaven
and earth, let us at the same time reflect, that the dispensation of all
those things which he has made is in his own power, and that we are his
children, whom he has received into his charge and custody, to be
supported and educated; so that we may expect every blessing from him
alone, and cherish a certain hope that he will never suffer us to want
those things which are necessary to our well‐being, that our hope may
depend on no other; that, whatever we need or desire, our prayers may be
directed to him, and that, from whatever quarter we receive any advantage,
we may acknowledge it to be his benefit, and confess it with thanksgiving;
that, being allured with such great sweetness of goodness and beneficence,
we may study to love and worship him with all our hearts.



Chapter XV. The State Of Man At His Creation, The Faculties Of The Soul,
The Divine Image, Free Will, And The Original Purity Of His Nature.


We must now treat of the creation of man, not only because he exhibits the
most noble and remarkable specimen of the Divine justice, wisdom, and
goodness, among all the works of God, but because, as we observed in the
beginning, we cannot attain to a clear and solid knowledge of God, without
a mutual acquaintance with ourselves. But though this is twofold,—the
knowledge of the condition in which we were originally created, and of
that into which we entered after the fall of Adam, (for indeed we should
derive but little advantage from a knowledge of our creation, unless in
the lamentable ruin which has befallen us we discovered the corruption and
deformity of our nature,)—yet we shall content ourselves at present with a
description of human nature in its primitive integrity. And, indeed,
before we proceed to the miserable condition in which man is now involved,
it is necessary to understand the state in which he was first created. For
we must beware lest, in precisely pointing out the natural evils of man,
we seem to refer them to the Author of nature; since impious men suppose
that this pretext affords them a sufficient defence, if they can plead
that whatever defect or fault they have, proceeds in some measure from
God; nor do they hesitate, if reproved, to litigate with God himself, and
transfer to him the crime of which they are justly accused. And those who
would be thought to speak with more reverence concerning the Deity, yet
readily endeavour to excuse their depravity from nature, not considering
that they also, though in a more obscure manner, are guilty of defaming
the character of God; to whose dishonour it would redound, if nature could
be proved to have had any innate depravity at its formation. Since we see
the flesh, therefore, eagerly catching at every subterfuge, by which it
supposes that the blame of its evils may by any means be transferred from
itself to any other, we must diligently oppose this perverseness. The
calamity of mankind must be treated in such a manner as to preclude all
tergiversation, and to vindicate the Divine justice from every accusation.
We shall afterwards, in the proper place, see how far men are fallen from
that purity which was bestowed upon Adam. And first let it be understood,
that, by his being made of earth and clay, a restraint was laid upon
pride; since nothing is more absurd than for creatures to glory in their
excellence, who not only inhabit a cottage of clay, but who are themselves
composed partly of dust and ashes.(378) But as God not only deigned to
animate the earthen vessel, but chose to make it the residence of an
immortal spirit, Adam might justly glory in so great an instance of the
liberality of his Maker.

II. That man consists of soul and body, ought not to be controverted. By
the “soul” I understand an immortal, yet created essence, which is the
nobler part of him. Sometimes it is called a “spirit;” for though, when
these names are connected, they have a different signification, yet when
“spirit” is used separately, it means the same as “soul;” as when Solomon,
speaking of death, says that “then the spirit shall return unto God, who
gave it.”(379) And Christ commending his spirit to the Father,(380) and
Stephen his to Christ,(381) intend no other than that, when the soul is
liberated from the prison of the flesh, God is its perpetual keeper. Those
who imagine that the soul is called a spirit, because it is a breath or
faculty divinely infused into the body, but destitute of any essence, are
proved to be in a gross error by the thing itself, and by the whole tenor
of Scripture. It is true, indeed, that, while men are immoderately
attached to the earth, they become stupid, and, being alienated from the
Father of lights, are immersed in darkness, so that they consider not that
they shall survive after death; yet in the mean time, the light is not so
entirely extinguished by the darkness, but that they are affected with
some sense of their immortality. Surely the conscience, which, discerning
between good and evil, answers to the judgment of God, is an indubitable
proof of an immortal spirit. For how could an affection or emotion,
without any essence, penetrate to the tribunal of God, and inspire itself
with terror on account of its guilt? For the body is not affected by a
fear of spiritual punishment; that falls only on the soul; whence it
follows, that it is possessed of an essence. Now, the very knowledge of
God sufficiently proves the immortality of the soul, which rises above the
world, since an evanescent breath or inspiration could not arrive at the
fountain of life. Lastly, the many noble faculties with which the human
mind is adorned, and which loudly proclaim that something Divine is
inscribed on it, are so many testimonies of its immortal essence. For the
sense which the brutes have, extends not beyond the body, or at most not
beyond the objects near it. But the agility of the human mind, looking
through heaven and earth, and the secrets of nature, and comprehending in
its intellect and memory all ages, digesting every thing in proper order,
and concluding future events from those which are past, clearly
demonstrates that there is concealed within man something distinct from
the body. In our minds we form conceptions of the invisible God and of
angels, to which the body is not at all competent. We apprehend what is
right, just, and honest, which is concealed from the corporeal senses. The
spirit, therefore, must be the seat of this intelligence. Even sleep
itself, which, stupefying man, seems to divest him even of life, is no
obscure proof of immortality; since it not only suggests to us ideas of
things which never happened, but also presages of future events. I briefly
touch those things which even profane writers magnificently extol in a
more splendid and ornamented diction; but with the pious reader the simple
mention of them will be sufficient. Now, unless the soul were something
essentially distinct from the body, the Scripture would not inform us that
we dwell in houses of clay,(382) and at death quit the tabernacle of the
flesh;(383) that we put off the corruptible,(384) to receive a reward at
the last day, according to the respective conduct of each individual in
the body.(385) For certainly these and similar passages, which often
occur, not only manifestly distinguish the soul from the body, but, by
transferring to it the name of “man,” indicate that it is the principal
part of our nature. When Paul exhorts the faithful to cleanse themselves
from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit,(386) he points out two
parts in which the defilement of sin resides. Peter also, when he called
Christ the Shepherd and Bishop of souls,(387) would have spoken
improperly, if there were no souls over whom he could exercise that
office. Nor would there be any consistency in what he says concerning the
eternal salvation of souls, or in his injunction to purify the souls, or
in his assertion that fleshly lusts war against the soul,(388) or in what
the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, that pastors watch to give
an account of our souls,(389) unless souls had a proper essence. To the
same purpose is the place where Paul “calls God for a record upon his
soul,”(390) because it could not be amenable to God, if it were not
capable of punishment; which is also more clearly expressed in the words
of Christ, where he commands us to fear him, who, after having killed the
body, is able to cast the soul into hell.(391) Where the author of the
Epistle to the Hebrews distinguishes between the fathers of our flesh, and
God, who is the only Father of spirits,(392) he could not assert the
essence or existence of the soul in more express terms. Besides, unless
the soul survived after its liberation from the prison of the body, it was
absurd for Christ to represent the soul of Lazarus as enjoying happiness
in the bosom of Abraham, and the soul of the rich man as condemned to
dreadful torments.(393) Paul confirms the same point, by informing us that
we are absent from God as long as we dwell in the body, but that when
absent from the body we are present with the Lord.(394) Not to be too
prolix on a subject of so little obscurity, I shall only add this from
Luke, that it is reckoned among the errors of the Sadducees, that they
believed not the existence of angels or of spirits.(395)

III. A solid proof of this point may also be gathered from man being said
to be created in the image of God.(396) For though the glory of God is
displayed in his external form, yet there is no doubt that the proper seat
of his image is in the soul. I admit that external form, as it
distinguishes us from brutes, also exalts us more nearly to God; nor will
I too vehemently contend with any one who would understand, by the image
of God, that


    “—— while the mute creation downward bend
    Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend,
    Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes
    Beholds his own hereditary skies.”(397)


Only let it be decided that the image of God, which appears or sparkles in
these external characters, is spiritual. For Osiander, whose perverse
ingenuity in futile notions is proved by his writings, extending the image
of God promiscuously to the body as well as to the soul, confounds heaven
and earth together. He says, that the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit,
fixed their image in man, because, even if Adam had remained in his
integrity, Christ would, nevertheless, have become man. Thus, according to
him, the body which had been destined for Christ was the exemplar and type
of that corporeal figure which was then formed. But where will he find
that Christ is the image of the Spirit? I grant, indeed, that the glory of
the whole Deity shines in the person of the Mediator; but how shall the
eternal Word be called the image of the Spirit, whom he precedes in order?
Lastly, it subverts the distinction between the Son and Spirit, if the
former be denominated the image of the latter. Besides, I could wish to be
informed by him, how Christ, in the body which he has assumed, resembles
the Spirit, and by what characters or lineaments his similitude is
expressed. And since that speech, “Let us make man in our own image,”(398)
belongs also to the person of the Son, it follows that he is the image of
himself; which is altogether repugnant to reason. Moreover, if the notion
of Osiander be received, man was formed only to the type or exemplar of
the humanity of Christ; and the idea from which Adam was taken was Christ,
as about to be clothed in flesh; whereas the Scripture teaches, in a very
different sense, that man was “created in the image of God.” There is more
plausibility in the subtlety of those who maintain that Adam was created
in the image of God, because he was conformed to Christ, who is the only
image of God. But this also is destitute of solidity. There is no small
controversy concerning “image” and “likeness” among expositors who seek
for a difference, whereas in reality there is none, between the two words;
“likeness” being only added by way of explanation. In the first place, we
know that it is the custom of the Hebrews to use repetitions, in which
they express one thing twice. In the next place, as to the thing itself,
there is no doubt but man is called the image of God, on account of his
likeness to God. Hence it appears that those persons make themselves
ridiculous who display more subtlety in criticising on these terms,
whether they confine _zelem_, that is, “image,” to the substance of the
soul, and _demuth_, that is, “likeness,” to its qualities, or whether they
bring forward any different interpretation. Because, when God determined
to create man in his own image, that expression being rather obscure, he
repeats the same idea in this explanatory phrase, “after our likeness;” as
though he had said that he was about to make man, in whom, as in an image,
he would give a representation of himself by the characters of resemblance
which he would impress upon him. Therefore Moses, a little after, reciting
the same thing, introduces the image of God, but makes no mention of his
likeness. The objection of Osiander is quite frivolous, that it is not a
part of man, or the soul with its faculties, that is called the image of
God, but the whole Adam, who received his name from the earth whence he
was taken; it will be deemed frivolous, I say, by every rational reader.
For when the whole man is called mortal, the soul is not therefore made
subject to death; nor, on the other hand, when man is called a rational
animal, does reason or intelligence therefore belong to the body. Though
the soul, therefore, is not the whole man, yet there is no absurdity in
calling him the image of God with relation to the soul; although I retain
the principle which I have just laid down, that the image of God includes
all the excellence in which the nature of man surpasses all the other
species of animals. This term, therefore, denotes the integrity which Adam
possessed, when he was endued with a right understanding, when he had
affections regulated by reason, and all his senses governed in proper
order, and when, in the excellency of his nature, he truly resembled the
excellence of his Creator. And though the principal seat of the Divine
image was in the mind and heart, or in the soul and its faculties, yet
there was no part of man, not even the body, which was not adorned with
some rays of its glory. It is certain that the lineaments of the Divine
glory are conspicuous in every part of the world; whence it may be
concluded, that where the image of God is said to be in man, there is
implied a tacit antithesis, which exalts man above all the other
creatures, and as it were separates him from the vulgar herd. It is not to
be denied that angels were created in the similitude of God, since our
highest perfection will consist, according to the declaration of Christ,
in being like them.(399) But it is not in vain that Moses celebrates the
favour of God towards us by this peculiar title; especially as he compares
man only to visible creatures.

IV. No complete definition of this image, however, appears yet to be
given, unless it be more clearly specified in what faculties man excels,
and in what respects he ought to be accounted a mirror of the Divine
glory. But that cannot be better known from any thing, than from the
reparation of his corrupted nature. There is no doubt that Adam, when he
fell from his dignity, was by this defection alienated from God.
Wherefore, although we allow that the Divine image was not utterly
annihilated and effaced in him, yet it was so corrupted that whatever
remains is but horrible deformity. And therefore the beginning of our
recovery and salvation is the restoration which we obtain through Christ,
who on this account is called the second Adam; because he restores us to
true and perfect integrity. For although Paul, opposing the quickening
Spirit received by the faithful from Christ, to the living soul in which
Adam was created,(400) celebrates the degree of grace displayed in
regeneration as superior to that manifested in creation, yet he
contradicts not that other capital point, that this is the end of
regeneration, that Christ may form us anew in the image of God. Therefore
he elsewhere informs us, that “the new man is renewed in knowledge after
the image of him that created him.”(401) With which corresponds the
following exhortation—“Put on the new man, which after God is created in
righteousness and true holiness.”(402) Now, we may see what Paul
comprehends in this renovation. In the first place, he mentions knowledge,
and in the next place, sincere righteousness and holiness; whence we
infer, that in the beginning the image of God was conspicuous in the light
of the mind, in the rectitude of the heart, and in the soundness of all
the parts of our nature. For though I grant that the forms of expression
are synecdochical, signifying the whole by a part, yet this is an axiom
which cannot be overturned, that what holds the principal place in the
renovation of the Divine image, must also have held the same place in the
creation of it at first. To the same purpose is another passage of the
Apostle, that “we, with open face beholding the glory of Christ, are
changed into the same image.”(403) We see, now, how Christ is the most
perfect image of God, to which being conformed, we are so restored that we
bear the Divine image in true piety, righteousness, purity, and
understanding. This position being established, the imagination of
Osiander, about the figure of the body, immediately vanishes of itself.
The passage where Paul calls the man “the image and glory of God,”(404) to
the exclusion of the woman from that degree of honour, appears from the
context to be confined to political subordination. But that the image
which has been mentioned comprehended whatever relates to spiritual and
eternal life, has now, I think, been sufficiently proved. John confirms
the same in other words, by asserting that “the life” which was from the
beginning in the eternal Word of God, “was the light of men.”(405) For as
he intended to praise the singular favour of God which exalts man above
all the other animals; to separate him from the common number, because he
has attained no vulgar life, but a life connected with the light of
intelligence and reason,—he at the same time shows how he was made after
the image of God. Therefore, since the image of God is the uncorrupted
excellence of human nature, which shone in Adam before his defection, but
was afterwards so corrupted, and almost obliterated, that nothing remains
from the ruin but what is confused, mutilated, and defiled,—it is now
partly visible in the elect, inasmuch as they are regenerated by the
Spirit, but it will obtain its full glory in heaven. But that we may know
the parts of which it consists, it is necessary to treat of the faculties
of the soul. For that speculation of Augustine is far from being solid,
that the soul is a mirror of the Trinity, because it contains
understanding, will, and memory. Nor is there any probability in the
opinion which places the similitude of God in the dominion committed to
man; as though he resembled God only in this character, that he was
constituted heir and possessor of all things, whereas it must properly be
sought _in_ him, not _without_ him; it is an internal excellence of the
soul.

V. But, before I proceed any further, it is necessary to combat the
Manichæan error, which Servetus has attempted to revive and propagate in
the present age. Because God is said to have breathed into man the breath
of life,(406) they supposed that the soul was an emanation from the
substance of God; as though some portion of the infinite Deity had been
conveyed into man. But it may be easily and briefly shown how many
shameful and gross absurdities are the necessary consequences of this
diabolical error. For if the soul of man be an emanation from the essence
of God, it will follow that the Divine nature is not only mutable and
subject to passions, but also to ignorance, desires, and vices of every
kind. Nothing is more inconstant than man, because his soul is agitated
and variously distracted by contrary motions; he frequently mistakes
through ignorance; he is vanquished by some of the smallest temptations;
we know that the soul is the receptacle of every kind of impurity;—all
which we must ascribe to the Divine nature, if we believe the soul to be
part of the essence of God, or a secret influx of the Deity. Who would not
dread such a monstrous tenet? It is a certain truth, quoted by Paul from
Aratus, that “we are the offspring of God,” but in quality, not in
substance; forasmuch as he has adorned us with Divine endowments.(407) But
to divide the essence of the Creator, that every creature may possess a
part of it, indicates extreme madness. It must therefore be concluded
beyond all doubt, notwithstanding the Divine image is impressed on the
souls of men, that they were no less created than the angels. And creation
is not a transfusion, but an origination of existence from nothing. Nor,
because the spirit is given by God, and returns to him on its departure
from the body, is it immediately to be asserted, that it was plucked off
like a branch from his essence. And on this point also Osiander, while he
is elated with his own illusions, has involved himself in an impious
error, not acknowledging the image of God in man without his essential
righteousness, as though God could not, by the inconceivable power of his
Spirit, render us conformable to himself, unless Christ were to transfuse
himself substantially into us. However some persons may attempt to gloss
over these delusions, they will never so far blind the eyes of sensible
readers, as to prevent their perceiving that they savour of the error of
the Manichæans. And where Paul treats of the restoration of this image, we
may readily conclude from his words, that man was conformed to God not by
an influx of his substance, but by the grace and power of his Spirit. For
he says that, by beholding the glory of Christ, we are transformed into
the same image as by the Spirit of the Lord;(408) who certainly operates
in us not in such a manner as to render us consubstantial with God.

VI. It would be folly to seek for a definition of the soul from the
heathen philosophers, of whom Plato is almost the only one who has plainly
asserted it to be an immortal substance. Others indeed, the disciples of
Socrates, hint at it, but with great doubts; no one clearly teaches that
of which he was not persuaded himself. The sentiment of Plato, therefore,
is more correct, because he considers the image of God as being in the
soul. The other sects so confine its powers and faculties to the present
life, that they leave it nothing beyond the body. But we have before
stated from the Scripture, that it is an incorporeal substance; now we
shall add, that although it is not properly contained in any place, yet,
being put into the body, it inhabits it as its dwelling, not only to
animate all its parts, and render the organs fit and useful for their
respective operations, but also to hold the supremacy in the government of
human life; and that not only in the concerns of the terrestrial life, but
likewise to excite to the worship of God. Though this last point is not so
evident in the state of corruption, yet there remain some relics of it
impressed even on our very vices. For whence proceeds the great concern of
men about their reputation, but from shame? but whence proceeds shame,
unless from a respect for virtue? The principle and cause of which is,
that they understand themselves to have been born for the cultivation of
righteousness; and in which are included the seeds of religion. But as,
without controversy, man was created to aspire to a heavenly life, so it
is certain that the knowledge of it was impressed on his soul. And,
indeed, man would be deprived of the principal use of his understanding,
if he were ignorant of his felicity, the perfection of which consists in
being united to God. Thus the chief operation of the soul is to aspire
after it; and, therefore, the more a man studies to approach to God, the
more he proves himself a rational creature. Some maintain that in man
there are more souls than one, a sensitive and a rational one; but
notwithstanding some appearance of probability in what they adduce, yet,
as there is nothing solid in their arguments, we must reject them, unless
we are fond of tormenting ourselves with frivolous and useless things.
They say that there is a great repugnancy between the organic motions and
the rational part of the soul; as though reason were not also at variance
with itself, and some of its counsels were not in opposition to others,
like hostile armies. But as this confusion proceeds from the depravity of
nature, it affords no ground for concluding that there are two souls,
because the faculties are not sufficiently harmonious with each other. But
all curious discussion respecting the faculties themselves I leave to the
philosophers; a simple definition will suffice us for the edification of
piety. I confess, indeed, that the things which they teach are true, and
not only entertaining to be known, but useful and well digested by them;
nor do I prohibit those who are desirous of learning from the study of
them. I admit, then, in the first place, that there are five senses, which
Plato would rather call organs, by which all objects are conveyed into a
common sensory, as into a general repository; that next follows the fancy
or imagination, which discerns the objects apprehended by the common
sensory; next reason, to which belongs universal judgment; lastly, the
understanding, which steadily and quietly contemplates the objects
revolved and considered by reason. And thus to the understanding, reason,
and imagination, the three intellectual faculties of the soul, correspond
also the three appetitive ones—the will, whose place it is to choose those
things which the understanding and reason propose to it; the irascible
faculty, which embraces the things offered to it by reason and
imagination; and the concupiscible faculty, which apprehends the objects
presented by the imagination and sensation. Though these things are true,
or at least probable, yet, since I fear that they will involve us in their
obscurity rather than assist us, I think they ought to be omitted. If any
one chooses to make a different distribution of the powers of the soul, so
as to call one appetitive, which, though void of reason in itself, obeys
reason, if it be under the guidance of any other faculty; and to call
another intellective, which is itself a partaker of reason; I shall not
much oppose it. Nor have I any wish to combat the sentiment of Aristotle,
that there are three principles of action—sense, intellect, and appetite.
But let us rather choose a division placed within the comprehension of
all, and which certainly cannot be sought in the philosophers. For when
they wish to speak with the greatest simplicity, they divide the soul into
appetite and intellect, and make both these twofold. The latter, they say,
is sometimes contemplative, being content merely with knowledge, and
having no tendency to action,—which Cicero thinks is designated by the
word _ingenium_,—and sometimes practical, variously influencing the will
with the apprehension of good or evil. This division comprehends the
science of living in a just and virtuous manner. The latter, that is,
appetite, they divide into will and concupiscence; they call it “will,”
whenever appetite obeys reason; but when, shaking off the yoke of reason,
it runs into intemperance, they give it the name of “concupiscence.” Thus
they imagine that man is always possessed of reason sufficient for the
proper government of himself.

VII. We are constrained to depart a little from this mode of instruction,
because the philosophers, being ignorant of the corruption of nature
proceeding from the punishment of the fall, improperly confound two very
different states of mankind. Let us, therefore, submit the following
division—that the human soul has two faculties which relate to our present
design, the understanding and the will. Now, let it be the office of the
understanding to discriminate between objects, as they shall respectively
appear deserving of approbation or disapprobation; but of the will, to
choose and follow what the understanding shall have pronounced to be good;
to abhor and avoid what it shall have condemned. Here let us not stay to
discuss those subtleties of Aristotle, that the mind has no motion of
itself, but that it is moved by the choice, which he also calls the
appetitive intellect. Without perplexing ourselves with unnecessary
questions, it should be sufficient for us to know that the understanding
is, as it were, the guide and governor of the soul; that the will always
respects its authority, and waits for its judgment in its desires. For
which reason Aristotle himself truly observed, that avoidance and pursuit
in the appetite, bear a resemblance to affirmation and negation in the
mind. How certain the government of the understanding is in the direction
of the will, we shall see in another part of this work. Here we only
intend to show that no power can be found in the soul, which may not
properly be referred to one or the other of those two members. But in this
manner we comprehend the sense in the understanding, which some
distinguish thus: sense, they say, inclines to pleasure, whereas the
understanding follows what is good; that thence it happens that the
appetite of sense becomes concupiscence and lust, and the affection of the
understanding becomes will. But instead of the word “appetite,” which they
prefer, I use the word “will,” which is more common.

VIII. God has furnished the soul of man, therefore, with a mind capable of
discerning good from evil, and just from unjust; and of discovering, by
the light of reason, what ought to be pursued or avoided; whence the
philosophers called this directing faculty το ἠγεμονικον, the principal or
governing part. To this he has annexed the will, on which depends the
choice. The primitive condition of man was ennobled with those eminent
faculties; he possessed reason, understanding, prudence, and judgment, not
only for the government of his life on earth, but to enable him to ascend
even to God and eternal felicity. To these was added choice, to direct the
appetites, and regulate all the organic motions; so that the will should
be entirely conformed to the government of reason. In this integrity man
was endued with free will, by which, if he had chosen, he might have
obtained eternal life. For here it would be unreasonable to introduce the
question respecting the secret predestination of God, because we are not
discussing what might possibly have happened or not, but what was the real
nature of man. Adam, therefore, could have stood if he would, since he
fell merely by his own will; but because his will was flexible to either
side, and he was not endued with constancy to persevere, therefore he so
easily fell. Yet his choice of good and evil was free; and not only so,
but his mind and will were possessed of consummate rectitude, and all his
organic parts were rightly disposed to obedience, till, destroying
himself, he corrupted all his excellencies. Hence proceeded the darkness
which overspread the minds of the philosophers, because they sought for a
complete edifice among ruins, and for beautiful order in the midst of
confusion. They held this principle, that man would not be a rational
animal, unless he were endued with a free choice of good or evil; they
conceived also that otherwise all difference between virtue and vice would
be destroyed, unless man regulated his life according to his own
inclination. Thus far it had been well, if there had been no change in
man, of which as they were ignorant, it is not to be wondered at if they
confound heaven and earth together. But those who profess themselves to be
disciples of Christ, and yet seek for free will in man, now lost and
overwhelmed in spiritual ruin, in striking out a middle path between the
opinions of the philosophers and the doctrine of heaven, are evidently
deceived, so that they touch neither heaven nor earth. But these things
will be better introduced in the proper place. At present be it only
remembered, that man, at his first creation, was very different from all
his posterity, who, deriving their original from him in his corrupted
state, have contracted an hereditary defilement. For all the parts of his
soul were formed with the utmost rectitude; he enjoyed soundness of mind,
and a will free to the choice of good. If any object, that he was placed
in a dangerous situation on account of the imbecility of this faculty, I
reply, that the station in which he was placed was sufficient to deprive
him of all excuse. For it would have been unreasonable that God should be
confined to this condition, to make man so as to be altogether incapable
either of choosing or of committing any sin. It is true that such a nature
would have been more excellent; but to expostulate with God as though he
had been under any obligation to bestow this upon man, were unreasonable
and unjust in the extreme; since it was at his choice to bestow as little
as he pleased. But why he did not sustain him with the power of
perseverance, remains concealed in his mind; but it is our duty to
restrain our investigations within the limits of sobriety. He had received
the power, indeed, if he chose to exert it; but he had not the will to use
that power; for the consequence of this will would have been perseverance.
Yet there is no excuse for him; he received so much, that he was the
voluntary procurer of his own destruction; but God was under no necessity
to give him any other than an indifferent and mutable will, that from his
fall he might educe matter for his own glory.



Chapter XVI. God’s Preservation And Support Of The World By His Power, And
His Government Of Every Part Of It By His Providence.


To represent God as a Creator only for a moment, who entirely finished all
his work at once, were frigid and jejune; and in this it behoves us
especially to differ from the heathen, that the presence of the Divine
power may appear to us no less in the perpetual state of the world than in
its first origin. For although the minds even of impious men, by the mere
contemplation of earth and heaven, are constrained to rise to the Creator,
yet faith has a way peculiar to itself to assign to God the whole praise
of creation. To which purpose is that assertion of an Apostle before
cited, that it is only “through faith that we understand the worlds were
framed by the word of God;”(409) because, unless we proceed to his
providence, we have no correct conception of the meaning of this article,
“that God is the Creator;” however we may appear to comprehend it in our
minds, and to confess it with our tongues. The carnal sense, when it has
once viewed the power of God in the creation, stops there; and when it
proceeds the furthest, it only examines and considers the wisdom, and
power, and goodness, of the Author in producing such a work, which
spontaneously present themselves to the view even of those who are
unwilling to observe them. In the next place, it conceives of some general
operation of God in preserving and governing it, on which the power of
motion depends. Lastly, it supposes that the vigour originally infused by
God into all things is sufficient for their sustentation. But faith ought
to penetrate further. When it has learned that he is the Creator of all
things, it should immediately conclude that he is also their perpetual
governor and preserver; and that not by a certain universal motion,
actuating the whole machine of the world, and all its respective parts,
but by a particular providence sustaining, nourishing, and providing for
every thing which he has made.(410) Thus David, having briefly premised
that the world was made by God, immediately descends to the continual
course of his providence: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;
and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”(411) He afterwards
adds, “The Lord beholdeth all the sons of men;”(412) and subjoins more to
the same purpose. For though all men argue not so skilfully, yet, since it
would not be credible that God was concerned about human affairs, if he
were not the Maker of the world, and no one seriously believes that the
world was made by God, who is not persuaded that he takes care of his own
works, it is not without reason that David conducts us by a most excellent
series from one to the other. In general, indeed, both philosophers teach,
and the minds of men conceive, that all the parts of the world are
quickened by the secret inspiration of God. But they go not so far as
David, who is followed by all the pious, when he says, “These all wait
upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou
givest them, they gather; thou openest thine hand, they are filled with
good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their
breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit,
they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth.”(413) Though
they subscribe to the assertion of Paul, that in God “we live, and move,
and have our being,”(414) yet they are very far from a serious sense of
his favour, celebrated by the Apostle; because they have no apprehension
of the special care of God, from which alone his paternal favour is known.

II. For the clearer manifestation of this difference, it must be observed
that the providence of God, as it is taught in Scripture, is opposed to
fortune and fortuitous accidents. Now, since it has been the common
persuasion in all ages, and is also in the present day almost the
universal opinion, that all things happen fortuitously, it is certain that
every correct sentiment concerning providence is not only obscured, but
almost buried in oblivion by this erroneous notion. If any one falls into
the hands of robbers, or meets with wild beasts; if by a sudden storm he
is shipwrecked on the ocean; if he is killed by the fall of a house or a
tree; if another, wandering through deserts, finds relief for his penury,
or, after having been tossed about by the waves, reaches the port, and
escapes, as it were, but a hair’s‐breadth from death,—carnal reason will
ascribe all these occurrences, both prosperous and adverse, to fortune.
But whoever has been taught from the mouth of Christ, that the hairs of
his head are all numbered,(415) will seek further for a cause, and
conclude that all events are governed by the secret counsel of God. And
respecting things inanimate, it must be admitted, that, though they are
all naturally endued with their peculiar properties, yet they exert not
their power, any further than as they are directed by the present hand of
God. They are, therefore, no other than instruments into which God infuses
as much efficacy as he pleases, bending and turning them to any actions,
according to his will. There is no power among all the creatures more
wonderful or illustrious, than that of the sun. For, besides his
illumination of the whole world by his splendour, how astonishing it is
that he cherishes and enlivens all animals with his heat; with his rays
inspires fecundity into the earth; from the seeds, genially warmed in her
bosom, produces a green herbage, which, being supported by fresh
nourishment, he increases and strengthens till it rises into stalks; feeds
them with perpetual exhalations, till they grow into blossoms, and from
blossoms to fruit, which he then by his influences brings to maturity;
that trees, likewise, and vines, by his genial warmth, first put forth
leaves, then blossoms, and from the blossoms produce their fruit! But the
Lord, to reserve the praise of all these things entirely to himself, was
pleased that the light should exist, and the earth abound in every kind of
herbs and fruits, before he created the sun. A pious man, therefore, will
not make the sun either a principal or necessary cause of those things
which existed before the creation of the sun, but only an instrument which
God uses, because it is his pleasure so to do; whereas he would find no
more difficulty in acting by himself without that luminary. Lastly, as we
read that the sun remained in one situation for two days at the prayer of
Joshua,(416) and that his shadow made a retrograde motion of ten degrees
for the sake of king Hezekiah,(417) God has declared by these few
miracles, that the daily rising and setting of the sun is not from a blind
instinct of nature, but that he himself governs his course, to renew the
memory of his paternal favour towards us. Nothing is more natural than the
succession of spring to winter, of summer to spring, and of autumn to
summer. But there is so great a diversity and inequality discovered in
this series, that it is obvious that every year, month, and day, is
governed by a new and particular providence of God.

III. And, indeed, God asserts his possession of omnipotence, and claims
our acknowledgment of this attribute; not such as is imagined by sophists,
vain, idle, and almost asleep, but vigilant, efficacious, operative, and
engaged in continual action; not a mere general principle of confused
motion, as if he should command a river to flow through the channels once
made for it, but a power constantly exerted on every distinct and
particular movement. For he is accounted omnipotent, not because he is
able to act, yet sits down in idleness, or continues by a general instinct
the order of nature originally appointed by him; but because he governs
heaven and earth by his providence, and regulates all things in such a
manner that nothing happens but according to his counsel. For when it is
said in the Psalms, that he does whatsoever he pleases,(418) it denotes
his certain and deliberate will. For it would be quite insipid to expound
the words of the Prophet in the philosophical manner, that God is the
prime agent, because he is the principle and cause of all motion; whereas
the faithful should rather encourage themselves in adversity with this
consolation, that they suffer no affliction, but by the ordination and
command of God, because they are under his hand. But if the government of
God be thus extended to all his works, it is a puerile cavil to limit it
to the influence and course of nature. And they not only defraud God of
his glory, but themselves of a very useful doctrine, who confine the
Divine providence within such narrow bounds, as though he permitted all
things to proceed in an uncontrolled course, according to a perpetual law
of nature; for nothing would exceed the misery of man, if he were exposed
to all the motions of the heaven, air, earth, and waters. Besides, this
notion would shamefully diminish the singular goodness of God towards
every individual. David exclaims, that infants yet hanging on the breasts
of their mothers are sufficiently eloquent to celebrate the glory of
God;(419) because, as soon as they are born, they find aliment prepared
for them by his heavenly care. This, indeed, is generally true; yet it
cannot escape the observation of our eyes and senses, being evidently
proved by experience, that some mothers have breasts full and copious, but
others almost dry; as it pleases God to provide more liberally for one,
but more sparingly for another. But they who ascribe just praise to the
Divine omnipotence, receive from this a double advantage. In the first
place, he must have ample ability to bless them, who possesses heaven and
earth, and whose will all the creatures regard so as to devote themselves
to his service. And, secondly, they may securely repose in his protection,
to whose will are subject all those evils which can be feared from any
quarter; by whose power Satan is restrained, with all his furies, and all
his machinations; on whose will depends all that is inimical to our
safety; nor is there any thing else by which those immoderate and
superstitious fears, which we frequently feel on the sight of dangers, can
be corrected or appeased. We are superstitiously timid, I say, if,
whenever creatures menace or terrify us, we are frightened, as though they
had of themselves the power to hurt us, or could fortuitously injure us;
or as if against their injuries God were unable to afford us sufficient
aid. For example, the Prophet forbids the children of God to fear the
stars and signs of heaven,(420) as is the custom of unbelievers. He
certainly condemns not every kind of fear. But when infidels transfer the
government of the world from God to the stars, pretending that their
happiness or misery depends on the decrees and presages of the stars, and
not on the will of God, the consequence is, that their fear is withdrawn
from him, whom alone they ought to regard, and is placed on stars and
comets. Whoever, then, desires to avoid this infidelity, let him
constantly remember, that in the creatures there is no erratic power, or
action, or motion; but that they are so governed by the secret counsel of
God, that nothing can happen but what is subject to his knowledge, and
decreed by his will.

IV. First, then, let the readers know that what is called providence
describes God, not as idly beholding from heaven the transactions which
happen in the world, but as holding the helm of the universe, and
regulating all events. Thus it belongs no less to his hands than to his
eyes. When Abraham said to his son, “God will provide,”(421) he intended
not only to assert his prescience of a future event, but to leave the care
of a thing unknown to the will of him who frequently puts an end to
circumstances of perplexity and confusion. Whence it follows, that
providence consists in action; for it is ignorant trifling to talk of mere
prescience. Not quite so gross is the error of those who attribute to God
a government, as I have observed, of a confused and promiscuous kind;
acknowledging that God revolves and impels the machine of the world, with
all its parts, by a general motion, without peculiarly directing the
action of each individual creature. Yet even this error is not to be
tolerated. For they maintain that this providence, which they call
universal, is no impediment either to all the creatures being actuated
contingently, or to man turning himself hither or thither at the free
choice of his own will. And they make the following partition between God
and man; that God by his power inspires him with motions, enabling him to
act according to the tendency of the nature with which he is endued; but
that man governs his actions by his own voluntary choice. In short, they
conceive, that the world, human affairs, and men themselves, are governed
by the power of God, but not by his appointment. I speak not of the
Epicureans, who have always infested the world, who dream of a god
absorbed in sloth and inactivity; and of others no less erroneous, who
formerly pretended that the dominion of God extended over the middle
region of the air, but that he left inferior things to fortune; since the
mute creatures themselves sufficiently exclaim against such evident
stupidity. My present design is to refute that opinion, which has almost
generally prevailed, which, conceding to God a sort of blind and uncertain
motion, deprives him of the principal thing, which is his directing and
disposing, by his incomprehensible wisdom, all things to their proper end;
and thus, robbing God of the government of the world, it makes him the
ruler of it in name only, and not in reality. For, pray, what is
governing, but presiding in such a manner, as to rule, by fixed decrees,
those over whom you preside? Yet I reject not altogether what they assert
concerning universal providence, provided they, on their part admit that
God governs the world, not merely because he preserves the order of nature
fixed by himself, but because he exercises a peculiar care over every one
of his works. It is true that all things are actuated by a secret instinct
of nature, as though they obeyed the eternal command of God, and that what
God has once appointed, appears to proceed from voluntary inclination in
the creatures. And to this may be referred the declaration of Christ, that
his Father and himself had always been working, even from the
beginning;(422) and the assertion of Paul, that “in him we live, and move,
and have our being;”(423) and also what is observed by the author of the
Epistle to the Hebrews, with a design to prove the Divinity of Christ,
that all things are sustained by the word of his power.(424) But they act
very improperly in concealing and obscuring, by this pretext, the doctrine
of a particular providence, which is asserted in such plain and clear
testimonies of Scripture, that it is surprising how any one could
entertain a doubt concerning it. And, certainly, they who conceal it with
this veil which I have mentioned, are obliged to correct themselves by
adding, that many things happen through the peculiar care of God; but this
they erroneously restrict to some particular acts. Wherefore we have to
prove, that God attends to the government of particular events, and that
they all proceed from his determinate counsel, in such a manner that there
can be no such thing as fortuitous contingence.

V. If we grant that the principle of motion originates from God, but that
all things are spontaneously or accidentally carried whither the bias of
nature impels them, the mutual vicissitudes of day and night, of winter
and summer, will be the work of God, inasmuch as he has distributed to
each its respective parts, and prescribed to them a certain law; that is,
this would be the case if with even tenor they always observed the same
measure, days succeeding to nights, months to months, and years to years.
But sometimes excessive heats and drought parch and burn the fruits of the
earth; sometimes unseasonable rains injure the crops of corn, and sudden
calamities are occasioned by showers of hail and storms: this will not be
the work of God; unless, perhaps, as either clouds or serene weather, or
cold or heat, derive their origin from the opposition of the stars and
other natural causes. But this representation leaves no room for God to
display or exercise his paternal favour, or his judgments. If they say
that God is sufficiently beneficent to man, because he infuses into heaven
and earth an ordinary power, by which they supply him with food, it is a
very flimsy and profane notion; as though the fecundity of one year were
not the singular benediction of God, and as though penury and famine were
not his malediction and vengeance. But as it would be tedious to collect
all the reasons for rejecting this error, let us be content with the
authority of God himself. In the law and in the prophets he frequently
declares, that whenever he moistens the earth with dew or with rain, he
affords a testimony of his favour; and that, on the contrary, when, at his
command, heaven becomes hard as iron, when the crops of corn are blasted
and otherwise destroyed, and when showers of hail and storms molest the
fields, he gives a proof of his certain and special vengeance. If we
believe these things, it is certain that not a drop of rain falls but at
the express command of God. David indeed praises the general providence of
God, because “he giveth food to the young ravens which cry;”(425) but when
God himself threatens animals with famine, does he not plainly declare,
that he feeds all living creatures, sometimes with a smaller allowance,
sometimes with a larger, as he pleases? It is puerile, as I have already
observed, to restrain this to particular acts; whereas Christ says,
without any exception, that not a sparrow of the least value falls to the
ground without the will of the Father.(426) Certainly, if the flight of
birds be directed by the unerring counsel of God, we must be constrained
to confess with the Prophet, that, though “he dwelleth on high,” yet “he
humbleth himself to behold the things which are in heaven and in the
earth.”(427)

VI. But as we know that the world was made chiefly for the sake of
mankind, we must also observe this end in the government of it. The
Prophet Jeremiah exclaims, “I know that the way of man is not in himself:
it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”(428) And Solomon:
“Man’s goings are of the Lord: how can a man then understand his own
way?”(429) Now, let them say that man is actuated by God according to the
bias of his nature, but that he directs that influence according to his
own pleasure. If this could be asserted with truth, man would have the
free choice of his own ways. That, perhaps, they will deny, because he can
do nothing independently of the power of God. But since it is evident that
both the Prophet and Solomon ascribe to God choice and appointment, as
well as power, this by no means extricates them from the difficulty. But
Solomon, in another place, beautifully reproves this temerity of men, who
predetermine on an end for themselves, without regard to God, as though
they were not led by his hand: “The preparation of the heart in man,” says
he, “and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.”(430) It is, indeed,
a ridiculous madness for miserable men to resolve on undertaking any work
independently of God, whilst they cannot even speak a word but what he
chooses. Moreover, the Scripture, more fully to express that nothing is
transacted in the world but according to his destination, shows that those
things are subject to him which appear most fortuitous. For what would you
be more ready to attribute to chance, than when a limb broken off from a
tree kills a passing traveller? But very different is the decision of the
Lord, who acknowledges that he has delivered him into the hand of the
slayer.(431) Who, likewise, does not leave lots to the blindness of
fortune? Yet the Lord leaves them not, but claims the disposal of them
himself. He teaches us that it is not by any power of their own that lots
are cast into the lap(432) and drawn out; but the only thing which could
be ascribed to chance, he declares to belong to himself. To the same
purpose is another passage from Solomon: “The poor and the deceitful man
meet together: the Lord enlighteneth the eyes of them both.”(433) For
although the poor and the rich are blended together in the world, yet, as
their respective conditions are assigned to them by Divine appointment, he
suggests that God, who enlightens all, is not blind, and thus exhorts the
poor to patience; because those who are discontented with their lot, are
endeavouring to shake off the burden imposed on them by God. Thus also
another Prophet rebukes profane persons, who attribute it to human
industry, or to fortune, that some men remain in obscurity, and others
rise to honours: “Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the
west, nor from the south. But God is the Judge; he putteth down one, and
setteth up another.”(434) Since God cannot divest himself of the office of
a judge, hence he reasons, that it is from the secret counsel of God, that
some rise to promotion, and others remain in contempt.

VII. Moreover, particular events are in general proofs of the special
providence of God. God raised in the desert a south wind, to convey to the
people a large flock of birds.(435) When he would have Jonah thrown into
the sea, he sent forth a wind to raise a tempest.(436) It will be said by
them who suppose God not to hold the helm of the world, that this was a
deviation from the common course of things. But the conclusion which I
deduce from it is, that no wind ever rises or blows but by the special
command of God. For otherwise it would not be true that he makes the winds
his messengers, and a flame of fire his ministers, that he makes the
clouds his chariot, and rides on the wings of the wind,(437) unless he
directed at his pleasure the course both of the clouds and of the winds,
and displayed in them the singular presence of his power. Thus also we are
elsewhere taught, that, whenever the sea is blown into a tempest by the
winds, those commotions prove the special presence of God. “He commandeth
and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves” of the sea. “Then
he maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still;”(438) as
in another place he proclaims, that he scourged the people with parching
winds.(439) Thus, whilst men are naturally endued with a power of
generation, yet God will have it acknowledged as the effect of his special
favour, that he leaves some without any posterity, and bestows children on
others; for “the fruit of the womb is his reward.”(440) Therefore Jacob
said to his wife, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the
fruit of the womb?”(441) But to conclude; there is nothing more common in
nature, than for us to be nourished with bread. But the Spirit declares,
not only that the produce of the earth is the special gift of God, but
that men do not live by bread alone;(442) because they are supported not
by the abundance of their food, but by the secret benediction of God; as,
on the contrary, he threatens that he will break “the stay of bread.”(443)
Nor, indeed, could we otherwise seriously offer a prayer for daily bread,
if God did not supply us with food from his fatherly hand. The Prophet,
therefore, to convince the faithful that in feeding them God acts the part
of an excellent father of a family, informs us, that he “giveth food to
all flesh.”(444) Lastly, when we hear, on the one hand, that “the eyes of
the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry,”
and, on the other, that “the face of the Lord is against them that do
evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth,”(445) we may be
assured that all creatures, above and below, are ready for his service,
that he may apply them to any use that he pleases. Hence we conclude, not
only that there is a general providence of God over the creatures, to
continue the order of nature, but that, by his wonderful counsel, they are
all directed to some specific and proper end.

VIII. Those who wish to bring an odium on this doctrine, calumniate it as
the same with the opinion of the Stoics concerning fate, with which
Augustine also was formerly reproached. Though we are averse to all
contentions about words, yet we admit not the term _fate_; both because it
is of that novel and profane kind which Paul teaches us to avoid, and
because they endeavour to load the truth of God with the odium attached to
it. But that dogma is falsely and maliciously charged upon us. For we do
not, with the Stoics, imagine a necessity arising from a perpetual
concatenation and intricate series of causes, contained in nature; but we
make God the Arbiter and Governor of all things, who, in his own wisdom,
has, from the remotest eternity, decreed what he would do, and now, by his
own power, executes what he has decreed. Whence we assert, that not only
the heaven and the earth, and inanimate creatures, but also the
deliberations and volitions of men, are so governed by his providence, as
to be directed to the end appointed by it. What then? you will say; does
nothing happen fortuitously or contingently? I answer, that it was truly
observed by Basil the Great, that _fortune_ and _chance_ are words of the
heathen, with the signification of which the minds of the pious ought not
to be occupied. For if all success be the benediction of God, and calamity
and adversity his malediction, there is no room left in human affairs for
fortune or chance. And we should attend to this declaration of Augustine:
“I am not pleased with myself,” says he, “for having, in my treatises
against the Academics, so frequently mentioned _fortune_, although I have
not intended by that word any goddess, but a fortuitous occurrence of
external things, either good or evil. Hence also such words, the use of
which no religion prohibits, as _perhaps_, _perchance_, _peradventure_,
which, nevertheless, must be entirely referred to the Divine providence.
And on this I have not been silent, remarking that perhaps what is
commonly termed _fortune_ is regulated by a secret order, and that what we
call _chance_ is only that, with the reason and cause of which we are not
acquainted. Thus, indeed, I have expressed myself; but I repent of having
mentioned _fortune_ in this manner, since I see that men are habituated to
a very sinful custom: when they ought to say, ‘This was the will of God,’
they say, ‘This was the will of Fortune.’ ” Finally, he every where
maintains, that if any thing be left to fortune, the world revolves at
random. And though he elsewhere decides, that all things are conducted
partly by the free will of man, partly by the providence of God, yet he
just after shows that men are subject to it and governed by it, assuming
as a principle that nothing could be more absurd, than for any thing to
happen independently of the ordination of God; because it would happen at
random. By this reasoning he excludes also any contingence dependent on
the human will; and immediately after more expressly asserts that we ought
not to inquire for any cause of the will of God. But in what sense
_permission_ ought to be understood, whenever it is mentioned by him, will
appear from one passage; where he proves that the will of God is the
supreme and first cause of all things, because nothing happens but by his
command or permission. He certainly does not suppose God to remain an idle
spectator, determining to permit any thing; there is an intervention of
actual volition, if I may be allowed the expression, which otherwise could
never be considered as a cause.

IX. Yet, since the dulness of our minds is very much below the sublimity
of the Divine providence, let us endeavour to assist them by a
distinction. I say, then, that, notwithstanding the ordination of all
things by the certain purpose and direction of God, yet to us they are
fortuitous: not that we suppose fortune holds any dominion over the world
and mankind, and whirls about all things at random, for such folly ought
to be far from the breast of a Christian; but because the order, reason,
end, and necessity of events are chiefly concealed in the purpose of God,
and not comprehended by the mind of man, those things are in some measure
fortuitous, which must certainly happen according to the Divine will. For
they present no other appearance, whether they are considered in their own
nature, or are estimated according to our knowledge and judgment. Let us
suppose, for example, that a merchant, having entered a wood in the
company of honest men, imprudently wanders from his companions, and,
pursuing a wrong course, falls into the hands of robbers, and is murdered.
His death was not only foreseen by God, but also decreed by him. For it is
said, not that he has foreseen to what limits the life of every man would
extend, but that he “hath appointed bounds which he cannot pass.”(446)
Yet, as far as our minds are capable of comprehending, all these
circumstances appear fortuitous. What opinion shall a Christian form on
this case? He will consider all the circumstances of such a death as in
their nature fortuitous; yet he will not doubt that the providence of God
presided, and directed fortune to that end. The same reasoning will apply
to future contingencies. All future things being uncertain to us, we hold
them in suspense, as though they might happen either one way or another.
Yet this remains a fixed principle in our hearts, that there will be no
event which God has not ordained. In this sense the word _chance_ is
frequently repeated in the book of Ecclesiastes; because, on the first
view, men penetrate not to the first cause, which lies deeply concealed.
And yet the doctrine of the Scripture respecting the secret providence of
God, has never been so far obliterated from the hearts of men, but that
some sparks of it always shone in the darkness. Thus the Philistine
sorcerers, though they fluctuated in uncertainty, ascribed adverse
accidents partly to God, partly to fortune. “If the ark,” say they, “goeth
up by that way, we shall know that God hath done us this great evil; but
if not, it was a chance that happened to us.”(447) They betrayed great
folly, indeed, after having been deceived by divination, to have recourse
to fortune; yet at the same time, we see them restrained, so that they
cannot dare to suppose the affliction which had befallen them was
fortuitous. But how God, by the reins of his providence, directs all
events according to his own pleasure, will appear by an eminent example.
At the very same instant of time when David had been overtaken in the
wilderness of Maon, behold, the Philistines made an irruption into the
land, and Saul was compelled to depart. If God, consulting the safety of
his servant, laid this impediment in the way of Saul, then, surely, though
the Philistines might have taken up arms suddenly, and contrary to human
expectation, yet we will not say that this happened by chance; but what to
us seems a contingency, faith will acknowledge to have been a secret
impulse of God. It is not always, indeed, that there appears a similar
reason; but it should be considered as indubitably certain, that all the
revolutions visible in the world proceed from the secret exertion of the
Divine power. What God decrees, must necessarily come to pass; yet it is
not by absolute or natural necessity. We find a familiar example in
respect to the bones of Christ. Since he possessed a body like ours, no
reasonable man will deny that his bones were capable of being broken; yet
that they should be broken was impossible. Hence, again, we perceive that
the distinctions of relative and absolute necessity, as well as necessity
of consequent and of consequence, were not without reason invented in the
schools; since God made the bones of his Son capable of being broken,
which, however, he had exempted from being actually broken, and thus
prevented, by the necessity of his purpose, what might naturally have come
to pass.



Chapter XVII. The Proper Application Of This Doctrine To Render It Useful
To Us.


As the minds of men are prone to vain subtleties, there is the greatest
danger that those who know not the right use of this doctrine will
embarrass themselves with intricate perplexities. It will therefore be
necessary to touch in a brief manner on the end and design of the
Scripture doctrine of the Divine ordination of all things. And here let it
be remarked, in the first place, that the providence of God is to be
considered as well in regard to futurity, as in reference to that which is
past; secondly, that it governs all things in such a manner as to operate
sometimes by the intervention of means, sometimes without means, and
sometimes in opposition to all means; lastly, that it tends to show the
care of God for the whole human race, and especially his vigilance in the
government of the Church, which he favours with more particular attention.
It must also be observed, that, although the paternal favour and
beneficence of God, or the severity of his justice, is frequently
conspicuous in the whole course of his providence, yet sometimes the
causes of events are concealed, so that a suspicion intrudes itself, that
the revolutions of human affairs are conducted by the blind impetuosity of
fortune; or the flesh solicits us to murmur, as though God amused himself
with tossing men about like tennis‐balls. It is true, indeed, if we were
ready to learn with quiet and sober minds, that the final issue
sufficiently proves the counsels of God to be directed by the best of
reasons; that he designs either to teach his people the exercise of
patience, or to correct their corrupt affections and subdue the
licentiousness of their appetites, or to constrain them to the practice of
self‐denial, or to arouse them from their indolence; and, on the other
hand, to abase the proud, to disappoint the cunning of the wicked, and to
confound their machinations. Yet, however the causes may be concealed from
us, or escape our observation, we must admit it as a certain truth, that
they are hidden with him; and must therefore exclaim with David, “Many, O
Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy
thoughts which are to us‐ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto
thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be
numbered.”(448) For, though our miseries ought always to remind us of our
sins, that the punishment itself may urge us to repentance, yet we see
that Christ ascribes more sovereignty to the secret purpose of the Father
in afflicting men, than to require him to punish every individual
according to his demerits. For concerning him who was born blind, he says,
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God
should be made manifest in him.”(449) For here sense murmurs, when
calamity precedes the very birth, as though it were a detraction from the
Divine clemency thus to afflict the innocent. But Christ declares that the
glory of his Father is manifested in this instance, provided our eyes are
clear to behold it. But we must proceed with modesty, cautious that we
call not God to an account at our tribunal; but that we entertain such
reverence for his secret judgments, as to esteem his will the most
righteous cause of every thing that he does. When thick clouds obscure the
heavens, and a violent tempest arises, because a gloomy mist is before our
eyes, and thunder strikes our ears, and terror stupefies all our
faculties, all things seem to us to be blended in confusion; yet during
the whole time the heavens remain in the same quiet serenity. So it must
be concluded, that while the turbulent state of the world deprives us of
our judgment, God, by the pure light of his own righteousness and wisdom,
regulates all those commotions in the most exact order, and directs them
to their proper end. And certainly the madness of many in this respect is
monstrous, who dare to arraign the works of God, to scrutinize his secret
counsels, and even to pass a precipitate sentence on things unknown, with
greater freedom than on the actions of mortal men. For what is more
preposterous than towards our equals to observe such modesty, as rather to
suspend our judgment than to incur the imputation of temerity, but
impudently to insult the mysterious judgments of God, which we ought to
hold in admiration and reverence?

II. None, therefore, will attain just and profitable views of the
providence of God, but he who considers that he has to do with his Maker
and the Creator of the world, and submits himself to fear and reverence
with all becoming humility. Hence it happens that so many worthless
characters in the present day virulently oppose this doctrine, because
they will admit nothing to be lawful for God, but what agrees with the
dictates of their own reason. They revile us with the utmost possible
impudence, because, not content with the precepts of the law, which
comprehend the will of God, we say that the world is governed also by his
secret counsels; as though, indeed, what we assert were only an invention
of our own brain, and the Holy Spirit did not every where plainly announce
the same, and repeat it in innumerable forms of expression. But as they
are restrained by some degree of shame from daring to discharge their
blasphemies against heaven, in order to indulge their extravagance with
greater freedom, they pretend that they are contending with us. But unless
they admit, that whatever comes to pass in the world is governed by the
incomprehensible counsel of God, let them answer, to what purpose is it
said in the Scripture that his “judgments are a great deep”?(450) For
since Moses proclaims, that the will of God is not to be sought far off,
in the clouds or in the deep,(451) because it is familiarly explained in
the law, it follows that there is another secret will, which is compared
to a profound abyss; concerning which Paul also says, “O the depth of the
riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his
judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of
the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor?”(452) It is true, that the law
and the Gospel contain mysteries which far transcend our capacities; but
since God illuminates the minds of his people with the spirit of
understanding, to apprehend these mysteries which he has condescended to
reveal in his word, there we have now no abyss, but a way in which we may
safely walk, and a lamp for the direction of our feet, the light of life,
and the school of certain and evident truth. But his admirable method of
governing the world is justly called a “great deep,” because, while it is
concealed from our view, it ought to be the object of our profound
adoration. Moses has beautifully expressed both in a few words. “The
secret things,” says he, “belong unto the Lord our God; but those things
which are revealed belong unto us and to our children.”(453) We see how he
enjoins us, not only to devote our attention to meditations on the law of
God, but to look up with reverence to his mysterious providence. This
sublime doctrine is declared in the book of Job, for the purpose of
humbling our minds. For the author concludes a general view of the machine
of the world, and a magnificent dissertation on the works of God, in these
words: “Lo, these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard
of him!”(454) For which reason, in another place he distinguishes between
the wisdom which resides in God, and the method of attaining wisdom which
he has prescribed to men. For, after discoursing concerning the secrets of
nature, he says, that wisdom is known only to God, and “is hid from the
eyes of all living.” But a little after he subjoins, that it is published
in order to be investigated, because it is said to men, “Behold the fear
of the Lord, that is wisdom.”(455) To the same purpose is this observation
of Augustine: “Because we know not all that God does concerning us by an
excellent order we act according to the law in a good will only, but in
other respects are actuated according to it; because his providence is an
immutable law.” Therefore, since God claims a power unknown to us of
governing the world, let this be to us the law of sobriety and modesty, to
acquiesce in his supreme dominion, to account his will the only rule of
righteousness, and most righteous cause of all things. Not, indeed, that
absolute will which is the subject of the declamation of sophists,
impiously and profanely separating his justice from his power, but that
providence which governs all things, from which originates nothing but
what is right, although the reasons of it may be concealed from us.

III. Those who have learned this modesty, will neither murmur against God
on account of past adversities, nor charge him with the guilt of their
crimes, like Agamemnon, in Homer, who says, “The blame belongs not to me,
but to Jupiter and Fate.” Nor will they, as if hurried away by the Fates,
under the influence of despair, put an end to their own lives, like the
young man whom Plautus introduces as saying, “The condition of our affairs
is inconstant; men are governed by the caprice of the Fates; I will betake
myself to a precipice, and there destroy my life and every thing at once.”
Nor will they excuse their flagitious actions by ascribing them to God,
after the example of another young man introduced by the same poet, who
says, “God was the cause: I believe it was the Divine will. For had it not
been so, I know it would not have happened.” But they will rather search
the Scripture, to learn what is pleasing to God, that by the guidance of
the Spirit they may strive to attain it; and at the same time, being
prepared to follow God whithersoever he calls them, they will exhibit
proofs in their conduct that nothing is more useful than a knowledge of
this doctrine. Some profane men foolishly raise such a tumult with their
absurdities, as almost, according to a common expression, to confound
heaven and earth together. They argue in this manner: If God has fixed the
moment of our death, we cannot avoid it; therefore all caution against it
will be but lost labour. One man dares not venture himself in a way which
he hears is dangerous, lest he should be assassinated by robbers; another
sends for physicians, and wearies himself with medicines, to preserve his
life; another abstains from the grosser kinds of food, lest he should
injure his valetudinary constitution; another dreads to inhabit a ruinous
house; and men in general exert all their faculties in devising and
executing methods by which they may attain the object of their desires.
Now, either all these things are vain remedies employed to correct the
will of God, or life and death, health and disease, peace and war, and
other things which, according to their desires or aversions, men
industriously study to obtain or to avoid, are not determined by his
certain decree. Moreover they conclude, that the prayers of the faithful
are not only superfluous, but perverse, which contain petitions that the
Lord will provide for those things which he has already decreed from
eternity. In short, they supersede all deliberations respecting futurity,
as opposed to the providence of God, who, without consulting men, has
decreed whatever he pleased. And what has already happened they impute to
the Divine providence in such a manner as to overlook the person, who is
known to have committed any particular act. Has an assassin murdered a
worthy citizen? they say he has executed the counsel of God. Has any one
been guilty of theft or fornication? because he has done what was foreseen
and ordained by the Lord, he is the minister of his providence. Has a son,
neglecting all remedies, carelessly waited the death of his father? it was
impossible for him to resist God, who had decreed this event from
eternity. Thus by these persons all crimes are denominated virtues,
because they are subservient to the ordination of God.

IV. But in reference to future things, Solomon easily reconciles the
deliberations of men with the providence of God. For as he ridicules the
folly of those who presumptuously undertake any thing without the Lord, as
though they were not subject to his government, so in another place he
says, “A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his
steps;”(456) signifying that the eternal decrees of God form no impediment
to our providing for ourselves, and disposing all our concerns in
subservience to his will. The reason of this is manifest. For he who has
fixed the limits of our life, has also intrusted us with the care of it;
has furnished us with means and supplies for its preservation; has also
made us provident of dangers; and, that they may not oppress us unawares,
has furnished us with cautions and remedies. Now, it is evident what is
our duty. If God has committed to us the preservation of our life, we
should preserve it; if he offers supplies, we should use them; if he
forewarns us of dangers, we should not rashly run into them; if he
furnishes remedies, we ought not to neglect them. But it will be objected,
no danger can hurt, unless it has been ordained that it shall hurt us, and
then no remedies can avert it. But what if dangers are therefore not
fatal, because God has assigned you remedies to repulse and overcome them?
Examine whether your reasoning agrees with the order of the Divine
providence. You conclude that it is unnecessary to guard against danger,
because, if it be not fatal, we shall escape it without caution; but, on
the contrary, the Lord enjoins you to use caution, because he intends it
not to be fatal to you. These madmen overlook what is obvious to every
observer—that the arts of deliberation and caution in men proceed from the
inspiration of God, and that they subserve the designs of his providence
in the preservation of their own lives; as, on the contrary, by neglect
and slothfulness, they procure to themselves the evils which he has
appointed for them. For how does it happen, that a prudent man, consulting
his own welfare, averts from himself impending evils, and a fool is ruined
by his inconsiderate temerity, unless folly and prudence are in both cases
instruments of the Divine dispensation? Therefore it has pleased God to
conceal from us all future events, that we may meet them as doubtful
contingencies, and not cease to oppose to them the remedies with which we
are provided, till they shall have been surmounted, or shall have overcome
all our diligence. Therefore I have before suggested, that the providence
of God ought not always to be contemplated abstractedly by itself, but in
connection with the means which he employs.

V. The same persons inconsiderately and erroneously ascribe all past
events to the absolute providence of God. For since all things which come
to pass are dependent upon it, therefore, say they, neither thefts, nor
adulteries, nor homicides, are perpetrated without the intervention of the
Divine will. Why, therefore, they ask, shall a thief be punished for
having pillaged him whom it has pleased the Lord to chastise with poverty?
Why shall a homicide be punished for having slain him whose life the Lord
had terminated? If all such characters are subservient to the Divine will,
why shall they be punished? But I deny that they serve the will of God.
For we cannot say, that he who is influenced by a wicked heart, acts in
obedience to the commands of God, while he is only gratifying his own
malignant passions. That man obeys God, who, being instructed in his will,
hastens whither God calls him. Where can we learn his will, but in his
word? Therefore in our actions we ought to regard the will of God, which
is declared in his word. God only requires of us conformity to his
precepts. If we do any thing contrary to them, it is not obedience, but
contumacy and transgression. But it is said, if he would not permit it, we
should not do it. This I grant. But do we perform evil actions with the
design of pleasing him? He gives us no such command. We precipitate
ourselves into them, not considering what is his will, but inflamed with
the violence of our passions, so that we deliberately strive to oppose
him. In this manner even by criminal actions we subserve his righteous
ordination; because, in the infinite greatness of his wisdom, he well
knows how to use evil instruments for the accomplishment of good purposes.
Now, observe the absurdity of their reasoning: they wish the authors of
crimes to escape with impunity, because crimes are not perpetrated but by
the ordination of God. I admit more than this; even that thieves, and
homicides, and other malefactors, are instruments of Divine providence,
whom the Lord uses for the execution of the judgments which he has
appointed. But I deny that this ought to afford any excuse for their
crimes. For will they either implicate God in the same iniquity with
themselves, or cover their depravity with his righteousness? They can do
neither. They are prevented from exculpating themselves, by the reproofs
of their own consciences; and they can lay no blame upon God, for they
find in themselves nothing but evil, and in him only a legitimate use of
their wickedness. But it is alleged that he operates by their means. And
whence, I ask, proceeds the fetid smell of a carcass, which has been
putrefied and disclosed by the heat of the sun? It is visible to all that
it is excited by the solar rays; yet no person on this account attributes
to those rays an offensive smell. So, when the matter and guilt of evil
resides in a bad man, why should God be supposed to contract any
defilement, if he uses his service according to his own pleasure? Let us
dismiss this petulance, therefore, which may rail against the justice of
God from a distance, but can never reach that Divine attribute.

VI. But these cavils, or rather extravagancies of frenzy, will easily be
dispelled by the pious and holy contemplation of providence, which the
rule of piety dictates to us, so that we may derive from it the greatest
pleasure and advantage. The mind of a Christian, therefore, when it is
certainly persuaded that all things happen by the ordination of God, and
that there is nothing fortuitously contingent, will always direct its
views to him as the supreme cause of all things, and will also consider
inferior causes in their proper order. He will not doubt that the
particular providence of God is watchful for his preservation, never
permitting any event which it will not overrule for his advantage and
safety. But, since he is concerned in the first place with men, and in the
next place with the other creatures, he will assure himself, as to both,
that the providence of God reigns over all. With respect to men, whether
good or evil, he will acknowledge that their deliberations, wills,
endeavours, and powers, are under his control, so that it is at his option
to direct them whithersoever he pleases, and to restrain them as often as
he pleases. The vigilance of the particular providence of God for the
safety of the faithful is attested by numerous and very remarkable
promises: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he
shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.(457) He that dwelleth in the
secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the
Almighty.(458) He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye. We
have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and
bulwarks.(459) Though a woman forget her sucking child, yet will I not
forget thee.”(460) Moreover, this is the principal scope of the Biblical
histories, to teach us that the Lord so sedulously defends the ways of the
saints, that they may not even “dash their foot against a stone.”(461)
Therefore, as we have a little before justly exploded the opinion of those
who hold a universal providence of God, which descends not to the care of
every creature in particular, so it is principally necessary and useful to
contemplate this special care towards ourselves. For this reason, Christ,
after having asserted that not the meanest sparrow falls to the ground
without the will of the Father,(462) immediately makes the following
application—that the more we exceed the value of sparrows, the greater
care we should consider God as exercising over us; and he carries this to
such an extent, that we may be confident that the hairs of our head are
numbered. What more can we desire for ourselves, if not a single hair can
fall from our head, but according to his will? I speak not exclusively of
the human race; but since God has chosen the Church for his habitation,
there is no doubt but he particularly displays his paternal care in the
government of it.

VII. The servant of God, encouraged by these promises and examples, will
add the testimonies, which inform us that all men are subject to his
power, either to conciliate their minds in our favour, or to restrain
their malice from being injurious. For it is the Lord who gives us favour,
not only with our friends, but also in the eyes of the Egyptians;(463) and
he knows how to subdue, by various methods, the fury of our enemies.
Sometimes he deprives them of understanding, so that they can form no
sober or prudent plans; as he sent Satan to fill the mouths of all the
prophets with falsehood, in order to deceive Ahab:(464) he infatuated
Rehoboam by the counsel of the young men, that through his own folly he
might be spoiled of his kingdom.(465) Sometimes, when he grants them
understanding, he so terrifies and dispirits them, that they can neither
determine nor undertake what they have conceived. Sometimes, also, when he
has permitted them to attempt what their rage and passion prompted, he
opportunely breaks their impetuosity, not suffering them to proceed to the
accomplishment of their designs. Thus he prematurely defeated the counsel
of Ahithophel, which would have been fatal to David.(466) Thus, also, he
takes care to govern all creatures for the benefit and safety of his
people, even the devil himself, who, we see, dared not to attempt any
thing against Job, without his permission and command.(467) The necessary
consequences of this knowledge are, gratitude in prosperity, patience in
adversity, and a wonderful security respecting the future. Every
prosperous and pleasing event, therefore, the pious man will ascribe
entirely to God, whether his beneficence be received through the ministry
of men, or by the assistance of inanimate creatures. For this will be the
reflection of his mind: “It is certainly the Lord that has inclined their
hearts to favour me, that has united them to me to be the instruments of
his benignity towards me.” In an abundance of the fruits of the earth, he
will consider, that it is the Lord who regards the heaven, that the heaven
may regard the earth, that the earth, also, may regard its own
productions: in other things he will not doubt that it is the Divine
benediction alone which is the cause of all prosperity; nor will he bear
to be ungrateful after so many admonitions.

VIII. If any adversity befall him, in this case, also, he will immediately
lift up his heart to God, whose hand is most capable of impressing us with
patience and placid moderation of mind. If Joseph had dwelt on a review of
the perfidy of his brethren, he never could have recovered his fraternal
affection for them. But as he turned his mind to the Lord, he forgot their
injuries, and was so inclined to mildness and clemency, as even
voluntarily to administer consolation to them, saying, “It was not you
that sent me hither, but God did send me before you to save your lives. Ye
thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”(468) If Job had
regarded the Chaldeans, by whom he was molested, he had been inflamed to
revenge; but recognizing the event at the same time as the work of the
Lord, he consoled himself with this very beautiful observation: “The Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”(469)
Thus David, when assailed by Shimei with reproachful language and with
stones, if he had confined his views to man, would have animated his
soldiers to retaliate the injury; but understanding that it was not done
without the instigation of the Lord, he rather appeases them: “Let him
curse,” says he, “because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David.”(470)
In another place he imposes the same restraint on the intemperance of his
grief: “I was dumb,” says he, “I opened not my mouth; because thou didst
it.”(471) If there be no more efficacious remedy for anger and impatience,
surely that man has made no small proficiency, who has learned in this
case to meditate on the Divine providence, that he may be able at all
times to recall his mind to this consideration: “It is the will of the
Lord, therefore it must be endured; not only because resistance is
unlawful and vain, but because he wills nothing but what is both just and
expedient.” The conclusion of the whole is this—that, when we suffer
injuries from men, forgetting their malice, which would only exasperate
our grief and instigate our minds to revenge, we should remember to ascend
to God, and learn to account it a certain truth, that whatever our enemies
have criminally committed against us, has been permitted and directed by
his righteous dispensation. To restrain us from retaliating injuries, Paul
prudently admonishes us that our contention is not with flesh and blood,
but with a spiritual enemy, the devil,(472) in order that we may prepare
ourselves for the contest. But this admonition is the most useful in
appeasing all the sallies of resentment, that God arms for the conflict
both the devil and all wicked men, and sits himself as the arbiter of the
combat, to exercise our patience. But if the calamities and miseries which
oppress us happen without the interposition of men, let us recollect the
doctrine of the law, that every prosperous event proceeds from the
benediction of God, but that all adverse ones are his maledictions;(473)
and let us tremble at that awful denunciation, “If ye will walk contrary
unto me, then will I also walk contrary unto you;”(474) language which
reproves our stupidity, while, according to the common apprehensions of
the flesh, esteeming every event, both prosperous and adverse, to be
fortuitous, we are neither animated to the worship of God by his benefits,
nor stimulated to repentance by his corrections. This is the reason of the
sharp expostulations of Jeremiah and of Amos,(475) because the Jews
supposed that both good and evil events came to pass without any
appointment of God. To the same purpose is this passage of Isaiah: “I form
the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord
do all these things.”(476)

IX. Yet at the same time a pious man will not overlook inferior causes.
Nor, because he accounts those from whom he has received any benefit, the
ministers of the Divine goodness, will he therefore pass them by
unnoticed, as though they deserved no thanks for their kindness; but will
feel, and readily acknowledge, his obligation to them, and study to return
it as ability and opportunity may permit. Finally, he will reverence and
praise God as the principal Author of benefits received, but will honour
men as his ministers; and will understand, what, indeed, is the fact, that
the will of God has laid him under obligations to those persons by whose
means the Lord has been pleased to communicate his benefits. If he suffer
any loss either through negligence or through imprudence, he will conclude
that it happened according to the Divine will, but will also impute the
blame of it to himself. If any one be removed by disease, whom, while it
was his duty to take care of him, he has treated with neglect,—though he
cannot be ignorant that that person had reached those limits which it was
impossible for him to pass, yet he will not make this a plea to extenuate
his guilt; but, because he has not faithfully performed his duty towards
him, will consider him as having perished through his criminal negligence.
Much less, when fraud and preconceived malice appear in the perpetration
either of murder or of theft, will he excuse those enormities under the
pretext of the Divine providence: in the same crime he will distinctly
contemplate the righteousness of God and the iniquity of man, as they
respectively discover themselves. But it is principally in regard to
things future that he will direct his attention to inferior causes of this
kind. For he will rank it among the blessings of the Lord, not to be
destitute of human aids which he may use for his own safety; he will
neither be remiss, therefore, in taking the advice, nor negligent in
imploring the help, of those whom he perceives to be capable of affording
him assistance; but, considering all the creatures, that can in any
respect be serviceable to him, as so many gifts from the Lord, he will use
them as the legitimate instruments of the Divine providence. And as he is
uncertain respecting the issue of his undertakings, except that he knows
that the Lord will in all things provide for his good, he studiously aims
at what, according to the best judgment he can form, will be for his
advantage. Nor, in conducting his deliberations, will he be carried away
by his own opinion, but will recommend and resign himself to the wisdom of
God, that he may be directed by its guidance to the right end. But he will
not place his confidence in external helps to such a degree as, if
possessed of them, securely to rely on them, or, if destitute of them, to
tremble with despair. For his mind will always be fixed solely on the
Divine providence, nor will he suffer himself to be seduced from a steady
contemplation of it, by any consideration of present things. Thus Joab,
though he acknowledges the event of battle to depend on the will and the
power of God, yet surrenders not himself to inactivity, but sedulously
executes all the duties of his office, and leaves the event to the Divine
decision. “Let us play the men,” says he, “for our people, and for the
cities of our God; and the Lord do that which seemeth him good.”(477) This
knowledge will divest us of temerity and false confidence, and excite us
to continual invocations of God; it will also support our minds with a
good hope, that without hesitation we may securely and magnanimously
despise all the dangers which surround us.

X. Herein is discovered the inestimable felicity of the pious mind. Human
life is beset by innumerable evils, and threatened with a thousand deaths.
Not to go beyond ourselves,—since our body is the receptacle of a thousand
diseases, and even contains and fosters the causes of diseases, a man must
unavoidably carry about with him destruction in unnumbered forms, and
protract a life which is, as it were, involved in death. For what else can
you say of it, when neither cold nor heat in any considerable degree can
be endured without danger? Now, whithersoever you turn, all the objects
around you are not only unworthy of your confidence, but almost openly
menace you, and seem to threaten immediate death. Embark in a ship; there
is but a single step between you and death. Mount a horse; the slipping of
one foot endangers your life. Walk through the streets of a city; you are
liable to as many dangers as there are tiles on the roofs. If there be a
sharp weapon in your hand, or that of your friend, the mischief is
manifest. All the ferocious animals you see are armed for your
destruction. If you endeavour to shut yourself in a garden surrounded with
a good fence, and exhibiting nothing but what is delightful, even there
sometimes lurks a serpent. Your house, perpetually liable to fire, menaces
you by day with poverty, and by night with falling on your head. Your
land, exposed to hail, frost, drought, and various tempests, threatens you
with sterility, and with its attendant, famine. I omit poison, treachery,
robbery, and open violence, which partly beset us at home, and partly
pursue us abroad. Amidst these difficulties, must not man be most
miserable, who is half dead while he lives, and is dispirited and alarmed
as though he had a sword perpetually applied to his neck? You will say
that these things happen seldom, or certainly not always, nor to every
man, but never all at once. I grant it; but as we are admonished by the
examples of others, that it is possible for them to happen also to us, and
that we have no more claim to exemption from them than others, we must
unavoidably dread them as events that we may expect. What can you imagine
more calamitous than such a dread? Besides, it is an insult to God to say
that he has exposed man, the noblest of his creatures, to the blindness
and temerity of fortune. But here I intend to speak only of the misery
which man must feel, if he be subject to the dominion of fortune.

XI. On the contrary, when this light of Divine providence has once shined
on a pious man, he is relieved and delivered not only from the extreme
anxiety and dread with which he was previously oppressed, but also from
all care. For, as he justly dreads fortune, so he ventures securely to
commit himself to God. This, I say, is his consolation, to apprehend that
his heavenly Father restrains all things by his power, governs all things
by his will, and regulates all things by his wisdom, in such a manner,
that nothing can happen but by his appointment; moreover, that God has
taken him under his protection, and committed him to the care of angels,
so that he can sustain no injury from water, or fire, or sword, any
further than the Divine Governor may be pleased to permit. For thus sings
the Psalmist: “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler,
and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers,
and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and
buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the
arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness;
nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.”(478) Hence also proceeds
that confidence of glorying in the saints: “The Lord is on my side; I will
not fear what man can do unto me. The Lord is the strength of my life; of
whom shall I be afraid? Though a host should encamp against me—though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”(479)
How is it that their security remains unshaken, while the world appears to
be revolving at random, but because they know that the Lord is universally
operative, and confide in his operations as beneficial to them? Now, when
their safety is attacked, either by the devil or by wicked men, if they
were not supported by the recollection and contemplation of providence,
they must necessarily and immediately faint. But when they recollect, that
the devil and the whole army of the wicked are in every respect so
restrained by the Divine power, that they can neither conceive of any
hostility against us, nor, after having conceived it, form a plan for its
accomplishment, nor even move a finger towards the execution of such plan,
any further than he has permitted, and even commanded them; and that they
are not only bound by his chains, but also compelled to do him
service,—they have an abundant source of consolation. For as it belongs to
the Lord to arm their fury, and to direct it to whatever objects he
pleases, so it also belongs to him to fix its limits, that they may not
enjoy an unbounded triumph according to their own wills. Established in
this persuasion, Paul determined his journey in one place by the
permission of God, which in another he had declared was prevented by
Satan.(480) If he had only said that Satan was the obstacle, he would have
appeared to attribute too much power to him, as though he were able to
subvert the purposes of God; but when he states God to be the arbiter, on
whose permission all journeys depend, he at the same time shows, that
Satan, with all his machinations, can effect nothing but by his
permission. For the same reason, David, on account of the various and
constant vicissitudes of life, betakes himself to this asylum: “My times
are in thy hand.”(481) He might have mentioned either the course of life,
or _time_, in the singular number; but by the word _times_ he intended to
express, that, however unstable the condition of men may be, all the
vicissitudes which take place are under the government of God. For which
reason Rezin and the king of Israel, when, after the junction of their
forces for the destruction of Judah, they resembled firebrands kindled to
consume and ruin the land, are called by the Prophet “smoking
firebrands,”(482) which can do nothing but emit a little smoke. Thus
Pharaoh, when his riches, his strength, and the multitude of his forces,
rendered him formidable to all, is himself compared to a sea‐monster, and
his forces to fishes.(483) Therefore God denounces that he will take both
the captain and his army with his hook, and draw them whither he pleases.
Finally, to dwell no longer on this part of the subject, you will easily
perceive, on examination, that ignorance of providence is the greatest of
miseries, but that the knowledge of it is attended with the highest
felicity.

XII. On the doctrine of Divine providence, as far as it may conduce to the
solid instruction and consolation of the faithful, (for to satisfy a vain
curiosity is neither possible nor desirable,) enough would now have been
said, were it not for a difficulty arising from a few passages, which
apparently imply, in opposition to what has been stated, that the counsel
of God is not firm and stable, but liable to change according to the
situation of sublunary affairs. In the first place, there are several
instances in which repentance is attributed to God; as, that he repented
of having created man,(484) and of having exalted Saul to the
kingdom;(485) and that he will repent of the evil which he had determined
to inflict on his people, as soon as he shall have perceived their
conversion.(486) In the next place, we read of the abrogation of some of
his decrees. By Jonah he declared to the Ninevites,(487) that, after the
lapse of forty days, Nineveh should be destroyed; but their penitence
afterwards obtained from him a more merciful sentence. By the mouth of
Isaiah he denounced death to Hezekiah;(488) which the prayers and tears of
that monarch moved him to defer.(489) Hence many persons argue, that God
has not fixed the affairs of men by an eternal decree; but that every
year, day, and hour, he decrees one thing or another, according to the
respective merits of each individual, or to his own ideas of equity and
justice. With regard to repentance, we must not admit that it can happen
to God, any more than ignorance, or error, or impotence. For if no man
knowingly and willingly lays himself under the necessity of repentance, we
cannot attribute repentance to God, without saying either that he is
ignorant of the future, or that he cannot avoid it, or that he
precipitately and inconsiderately adopts a resolution, of which he
immediately repents. But that is so far from the meaning of the Holy
Spirit, that in the very mention of repentance, he denies that it can
belong to God, because “he is not a man, that he should repent.”(490) And
it must be remarked, that both these points are so connected in the same
chapter, that a comparison fully reconciles the apparent inconsistency.
Where it is said that God repented of having created Saul king, the change
declared to have taken place is figurative. It is almost immediately
added, that “The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not
a man, that he should repent;”(491) in which, without any figure, his
immutability is plainly asserted. It is certain, therefore, that the
ordination of God in the administration of human affairs, is perpetual,
and superior to all repentance. And to place his constancy beyond all
doubt, even his adversaries have been constrained to attest it. For
Balaam, notwithstanding his reluctance, was obliged to break out into the
following exclamation: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the
son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it?
or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”(492)

XIII. How, then, it will be inquired, is the term _repentance_ to be
understood, when attributed to God? I reply, in the same manner as all the
other forms of expression, which describe God to us after the manner of
men. For, since our infirmity cannot reach his sublimity, the description
of him which is given to us, in order that we may understand it, must be
lowered to the level of our capacity. His method of lowering it, is to
represent himself to us, not as he is in himself, but according to our
perception of him. Though he is free from all perturbation of mind, he
declares that he is angry with sinners.(493) As, therefore, when we hear
that God is angry, we ought not to imagine any commotion in him, but
rather to consider this expression as borrowed from our perception,
because God carries the appearance of one who is very angry, whenever he
executes judgment,—so neither by the term _repentance_ ought we to
understand any thing but a change of actions; because men are accustomed
to express their dissatisfaction with themselves by changing their
actions. Since every change among men, therefore, is a correction of that
which displeases them, and correction proceeds from repentance, therefore
the term _repentance_ is used to signify that God makes a change in his
works. Yet, at the same time, there is no alteration in his counsel or his
will, nor any change in his affections; but how sudden soever the
variation may appear to the eyes of men, he perpetually and regularly
prosecutes what he has foreseen, approved, and decreed from eternity.

XIV. Nor does the Sacred History, when it records the remission of the
destruction which had just been denounced against the Ninevites, and the
prolongation of the life of Hezekiah after he had been threatened with
death, prove that there was any abrogation of the Divine decrees. Persons
who thus understand it, are deceived in their ideas of the threatenings;
which, though expressed in the form of simple declarations, yet, as the
event shows, contain in them a tacit condition. For why did God send Jonah
to the Ninevites, to predict the ruin of their city? Why did he, by the
mouth of Isaiah, warn Hezekiah of death? He could have destroyed both them
and him, without previously announcing their end. He had some other object
in view, therefore, than to forewarn them of their death, and to give them
a distant prospect of its approach. And that was not to destroy them, but
to reform them, that they might not be destroyed. Therefore the prediction
of Jonah, that after forty days Nineveh should fall, was uttered to
prevent its fall. Hezekiah was deprived of the hope of a longer life, in
order that he might obtain a prolongation of it in answer to his prayers.
Now, who does not see, that the Lord, by such denunciations as these,
intended to arouse to repentance the persons whom he thus alarmed, that
they might escape the judgment which their sins had deserved? If this be
admitted, the nature of the circumstances leads to the conclusion, that we
must understand a tacit condition implied in the simple denunciation. This
is also confirmed by similar examples. The Lord, reprehending king
Abimelech for having deprived Abraham of his wife, uses these
words:—“Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast
taken; for she is a man’s wife.” But after Abimelech has excused himself,
the Lord speaks in this manner: “Restore the man his wife; for he is a
prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live; and if thou
restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that
are thine.”(494) You see how, by the first declaration, God terrifies his
mind, to dispose him to make satisfaction; but in the next, he makes an
explicit declaration of his will. Since other passages are to be explained
in a similar manner, you must not infer that there is any abrogation of a
prior purpose of the Lord, because he may have annulled some former
declarations. For God rather prepares the way for his eternal ordination,
when, by a denunciation of punishment, he calls to repentance those whom
he designs to spare, than makes any variation in his will, or even in his
declarations, except that he does not syllabically express what,
nevertheless, is easily understood. For that assertion of Isaiah must
remain true: “The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?
and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?”(495)



Chapter XVIII. God Uses The Agency Of The Impious, And Inclines Their
Minds To Execute His Judgments, Yet Without The Least Stain Of His Perfect
Purity.


A question of greater difficulty arises from other passages, where God is
said to incline or draw, according to his own pleasure, Satan himself and
all the reprobate. For the carnal understanding scarcely comprehends how
he, acting by their means, contracts no defilement from their criminality,
and, even in operations common to himself and them, is free from every
fault, and yet righteously condemns those whose ministry he uses. Hence
was invented the distinction between _doing_ and _permitting_; because to
many persons this has appeared an inexplicable difficulty, that Satan and
all the impious are subject to the power and government of God, so that he
directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and uses their crimes for
the execution of his judgments. The modesty of those who are alarmed at
the appearance of absurdity, might perhaps be excusable, if they did not
attempt to vindicate the Divine justice from all accusation by a pretence
utterly destitute of any foundation in truth. They consider it absurd that
a man should be blinded by the will and command of God, and afterwards be
punished for his blindness. They therefore evade the difficulty, by
alleging that it happens only by the permission, and not by the will of
God; but God himself, by the most unequivocal declarations, rejects this
subterfuge. That men, however, can effect nothing but by the secret will
of God, and can deliberate on nothing but what he has previously decreed,
and determines by his secret direction, is proved by express and
innumerable testimonies. What we have before cited from the Psalmist, that
“God hath done whatsoever he hath pleased,”(496) undoubtedly pertains to
all the actions of men. If God be the certain arbiter of war and peace, as
is there affirmed, and that without any exception, who will venture to
assert, that he remains ignorant and unconcerned respecting men, while
they are actuated by the blind influence of chance? But this subject will
be better elucidated by particular examples. From the first chapter of Job
we know that Satan presents himself before God to receive his commands, as
well as the angels, who yield a spontaneous obedience. It is, indeed, in a
different manner, and for a different end; yet he cannot attempt any thing
but by the Divine will. Although he seems to obtain only a bare permission
to afflict that holy man, yet, since this sentence is true, “The Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away,”(497) we conclude that God was the
author of that trial, of which Satan and mischievous robbers and assassins
were the immediate agents. Satan endeavours to drive him by desperation
into madness. The Sabeans, in a predatory incursion, cruelly and wickedly
seize upon property not their own. Job acknowledges that he was stripped
of all his wealth, and reduced to poverty, because such was the will of
God. Therefore, whatever is attempted by men, or by Satan himself, God
still holds the helm, to direct all their attempts to the execution of his
judgments. God intends the deception of that perfidious king Ahab; the
devil offers his service for that purpose; he is sent with a positive
commission to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets.(498) If
the blinding and infatuation of Ahab be a Divine judgment, the pretence of
bare permission disappears. For it would be ridiculous for a judge merely
to permit, without decreeing what should be done, and commanding his
officers to execute it. The Jews designed to destroy Christ; Pilate and
his soldiers complied with their outrageous violence; yet the disciples,
in a solemn prayer, confess that all the impious did nothing but what “the
hand and the counsel of God determined before to be done;”(499) agreeably
to what Peter had already preached, that he was “delivered by the
determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” that he might be “crucified
and slain.”(500) As though he had said that God, who saw every thing from
the beginning, with a clear knowledge and determined will, appointed what
the Jews executed; as he mentions in another place: “Those things which
God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should
suffer, he hath so fulfilled.”(501) Absalom, defiling his father’s bed
with incest, perpetrated a detestable crime; yet God pronounces that this
was his work; for his words are, “Thou didst it secretly; but I will do
this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”(502) Whatever cruelty
the Chaldeans exercised in Judea, Jeremiah pronounces to be the work of
God;(503) for which reason Nebuchadnezzar is called the servant of God.
God frequently proclaims, that the impious are excited to war by his
hissing, by the sound of his trumpet, by his influence, and by his
command: he calls the Assyrian the rod of his anger, and the staff which
he moves with his hand. The destruction of the holy city and the ruin of
the temple he calls his own work.(504) David, not murmuring against God,
but acknowledging him to be a righteous Judge, confesses the maledictions
of Shimei to proceed from his command. “The Lord,” says he, “hath said
unto him, Curse.”(505) It often occurs in the Sacred History, that
whatever comes to pass proceeds from the Lord; as the defection of the ten
tribes,(506) the death of the sons of Eli,(507) and many events of a
similar kind. Those who are but moderately acquainted with the Scriptures
will perceive that, for the sake of brevity, out of a great number of
testimonies, I have produced only a few; which, nevertheless, abundantly
evince how nugatory and insipid it is, instead of the providence of God,
to substitute a bare permission; as though God were sitting in a
watchtower, expecting fortuitous events, and so his decisions were
dependent on the will of men.

II. With respect to his secret influences, the declaration of Solomon
concerning the heart of a king, that it is inclined hither or thither
according to the Divine will,(508) certainly extends to the whole human
race, and is as much as though he had said, that whatever conceptions we
form in our minds, they are directed by the secret inspiration of God. And
certainly, if he did not operate internally on the human mind, there would
be no propriety in asserting, that he causes “the wisdom of the wise to
perish, and the understanding of the prudent to be hid; that he poureth
contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where
there is no way.”(509) And to this alludes, what we frequently read, that
men are timorous, as their hearts are possessed with his fear.(510) Thus
David departed from the camp of Saul, without the knowledge of any one;
“because a deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them all.”(511) But
nothing can be desired more explicit than his frequent declarations, that
he blinds the minds of men, strikes them with giddiness, inebriates them
with the spirit of slumber, fills them with infatuation, and hardens their
hearts.(512) These passages also many persons refer to permission, as
though, in abandoning the reprobate, God permitted them to be blinded by
Satan. But that solution is too frivolous, since the Holy Spirit expressly
declares that their blindness and infatuation are inflicted by the
righteous judgment of God. He is said to have caused the obduracy of
Pharaoh’s heart, and also to have aggravated and confirmed it. Some elude
the force of these expressions with a foolish cavil—that, since Pharaoh
himself is elsewhere said to have hardened his own heart, his own will is
stated as the cause of his obduracy; as though these two things were at
all incompatible with each other, that man should be actuated by God, and
yet at the same time be active himself. But I retort on them their own
objection; for if _hardening_ denotes a bare permission, Pharaoh cannot
properly be charged with being the cause of his own obstinacy. Now, how
weak and insipid would be such an interpretation, as though Pharaoh only
permitted himself to be hardened! Besides, the Scripture cuts off all
occasion for such cavils. God says, “I will harden his heart.”(513) So,
also, Moses says, concerning the inhabitants of Canaan, that they marched
forth to battle, because the Lord had hardened their hearts;(514) which is
likewise repeated by another Prophet—“He turned their hearts to hate his
people.”(515) Thus, also, in Isaiah, he declares he will “send the
Assyrian against a hypocritical nation, and will give him a charge to take
the spoil, and to take the prey;”(516) not that he meant to teach impious
and refractory men a voluntary obedience, but because he would incline
them to execute his judgments, just as if they had his commands engraven
on their minds. Hence it appears that they were impelled by the positive
appointment of God. I grant, indeed, that God often actuates the reprobate
by the interposition of Satan; but in such a manner that Satan himself
acts his part by the Divine impulse, and proceeds to the extent of the
Divine appointment. Saul was disturbed by an evil spirit; but it is said
to be “from the Lord;”(517) to teach us that Saul’s madness proceeded from
the righteous vengeance of God. Satan is also said to blind “the minds of
them which believe not;”(518) but the strength of the delusion proceeds
from God himself, “that they should believe a lie, who believe not the
truth.”(519) According to one view of the subject, it is said, “If the
prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived
that prophet.”(520) But, according to another, God is said himself to
“give men over to a reprobate mind,”(521) and to the vilest lusts; because
he is the principal author of his own righteous vengeance, and Satan is
only the dispenser of it. But as we must discuss this subject again in the
second book, where we shall treat of the freedom or slavery of the human
will, I think I have now said, in a brief manner, as much as the occasion
required. The whole may be summed up thus; that, as the will of God is
said to be the cause of all things, his providence is established as the
governor in all the counsels and works of men, so that it not only exerts
its power in the elect, who are influenced by the Holy Spirit, but also
compels the compliance of the reprobate.

III. But, as I have hitherto only recited such things as are delivered
without any obscurity or ambiguity in the Scriptures, let persons who
hesitate not to brand with ignominy those oracles of heaven, beware what
kind of opposition they make. For, if they pretend ignorance, with a
desire to be commended for their modesty, what greater instance of pride
can be conceived, than to oppose one little word to the authority of God!
as, “It appears otherwise to me,” or, “I would rather not meddle with this
subject.” But if they openly censure, what will they gain by their puny
attempts against heaven? Their petulance, indeed, is no novelty; for in
all ages there have been impious and profane men, who have virulently
opposed this doctrine. But they shall feel the truth of what the Spirit
long ago declared by the mouth of David, that God “is clear when he
judgeth.”(522) David obliquely hints at the madness of men who display
such excessive presumption amidst their insignificance, as not only to
dispute against God, but to arrogate to themselves the power of condemning
him. In the mean time, he briefly suggests, that God is unaffected by all
the blasphemies which they discharge against heaven, but that he
dissipates the mists of calumny, and illustriously displays his
righteousness; our faith, also, being founded on the Divine word,(523) and
therefore, superior to all the world, from its exaltation looks down with
contempt upon those mists. For their first objection, that, if nothing
happens but by the will of God, he has in him two contrary wills, because
he decrees in his secret counsel what he has publicly prohibited in his
law, is easily refuted. But before I reply, I wish the reader again to be
apprized, that this cavil is directed, not against me, but against the
Holy Spirit, who dictated to the pious Job this confession, that what had
befallen him had happened according to the Divine will: when he had been
plundered by banditti, he acknowledged in their injuries the righteous
scourge of God.(524) What says the Scripture in another case? “They,” the
sons of Eli, “hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the
Lord would slay them.”(525) The Psalmist also exclaims, that “God,” who
“is in the heavens, hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”(526) And now I
have sufficiently proved, that God is called the author of all those
things, which, according to the system of these censors, happen only by
his uninfluential permission. He declares that he creates light and
darkness, that he forms good and evil,(527) and that no evil occurs, which
he has not performed. Let them say, then, whether he exercises his
judgments voluntarily or involuntarily. But as Moses suggests, that he who
is killed by the fortuitous fall of an axe, is delivered by God to the
stroke,(528) so in the Acts, the whole church asserts that Herod and
Pilate conspired to do what the hand and the counsel of God had
predetermined.(529) And indeed, unless the crucifixion of Christ was
according to the will of God, what becomes of our redemption? Yet the will
of God is neither repugnant to itself, nor subject to change, nor
chargeable with pretending to dislike what it approves; but whilst in him
it is uniform and simple, it wears to us the appearance of variety;
because the weakness of our understanding comprehends not how the same
thing may be in different respects both agreeable to his will, and
contrary to it. Paul, after having said that the vocation of the Gentiles
was a hidden mystery, adds, that it contained a manifestation of the
manifold wisdom of God.(530) Now, because, through the dulness of our
capacity, the Divine wisdom appears to us manifold, (or multiform, as it
has been translated by an ancient interpreter,) shall we therefore dream
of any vanity in God himself, as though his counsels were mutable, or his
thoughts contradictory to each other? Rather, while we comprehend not how
God intends that to be done, the doing of which he forbids, let us
remember our imbecility, and at the same time consider, that the light
which he inhabits, is justly called inaccessible,(531) because it is
overspread with impenetrable darkness. Therefore all pious and modest men
will easily acquiesce in this opinion of Augustine: “That a man may
sometimes choose, with a good intention, that which is not agreeable to
the will of God; as, if a good son wishes his father to live, whilst God
determines that he shall die. It is also possible for a man to will with a
bad design, what God wills with a good one; as, if a bad son wishes his
father to die, which is also the will of God. Now, the former wishes what
is not agreeable, the latter what is agreeable to the Divine will. And yet
the filial affection of the former is more consonant to the righteous will
of God, than the want of natural affection in the latter, though it
accords with his secret design. So great is the difference between what
belongs to the human will, and what to the Divine, and between the ends to
which the will of every one is to be referred, for approbation or censure.
For God fulfils his righteous will by the wicked wills of wicked men.”
This writer had just before said, that the apostate angels, and all the
reprobate, in their defection, acted, as far as respected themselves, in
direct opposition to the Divine will; but that this was not possible with
respect to the Divine omnipotence; because, while they are opposing the
will of God, his will is accomplished concerning them. Whence he exclaims,
“The works of the Lord are great, prepared according to all his
determinations;”(532) so that, in a wonderful and ineffable manner, that
is not done without his will which yet is contrary to his will; because it
would not be done if he did not permit it; and this permission is not
involuntary, but voluntary; nor would his goodness permit the perpetration
of any evil, unless his omnipotence were able even from that evil to educe
good.

IV. In the same manner we answer, or rather annihilate, another
objection—that, if God not only uses the agency of the impious, but
governs their designs and affections, he is the author of all crimes; and
therefore men are undeservedly condemned, if they execute what God has
decreed, because they obey his will. For his will is improperly confounded
with his precept, between which innumerable examples evince the difference
to be very great. For although, when Absalom defiled the wives of his
father, it was the will of God by this disgrace to punish the adultery of
David,(533) he did not therefore command that abandoned son to commit
incest, unless perhaps with respect to David, as he speaks of the
reproaches of Shimei.(534) For when he confesses Shimei’s maledictions to
proceed from the Divine command, he by no means commends his obedience, as
though that impudent and worthless man were fulfilling a Divine precept;
but acknowledging his tongue as the scourge of God, he patiently submits
to the chastisement. Let it be remembered, that whilst God by means of the
impious fulfils his secret decrees, they are not excusable, as though they
were obedient to his precepts, which they wantonly and intentionally
violate. The direction of the perverse actions of men, by the secret
providence of God, is illustriously exemplified in the election of
Jeroboam to the regal dignity.(535) The temerity and infatuation of the
people in this proceeding are severely condemned,(536) because they
perverted the order established by God, and perfidiously revolted from the
family of David; and yet we know that this event was agreeable to the
Divine will. Whence there is an appearance of contradiction also in the
language of Hosea; for in one place God complains that the erection of
that kingdom was without his knowledge and against his will; but in
another declares that he gave Jeroboam to be a king in his anger.(537) How
can these things be reconciled, that Jeroboam did not reign by the will of
God, and yet that God appointed him to be king? Why, thus: because neither
could the people revolt from the family of David, without shaking off the
yoke which God had imposed upon them; nor yet was God deprived of the
liberty of thus punishing the ingratitude of Solomon. We see, then, how
God, while he hates perfidy, yet righteously and with a different design
decrees the defection; whence also Jeroboam is, beyond all expectation,
constrained by the holy unction to assume the regal office. In the same
manner, the Sacred History relates, that God raised up an enemy, to
deprive the son of Solomon of part of the kingdom.(538) Let the reader
diligently consider both these things: because it had pleased God that the
people should be under the government of one king, their division into two
parts was contrary to his will; and yet from his will the schism first
originated. For certainly since a Prophet, both by a prediction and by the
ceremony of unction, excited a hope of succeeding to the kingdom, in the
mind of Jeroboam, who before entertained not a thought of such an event,
this could not be done, either without the knowledge, or against the will,
of God, who commanded it to be done; and yet the rebellion of the people
is justly condemned, because, in opposition to the Divine will, they
revolted from the posterity of David. Thus, also, it is afterwards
subjoined, that “the cause” of the haughty contempt of the people
manifested by Rehoboam “was of God, that the Lord might perform his word,
which he spake by the hand of Ahijah” his servant.(539) See how the sacred
union is divided, in opposition to the will of God, and yet by his will
the ten tribes are alienated from the son of Solomon. Let us add another
similar example, where, with the consent, and even by the assistance of
the people, the sons of Ahab are massacred, and all his posterity
exterminated.(540) Jehu, indeed, truly observed that “there had fallen
unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord,” but that he had “done
that which he spake by his servant Elijah.” And yet he justly reprehends
the citizens of Samaria for having lent their assistance. “Are ye
righteous?” says he; “behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him;
but who slew all these?” If I am not deceived, I have now clearly
explained how the same act displays the criminality of men and the justice
of God. And to modest minds this answer of Augustine will always be
sufficient: “Since God delivered Christ, and Christ delivered his own
body, and Judas delivered the Lord, why, in this delivery, is God
righteous and man guilty? Because in the same act, they acted not from the
same cause.” But if any persons find greater difficulty in what we now
assert, that there is no consent between God and man, in cases where man
by his righteous influence commits unlawful actions, let them remember
what is advanced by Augustine in another place: “Who can but tremble at
those judgments, when God does even in the hearts of the wicked whatsoever
he pleases, and yet renders to them according to their demerits?” And
certainly it would no more be right to attribute to God the blame of the
perfidy of Judas, because he decreed the delivery of his Son, and actually
delivered him to death, than to transfer to Judas the praise of
redemption. Therefore the same writer elsewhere informs us, that in this
scrutiny God inquires, not what men could have done, nor what they have
done, but what they intended to do, that he may take cognizance of their
design and their will. Let those to whom there appears any harshness in
this procedure, consider a little how far their obstinacy is tolerable,
while they reject a truth which is attested by plain testimonies of
Scripture, because it exceeds their comprehension, and condemn the
publication of those things which God, unless he had known that the
knowledge of them would be useful, would never have commanded to be taught
by his Prophets and Apostles. For our wisdom ought to consist in embracing
with gentle docility, and without any exception, all that is delivered in
the sacred Scriptures. But those who oppose this doctrine with less
modesty and greater violence, since it is evident that their opposition is
against God, are unworthy of a longer refutation.



BOOK II. ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE REDEEMER IN CHRIST, WHICH WAS
REVEALED FIRST TO THE FATHERS UNDER THE LAW, AND SINCE TO US IN THE
GOSPEL.



Argument.


The discussion of the first part of the Apostolic Creed, on the knowledge
of God the Creator, being finished, is followed by another, on the
knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ, which is the subject of this
Second Book.

It treats, first, of the occasion of redemption, that is, the fall of
Adam; secondly, of the redemption itself. The former of these subjects
occupies the first five chapters; the remaining ones are assigned to the
latter.

On the occasion of redemption, it treats, not only of the fall in general,
but also of its effects in particular; that is, of original sin, the
slavery of the will, the universal corruption of human nature, the
operation of God in the hearts of men—Chap. I.‐IV., to which is subjoined
a refutation of the objections commonly adduced in defence of free
will—Chap. V.

The discourse on redemption may be divided into five principal parts. It
shows,

1. In whom salvation must be sought by lost man, that is, in Christ—Chap.
VI.

2. How Christ has been manifested to the world; which has been in two
ways; first, under the law (which introduces an explanation of the
Decalogue, and a discussion of some other things relative to the
Law)—Chap. VII. VIII.; secondly, under the Gospel, which leads to a
statement of the similarity and difference of the two Testaments—Chap.
IX.‐XI.

3. What kind of a being it was necessary for Christ to be, in order to his
fulfilment of the office of a Mediator; that is, God and man in one
person—Chap. XII.‐XIV.

4. The end of his mission from the Father into the world—Chap. XV., which
explains his prophetical, regal, and sacerdotal offices.

5. The methods or steps by which he fulfilled the part of a Redeemer, to
procure our salvation—Chap. XVI.; which discusses the articles relating to
his crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection, ascension
to heaven, session at the right hand of the Father, and the benefits
arising from this doctrine. Then follows Chap. XVII., a solution of the
question, Whether Christ merited for us the grace of God and salvation.



Chapter I. The Fall And Defection Of Adam The Cause Of The Curse Inflicted
On All Mankind, And Of Their Degeneracy From Their Primitive Condition.
The Doctrine Of Original Sin.


There is much reason in the old adage, which so strongly recommends to man
the knowledge of himself. For if it be thought disgraceful to be ignorant
of whatever relates to the conduct of human life, ignorance of ourselves
is much more shameful, which causes us, in deliberating on subjects of
importance, to grope our way in miserable obscurity, or even in total
darkness. But in proportion to the utility of this precept ought to be our
caution not to make a preposterous use of it; as we see some philosophers
have done. For while they exhort man to the knowledge of himself, the end
they propose is, that he may not remain ignorant of his own dignity and
excellence: nor do they wish him to contemplate in himself any thing but
what may swell him with vain confidence, and inflate him with pride. But
the knowledge of ourselves consists, first, in considering what was
bestowed on us at our creation, and the favours we continually receive
from the Divine benignity, that we may know how great the excellence of
our nature would have been, if it had retained its integrity; yet, at the
same time, recollecting that we have nothing properly our own, may feel
our precarious tenure of all that God has conferred on us, so as always to
place our dependence upon him. Secondly, we should contemplate our
miserable condition since the fall of Adam, the sense of which tends to
destroy all boasting and confidence, to overwhelm us with shame, and to
fill us with real humility. For as God, at the beginning, formed us after
his own image, that he might elevate our minds both to the practice of
virtue, and to the contemplation of eternal life, so, to prevent the great
excellence of our species, which distinguishes us from the brutes, from
being buried in sottish indolence, it is worthy of observation, that the
design of our being endued with reason and intelligence is, that, leading
a holy and virtuous life, we may aspire to the mark set before us of a
blessed immortality. But we cannot think upon that primeval dignity,
without having our attention immediately called to the melancholy
spectacle of our disgrace and ignominy, since in the person of the first
man we are fallen from our original condition. Hence arise disapprobation
and abhorrence of ourselves, and real humility; and we are inflamed with
fresh ardour to seek after God, to recover in him those excellences of
which we find ourselves utterly destitute.

II. This is what the truth of God directs us to seek in the examination of
ourselves: it requires a knowledge that will abstract us from all
confidence in our own ability, deprive us of every cause of boasting, and
reduce us to submission. We must observe this rule, if we wish to reach
the proper point of knowledge and action. I am aware of the superior
plausibility of that opinion, which invites us rather to a consideration
of our goodness, than to a view of our miserable poverty and ignominy,
which ought to overwhelm us with shame. For there is nothing more desired
by the human mind than soothing flatteries; and therefore, it listens with
extreme credulity, to hear its excellences magnified. Wherefore it is the
less wonderful that the majority of mankind have fallen into such a
pernicious error. For, an immoderate self‐love being innate in all men,
they readily persuade themselves that there is nothing in them which
justly deserves to be an object of aversion. Thus, without any extraneous
support, this very false opinion, that man has in himself sufficient
ability to insure his own virtue and happiness, generally prevails. But if
some prefer more modest sentiments, though they concede something to God,
in order to avoid the appearance of arrogating every thing to themselves,
yet they make such a distribution, that the principal cause of boasting
and confidence always remains with them. If they hear any discourse that
flatters the pride already operating spontaneously in their hearts,
nothing can gratify them more. Therefore every one who in his preaching
has kindly extolled the excellence of human nature, has received great
applause from almost all ages. But such a commendation of human excellence
as teaches man to be satisfied with himself, only enamours him of his own
amiableness, and thus produces an illusion which involves those who assent
to it in most dreadful perdition. For to what purpose is it for us,
relying on every vain confidence, to deliberate, to determine, and to
attempt things which we think tend to our advantage, and in our first
efforts, to find ourselves destitute of sound understanding and true
virtue, yet securely to proceed, till we fall into destruction? But this
must be the fate of all who confide in the efficacy of their own virtue.
Whosoever, therefore, attends to such teachers as amuse us with a mere
exhibition of our virtues, will make no progress in the knowledge of
himself, but will be absorbed in the most pernicious ignorance.

III. Therefore, whilst the truth of God agrees in this point with the
common consent of all mankind, that the second branch of wisdom consists
in the knowledge of ourselves, yet with respect to the knowledge itself
there is no small disagreement. For, according to carnal apprehension, a
man is thought to be well acquainted with himself, when, confiding in his
own understanding and integrity, he assumes a presumptuous boldness,
incites himself to the duties of virtue, and, declaring war against vice,
uses his most strenuous endeavours to adhere to what is fair and
honourable. But he, who inspects and examines himself by the rule of the
Divine judgment, finds nothing that can raise his mind to a genuine
confidence; and the more fully he has examined himself, the greater is his
dejection; till, entirely discarding all confidence, he leaves himself no
ability for the proper conduct of his life. Yet it is not the will of God
that we should forget the primitive dignity conferred by him on our father
Adam, which ought justly to awaken us to the pursuit of righteousness and
goodness. For we cannot reflect on our original condition, and on the end
of our creation, without being excited to meditate on immortality, and to
aspire after the kingdom of God. But this reflection is so far from
elating us with pride, that it rather produces humility. For what is that
original condition? That from which we are fallen. What is that end of our
creation? That from which we are wholly departed; so that we should lament
the miseries of our present state, and in the midst of our lamentation,
aspire after the dignity which we have lost. Now, when we say that man
should behold in himself nothing that might elate him with pride, we mean
that there is nothing in him in the confidence of which he ought to be
proud. Wherefore we may divide the knowledge man ought to have of himself
into these two parts. First, he should consider the end of his being
created and endued with such estimable gifts; a reflection which may
excite him to the consideration of Divine worship, and of a future life.
Secondly, he should examine his own ability, or rather his want of
ability, the view of which may confound and almost annihilate him. The
former consideration is adapted to acquaint him with his duty, the latter
with his power to perform it. We shall treat of them both in regular
order.

IV. But, since it could not have been a trivial offence, but must have
been a detestable crime, that was so severely punished by God, we must
consider the nature of Adam’s sin, which kindled the dreadful flame of
Divine wrath against the whole human race. The vulgar opinion concerning
the intemperance of gluttony is quite puerile; as though the sum and
substance of all virtues consisted in an abstinence from one particular
kind of fruit, when there were diffused on every side all the delights
which could possibly be desired, and the happy fecundity of the earth
afforded an abundance and variety of dainties. We must therefore look
further, because the prohibition of the tree of knowledge of good and evil
was a test of obedience, that Adam might prove his willing submission to
the Divine government. And the name itself shows that the precept was
given for no other purpose than that he might be contented with his
condition, and not aim with criminal cupidity at any higher. But the
promise which authorized him to expect eternal life, as long as he should
eat of the tree of life, and, on the other hand, the dreadful denunciation
of death, as soon as he should taste of the tree of knowledge of good and
evil, were calculated for the probation and exercise of his faith. Hence
it is easy to infer by what means Adam provoked the wrath of God against
him. Augustine, indeed, properly observes, that pride was the first of all
evils; because, if ambition had not elated man beyond what was lawful and
right, he might have continued in his honourable situation. But we may
obtain a more complete definition from the nature of the temptation as
described by Moses. For as the woman, by the subtlety of the serpent, was
seduced to discredit the word of God, it is evident that the fall
commenced in disobedience. This is also confirmed by Paul, who states that
all men were ruined by the disobedience of one.(541) But it is also to be
observed, that when the first man rebelled against the government of God,
he not only was ensnared by the allurements of Satan, but despised the
truth, and turned aside to falsehood. And there certainly can be no
reverence of God left, where his word is contemned; for we preserve a
sense of his majesty and the purity of his worship, no longer than we
implicitly attend to his voice. Infidelity, therefore, was the root of
that defection. But hence sprang ambition, pride, and ingratitude, since
Adam, by coveting more than was granted, offered an indignity to the
Divine goodness, which had so greatly enriched him. Now, it was monstrous
impiety, that a son of the earth should not be satisfied with being made
after the similitude of God, unless he could also be equal to him. If
apostasy, which consists in revolting from the government of the Creator,
and petulantly rejecting his authority, be a base and execrable crime, it
is a vain attempt to extenuate the sin of Adam. Though the transgression
of our first parents was not simple apostasy; they were also guilty of
vile reproaches against God, in consenting to the calumnies of Satan, who
accused God of falsehood, envy, and malignity. Finally, infidelity opened
the gate to ambition, and ambition produced obstinacy, so that they cast
off the fear of God, and precipitated themselves whithersoever they were
led by their lawless desires. With propriety, therefore, Bernard teaches
that the gate of salvation is opened to us, when in the present day we
receive the Gospel with our ears, as death was once admitted at the same
doors when they lay open to Satan. For Adam had never dared to resist the
authority of God, if he had not discredited his word. This was certainly
the best check for a due regulation of all the affections, that the chief
good consists in the practice of righteousness, in obedience to the
commands of God; and that the ultimate end of a happy life is to be
beloved by him. Being seduced, therefore, by the blasphemies of the devil,
he did all that was in his power towards a total annihilation of the glory
of God.

V. As the spiritual life of Adam consisted in a union to his Maker, so an
alienation from him was the death of his soul. Nor is it surprising that
he ruined his posterity by his defection, which has perverted the whole
order of nature in heaven and earth. “The creatures groan,” says Paul,
“being made subject to vanity, not willingly.”(542) If the cause be
inquired, it is undoubtedly that they sustain part of the punishment due
to the demerits of man, for whose use they were created. And his guilt
being the origin of that curse which extends to every part of the world,
it is reasonable to conclude its propagation to all his offspring.
Therefore, when the Divine image in him was obliterated, and he was
punished with the loss of wisdom, strength, sanctity, truth, and
righteousness, with which he had been adorned, but which were succeeded by
the dreadful pests of ignorance, impotence, impurity, vanity, and
iniquity, he suffered not alone, but involved all his posterity with him,
and plunged them into the same miseries. This is that hereditary
corruption which the fathers called _original sin_; meaning by sin, the
depravation of a nature previously good and pure; on which subject they
had much contention, nothing being more remote from natural reason, than
that all should be criminated on account of the guilt of one, and thus his
sin become common; which seems to have been the reason why the most
ancient doctors of the Church did but obscurely glance at this point, or
at least explained it with less perspicuity than it required. Yet this
timidity could not prevent Pelagius from arising, who profanely pretended,
that the sin of Adam only ruined himself, and did not injure his
descendants. By concealing the disease with this delusion, Satan attempted
to render it incurable. But when it was evinced by the plain testimony of
the Scripture, that sin was communicated from the first man to all his
posterity, he sophistically urged that it was communicated by imitation,
not by propagation. Therefore good men, and beyond all others Augustine,
have laboured to demonstrate that we are not corrupted by any adventitious
means, but that we derive an innate depravity from our very birth. The
denial of this was an instance of consummate impudence. But the temerity
of the Pelagians and Celestians will not appear surprising to him who
perceives from the writings of Augustine, what a want of modesty they
discover in every thing else. There is certainly no ambiguity in the
confession of David, that he was shapen in iniquity, and in sin his mother
conceived him.(543) He is not there exposing the sins of his mother or of
his father; but to enhance his commendations of the Divine goodness
towards him, he commences the confession of his depravity from the time of
his conception. As it is evident that this was not peculiar to David, it
is fairly concluded, that his case exemplifies the common condition of
mankind. Every descendant, therefore, from the impure source, is born
infected with the contagion of sin; and even before we behold the light of
life, we are in the sight of God defiled and polluted. For “who can bring
a clean thing out of an unclean?” The book of Job tells us, “Not
one.”(544)

VI. We have heard that the impurity of the parents is so transmitted to
the children, that all, without a single exception, are polluted as soon
as they exist. But we shall not find the origin of this pollution, unless
we ascend to the first parent of us all, as to the fountain which sends
forth all the streams. Thus it is certain that Adam was not only the
progenitor, but as it were the root of mankind, and therefore that all the
race were necessarily vitiated in his corruption. The Apostle explains
this by a comparison between him and Christ: “As,” says he, “by one man
sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all
men, for that all have sinned,”(545) so, by the grace of Christ,
righteousness and life have been restored to us. What cavil will the
Pelagians raise here? That the sin of Adam was propagated by imitation? Do
we then receive no other advantage from the righteousness of Christ than
the proposal of an example for our imitation? Who can bear such blasphemy?
But if it cannot be controverted that the righteousness of Christ is ours
by communication, and life as its consequence, it is equally evident that
both were lost in Adam, in the same manner in which they were recovered in
Christ, and that sin and death were introduced by Adam, in the same manner
in which they are abolished by Christ. There is no obscurity in the
declaration that many are made righteous by the obedience of Christ,(546)
as they had been made sinners by the disobedience of Adam. And, therefore,
between these two persons there is this relation, that the one ruined us
by involving us in his destruction, the other by his grace has restored us
to salvation. Any more prolix or tedious proof of a truth supported by
such clear evidence must, I think, be unnecessary. Thus also in the First
Epistle to the Corinthians, with a view to confirm the pious in a
confidence of the resurrection, he shows, that the life which had been
lost in Adam, was recovered in Christ.(547) He, who pronounces that we
were all dead in Adam, does also at the same time plainly declare, that we
were implicated in the guilt of his sin. For no condemnation could reach
those who were perfectly clear from all charge of iniquity. But his
meaning cannot be better understood than from the relation of the other
member of the sentence, where he informs us that the hope of life is
restored in Christ. But that is well known to be accomplished, only when
Christ, by a wonderful communication, transfuses into us the virtue of his
righteousness; as it is elsewhere said, “The Spirit is life, because of
righteousness.”(548) No other explanation therefore can be given of our
being said to be dead in Adam, than that his transgression not only
procured misery and ruin for himself, but also precipitated our nature
into similar destruction. And that not by his personal guilt as an
individual, which pertains not to us, but because he infected all his
descendants with the corruption into which he had fallen. Otherwise there
would be no truth in the assertion of Paul, that all are by nature
children of wrath,(549) if they had not been already under the curse even
before their birth. Now, it is easily inferred that our nature is there
characterized, not as it was created by God, but as it was vitiated in
Adam; because it would be unreasonable to make God the author of death.
Adam, therefore, corrupted himself in such a manner, that the contagion
has been communicated from him to all his offspring. And Christ himself,
the heavenly Judge, declares, in the most unequivocal terms, that all are
born in a state of pravity and corruption, when he teaches, that
“whatsoever is born of the flesh is flesh,”(550) and that, therefore, the
gate of life is closed against all who have not been regenerated.

VII. Nor, to enable us to understand this subject, have we any need to
enter on that tedious dispute, with which the fathers were not a little
perplexed, whether the soul of a son proceeds by derivation or
transmission from the soul of the father, because the soul is the
principal seat of the pollution. We ought to be satisfied with this, that
the Lord deposited with Adam the endowments he chose to confer on the
human nature; and therefore that when he lost the favours he had received,
he lost them not only for himself, but for us all. Who will be solicitous
about a transmission of the soul, when he hears that Adam received the
ornaments that he lost, no less for us than for himself? that they were
given, not to one man only, but to the whole human nature? There is
nothing absurd therefore, if, in consequence of his being spoiled of his
dignities, that nature be destitute and poor; if, in consequence of his
being polluted with sin, the whole nature be infected with the contagion.
From a putrefied root, therefore, have sprung putrid branches, which have
transmitted their putrescence to remoter ramifications. For the children
were so vitiated in their parent, that they became contagious to their
descendants: there was in Adam such a spring of corruption, that it is
transfused from parents to children in a perpetual stream. But the cause
of the contagion is not in the substance of the body or of the soul; but
because it was ordained by God, that the gifts which he conferred on the
first man should by him be preserved or lost both for himself and for all
his posterity. But the cavil of the Pelagians, that it is improbable that
children should derive corruption from pious parents, whereas they ought
rather to be sanctified by their purity, is easily refuted. For they
descend from their carnal generation, not from their spiritual generation.
Therefore, as Augustine says, “Neither the guilty unbeliever, nor the
justified believer, generates innocent, but guilty children, because the
generation of both is from corrupted nature.” If they in some measure
participate of the sanctity of their parents, that is the peculiar
benediction of the people of God, which supersedes not the first and
universal curse previously denounced on the human nature. For their guilt
is from nature, but their sanctification from supernatural grace.

VIII. To remove all uncertainty and misunderstanding on this subject, let
us define original sin. It is not my intention to discuss all the
definitions given by writers; I shall only produce one, which I think
perfectly consistent with the truth. Original sin, therefore, appears to
be an hereditary pravity and corruption of our nature, diffused through
all the parts of the soul, rendering us obnoxious to the Divine wrath, and
producing in us those works which the Scripture calls “works of the
flesh.”(551) And this is indeed what Paul frequently denominates _sin_.
The works which proceed thence, such as adulteries, fornications, thefts,
hatreds, murders, revellings, he calls in the same manner “fruits of sin;”
although they are also called “sins” in many passages of Scripture, and
even by himself. These two things therefore should be distinctly observed:
first, that our nature being so totally vitiated and depraved, we are, on
account of this very corruption, considered as convicted and justly
condemned in the sight of God, to whom nothing is acceptable but
righteousness, innocence, and purity. And this liableness to punishment
arises not from the delinquency of another; for when it is said that the
sin of Adam renders us obnoxious to the Divine judgment, it is not to be
understood as if we, though innocent, were undeservedly loaded with the
guilt of his sin; but, because we are all subject to a curse, in
consequence of his transgression, he is therefore said to have involved us
in guilt. Nevertheless we derive from him, not only the punishment, but
also the pollution to which the punishment is justly due. Wherefore
Augustine, though he frequently calls it the sin of another, the more
clearly to indicate its transmission to us by propagation, yet, at the
same time, also asserts it properly to belong to every individual. And the
Apostle himself expressly declares, that “death has therefore passed upon
all men, for that all have sinned;”(552) that is, have been involved in
original sin, and defiled with its blemishes. And therefore infants
themselves, as they bring their condemnation into the world with them, are
rendered obnoxious to punishment by their own sinfulness, not by the
sinfulness of another. For though they have not yet produced the fruits of
their iniquity, yet they have the seed of it within them; even their whole
nature is as it were a seed of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and
abominable to God. Whence it follows, that it is properly accounted sin in
the sight of God, because there could be no guilt without crime. The other
thing to be remarked is, that this depravity never ceases in us, but is
perpetually producing new fruits, those works of the flesh, which we have
before described, like the emission of flame and sparks from a heated
furnace, or like the streams of water from a never failing spring.
Wherefore those who have defined original sin as a privation of the
original righteousness, which we ought to possess, though they comprise
the whole of the subject, yet have not used language sufficiently
expressive of its operation and influence. For our nature is not only
destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot
remain inactive. Those who have called it _concupiscence_ have used an
expression not improper, if it were only added, which is far from being
conceded by most persons, that every thing in man, the understanding and
will, the soul and body, is polluted and engrossed by this concupiscence;
or, to express it more briefly, that man is of himself nothing else but
concupiscence.

IX. Wherefore I have asserted that sin has possessed all the powers of the
soul, since Adam departed from the fountain of righteousness. For man has
not only been ensnared by the inferior appetites, but abominable impiety
has seized the very citadel of his mind, and pride has penetrated into the
inmost recesses of his heart; so that it is weak and foolish to restrict
the corruption which has proceeded thence, to what are called the sensual
affections, or to call it an incentive which allures, excites, and
attracts to sin, only what they style the sensual part. In this the
grossest ignorance has been discovered by Peter Lombard, who, when
investigating the seat of it, says that it is in the flesh, according to
the testimony of Paul,(553) not indeed exclusively, but because it
principally appears in the flesh; as though Paul designated only a part of
the soul, and not the whole of our nature, which is opposed to
supernatural grace. Now, Paul removes every doubt by informing us that the
corruption resides not in one part only, but that there is nothing pure
and uncontaminated by its mortal infection. For, when arguing respecting
corrupt nature, he not only condemns the inordinate motions of the
appetites, but principally insists on the blindness of the mind, and the
depravity of the heart;(554) and the third chapter of his Epistle to the
Romans is nothing but a description of original sin. This appears more
evident from our renovation. For “the Spirit,” which is opposed to “the
old man” and “the flesh,” not only denotes the grace, which corrects the
inferior or sensual part of the soul, but comprehends a complete
reformation of all its powers. And therefore Paul not only enjoins us to
mortify our sensual appetites, but exhorts us to be renewed in the spirit
of our mind;(555) and in another place he directs us to be transformed by
the renewing of our mind.(556) Whence it follows, that that part, which
principally displays the excellence and dignity of the soul, is not only
wounded, but so corrupted, that it requires not merely to be healed, but
to receive a new nature. How far sin occupies both the mind and the heart,
we shall presently see. My intention here was only to hint, in a brief
way, that man is so totally overwhelmed, as with a deluge, that no part is
free from sin; and therefore that whatever proceeds from him is accounted
sin; as Paul says that all the affections or thoughts of the flesh are
enmity against God, and therefore death.(557)

X. Now, let us dismiss those who dare to charge God with their
corruptions, because we say that men are naturally corrupt. They err in
seeking for the work of God in their own pollution, whereas they should
rather seek it in the nature of Adam while yet innocent and uncorrupted.
Our perdition therefore proceeds from the sinfulness of our flesh, not
from God; it being only a consequence of our degenerating from our
primitive condition. And let no one murmur that God might have made a
better provision for our safety, by preventing the fall of Adam. For such
an objection ought to be abominated, as too presumptuously curious, by all
pious minds; and it also belongs to the mystery of predestination, which
shall afterwards be treated in its proper place. Wherefore let us
remember, that our ruin must be imputed to the corruption of our nature,
that we may not bring an accusation against God himself, the author of
nature. That this fatal wound is inherent in our nature, is indeed a
truth; but it is an important question, whether it was in it originally,
or was derived from any extraneous cause. But it is evident that it was
occasioned by sin. We have therefore no reason to complain, but of
ourselves; which in the Scripture is distinctly remarked. For the Preacher
says, “This only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they
have sought out many inventions.”(558) It is clear that the misery of man
must be ascribed solely to himself, since he was favoured with rectitude
by the Divine goodness, but has lapsed into vanity through his own folly.

XI. We say, therefore, that man is corrupted by a natural depravity, but
which did not originate from nature. We deny that it proceeded from
nature, to signify that it is rather an adventitious quality or accident,
than a substantial property originally innate. Yet we call it natural,
that no one may suppose it to be contracted by every individual from
corrupt habit, whereas it prevails over all by hereditary right. Nor is
this representation of ours without authority. For the same reason the
Apostle says, that we are all by nature the children of wrath.(559) How
could God, who is pleased with all his meanest works, be angry with the
noblest of all his creatures? But he is angry rather with the corruption
of his work, than with his work itself. Therefore, if, on account of the
corruption of human nature, man be justly said to be naturally abominable
to God, he may also be truly said to be naturally depraved and corrupt; as
Augustine, in consequence of the corruption of nature, hesitates not to
call those sins natural, which necessarily predominate in our flesh, where
they are not prevented by the grace of God. Thus vanishes the foolish and
nugatory system of the Manichæans, who, having imagined in man a
substantial wickedness, presumed to invent for him a new creator, that
they might not appear to assign the cause and origin of evil to a
righteous God.



Chapter II. Man, In His Present State, Despoiled Of Freedom Of Will, And
Subjected To A Miserable Slavery.


Since we have seen that the domination of sin, from the time of its
subjugation of the first man, not only extends over the whole race, but
also exclusively possesses every soul, it now remains to be more closely
investigated, whether we are despoiled of all freedom, and, if any
particle of it yet remain, how far its power extends. But, that we may the
more easily discover the truth of this question, I will first set up by
the way a mark, by which our whole course must be regulated. The best
method of guarding against error is to consider the dangers which threaten
us on every side. For when man is declared to be destitute of all
rectitude, he immediately makes it an occasion of slothfulness; and
because he is said to have no power of himself for the pursuit of
righteousness, he totally neglects it, as though it did not at all concern
him. On the other hand, he cannot arrogate any thing to himself, be it
ever so little, without God being robbed of his honour, and himself being
endangered by presumptuous temerity. Therefore, to avoid striking on
either of these rocks, this will be the course to be pursued—that man,
being taught that he has nothing good left in his possession, and being
surrounded on every side with the most miserable necessity, should,
nevertheless, be instructed to aspire to the good of which he is
destitute, and to the liberty of which he is deprived; and should be
roused from indolence with more earnestness, than if he were supposed to
be possessed of the greatest strength. The necessity of the latter is
obvious to every one. The former, I perceive, is doubted by more than it
ought to be. For this being placed beyond all controversy, that man must
not be deprived of any thing that properly belongs to him, it ought also
to be manifest how important it is that he should be prevented from false
boasting. For if he was not even then permitted to glory in himself, when
by the Divine beneficence he was decorated with the noblest ornaments, how
much ought he now to be humbled, when, on account of his ingratitude, he
has been hurled from the summit of glory to the abyss of ignominy! At that
time, I say, when he was exalted to the most honourable eminence, the
Scripture attributes nothing to him, but that he was created after the
image of God; which certainly implies that his happiness consisted not in
any goodness of his own, but in a participation of God. What, then,
remains for him now, deprived of all glory, but that he acknowledge God,
to whose beneficence he could not be thankful, when he abounded in the
riches of his favour? and that he now, at least, by a confession of his
poverty, glorify him, whom he glorified not by an acknowledgment of his
blessings? It is also no less conducive to our interests than to the
Divine glory, that all the praise of wisdom and strength be taken away
from us; so that they join sacrilege to our fall, who ascribe to us any
thing more than truly belongs to us. For what else is the consequence,
when we are taught to contend in our own strength, but that we are lifted
into the air on a reed, which being soon broken, we fall to the ground.
Though our strength is placed in too favourable a point of view, when it
is compared to a reed. For it is nothing but smoke, whatever vain men have
imagined and pretend concerning it. Wherefore it is not without reason,
that that remarkable sentence is so frequently repeated by Augustine, that
free will is rather overthrown than established even by its own advocates.
It was necessary to premise these things for the sake of some, who, when
they hear that human power is completely subverted in order that the power
of God may be established in man, inveterately hate this whole argument,
as dangerous and unprofitable; which yet appears to be highly useful to
us, and essential to true religion.

II. As we have just before said that the faculties of the soul consist in
the mind and the heart, let us now consider the ability of each. The
philosophers, indeed, with general consent, pretend, that in the mind
presides Reason, which like a lamp illuminates with its counsels, and like
a queen governs the will; for that it is so irradiated with Divine light
as to be able to give the best counsels, and endued with such vigour as to
be qualified to govern in the most excellent manner; that Sense, on the
contrary, is torpid and afflicted with weakness of sight, so that it
always creeps on the ground, and is absorbed in the grossest objects, nor
ever elevates itself to a view of the truth; that Appetite, if it can
submit to the obedience of reason, and resist the attractions of sense, is
inclined to the practice of virtues, travels the path of rectitude, and is
formed into will; but that, if it be devoted to the servitude of sense, it
is thereby so corrupted and depraved as to degenerate into lust. And as,
according to their opinion, there reside in the soul those faculties which
I have before mentioned, understanding, sense, and appetite, or
will,—which appellation is now more commonly used,—they assert that the
understanding is endued with reason, that most excellent guide to a good
and a happy life, provided it only maintains itself in its own excellence,
and exerts its innate power; but that the inferior affection of the soul,
which is called _sense_, and by which it is seduced into error, is of such
a nature that it may be tamed and gradually conquered by the rod of
reason. They place the will in the middle station between reason and
sense, as perfectly at liberty, whether it chooses to obey reason, or to
submit to the violence of sense.

III. Sometimes, indeed, being convinced by the testimony of experience,
they admit how extremely difficult it is for a man to establish within him
the kingdom of reason; while he is exposed at one time to the
solicitations of alluring pleasures, at another to the delusions of
pretended blessings, and at others to the violent agitations of immoderate
passions, compared by Plato to so many cords dragging him in various
directions. For which reason Cicero says that the sparks kindled by nature
are soon extinguished by corrupt opinions and evil manners. But when such
maladies have once taken possession of the human mind, they acknowledge
their progress to be too violent to be easily restrained; nor do they
hesitate to compare them to fierce horses, who, having rejected reason,
like horses that have thrown off the charioteer, indulge themselves in
every extravagance, without the least restraint. But they consider it as
beyond all controversy, that virtue and vice are in our own power; for if
it be at our election, they say, to do this or that, therefore it must
also be, to abstain from doing it. And, on the other hand, if we are free
to abstain from it, we must also be free to do it. But we appear freely
and voluntarily to do those things which we do, and to abstain from those
things from which we abstain; therefore, if we do any good action, when we
please we may omit it; if we perpetrate any evil, that also we may avoid.
Moreover, some of them have advanced to such a degree of presumption, as
to boast, that we are indebted to the gods for our life, but for a
virtuous and religious one to ourselves; whence also that assertion of
Cicero, in the person of Cotta, that, since every man acquires virtue for
himself, none of the wise men have ever thanked God for it. “For,” says
he, “we are praised for virtue, and in virtue we glory; which would not be
the case, if it were a gift of God, and did not originate from ourselves.”
And a little after: “This is the judgment of all men, that fortune must be
asked of God, but that wisdom must be derived from ourselves.” This, then,
is the substance of the opinion of all the philosophers, that the reason
of the human understanding is sufficient for its proper government; that
the will, being subject to it, is indeed solicited by sense to evil
objects, but, as it has a free choice, there can be no impediment to its
following reason as its guide in all things.

IV. Among the ecclesiastical writers, though there has not been one who
would not acknowledge both that human reason is grievously wounded by sin,
and that the will is very much embarrassed by corrupt affections, yet many
of them have followed the philosophers far beyond what is right. The early
fathers appear to me to have thus extolled human power from a fear lest,
if they openly confessed its impotence, they might, in the first place,
incur the derision of the philosophers, with whom they were then
contending; and, in the next place, might administer to the flesh, of
itself naturally too torpid to all that is good, a fresh occasion of
slothfulness. To avoid delivering any principle deemed absurd in the
common opinion of mankind, they made it their study, therefore, to
compromise between the doctrine of the Scripture and the dogmas of the
philosophers. Yet it appears from their language, that they principally
regarded the latter consideration, that they might leave no room for
slothfulness. Chrysostom says, “Since God has placed good and evil things
in our power, he has given us freedom of choice; and he constrains not the
unwilling, but embraces the willing.” Again: “Oftentimes a bad man, if he
will, is changed into a good one; and a good one falls into inactivity,
and becomes bad; because God has given us naturally a free will, and
imposes no necessity upon us, but, having provided suitable remedies,
permits the event to depend entirely on the mind of the patient.” Again:
“As without the assistance of Divine grace we can never do any thing
aright, so unless we bring what is our own, we shall never be able to gain
the favour of heaven.” He had before said, “That it may not be entirely of
the Divine assistance, it behoves us also to bring something.” And this is
an expression very familiar with him: “Let us bring what is ours; God will
supply the rest.” Agreeably to which Jerome says, “That it belongs to us
to begin, and to God to complete; that it is ours to offer what we can,
but his to supply our deficiencies.” In these sentences you see they
certainly attributed to man more than could justly be attributed to him
towards the pursuit of virtue; because they supposed it impossible to
awaken our innate torpor, otherwise than by arguing that this alone
constitutes our guilt; but with what great dexterity they did it, we shall
see in the course of our work. That the passages which we have recited are
exceedingly erroneous, will be shortly proved. Although the Greeks, beyond
all others, and among them particularly Chrysostom, have exceeded all
bounds in extolling the ability of the human will, yet such are the
variations, fluctuations, or obscurities of all the fathers, except
Augustine, on this subject, that scarcely any thing certain can be
concluded from their writings. Therefore we shall not scrupulously
enumerate the particular opinions of them all, but shall at times select
from one and another so much as the explication of the argument shall
appear to require. Succeeding writers, being every one for himself
ambitious of the praise of subtlety in the defence of human nature,
gradually and successively fell into opinions more and more erroneous;
till at length man was commonly supposed to be corrupted only in his
sensual part, but to have his will in a great measure, and his reason
entirely, unimpaired. In the mean time, it was proclaimed by every tongue,
that the natural talents in men were corrupted, but the supernatural taken
away—an expression of Augustine, of the import of which scarcely one man
in a hundred had the slightest idea. For myself, if I meant clearly to
state wherein the corruption of nature consists, I could easily content
myself with this language. But it is of great importance to examine with
attention what ability is retained by man in his present state, corrupted
in all the parts of his nature, and deprived of supernatural gifts. This
subject, therefore, has been treated in too philosophical a manner by
those who gloried in being the disciples of Christ. For the Latins have
always retained the term _free will_, as though man still remained in his
primitive integrity. And the Greeks have not been ashamed to use an
expression much more arrogant; for they called it αυτεξουσιον, denoting
that man possesses sovereign power over himself. Since all men, therefore,
even the vulgar, are tinctured with this principle, that man is endued
with free will, and some of those who would be thought intelligent know
not how far this freedom extends,—let us first examine the meaning of the
term, and then let us describe, according to the simplicity of the
Scripture, the power which man naturally possesses to do either good or
evil. What _free will_ is, though the expression frequently occurs in all
writers, few have defined. Yet Origen appears to have advanced a position
to which they all assented, when he calls it a power of _reason_ to
discern good and evil, of _will_ to choose either. Nor does Augustine
differ from him, when he teaches that it is a power of reason and will, by
which good is chosen when grace assists; and evil, when grace is wanting.
Bernard, while he affects greater subtlety, has expressed himself with
more obscurity: he says, it is a consent on account of the liberty of
will, which cannot be lost, and the judgment of reason, which cannot be
avoided. The definition of Anselm is not sufficiently plain, who states it
to be a power of preserving rectitude for its own sake. Therefore Peter
Lombard and the schoolmen have rather adopted the definition of Augustine,
because it was more explicit, and did not exclude the grace of God,
without which they perceived that the will had no power of itself. But
they also make such additions of their own, as they conceived to be either
better, or conducive to further explication. First, they agree that the
word _arbitrium_, _will_ or _choice_, should rather be referred to reason,
whose office it is to discern between good and evil; and that the epithet
_free_ belongs properly to the faculty of the will, which is capable of
being inclined to either. Wherefore, since liberty belongs properly to the
will, Thomas Aquinas says, that it would be a very good definition, if
free will were called _an elective power_, which, being composed of
understanding and appetite, inclines rather to appetite. We see where they
represent the power of free will to be placed; that is, in the reason and
will. It now remains briefly to inquire how much they attribute
respectively to each.

V. Common and external things, which do not pertain to the kingdom of God,
they generally consider as subject to the free determination of man; but
true righteousness they refer to the special grace of God and spiritual
regeneration. With a view to support this notion, the author of the
treatise “On the Vocation of the Gentiles” enumerates three kinds of
will—the first a sensitive, the second an animal, and the third a
spiritual one; the two former of which he states to be freely exercised by
us, and the last to be the work of the Holy Spirit in us. The truth or
falsehood of this shall be discussed in the proper place; for my design at
present is briefly to recite the opinions of others, not to refute them.
Hence, when writers treat of free will, their first inquiry respects not
its ability in civil or external actions, but its power to obey the Divine
law. Though I confess the latter to be the principal question, yet I think
the other ought not to be wholly neglected; and for this opinion I hope to
give a very good reason. But a distinction has prevailed in the schools,
which enumerates three kinds of liberty—the first, freedom from necessity,
the second, freedom from sin, the third, freedom from misery; of which the
first is naturally inherent in man, so that nothing can ever deprive him
of it: the other two are lost by sin. This distinction I readily admit,
except that it improperly confounds necessity with coaction. And the wide
difference between these things, with the necessity of its being
considered, will appear in another place.

VI. This being admitted will place it beyond all doubt, that man is not
possessed of free will for good works, unless he be assisted by grace, and
that special grace which is bestowed on the elect alone in regeneration.
For I stop not to notice those fanatics, who pretend that grace is offered
equally and promiscuously to all. But it does not yet appear, whether he
is altogether deprived of power to do good, or whether he yet possesses
some power, though small and feeble; which of itself can do nothing, but
by the assistance of grace does also perform its part. Lombard, in order
to establish this notion, informs us that two sorts of grace are necessary
to qualify us for the performance of good works. One he calls operative,
by which we efficaciously will what is good; the other coöperative, which
attends as auxiliary to a good will. This division I dislike, because,
while he attributes an efficacious desire of what is good to the grace of
God, he insinuates that man has of his own nature antecedent, though
ineffectual, desires after what is good; as Bernard asserts that a good
will is the work of God, but yet allows that man is self‐impelled to
desire such a good will. But this is very remote from the meaning of
Augustine, from whom, however, Lombard would be thought to have borrowed
this division. The second part of it offends me by its ambiguity, which
has produced a very erroneous interpretation. For they have supposed that
we coöperate with the second sort of Divine grace, because we have it in
our power either to frustrate the first sort by rejecting it, or to
confirm it by our obedience to it. The author of the treatise “On the
Vocation of the Gentiles” expresses it thus—that those who have the use of
reason and judgment are at liberty to depart from grace, that they may be
rewarded for not having departed, and that what is impossible without the
coöperation of the Spirit, may be imputed to their merits, by whose will
it might have been prevented. These two things I have thought proper to
notice as I proceed, that the reader may perceive how much I dissent from
the sounder schoolmen. For I differ considerably more from the later
sophists, as they have departed much further from the judgment of
antiquity. However, we understand from this division, in what sense they
have ascribed free will to man. For Lombard at length pronounces, that we
are not therefore possessed of free will, because we have an equal power
to do or to think either good or evil, but only because we are free from
constraint. And this liberty is not diminished, although we are corrupt,
and the slaves of sin, and capable of doing nothing but sin.

VII. Then man will be said to possess free will in this sense, not that he
has an equally free election of good and evil, but because he does evil
voluntarily, and not by constraint. That, indeed, is very true; but what
end could it answer to decorate a thing so diminutive with a title so
superb? Egregious liberty indeed, if man be not compelled to serve sin,
but yet is such a willing slave, that his will is held in bondage by the
fetters of sin. I really abominate contentions about words, which disturb
the Church without producing any good effect; but I think that we ought
religiously to avoid words which signify any absurdity, particularly when
they lead to a pernicious error. How few are there, pray, who, when they
hear free will attributed to man, do not immediately conceive, that he has
the sovereignty over his own mind and will, and is able by his innate
power to incline himself to whatever he pleases? But it will be said, all
danger from these expressions will be removed, if the people are carefully
apprized of their signification. But, on the contrary, the human mind is
naturally so prone to falsehood, that it will sooner imbibe error from one
single expression, than truth from a prolix oration; of which we have a
more certain experiment than could be wished in this very word. For
neglecting that explanation of the fathers, almost all their successors
have been drawn into a fatal self‐confidence, by adhering to the original
and proper signification of the word.

VIII. But if we regard the authority of the fathers—though they have the
term continually in their mouths, they at the same time declare with what
extent of signification they use it. First of all, Augustine, who
hesitates not to call the will a slave. He expresses his displeasure in
one place against those who deny free will; but he declares the principal
reason for it, when he says, “Only let no man dare so to deny the freedom
of the will, as to desire to excuse sin.” Elsewhere he plainly confesses,
that the human will is not free without the Spirit, since it is subject to
its lusts, by which it is conquered and bound. Again: that when the will
was overcome by the sin into which it fell, nature began to be destitute
of liberty. Again: that man, having made a wrong use of his free will,
lost both it and himself. Again: that free will is in a state of
captivity, so that it can do nothing towards righteousness. Again: that
the will cannot be free, which has not been liberated by Divine grace.
Again: that the Divine justice is not fulfilled, while the law commands,
and man acts from his own strength; but when the Spirit assists, and the
human will obeys, not as being free, but as liberated by God. And he
briefly assigns the cause of all this, when, in another place, he tells
us, that man at his creation received great strength of free will, but
lost it by sin. Therefore, having shown that free will is the result of
grace, he sharply inveighs against those who arrogate it to themselves
without grace. “How, then,” says he, “do miserable men dare to be proud of
free will, before they are liberated, or of their own strength, if they
have been liberated?” Nor do they consider that the term _free will_
signifies liberty. But “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
liberty.”(560) If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they
boast of free will? “For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he
brought in bondage.”(561) But if they have been liberated, why do they
boast as of their own work? Are they so much at liberty as to refuse to be
the servants of him who says, “Without me ye can do nothing”?(562)
Besides, in another place, also, he seems to discountenance the use of
that expression, when he says that the will is free, but not liberated;
free from righteousness, enslaved to sin. This sentiment he also repeats
and applies in another place, where he maintains that man is not free from
righteousness, but by the choice of his will, and that he is not made free
from sin, but by the grace of the Saviour. He who declares that human
liberty is nothing but an emancipation or manumission from righteousness,
evidently exposes it to ridicule as an unmeaning term. Therefore, if any
man allows himself the use of this term without any erroneous
signification, he will not be troubled by me on that account: but because
I think that it cannot be retained without great danger, and that, on the
contrary, its abolition would be very beneficial to the Church, I would
neither use it myself, nor wish it to be used by others who may consult my
opinion.

IX. Perhaps I may be thought to have raised a great prejudice against
myself, by confessing that all the ecclesiastical writers, except
Augustine, have treated this subject with such ambiguities or variations,
that nothing certain can be learned from their writings. For some will
interpret this, as though I intended to deprive them of the right of
giving their suffrages, because their opinions are all adverse to mine.
But I have had no other object in view than simply and faithfully to
consult the benefit of pious minds, who, if they wait to discover the
sentiments of the fathers on this subject, will fluctuate in perpetual
uncertainty. At one time they teach man, despoiled of all strength of free
will, to have recourse to grace alone; at another, they either furnish, or
appear to furnish, him with armour naturally his own. Yet that, amidst all
this ambiguity of expression, esteeming the strength of man as little or
nothing, they have ascribed the praise of every thing that is good
entirely to the Holy Spirit, is not difficult to prove, if I introduce
some passages from them, in which this sentiment is clearly maintained.
For what is the meaning of that assertion of Cyprian, so frequently
celebrated by Augustine, “That we ought to glory in nothing, because we
have nothing of our own;” but that man, completely impoverished in
himself, should learn to depend entirely on God? What is the meaning of
that observation of Augustine and Eucherius, when they represent Christ as
the tree of life, to whom whosoever shall have stretched forth his hand
shall live; and free will as the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and
say that whosoever forsakes the grace of God and tastes of it shall die?
What is the meaning of that assertion of Chrysostom, that every man by
nature is not only a sinner, but altogether sin? If we have not one good
quality, if from his head to his feet man be entirely sin, if it be wrong
even to try how far the power of the will extends,—how, then, can it be
right to divide the praise of a good work between God and man? I could
introduce many such passages from other fathers; but lest any one should
cavil, that I select only those things which favour my own cause, but
artfully omit those which oppose it, I refrain from such a recital. I
venture to affirm, however, that though they sometimes too highly extol
free will, yet their design was to teach man to discard all reliance on
his own power, and to consider all his strength as residing in God alone.
I now proceed to a simple explication of the truth in considering the
nature of man.

X. But I am obliged to repeat here, what I premised in the beginning of
this chapter—that he who feels the most consternation, from a
consciousness of his own calamity, poverty, nakedness, and ignominy, has
made the greatest proficiency in the knowledge of himself. For there is no
danger that man will divest himself of too much, provided he learns that
what is wanting in him may be recovered in God. But he cannot assume to
himself even the least particle beyond his just right, without ruining
himself with vain confidence, and incurring the guilt of enormous
sacrilege, by transferring to himself the honour which belongs to God. And
whenever our minds are pestered with this cupidity, to desire to have
something of our own, which may reside in ourselves rather than in God, we
may know that this idea is suggested by the same counsellor, who excited
in our first parents the desire of resembling “gods, knowing good and
evil.”(563) If that term be diabolical, which exalts man in his own
opinion, let us not admit it, unless we wish to take the counsel of an
enemy. It is pleasant, indeed, to have so much innate strength as to
confide in and be satisfied with ourselves. But from being allured into
this vain confidence, let us be deterred by the many awful sentences which
severely humble us to the dust; such as “Cursed be the man that trusteth
in man, and maketh flesh his arm.”(564) Again: “God delighteth not in the
strength of the horse; he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The
Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his
mercy.”(565) Again: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have
no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength.”(566) The tendency of all which is to prevent
us from depending, in the smallest degree, on our own strength, if we wish
God to be propitious to us, who “resisteth the proud, but giveth grace
unto the humble.”(567) Then let us remember these promises; “I will pour
water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground:”(568)
again; “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters:”(569) which
declare, that none are admitted to a participation of the blessings of
God, but those who are pining away with a sense of their own poverty. Nor
should such promises as this of Isaiah be overlooked: “The sun shall be no
more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light
unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light.”(570) The
Lord certainly does not deprive his servants of the splendour of the sun
or of the moon; but because he will appear exclusively glorious in them,
he calls off their confidence to a great distance, even from those things
which in their opinion are the most excellent.

XI. I have always, indeed, been exceedingly pleased with this observation
of Chrysostom, that humility is the foundation of our philosophy; but
still more with this of Augustine: “As a rhetorician,” says he, “on being
interrogated what was the first thing in the rules of eloquence, replied,
‘Pronunciation;’ and on being separately interrogated what was the second,
and what was the third, gave the same reply; so, should any one
interrogate me concerning the rules of the Christian religion, the first,
second, and third, I would always reply, Humility.” Now, he does not
consider it as humility, when a man, conscious to himself of some little
power, abstains from pride and haughtiness; but when he truly feels his
condition to be such that he has no refuge but in humility, as he
elsewhere declares. “Let no man,” says he, “flatter himself: of himself he
is a devil: every blessing he enjoys is only from God. For what have you
that is your own, but sin? Take to yourself sin, which is your own; for
righteousness belongs to God.” Again: “Why do men so presume on the
ability of nature? It is wounded, maimed, distressed, and ruined. It needs
a true confession, not a false defence.” Again: “When every one knows,
that in himself he is nothing, and that he cannot assist himself, the arms
are broken within him, and the contentions are subsided.” But it is
necessary that all the weapons of impiety should be broken in pieces and
consumed, that you may remain unarmed, and have no help in yourself. The
greater your weakness is in yourself, so much the more the Lord assists
you. So in the seventieth Psalm he forbids us to remember our own
righteousness, that we may know the righteousness of God; and shows that
God so recommends his grace to us, that we may know that we are nothing,
and are solely dependent on the Divine mercy, being of ourselves
altogether evil. Here, then, let us not contend with God concerning our
right, as though what is attributed to him were deducted from our welfare.
For as our humility is his exaltation, so the confession of our humility
has an immediate remedy in his commiseration. Now, I do not expect that a
man unconvinced should voluntarily submit, and, if he has any strength,
withdraw his attention from it to be reduced to true humility; but I
require, that, discarding the malady of self‐love and love of strife,
which blinds him, and leads him to entertain too high an opinion of
himself, he should seriously contemplate himself in the faithful mirror of
the Scripture.

XII. And, indeed, I much approve of that common observation which has been
borrowed from Augustine, that the natural talents in man have been
corrupted by sin, but that of the supernatural ones he has been wholly
deprived. For by the latter are intended, both the light of faith and
righteousness, which would be sufficient for the attainment of a heavenly
life and eternal felicity. Therefore, when he revolted from the Divine
government, he was at the same time deprived of those supernatural
endowments, which had been given him for the hope of eternal salvation.
Hence it follows, that he is exiled from the kingdom of God, in such a
manner, that all the affections relating to the happy life of the soul,
are also extinguished in him, till he recovers them by the grace of
regeneration. Such are faith, love to God, charity towards our neighbours,
and an attachment to holiness and righteousness. All these things, being
restored by Christ, are esteemed adventitious and preternatural; and
therefore we conclude that they had been lost. Again, soundness of mind
and rectitude of heart were also destroyed; and this is the corruption of
the natural talents. For although we retain some portion of understanding
and judgment together with the will, yet we cannot say that our mind is
perfect and sound, which is oppressed with debility and immersed in
profound darkness; and the depravity of our will is sufficiently known.
Reason, therefore, by which man distinguishes between good and evil, by
which he understands and judges, being a natural talent, could not be
totally destroyed, but is partly debilitated, partly vitiated, so that it
exhibits nothing but deformity and ruin. In this sense John says, that
“the light” still “shineth in darkness,” but that “the darkness
comprehendeth it not.”(571) In this passage both these ideas are clearly
expressed—that some sparks continue to shine in the nature of man, even in
its corrupt and degenerate state, which prove him to be a rational
creature, and different from the brutes, because he is endued with
understanding; and yet that this light is smothered by so much ignorance,
that it cannot act with any degree of efficacy. So the will, being
inseparable from the nature of man, is not annihilated; but it is fettered
by depraved and inordinate desires, so that it cannot aspire after any
thing that is good. This, indeed, is a complete definition, but requires
more diffuse explication. Therefore, that the order of our discourse may
proceed according to the distinction we have stated, in which we divided
the soul into understanding and will, let us first examine the power of
the understanding. To condemn it to perpetual blindness, so as to leave it
no intelligence in any thing, is repugnant, not only to the Divine word,
but also to the experience of common sense. For we perceive in the mind of
man some desire of investigating truth, towards which he would have no
inclination, but from some relish of it previously possessed. It therefore
indicates some perspicuity in the human understanding, that it is
attracted with a love of truth; the neglect of which in the brutes argues
gross sense without reason; although this desire, small as it is, faints
even before its entrance on its course, because it immediately terminates
in vanity. For the dulness of the human mind renders it incapable of
pursuing the right way of investigating the truth; it wanders through a
variety of errors, and groping, as it were, in the shades of darkness,
often stumbles, till at length it is lost in its wanderings; thus, in its
search after truth, it betrays its incapacity to seek and find it. It also
labours under another grievous malady, frequently not discerning what
those things are, the true knowledge of which it would be proper to
attain, and therefore torments itself with a ridiculous curiosity in
fruitless and unimportant inquiries. To things most necessary to be known
it either never adverts, or contemptuously and rarely digresses; but
scarcely ever studies them with serious application. This depravity being
a common subject of complaint with heathen writers, all men are clearly
proved to have been implicated in it. Wherefore Solomon, in his
Ecclesiastes, after having enumerated those pursuits in which men consider
themselves as displaying superior wisdom, concludes with pronouncing them
to be vain and frivolous.

XIII. Yet its attempts are not always so fruitless, but that it makes some
discoveries, particularly when it applies itself to inferior things. Nor
is it so stupid, as to be without some slender notion also of superior
ones, however negligently it attends to the investigation of them; but it
possesses not an equal ability for both. For it is when it goes beyond the
limits of the present life, that it is chiefly convinced of its own
imbecility. Wherefore, that we may better perceive how far it proceeds in
every case according to the degrees of its ability, it will be useful for
us to propose the following distinction; that there is one understanding
for terrestrial things, and another for celestial ones. I call those
things terrestrial which do not pertain to God and his kingdom, to true
righteousness, or to the blessedness of a future life; but which relate
entirely to the present life, and are in some sense confined within the
limits of it. Celestial things are the pure knowledge of God, the method
of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom. In the
first class are included civil polity, domestic economy, all the
mechanical arts and liberal sciences; in the second, the knowledge of God
and of the Divine will, and the rule for conformity to it in our lives.
Now, in regard to the first class, it must be confessed, that as man is
naturally a creature inclined to society, he has also by nature an
instinctive propensity to cherish and preserve that society; and therefore
we perceive in the minds of all men general impressions of civil probity
and order. Hence it is that not a person can be found who does not
understand, that all associations of men ought to be governed by laws, or
who does not conceive in his mind the principles of those laws. Hence that
perpetual consent of all nations, as well as all individuals, to the laws,
because the seeds of them are innate in all mankind, without any
instructor or legislator. I regard not the dissensions and contests which
afterwards arise, while some desire to invert all justice and propriety,
to break down the barriers of the laws, and to substitute mere cupidity in
the room of justice, as is the case with thieves and robbers. Others—which
is a fault more common—think that unjust which legislators have sanctioned
as just; and, on the contrary, pronounce that to be laudable which they
have forbidden. For the former of these hate not the laws from an
ignorance that they are good and sacred; but, inflamed with the violence
of their passions, manifestly contend against reason, and under the
influence of their lawless desires, execrate that which their judgments
approve. The controversy of the latter of these is by no means repugnant
to that original idea of equity which we have mentioned; for when men
dispute with each other on the comparative merits of different laws, it
implies their consent to some general rule of equity. This clearly argues
the debility of the human mind, which halts and staggers even when it
appears to follow the right way. Yet it is certainly true, that some seeds
of political order are sown in the minds of all. And this is a powerful
argument, that in the constitution of this life no man is destitute of the
light of reason.

XIV. Next follow the arts, both liberal and manual; for learning which, as
there is in all of us a certain aptitude, they also discover the strength
of human ingenuity. But though all men are not capable of learning every
art, yet it is a very sufficient proof of the common energy, that scarcely
an individual can be found, whose sagacity does not exert itself in some
particular art. Nor have they an energy and facility only in learning, but
also in inventing something new in every art, or in amplifying and
improving what they have learned from their predecessors. Though this
excited Plato erroneously to assert that such an apprehension is only a
recollection of what the soul knew in its preëxistent state, before it
came into the body, it constrains us, by the most cogent reasons, to
acknowledge that the principle of it is innate in the human mind. These
instances, therefore, plainly prove, that men are endued with a general
apprehension of reason and understanding. Yet it is such a universal
blessing, that every one for himself ought to acknowledge it as the
peculiar favour of God. To this gratitude the Author of nature himself
abundantly excites us, by his creation of idiots, in whom he represents
the state of the human soul without his illumination, which, though
natural to all, is nevertheless a gratuitous gift of his beneficence
towards every individual. But the invention and methodical teaching of
these arts, and the more intimate and excellent knowledge of them, which
is peculiar to a few, are no solid argument of general perspicacity; yet,
belonging to both the pious and the impious, they are justly numbered
among the natural talents.

XV. Whenever, therefore, we meet with heathen writers, let us learn from
that light of truth which is admirably displayed in their works, that the
human mind, fallen as it is, and corrupted from its integrity, is yet
invested and adorned by God with excellent talents. If we believe that the
Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we shall neither reject nor
despise the truth itself, wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to
insult the Spirit of God; for the gifts of the Spirit cannot be
undervalued without offering contempt and reproach to the Spirit himself.
Now, shall we deny the light of truth to the ancient lawyers, who have
delivered such just principles of civil order and polity? Shall we say
that the philosophers were blind in their exquisite contemplation and in
their scientific description of nature? Shall we say that those, who by
the art of logic have taught us to speak in a manner consistent with
reason, were destitute of understanding themselves? Shall we accuse those
of insanity, who by the study of medicine have been exercising their
industry for our advantage? What shall we say of all the mathematics?
Shall we esteem them the delirious ravings of madmen? On the contrary, we
shall not be able even to read the writings of the ancients on these
subjects without great admiration; we shall admire them, because we shall
be constrained to acknowledge them to be truly excellent. And shall we
esteem any thing laudable or excellent, which we do not recognize as
proceeding from God? Let us, then, be ashamed of such great ingratitude,
which was not to be charged on the heathen poets, who confessed that
philosophy, and legislation, and useful arts, were the inventions of their
gods. Therefore, since it appears that those whom the Scripture styles
“natural men,” ψυχικους, have discovered such acuteness and perspicacity
in the investigation of sublunary things, let us learn from such examples,
how many good qualities the Lord has left to the nature of man, since it
has been despoiled of what is truly good.

XVI. Yet let us not forget that these are most excellent gifts of the
Divine Spirit, which for the common benefit of mankind he dispenses to
whomsoever he pleases. For if it was necessary that the Spirit of God
should infuse into Bezaleel and Aholiab the understanding and skill
requisite for the construction of the tabernacle,(572) we need not wonder
if the knowledge of those things, which are most excellent in human life,
is said to be communicated to us by the Spirit of God. Nor is there any
reason for inquiring, what intercourse with the Spirit is enjoyed by the
impious who are entirely alienated from God. For when the Spirit of God is
said to dwell only in the faithful, that is to be understood of the Spirit
of sanctification, by whom we are consecrated as temples to God himself.
Yet it is equally by the energy of the same Spirit, that God replenishes,
actuates, and quickens all creatures, and that, according to the property
of each species which he has given it by the law of creation. Now, if it
has pleased the Lord that we should be assisted in physics, logic,
mathematics, and other arts and sciences, by the labour and ministry of
the impious, let us make use of them; lest, if we neglect to use the
blessings therein freely offered to us by God, we suffer the just
punishment of our negligence. But, lest any one should suppose a man to be
truly happy, when he is admitted to possess such powerful energies for the
discovery of truth relating to the elements of this world, it must
likewise be added, that all that faculty of understanding, and the
understanding which is the consequence of it, is, in the sight of God, a
fleeting and transitory thing, where there is not a solid foundation of
truth. For the sentiment of Augustine, with whom, as we have observed, the
Master of the Sentences and the Schoolmen have been constrained to
coincide, is strictly true—that as the gratuitous or supernatural gifts
were taken away from man after the fall, so these natural ones which
remained have been corrupted; not that they can be defiled in themselves
as proceeding from God, but because they have ceased to be pure to
polluted man, so that he can obtain no praise from them.

XVII. Let us conclude, therefore, that it is evident in all mankind, that
reason is a peculiar property of our nature, which distinguishes us from
the brute animals, as sense constitutes the difference between them and
things inanimate. For whereas some are born fools and idiots, that defect
obscures not the general goodness of God. Such a spectacle should rather
teach us that what we retain ought justly to be ascribed to his
indulgence; because, had it not been for his mercy to us, our defection
would have been followed by the total destruction of our nature. But
whereas some excel in penetration, others possess superior judgment, and
others have a greater aptitude to learn this or that art, in this variety
God displays his goodness to us, that no one may arrogate to himself as
his own what proceeds merely from the Divine liberality. For whence is it
that one is more excellent than another, unless it be to exalt in our
common nature the special goodness of God, which in the preterition of
many, proclaims that it is under an obligation to none? Moreover, God
inspires particular motions according to the vocation of each individual;
of which many examples occur in the book of the Judges, where the Spirit
of the Lord is said to “come upon” those whom he called to govern the
people.(573) Finally, in all important actions there is a special
instinct; for which reason it is said that Saul was followed by valiant
men, “whose hearts God had touched.”(574) And Samuel, when he predicts his
inauguration into the kingdom, thus expresses himself: “The Spirit of the
Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt be turned into another man.”(575)
And this is extended to the whole course of his government; as it is
afterwards narrated concerning David, that “the Spirit of the Lord came
upon him from that day forward.”(576) But the same expression is used in
other places in reference to particular impulses. Even in Homer, men are
said to excel in abilities, not only as Jupiter has distributed to every
one, but according as he guides him from day to day. And experience
clearly shows, since the most ingenious and sagacious of mankind
frequently stand still in profound astonishment, that the minds of men are
subject to the power and will of God to govern them every moment; for
which reason it is said, that “he taketh away the heart of the chief
people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where
there is no way.”(577) Yet in this diversity we perceive some remaining
marks of the Divine image, which distinguish the human race in general
from all the other creatures.

XVIII. We now proceed to show what human reason can discover, when it
comes to the kingdom of God, and to that spiritual wisdom, which consists
chiefly in three things—to know God, his paternal favour towards us, on
which depends our salvation, and the method of regulating our lives
according to the rule of the law. In the two first points, but especially
in the second, the most sagacious of mankind are blinder than moles. I do
not deny that some judicious and apposite observations concerning God may
be found scattered in the writings of the philosophers; but they always
betray a confused imagination. The Lord afforded them, as we have before
observed, some slight sense of his Divinity, that they might not be able
to plead ignorance as an excuse for impiety, and sometimes impelled them
to utter things, by the confession of which they might themselves be
convinced. But they saw the objects presented to their view in such a
manner, that by the sight they were not even directed to the truth, much
less did they arrive at it; just as a man, who is travelling by night
across a field, sees the coruscations of lightning extending for a moment
far and wide, but with such an evanescent view, that so far from being
assisted by them in proceeding on his journey, he is re‐absorbed in the
darkness of the night before he can advance a single step. Besides, those
few truths, with which they, as it were, fortuitously besprinkle their
books, with what numerous and monstrous falsehoods are they defiled!
Lastly, they never had the smallest idea of that certainty of the Divine
benevolence towards us, without which the human understanding must
necessarily be full of immense confusion. Human reason, then, neither
approaches, nor tends, nor directs its views towards this truth, to
understand who is the true God, or in what character he will manifest
himself to us.

XIX. But because, from our being intoxicated with a false opinion of our
own perspicacity, we do not without great difficulty suffer ourselves to
be persuaded, that in Divine things our reason is totally blind and
stupid, it will be better, I think, to confirm it by testimonies of
Scripture, than to support it by arguments. This is beautifully taught by
John, in that passage which I lately cited, where he says that, from the
beginning, “in God was life, and the life was the light of men. And the
light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”(578) He
indicates, indeed, that the soul of man is irradiated with a beam of
Divine light, so that it is never wholly destitute either of some little
flame, or at least of a spark of it; but he likewise suggests that it
cannot comprehend God by that illumination. And this because all his
sagacity, as far as respects the knowledge of God, is mere blindness. For
when the Spirit calls men “darkness,” he at once totally despoils them of
the faculty of spiritual understanding. Wherefore he asserts that
believers, who receive Christ, are “born not of blood, nor of the will of
the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God;”(579) as though he had said
that the flesh is not capable of such sublime wisdom as to conceive of God
and Divine things, without being illuminated by the Spirit of God; as
Christ testified that his being known by Peter was owing to a special
revelation of the Father.(580)

XX. If we were firmly persuaded of what, indeed, ought not to be
questioned, that our nature is destitute of all those things which our
heavenly Father confers on his elect through the Spirit of regeneration,
here would be no cause of hesitation. For this is the language of the
faithful by the mouth of the Prophet: “With thee is the fountain of life;
in thy light we shall see light.”(581) The Apostle confirms the same, when
he says that “no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy
Ghost.”(582) And John the Baptist, perceiving the stupidity of his
disciples, exclaims, that “a man can receive nothing except it be given
him from above.”(583) That by “gift” he intends a special illumination,
not a common faculty of nature, is evident from the complaint which he
makes of the inefficacy of the many discourses in which he had recommended
Christ to his disciples. “I see that words are unavailing to instruct the
minds of men in Divine things, unless God give them understanding by his
Spirit.” And Moses also, when he reproaches the people for their
forgetfulness, yet at the same time remarks, that they cannot be wise in
the mysteries of God but by the Divine favour. He says, “Thine eyes have
seen the signs and those great miracles; yet the Lord hath not given you a
heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear.”(584) What more
would he express, if he had called them blockheads, destitute of all
understanding in the consideration of the works of God? Whence the Lord,
by the Prophet, promises, as an instance of peculiar grace, that he will
give the Israelites “a heart to know” him;(585) plainly suggesting that
the mind of man has no spiritual wisdom any further than as it is
enlightened by him. Christ also has clearly confirmed this by his own
declaration, that no man can come to him, except the Father draw him.(586)
What! is he not himself the lively image of the Father, representing to us
all “the brightness of his glory”?(587) Therefore, he could not better
manifest the extent of our capacity for the knowledge of God, than when he
affirms that we have no eyes to behold his image where it is so plainly
exhibited. What! did he not descend to the earth in order to discover to
men the will of the Father? And did he not faithfully fulfil the object of
his mission? He certainly did; but his preaching is not at all
efficacious, unless the way to the heart be laid open by the internal
teaching of the Spirit. Therefore, none come to him but they who have
heard and learned of the Father. What is the nature of this hearing and
learning? It is when the Spirit, by a wonderful and peculiar power, forms
the ears to hear and the mind to understand. And lest this should appear
strange, he cites the prophecy of Isaiah, where, predicting the
restoration of the Church, he says, that all those who shall be saved
“shall be taught of the Lord.” If God there predicts something peculiar
concerning his elect, it is evident that he speaks not of that kind of
instruction which is common also to the impious and profane. It must be
concluded, therefore, that there is no admission into the kingdom of God,
but for him whose mind has been renewed by the illumination of the Holy
Spirit. But Paul expresses himself more clearly than all the others.
Having professedly entered upon this argument, after he has condemned all
human wisdom as folly and vanity, and even reduced it to nothing, he comes
to this conclusion: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned.”(588) Whom does he call the
natural man? him who depends on the light of nature. He, I say, has no
apprehension of the mysteries of God. Why so? because through slothfulness
he neglects them? Nay, even his utmost endeavours can avail nothing,
“because they are spiritually discerned.” This implies, that being
entirely concealed from human perspicacity, they are discovered only by
the revelation of the Spirit; so that where the illumination of the Spirit
is not enjoyed, they are deemed foolishness itself. He had before extolled
“the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”(589) above the
capacity of our eyes, our ears, and our minds; he had even asserted that
human wisdom was a kind of veil, by which the mind is prevented from a
discovery of God. What do we want more? The Apostle pronounces that “God
hath made foolish the wisdom of this world;”(590) and shall we ascribe to
it such a degree of sagacity, as would enable it to penetrate to God, and
to the most secret recesses of the heavenly kingdom? Far be from us such
extreme stupidity.

XXI. That which he here detracts from men, he in another place ascribes
exclusively to God. Praying for the Ephesians, he says, “May God, the
Father of glory, give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”(591)
You hear now that all wisdom and revelation is the gift of God. What
follows? “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” If they need
a new revelation, they are certainly blind of themselves. It follows,
“that ye may know what is the hope of your calling,” &c. He confesses,
then, that the minds of men are not naturally capable of so great
knowledge, as to know their own calling. Nor let any Pelagian here object,
that God assists this stupidity or ignorance, when, by the teaching of his
word, he directs the human understanding to that which, without a guide,
it never could have attained. For David had the law, in which all
desirable wisdom was comprised: yet, not content with this, he requested
that his eyes might be opened to consider the mysteries of that law.(592)
By this expression he clearly signifies, that the sun arises on the earth,
where the word of God shines on mankind; but that they derive little
advantage from it, till he himself either gives them eyes or opens them,
who is therefore called “the Father of lights;”(593) because wherever he
shines not by his Spirit, every thing is covered with darkness. Thus also
the Apostles were rightly and abundantly taught by the best of all
teachers: yet, if they had not needed the Spirit of truth(594) to instruct
their minds in that very doctrine which they had previously heard, they
would not have been commanded to expect him. If, in imploring any favour
of God, we confess our need, and if his promising it argues our poverty,
let no man hesitate to acknowledge, that he is incapable of understanding
the mysteries of God, any further than he has been illuminated by Divine
grace. He who attributes to himself more understanding, is so much the
blinder, because he does not perceive and acknowledge his blindness.

XXII. It remains for us to notice the third branch of knowledge, relating
to the rule for the proper regulation of our life, which we truly
denominate the knowledge of works of righteousness; in which the human
mind discovers somewhat more acuteness than in the two former particulars.
For the Apostle declares, that “when the Gentiles, which have not the law,
do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law,
are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their
hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean
while accusing or else excusing one another.”(595) If the Gentiles have
naturally the righteousness of the law engraven on their minds, we
certainly cannot say that they are altogether ignorant how they ought to
live. And no sentiment is more commonly admitted, than that man is
sufficiently instructed in a right rule of life by that natural law of
which the Apostle there speaks. But let us examine for what purpose this
knowledge of the law was given to men; and then it will appear how far it
can conduct them towards the mark of reason and truth. This is evident
also from the words of Paul, if we observe the connection of the passage.
He had just before said, “As many as have sinned without law, shall also
perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged
by the law.” Because it might appear absurd that the Gentiles should
perish without any previous knowledge, he immediately subjoins that their
conscience supplies the place of a law to them, and is therefore
sufficient for their just condemnation. The end of the law of nature,
therefore, is, that man may be rendered inexcusable. Nor will it be
improperly defined in this manner—That it is a sentiment of the conscience
sufficiently discerning between good and evil, to deprive men of the
pretext of ignorance, while they are convicted even by their own
testimony. Such is the indulgence of man to himself, that in the
perpetration of evil actions he always gladly diverts his mind as much as
he possibly can from all sense of sin; which seems to have induced Plato
to suppose, that no sin is committed but through ignorance. This remark of
his would be correct, if the hypocrisy of men could go so far in the
concealment of their vices, as that the mind would have no consciousness
of its guilt before God. But since the sinner, though he endeavours to
evade the knowledge of good and evil imprinted on his mind, is frequently
brought back to it, and so is not permitted to shut his eyes, but
compelled, whether he will or not, sometimes to open them, there is no
truth in the assertion, that he sins only through ignorance.

XXIII. Themistius, another philosopher, with more truth, teaches that the
human understanding is very rarely deceived in the universal definition,
or in the essence of a thing; but that it falls into error, when it
proceeds further, and descends to the consideration of particular cases.
There is no man, who, if he be interrogated in a general way, will not
affirm homicide to be criminal; but he who conspires the death of his
enemy, deliberates on it as a good action. The adulterer will condemn
adultery in general; but will privately flatter himself in his own. Here
lies the ignorance—when a man, proceeding to a particular case, forgets
the rule which he had just fixed as a general position. This subject is
very excellently treated by Augustine, in his exposition of the first
verse of the fifty‐seventh Psalm. The observation of Themistius, however,
is not applicable to all cases; for sometimes the turpitude of the crime
so oppresses the conscience of the sinner, that, no longer imposing on
himself under the false image of virtue, he rushes into evil with the
knowledge of his mind and the consent of his will. This state of mind
produced these expressions, which we find in a heathen poet: “I see the
better path, and approve it; I pursue the worse.” Wherefore the
distinction of Aristotle between incontinence and intemperance appears to
me to be highly judicious. Where incontinence predominates, he says, that
by the perturbation of the affections or passions, the mind is deprived of
particular knowledge, so that in its own evil actions it observes not that
criminality which it generally discovers in similar actions committed by
other persons; and that when the perturbation has subsided, penitence
immediately succeeds; that intemperance is not extinguished or broken by a
sense of sin, but, on the contrary, obstinately persists in the choice of
evil which it has made.

XXIV. Now, when you hear of a universal judgment in man to discriminate
between good and evil, you must not imagine that it is every where sound
and perfect. For if the hearts of men be furnished with a capacity of
discriminating what is just and unjust, only that they may not excuse
themselves with the plea of ignorance, it is not at all necessary for them
to discover the truth in every point; it is quite sufficient if they
understand so much that they can avail themselves of no subterfuge, but
being convicted by the testimony of their own conscience, even now begin
to tremble at the tribunal of God. And if we will examine our reason by
the Divine law, which is the rule of perfect righteousness, we shall find
in how many respects it is blind. It certainly is far from reaching the
principal points in the first table; such as relate to trust in God,
ascribing to him the praise of goodness and righteousness, the invocation
of his name, and the true observation of the Sabbath. What mind, relying
on its natural powers, ever imagined that the legitimate worship of God
consisted in these and similar things? For when profane men intend to
worship God, though they are recalled a hundred times from their vain and
nugatory fancies, yet they are always relapsing into them again. They deny
that sacrifices are pleasing to God, unaccompanied with sincerity of
heart; thereby testifying that they have some ideas concerning the
spiritual worship of God, which, nevertheless, they immediately corrupt by
their false inventions. For it is impossible ever to persuade them that
every thing is true which the law prescribes concerning it. Shall I say
that the mind of man excels in discernment, which can neither understand
of itself, nor hearken to good instructions? Of the precepts of the second
table it has a little clearer understanding, since they are more
intimately connected with the preservation of civil society among men.
Though even here it is sometimes found to be deficient; for to every noble
mind it appears very absurd to submit to an unjust and imperious
despotism, if it be possible by any means to resist it. A uniform decision
of human reason is, that it is the mark of a servile and abject
disposition patiently to bear it, and of an honest and ingenuous mind to
shake it off. Nor is the revenging of injuries esteemed a vice among the
philosophers. But the Lord, condemning such excessive haughtiness of mind,
prescribes to his people that patience which is deemed dishonourable among
men. But in the universal observation of the law, the censure of
concupiscence wholly escapes our notice. For the natural man cannot be
brought to acknowledge the disorders of his inward affections. The light
of nature is smothered, before it approaches the first entrance of this
abyss. For when the philosophers represent the inordinate affections of
the mind as vices, they intend those which appear and manifest themselves
in the grosser external actions; but those corrupt desires which more
secretly stimulate the mind, they consider as nothing.

XXV. Wherefore, as Plato has before been deservedly censured for imputing
all sins to ignorance, so also we must reject the opinion of those who
maintain that all sins proceed from deliberate malice and pravity. For we
too much experience how frequently we fall into error even when our
intention is good. Our reason is overwhelmed with deceptions in so many
forms, is obnoxious to so many errors, stumbles at so many impediments,
and is embarrassed in so many difficulties, that it is very far from being
a certain guide. Paul shows its deficiency in the sight of the Lord in
every part of our life, when he denies “that we are sufficient of
ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves.”(596) He does not speak of
the will or of the affections, but he also divests us of every good
thought, that we may not suppose it possible for our minds to conceive how
any action may be rightly performed. Are all our industry, perspicacity,
understanding, and care so depraved, that we cannot conceive or meditate
any thing that is right in the sight of God? To us, who do not contentedly
submit to be stripped of the acuteness of our reason, which we esteem our
most valuable endowment, this appears too harsh; but in the estimation of
the Holy Spirit, who knows that all the thoughts of the wisest of men are
vain,(597) and who plainly pronounces every imagination of the human heart
to be only evil,(598) such a representation is consistent with the
strictest truth. If whatever our mind conceives, agitates, undertakes, and
performs, be invariably evil, how can we entertain a thought of
undertaking any thing acceptable to God, by whom nothing is accepted but
holiness and righteousness? Thus it is evident that the reason of our
mind, whithersoever it turns, is unhappily obnoxious to vanity. David was
conscious to himself of this imbecility, when he prayed that understanding
might be given him, to enable him rightly to learn the commandments of the
Lord.(599) For his desire to obtain a new understanding implies the total
insufficiency of his own. And this he does not once, but almost ten times
in one Psalm he repeats the same petition—a repetition indicating the
greatness of the necessity which urges him thus to pray. What David
requests for himself alone, Paul frequently supplicates for the churches
at large. “We do not cease to pray for you,” says he, “and to desire, that
ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and
spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all
pleasing.”(600) Whenever he represents that as a blessing of God, we
should remember that he thereby testifies it to be placed beyond the
ability of man. Augustine so far acknowledges this defect of reason in
understanding the things of God, that he thinks the grace of illumination
no less necessary to our minds than the light of the sun to our eyes. And
not content with this, he subjoins the following correction—that we
ourselves open our eyes to behold the light, but that the eyes of our
minds remain shut, unless they are opened by the Lord. Nor does the
Scripture teach us that our minds are illuminated only on one day, so as
to enable them to see afterwards without further assistance; for the
passage just quoted from Paul(601) relates to continual advances and
improvements. And this is clearly expressed by David in these words: “With
my whole heart have I sought thee; O let me not wander from thy
commandments.” For after having been regenerated, and made a more than
common progress in true piety, he still confesses his need of perpetual
direction every moment, lest he should decline from that knowledge which
he possessed. Therefore, in another place, he prays for the renewal of a
right spirit, which he had lost by his sin;(602) because it belongs to the
same God to restore that which he originally bestowed, but of which we
have been for a time deprived.

XXVI. We must now proceed to the examination of the will, to which
principally belongs the liberty of choice; for we have before seen that
election belongs rather to the will than to the understanding. In the
first place, that the opinion advanced by philosophers, and received by
general consent, that all things, by a natural instinct, desire what is
good, may not be supposed to prove the rectitude of the human will, let us
observe, that the power of free choice is not to be contemplated in that
kind of appetite, which proceeds rather from the inclination of the nature
than from the deliberation of the mind. For even the schoolmen confess
that there is no action of free choice, but when reason sees and considers
the rival objects presented to it; meaning that the object of appetite
must be such as is the subject of choice, and that deliberation precedes
and introduces choice. And in fact, if you examine the desire of good
which is natural to man, you will find that he has it in common with the
brutes. For they also desire to be happy, and pursue every agreeable
appearance which attracts their senses. But man neither rationally chooses
as the object of his pursuit that which is truly good for him, according
to the excellency of his immortal nature, nor takes the advice of reason,
nor duly exerts his understanding; but without reason, without reflection,
follows his natural inclination, like the herds of the field. It is
therefore no argument for the liberty of the will, that man is led by
natural instinct to desire that which is good; but it is necessary that he
discern what is good according to right reason; that as soon as he knows
it, he choose it; and as soon as he has chosen it, he pursue it. To remove
every difficulty, we must advert to two instances of false argumentation.
For the desire here intended is not a proper motion of the will, but a
natural inclination; and the good in question relates not to virtue or
righteousness, but to condition; as when we say a man is well or in good
health. Lastly, though man has the strongest desire after what is good,
yet he does not pursue it. There is no man to whom eternal felicity is
unwelcome, yet no man aspires to it without the influence of the Spirit.
Since, therefore, the desire of happiness natural to man furnishes no
argument for the liberty of the will, any more than a tendency in metals
and stones towards the perfection of their nature argues liberty in them,
let us consider, in some other particulars, whether the will be in every
part so entirely vitiated and depraved that it can produce nothing but
what is evil; or whether it retain any small part uninjured which may be
the source of good desires.

XXVII. Those who attribute it to the first grace of God, that we are able
to will effectually, seem, on the contrary, to imply that the soul has a
faculty of spontaneously aspiring to what is good, but that it is too weak
to rise into a solid affection, or to excite any endeavour. And there is
no doubt that the schoolmen have in general embraced this opinion, which
was borrowed from Origen and some of the fathers, since they frequently
consider man in things purely natural, as they express themselves,
according to the description given by the Apostle in these words: “The
good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. To
will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find
not.”(603) But this is a miserable and complete perversion of the argument
which Paul is pursuing in that passage. For he is treating of the
Christian conflict, which he more briefly hints at to the Galatians; the
conflict which the faithful perpetually experience within themselves in
the contention between the flesh and the spirit. Now, the spirit is not
from nature, but from regeneration. But that the Apostle speaks concerning
the regenerate, is evident from his assertion, that in himself dwelt
nothing good, being immediately followed by an explanation that he meant
it of his flesh. And therefore he affirms that it is not he that does
evil, but sin that dwells in him. What is the meaning of this correction,
“in me, that is, in my flesh?” It is as if he had expressed himself in the
following manner: No good resides in me originating from myself, for in my
flesh can be found nothing that is good. Hence follows that form of
exculpation: “I do no evil, but sin that dwelleth in me;”(604) which is
inapplicable to any but the regenerate, who, with the prevailing bias of
their souls, aim at what is good. Now, the conclusion which is subjoined
places all this in a clear point of view: “I delight,” says he, “in the
law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members,
warring against the law of my mind.”(605) Who has such a dissension in
himself, but he who, being regenerated by the Divine Spirit, carries about
with him the relics of his flesh? Therefore Augustine, though he had at
one time supposed that discourse to relate to the natural state of man,
retracted his interpretation, as false and inconsistent. And, indeed, if
we allow that men destitute of grace have some motions towards true
goodness, though ever so feeble, what answer shall we give to the Apostle,
who denies that we are sufficient of ourselves to entertain even a good
thought?(606) What reply shall we make to the Lord, who pronounces, by the
mouth of Moses, that every imagination of the human heart is only
evil?(607) Since they have stumbled on a false interpretation of one
passage, therefore, there is no reason why we should dwell on their
opinion. Rather let us receive this declaration of Christ, “Whosoever
committeth sin is the servant of sin.”(608) We are all sinners by nature;
therefore we are all held under the yoke of sin. Now, if the whole man be
subject to the dominion of sin, the will, which is the principal seat of
it, must necessarily be bound with the firmest bonds. Nor would there
otherwise be any consistency in the assertion of Paul, “that it is God
that worketh in us to will,”(609) if any will preceded the grace of the
Spirit. Farewell, then, all the idle observations of many writers
concerning preparation; for although the faithful sometimes petition that
their hearts may be conformed to the Divine law, as David does in many
places,(610) yet it should be remarked that even this desire of praying
originates from God. This we may gather from the language of David; for
when he wishes a clean heart to be created within him,(611) he certainly
does not arrogate to himself the beginning of such a creation. Let us
rather, therefore, attend to this advice of Augustine: “God will prevent
you in all things: do you also sometimes prevent his wrath.” How? “Confess
that you have all those things from God; that whatever good you have, it
is from him; but whatever evil, from yourself.” And a little after,
“Nothing is ours, but sin.”



Chapter III. Every Thing That Proceeds From The Corrupt Nature Of Man
Worthy Of Condemnation.


But man cannot be better known in either faculty of his soul, than when he
is represented in those characters by which the Scripture has
distinguished him. If he be completely described in these words of Christ,
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh,”(612) as it is easy to prove,
it is evident that he is a very miserable creature. For, according to the
testimony of the Apostle, “to be carnally minded is death, because the
carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of
God, neither indeed can be.”(613) Is the flesh so perverse, that, with all
its affections, it entertains a secret hatred against God? that it cannot
consent to the righteousness of the Divine law? in a word, that it can
produce nothing but what tends to death? Now, grant, that in the nature of
man there is nothing but flesh, and elicit any good from it, if you can.
But the name of flesh, it will be said, pertains only to the sensual, and
not to the superior faculties of the soul. This is abundantly refuted by
the words of Christ and of the Apostle. For the argument of our Lord is,
that man must be born again, because he is flesh. He does not teach a new
birth in regard to the body. Now, a new birth of the soul requires not a
correction of some portion of it, but an entire renovation. And this is
confirmed by the antithesis in both places; for there is such a comparison
between the flesh and the spirit, that there is no medium left. Therefore,
every thing in man that is not spiritual, is, according to this mode of
reasoning, denominated carnal. But we have nothing of the spirit, except
by regeneration. Whatever, therefore, we have from nature is carnal. But
if on that point there could otherwise be any doubt, we have it removed by
Paul, when, after a description of the old man, which he had asserted to
be “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,”(614) he directs us to “be
renewed in the spirit of our mind.” You see that he places unlawful and
corrupt affections not only in the sensitive part, but also in the mind
itself, and, therefore, requires a renovation of it. And, indeed, he had
just before drawn such a picture of human nature, as showed us to be in
every part corrupted and depraved. For his description of all the
Gentiles, as “walking in the vanity of their mind, having the
understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the
ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,”(615)
is undoubtedly applicable to all those whom the Lord has not yet renewed
to the rectitude of his wisdom and righteousness. This is still more
evident from the comparison soon after introduced, where he reminds the
faithful, that they “have not so learned Christ.” For from these words we
conclude, that the grace of Christ is the only remedy, by which we can be
liberated from that blindness, and from the evils consequent upon it. And
this is what Isaiah had prophesied concerning the kingdom of Christ, when
he predicted that the Lord would be “an everlasting light” to his Church,
whilst at the same time “darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness
the people.”(616) When he declares, that the light of God will only arise
upon the Church, beyond the limits of the Church he certainly leaves
nothing but darkness and blindness. I will not particularly recite all the
passages which are to be found, especially in the Psalms and in the
Prophets, concerning the vanity of man. It is a striking observation of
David, that “to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than
vanity.”(617) It is a severe condemnation of his understanding, when all
the thoughts which proceed from it are derided as foolish, frivolous, mad,
and perverse.

II. Equally severe is the condemnation of the heart, when it is called
“deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”(618) But as I study
brevity, I shall be content with citing a single passage, which, however,
will resemble a very lucid mirror, in which we may behold at full length
the image of our nature. For the Apostle, when he wishes to demolish the
arrogance of mankind, does it by these testimonies: “There is none
righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none
that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are
together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used
deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of
cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction
and misery are in their ways; there is no fear of God before their
eyes.”(619) In this terrible manner he inveighs, not against particular
individuals, but against all the posterity of Adam. He does not declaim
against the depraved manners of one or another age, but accuses the
perpetual corruption of our nature. For his design in that passage is not
simply to rebuke men, in order that they may repent, but rather to teach
us that all men are overwhelmed with an inevitable calamity, from which
they can never emerge unless they are extricated by the mercy of God. As
this could not be proved unless it were evinced by the ruin and
destruction of our nature, he has adduced these testimonies, which
demonstrate our nature to be totally ruined. Let this, then, be admitted,
that men are such as they are here described, not only by corrupt habits,
but also by a depravity of nature; for otherwise the reasoning of the
Apostle could not be supported, “that there is no salvation for man but
from the mercy of God; since in himself he is in a ruined and desperate
condition.” Here I shall not attempt to establish the application of the
testimonies, to preclude the appearance of their being improperly
introduced. I shall treat them just as if they had been originally uttered
by Paul, and not quoted from the Prophets. He divests man first of
righteousness, that is, integrity and purity, and then of understanding.
Defect of understanding is proved by apostasy from God, the seeking of
whom is the first step in the path of wisdom; but this loss must
necessarily befall those who have revolted from God. He adds, that all
have gone out of the way, and are become altogether corrupt, that there is
not one that does good. Then he subjoins the flagitious crimes, with which
they, who are once abandoned to iniquity, contaminate all the members of
their bodies. Lastly, he declares them to be destitute of the fear of God,
the rule by which all our steps ought to be directed. If these are the
hereditary characters of mankind, in vain do we seek in our nature for any
thing that is good. I grant, indeed, that all these crimes are not
exhibited in every individual; yet it cannot be denied that this monster
lurks in the hearts of all. For as the body, which already contains within
itself the cause and matter of a disease, although it has yet no sensation
of pain, cannot be said to enjoy good health, neither can the soul be
esteemed healthy, while it is full of such moral maladies; although this
similitude will not correspond in every particular; for in the body,
however diseased, there remains the vigour of life; but the soul, immersed
in this gulf of iniquity, is not only the subject of vices, but totally
destitute of every thing that is good.

III. A question, nearly the same as we have already answered, here
presents itself to us again. For in all ages there have been some persons,
who, from the mere dictates of nature, have devoted their whole lives to
the pursuit of virtue. And though many errors might perhaps be discovered
in their conduct, yet by their pursuit of virtue they afforded a proof,
that there was some degree of purity in their nature. The value attached
to virtues of such a description before God, we shall more fully discuss
when we come to treat of the merits of works; yet it must be stated also
in this place, so far as is necessary for the elucidation of the present
subject. These examples, then, seem to teach us that we should not
consider human nature to be totally corrupted; since, from its instinctive
bias, some men have not only been eminent for noble actions, but have
uniformly conducted themselves in a most virtuous manner through the whole
course of their lives. But here we ought to remember, that amidst this
corruption of nature there is some room for Divine grace, not to purify
it, but internally to restrain its operations. For should the Lord permit
the minds of all men to give up the reins to every lawless passion, there
certainly would not be an individual in the world, whose actions would not
evince all the crimes, for which Paul condemns human nature in general, to
be most truly applicable to him. For can you except yourself from the
number of those whose feet are swift to shed blood, whose hands are
polluted with rapine and murder, whose throats are like open sepulchres,
whose tongues are deceitful, whose lips are envenomed, whose works are
useless, iniquitous, corrupt, and deadly, whose souls are estranged from
God, the inmost recesses of whose hearts are full of pravity, whose eyes
are insidiously employed, whose minds are elated with insolence—in a word,
all whose powers are prepared for the commission of atrocious and
innumerable crimes? If every soul be subject to all these monstrous vices,
as the Apostle fearlessly pronounces, we clearly see what would be the
consequence, if the Lord should suffer the human passions to go all the
lengths to which they are inclined. There is no furious beast, that would
be agitated with such ungovernable rage; there is no river, though ever so
rapid and violent, that would overflow its boundaries with such
impetuosity. In his elect, the Lord heals these maladies by a method which
we shall hereafter describe. In others, he restrains them, only to prevent
their ebullitions so far as he sees to be necessary for the preservation
of the universe. Hence some by shame, and some by fear of the laws, are
prevented from running into many kinds of pollutions, though they cannot
in any great degree dissemble their impurity; others, because they think
that a virtuous course of life is advantageous, entertain some languid
desires after it; others go further, and display more than common
excellence, that by their majesty they may confine the vulgar to their
duty. Thus God by his providence restrains the perverseness of our nature
from breaking out into external acts, but does not purify it within.

IV. But it may be said, the difficulty is not yet removed. For either we
must esteem Camillus to be exactly similar to Catiline, or in Camillus we
shall have an example that nature, if it be studiously cultivated, is not
altogether destitute of goodness. I grant, indeed, that the virtues
displayed in Camillus were gifts of God, and if considered in themselves,
appear justly worthy of commendation: but how will they be proofs of any
natural goodness in him? To establish this, must we not recur to the
heart, and argue, that if a natural man was eminent for such integrity of
manners, human nature is not destitute of ability for the pursuit of
virtue? But what if his heart was depraved and perverted, and followed any
thing rather than the path of rectitude? And that it was such, if you
concede that he was a natural man, is beyond all doubt. What ability,
then, will you attribute to human nature for the pursuit of virtue, if,
with the greatest appearance of integrity, it is discovered to be always
tending to corruption? Therefore, as you will not commend a man for
virtue, whose vices have only counterfeited the external form of virtue,
so you must not attribute to the human will a power of desiring what is
right, as long as it continues fixed in its perverseness. The most certain
and easy solution of this question, however, is, that those virtues are
not the common properties of nature, but the peculiar graces of God, which
he dispenses in great variety, and in a certain degree to men that are
otherwise profane. For which reason we hesitate not, in common speech, to
call the nature of one man good, and of another depraved. Yet we still
include both in the universal state of human depravity; but we signify
what peculiar grace God has conferred on the one, with which he has not
deigned to favour the other. When he determined to exalt Saul to the
kingdom, he made him, as it were, a new man; and this is the reason why
Plato, alluding to the fable of Homer, says, that the sons of kings are
formed with some distinguishing singularity of character; because God,
consulting the benefit of mankind, frequently furnishes with an heroic
nature those whom he destines to hold the reins of empire; and from this
source have proceeded all the exploits of great heroes which are
celebrated in history. The same judgment must be formed concerning those
also who are in a private station. But because every one who has risen to
great eminence has been impelled by his ambition, which defiles all
virtues, and deprives them of all excellence in the Divine view, whatever
may be apparently laudable in ungodly men, ought not to be esteemed at all
meritorious. Besides, the chief branch of rectitude is wanting, where
there is no concern to display the glory of God: of this principle all are
destitute whom he has not regenerated by his Spirit. Nor is it in vain
that Isaiah says, that “the spirit of the fear of the Lord shall rest
upon” Christ;(620) which teaches us, that all who are alienated from
Christ are destitute of that “fear of the Lord” which is “the beginning of
wisdom.”(621) The virtues which deceive us by their vain and specious
appearance, will be applauded in civil courts, and in the common
estimation of mankind; but before the celestial tribunal they will possess
no value to merit the reward of righteousness.

V. The will, therefore, is so bound by the slavery of sin, that it cannot
excite itself, much less devote itself to any thing good; for such a
disposition is the beginning of a conversion to God, which in the
Scriptures is attributed solely to Divine grace. Thus Jeremiah prays to
the Lord to convert or turn him, if he would have him to be turned.(622)
Whence the Prophet, in the same chapter, describing the spiritual
redemption of the faithful, says, “The Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and
ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he;”(623)
alluding to the strong fetters with which the sinner is bound as long as
he is deserted by the Lord, and continues under the yoke of the devil.
Nevertheless there still remains the faculty of will, which with the
strongest propensity is inclined to and rushes into sin; for when man
subjected himself to this necessity, he was not deprived of his will, but
of soundness of will. Bernard properly observes, that we all have a power
to will; but that to will what is good, is an advantage; to will what is
evil, a defect. Therefore simply to will belongs to man; to will what is
evil, to corrupt nature; to will what is good, to grace. Now, when I
assert that the will, being deprived of its liberty, is necessarily drawn
or led into evil, I should wonder, if any one considered it as a harsh
expression, since it has nothing in it absurd, nor is it unsanctioned by
the custom of good men. It offends those who know not how to distinguish
between necessity and compulsion. But if any one should ask them, whether
God is not necessarily good, and whether the devil is not necessarily
evil,—what answer will they make? For there is such a close connection
between the goodness of God and his Deity, that his being God is not more
necessary than his being good. But the devil is by his fall so alienated
from communion with all that is good, that he can do nothing but what is
evil. But if any one should sacrilegiously object, that little praise is
due to God for his goodness, which he is constrained to preserve,—shall we
not readily reply, that his inability to do evil arises from his infinite
goodness, and not from the impulse of violence? Therefore, if a necessity
of doing well impairs not the liberty of the Divine will in doing well; if
the devil, who cannot but do evil, nevertheless sins voluntarily; who then
will assert that man sins less voluntarily, because he is under a
necessity of sinning? This necessity Augustine every where maintains; and
even when he was pressed with the cavils of Celestius, who tried to throw
an odium on this doctrine, he confidently expressed himself in these
terms: “By means of liberty it came to pass that man fell into sin; but
now the penal depravity consequent on it, instead of liberty, has
introduced necessity.” And whenever the mention of this subject occurs, he
hesitates not to speak in this manner of the necessary servitude of sin.
We must therefore observe this grand point of distinction, that man,
having been corrupted by his fall, sins voluntarily, not with reluctance
or constraint; with the strongest propensity of disposition, not with
violent coercion; with the bias of his own passions, and not with external
compulsion: yet such is the pravity of his nature, that he cannot be
excited and biassed to any thing but what is evil. If this be true, there
is no impropriety in affirming, that he is under a necessity of sinning.
Bernard, subscribing to what is said by Augustine, thus expresses himself:
“Among all the animals, man alone is free; and yet, by the intervention of
sin, he also suffers a species of violence; but from the will, not from
nature, so that he is not thereby deprived of his innate liberty.” For
what is voluntary is also free. And a little after: “The will being, by I
know not what corrupt and surprising means, changed for the worse, is
itself the author of the necessity to which it is subject; so that neither
necessity, being voluntary, can excuse the will, nor the will, being
fascinated, can exclude necessity.” For this necessity is in some measure
voluntary. Afterwards he says, that we are oppressed with a yoke, but no
other than that of a voluntary servitude; that therefore our servitude
renders us miserable, and our will renders us inexcusable; because the
will, when it was free, made itself the slave of sin. At length he
concludes, “Thus the soul, in a certain strange and evil manner, under
this kind of voluntary and free yet pernicious necessity, is both enslaved
and free; enslaved by necessity, free by its will; and, what is more
wonderful and more miserable, it is guilty, because free; and enslaved
wherein it is guilty; and so therein enslaved wherein it is free.” From
these passages the reader clearly perceives that I am teaching no novel
doctrine, but what was long ago advanced by Augustine, with the universal
consent of pious men, and which for nearly a thousand years after was
confined to the cloisters of monks. But Lombard, for want of knowing how
to distinguish necessity from coaction, gave rise to a pernicious error.

VI. It is necessary, on the other hand, to consider the remedy of Divine
grace, by which the depravity of nature is corrected and healed. For since
the Lord, in the assistance which he affords us, bestows on us that which
we need, an exhibition of the nature of his work in us will immediately
discover the nature of our necessity. When the Apostle tells the
Philippians, that he is “confident that he which hath begun a good work in
them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;”(624) by the beginning
of a good work he undoubtedly designs the commencement of conversion,
which takes place in the will. Therefore God begins the good work in us by
exciting in our hearts a love, desire, and ardent pursuit of
righteousness; or, to speak more properly, by bending, forming, and
directing our hearts towards righteousness; but he completes it, by
confirming us to perseverance. That no one may cavil, that the good work
is begun by the Lord, inasmuch as the will, which is weak of itself, is
assisted by him, the Spirit declares in another place how far the ability
of the will reaches, when left to itself. “A new heart also,” says he,
“will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take
away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of
flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my
statutes.”(625) Who will assert that the infirmity of the human will is
only strengthened by assistance, to enable it efficaciously to aspire to
the choice of that which is good, when it actually needs a total
transformation and renovation? If there be in a stone any softness, which,
by some application, being made more tender, would be flexible in every
direction, then I will not deny the flexibility of the human heart to the
obedience of rectitude, provided its imperfections are supplied by the
grace of God. But if, by this similitude, the Lord intended to show that
no good will ever be extracted from our hearts, unless they are entirely
renewed, let us not divide between him and us, what he claims exclusively
to himself. If, therefore, when God converts us to the pursuit of
rectitude, this change is like the transformation of a stone into flesh,
it follows, that whatever belongs to our own will is removed, and what
succeeds to it is entirely from God. The will, I say, is removed, not
considered as the will; because, in the conversion of man, the properties
of our original nature remain entire. I assert also, that it is created
anew, not that the will then begins to exist, but that it is then
converted from an evil into a good one. This I affirm to be done entirely
by God, because, according to the testimony of the same Apostle, “we are
not sufficient” even “to think.”(626) Therefore he elsewhere declares, not
merely that God assists the infirmity of our will, or corrects its
depravity, but that he “worketh in us to will.”(627) Whence it is easy to
infer what I have already remarked, that whatever good is in the human
will, is the work of pure grace. In the same sense he elsewhere pronounces
that it is “God which worketh all in all.”(628) For in that place he is
not discussing the government of the universe, but asserting that the
praise of all the excellences found in the faithful belongs to God alone.
And by using the word “all,” he certainly makes God the author of
spiritual life from its commencement even to its termination. This is the
same as he had before taught in other words, declaring that the faithful
are “of God in Christ;”(629) where he evidently intends the new creation,
by which what belonged to our common nature is abolished. For we must here
understand an implied contrast between Adam and Christ, which he states
more plainly in another place, where he teaches that “we are the
workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God
hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”(630) For by this
argument he designs to prove that our salvation is gratuitous, because the
beginning of all good is from the second creation, which we obtain in
Christ. Now, if we possessed any ability, though ever so small, we should
also have some portion of merit. But to annihilate all our pretensions, he
argues that we have merited nothing, because “we are created in Christ
Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained;” in which
expressions he again signifies that all the parts of good works, even from
the first inclination of the mind, are entirely from God. For this reason
the Psalmist, after having said that “he (God) hath made us,” that there
may be no division of the work, immediately subjoins, “and not we
ourselves.”(631) That he speaks of regeneration, which is the commencement
of the spiritual life, is evident from the context, where it follows
immediately after, that “we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
We see, then, that not content with having simply attributed to God the
praise of our salvation, he expressly excludes us from all fellowship with
him; as though he would say, that man has not even the smallest particle
remaining in which he can glory, because all is of God.

VII. But there may be some, who will concede that the will, being, of its
own spontaneous inclination, averse to what is good, is converted solely
by the power of the Lord; yet in such a manner, that being previously
prepared, it has also its own share in the work; that grace, as Augustine
teaches, precedes every good work, the will following grace, not leading
it, being its companion, not its guide. This unobjectionable observation
of that holy man, Peter Lombard preposterously wrests to an erroneous
meaning. Now, I contend that both in the words of the Prophet which I have
cited, and in other passages, these two things are clearly signified, that
the Lord corrects our depraved will, or rather removes it, and of himself
introduces a good one in its place. As it is preceded by grace, I allow
you to style it an attendant; but since its reformation is the work of the
Lord, it is wrong to attribute to man a voluntary obedience in following
the guidance of grace. Therefore it is not a proper expression of
Chrysostom, that grace is able to effect nothing without the will, nor the
will without grace; as if grace did not produce the will itself, as we
have just seen from Paul. Nor was it the intention of Augustine, when he
called the human will the companion of grace, to assign to it any
secondary office next to grace in the good work; but with a view to refute
the nefarious dogma broached by Pelagius, who made the prime cause of
salvation to consist in human merit, he contends, what was sufficient for
his present argument, that grace is prior to all merit; omitting, at this
time, the other question concerning the perpetual efficiency of grace,
which is admirably treated by him on other occasions. For when he
frequently says, that the Lord precedes the unwilling that he may will,
and follows the willing that he may not will in vain, he makes him the
sole author of the good work. His language on this subject is too explicit
to require much argument. “Men labour,” says he, “to discover in our will
something that is our own, and not derived from God; and how any such
discovery can be made, I know not.” In his first book against Pelagius and
Celestius, where he explains that declaration of Christ, “Every man that
hath heard of the Father cometh unto me,”(632) he says, that “the will is
assisted so as to enable it not only to know its duty, but what it knows,
also to do.” And thus when God teaches not by the letter of the law, but
by the grace of the Spirit, he teaches in such a manner, that whatever
each one has learned, he not only sees in knowing it, but desires in
willing, and performs in doing.

VIII. And as we are now engaged on the principal point of the argument,
let us give the reader a summary of the doctrine, and prove it by a few
very clear testimonies of Scripture; and then, that no one may accuse us
of perverting the Scripture, let us also show that the truth which we
assert to be deduced from the Scripture is not destitute of the support of
this holy man; I mean Augustine. For I conceive it is unnecessary to
recite in regular order all the passages which might be adduced from the
Scriptures in confirmation of our opinion; provided that the selection,
which shall be made, prepares a way to the understanding of all the rest,
which are frequently to be found. Nor do I think that there will be any
impropriety in evincing my agreement with that man, to whose authority the
consent of the pious pays a great and merited deference. The origin of all
good clearly appears, from a plain and certain reason, to be from no other
than from God alone; for no propensity of the will to any thing good can
be found but in the elect. But the cause of election must not be sought in
men. Whence we may conclude, that man has not a good will from himself,
but that it proceeds from the same decree by which we were elected before
the creation of the world. There is also another reason, not dissimilar.
For since good volitions and good actions both arise from faith, we must
see whence faith itself originates. Now, since the Scripture uniformly
proclaims it to be the gratuitous gift of God, it follows that it is the
effect of mere grace, when we, who are naturally and completely prone to
evil, begin to will any thing that is good. Therefore the Lord, when he
mentions these two things in the conversion of his people, that he takes
away from them their stony heart, and gives them a heart of flesh, plainly
declares, that what originates from ourselves must be removed, that we may
be converted to righteousness; and that whatever succeeds in its place
proceeds from himself. Nor is it only in one passage that he announces
this; for he says in Jeremiah, “I will give them one heart and one way,
that they may fear me for ever.”(633) And a little after, “I will put my
fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Again in
Ezekiel, “I will give them one heart, and will put a new spirit within
you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give
them a heart of flesh.”(634) He could not more evidently claim to himself
and take from us all that is good and upright in our will, than when he
declares our conversion to be the creation of a new spirit and of a new
heart. For it always follows, that nothing good proceeds from our will
till it be renovated; and that after its renovation, as far as it is good,
it is from God, and not from ourselves.

IX. And we find the saints have made this the subject of their prayers.
Solomon prayed, “May the Lord incline our hearts unto him to keep his
commandments.”(635) He shows the stubbornness of our heart, which, unless
a new bias be given to it, naturally indulges itself in rebellion against
the Divine law. The same petition is offered by the Psalmist: “Incline my
heart unto thy testimonies.”(636) For we should always remark the
opposition between the perverse bias of the heart, which inclines it to
rebellion, and this correction, which constrains it to obedience. But when
David, perceiving himself to be for a time deprived of the direction of
grace, prays that God would “create in” him “a clean heart, and renew a
right spirit within” him,(637) does he not acknowledge that all the parts
of his heart are full of impurity, and his spirit warped by a depraved
obliquity? and by calling the purity which he earnestly implores, the
creation of God, does he not ascribe it entirely to him? If any one
object, that the petition itself is a proof of a pious and holy affection,
the answer is easy, that although David had already partly repented, yet
he compares his former state with that melancholy fall, which he had
experienced. Assuming the character, therefore, of a man alienated from
God, he properly requests for himself all those things which God confers
on his elect in regeneration. Resembling a dead man, therefore, he prays
to be created anew, that, instead of being the slave of Satan, he may
become the instrument of the Holy Spirit. Truly wonderful and monstrous is
the extravagance of our pride. God requires of us nothing more severe than
that we most religiously observe his sabbath, by resting from our own
works; but there is nothing which we find more difficult, or to which we
are more reluctant, than to bid farewell to our own works, in order to
give the works of God their proper place. If there were no obstacle
arising from our folly, Christ has given a testimony to his graces,
sufficiently clear to prevent them from being wickedly suppressed. “I am
the vine,” says he, “ye are the branches. My Father is the husbandman. As
the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no
more can ye, except ye abide in me. For without me ye can do
nothing.”(638) If we cannot bear fruit of ourselves, any more than a
branch can bud after it is torn up from the ground, and deprived of
moisture, we must no longer seek for any aptitude in our nature to that
which is good. There is no ambiguity in this conclusion, “Without me ye
can do nothing.” He does not say that we are too weak to be sufficient for
ourselves, but reducing us to nothing, excludes every idea of ability,
however diminutive. If, being engrafted into Christ, we bear fruit like a
vine, which derives the energy of vegetation from the moisture of the
earth, from the dew of heaven, and from the benign influences of the sun,
I see nothing of our own remaining in any good work, if we preserve entire
to God the honour which belongs to him. It is in vain to urge that
frivolous subtlety, that the branch already possesses sap, and a
fructifying power, and that therefore it does not derive all from the
earth, or from the original root, because it contributes something of its
own. For the meaning of Christ is clearly that we are as a dry and
worthless log, when separated from him; because, independently of him, we
have no ability to do good, as he says also in another place: “Every
plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up.”(639)
Wherefore the Apostle ascribes all the praise to him in the place already
cited. “It is God,” says he, “which worketh in you both to will and to
do.”(640) The first part of a good work is volition, the next an effectual
endeavour to perform it; God is the author of both. Therefore we rob the
Lord, if we arrogate any thing to ourselves either in volition or in
execution. If God were said to assist the infirmity of our will, then
there would be something left to us; but since he is said to produce the
will, all the good that is in it, is placed without us. And because the
good will is still oppressed by the burden of our flesh, so that it cannot
extricate itself, he has added, that in struggling with the difficulties
of that conflict, we are supplied with constancy of exertion to carry our
volitions into effect. For otherwise there would be no truth in what he
elsewhere teaches, that “it is the same God which worketh all in
all,”(641) which we have before shown comprehends the whole course of the
spiritual life. For which reason David, after having prayed that the way
of God may be discovered to him, that he may walk in his truth,
immediately adds, “Unite my heart to fear thy name.”(642) In these words
he intimates, that even good men are subject to so many distractions of
mind, that they soon wander and fall, unless they are strengthened to
persevere. For the same reason, in another passage, having prayed that his
steps might be ordered in the word of the Lord, he likewise implores
strength for a warfare: “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”(643)
In this manner, therefore, the Lord both begins and completes the good
work in us; that it may be owing to him, that the will conceives a love
for what is right, that it is inclined to desire it, and is excited and
impelled to endeavour to attain it; and then that the choice, desire, and
endeavour do not fail, but proceed even to the completion of the desired
effect; lastly, that a man proceeds with constancy in them, and perseveres
even to the end.

X. And he moves the will, not according to the system maintained and
believed for many ages, in such a manner that it would afterwards be at
our option either to obey the impulse or to resist it, but by an
efficacious influence. The observation, therefore, so frequently repeated
by Chrysostom, that “Whom God draws, he draws willing,” we are obliged to
reject, being an insinuation that God only waits for us with his hand
extended, if we choose to accept his assistance. We grant that such was
the primitive condition of man during his state of integrity, that he
could incline to the one side or the other; but since Adam has taught us
by his own example how miserable free will is, unless God give us both
will and power, what will become of us if he impart his grace to us in
that small proportion? Nay, we obscure and diminish his grace by our
ingratitude. For the Apostle does not teach that the grace of a good will
is offered to us for our acceptance, but that he “worketh in us to will;”
which is equivalent to saying, that the Lord, by his Spirit, directs,
inclines, and governs our heart, and reigns in it as in his own
possession. Nor does he promise by Ezekiel that he will give to the elect
a new spirit, only that they may be able to walk, but that they may
actually walk, in his precepts.(644) Nor can the declaration of Christ,
“Every man that hath heard of the Father cometh unto me,”(645) be
understood in any other sense than as a proof of the positive efficacy of
Divine grace; as Augustine also contends. This grace the Lord deigns not
to give to any person promiscuously, according to the observation commonly
attributed, if I mistake not, to Occam, that it is denied to no man who
does what he can. Men are to be taught, indeed, that the Divine benignity
is free to all who seek it, without any exception; but since none begin to
seek it, but those who have been inspired by heavenly grace, not even this
diminutive portion ought to be taken from his praise. This is the
privilege of the elect, that, being regenerated by the Spirit of God, they
are led and governed by his direction. Wherefore Augustine as justly
ridicules those who arrogate to themselves any part of a good volition, as
he reprehends others, who suppose that to be given promiscuously to all,
which is the special evidence of gratuitous election. “Nature,” says he,
“is common to all men, but not grace.” He calls it “a transparent
subtlety, which shines merely with vanity, when that is extended generally
to all, which God confers on whom he chooses.” But elsewhere, “How have
you come? by believing. Be afraid, lest while you arrogate to yourself the
discovery of the way of righteousness, you perish from the way of
righteousness. I am come, you say, by free will; I am come through my own
choice. Why are you inflated with pride? Will you know that this also is
given to you? Hear him proclaiming, ‘No man can come to me, except the
Father which hath sent me draw him.’ ”(646) And it incontrovertibly
follows, from the words of John, that the hearts of the pious are divinely
governed with such effect, that they follow with an affection which
nothing can alter. “Whosoever is born of God,” he says, “cannot sin; for
his seed remaineth in him.”(647) For we see that the neutral,
inefficacious impulse imagined by the sophists, which every one would be
at liberty to obey or resist, is evidently excluded, where it is asserted
that God gives a constancy that is effectual to perseverance.

XI. Concerning perseverance there would have been no doubt that it ought
to be esteemed the gratuitous gift of God, had it not been for the
prevalence of a pestilent error, that it is dispensed according to the
merit of men, in proportion to the gratitude which each person has
discovered for the grace bestowed on him. But as that opinion arose from
the supposition that it was at our own option to reject or accept the
offered grace of God, this notion being exploded, the other falls of
course. Though here is a double error; for beside teaching that our
gratitude for the grace first bestowed on us, and our legitimate use of
that grace, are remunerated by subsequent blessings, they add also, that
now grace does not operate alone in us, but only coöperates with us. On
the first point, we must admit that the Lord, while he daily enriches and
loads his servants with new communications of his grace, perceiving the
work which he has begun in them grateful and acceptable, discovers
something in them which he blesses with still greater degrees of grace.
And this is implied in the following declarations: “Unto every one that
hath, shall be given.” And, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou
hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many
things.”(648) But here two errors must be avoided; the legitimate use of
the grace first bestowed must not be said to be rewarded with subsequent
degrees of grace, as though man, by his own industry, rendered the grace
of God efficacious; nor must it be accounted a remuneration in such a
sense as to cease to be esteemed the free favour of God. I grant, then,
that this Divine benediction is to be expected by the faithful, that the
better they have used the former measures of grace, they shall afterwards
be enriched with proportionably greater degrees of it. But I assert that
this use also is from the Lord, and that this remuneration proceeds from
his gratuitous benevolence. They are equally awkward and unhappy in their
use of the trite distinction of operating and coöperating grace. Augustine
has used it indeed, but softens it by a suitable definition; that God in
coöperating completes what in operating he begins, and that it is the same
grace, but derives its name from the different mode of its efficiency.
Whence it follows, that he makes no partition of the work between God and
us, as though there were a mutual concurrence from the respective
exertions of each; but that he only designates the multiplication of
grace. To the same purpose is what he elsewhere asserts, that the good
will of man precedes many of the gifts of God, but is itself one of their
number. Whence it follows, that he leaves nothing for it to arrogate to
itself. This is also particularly expressed by Paul. For having said that
“it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do,”(649) he
immediately adds, that he does both “of his own good pleasure,” signifying
by this expression that these are acts of gratuitous benignity. Now, to
their wonted assertion, that after we have admitted the first grace, our
own endeavours coöperate with the grace which follows, I reply, if they
mean that, after having been once subdued by the Divine power to the
obedience of righteousness, we voluntarily advance, and are disposed to
follow the guidance of grace, I make no objection. For it is very certain,
that where the grace of God reigns, there is such a promptitude of
obedience. But whence does this arise but from the Spirit of God, who,
uniformly consistent with himself, cherishes and strengthens to a
constancy of perseverance that disposition of obedience which he first
originated? But if they mean that man derives from himself an ability to
coöperate with the grace of God, they are involved in a most pestilent
error.

XII. And to this purpose they falsely and ignorantly pervert that
observation of the Apostle, “I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet
not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”(650) For they understand
it in this manner; that because his preference of himself to all others
might appear rather too arrogant, he corrects it by referring the praise
to the grace of God; but yet so as to denominate himself a coöperator with
grace. It is surprising that so many men, not otherwise erroneous, have
stumbled at this imaginary difficulty. For the Apostle does not say that
the grace of God laboured with him, to make himself a partner in the
labour; but rather by that correction ascribes the whole praise of the
labour to grace alone. “It is not I,” says he, “that have laboured, but
the grace of God which was with me.” They have been deceived by an
ambiguity of expression; but still more by a preposterous translation, in
which the force of the Greek article is omitted. For if you translate it
literally, he says, not that grace was coöperative with him, but that the
grace which was with him was the author of all. And the same is maintained
by Augustine, though briefly, yet without obscurity, when he thus
expresses himself: “The good will of man precedes many of the gifts of
God, but not all. But of those which it precedes it is itself one.” Then
follows this reason; because it is written, “The God of my mercy shall
prevent me.”(651) And, “Mercy shall follow me.”(652) It prevents the
unwilling, that he may will; it follows the willing, that he may not will
in vain. With this agrees Bernard, who introduces the Church, saying,
“Draw me unwilling, to make me willing; draw me inactive, to make me run.”

XIII. Now, let us hear Augustine speak in his own words, lest the sophists
of the Sorbonne, those Pelagians of the present age, according to their
usual custom, accuse us of opposing the whole current of antiquity. In
this they imitate their father Pelagius, by whom Augustine was formerly
obliged to enter into the same field of controversy. In his treatise _De
Corr. et Grat._, addressed to Valentine, he treats very much at large what
I shall recite briefly, but in his own words: “That to Adam was given the
grace of persevering in good if he chose; that grace is given to us to
will, and by willing to overcome concupiscence. That Adam therefore had
the power if he had the will, but not the will that he might have the
power; but that it is given to us to have both the will and the power.
That the primitive liberty was a power to abstain from sin, but that ours
is much greater, being an inability to commit sin.” And lest he should be
supposed to speak of the perfection to be enjoyed after the attainment of
a state of immortality, as Lombard misinterprets his meaning, he presently
removes this difficulty. For he says, “the will of the saints is so
inflamed by the Holy Spirit, that they therefore have an ability, because
they have such a will; and that their having such a will proceeds from the
operations of God.” For if, amidst such great weakness, which still
requires “strength” to be “made perfect”(653) for the repressing of pride,
they were left to their own will, so as to have ability, through the
Divine assistance, if they were willing, and God did not operate in them
to produce that will; among so many temptations and infirmities their will
would fail, and therefore they could not possibly persevere. The infirmity
of the human will, then, is succoured, that it may be invariably and
inseparably actuated by Divine grace, and so, notwithstanding all its
weakness, may not fail. He afterwards discusses more at large how our
hearts necessarily follow the impulse of God; and he asserts that the Lord
draws men with their own wills, but that those wills are such as he
himself has formed. Now, we have a testimony from the mouth of Augustine
to the point which we are principally endeavouring to establish; that
grace is not merely offered by the Lord to be either received or rejected,
according to the free choice of each individual, but that it is grace
which produces both the choice and the will in the heart; so that every
subsequent good work is the fruit and effect of it, and that it is obeyed
by no other will but that which it has produced. For this is his language
also in another place—that it is grace alone which performs every good
work in us.

XIV. When he observes that the will is not taken away by grace, but only
changed from a bad one into a good one, and when it is good, assisted; he
only intends that man is not drawn in such a manner as to be carried away
by an external impulse, without any inclination of his mind; but that he
is internally so disposed as to obey from his very heart. That grace is
specially and gratuitously given to the elect, he maintains in an epistle
to Boniface, in the following language: “We know that the grace of God is
not given to all men; and that to them to whom it is given, it is given
neither according to the merits of works, nor according to the merits of
will, but by gratuitous favour; and to those to whom it is not given, we
know that it is not given by the righteous judgment of God.” And in the
same epistle, he strenuously combats that opinion, which supposes that
subsequent grace is given to the merits of men, because by not rejecting
the first grace they showed themselves worthy of it. For he wishes
Pelagius to allow that grace is necessary to us for every one of our
actions, and is not a retribution of our works, that it may be
acknowledged to be pure grace. But the subject cannot be comprised in a
more concise summary than in the eighth chapter of his treatise addressed
to Valentine; where he teaches, that the human will obtains, not grace by
liberty, but liberty by grace; that being impressed by the same grace with
a disposition of delight, it is formed for perpetuity; that it is
strengthened with invincible fortitude; that while grace reigns, it never
falls, but, deserted by grace, falls immediately; that by the gratuitous
mercy of the Lord, it is converted to what is good, and, being converted,
perseveres in it; that the first direction of the human will to that which
is good, and its subsequent constancy, depend solely on the will of God,
and not on any merit of man. Thus there is left to man such a free will,
if we choose to give it that appellation, as he describes in another
place, that he can neither be converted to God nor continue in God but by
grace; and that all the ability which he has is derived from grace.



Chapter IV. The Operation Of God In The Hearts Of Men.


It has now, I apprehend, been sufficiently proved, that man is so enslaved
by sin, as to be of his own nature incapable of an effort, or even an
aspiration, towards that which is good. We have also laid down a
distinction between coaction and necessity, from which it appears that
while he sins necessarily, he nevertheless sins voluntarily. But since,
while he is devoted to the servitude of the devil, he seems to be actuated
by his will, rather than by his own, it remains for us to explain the
nature of both kinds of influence. There is also this question to be
resolved, whether any thing is to be attributed to God in evil actions, in
which the Scripture intimates that some influence of his is concerned.
Augustine somewhere compares the human will to a horse, obedient to the
direction of his rider; and God and the devil he compares to riders. “If
God rides it, he, like a sober and skilful rider, manages it in a graceful
manner; stimulates its tardiness; restrains its immoderate celerity;
represses its wantonness and wildness; tames its perverseness, and
conducts it into the right way. But if the devil has taken possession of
it, he, like a foolish and wanton rider, forces it through pathless
places, hurries it into ditches, drives it down over precipices, and
excites it to obstinacy and ferocity.” With this similitude, as no better
occurs, we will at present be content. When the will of a natural man is
said to be subject to the power of the devil, so as to be directed by it,
the meaning is, not that it resists and is compelled to a reluctant
submission, as masters compel slaves to an unwilling performance of their
commands, but that, being fascinated by the fallacies of Satan, it
necessarily submits itself to all his directions. For those whom the Lord
does not favour with the government of his Spirit, he abandons, in
righteous judgment, to the influence of Satan. Wherefore the Apostle says,
that “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe
not,” who are destined to destruction, “lest the light of the gospel
should shine unto them.”(654) And in another place, that he “worketh in
the children of disobedience.”(655) The blinding of the wicked, and all
those enormities which attend it, are called the works of Satan; the cause
of which must nevertheless be sought only in the human will, from which
proceeds the root of evil, and in which rests the foundation of the
kingdom of Satan, that is, sin.

II. Very different, in such instances, is the method of the Divine
operation. And that we may have a clearer view of it, let us take as an
example the calamity which holy Job suffered from the Chaldeans.(656) The
Chaldeans massacred his shepherds, and committed hostile depredations on
his flock. Now, the wickedness of their procedure is evident; yet in these
transactions Satan was not unconcerned; for with him the history states
the whole affair to have originated. But Job himself recognizes in it the
work of the Lord, whom he asserts to have taken from him those things of
which he had been plundered by the Chaldeans. How can we refer the same
action to God, to Satan, and to man, as being each the author of it,
without either excusing Satan by associating him with God, or making God
the author of evil? Very easily, if we examine, first, the end for which
the action was designed, and secondly, the manner in which it was
effected. The design of the Lord is to exercise the patience of his
servant by adversity; Satan endeavours to drive him to despair: the
Chaldeans, in defiance of law and justice, desire to enrich themselves by
the property of another. So great a diversity of design makes a great
distinction in the action. There is no less difference in the manner. The
Lord permits his servant to be afflicted by Satan: the Chaldeans, whom he
commissions to execute his purpose, he permits and resigns to be impelled
by Satan: Satan, with his envenomed stings, instigates the minds of the
Chaldeans, otherwise very depraved, to perpetrate the crime: they
furiously rush into the act of injustice, and overwhelm themselves in
criminality. Satan therefore is properly said to work in the reprobate, in
whom he exercises his dominion; that is, the kingdom of iniquity. God also
is said to work in a way proper to himself, because Satan, being the
instrument of his wrath, turns himself hither and thither at his
appointment and command, to execute his righteous judgments. Here I allude
not to the universal influence of God, by which all creatures are
sustained, and from which they derive an ability to perform whatever they
do. I speak only of that special influence which appears in every
particular act. We see, then, that the same action is without absurdity
ascribed to God, to Satan, and to man; but the variety in the end and in
the manner, causes the righteousness of God to shine without the least
blemish, and the iniquity of Satan and of man to betray itself to its own
disgrace.

III. The fathers are sometimes too scrupulous on this subject, and afraid
of a simple confession of the truth, lest they should afford an occasion
to impiety to speak irreverently and reproachfully of the works of God.
Though I highly approve this sobriety, yet I think we are in no danger, if
we simply maintain what the Scripture delivers. Even Augustine at one time
was not free from this scrupulosity; as when he says that hardening and
blinding belong not to the operation, but to the prescience of God. But
these subtleties are inconsistent with numerous expressions of the
Scripture, which evidently import some intervention of God beyond mere
foreknowledge. And Augustine himself, in his fifth book against Julian,
contends very largely, that sins proceed not only from the permission or
the prescience, but from the power of God, in order that former sins may
thereby be punished. So also what they advance concerning permission is
too weak to be supported. God is very frequently said to blind and harden
the reprobate, and to turn, incline, and influence their hearts, as I have
elsewhere more fully stated. But it affords no explication of the nature
of this influence to resort to prescience or permission. We answer,
therefore, that it operates in two ways. For, since, when his light is
removed, nothing remains but darkness and blindness; since, when his
Spirit is withdrawn, our hearts harden into stones; since, when his
direction ceases, they are warped into obliquity; he is properly said to
blind, harden, and incline those whom he deprives of the power of seeing,
obeying, and acting aright. The second way, which is much more consistent
with strict propriety of language, is, when, for the execution of his
judgments, he, by means of Satan, the minister of his wrath, directs their
counsels to what he pleases, and excites their wills and strengthens their
efforts. Thus, when Moses relates that Sihon the king would not grant a
free passage to the people, because God had “hardened his spirit, and made
his heart obstinate,” he immediately subjoins the end of God’s design:
“That he might deliver him into thy hand.”(657) Since God willed his
destruction, the obduration of his heart, therefore, was the Divine
preparation for his ruin.

IV. The following expressions seem to relate to the former method: “He
removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding
of the aged. He taketh away the heart of the chief people of the earth,
and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.”(658)
Again: “O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened
our heart from thy fear?”(659) For these passages rather indicate what God
makes men by deserting them, than show how he performs his operations
within them. But there are other testimonies, which go further; as those
which relate to the hardening of Pharaoh: “I will harden his (Pharaoh’s)
heart, that he shall not let the people go.”(660) Afterwards the Lord
says, “I have hardened his heart.”(661) Did he harden it by not mollifying
it? That is true; but he did somewhat more, for he delivered his heart to
Satan to be confirmed in obstinacy; whence he had before said, “I will
harden his heart.” The people march out of Egypt; the inhabitants of the
country meet them in a hostile manner: by whom were they excited? Moses
expressly declared to the people, that it was the Lord who had hardened
their hearts.(662) The Psalmist, reciting the same history, says, “He
turned their heart to hate his people.”(663) Now, it cannot be said that
they fell in consequence of being deprived of the counsel of God. For if
they are “hardened” and “turned,” they are positively inclined to that
point. Besides, whenever it has pleased him to punish the transgressions
of his people, how has he executed his work by means of the reprobate? In
such a manner that any one may see, that the efficacy of the action
proceeded from him, and that they were only the ministers of his will.
Wherefore he threatened sometimes that he would call them forth by
hissing,(664) sometimes that he would use them as a net(665) to entangle,
sometimes as a hammer(666) to strike the people of Israel. But he
particularly declared himself to be operative in them, when he called
Sennacherib an axe,(667) which was both directed and driven by his hand.
Augustine somewhere makes the following correct distinction: “that they
sin, proceeds from themselves; that in sinning they perform this or that
particular action, is from the power of God, who divides the darkness
according to his pleasure.”

V. Now that the ministry of Satan is concerned in instigating the
reprobate, whenever the Lord directs them hither or thither by his
providence, may be sufficiently proved even from one passage. For it is
frequently asserted in Samuel that an evil spirit of the Lord, and an evil
spirit from the Lord, either agitated or quitted Saul.(668) To refer this
to the Holy Spirit were impious. An impure spirit, therefore, is called a
spirit of God, because it acts according to his command and by his power,
being rather an instrument in the performance of the action, than itself
the author of it. We must add, also, what is advanced by Paul, that “God
shall send strong delusion, that they who believed not the truth should
believe a lie.”(669) Yet there is always a wide difference, even in the
same work, between the operation of God and the attempts of Satan and
wicked men. He makes the evil instruments, which he has in his hand, and
can turn as he pleases, to be subservient to his justice. They, as they
are evil, produce the iniquity which the depravity of their nature has
conceived. The other arguments, which tend to vindicate the majesty of God
from every calumny, and to obviate the cavils of the impious, have already
been advanced in the chapter concerning Providence. For, at present, I
only intend briefly to show how Satan reigns in the reprobate man, and how
the Lord operates in them both.

VI. But what liberty man possesses in those actions which in themselves
are neither righteous nor wicked, and pertain rather to the corporeal than
to the spiritual life, although we have before hinted, has not yet been
explicitly stated. Some have admitted him in such things to possess a free
choice; rather, as I suppose, from a reluctance to dispute on a subject of
no importance, than from an intention of positively asserting that which
they concede. Now, though I grant that they who believe themselves to be
possessed of no power to justify themselves, believe what is principally
necessary to be known in order to salvation, yet I think that this point
also should not be neglected, that we may know it to be owing to the
special favour of God, whenever our mind is disposed to choose that which
is advantageous for us; whenever our will inclines to it; and, on the
other hand, whenever our mind and understanding avoid what would otherwise
hurt us. And the power of the providence of God extends so far, as not
only to cause those events to succeed which he foresees will be best, but
also to incline the wills of men to the same objects. Indeed, if we view
the administration of external things with our own reason, we shall not
doubt their subjection to the human will; but if we listen to the numerous
testimonies, which proclaim that in these things also the hearts of men
are governed by the Lord, they will constrain us to submit the will itself
to the special influence of God. Who conciliated the minds of the
Egyptians towards the Israelites,(670) so as to induce them to lend them
the most valuable of their furniture? They would never have been induced
to do this of their own accord. It follows, therefore, that their hearts
were guided by the Lord rather than by an inclination of their own. And
Jacob, if he had not been persuaded that God infuses various dispositions
into men according to his pleasure, would not have said concerning his son
Joseph, whom he thought to be some profane Egyptian, “God Almighty give
you mercy before the man.”(671) As the whole Church confesses in the
Psalms, that, when God chose to compassionate her, he softened the hearts
of the cruel nations into clemency.(672) Again, when Saul was so inflamed
with rage, as to prepare himself for war, it is expressly mentioned as the
cause, that he was impelled by the Spirit of God.(673) Who diverted the
mind of Absalom from adopting the counsel of Ahithophel, which used to be
esteemed as an oracle?(674) Who inclined Rehoboam to be persuaded by the
counsel of the young men?(675) Who caused the nations, that before were
very valiant, to feel terror at the approach of the Israelites? Rahab the
harlot confessed that this was the work of God. Who, on the other hand,
dejected the minds of the Israelites with fear and terror, but he who had
threatened in the law that he would “send a faintness into their
hearts?”(676)

VII. Some one will object, that these are peculiar examples, to the rule
of which, things ought by no means universally to be reduced. But I
maintain, that they are sufficient to prove that for which I contend; that
God, whenever he designs to prepare the way for his providence, inclines
and moves the wills of men even in external things, and that their choice
is not so free, but that its liberty is subject to the will of God. That
your mind depends more on the influence of God, than on the liberty of
your own choice, you must be constrained to conclude, whether you are
willing or not, from this daily experience, that in affairs of no
perplexity your judgment and understanding frequently fail; that in
undertakings not arduous your spirits languish; on the other hand, in
things the most obscure, suitable advice is immediately offered; in things
great and perilous, your mind proves superior to every difficulty. And
thus I explain the observation of Solomon, “The hearing ear, and the
seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them.”(677) For he appears to
me to speak, not of their creation, but of the peculiar favour of God
displayed in their performing their functions. When he says, that “the
king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water, he
turneth it whithersoever he will;”(678) under one species he clearly
comprehends the whole genus. For if the will of any man be free from all
subjection, that privilege belongs eminently to the will of a king, which
exercises a government in some measure over the wills of others; but if
the will of the king be subject to the power of God, ours cannot be
exempted from the same authority. Augustine has a remarkable passage on
this subject: “The Scripture, if it be diligently examined, shows, not
only that the good wills of men, which he turns from evil into good, and
directs to good actions and to eternal life, but also that those wills
which relate to the present life, are subject to the power of God, so that
he, by a most secret, but yet a most righteous judgment, causes them to be
inclined whither he pleases, and when he pleases, either for the
communication of benefits, or for the infliction of punishments.”

VIII. Here let the reader remember, that the ability of the human will is
not to be estimated from the event of things, as some ignorant men are
preposterously accustomed to do. For they conceive themselves fully and
ingeniously to establish the servitude of the human will, because even the
most exalted monarchs have not all their desires fulfilled. But this
ability, of which we speak, is to be considered within man, and not to be
measured by external success. For in the dispute concerning free will, the
question is not, whether a man, notwithstanding external impediments, can
perform and execute whatever he may have resolved in his mind, but whether
in every case his judgment exerts freedom of choice, and his will freedom
of inclination. If men possess both these, then Attilius Regulus, when
confined to the small extent of a cask stuck round with nails, will
possess as much free will as Augustus Cæsar, when governing a great part
of the world with his nod.



Chapter V. A Refutation Of The Objections Commonly Urged In Support Of
Free Will.


Enough might appear to have been already said on the servitude of the
human will, did not they, who endeavour to overthrow it with a false
notion of liberty, allege, on the contrary, certain reasons in opposition
to our sentiments. First, they collect together some absurdities, in order
to render it odious, as if it were abhorrent to common sense; and then
they attack it with testimonies of Scripture. Both these weapons we will
repel in order. If sin, say they, be necessary, then it ceases to be sin;
if it be voluntary, then it may be avoided. These were also the weapons
used by Pelagius in his attacks on Augustine; with whose authority,
however, we wish not to urge them, till we shall have given some
satisfaction on the subject itself. I deny, then, that sin is the less
criminal, because it is necessary; I deny also the other consequence,
which they infer, that it is avoidable because it is voluntary. For, if
any one wish to dispute with God, and to escape his judgment by the
pretext of having been incapable of acting otherwise, he is prepared with
an answer, which we have elsewhere advanced, that it arises not from
creation, but from the corruption of nature, that men, being enslaved by
sin, can will nothing but what is evil. For whence proceeded that
impotence, of which the ungodly would gladly avail themselves, but from
Adam voluntarily devoting himself to the tyranny of the devil? Hence,
therefore, the corruption with which we are firmly bound. It originated in
the revolt of the first man from his Maker. If all men are justly
accounted guilty of this rebellion, let them not suppose themselves
excused by necessity, in which very thing they have a most evident cause
of their condemnation. And this I have before clearly explained, and have
given an example in the devil himself, which shows, that he who sins
necessarily, sins no less voluntarily; and also in the elect angels, whose
will, though it cannot swerve from what is good, ceases not to be a will.
Bernard also judiciously inculcates the same doctrine, that we are,
therefore, the more miserable because our necessity is voluntary; which
yet constrains us to be so devoted to it, that we are, as we have already
observed, the slaves of sin. The second branch of their argument is
erroneous; because it makes an improper transition from what is voluntary
to what is free; but we have before evinced, that a thing may be done
voluntarily, which yet is not the subject of free choice.

II. They add, that unless both virtues and vices proceed from the free
choice of the will, it is not reasonable either that punishments should be
inflicted, or that rewards should be conferred on man. This argument,
though first advanced by Aristotle, yet I grant is used on some occasions
by Chrysostom and Jerome. That it was familiar to the Pelagians, however,
Jerome himself does not dissemble, but even relates their own words: “If
the grace of God operates in us, then the crown will be given to grace,
not to us who labour.” In regard to punishments, I reply, that they are
justly inflicted on us, from whom the guilt of sin proceeds. For of what
importance is it, whether sin be committed with a judgment free or
enslaved, so it be committed with the voluntary bias of the passions;
especially as man is proved to be a sinner, because he is subject to the
servitude of sin? With respect to rewards of righteousness, where is the
great absurdity, if we confess that they depend rather on the Divine
benignity than on our own merits? How often does this recur in Augustine,
“that God crowns not our merits, but his own gifts; and that they are
called rewards, not as though they were due to our merits, but because
they are retributions to the graces already conferred on us!” They
discover great acuteness in this observation, that there remains no room
for merits, if they originate not from free will; but in their opinion of
the erroneousness of our sentiment they are greatly mistaken. For
Augustine hesitates not on all occasions to inculcate as certain, what
they think it impious to acknowledge; as where he says, “What are the
merits of any man? When he comes not with a merited reward, but with free
grace, he alone being free and a deliverer from sins, finds all men
sinners.” Again: “If you receive what is your due, you must be punished.
What then is done? God has given you not merited punishment, but unmerited
grace. If you wish to be excluded from grace, boast your merits.” Again:
“You are nothing of yourself; sins are yours, merits belong to God; you
deserve punishment; and when you come to be rewarded, he will crown his
own gifts, not your merits.” In the same sense he elsewhere teaches that
grace proceeds not from merit, but merit from grace. And a little after he
concludes, that God with his gifts precedes all merits, that thence he may
elicit his other merits, and gives altogether freely, because he discovers
nothing as a cause of salvation. But what necessity is there for further
quotations, when his writings are full of such passages? But the Apostle
will even better deliver them from this error, if they will hear from what
origin he deduces the glory of the saints. “Whom he did predestinate, them
he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he
justified, them he also glorified.”(679) Why, then, according to the
Apostle, are the faithful crowned? Because by the mercy of the Lord, and
not by their own industry, they are elected, and called, and justified.
Farewell, then, this vain fear, that there will be an end of all merits if
free will be overturned. For it is a proof of extreme folly, to be
terrified and to fly from that to which the Scripture calls us. “If,” says
he, “thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not
received it?”(680) You see that he divests free will of every thing, with
the express design of leaving no room for merits. But yet, the beneficence
and liberality of God being inexhaustible and various, those graces which
he confers on us, because he makes them ours, he rewards, just as if they
were our own virtues.

III. They further allege what may appear to be borrowed from Chrysostom,
that if our will has not this ability to choose good or evil, the
partakers of the same nature must be either all evil or all good. And not
very far from this is the writer, whoever he was, of the treatise _On the
Calling of the Gentiles_, which is circulated under the name of Ambrose,
when he argues, that no man would ever recede from the faith, unless the
grace of God left us the condition of mutability. In which it is
surprising that such great men were so inconsistent with themselves. For
how did it not occur to Chrysostom, that it is the election of God, which
makes this difference between men? We are not afraid to allow, what Paul
very strenuously asserts, that all, without exception, are depraved and
addicted to wickedness; but with him we add, that the mercy of God does
not permit all to remain in depravity. Therefore, since we all naturally
labour under the same disease, they alone recover to whom the Lord has
been pleased to apply his healing hand. The rest, whom he passes by in
righteous judgment, putrefy in their corruption till they are entirely
consumed. And it is from the same cause, that some persevere to the end,
and others decline and fall in the midst of their course. For perseverance
itself also is a gift of God, which he bestows not on all men
promiscuously, but imparts to whom he pleases. If we inquire the cause of
the difference, why some persevere with constancy, and others fail through
instability, no other can be found, but that God sustains the former by
his power, that they perish not, and does not communicate the same
strength to the latter, that they may be examples of inconstancy.

IV. They urge further, that exhortations are given in vain, that the use
of admonitions is superfluous, and that reproofs are ridiculous, if it be
not in the power of the sinner to obey. When similar objections were
formerly made to Augustine, he was obliged to write his treatise _On
Correction and Grace_; in which, though he copiously refutes them, he
calls his adversaries to this conclusion: “O man, in the commandment learn
what is your duty: in correction learn, that through your own fault you
have it not: in prayer learn whence you may receive what you wish to
enjoy.” There is nearly the same argument in the treatise _On the Spirit
and Letter_, in which he maintains that God does not regulate the precepts
of his law by the ability of men, but when he has commanded what is right,
freely gives to his elect ability to perform it. This is not a subject
that requires a prolix discussion. First, we are not alone in this cause,
but have the support of Christ and all the Apostles. Let our opponents
consider how they can obtain the superiority in a contest with such
antagonists. Does Christ, who declares that without him we can do
nothing,(681) on that account the less reprehend and punish those who
without him do what is evil? Does he therefore relax in his exhortations
to every man to practise good works? How severely does Paul censure the
Corinthians for their neglect of charity!(682) Yet he earnestly prays that
charity may be given them by the Lord. In his Epistle to the Romans he
declares that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but
of God that showeth mercy:”(683) yet afterwards he refrains not from the
use of admonition, exhortation, and reproof. Why do they not, therefore,
remonstrate with the Lord, not to lose his labour in such a manner, by
requiring of men those things which he alone can bestow, and punishing
those things which are committed for want of his grace? Why do they not
admonish Paul to spare those who are unable to will or run without the
previous mercy of God, of which they are now destitute? As though truly
the Lord has not the best reason for his doctrine, which readily presents
itself to those who religiously seek it. Paul clearly shows how far
doctrine, exhortation, and reproof, can of themselves avail towards
producing a change of heart, when he says that “neither is he that
planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but” that the efficacy is
solely from “God that giveth the increase.”(684) Thus we see that Moses
severely sanctions the precepts of the law, and the Prophets earnestly
urge and threaten transgressors; whilst, nevertheless, they acknowledge,
that men never begin to be wise till a heart is given them to understand;
that it is the peculiar work of God to circumcise the heart, and instead
of a stony heart to give a heart of flesh; to inscribe his law in men’s
minds; in a word, to render his doctrine effectual by a renovation of the
soul.

V. What, then, it will be inquired, is the use of exhortations? I reply,
If the impious despise them with obstinate hearts, they will serve for a
testimony against them, when they shall come to the tribunal of the Lord;
and even in the present state they wound their consciences; for however
the most audacious person may deride them, he cannot disapprove of them in
his heart. But it will be said, What can a miserable sinner do, if the
softness of heart, which is necessary to obedience, be denied him? I ask,
What excuse can he plead, seeing that he cannot impute the hardness of his
heart to any one but himself? The impious, therefore, who are ready, if
possible, to ridicule the Divine precepts and exhortations, are, in spite
of their own inclinations, confounded by their power. But the principal
utility should be considered in regard to the faithful, in whom as the
Lord performs all things by his Spirit, so he neglects not the
instrumentality of his word, but uses it with great efficacy. Let it be
allowed, then, as it ought to be, that all the strength of the pious
consists in the grace of God, according to this expression of the Prophet:
“I will give them a new heart, that they may walk in my statutes.”(685)
But you will object, Why are they admonished of their duty, and not rather
left to the direction of the Spirit? Why are they importuned with
exhortations, when they cannot make more haste than is produced by the
impulse of the Spirit? Why are they chastised, if they have ever deviated
from the right way, seeing that they erred through the necessary infirmity
of the flesh? I reply, Who art thou, O man, that wouldest impose laws upon
God? If it be his will to prepare us by exhortation for the reception of
this grace, by which obedience to the exhortation is produced, what have
you to censure in this economy? If exhortations and reproofs were of no
other advantage to the pious, than to convince them of sin, they ought not
on that account to be esteemed wholly useless. Now, since, by the internal
operation of the Spirit, they are most effectual to inflame the heart with
a love of righteousness, to shake off sloth, to destroy the pleasure and
poisonous sweetness of iniquity, and, on the contrary, to render it
hateful and burdensome, who can dare to reject them as superfluous? If any
one would desire a plainer answer, let him take it thus: The operations of
God on his elect are twofold—internally, by his Spirit, externally, by his
word. By his Spirit illuminating their minds and forming their hearts to
the love and cultivation of righteousness, he makes them new creatures. By
his word he excites them to desire, seek, and obtain the same renovation.
In both he displays the efficacy of his power, according to the mode of
his dispensation. When he addresses the same word to the reprobate, though
it produces not their correction, yet he makes it effectual for another
purpose, that they may be confounded by the testimony of their consciences
now, and be rendered more inexcusable at the day of judgment. Thus Christ,
though he pronounces that “no man can come to him, except the Father draw
him,” and that the elect come when they have “heard and learned of the
Father,”(686) yet himself neglects not the office of a teacher, but with
his own mouth sedulously invites those who need the internal teachings of
the Holy Spirit to enable them to derive any benefit from his
instructions. With respect to the reprobate, Paul suggests that teaching
is not useless, because it is to them “the savour of death unto death,”
but “a sweet savour unto God.”(687)

VI. Our adversaries are very laborious in collecting testimonies of
Scripture; and this with a view, since they cannot refute us with their
weight, to overwhelm us with their number. But as in battles, when armies
come to close combat, the weak multitude, whatever pomp and ostentation
they may display, are soon defeated and routed, so it will be very easy
for us to vanquish them, with all their multitude. For as all the
passages, which they abuse in their opposition to us, when properly
classed and distributed, centre in a very few topics, one answer will be
sufficient for many of them; it will not be necessary to dwell on a
particular explication of each. Their principal argument they derive from
the precepts; which they suppose to be so proportioned to our ability,
that whatever they can be proved to require, it necessarily follows we are
capable of performing. They proceed, therefore, to a particular detail of
them, and by them measure the extent of our strength. Either, say they,
God mocks us, when he commands holiness, piety, obedience, chastity, love,
and meekness, and when he forbids impurity, idolatry, unchastity, anger,
robbery, pride, and the like; or he requires only such things as we have
power to perform. Now, almost all the precepts which they collect, may be
distributed into three classes. Some require the first conversion to God;
others simply relate to the observation of the law; others enjoin
perseverance in the grace of God already received. Let us first speak of
them all in general, and then proceed to the particulars. To represent the
ability of man as coëxtensive with the precepts of the Divine law, has
indeed for a long time not been unusual, and has some appearance of
plausibility; but it has proceeded from the grossest ignorance of the law.
For those who think it an enormous crime to say that the observation of
the law is impossible, insist on this very cogent argument, that otherwise
the law was given in vain. For they argue just as if Paul had never said
any thing concerning the law. But, pray, what is the meaning of these
expressions—“The law was added because of transgressions;” “by the law is
the knowledge of sin;” “the law worketh wrath;” “the law entered that the
offence might abound?”(688) Do they imply a necessity of its being limited
to our ability, that it might not be given in vain? Do they not rather
show that it was placed far beyond our ability, in order to convince us of
our impotence? According to the definition of the same Apostle, “the end
of the commandment is charity.”(689) But when he wishes the minds of the
Thessalonians to “abound in love,”(690) he plainly acknowledges that the
law sounds in our ears in vain, unless God inspire the principles of it
into our hearts.

VII. Indeed, if the Scripture taught only that the law is the rule of
life, to which our conduct ought to be conformed, I would immediately
accede to their opinion. But since it carefully and perspicuously states
to us various uses of the law, it will be best to consider the operation
of the law in man according to that exposition. As far as relates to the
present argument, when it has prescribed any thing to be performed by us,
it teaches that the power of obedience proceeds from the goodness of God,
and therefore invites us to pray that it may be given us. If there were
only a commandment, and no promise, there would be a trial of the
sufficiency of our strength to obey the commandment; but since the
commands are connected with promises, which declare that we must derive
not only subsidiary power, but our whole strength, from the assistance of
Divine grace, they furnish abundant evidence that we are not only unequal
to the observation of the law, but altogether incapable of it. Wherefore
let them no more urge the proportion of our ability to the precepts of the
law, as though the Lord had regulated the standard of righteousness, which
he designed to give in the law, according to the measure of our
imbecility. It should rather be concluded from the promises, how
unprepared we are of ourselves, since we stand in such universal need of
his grace. But will it, say they, be credited by any, that the Lord
addressed his law to stocks and stones? I reply, that no one will attempt
to inculcate such a notion. For neither are the impious stocks or stones,
when they are taught by the law the contrariety of their dispositions to
God, and are convicted of guilt by the testimony of their own minds; nor
the pious, when, admonished of their own impotence, they have recourse to
the grace of God. To this purpose are the following passages from
Augustine: “God gives commands which we cannot perform, that we may know
what we ought to request of him. The utility of the precepts is great, if
only so much be given to free will, that the grace of God may receive the
greater honour. Faith obtains what the law commands; and the law therefore
commands, that faith may obtain that which is commanded by the law:
moreover God requires faith itself of us, and finds not what he requires,
unless he has given what he finds.” Again: “Let God give what he enjoins,
and let him enjoin what he pleases.”

VIII. This will more clearly appear in an examination of the three kinds
of precepts which we have already mentioned. The Lord, both in the law and
in the prophets, frequently commands us to be converted to him;(691) but
the Prophet, on the other hand, says, “Turn thou me, and I shall be
turned.” “After that I was turned, I repented,” &c.(692) He commands us to
circumcise our hearts; but he announces by Moses, that this circumcision
is the work of his own hand.(693) He frequently requires newness of heart;
but elsewhere declares that this is his own gift.(694) “What God
promises,” Augustine says, “we do not perform ourselves through free will
or nature; but he does it himself by his grace.” And this is the
observation to which he himself assigns the fifth place in his enumeration
of Ticonius’s rules of Christian doctrine; that we should make a proper
distinction between the law and the promises, or between the commandments
and grace. This may suffice, in answer to those who from the precepts
infer an ability in man to obey them, that they may destroy the grace of
God, by which those very precepts are fulfilled. The precepts of the
second class are simple, enjoining on us the worship of God, constant
submission to his will, observance of his commands, and adherence to his
doctrine. But there are innumerable passages, which prove that the highest
degree of righteousness, sanctity, piety, and purity, capable of being
attained, is his own gift. Of the third class is that exhortation of Paul
and Barnabas to the faithful, mentioned by Luke, “to continue in the grace
of God.”(695) But whence the grace of perseverance should be sought, the
same Apostle informs us, when he says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in
the Lord.”(696) In another place he cautions us to “grieve not the Holy
Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption.”(697) But
because what he there requires could not be performed by men, he prays for
the Thessalonians, “that our God would count them worthy of this calling,
and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith
with power.”(698) Thus, also, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians,
treating of alms, he frequently commends their benevolent and pious
disposition;(699) yet a little after he gives thanks to God for having
inclined the heart of Titus to “accept” or undertake “the exhortation.” If
Titus could not even use his own tongue to exhort others without having
been prompted by God, how should others have been inclined to act, unless
God himself had directed their hearts?

IX. Our more subtle adversaries cavil at all these testimonies, because
there is no impediment, they say, that prevents our exerting our own
ability, and God assisting our weak efforts. They adduce also passages
from the Prophets, where the accomplishment of our conversion seems to be
divided equally between God and us. “Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto
you.”(700) What assistance we receive from the Lord has already been
shown, and needs not to be repeated here. I wish only this single point to
be conceded to me, that it is in vain to infer our possession of ability
to fulfil the law from God’s command to us to obey it; since it is
evident, that for the performance of all the Divine precepts, the grace of
the Legislator is both necessary for us, and promised to us; and hence it
follows, that at least more is required of us than we are capable of
performing. Nor is it possible for any cavils to explain away that passage
of Jeremiah, which assures us, that the covenant of God, made with his
ancient people, was frustrated because it was merely a literal one;(701)
and that it can only be confirmed by the influence of the Spirit, who
forms the heart to obedience. Nor does their error derive any support from
this passage: “Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you.” For this
denotes, not that turning of God in which he renovates our hearts to
repentance, but that in which he declares his benevolence and kindness by
external prosperity; as by adversity he sometimes manifests his
displeasure. When the people of Israel, therefore, after having been
harassed with miseries and calamities under various forms, complained that
God was departed from them, he replies that his benignity will not fail
them if they return to rectitude of life, and to himself, who is the
standard of righteousness. The passage, then, is miserably perverted, when
it is made to represent the work of conversion as divided between God and
men. We have observed the greater brevity on these points, because it will
be a more suitable place for this argument when we treat of the Law.

X. The second description of arguments is nearly allied to the first. They
allege the promises, in which God covenants with our will; such as, “Seek
good, and not evil, that ye may live.” “If ye be willing and obedient, ye
shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be
devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”(702)
Again: “If thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then
shalt thou not remove.” “If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice
of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I
command thee this day, the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all
nations of the earth;”(703) and other similar passages. They consider it
an absurdity and mockery, that the benefits which the Lord offers in the
promises are referred to our will, unless it be in our power either to
confirm or to frustrate them. And truly it is very easy to amplify this
subject with eloquent complaints, that we are cruelly mocked by the Lord,
when he announces that his benignity depends on our will, if that will be
not in our own power; that this would be egregious liberality in God, to
present his benefits to us in such a manner, that we should have no power
to enjoy them; and that there must be a strange certainty in his promises,
if they depend on a thing impossible, so that they can never be fulfilled.
Concerning promises of this kind, to which a condition is annexed, we
shall speak in another place, and evince that there is no absurdity in the
impossibility of their completion. With respect to the present question, I
deny that God is cruel or insincere to us, when he invites us to merit his
favours, though he knows us to be altogether incapable of doing this. For
as the promises are offered equally to the faithful and to the impious,
they have their use with them both. As by the precepts God disturbs the
consciences of the impious, that they may not enjoy too much pleasure in
sin without any recollection of his judgments, so in the promises he calls
them to attest how unworthy they are of his kindness. For who can deny
that it is most equitable and proper for the Lord to bless those who
worship him, and severely to punish the despisers of his majesty? God
acts, therefore, in a right and orderly manner, when, addressing the
impious, who are bound with the fetters of sin, he adds to the promises
this condition, that when they shall have departed from their wickedness,
they shall then, and not till then, enjoy his favours; even for this sole
reason, that they may know that they are deservedly excluded from those
benefits which belong to the worshippers of the true God. On the other
hand, since he designs by all means to stimulate the faithful to implore
his grace, it will not be at all strange, if he tries in his promises
also, what we have shown he does with considerable effect in his precepts.
Being instructed by the precepts concerning the will of God, we are
apprized of our misery, in having our hearts so completely averse to it;
and are at the same time excited to invoke his Spirit, that we may be
directed by him into the right way. But because our sluggishness is not
sufficiently roused by the precepts, God adds his promises, to allure us
by their sweetness to the love of his commands. Now, in proportion to our
increased love of righteousness will be the increase of our fervour in
seeking the grace of God. See how, in these addresses, “If ye be willing,”
“If ye be obedient,” the Lord neither attributes to us an unlimited power
to will and to obey, nor yet mocks us on account of our impotence.

XI. The third class of arguments also has a great affinity with the
preceding. For they produce passages in which God reproaches an ungrateful
people, that it was wholly owing to their own fault that they did not
receive blessings of all kinds from his indulgent hand. Of this kind are
the following passages: “The Amalekites and the Canaanites are there
before you, and ye shall fall by the sword; because ye are turned away
from the Lord.”(704) “Because I called you, but ye answered not, therefore
will I do unto this house as I have done to Shiloh.”(705) Again: “This is
a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth
correction: the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his
wrath.”(706) Again: “They obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law;
they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore
thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them.”(707) How, say they,
could such reproaches be applicable to those who might immediately reply,
It is true that we desired prosperity and dreaded adversity; but our not
obeying the Lord, or hearkening to his voice, in order to obtain good and
to avoid evil, has been owing to our want of liberty, and subjection to
the dominion of sin. It is in vain, therefore, to reproach us with evils,
which we had no power to avoid. In answer to this, leaving the pretext of
necessity, which is but a weak and futile plea, I ask whether they can
exculpate themselves from all guilt. For if they are convicted of any
fault, the Lord justly reproaches them with their perverseness, as the
cause of their not having experienced the advantage of his clemency. Let
them answer, then, if they can deny that their own perverse will was the
cause of their obstinacy. If they find the source of the evil within
themselves, why do they so earnestly inquire after extraneous causes, that
they may not appear to have been the authors of their own ruin? But if it
be true that sinners are deprived of the favours of God, and chastised
with his punishments, for their own sin, and only for their own, there is
great reason why they should hear those reproaches from his mouth; that if
they obstinately persist in their crimes, they may learn in their
calamities rather to accuse and detest their iniquity, than to charge God
with unrighteous cruelty; that if they have not cast off all docility,
they may become weary of their sins, the demerits of which they see to be
misery and ruin, and may return into the good way, acknowledging in a
serious confession the very thing for which the Lord rebukes them. And
that those reproofs, which are quoted from the Prophets, have produced
this beneficial effect on the faithful, is evident from the solemn prayer
of Daniel, given us in his ninth chapter. Of the former use of them we
find an example in the Jews, to whom Jeremiah is commanded to declare the
cause of their miseries; though nothing could befall them, otherwise than
the Lord had foretold. “Thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but
they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they
will not answer thee.”(708) For what purpose, then, it will be asked, did
they speak to persons that were deaf? It was in order that, in spite of
their disinclination and aversion, they might know what was declared to
them to be true; that it was an abominable sacrilege to transfer to God
the guilt of their crimes, which belonged solely to themselves. With these
few solutions, we may very easily despatch the immense multitude of
testimonies, which the enemies of the grace of God are accustomed to
collect, both from the precepts of the law, and from the expostulations
directed to transgressors of it, in order to establish the idol of free
will. In one psalm the Jews are stigmatized as “a stubborn and rebellious
generation, a generation that set not their heart aright.”(709) In
another, the Psalmist exhorts the men of his age to “harden not their
hearts;”(710) which implies, that all the guilt of rebellion lies in the
perverseness of men. But it is absurd to infer from this passage that the
heart is equally flexible to either side; whereas “the preparation” of it
is “from the Lord.”(711) The Psalmist says, “I have inclined my heart to
perform thy statutes;”(712) because he had devoted himself to the service
of God without any reluctance, but with a cheerful readiness of mind. Yet
he boasts not of being himself the author of this inclination, which in
the same psalm he acknowledges to be the gift of God.(713) We should
remember, therefore, the admonition of Paul, when he commands the faithful
to “work out” their “own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God
which worketh in” them “both to will and to do.”(714) He assigns them a
part to perform, that they may not indulge themselves in carnal
negligence; but by inculcating “fear and trembling,” he humbles them, and
reminds them that this very thing, which they are commanded to do, is the
peculiar work of God. In this he plainly suggests that the faithful act,
if I may be allowed the expression, passively, inasmuch as they are
furnished with strength from heaven, that they may arrogate nothing at all
to themselves. Wherefore, when Peter exhorts us to “add to” our “faith,
virtue,”(715) he does not allot us an under part to be performed, as
though we could do any thing separately, of ourselves; he only arouses the
indolence of the flesh, by which faith itself is frequently extinguished.
To the same purpose is the exhortation of Paul: “Quench not the
Spirit;”(716) for slothfulness gradually prevails over the faithful,
unless it be corrected. But if any one should infer from this, that it is
at his own option to cherish the light offered him, his ignorance will
easily be refuted; since this diligence which Paul requires, proceeds only
from God. For we are also frequently commanded to “cleanse ourselves from
all filthiness,”(717) whilst the Spirit claims the office of sanctifying
us exclusively to himself. In short, that what properly belongs to God is,
by concession, transferred to us, is plain from the words of John: “He
that is begotten of God, keepeth himself.”(718) The preachers of free will
lay hold of this expression, as though we were saved partly by the Divine
power, partly by our own; as though we did not receive from heaven this
very preservation which the Apostle mentions. Wherefore also Christ prays
that his Father would “keep” us “from evil;”(719) and we know that the
pious, in their warfare against Satan, obtain the victory by no other arms
than those which are furnished by God. Therefore Peter, having enjoined us
to “purify” our “souls, in obeying the truth,” immediately adds, as a
correction, “through the Spirit.”(720) Finally, the impotence of all human
strength in the spiritual conflict is briefly demonstrated by John when he
says, “Whosoever is born of God cannot sin; for his seed remaineth in
him:”(721) and in another place he adds the reason, that “this is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”(722)

XII. There is also a testimony cited from the law of Moses, which appears
directly repugnant to our solution. For, after having published the law,
he makes the following solemn declaration to the people: “This
commandment, which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee,
neither is it far off: it is not in heaven: but the word is very nigh unto
thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”(723) If
these expressions be understood merely of the precepts, I grant that they
have much weight in the present argument. For although we might easily
elude their force, by saying that they treat of the facility and
promptitude, not of observance, but of knowledge, yet still perhaps they
might leave some doubt. But the Apostle, in whose expositions there is no
ambiguity, removes all our doubts, by affirming that Moses here spake of
the doctrine of the gospel.(724) But if any one should obstinately
contend, that Paul has violently perverted the passage from its genuine
meaning, by applying it to the gospel, although his presumption could not
be acquitted of impiety, yet there is enough to refute him, independently
of the authority of the Apostle. For, if Moses spoke only of the precepts,
he was deceiving the people with the vainest confidence. For would they
not have precipitated themselves into ruin, if they had attempted the
observance of the law in their own strength, as a thing of no difficulty?
What, then, becomes of the very obvious facility with which the law may be
observed, when there appears no access to it but over a fatal precipice?
Wherefore nothing is more certain, than that Moses in these words
comprehended the covenant of mercy, which he had promulgated together with
the precepts of the law. For in a preceding verse he had taught that our
hearts must be circumcised by God, in order that we may love him.(725)
Therefore he placed this facility, of which he afterwards speaks, not in
the strength of man, but in the assistance and protection of the Holy
Spirit, who powerfully accomplishes his work in our infirmity. However,
the passage is not to be understood simply of the precepts, but rather of
the promises of the gospel, which are so far from maintaining an ability
in us to obtain righteousness, that they prove us to be utterly destitute
of it. Paul, considering the same, proves by this testimony that salvation
is proposed to us in the gospel, not under that hard, difficult, and
impossible condition, prescribed to us in the law, which pronounces it
attainable only by those who have fulfilled all the commandments, but
under a condition easily and readily to be performed. Therefore this
testimony contributes nothing to support the liberty of the human will.

XIII. Some other passages also are frequently objected, which show that
God sometimes tries men by withdrawing the assistance of his grace, and
waits to see what course they will pursue; as in Hosea: “I will go and
return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my
face.”(726) It would be ridiculous, they say, for the Lord to consider,
whether Israel would seek his face, unless their minds were flexible,
capable of inclining either way, according to their own pleasure; as if it
were not very common for God, in the Prophets, to represent himself as
despising and rejecting his people, till they should amend their lives.
But what will our adversaries infer from such threats? If they maintain,
that those who are deserted by God, are capable of converting themselves,
they oppose the uniform declarations of Scripture. If they acknowledge
that the grace of God is necessary to conversion, what is their
controversy with us? But they will reply, that they concede its necessity
in such a sense as to maintain that man still retains some power. How do
they prove it? Certainly not from this or any similar passages. For it is
one thing to depart from a man, to observe what he will do when forsaken
and left to himself, and another to assist his little strength in
proportion to his imbecility. What, then, it will be inquired, is implied
in such forms of expression? I reply, that the import of them is just as
if God had said, Since admonitions, exhortations, and reproofs, produce no
good effect on this rebellious people, I will withdraw myself for a little
while, and silently leave them to affliction. I will see whether, at some
future period, after a series of calamities, they will remember me, and
seek my face. The departure of the Lord signifies the removal of his word.
His observing what men will do, signifies his concealing himself in
silence, and exercising them for a season with various afflictions. He
does both to humble us the more; for we should sooner be confounded than
corrected with the scourges of adversity, unless he rendered us docile by
his Spirit. Now, when the Lord, offended, and, as it were, wearied by our
extreme obstinacy, leaves us for a time, by the removal of his word, in
which he is accustomed to manifest his presence with us, and makes the
experiment, what we shall do in his absence,—it is falsely inferred from
this, that there is some power of free will, which he observes and proves;
since he acts in this manner with no other design than to bring us to a
sense and acknowledgment of our own nothingness.

XIV. They argue also from the manner of expression which is invariably
observed, both in the Scripture and in the common conversation of mankind.
For good actions are called our own, and we are said to perform what is
holy and pleasing to the Lord, as well as to commit sins. But if sins be
justly imputed to us, as proceeding from ourselves, certainly some share
ought to be, for the same reason, assigned to us also in works of
righteousness. For it would be absurd that we should be said to do those
things, to the performance of which, being incapable of any exertion of
our own, we were impelled by God, as so many stones. Wherefore, though we
allow the grace of God the preëminence, yet these expressions indicate
that our own endeavours hold at least the second place. If it were only
alleged, that good works are called our own, I would reply, that the bread
which we pray to God to give us, is called ours. What will they prove by
this term, but that what otherwise by no means belongs to us, becomes ours
through the benignity and gratuitous munificence of God? Therefore let
them either ridicule the same absurdity in the Lord’s prayer, or no longer
esteem it ridiculous, that good works are denominated ours, in which we
have no propriety but from the liberality of God. But there is rather more
force in what follows; that the Scripture frequently affirms that we
ourselves worship God, work righteousness, obey the law, and perform good
works. These being the proper offices of the understanding and will, how
could they justly be referred to the Spirit, and at the same time be
attributed to us, if there were not some union of our exertions with the
grace of God? We shall easily extricate ourselves from these objections,
if we properly consider the manner in which the Spirit of the Lord
operates in the saints. The similitude with which they try to cast an
odium on our sentiments, is quite foreign to the subject; for who is so
senseless as to suppose that there is no difference between impelling a
man, and throwing a stone? Nor does any such consequence follow from our
doctrine. We rank among the natural powers of man, approving, rejecting;
willing, nilling; attempting, resisting; that is, a power to approve
vanity, and to reject true excellence; to will what is evil, to refuse
what is good; to attempt iniquity, and to resist righteousness. What
concern has the Lord in this? If it be his will to use this depravity as
an instrument of his wrath, he directs and appoints it according to his
pleasure, in order to execute his good work by means of a wicked hand.
Shall we, then, compare a wicked man who is thus subservient to the Divine
power, while he only studies to gratify his own corrupt inclination, to a
stone which is hurled by an extrinsic impulse, and driven along without
any motion, sense, or will of its own? We perceive what a vast difference
there is. But how does the Lord operate in good men, to whom the question
principally relates? When he erects his kingdom within them, he by his
Spirit restrains their will, that it may not be hurried away by unsteady
and violent passions, according to the propensity of nature; that it may
be inclined to holiness and righteousness, he bends, composes, forms, and
directs it according to the rule of his own righteousness; that it may not
stagger or fall, he establishes and confirms it by the power of his
Spirit. For which reason Augustine says, “You will reply to me, Then we
are actuated; we do not act. Yes, you both act and are actuated; and you
act well, when you are actuated by that which is good. The Spirit of God,
who actuates you, assists those who act, and calls himself a helper,
because you also perform something.” In the first clause he inculcates
that the agency of man is not destroyed by the influence of the Spirit;
because the will, which is guided to aspire to what is good, belongs to
his nature. But the inference which he immediately subjoins, from the term
_help_, that we also perform something, we should not understand in such a
sense, as though he attributed any thing to us independently; but in order
to avoid encouraging us in indolence, he reconciles the Divine agency with
ours in this way; that to will is from nature, to will what is good is
from grace. Therefore he had just before said, “Without the assistance of
God, we shall be not only unable to conquer, but even to contend.”

XV. Hence it appears that the grace of God, in the sense in which this
word is used when we treat of regeneration, is the rule of the Spirit for
directing and governing the human will. He cannot govern it unless he
correct, reform, and renovate it; whence we say that the commencement of
regeneration is an abolition of what is from ourselves; nor unless he also
excite, actuate, impel, support, and restrain it; whence we truly assert,
that all the actions which proceed from this are entirely of the Spirit.
At the same time, we fully admit the truth of what Augustine teaches, that
the will is not destroyed by grace, but rather repaired; for these two
things are perfectly consistent—that the human will may be said to be
repaired, when, by the correction of its depravity and perverseness, it is
directed according to the true standard of righteousness; and also that a
new will may be said to be created in man, because the natural will is so
vitiated and corrupted, that it needs to be formed entirely anew. Now,
there is no reason why we may not justly be said to perform that which the
Spirit of God performs in us, although our own will contributes nothing of
itself, independently of his grace. And, therefore, we should remember
what we have before cited from Augustine, that many persons labour in vain
to find in the human will some good, properly its own. For whatever
mixture men study to add from the power of free will to the grace of God,
is only a corruption of it; just as if any one should dilute good wine
with dirty or bitter water. But although whatever good there is in the
human will, proceeds wholly from the internal influence of the Spirit, yet
because we have a natural faculty of willing, we are, not without reason,
said to do those things, the praise of which God justly claims to himself;
first, because whatever God does in us, becomes ours by his benignity,
provided we do not apprehend it to originate from ourselves; secondly,
because the understanding is ours, the will is ours, and the effort is
ours, which are all directed by him to that which is good.

XVI. The other testimonies, which they rake together from every quarter,
will not much embarrass even persons of moderate capacities, who have well
digested the answers already given. They quote this passage from Genesis:
“Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him;”(727) or, as
they would translate the words, “Subject to thee shall be its appetite,
and thou shalt rule over it;” which they explain to relate to sin, as
though the Lord promised Cain, that the power of sin should not obtain
dominion over his mind, if he would labour to overcome it. But we say that
it is more agreeable to the tenor of the context, to understand it to be
spoken concerning Abel. For the design of God in it is to prove the
iniquity of that envy, which Cain had conceived against his brother. This
he does by two reasons: first, that it was in vain for him to meditate
crimes in order to excel his brother in the sight of God, with whom no
honour is given but to righteousness; secondly, that he was extremely
ungrateful for the favours God had already conferred on him, since he
could not bear his brother, even though subject to his authority. But that
we may not appear to adopt this explanation, merely because the other is
unfavourable to our tenets, let us admit that God spake concerning sin. If
it be so, then what the Lord there declares, is either promised or
commanded by him. If it be a command, we have already demonstrated that it
affords no proof of the power of men: if it be a promise, where is the
completion of the promise, seeing that Cain fell under the dominion of
sin, over which he ought to have prevailed? They will say, that the
promise includes a tacit condition, as though it had been declared to him
that he should obtain the victory if he would contend for it; but who can
admit these subterfuges? For if this dominion be referred to sin, the
speech is doubtless a command, expressive, not of our ability, but of our
duty, which remains our duty even though it exceed our ability. But the
subject itself, and grammatical propriety, require a comparison to be made
between Cain and Abel; in which the elder brother would not have been
placed below the younger, if he had not degraded himself by his own
wickedness.

XVII. They adduce also the testimony of the Apostle, who says, that “it is
not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth
mercy;”(728) whence they conclude, that there is something in the will and
endeavour, which, though ineffectual of itself, is rendered successful by
the assistance of the Divine mercy. But if they would soberly examine the
subject there treated by Paul, they would not so inconsiderately pervert
this passage. I know that they can allege the suffrages of Origen and
Jerome in defence of their exposition; and in opposition to them, I could
produce that of Augustine. But their opinions are of no importance to us
if we can ascertain what was the meaning of Paul. He is there teaching,
that salvation is provided for them alone, whom the Lord favours with his
mercy; but that ruin and perdition await all those whom he has not chosen.
He had shown, by the example of Pharaoh, the condition of the reprobate;
and had confirmed the certainty of gratuitous election by the testimony of
Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” His conclusion is,
that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God
that showeth mercy.” If this be understood to imply that our will and
endeavour are not sufficient, because they are not equal to so great a
work, Paul has expressed himself with great impropriety. Away, therefore,
with these sophisms: “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that
runneth;” therefore there is some willing and some running. For the
meaning of Paul is more simple—It is neither our willing nor our running,
which procures for us a way of salvation, but solely the mercy of God. For
he expresses here the same sentiment as he does to Titus, when he says,
“that the kindness and love of God towards man appeared, not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy.”(729) The
very persons, who argue that Paul, in denying that it is of him that
willeth or of him that runneth, implies that there is some willing and
some running, would not allow me to use the same mode of reasoning, that
we have done some good works, because Paul denies that we have obtained
the favour of God by any works which we have done. But if they perceive a
flaw in this argumentation, let them open their eyes, and they will
perceive a similar fallacy in their own. For the argument on which
Augustine rests the dispute is unanswerable: “If it be said, that it is
not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, merely because neither
our willing nor our running is sufficient, it may, on the contrary, be
retorted, that it is not of the mercy of God, because that does not act
alone.”(730) The latter position being absurd, Augustine justly concludes
the meaning of this passage to be, that there is no good will in man,
unless it be prepared by the Lord; not but that we ought to will and to
run, but because God works in us both the one and the other. With similar
want of judgment, some pervert this declaration of Paul, “We are labourers
together with God;”(731) which, without doubt, is restricted solely to
ministers, who are denominated “workers with him,” not that they
contribute any thing of themselves, but because God makes use of their
agency, after he has qualified them and furnished them with the necessary
talents.

XVIII. They produce a passage from Ecclesiasticus, which is well known to
be a book of doubtful authority. But though we should not reject it,
which, nevertheless, if we chose, we might justly do, what testimony does
it afford in support of free will? The writer says, that man, as soon as
he was created, was left in the power of his own will; that precepts were
given to him, which if he kept, he should also be kept by them; that he
had life and death, good and evil, set before him; and that whatever he
desired, would be given him.(732) Let it be granted, that man at his
creation was endowed with a power of choosing life or death. What if we
reply, that he has lost it? I certainly do not intend to contradict
Solomon, who asserts that “God hath made man upright; but they have sought
out many inventions.”(733) But man, by his degeneracy, having shipwrecked
both himself and all his excellences, whatever is attributed to his
primitive state, it does not immediately follow that it belongs to his
vitiated and degenerated nature. Therefore I reply, not only to them, but
also to Ecclesiasticus himself, whoever he be: If you design to teach man
to seek within himself a power to attain salvation, your authority is not
so great in our estimation as to obtain even the smallest degree of
credit, in opposition to the undoubted word of God. But if you only aim to
repress the malignity of the flesh, which vainly attempts to vindicate
itself by transferring its crimes to God, and you therefore reply, that
man was originally endued with rectitude, from which it is evident that he
was the cause of his own ruin, I readily assent to it; provided we also
agree in this, that through his own guilt he is now despoiled of those
ornaments with which God invested him at the beginning; and so unite in
confessing, that in his present situation he needs not an advocate, but a
physician.

XIX. But there is nothing which our adversaries have more frequently in
their mouths, than the parable of Christ concerning the traveller, who was
left by robbers in the road half dead.(734) I know it is the common
opinion of almost all writers, that the calamity of the human race is
represented under the type of this traveller. Hence they argue, that man
is not so mutilated by the violence of sin and the devil, but that he
still retains some relics of his former excellences, since he is said to
have been left only half dead; for what becomes of the remaining portion
of life, unless there remain some rectitude both of reason and will? In
the first place, what could they say, if I refused to admit their
allegory? For there is no doubt but that this interpretation, invented by
the fathers, is foreign to the genuine sense of our Lord’s discourse.
Allegories ought to be extended no further than they are supported by the
authority of Scripture; for they are far from affording of themselves a
sufficient foundation for any doctrines. Nor is there any want of
arguments by which, if I chose, I could completely confute this erroneous
notion; for the word of God does not leave man in the possession of a
proportion of life, but teaches, that as far as respects happiness of
life, he is wholly dead. Paul, when speaking of our redemption, says, not
that we were recovered when half dead, but that “even when we were dead,
we were raised up.” He calls not on the half dead, but on those who are in
the grave, sleeping the sleep of death, to receive the illumination of
Christ.(735) And the Lord himself speaks in a similar manner, when he
says, that “the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the
voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.”(736) With what
face can they oppose a slight allusion against so many positive
expressions? Yet let this allegory even be admitted as a clear testimony;
what will it enable them to extort from us? Man, they will say, is but
half dead; therefore he has some faculty remaining entire. I grant that he
has a mind capable of understanding, though it attains not to heavenly and
spiritual wisdom; he has some idea of virtue; he has some sense of the
Deity, though he acquires not the true knowledge of God. But what is to be
concluded from all this? It certainly does not disprove the assertion of
Augustine, which has received the general approbation even of the schools,
that man, since his fall, has been deprived of the gifts of grace on which
salvation depends; but that the natural ones are corrupted and polluted.
Let us hold this, then, as an undoubted truth, which no opposition can
ever shake—that the mind of man is so completely alienated from the
righteousness of God, that it conceives, desires, and undertakes every
thing that is impious, perverse, base, impure, and flagitious; that his
heart is so thoroughly infected by the poison of sin, that it cannot
produce any thing but what is corrupt; and that if at any time men do any
thing apparently good, yet the mind always remains involved in hypocrisy
and fallacious obliquity, and the heart enslaved by its inward
perverseness.



Chapter VI. Redemption For Lost Man To Be Sought In Christ.


The whole human race having perished in the person of Adam, our original
excellence and dignity, which we have noticed, so far from being
advantageous to us, only involves us in greater ignominy, till God, who
does not acknowledge the pollution and corruption of man by sin to be his
work, appears as a Redeemer in the person of his only begotten Son.
Therefore, since we are fallen from life into death, all that knowledge of
God as a Creator, of which we have been treating, would be useless, unless
it were succeeded by faith exhibiting God to us as a Father in Christ.
This, indeed, was the genuine order of nature, that the fabric of the
world should be a school in which we might learn piety, and thence be
conducted to eternal life and perfect felicity. But since the fall,
whithersoever we turn our eyes, the curse of God meets us on every side,
which, whilst it seizes innocent creatures and involves them in our guilt,
must necessarily overwhelm our souls with despair. For though God is
pleased still to manifest his paternal kindness to us in various ways, yet
we cannot, from a contemplation of the world, conclude that he is our
Father, when our conscience disturbs us within, and convinces us that our
sins afford a just reason why God should abandon us, and no longer esteem
us as his children. We are also chargeable with stupidity and ingratitude;
for our minds, being blinded, do not perceive the truth; and all our
senses being corrupted, we wickedly defraud God of his glory. We must
therefore subscribe to the declaration of Paul: “For after that in the
wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the
foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”(737) What he
denominates the wisdom of God, is this magnificent theatre of heaven and
earth, which is replete with innumerable miracles, and from the
contemplation of which we ought wisely to acquire the knowledge of God.
But because we have made so little improvement in this way, he recalls us
to the faith of Christ, which is despised by unbelievers on account of its
apparent folly. Wherefore, though the preaching of the cross is not
agreeable to human reason, we ought, nevertheless, to embrace it with all
humility, if we desire to return to God our Creator, from whom we have
been alienated, and to have him reassume the character of our Father.
Since the fall of the first man, no knowledge of God, without the
Mediator, has been available to salvation. For Christ speaks not of his
own time only, but comprehends all ages, when he says that “this is life
eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast
sent.”(738) And this aggravates the stupidity of those who set open the
gate of heaven to all unbelievers and profane persons, without the grace
of Christ, whom the Scripture universally represents as the only door of
entrance into salvation. But if any man would restrict this declaration of
Christ to the period of the first promulgation of the gospel, we are
prepared with a refutation. For it has been a common opinion, in all ages
and nations, that those who are alienated from God, and pronounced
accursed, and children of wrath, cannot please him without a
reconciliation. Here add the answer of Christ to the woman of Samaria: “Ye
worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the
Jews.”(739) In these words he at once condemns all the religions of the
Gentiles as false, and assigns a reason for it; because under the law the
Redeemer was promised only to the chosen people; whence it follows that no
worship has ever been acceptable to God, unless it had respect to Christ.
Hence also Paul affirms that all the Gentiles were without God, and
destitute of the hope of life.(740) Now, as John teaches us that life was
from the beginning in Christ, and that the whole world are fallen from
it,(741) it is necessary to return to that fountain; and therefore Christ
asserts himself to be the life, as he is the author of the propitiation.
And, indeed, the celestial inheritance belongs exclusively to the children
of God. But it is very unreasonable that they should be considered in the
place and order of his children, who have not been engrafted into the body
of his only begotten Son. And John plainly declares that “they who believe
in his name become the sons of God.”(742) But as it is not my design in
this place to treat professedly of faith in Christ, these cursory hints
shall at present suffice.

II. Therefore God never showed himself propitious to his ancient people,
nor afforded them any hope of his favour, without a Mediator. I forbear to
speak of the legal sacrifices, by which the faithful were plainly and
publicly instructed that salvation was to be sought solely in that
expiation, which has been accomplished by Christ alone. I only assert,
that the happiness of the Church has always been founded on the person of
Christ. For though God comprehended in his covenant all the posterity of
Abraham, yet Paul judiciously reasons, that Christ is in reality that Seed
in whom all the nations were to be blessed;(743) since we know that the
natural descendants of that patriarch were not reckoned as his seed. For,
to say nothing of Ishmael and others, what was the cause, that of the two
sons of Isaac, the twin‐brothers Esau and Jacob, even when they were yet
unborn, one should be chosen and the other rejected? How came it to pass
that the first‐born was rejected, and that the younger obtained his
birthright? How came the majority of the people to be disinherited? It is
evident, therefore, that the seed of Abraham is reckoned principally in
one person, and that the promised salvation was not manifested till the
coming of Christ, whose office it is to collect what had been scattered
abroad. The first adoption, therefore, of the chosen people, depended on
the grace of the Mediator; which, though it is not so plainly expressed by
Moses, yet appears to have been generally well known to all the pious. For
before the appointment of any king in the nation, Hannah, the mother of
Samuel, speaking of the felicity of the faithful, thus expressed herself
in her song: “The Lord shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the
horn of his anointed.”(744) Her meaning in these words is, that God will
bless his Church. And to this agrees the oracle, which is soon after
introduced: “I will raise me up a faithful priest, and he shall walk
before mine anointed.” And there is no doubt that it was the design of the
heavenly Father to exhibit in David and his posterity a lively image of
Christ. With a design to exhort the pious, therefore, to the fear of God,
he enjoins them to “kiss the Son;”(745) which agrees with this declaration
of the gospel: “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the
Father.”(746) Therefore, though the kingdom was weakened by the revolt of
the ten tribes, yet the covenant, which God had made with David and his
successors, could not but stand, as he also declared by the Prophets: “I
will not rend away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son,
for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have
chosen.”(747) This is repeated again and again. It is also expressly
added, “I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever.”(748)
At a little distance of time it is said, “For David’s sake did the Lord
his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to
establish Jerusalem.”(749) Even when the state was come to the verge of
ruin, it was again said, “The Lord would not destroy Judah, for David his
servant’s sake, as he promised him to give him alway a light, and to his
children.”(750) The sum of the whole is this—that David alone was chosen,
to the rejection of all others, as the perpetual object of the Divine
favour; as it is said, in another place, “He forsook the tabernacle of
Shiloh; he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of
Ephraim; but chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion, which he loved. He
chose David also his servant, to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his
inheritance.”(751) Finally, it pleased God to preserve his Church in such
a way, that its security and salvation should depend on that head. David
therefore exclaims, “The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving
strength of his anointed;”(752) and immediately adds this petition: “Save
thy people, and bless thine inheritance;” signifying that the state of the
Church is inseparably connected with the government of Christ. In the same
sense he elsewhere says, “Save, Lord; let the king hear us when we
call.”(753) In these words he clearly teaches us that the faithful resort
to God for assistance, with no other confidence than because they are
sheltered under the protection of the king. This is to be inferred from
another psalm: “Save, O Lord! Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the
Lord;”(754) where it is sufficiently evident that the faithful are invited
to Christ, that they may hope to be saved by the power of God. The same
thing is alluded to in another prayer, where the whole Church implores the
mercy of God: “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the
Son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.”(755) For though the
author of the psalm deplores the dissipation of all the people, yet he
ardently prays for their restoration in their head alone. But when
Jeremiah, after the people were driven into exile, the land laid waste,
and all things apparently ruined, bewails the miseries of the Church, he
principally laments that by the subversion of the kingdom, the hope of the
faithful was cut off. “The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the
Lord, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall
live among the heathen.”(756) Hence it is sufficiently evident, that since
God cannot be propitious to mankind but through the Mediator, Christ was
always exhibited to the holy fathers under the law, as the object to which
they should direct their faith.

III. Now, when consolation is promised in affliction, but especially when
the deliverance of the Church is described, the standard of confidence and
hope is erected in Christ alone. “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of
thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed,”(757) says Habakkuk.
And whenever the Prophets mention the restoration of the Church, they
recall the people to the promise given to David concerning the perpetuity
of his kingdom. Nor is this to be wondered at; for otherwise there would
be no stability in the covenant. To this refers the memorable answer of
Isaiah. For when he saw that his declaration concerning the raising of the
siege, and the present deliverance of Jerusalem, was rejected by that
unbelieving king, Ahaz, he makes rather an abrupt transition to the
Messiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son;”(758)
indirectly suggesting, that although the king and the people, in their
perverseness, rejected the promise which had been given them, as though
they would purposely labour to invalidate the truth of God, yet that his
covenant would not be frustrated, but that the Redeemer should come at his
appointed time. Finally, all the Prophets, in order to display the Divine
mercy, were constantly careful to exhibit to view that kingdom of David,
from which redemption and eternal salvation were to proceed. Thus Isaiah:
“I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of
David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people;”(759) because
in desperate circumstances the faithful could have no hope, any otherwise
than by his interposition as a witness, that God would be merciful to
them. Thus also Jeremiah, to comfort them who were in despair, says,
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a
righteous Branch. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell
safely.”(760) And Ezekiel: “I will set up one Shepherd over them, and he
shall feed them, even my servant David. And I the Lord will be their God,
and my servant David a prince among them; and I will make with them a
covenant of peace.”(761) Again, in another place, having treated of their
incredible renovation, he says, “David my servant shall be king over them;
and they all shall have one Shepherd. Moreover I will make a covenant of
peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them.”(762) I
select a few passages out of many, because I only wish to apprize the
reader, that the hope of the pious has never been placed any where but in
Christ. All the other Prophets also uniformly speak the same language. As
Hosea: “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be
gathered together, and appoint themselves one head.”(763) And in a
subsequent chapter he is still more explicit: “The children of Israel
shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king.”(764)
Micah also, discoursing on the return of the people, expressly declares,
“their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of
them.”(765) Thus Amos, intending to predict the restoration of the people,
says, “In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,
and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins.”(766)
This implies that the only standard of salvation was the restoration of
the regal dignity in the family of David, which was accomplished in
Christ. Zechariah, therefore, living nearer to the time of the
manifestation of Christ, more openly exclaims, “Rejoice greatly, O
daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh
unto thee: he is just, and having salvation.”(767) This corresponds with a
passage from a psalm, already cited: “The Lord is the saving strength of
his anointed. Save thy people;”(768) where salvation is extended from the
head to the whole body.

IV. It was the will of God that the Jews should be instructed by these
prophecies, so that they might direct their eyes to Christ whenever they
wanted deliverance. Nor, indeed, notwithstanding their shameful
degeneracy, could the memory of this general principle ever be
obliterated—that God would be the deliverer of the Church by the hand of
Christ, according to his promise to David; and that in this manner the
covenant of grace, in which God had adopted his elect, would at length be
confirmed. Hence it came to pass, that when Christ, a little before his
death, entered into Jerusalem, that song was heard from the mouths of
children, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”(769) For the subject of their
song appears to have been derived from a sentiment generally received and
avowed by the people, that there remained to them no other pledge of the
mercy of God, but in the advent of the Redeemer. For this reason Christ
commands his disciples to believe in him, that they may distinctly and
perfectly believe in God: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.”(770)
For though, strictly speaking, faith ascends from Christ to the Father,
yet he suggests, that though it were even fixed on God, yet it would
gradually decline, unless he interposed, to preserve its stability. The
majesty of God is otherwise far above the reach of mortals, who are like
worms crawling upon the earth. Wherefore, though I do not reject that
common observation that God is the object of faith, yet I consider it as
requiring some correction. For it is not without reason that Christ is
called “the image of the invisible God;”(771) but by this appellation we
are reminded, that unless God reveal himself to us in Christ, we cannot
have that knowledge of him which is necessary to salvation. For although
among the Jews the scribes had by false glosses obscured the declarations
of the Prophets concerning the Redeemer, yet Christ assumed it for
granted, as if allowed by common consent, that there was no other remedy
for the confusion into which the Jews had fallen, nor any other mode of
deliverance for the Church, but the exhibition of the Mediator. There was
not, indeed, such a general knowledge as there ought to have been, of the
principle taught by Paul, that “Christ is the end of the law;”(772) but
the truth and certainty of this evidently appears both from the law itself
and from the Prophets. I am not yet treating of faith; there will be a
more suitable place for that subject in another part of the work. Only let
this be well fixed in the mind of the reader; that the first step to piety
is to know that God is our Father, to protect, govern, and support us till
he gathers us into the eternal inheritance of his kingdom; that hence it
is plain, as we have before asserted, that there can be no saving
knowledge of God without Christ; and consequently that from the beginning
of the world he has always been manifested to all the elect, that they
might look to him, and repose all their confidence in him. In this sense
Irenæus says that the Father, who is infinite in himself, becomes finite
in the Son; because he has accommodated himself to our capacity, that he
may not overwhelm our minds with the infinity of his glory.(773) And
fanatics, not considering this, pervert a useful observation into an
impious reverie, as though there were in Christ merely a portion of Deity,
an emanation from the infinite perfection; whereas the sole meaning of
that writer is, that God is apprehended in Christ, and in him alone. The
assertion of John has been verified in all ages, “Whosoever denieth the
Son, the same hath not the Father.”(774) For though many in ancient times
gloried in being worshippers of the Supreme Deity, the Creator of heaven
and earth, yet, because they had no Mediator, it was impossible for them
to have any real acquaintance with the mercy of God, or persuasion that he
was their Father. Therefore, as they did not hold the head, that is,
Christ, all their knowledge of God was obscure and unsettled; whence it
came to pass, that degenerating at length into gross and vile
superstitions, they betrayed their ignorance, like the Turks in modern
times; who, though they boast of having the Creator of heaven and earth
for their God, yet only substitute an idol instead of the true God as long
as they remain enemies to Christ.



Chapter VII. The Law Given, Not To Confine The Ancient People To Itself,
But To Encourage Their Hope Of Salvation In Christ, Till The Time Of His
Coming.


From the deduction we have made, it may easily be inferred, that the law
was superadded about four hundred years after the death of Abraham, not to
draw away the attention of the chosen people from Christ, but rather to
keep their minds waiting for his advent, to inflame their desires and
confirm their expectations, that they might not be discouraged by so long
a delay. By the word _law_, I intend, not only the decalogue, which
prescribes the rule of a pious and righteous life, but the form of
religion delivered from God by the hands of Moses. For Moses was not made
a legislator to abolish the blessing promised to the seed of Abraham; on
the contrary, we see him on every occasion reminding the Jews of that
gracious covenant made with their fathers, to which they were heirs; as
though the object of his mission had been to renew it. It was very clearly
manifested in the ceremonies. For what could be more vain or frivolous
than for men to offer the fetid stench arising from the fat of cattle, in
order to reconcile themselves to God? or to resort to any aspersion of
water or of blood, to cleanse themselves from pollution? In short, the
whole legal worship, if it be considered in itself, and contain no shadows
and figures of correspondent truths, will appear perfectly ridiculous.
Wherefore it is not without reason, that both in the speech of Stephen and
in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that passage is so carefully stated, in
which God commands Moses to make all things pertaining to the tabernacle
“according to the pattern showed to him in the mount.”(775) For unless
there had been some spiritual design, to which they were directed, the
Jews would have laboured to no purpose in these observances, as the
Gentiles did in their mummeries. Profane men, who have never seriously
devoted themselves to the pursuit of piety, have not patience to hear of
such various rites: they not only wonder why God should weary his ancient
people with such a mass of ceremonies, but they even despise and deride
them as puerile and ludicrous. This arises from inattention to the end of
the legal figures, from which if those figures be separated, they must be
condemned as vain and useless. But the “pattern,” which is mentioned,
shows that God commanded the sacrifices, not with a design to occupy his
worshippers in terrestrial exercises, but rather that he might elevate
their minds to sublimer objects. This may be likewise evinced by his
nature; for as he is a Spirit, he is pleased with none but spiritual
worship. Testimonies of this truth may be found in the numerous passages
of the Prophets, in which they reprove the stupidity of the Jews for
supposing that sacrifices possess any real value in the sight of God. Do
they mean to derogate from the law? Not at all; but being true
interpreters of it, they designed by this method to direct the eyes of the
people to that point from which the multitude were wandering. Now, from
the grace offered to the Jews, it is inferred as a certain truth, that the
law was not irrespective of Christ; for Moses mentioned to them this end
of their adoption, that they might “be unto God a kingdom of
priests;”(776) which could not be attained without a greater and more
excellent reconciliation than could arise from the blood of beasts. For
what is more improbable than that the sons of Adam, who by hereditary
contagion are all born the slaves of sin, should be exalted to regal
dignity, and thus become partakers of the glory of God, unless such an
eminent blessing proceeded from some other source than themselves? How
also could the right of the priesthood remain among them, the pollution of
whose crimes rendered them abominable to God, unless they had been
consecrated in a holy head? Wherefore Peter makes a beautiful application
of this observation of Moses, suggesting that the plenitude of that grace,
of which the Jews enjoyed a taste under the law, is exhibited in Christ.
“Ye are,” says he, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.”(777) This
application of the words tends to show, that they, to whom Christ has
appeared under the gospel, have obtained more than their forefathers;
because they are all invested with sacerdotal and regal honours, that in a
dependence on their Mediator they may venture to come boldly into the
presence of God.

II. And here it must be remarked, by the way, that the kingdom, which at
length was erected in the family of David, is a part of the law, and
comprised under the ministry of Moses; whence it follows, that both in the
posterity of David, and in the whole Levitical tribe, as in a twofold
mirror, Christ was exhibited to the view of his ancient people. For, as I
have just observed, it was otherwise impossible that in the Divine view
they should be kings and priests, who were the slaves of sin and death,
and polluted by their own corruptions. Hence appears the truth of the
assertion of Paul, that the Jews were subject, as it were, to the
authority of a schoolmaster, till the advent of that seed, for whose sake
the promise was given.(778) For Christ being not yet familiarly
discovered, they were like children, whose imbecility could not yet bear
the full knowledge of heavenly things. But how they were led to Christ by
the ceremonies, has been already stated, and may be better learned from
the testimonies of the Prophets. For although they were obliged every day
to approach God with new sacrifices, in order to appease him, yet Isaiah
promises them the expiation of all their transgressions by a single
sacrifice,(779) which is confirmed by Daniel.(780) The priests chosen from
the tribe of Levi, used to enter into the sanctuary; but concerning that
one priest it was once said, that he was divinely chosen with an oath, to
be “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”(781) There was,
then, an unction of visible oil; but Daniel, from his vision, foretells an
unction of a different kind. But not to insist on many proofs, the author
of the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the fourth chapter to the eleventh,
demonstrates in a manner sufficiently copious and clear, that,
irrespective of Christ, all the ceremonies of the law are worthless and
vain. And in regard to the decalogue, we should attend to the declaration
of Paul, that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one
that believeth;”(782) and also that Christ is “the Spirit,” who gives
“life” to the otherwise dead letter.(783) For in the former passage he
signifies that righteousness is taught in vain by the precepts, till
Christ bestows it both by a gratuitous imputation, and by the Spirit of
regeneration. Wherefore he justly denominates Christ the completion or end
of the law; for we should derive no benefit from a knowledge of what God
requires of us, unless we were succoured by Christ when labouring and
oppressed under its yoke and intolerable burden. In another place, he
states that “the law was added because of transgressions;”(784) that is,
to humble men, by convicting them of being the causes of their own
condemnation. Now, this being the true and only preparation for seeking
Christ, the various declarations which he makes are in perfect unison with
each other. But as he was then engaged in a controversy with erroneous
teachers, who pretended that we merit righteousness by the works of the
law,—in order to refute their error, he was sometimes obliged to use the
term _law_ in a more restricted sense, as merely preceptive, although it
was otherwise connected with the covenant of gratuitous adoption.

III. But it is worthy of a little inquiry, how we are rendered more
inexcusable by the instructions of the moral law, in order that a sense of
our guilt may excite us to supplicate for pardon. If it be true that the
law displays a perfection of righteousness, it also follows that the
complete observation of it, is in the sight of God a perfect
righteousness, in which a man would be esteemed and reputed righteous at
the tribunal of heaven. Wherefore Moses, when he had promulgated the law,
hesitated not to “call heaven and earth to record”(785) that he had
proposed to the Israelites life and death, good and evil. Nor can we deny
that the reward of eternal life awaits a righteous obedience to the law,
according to the Divine promise. But, on the other hand, it is proper to
examine whether we perform that obedience, the merit of which can warrant
our confident expectation of that reward. For how unimportant is it, to
discover that the reward of eternal life depends on the observance of the
law, unless we also ascertain whether it be possible for us to arrive at
eternal life in that way! But in this point the weakness of the law is
manifest. For as none of us are found to observe the law, we are excluded
from the promises of life, and fall entirely under the curse. I am now
showing, not only what does happen, but what necessarily must happen. For
the doctrine of the law being far above human ability, man may view the
promises, indeed, from a distance, but cannot gather any fruit from them.
It only remains for him, from their goodness to form a truer estimate of
his own misery, while he reflects that all hope of salvation is cut off,
and that he is in imminent danger of death. On the other hand, we are
urged with terrible sanctions, which bind, not a few of us, but every
individual of mankind; they urge, I say, and pursue us with inexorable
rigour, so that in the law we see nothing but present death.

IV. Therefore, if we direct our views exclusively to the law, the effects
upon our minds will only be despondency, confusion, and despair, since it
condemns and curses us all, and keeps us far from that blessedness which
it proposes to them who observe it. Does the Lord, then, you will say, in
this case do nothing but mock us? For how little does it differ from
mockery, to exhibit a hope of felicity, to invite and exhort to it, to
declare that it is ready for our reception, whilst the way to it is closed
and inaccessible! I reply, although the promises of the law, being
conditional, depend on a perfect obedience to the law, which can nowhere
be found, yet they have not been given in vain. For when we have learned
that they will be vain and inefficacious to us, unless God embrace us with
his gratuitous goodness, without any regard to our works, and unless we
have also embraced by faith that goodness, as exhibited to us in the
gospel,—then these promises are not without their use, even with the
condition annexed to them. For then he gratuitously confers every thing
upon us, so that he adds this also to the number of his favours, that not
rejecting our imperfect obedience, but pardoning its deficiencies, he
gives us to enjoy the benefit of the legal promises, just as if we had
fulfilled the condition ourselves. But as we shall more fully discuss this
question when we treat of the justification of faith, we shall pursue it
no further at present.

V. Our assertion, respecting the impossibility of observing the law, must
be briefly explained and proved; for it is generally esteemed a very
absurd sentiment, so that Jerome has not scrupled to denounce it as
accursed. What was the opinion of Jerome, I regard not; let us inquire
what is truth. I shall not here enter into a long discussion of the
various species of possibility; I call that impossible which has never
happened yet, and which is prevented by the ordination and decree of God
from ever happening in future. If we inquire from the remotest period of
antiquity, I assert that there never has existed a saint, who, surrounded
with a body of death, could attain to such a degree of love, as to love
God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind; and,
moreover, that there never has been one, who was not the subject of some
inordinate desire. Who can deny this? I know, indeed, what sort of saints
the folly of superstition imagines to itself, such as almost excel even
the angels of heaven in purity; but such an imagination is repugnant both
to Scripture and to the dictates of experience. I assert also that no man,
who shall exist in future, will reach the standard of true perfection,
unless released from the burden of the body. This is established by clear
testimonies of Scripture: Solomon says, “There is not a just man upon
earth, that doeth good and sinneth not.”(786) David; “In thy sight shall
no man living be justified.”(787) Job in many passages affirms the same
thing;(788) but Paul most plainly of all, that “the flesh lusteth against
the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”(789) Nor does he prove,
that “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse,” by any
other reason but because “it is written, Cursed is every one that
continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to
do them;”(790) evidently suggesting, and even taking it for granted, that
no one can continue in them. Now, whatever is predicted in the Scriptures,
must be considered as perpetual, and even as necessary. With a similar
fallacy Augustine used to be teased by the Pelagians, who maintained that
it is an injury to God, to say that he commands more than the faithful
through his grace are able to perform. To avoid their cavil, he admitted
that the Lord might, if he chose, exalt a mortal man to the purity of
angels; but that he neither had ever done it, nor would ever do it,
because he had declared otherwise in the Scriptures.(791) This I do not
deny; but I add that it is absurd to dispute concerning the power of God,
in opposition to his veracity; and that, therefore, it affords no room for
cavilling, when any one maintains that to be impossible, which the
Scriptures declare will never happen. But if the dispute be about the
term, the Lord, in reply to an inquiry of his disciples, “Who, then, can
be saved?” says, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are
possible.”(792) Augustine contends, with a very powerful argument, that in
this flesh we never render to God the legitimate love which we owe to him.
“Love,” says he, “is an effect of knowledge, so that no man can perfectly
love God, who has not first a complete knowledge of his goodness. During
our pilgrimage in this world, we see through an obscure medium; the
consequence of this, then, is, that our love is imperfect.” It ought,
therefore, to be admitted without controversy, that it is impossible in
this carnal state to fulfil the law, if we consider the impotence of our
nature, as will elsewhere be proved also from Paul.(793)

VI. But for the better elucidation of the subject, let us state, in a
compendious order, the office and use of what is called the moral law. It
is contained, as far as I understand it, in these three points. The first
is, that while it discovers the righteousness of God, that is, the only
righteousness which is acceptable to God, it warns every one of his own
unrighteousness, places it beyond all doubt, convicts, and condemns him.
For it is necessary that man, blinded and inebriated with self‐love,
should thus be driven into a knowledge of himself, and a confession of his
own imbecility and impurity. Since, unless his vanity be evidently
reproved, he is inflated with a foolish confidence in his strength, and
can never be brought to perceive its feebleness as long as he measures it
by the rule of his own fancy. But as soon as he begins to compare it to
the difficulty of the law, he finds his insolence and pride immediately
abate. For how great soever his preconceived opinion of it, he perceives
it immediately pant under so heavy a load, and then totter, and at length
fall. Thus, being instructed under the tuition of the law, he lays aside
that arrogance with which he was previously blinded. He must also be cured
of the other disease, of pride, with which, we have observed, he is
afflicted. As long as he is permitted to stand in his own judgment, he
substitutes hypocrisy instead of righteousness; contented with which, he
rises up with I know not what pretended righteousnesses, in opposition to
the grace of God. But when he is constrained to examine his life according
to the rules of the law, he no longer presumes on his counterfeit
righteousness, but perceives that he is at an infinite distance from
holiness; and also that he abounds with innumerable vices, from which he
before supposed himself to be pure. For the evils of concupiscence are
concealed in such deep and intricate recesses, as easily to elude the view
of man. And it is not without cause that the Apostle says, “I had not
known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet;”(794) because,
unless it be stripped of its disguises, and brought to light by the law,
it destroys the miserable man in so secret a manner, that he does not
perceive its fatal dart.

VII. Thus the law is like a mirror, in which we behold, first, our
impotence; secondly, our iniquity, which proceeds from it; and lastly, the
consequence of both, our obnoxiousness to the curse; just as a mirror
represents to us the spots on our face. For when a man is destitute of
power to practise righteousness, he must necessarily fall into the habits
of sin. And sin is immediately followed by the curse. Therefore the
greater the transgression of which the law convicts us, the more severe is
the judgment with which it condemns us. This appears from the observation
of the Apostle, that “by the law is the knowledge of sin.”(795) For he
there speaks only of the first office of the law, which is experienced in
sinners not yet regenerated. The same sentiment is conveyed in the
following passages: that “the law entered, that the offence might
abound;”(796) and that it is therefore “the ministration of death, which
worketh wrath and slayeth.”(797) For iniquity undoubtedly increases more
and more, in proportion to the clearness of that sense of sin which
strikes the conscience; because to transgression of the law, there is then
added contumacy against the lawgiver. It remains, therefore, that the law
arm the Divine wrath against the sinner; for of itself it can only accuse,
condemn, and destroy. And, as Augustine says, if we have not the Spirit of
grace, the law serves only to convict and slay us. But this assertion
neither reflects dishonour on the law, nor at all derogates from its
excellence. Certainly, if our will were wholly conformed to the law, and
disposed to obey it, the mere knowledge of it would evidently be
sufficient to salvation. But since our carnal and corrupt nature is in a
state of hostility against the spirituality of the Divine law, and not
amended by its discipline, it follows that the law, which was given for
salvation, if it could have found adequate attention, becomes an occasion
of sin and death. For since we are all convicted of having transgressed
it, the more clearly it displays the righteousness of God, so, on the
contrary, the more it detects our iniquity, and the more certainly it
confirms the reward of life and salvation reserved for the righteous, so
much the more certain it makes the perdition of the wicked. These
expressions, therefore, are so far from being dishonourable to the law,
that they serve more illustriously to recommend the Divine goodness. For
hence it really appears, that our iniquity and depravity prevent us from
enjoying that blessed life which is revealed to all men in the law. Hence
the grace of God, which succours us without the assistance of the law, is
rendered sweeter; and his mercy, which confers it on us, more amiable;
from which we learn that he is never wearied with repeating his blessings
and loading us with new favours.

VIII. But though the iniquity and condemnation of us all are confirmed by
the testimony of the law, this is not done (at least if we properly profit
by it) in order to make us sink into despair, and fall over the precipice
of despondency. It is true that the wicked are thus confounded by it, but
this is occasioned by the obstinacy of their hearts. With the children of
God, its instructions must terminate in a different manner. The Apostle
indeed declares that we are all condemned by the sentence of the law,
“that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty
before God.”(798) Yet the same Apostle elsewhere informs us, that “God
hath concluded them all in unbelief,” not that he might destroy or suffer
all to perish, but “that he might have mercy upon all;”(799) that is, that
leaving their foolish opinion of their own strength, they may know that
they stand and are supported only by the power of God; that being naked
and destitute, they may resort for assistance to his mercy, recline
themselves wholly upon it, hide themselves entirely in it, and embrace it
alone for righteousness and merits, since it is offered in Christ to all
who with true faith implore it and expect it. For in the precepts of the
law, God appears only, on the one hand, as the rewarder of perfect
righteousness, of which we are all destitute; and on the other, as the
severe judge of transgressions. But in Christ, his face shines with a
plenitude of grace and lenity, even towards miserable and unworthy
sinners.

IX. Of making use of the law to implore the assistance of God, Augustine
frequently treats; as when he writes to Hilary: “The law gives commands,
in order that, endeavouring to perform them, and being wearied through our
infirmity under the law, we may learn to pray for the assistance of
grace.” Also to Asellius: “The utility of the law is to convince man of
his own infirmity, and to compel him to pray for the gracious remedy
provided in Christ.” Also to Innocentius Romanus: “The law commands: grace
furnishes strength for the performance.” Again, to Valentine: “God
commands what we cannot perform, that we may know for what blessings we
ought to supplicate him.” Again: “The law was given to convict you; that
being convicted you might fear, that fearing you might pray for pardon,
and not presume on your own strength.” Again: “The end for which the law
was given, was to diminish that which was great, to demonstrate that you
have of yourself no ability to work righteousness, that thus, being poor,
indigent, and destitute, you might have recourse to grace for relief.”
Afterwards he addresses himself to God: “Thus do, O Lord! thus do, O
merciful Lord! command that which cannot be performed: even command that
which cannot be performed without thy grace: that when men cannot perform
it in their own strength, every mouth may be stopped, and no man appear
great in his own estimation. Let all men be mean, and let all the world be
proved guilty before God.” But I am not wise in collecting so many
testimonies, when this holy man has written a treatise expressly on this
subject, which he has entitled _De Spiritu et Litera_, On the Spirit and
Letter. The second use of the law he does not so clearly describe, either
because he knew that it depends on the first, or because he did not so
fully understand it, or because he wanted words to explain it with
distinctness and perspicuity adequate to his ideas of it. Yet this first
office of the law is not confined to the pious, but extends also to the
reprobate. For though they do not, with the children of God, advance so
far as, after the mortification of the flesh, to be renewed, and to
flourish again in the inner man, but, confounded with the first horrors of
conscience, remain in despair, yet they contribute to manifest the equity
of the Divine judgment, by their consciences being agitated with such
violent emotions. For they are always desirous of cavilling against the
judgment of God; but now, while it is not yet manifested, they are,
nevertheless, so confounded with the testimony of the law and of their own
conscience, that they betray in themselves what they have deserved.

X. The second office of the law is, to cause those who, unless
constrained, feel no concern for justice and rectitude, when they hear its
terrible sanctions, to be at least restrained by a fear of its penalties.
And they are restrained, not because it internally influences or affects
their minds, but because, being chained, as it were, they refrain from
external acts, and repress their depravity within them, which otherwise
they would have wantonly discharged. This makes them neither better nor
more righteous in the Divine view. For although, being prevented either by
fear or by shame, they dare not execute what their minds have contrived,
nor openly discover the fury of their passions, yet their hearts are not
disposed to fear and obey God; and the more they restrain themselves, the
more violently they are inflamed within; they ferment, they boil, ready to
break out into any external acts, if they were not prevented by this dread
of the law. And not only so, they also inveterately hate the law itself,
and execrate God the lawgiver, so that, if they could, they would wish to
annihilate him whom they cannot bear, either in commanding that which is
right, or in punishing the despisers of his majesty. In some, indeed, this
state of mind is more evident, in others more concealed; but it is really
the case of all who are yet unregenerate, that they are induced to attend
to the law, not by a voluntary submission, but with reluctance and
resistance, only by the violence of fear. But yet this constrained and
extorted righteousness is necessary to the community, whose public
tranquillity is provided for by God in this instance, while he prevents
all things being involved in confusion, which would certainly be the case,
if all men were permitted to pursue their own inclinations. Moreover, it
is useful even to the children of God, to be exercised by its discipline
before their vocation, while they are destitute of the Spirit of
sanctification, and are absorbed in carnal folly. For when the dread of
Divine vengeance restrains them even from external licentiousness,
although, their minds being not yet subdued, they make but a slow progress
at present, yet they are in some measure accustomed to bear the yoke of
righteousness; so that when they are called, they may not be entirely
unaccustomed to its discipline, as a thing altogether unknown. To this
office of the law the Apostle appears particularly to have referred, when
he says, “that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the
lawless and disobedient; for the ungodly and for sinners; for unholy and
profane; for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers; for
manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with
mankind, for men‐stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there
be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”(800) For he here
signifies that it restrains the violence of the carnal desires, which
would otherwise indulge themselves in the most unbounded licentiousness.

XI. But we may apply to both what he elsewhere asserts, that to the Jews
“the law was a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ;”(801) for there are
two kinds of persons who are led to Christ by its discipline. Some, whom
we mentioned in the first place, from too much confidence either in their
own strength or in their own righteousness, are unfit to receive the grace
of Christ, till they have first been stripped of every thing. The law,
therefore, reduces them to humility by a knowledge of their own misery,
that thus they may be prepared to pray for that of which they before
supposed themselves not destitute. Others need a bridle to restrain them,
lest they abandon themselves to carnal licentiousness, to such a degree as
wholly to depart from all practice of righteousness. For where the Spirit
does not yet reign, there is sometimes such a violent ebullition of the
passions, as to occasion great danger of the soul that is under their
influence being swallowed up in forgetfulness and contempt of God; which
would certainly be the case, if the Lord did not provide this remedy
against it. Those, therefore, whom he has destined to the inheritance of
his kingdom, if he do not immediately regenerate them, he keeps under fear
by the works of the law till the time of his visitation; not that chaste
and pure fear which ought to be felt by his children, but a fear which is,
nevertheless, useful to train them, according to their capacity, to true
piety. Of this we have so many proofs, that there is no need to adduce any
example. For all who have lived for a considerable time in ignorance of
God will confess it to have been their experience, that they were
constrained by the law to a certain kind of fear and reverence of God,
till, being regenerated by his Spirit, they began to love him from their
hearts.

XII. The third use of the law, which is the principal one, and which is
more nearly connected with the proper end of it, relates to the faithful,
in whose hearts the Spirit of God already lives and reigns. For although
the law is inscribed and engraven on their hearts by the finger of
God,—that is, although they are so excited and animated by the direction
of the Spirit, that they desire to obey God,—yet they derive a twofold
advantage from the law. For they find it an excellent instrument to give
them, from day to day, a better and more certain understanding of the
Divine will to which they aspire, and to confirm them in the knowledge of
it. As, though a servant be already influenced by the strongest desire of
gaining the approbation of his master, yet it is necessary for him
carefully to inquire and observe the orders of his master, in order to
conform to them. Nor let any one of us exempt himself from this necessity;
for no man has already acquired so much wisdom, that he could not by the
daily instruction of the law make new advances into a purer knowledge of
the Divine will. In the next place, as we need not only instruction, but
also exhortation, the servant of God will derive this further advantage
from the law; by frequent meditation on it he will be excited to
obedience, he will be confirmed in it, and restrained from the slippery
path of transgression. For in this manner should the saints stimulate
themselves, because, with whatever alacrity they labour for the
righteousness of God according to the Spirit, yet they are always burdened
with the indolence of the flesh, which prevents their proceeding with due
promptitude. To this flesh the law serves as a whip, urging it, like a
dull and tardy animal, forwards to its work; and even to the spiritual
man, who is not yet delivered from the burden of the flesh, it will be a
perpetual spur, that will not permit him to loiter. To this use of the law
David referred, when he celebrated it in such remarkable encomiums as
these: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the statutes
of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is
pure, enlightening the eyes,” &c.(802) Again: “Thy word is a lamp unto my
feet, and a light unto my path;”(803) and many others, which he introduces
in every part of this psalm. Nor are these assertions repugnant to those
of Paul, in which he shows, not what service the law renders to the
regenerate, but what it can bestow upon man merely of itself; whereas the
Psalmist in these passages celebrates the great advantage derived, through
the Divine teaching, from the reading of the law, by those whom God
inspires with an inward promptitude to obedience. And he adverts not only
to the precepts, but to the promise of grace annexed to their performance,
which alone causes that which is bitter to become sweet. For what would be
less amiable than the law, if by demands and threats it only distressed
the mind with fear, and harassed it with terror? But David particularly
shows, that in the law he discovered the Mediator, without whom there is
nothing pleasant or delightful.

XIII. Some unskilful men, being unable to discern this distinction, rashly
explode Moses altogether, and discard the two tables of the law; because
they consider it improper for Christians to adhere to a doctrine which
contains the administration of death. Far from us be this profane opinion;
for Moses has abundantly taught us, that the law, which in sinners can
only produce death, ought to have a better and more excellent use in the
saints. For just before his death he thus addressed the people: “Set your
hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye
shall command your children to observe, to do all the words of this law.
For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.”(804) But if
no one can deny that the law exhibits a perfect model of righteousness,
either we ought to have no rule for an upright and just life, or it is
criminal for us to deviate from it. For there are not many rules of life,
but one, which is perpetually and immutably the same. Wherefore, when
David represents the life of a righteous man as spent in continual
meditations on the law,(805) we must not refer it to one period of time
only, because it is very suitable for all ages, even to the end of the
world. Let us neither be deterred, therefore, nor fly from its
instructions, because it prescribes a holiness far more complete than we
shall attain, as long as we remain in the prison of the body. For it no
longer exercises towards us the part of a rigorous exactor, only to be
satisfied by the perfect performance of every injunction; but in this
perfection, to which it exhorts us, it shows us a goal, to aim at which,
during the whole of our lives, would be equally conducive to our interest
and consistent with our duty; in which attempt it is happy for us if we
fail not. For the whole of this life is a course, which when we have
completed, the Lord will grant us to reach that goal, towards which at so
great a distance our efforts are now vigorously directed.

XIV. Now, because the law, in regard to the faithful, has the force of an
exhortation, not to bind their consciences with a curse, but by its
frequent admonitions to arouse their indolence, and reprove their
imperfection,—many persons, when they design to express this liberation
from its curse, say that the law (I still speak of the moral law) is
abrogated to the faithful; not that it no longer enjoins upon them that
which is right, but only that it ceases to be to them what it was before,
no longer terrifying and confounding their consciences, condemning and
destroying them. And such an abrogation of the law is clearly taught by
Paul. It appears also to have been preached by our Lord, since he would
not have refuted the opinion concerning his abolishing the law, unless it
had prevailed among the Jews. Now, as this opinion could not prevail
without any pretext, it is probable that it proceeded from a false
interpretation of his doctrine; in the same manner as almost all errors
have usually taken some colour from the truth. But lest we ourselves fall
into the same error, let us accurately distinguish what is abrogated in
the law, and what still remains in force. When the Lord declares that he
came “not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it,” and that “till heaven and
earth shall pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the
law, till all be fulfilled,”(806) he sufficiently proves that his advent
would detract nothing from the observance of the law. And with sufficient
reason, since the express end of his advent was to heal the transgressions
of it. The doctrine of the law remains, therefore, through Christ,
inviolable; which by tuition, admonition, reproof, and correction, forms
and prepares us for every good work.

XV. The assertions of Paul respecting the abrogation of the law evidently
relate, not to the instruction itself, but to the power of binding the
conscience. For the law not only teaches, but authoritatively requires,
obedience to its commands. If this obedience be not yielded, and even if
there be any partial deficiency of duty, it hurls the thunderbolt of its
curse. For this reason the Apostle says, that “as many as are of the works
of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one
that continueth not in all things.”(807) Now, he affirms those to be “of
the works of the law,” who place not their righteousness in the remission
of sins, by which we are released from the rigour of the law. He teaches
us, therefore, that we must be released from the bondage of the law,
unless we would perish in misery under it. But what bondage? the bondage
of that austere and rigid exaction, which remits nothing from its
strictest requirements, and permits no transgression to pass with
impunity; I say, Christ, in order to redeem us from this curse, was “made
a curse for us. For it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a
tree.”(808) In the following chapter, indeed, he tells us, that Christ was
“made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law;” but in the
same sense; for he immediately adds, “that we might receive the adoption
of sons.”(809) What is this? that we might not be oppressed with a
perpetual servitude, which would keep our consciences in continual
distress with the dread of death. At the same time this truth remains for
ever unshaken, that the law has sustained no diminution of its authority,
but ought always to receive from us the same veneration and obedience.

XVI. The case of ceremonies, which have been abrogated, not as to their
effect, but only as to their use, is very different. Their having been
abolished by the advent of Christ, is so far from derogating from their
sanctity, that it rather recommends and renders it more illustrious. For
as they must have exhibited to the people, in ancient times, a vain
spectacle, unless they had discovered the virtue of the death and
resurrection of Christ, so, if they had not ceased, we should, in the
present age, have been unable to discern for what purpose they were
instituted. To prove, therefore, that the observance of them is not only
needless, but even injurious, Paul teaches us that they were shadows, the
body of which we have in Christ.(810) We see, then, that the truth shines
with greater splendour in their abolition, than if they still continued to
give a distant and obscure representation of Christ, who has openly
appeared. For this reason, at the death of Christ, “the veil of the temple
was rent in twain from the top to the bottom;”(811) because, according to
the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the living and express image of
the heavenly blessings, which before had been only sketched in obscure
lineaments, was now clearly revealed. The same truth is conveyed in the
declaration of Christ, that “the law and the prophets were until John;
since that time the kingdom of God is preached.”(812) Not that the holy
fathers had been destitute of that preaching which contains the hope of
salvation, and of eternal life, but because they saw only at a distance,
and under shadows, what we now contemplate in open day. But the reason,
why it was necessary for the Church of God to ascend from those rudiments
to sublimer heights, is explained by John the Baptist: “the law was given
by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”(813) For although
expiation of sin was truly promised in the ancient sacrifices, and the ark
of the covenant was a certain pledge of the paternal favour of God, all
these would have been mere shadows, if they had not been founded in the
grace of Christ, where alone we may find true and eternal stability. Let
us firmly maintain, then, that though the legal rites have ceased to be
observed, yet their very discontinuance gives us a better knowledge of
their great utility before the advent of Christ, who, abolishing the
observance of them, confirmed their virtue and efficacy in his death.

XVII. The reasoning of Paul is attended with more difficulty: “And you,
being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he
quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting
out the hand‐writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary
to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” &c.(814) For
it seems to extend the abolition of the law somewhat further, as though we
had now no concern with its “ordinances.” For they are in an error who
understand it simply of the moral law, the abolition of which they,
nevertheless, explain to relate to its inexorable severity, rather than to
its precepts. Others, more acutely and carefully considering the words of
Paul, perceive that they belong particularly to the ceremonial law; and
prove that the word “ordinances” is more than once used by Paul in that
signification. For he thus expresses himself to the Ephesians: “He is our
peace, who hath made both one; having abolished the law of commandments
contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new
man.”(815) That he there speaks of the ceremonies, is very evident; for he
calls the law “the middle wall of partition,” by which the Jews were
separated from the Gentiles. Wherefore I allow that the former
commentators are justly censured by these; but even these do not appear to
me clearly to explain the meaning of the Apostle. For to compare these two
passages as in all respects similar, is what I by no means approve. When
he designs to assure the Ephesians of their admission into fellowship with
the Israelites, he informs them, that the impediment which formerly
prevented it is now removed. That consisted in ceremonies. For the rites
of ablutions and sacrifices, by which the Jews were consecrated to the
Lord, caused a separation between them and the Gentiles. But in the
Epistle to the Colossians he treats of a sublimer mystery. The controversy
there relates to the Mosaic observances, to which the false Apostles were
strenuously attempting to subject the Christians. But as in the Epistle to
the Galatians he goes to the depth of that controversy, and reduces it to
its source, so also in this place. For if in the rites you contemplate
nothing but the necessity of performing them, to what purpose were they
called a “hand‐writing that was against us”? and almost the whole of our
redemption made to consist in its being “blotted out?” Wherefore it is
evident, that here is something to be considered beside the external
ceremonies. And I am persuaded that I have discovered the genuine meaning,
at least if that be conceded to me as a truth, which Augustine somewhere
very truly asserts, and which he has even borrowed from the positive
expressions of an Apostle,(816) that in the Jewish ceremonies there was
rather a confession of sins than an expiation of them. For what did they
do in offering sacrifices, but confess themselves worthy of death, since
they substituted victims to be slain in their stead? What were their
purifications, but confessions that they were themselves impure? Thus the
hand‐writing both of their sin and of their impurity was frequently
renewed by them; but that confession afforded no deliverance. For which
reason the Apostle says that the death of Christ effected “the redemption
of the transgressions that were under the first testament.”(817) The
Apostle, therefore, justly denominates the ceremonies “a hand‐writing
against those who observe them;” because by them they publicly attested
their condemnation and impurity. Nor does any objection arise from their
having been also partakers of the same grace with us. For this they
obtained in Christ, not in the ceremonies, which the Apostle there
distinguishes from Christ; for being practised at that time after the
introduction of the gospel, they obscured the glory of Christ. We find,
then, that the ceremonies, considered by themselves, are beautifully and
appositely called a “hand‐writing that was against” the salvation of men;
because they were solemn instruments testifying their guilt. When the
false Apostles wished to bring the Church back to the observance of them,
the Apostle deeply investigated their signification, and very justly
admonished the Colossians into what circumstances they would relapse, if
they should suffer themselves to be thus enslaved by them. For they would
at the same time be deprived of the benefit of Christ; since, by the
eternal expiation that he has once effected, he has abolished those daily
observances, which could only attest their sins, but could never cancel
them.



Chapter VIII. An Exposition Of The Moral Law


Here I think it will not be foreign to our subject to introduce the ten
precepts of the law, with a brief exposition of them. For this will more
clearly evince what I have suggested, that the service which God has once
prescribed always remains in full force; and will also furnish us with a
confirmation of the second remark, that the Jews not only learned from it
the nature of true piety, but when they saw their inability to observe it,
were led by the fear of its sentence, though not without reluctance, to
the Mediator. Now, in giving a summary of those things which are requisite
to the true knowledge of God, we have shown that we can form no
conceptions of his greatness, but his majesty immediately discovers itself
to us, to constrain us to worship him. In the knowledge of ourselves, we
have laid down this as a principal article, that being divested of all
opinion of our own strength, and confidence in our own righteousness, and,
on the other hand, discouraged and depressed by a consciousness of our
poverty, we should learn true humility and self‐dejection. The Lord
accomplishes both these things in his law, where, in the first place,
claiming to himself the legitimate authority to command, he calls us to
revere his Divinity, and prescribes the parts of which this reverence
consists; and in the next place, promulgating the rule of his
righteousness, (the rectitude of which, our nature, being depraved and
perverted, perpetually opposes; and from the perfection of which, our
ability, through its indolence and imbecility towards that which is good,
is at a great distance,) he convicts us both of impotence and of
unrighteousness. Moreover, the internal law, which has before been said to
be inscribed and as it were engraven on the hearts of all men, suggests to
us in some measure the same things which are to be learned from the two
tables. For our conscience does not permit us to sleep in perpetual
insensibility, but is an internal witness and monitor of the duties we owe
to God, shows us the difference between good and evil, and so accuses us
when we deviate from our duty. But man, involved as he is in a cloud of
errors, scarcely obtains from this law of nature the smallest idea of what
worship is accepted by God; but is certainly at an immense distance from a
right understanding of it. Besides, he is so elated with arrogance and
ambition, and so blinded with self‐love, that he cannot yet take a view of
himself, and as it were retire within, that he may learn to submit and
humble himself, and to confess his misery. Since it was necessary,
therefore, both for our dulness and obstinacy, the Lord gave us a written
law; to declare with greater certainty what in the law of nature was too
obscure, and by arousing our indolence, to make a deeper impression on our
understanding and memory.

II. Now, it is easy to perceive, what we are to learn from the law;
namely, that God, as he is our Creator, justly sustains towards us the
character of a Father and of a Lord; and that on this account we owe to
him glory and reverence, love and fear. Moreover, that we are not at
liberty to follow every thing to which the violence of our passions may
incite us; but that we ought to be attentive to his will, and to practise
nothing but what is pleasing to him. In the next place, that righteousness
and rectitude are a delight, but iniquity an abomination to him; and that,
therefore, unless we will with impious ingratitude rebel against our
Maker, we must necessarily spend our whole lives in the practice of
righteousness. For if we manifest a becoming reverence for him, only when
we prefer his will to our own, it follows that there is no other
legitimate worship of him, but the observance of righteousness, sanctity,
and purity. Nor can we pretend to excuse ourselves by a want of ability,
like insolvent debtors. For it is improper for us to measure the glory of
God by our ability; for whatever may be our characters, he ever remains
like himself, the friend of righteousness, the enemy of iniquity. Whatever
he requires of us, since he can require nothing but what is right, we are
under a natural obligation to obey; but our inability is our own fault.
For if we are bound by our own passions, which are under the government of
sin, so that we are not at liberty to obey our Father, there is no reason
why we should plead this necessity in our defence, the criminality of
which is within ourselves, and must be imputed to us.

III. When we have made such a proficiency as this by means of the
instruction of the law, we ought, under the same teacher, to retire within
ourselves; from which we may learn two things: First, by comparing our
life with the righteousness of the law, we shall find, that we are very
far from acting agreeably to the will of God, and are therefore unworthy
to retain a place among his creatures, much less to be numbered among his
children. Secondly, by examining our strength, we shall see, that it is
not only unequal to the observance of the law, but a mere nullity. The
necessary consequence of this will be a diffidence in our own strength,
and an anxiety and trepidation of mind. For the conscience cannot sustain
the load of iniquity, without an immediate discovery of the Divine
judgment. And the Divine judgment cannot be perceived, without inspiring a
dread of death. Compelled also by proofs of its impotence, it cannot avoid
falling into an absolute despair of its own strength. Both these
dispositions produce humility and dejection. The result of all this is,
that the man terrified with the apprehension of eternal death, which he
sees justly impending over him for his unrighteousness, betakes himself
entirely to the Divine mercy, as to the only port of salvation; and
perceiving his inability to fulfil the commands of the law, and feeling
nothing but despair in himself, he implores and expects assistance from
another quarter.

IV. But not contented with having conciliated a reverence for his
righteousness, the Lord has also subjoined promises and threatenings, in
order that our hearts might imbibe a love for him, and at the same time a
hatred to iniquity. For since the eyes of our mind are too dim to be
attracted with the mere beauty of virtue, our most merciful Father has
been graciously pleased to allure us to the love and worship of himself by
the sweetness of his rewards. He announces, therefore, that he has
reserved rewards for virtue, and that the person who obeys his
commandments shall not labour in vain. He proclaims, on the contrary, not
only that unrighteousness is execrable in his sight, but also that it
shall not escape with impunity; but that he will avenge himself on all the
despisers of his majesty. And to urge us by all possible motives, he
promises also the blessings of the present life, as well as eternal
felicity, to the obedience of those who keep his commandments, the
transgressors of which he threatens not only with present calamities, but
with the torments of eternal death. For that promise, “these if a man do,
he shall live in them,”(818) and this correspondent threatening, “the soul
that sinneth, it shall die,”(819) undoubtedly relate to a future and
endless immortality or death. Wherever we read of the Divine benevolence
or wrath, the former comprehends eternal life, the latter eternal
destruction. Now, of present blessings and curses, the law contains a long
catalogue. The penal sanctions display the consummate purity of God, which
cannot tolerate iniquity; while the promises not only manifest his perfect
love of righteousness, which he cannot defraud of its reward, but likewise
illustrate his wonderful goodness. For since we, with all that belongs to
us, are indebted to his majesty, whatever he requires of us, he most
justly demands as the payment of a debt; but the payment of a debt is not
entitled to remuneration. Therefore he recedes from the strictness of his
claims, when he proposes a reward to our obedience, which is not performed
spontaneously, as if it were not a duty. But the effect of those promises
on us has partly been mentioned already, and will hereafter more clearly
appear in its proper place. Suffice it at present, if we remember and
consider that the promises of the law contain no mean recommendation of
righteousness, to make it more evident how much God is pleased with the
observance of it; and that the penal sanctions are annexed, to render
unrighteousness more execrable, lest the sinner, amidst the fascinations
of sin, should forget that the judgment of the Legislator awaits him.

V. Now, since the Lord, when about to deliver a rule of perfect
righteousness, referred all the parts of it to his own will, this shows
that nothing is more acceptable to him than obedience. This is worthy of
the most diligent observation, since the licentiousness of the human mind
is so inclined to the frequent invention of various services in order to
merit his favour. For this irreligious affectation of religion, which is a
principle innate in the human mind, has betrayed itself in all ages, and
betrays itself even in the present day; for men always take a pleasure in
contriving some way of attaining righteousness, which is not agreeable to
the Divine word. Hence, among those which are commonly esteemed good
works, the precepts of the law hold a very contracted station, the
numberless multitude of human inventions occupying almost the whole space.
But what was the design of Moses, unless it was to repress such an
unwarrantable license, when, after the promulgation of the law, he
addressed the people in the following manner! “Observe and hear all these
words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy
children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right
in the sight of the Lord thy God. What thing soever I command you, observe
to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”(820) And
before, when he had declared that this was their wisdom and their
understanding in the sight of other nations, that they had received
statutes, and judgments, and ceremonies, from the Lord, he had added,
“Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the
things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all
the days of thy life.”(821) Foreseeing that the Israelites would not rest,
but, even after the reception of the law, would labour to produce new
species of righteousness, foreign from what the law requires, unless they
should be rigorously restrained, God pronounces that his word comprehends
the perfection of righteousness; and yet, though this ought most
effectually to have prevented them, they were guilty of that very
presumption which was so expressly forbidden. But what is this to us? We
are certainly bound by the same declaration; for the claims of the Lord on
behalf of his law, that it contains the doctrine of perfect righteousness,
beyond all doubt remain perpetually the same; yet not contented with it,
we are wonderfully laborious in inventing and performing other good works,
one after another. The best remedy for this fault will be a constant
attention to this reflection; that the law was given to us from heaven to
teach us a perfect righteousness; that in it no righteousness is taught,
but that which is conformable to the decrees of the Divine will; that it
is therefore vain to attempt new species of works in order to merit the
favour of God, whose legitimate worship consists solely in obedience, but
that any pursuit of good works deviating from the law of God is an
intolerable profanation of the Divine and real righteousness. There is
much truth also in the observation of Augustine, who calls obedience to
God sometimes the parent and guardian, and sometimes the origin of all
virtues.

VI. But when we have given an exposition of the Divine law, we shall then
more suitably and profitably confirm what has been already advanced
concerning its office and use. Before we enter, however, on the discussion
of each article separately, it will be useful to premise some things which
may contribute to a general knowledge of it. First, let it be understood,
that the law inculcates a conformity of life, not only to external
probity, but also to internal and spiritual righteousness. Now, though
none can deny this, yet very few persons pay proper attention to it. This
arises from their not considering the Legislator, by whose nature we ought
to estimate also the nature of the law. If a king prohibit, by an edict,
adultery, murder, or theft, no man, I confess, will be liable to the
penalty of such a law, who has only conceived in his mind a desire to
commit adultery, murder, or theft, but has not perpetrated any of them.
Because the superintendence of a mortal legislator extends only to the
external conduct, and his prohibitions are not violated unless the crimes
be actually committed. But God, whose eye nothing escapes, and who esteems
not so much the external appearance as the purity of the heart, in the
prohibition of adultery, murder, and theft, comprises a prohibition of
lust, wrath, hatred, coveting what belongs to another, fraud, and every
similar vice. For, being a spiritual Legislator, he addresses himself to
the soul as much as to the body. Now, the murder of the soul is wrath and
hatred; the theft of the soul is evil concupiscence and avarice; the
adultery of the soul is lust. But it will be said, that human laws also
relate to designs and intentions, and not to fortuitous events. This I
grant; but they relate to such designs and intentions as have been
manifested in outward actions. They examine and consider with what
intention every act has been performed; but do not scrutinize the secret
thoughts. Human laws therefore are satisfied, when a man abstains from
external transgression. But, on the contrary, the Divine law being given
to our minds, the proper regulation of them is the principal requisite to
a righteous observance of it. But men in general, even while they
resolutely dissemble their contempt of the law, dispose their eyes, their
feet, their hands, and all the parts of their body, to some kind of
observance of it, while at the same time their hearts are entirely
alienated from all obedience to it, and they suppose that they have
discharged their duty, if they have concealed from man what they practise
in the sight of God. They hear the commands, Thou shalt not kill, Thou
shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal. They draw not the sword
to commit murder; they never associate with harlots; they lay no violent
hands on the property of others. All these things thus far are well; but
in their whole souls they breathe after murders, they kindle into lust,
they look with dishonest eyes on the property of others, and in their
cupidity they devour it. Now, then, they are destitute of the principal
requisite of the law. Whence arises such gross stupidity, but from
discarding the Legislator, and accommodating a righteousness to their own
inclination? These persons Paul strongly opposes, when he affirms that
“the law is spiritual;”(822) signifying that it requires not only the
obedience of the soul, the understanding, and the will, but even an
angelic purity, which, being cleansed from all the pollution of the flesh,
may savour entirely of the Spirit.

VII. When we say that this is the sense of the law, we are not introducing
a novel interpretation of our own, but following Christ, who is the best
interpreter of it. For the people having imbibed from the Pharisees the
corrupt opinion, that he, who has perpetrated no external act of
disobedience to the law, is an observer of the law, he confutes this very
dangerous error, and pronounces an unchaste look at a woman to be
adultery; he declares them to be murderers, who hate a brother; he makes
them “in danger of the judgment,” who have only conceived resentment in
their hearts; them “in danger of the council,” who in murmuring or
quarrelling have discovered any sign of an angry mind; and them “in danger
of hell fire,” who with opprobrious and slanderous language have broken
forth into open rage.(823) Persons who have not perceived these things,
have pretended that Christ was another Moses, the giver of an evangelical
law, which supplied the deficiencies of the law of Moses. Whence that
common maxim, concerning the perfection of the evangelical law, that it is
far superior to the old law—a maxim in many respects very pernicious. For
when we introduce a summary of the commandments, it will appear from Moses
himself what an indignity this fixes on the Divine law. It certainly
insinuates that all the sanctity of the fathers under the Old Testament,
was not very remote from hypocrisy, and draws us aside from that one
perpetual rule of righteousness. But there is not the least difficulty in
the confutation of this error; for they have supposed that Christ made
additions to the law, whereas he only restored it to its genuine purity,
by clearing it from the obscurities and blemishes which it had contracted
from the falsehoods and the leaven of the Pharisees.

VIII. It must be observed, in the second place, that the commands and
prohibitions always imply more than the words express; but this must be so
restricted, that we may not make it a Lesbian rule, by the assistance of
which the Scripture may be licentiously perverted, and any sense be
extorted at pleasure from any passage. For some people, by this immoderate
and excursive liberty, cause one person to despise the authority of the
law, and another to despair of understanding it. Therefore, if it be
possible, we must find some way that may lead us by a straight and steady
course to the will of God. We must inquire, I say, how far our
interpretation ought to exceed the limits of the expressions; that it may
evidently appear, not to be an appendix of human glosses annexed to the
Divine law, but a faithful explanation of the pure and genuine sense of
the legislator. Indeed, in all the commandments, the figure synecdoche, by
which a part is expressed instead of the whole, is so conspicuous, that he
may justly be the object of ridicule, who would restrict the sense of the
law within the narrow limits of the words. It is plain, then, that a sober
exposition of the law goes beyond the words of it; but how far, remains
doubtful, unless some rule be laid down. The best rule, then, I conceive
will be, that the exposition be directed to the design of the precept;
that in regard to every precept it should be considered for what end it
was given. For example, every precept is either imperative or prohibitory.
The true meaning of both these kinds of precepts will immediately occur to
us, if we consider the design or the end of them; as the end of the fifth
commandment is, that honour may be given to them to whom God assigns it.
The substance of this precept, then, is, that it is right, and pleasing to
God, that we should honour those on whom he has conferred any excellence,
and that contemptuous and contumacious conduct towards them is an
abomination to him. The design of the first commandment is, that God alone
may be worshipped. The substance of this precept, then, will be, that true
piety, that is, the worship of his majesty, is pleasing to God, and that
he abominates impiety. Thus in every commandment we should first examine
the subject of it; in the next place we should inquire the end of it, till
we discover what the Legislator really declares in it to be either
pleasing or displeasing to him. Lastly, we must draw an argument from this
commandment to the opposite of it, in this manner:—If this please God, the
contrary must displease him; if this displease him, the contrary must
please him; if he enjoin this, he forbids the contrary; if he forbid this,
he enjoins the contrary.

IX. What we now rather obscurely hint at, will be fully and practically
elucidated in our exposition of the commandments. Wherefore it is
sufficient to have suggested it; only the last position, which otherwise
might not be understood, or, if understood, might seem unreasonable,
requires to be briefly established by suitable proof. It needs no proof,
that an injunction of any thing good is a prohibition of the opposite
evil; for every man will concede it. And common sense will easily admit,
that a prohibition of crimes is a command to practise the contrary duties.
It is commonly considered as a commendation of virtues, when censure is
passed on the opposite vices. But we require somewhat more than is
commonly intended by those forms of expression. For men generally
understand the virtue which is opposite to any vice to be an abstinence
from that vice; but we affirm that it goes further, even to the actual
performance of the opposite duty. Therefore, in this precept, “Thou shalt
not kill,” the common sense of mankind will perceive nothing more than
that we ought to abstain from all acts of injury to others, and from all
desire to commit any such acts. I maintain that it also implies, that we
should do every thing that we possibly can towards the preservation of the
life of our neighbour. And not to speak without reason, I prove it in the
following manner: God forbids us to injure the safety of our brother,
because he wishes his life to be dear and precious to us: he therefore at
the same time requires of us all those offices of love which may
contribute to the preservation of it. Thus we perceive, that the end of
the precept will always discover to us whatever it enjoins or forbids us
to do.

X. Many reasons are frequently given, why God has, as it were, in
incomplete precepts, rather partially intimated his will than positively
expressed it; but the reason which affords me more satisfaction than all
others is the following. Because the flesh always endeavours to extenuate,
and by specious pretexts to conceal the turpitude of sin, unless it be
exceedingly palpable, he has proposed, by way of example, in every kind of
transgression, that which is most atrocious and detestable, and the
mention of which inspires us with horror, in order that our minds might be
impressed with the greater detestation of every sin. This often deceives
us in forming an opinion of vices; if they be private, we extenuate them.
The Lord destroys these subterfuges, when he accustoms us to refer the
whole multitude of vices to these general heads, which best represent the
abominable nature of every species of transgressions. For example, anger
and hatred are not supposed to be such execrable crimes when they are
mentioned under their own proper appellations; but when they are forbidden
to us under the name of murder, we have a clearer perception how
abominable they are in the view of God, by whose word they are classed
under such a flagitious and horrible species of crimes; and being
influenced by his judgment, we accustom ourselves more seriously to
consider the atrociousness of those offences which we previously accounted
trivial.

XI. In the third place, let it be considered, what is intended by the
division of the Divine law into two tables; the frequent and solemn
mention of which all wise men will judge not to be without some particular
design. And we have a reason at hand, which removes all ambiguity on this
subject. For God has divided his law into two parts, which comprise the
perfection of righteousness, so that he has assigned the first part to the
duties of religion, which peculiarly belongs to the worship of his
majesty, and the second to those duties of charity, which respect men. The
first foundation of righteousness is certainly the worship of God; and if
this be destroyed, all the other branches of righteousness, like the parts
of a disjointed and falling edifice, are torn asunder and scattered. For
what kind of righteousness will you pretend to, because you refrain from
harassing men by acts of theft and rapine, if at the same time you
atrociously and sacrilegiously defraud the majesty of God of the glory
which is due to him?—because you do not pollute your body with
fornication, if you blasphemously profane the sacred name of God?—because
you murder no man, if you strive to destroy and extinguish all memory of
God? It is in vain, therefore, to boast of righteousness without religion;
as well might the trunk of a body be exhibited as a beautiful object,
after the head has been cut off. Nor is religion only the head of
righteousness, but the very soul of it, constituting all its life and
vigour; for without the fear of God, men preserve no equity and love among
themselves. We therefore call the worship of God the principle and
foundation of righteousness, because, if that be wanting, whatever equity,
continence, and temperance men may practise among themselves, it is all
vain and frivolous in the sight of God. We assert also that it is the
source and soul of righteousness; because men are taught by it to live
temperately and justly with one another, if they venerate God as the judge
of right and wrong. In the first table, therefore, he instructs us in
piety and the proper duties of religion, in which his majesty is to be
worshipped; in the second he prescribes the duties which the fear of his
name should excite us to practise in society. For this reason our Lord, as
the evangelists inform us,(824) summarily comprised the whole law in two
principal points—that we love God with all our heart, with all our soul,
and with all our strength; and that we love our neighbour as ourselves. Of
the two parts in which he comprehends the whole law, we see how he directs
one towards God, and assigns the other to men.

XII. But, although the whole law is contained in these two principal
points, yet our God, in order to remove every pretext of excuse, has been
pleased in the ten commandments more diffusely and explicitly to declare,
as well those things which relate to our honour, love, and fear of him, as
those which pertain to that charity, which he commands us for his sake to
exercise towards men. Nor is it a useless study to examine into the
division of the commandments; provided you remember it is a subject of
such a nature, that every man ought to be at liberty to judge of it, and
that we ought not contentiously to oppose any who may differ from us
respecting it. But we are under a necessity of touching on this topic,
lest the reader should despise or wonder at the division that we shall
adopt, as a novel invention. That the law is divided into ten precepts, is
beyond all controversy, being frequently established by the authority of
God himself. The question, therefore, is not concerning the number of the
precepts, but concerning the manner of dividing them. Those who divide
them, so as to assign three precepts to the first table, and leave the
remaining seven to the second, expunge from the number the precept
concerning images, or at least conceal it under the first; whereas it is
undoubtedly delivered by the Lord as a distinct commandment. But the
tenth, against coveting the property of our neighbour, they improperly
divide into two. We shall see presently that such a method of division was
unknown in purer ages. Others reckon with us four articles in the first
table; but the first commandment they consider as a simple promise,
without a precept. Now, I understand the “ten words” mentioned by Moses to
be ten precepts; and I think I see that number disposed in the most
beautiful order. And therefore, unless I am convinced by clear argument,
leaving them in possession of their opinion, I shall follow what appears
to me to be preferable; that is, that what they make the first precept is
a preface to the whole law; that it is followed by the precepts, four
belonging to the first table and six to the second, in the order in which
they will now be recited. Origen has mentioned this division as if it were
universally received in his time without any controversy. Augustine also
coincides with us; for in enumerating them to Boniface, he observes this
order: That God alone be religiously worshipped; that no adoration be paid
to an idol; that the name of the Lord be not taken in vain. He had before
spoken separately of the shadowy precept of the sabbath. It is true, that
in another passage he expresses his approbation of the former division,
but for a most trivial reason; namely, that if the first table be digested
into three precepts, the trinal number will be a more conspicuous
exhibition of the mystery of the Trinity. In the same place, however, he
does not conceal that in other respects he prefers our division. Beside
these writers, the author of the unfinished treatise on Matthew is of the
same opinion with us. Josephus, doubtless according to the common opinion
of his time, assigns five precepts to each table. This is repugnant to
reason, because it confounds the distinction between religion and charity;
and is also refuted by the authority of our Lord, who in Matthew places
the precept concerning honour to parents in the second table. Now let us
hear God himself speaking in his own words.



The First Commandment.


    _I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of
    Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods
    before me._


XIII. Whether you make the first sentence a part of the first commandment,
or read it separately, is a matter of indifference to me, provided you
allow it to be a preface to the whole law. The first object of attention
in making laws is to guard against their being abrogated by contempt.
Therefore God in the first place provides, that the majesty of the law,
which he is about to deliver, may never fall into contempt; and to
sanction it he uses a threefold argument. He asserts his authority and
right of giving commands, and thereby lays his chosen people under a
necessity of obeying them. He exhibits a promise of grace, to allure them
by its charms to the pursuit of holiness. He reminds the Israelites of his
favour, to convict them of ingratitude if they do not conduct themselves
in a manner correspondent to his goodness. The name LORD, or JEHOVAH,
designates his authority and legitimate dominion. For if all things be of
him, and if in him all things consist, it is reasonable that all things be
referred to him, agreeably to the observation of Paul.(825) Therefore by
this word alone we are brought into complete subjection to the power of
the Divine majesty; for it would be monstrous for us to desire to remove
ourselves from his jurisdiction, out of whom we cannot exist.

XIV. After having shown that he has a right to command, and that obedience
is his just due,—that he may not appear to constrain us by necessity
alone, he sweetly allures us by pronouncing himself the God of the Church.
For the expression implies the mutual relation which is contained in that
promise, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”(826) Whence
Christ proves the immortality of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the
declaration of the Lord, that he is their God.(827) Wherefore it is the
same as if he had said, I have chosen you as my people, not only to bless
you in the present life, but to bestow upon you abundant felicity in the
life to come. The design of this favour is remarked in various places in
the law; for when the Lord in mercy condescends to number us among the
society of his people, “He chooseth us,” says Moses, “to be a peculiar
people unto himself, a holy people, to keep his commandments.”(828) Hence
that exhortation, “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.”(829) Now, from these
two considerations is derived the remonstrance of the Lord by the Prophet:
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a
father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my
fear?”(830)

XV. Next follows a recital of his kindness, which ought to produce a most
powerful effect upon our minds, in proportion to the detestable guilt of
ingratitude, even among men. He reminded the Israelites, indeed, of a
favour which they had recently experienced, but which, on account of its
magnitude and concomitant miracles, being worthy of everlasting
remembrance, might also have an influence on succeeding generations.
Besides, it was particularly suitable to the present occasion, when the
law was about to be published; for the Lord suggests that they were
liberated from a miserable slavery in order that they might serve the
author of their liberty with a promptitude of reverence and obedience. To
retain us in the true and exclusive worship of himself, he generally
distinguishes himself by certain epithets, by which he discriminates his
sacred name from all idols and fictitious deities. For, as I have before
observed, such is our proneness to vanity and presumption, that as soon as
God is mentioned, our mind is unable to guard itself from falling into
some vain imagination. Therefore, when God intends to apply a remedy to
this evil, he adorns his majesty with certain titles, and thus
circumscribes us with barriers, that we may not run into various follies,
and presumptuously invent to ourselves some new deity, discarding the
living God, and setting up an idol in his stead. For this reason the
Prophets, whenever they intend a proper designation of him, invest him,
and as it were surround him, with those characters under which he had
manifested himself to the people of Israel. Yet, when he is called “the
God of Abraham,” or “the God of Israel,” when he is said to reside
“between the cherubim,” “in the temple,” “at Jerusalem,”(831) these and
similar forms of expression do not confine him to one place, or to one
nation; they are only used to fix the thoughts of the pious on that God,
who, in the covenant which he has made with Israel, has given such a
representation of himself, that it is not proper to deviate in the
smallest instance from such a model. Nevertheless, let it be concluded,
that the deliverance of the Jews is mentioned to induce them to devote
themselves with more alacrity to the service of God, who justly claims a
right to their obedience. But, that we may not suppose this to have no
relation to us, it behoves us to consider, that the servitude of Israel in
Egypt was a type of the spiritual captivity, in which we are all detained,
till our celestial Deliverer extricates us by the power of his arm, and
introduces us into the kingdom of liberty. As formerly, therefore, when he
designed to restore the dispersed Israelites to the worship of his name,
he rescued them from the intolerable tyranny of Pharaoh, by which they
were oppressed, so now he delivers all those, whose God he declares
himself to be, from the fatal dominion of Satan, which was represented by
that corporeal captivity. Wherefore there is no one, whose mind ought not
to be excited to listen to the law, which he is informed came from the
King of kings; from whom as all creatures derive their origin, so it is
reasonable that they should regard him as their end in all things. Every
man, I say, ought to welcome the Legislator; to observe whose commands he
is taught that he is particularly chosen; from whose benignity he expects
an abundance of temporal blessings, and a life of immortality and glory;
by whose wonderful power and mercy he knows himself to be delivered from
the jaws of death.

XVI. Having firmly established the authority of his law, he publishes the
first commandment, “That we should have no other gods before him.” The end
of this precept is, that God chooses to have the sole preëminence, and to
enjoy undiminished his authority among his people. To produce this end, he
enjoins us to keep at a distance from all impiety and superstition, by
which we should either diminish or obscure the glory of his Deity; and for
the same reason he directs us to worship and adore him in the exercise of
true piety. The simplicity of the language almost expresses this; for we
cannot “have” God without at the same time comprising all that belongs to
him. Therefore, when he forbids us to “have” any other gods, he implies,
that we must not transfer to another what belongs to him. But although the
duties we owe to God are innumerable, yet they may not improperly be
classed under four general heads—adoration, a necessary branch of which is
the spiritual obedience of the conscience; trust; invocation; and
thanksgiving. By adoration I mean the reverence and worship which he
receives from every one of us who has submitted to his majesty. Wherefore
it is not without reason that I make it partly to consist in a subjection
of our consciences to his law; [for it is a spiritual homage which is
rendered to him, as to a sovereign King possessed of all power over our
souls.] Trust is a secure dependence on him arising from a knowledge of
his perfections; when ascribing to him all wisdom, righteousness, power,
truth, and goodness, we esteem ourselves happy only in communications from
him. Invocation is the application of our minds, under every pressure of
necessity, resorting to his fidelity, faithfulness, and assistance, as its
only defence. Thanksgiving is gratitude, which ascribes to him the praise
of all blessings. As the Lord permits no portion of these duties to be
transferred to another, so he commands them to be wholly given to himself.
Nor will it be sufficient for you to refrain from worshipping any other
god, unless you also refrain from imitating certain nefarious despisers,
who take the compendious method of treating all religions with contempt.
But the observance of this precept must be preceded by true religion,
leading our minds to the living God; that being endued with the knowledge
of him, they may aspire to admire, fear, and worship his majesty, to
receive his communication of blessings, to request his aid upon all
occasions, to acknowledge and celebrate the magnificence of his works, as
the sole end in all the actions of our lives. We must also beware of
corrupt superstition, by which those whose minds are diverted from the
true God, are carried about after various deities. Therefore, if we be
contented with one God, let us remember what has before been observed,
that all fictitious deities must be driven far away, and that we must not
divide that worship which he claims exclusively to himself. For it is
criminal to detract even the smallest portion from his glory; he must be
left in possession of all that belongs to him. The following clause,
“before me,” aggravates the atrociousness of the offence; for God is
provoked to jealousy whenever we substitute the figments of our own minds
instead of him; just as an immodest woman, by openly introducing an
adulterer into the presence of her husband, would inflame his mind with
the greater resentment. When God, therefore, by the presence of his power
and grace, gave a proof of his regard to the people whom he had chosen,—in
order the more forcibly to deter them from the crime of rebellion against
him, he warns them of the impossibility of introducing new deities without
his being a witness and spectator of the sacrilege. For this presumption
rises to the highest degree of impiety, when man imagines that he can
elude the observation of God in his acts of rebellion. God, on the
contrary, proclaims, that whatever we devise, whatever we attempt,
whatever we perform, is present to his view. Our conscience must therefore
be pure even from the most latent thoughts of apostasy, if we wish our
religion to obtain the approbation of the Lord. For he requires from us
the glory due to his Divinity undiminished and uncorrupted, not only in
external confession, but in his own eyes, which penetrate the inmost
recesses of our hearts.



The Second Commandment.


    _Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness
    of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth
    beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not
    bow down thyself to them, nor serve them._


XVII. As in the preceding commandment the Lord has declared himself to be
the one God, besides whom no other deities ought to be imagined or
worshipped, so in this he more clearly reveals his nature, and the kind of
worship with which he ought to be honoured, that we may not dare to form
any carnal conceptions of him. The end, therefore, of this precept is,
that he will not have his legitimate worship profaned with superstitious
rites. Wherefore, in a word, he calls us off, and wholly abstracts us from
carnal observances, which our foolish minds are accustomed to devise, when
they conceive of God according to the grossness of their own
apprehensions; and therefore he calls us to the service which rightfully
belongs to him; that is, the spiritual worship which he has instituted. He
marks what is the grossest transgression of this kind; that is, external
idolatry. And this precept consists of two parts. The first restrains us
from licentiously daring to make God, who is incomprehensible, the subject
of our senses, or to represent him under any visible form. The second
prohibits us from paying religious adoration to any images. He likewise
briefly enumerates all the forms, in which he used to be represented by
profane and superstitious nations. By those things which are in heaven, he
means the sun, the moon, and the other stars, and perhaps birds; as, when
he explains his meaning in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy, he mentions
birds as well as the stars.(832) This I should not have remarked, had I
not known some persons injudiciously refer this clause to angels. I omit
the other particulars, as needing no explanation. And in the first
book(833) we have already sufficiently proved that whatever visible
representations of God are invented by man, are diametrically opposite to
his nature; and that, therefore, as soon as ever idols are introduced,
true religion is immediately corrupted and adulterated.

XVIII. The penal sanction which is annexed ought to have no small
influence in arousing us from our lethargy. He thus threatens:


    _For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of
    the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation
    of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them
    that love me, and keep my commandments._


This is equivalent to a declaration that it is to him alone that we ought
to adhere. And to urge us to it, he announces his power, which he permits
none with impunity to despise or undervalue. For the Hebrew word _El_,
which is here used for God, is expressive of strength. In the second
place, he calls himself “a jealous God,” who can bear no rival. Thirdly,
he declares that he will avenge his majesty and glory on those who
transfer it to creatures or to graven images; and that not with the
transient punishment of the original transgressors only, but of their
posterity to the third and fourth generation; that is, of those who shall
imitate the impiety of their fathers; as he also permanently displays his
mercy and goodness, through a long line of posterity, to those who love
him and keep his law. It is very common for God to assume the character of
a husband to us; for the union, in which he connects us with himself, when
he receives us into the bosom of his Church, bears a resemblance to the
sacred conjugal relation, which requires to be supported by mutual
fidelity. As he performs towards us all the duties of a true and faithful
husband, so he demands from us the reciprocal duties of conjugal love and
chastity; that is, that we do not prostitute our souls to Satan, to lust,
and to the impurity of the carnal appetites. Wherefore, when he reproves
the apostasy of the Jews, he complains that they had discarded chastity,
and were polluted with adulteries.(834) Therefore, as a husband, in
proportion to the superiority of his purity and chastity, is the more
grievously incensed, if he perceive the affection of his wife inclining to
a rival, so the Lord, who has in truth espoused us to himself, declares
that he feels the most ardent jealousy, whenever we neglect the sacred
purity of his conjugal relation to us, and defile ourselves with criminal
lusts, but especially when we transfer to any other, or adulterate with
any superstition, the worship of his majesty, which ought to be preserved
in the most consummate perfection; since by such conduct we not only
violate the faith pledged in our nuptials, but even pollute our souls with
spiritual adultery.

XIX. Let us inquire what he intends by his threatening to “visit the
iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth
generation.” For besides that it is inconsistent with the equity of the
Divine justice to inflict upon an innocent person the punishment due to
the offences of another, God himself declares that “the son shall not bear
the iniquity of the father.”(835) But this expression is repeated more
than once, concerning a deferring to future generations of the punishments
of crimes committed by their ancestors. For Moses frequently speaks of
“the Lord visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the
third and fourth generation.”(836) In like manner Jeremiah: “Thou showest
loving‐kindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the
fathers into the bosom of their children after them.”(837) Some, who
labour very hard to solve this difficulty, are of opinion that its meaning
is to be confined to temporal punishments; which if children sustain
through the sins of their parents, there is nothing absurd in it; because
they frequently conduce to the salvation of those on whom they are
inflicted. This is certainly true. For Isaiah denounced to Hezekiah, that
on account of the sin which he had committed, his sons should be despoiled
of the kingdom and carried away into exile.(838) The families of Pharaoh
and Abimelech are afflicted on account of the injury sustained by
Abraham.(839) But when this is adduced as a solution of these questions,
it is rather an evasion of it, than a proper explanation. For in this and
in similar places the Lord threatens a punishment too great to be
terminated by the limits of the present life. It must therefore be
understood as a declaration that the curse of the Lord righteously rests,
not only on the person of an impious man, but also on his whole family.
Where it has rested, what can be expected, but that the father, being
destitute of the Spirit of God, will lead a most flagitious life; and that
the son, experiencing, in consequence of the iniquity of his father, a
similar dereliction by the Lord, will pursue the same path to perdition;
and that the grandson and the great grandson, the execrable posterity of
detestable men, will run headlong after them down the same precipice of
destruction?

XX. First let us inquire, whether such punishment be inconsistent with the
Divine justice. If the whole nature of man be worthy of condemnation, we
know that destruction awaits those who are not favoured by the Lord with
the communication of his grace. Nevertheless, they perish through their
own iniquity, and not through the unjust hatred of God. Nor is there any
room left for expostulation, why they are not assisted by Divine grace to
obtain salvation as well as others. Since it is a punishment, therefore,
inflicted on the impious and flagitious, in consequence of their
transgressions, that their families remain destitute of Divine grace for
many generations, who can bring any accusation against God for this most
righteous instance of his vengeance? But it will be said, the Lord
declares, on the contrary, that the punishment of the sin of the father
shall not be transferred to the son. Observe the subject that is treated
of in that place. The Israelites, after they had been long harassed by
numerous and unceasing calamities, began to use this proverb, “The fathers
have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge;”(840) by
which they insinuated, that sins had been committed by their parents, the
punishment of which was inflicted on them who were otherwise righteous and
innocent, more through the implacable wrath of God, than through a just
severity. The Prophet announces to them that this is not the case, but
that they are punished for their own transgressions, and that it is
incompatible with the Divine justice to punish a righteous son for the
iniquity of a wicked father. Nor is this to be found in the penal sanction
now under consideration. For if the visitation, of which we are treating,
be fulfilled, when God removes from the family of the impious his grace,
the light of his truth, and the other means of salvation, the very
circumstance of children blinded and abandoned by him being found treading
in the footsteps of their fathers, is an instance of their bearing the
curse in consequence of the crimes of their parents. But their being the
subjects of temporal miseries, and at length of eternal perdition, are
punishments from the righteous judgment of God, not for the sins of
others, but on account of their own iniquity.

XXI. On the other hand, God gives a promise to extend his mercy to a
thousand generations; which also frequently occurs in the Scripture, and
is inserted in the solemn covenant with the Church: “I will be a God unto
thee, and to thy seed after thee.”(841) In allusion to this, Solomon says,
that “the children of the just man are blessed after him;”(842) not only
as the effect of a religious education, which is of no small importance,
but also in consequence of the blessing promised in the covenant, that the
grace of God shall perpetually remain in the families of the pious. This
is a source of peculiar consolation to the faithful, but to the impious of
great terror; for if, even after death, the memory of righteousness and
iniquity has so much influence with God, that the curse of the one and the
blessing of the other will redound to posterity, much more will it remain
on the persons of the actors themselves. Now, it is no objection to our
argument, that the descendants of the impious sometimes grow better, while
those of the faithful degenerate; since the Legislator never intended to
establish in this case such an invariable rule, as would derogate from his
own free choice. For it is sufficient for the consolation of the righteous
and the terror of the sinner, that the denunciation is not vain or
inefficacious, although it be not always executed. For as the temporal
punishments inflicted on a few wicked men are testimonies of the Divine
wrath against sin, and of the judgment that will hereafter be pronounced
on all sinners, though many escape with impunity even to the end of their
lives, so, when the Lord exhibits one example of this blessing, in
manifesting his mercy and goodness to the son for the sake of his father,
he affords a proof of his constant and perpetual favour to his
worshippers; and when, in any one instance, he pursues the iniquity of the
father in the son, he shows what a judgment awaits all the reprobate on
account of their own transgressions; the certainty of which was what he
principally designed in this passage. He also gives us a cursory
intimation of the greatness of his mercy, which he extends to a thousand
generations, while he has assigned only four generations to his vengeance.



The Third Commandment.


    _Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain._


XXII. The end of this precept is, that the Lord will have the majesty of
his name to be held inviolably sacred by us. The substance of the command
therefore is, that we ought not to profane that name by a contemptuous or
irreverent use of it. This prohibition necessarily implies an injunction,
that we studiously and carefully treat it with religious veneration.
Therefore it becomes us to regulate our thoughts and words in such a
manner that we may not think or speak any thing concerning God and his
mysteries, but with the greatest sobriety and reverence; that in
meditating on his works we may form no opinion that is dishonourable to
him. These three things, I say, we ought most carefully to observe—first,
that whatever we think, and whatever we say of him, should savour of his
excellence, correspond to the sacred sublimity of his name, and tend to
the exaltation of his magnificence. Secondly, we should not rashly and
preposterously abuse his holy word and adorable mysteries to the purposes
of ambition, of avarice, or of amusement; but as they bear an impression
of the dignity of his name, they should always receive from us the honour
and esteem which belong to them. Lastly, we should not injure his works by
obloquy or detraction, as some miserable mortals are accustomed to do; but
whenever we mention any thing done by him, we should celebrate it with
encomiums of wisdom, justice, and goodness. This is “sanctifying” the name
of God. In every other case, it is violated by a vain and criminal abuse,
because it is carried beyond the limits of that legitimate use, to which
alone it is consecrated; and though no other consequence ensue, it is
deprived of its dignity, and by degrees rendered contemptible. But if it
be so criminal thus rashly and unseasonably to introduce the name of God
on every occasion, much more so must it be to apply it to such nefarious
uses as they do, who make it subservient to the superstitions of
necromancy, to horrible imprecations, to unlawful exorcisms, and to other
impious incantations. But an oath is the thing principally contemplated in
the command, as the most detestable instance of the perverse abuse of the
Divine name; and this is done to inspire us with the greater horror of
every species of profanation of it. That this precept relates to the
worship of God and the reverence of his name, and not to the equity that
ought to be observed among mankind, appears from this—that the subsequent
condemnation, in the second table, of perjury and false witness, by which
society is injured, would be a needless repetition, if the present precept
related to a civil duty. Besides, the division of the law requires this;
for, as we have already observed, it is not in vain that God has
distributed the law into two tables. Whence we conclude, that in this
command he vindicates his just claims, and guards the sanctity of his
name, but does not teach the duties which men owe to each other.

XXIII. In the first place, we have to explain what an oath is. It consists
in calling upon God as a witness, to confirm the truth of any declaration
that we make. For execrations, which contain manifest reproaches against
God, are not worthy to be mentioned among oaths. That such an attestation,
when rightly performed, is a species of Divine worship, is evident from
many places of Scripture; as when Isaiah prophesies of the vocation of the
Assyrians and Egyptians to participate in the covenant with Israel. “They
shall speak,” says he, “the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of
hosts.”(843) By “swearing to the Lord” here is intended making a
profession of religion. Again, when he speaks of the extension of his
kingdom: “He who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the
God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of
truth.”(844) Jeremiah says, “If they will diligently learn the ways of my
people, to swear by my name, The Lord liveth; as they taught my people to
swear by Baal, then shall they be built in the midst of my people.”(845)
And we are justly said to profess our religion to the Lord, when we invoke
his name to bear witness to us. For thereby we confess that he is truth
itself, eternal and immutable; whom we call not only as a witness of the
truth, excelling all others, but also as the only defender of it, who is
able to bring to light things which are concealed, and in a word, as the
searcher of all hearts. For where human testimonies are wanting, we resort
for refuge to the testimony of God; and particularly when any thing is to
be affirmed, which is hidden in the conscience. For which reason the Lord
is extremely angry with them who swear by strange gods, and interprets
that species of swearing as a proof of manifest defection from him. “Thy
children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods.”(846) And
he declares the atrociousness of this crime by his denunciation of
punishment: “I will cut off them that swear by the Lord, and that swear by
Malcham.”(847)

XXIV. Now, since we understand it to be the will of the Lord, that we
should reverence his name in our oaths, we ought to use so much the more
caution, lest, instead of reverence, they betray dishonour or contempt of
it. It is no trifling insult to him, when perjury is committed in his
name; and therefore the law calls it a profanation.(848) But what remains
to the Lord, when he is despoiled of his truth? he will then cease to be
God. But he is certainly despoiled of it, when he is made an abettor and
approver of a falsehood. Wherefore, when Joshua would induce Achan to a
confession of the truth, he says, “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the
Lord God of Israel;”(849) implying in this that the Lord is grievously
dishonoured, if perjury be committed in his name. Nor is this strange; for
in such a case we do all that is in our power to brand his sacred name
with a falsehood. And that this form of expression was customary among the
Jews, whenever any man was called to take an oath, appears from a similar
adjuration used by the Pharisees in the Gospel of John.(850) To this
caution we are accustomed by the forms of oaths which are used in the
Scriptures: “The Lord liveth;”(851) “God do so and more also to me;”(852)
“I call God for a record upon my soul;”(853) which imply, that we cannot
invoke God to be a witness to our declarations, without imprecating his
vengeance upon us if we be guilty of perjury.

XXV. The name of God is rendered vile and contemptible, when it is used in
unnecessarily swearing even to what is true; for in this instance also it
is taken in vain. Wherefore it will not be sufficient to abstain from
perjury; unless we also remember, that swearing is permitted and
appointed, not for the sake of our pleasure or caprice, but from
necessity; and that the lawful use of it, therefore, is transgressed by
those who apply it to cases where it is not necessary. Now, no other
necessity can be pretended, but when we want to serve either religion or
charity. This crime, in the present day, is carried to a very great
extent; and it is so much the more intolerable, since by its frequency it
has ceased to be considered as a crime, though before the Divine tribunal
it is deemed no trivial offence. For the name of God is universally
profaned without concern in trifling conversations; and it is not
considered as sinful, because this presumptuous wickedness has been so
long practised with impunity. But the Divine command remains valid; the
sanction remains firm; and a future day will witness the completion of
that part of it which denounces a particular punishment against those who
take his name in vain. This precept is violated also in another way. If in
our oaths we substitute the servants of God in the place of God himself,
we are guilty of manifest impiety; because we thereby transfer to them the
glory due to the Deity. Nor is it without reason, that God, by a special
command, enjoins us to swear by his name,(854) and by a special
prohibition interdicts us from swearing by any strange gods.(855) And the
Apostle evidently attests the same, when he says, that “men swear by the
greater, but that God, because he could swear by no greater, sware by
himself.”(856)

XXVI. The Anabaptists, not satisfied with this limitation of oaths,
condemn all oaths without exception; because the prohibition of Christ is
general: “I say unto you, Swear not at all. But let your communication be,
Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of
evil.”(857) But by this mode of interpretation they set Christ in
opposition to the Father, as though he descended into this world to
abrogate the Father’s decrees. For in the law the eternal God not only
permits an oath, as a lawful thing, which would be sufficient to justify
the use of it, but in cases of necessity commands it.(858) Now, Christ
asserts, that “he and his Father are one,” that “he acts only according to
the commands of the Father,” that “his doctrine is not of himself,”
&c.(859) What then? Will they make God to contradict himself, by
prohibiting and condemning in our conduct that which he has before
approved and enjoined? But as the words of Christ involve some difficulty,
let us enter on a brief examination of them. Here we shall never arrive at
the truth, unless we attend to the design of Christ, and advert to the
subject of which he is there treating. His design is not to relax or to
restrict the law, but to reduce it to its true and genuine meaning, which
had been very much corrupted by the false comments of the scribes and
Pharisees. If we bear this in our minds, we shall not be of opinion that
Christ condemned all oaths, but only those which transgress the rule of
the law. It appears to have been the custom of the people at that time to
avoid nothing but perjuries; whereas the law forbids not only perjuries,
but likewise all vain and superfluous oaths. Our Lord, therefore, that
infallible expositor of the law, apprizes them that it is sinful, not only
to perjure themselves, but even to swear. To swear in what manner? In
vain. But the oaths which are sanctioned in the law he leaves without any
objection. They consider themselves as urging a very powerful argument,
when they violently insist on the particle _at all_; which, nevertheless,
refers not to the word _swear_, but to the forms of oaths that are there
subjoined. For the error there condemned consisted, partly, in a
supposition that in swearing by heaven and earth, there was no
interference with the name of God. Therefore, after the principal instance
of transgression, the Lord goes on to destroy all their subterfuges, that
they may not imagine themselves to have escaped by suppressing the name of
God, and calling heaven and earth to witness for them. For here, by the
way, it must be remarked, that men indirectly swear by God, though his
name is not expressed; as when they swear by the light of life, by the
bread which they eat, by their baptism, or by any other blessings which
they have received from the Divine munificence. Nor does Christ in that
place prohibit them from swearing by heaven, and earth, and Jerusalem, in
order to correct superstition, as some falsely imagine; but rather to
confute the sophistical subtlety of persons who thought there was no crime
in the foolish use of indirect oaths, as though they were not chargeable
with profaning the sacred name of God, which is engraven, however, on all
his benefits. But the case is different, where any mortal man, or one that
is dead, or an angel, is substituted in the place of God; as, among
idolatrous nations, adulation invented that odious form of swearing by the
life or genius of a king; because in such cases the deification of a
creature obscures and diminishes the glory of the only true God. But when
we mean nothing but to derive a confirmation to our assertions from the
sacred name of God, although it be done in an indirect manner, yet all
such frivolous oaths are offensive to his majesty. Christ deprives this
licentious practice of every vain excuse, by his prohibition of swearing
at all. James also aims at the same point,(860) where he uses the language
of Christ, which I have cited; because this presumption has always been
prevalent in the world, notwithstanding it is a profanation of the name of
God. For if you refer the particle _at all_ to the substance of swearing,
as though every oath, without exception, were unlawful, what means the
explanation which is immediately annexed, “Neither by heaven, neither by
earth,” &c., language evidently used in refutation of those cavils, which
the Jews considered as furnishing an excuse for their sin.

XXVII. It can no longer be doubtful, therefore, to persons of sound
judgment, that the Lord, in that passage, only condemns those oaths which
had been forbidden by the law. For even he, who exhibited in his life an
example of the perfection which he inculcated, hesitated not to make use
of oaths whenever occasion required; and his disciples, who, we doubt not,
were obedient to their master in all things, followed the same example.
Who can dare to assert, that Paul would have sworn, if all oaths had been
prohibited? But when the occasion requires it, he swears without any
scruple, and sometimes even adds an imprecation. The question, however, is
not yet decided; for it is the opinion of some persons, that public oaths
are the only exceptions from this prohibition; such as we take when
required by a magistrate; such also as princes are accustomed to use in
ratifying treaties; or subjects, when they swear allegiance to their
princes; or soldiers, as a military test; and others of a similar kind. To
this class also they justly refer those oaths which we find used by Paul
in assertion of the dignity of the gospel; because the Apostles, in the
exercise of their functions, were not private persons, but public
ministers of God. And indeed I will not deny that these are the safest
oaths; because they are sanctioned by the strongest testimonies of
Scripture. A magistrate is directed, in a dubious case, to put a witness
to his oath, and the witness, on the other hand, is required to answer on
his oath; and the Apostle says, that human controversies are adjusted by
this expedient.(861) In this precept both parties are furnished with a
complete justification of their conduct. Moreover we may observe, that
among the ancient heathen a public and solemn oath was held in great
reverence; but that common ones, which they used in their ordinary
intercourse, were not esteemed of any, or of much importance, because they
imagined that these were not regarded by the Divine majesty. But it would
be too dangerous to condemn private oaths, which are taken, in cases of
necessity, with sobriety, integrity, and reverence, since they are
supported both by reason and by scriptural examples. For if it be lawful
for private persons in an important and serious affair to appeal to God as
a judge between them, much more must it be allowable to invoke him as a
witness. Your brother will accuse you of perfidy; you endeavour to
exculpate yourself; he will not permit himself by any means to be
satisfied. If your reputation be endangered by his obstinate malignity,
you may, without any offence, appeal to the judgment of God, that in his
own time he will manifest your innocence. If the words be strictly
examined, it is a less thing to appeal to him as a witness than as a
judge. I see not, therefore, why we should assert such an appeal to him to
be unlawful. There are not wanting numerous examples of it. If the oath of
Abraham and Isaac with Abimelech be alleged to have been taken in a public
capacity, certainly Jacob and Laban were private persons, and yet they
confirmed the covenant between them by a mutual oath.(862) Boaz was a
private person, who confirmed in the same manner his promise of marriage
to Ruth.(863) Obadiah was a private person, a righteous man, and one that
feared the Lord, who declared with an oath the fact of which he wished to
convince Elijah.(864) I can find, therefore, no better rule, than that we
regulate our oaths in such a manner, that they be not rash or
inconsiderate, wanton or frivolous, but used in cases of real necessity,
as for vindicating the glory of the Lord, or promoting the edification of
our brother; which is the end of this commandment of the law.



The Fourth Commandment.


    _Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou
    labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of
    the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, &c._


XXVIII. The end of this precept is, that, being dead to our own affections
and works, we should meditate on the kingdom of God, and be exercised in
that meditation in the observance of his institutions. But, as it has an
aspect peculiar and distinct from the others, it requires a little
different kind of exposition. The fathers frequently call it a _shadowy
commandment_, because it contains the external observance of the day,
which was abolished with the rest of the figures at the advent of Christ.
And there is much truth in their observation; but it reaches only half of
the subject. Wherefore it is necessary to seek further for an exposition,
and to consider three causes, on which I think I have observed this
commandment to rest. For it was the design of the heavenly Lawgiver, under
the rest of the seventh day, to give the people of Israel a figure of the
spiritual rest, by which the faithful ought to refrain from their own
works, in order to leave God to work within them. His design was,
secondly, that there should be a stated day, on which they might assemble
together to hear the law and perform the ceremonies, or at least which
they might especially devote to meditations on his works; that by this
recollection they might be led to the exercises of piety. Thirdly, he
thought it right that servants, and persons living under the jurisdiction
of others, should be indulged with a day of rest, that they might enjoy
some remission from their labour.

XXIX. Yet we are taught in many places that this adumbration of the
spiritual rest was the principal design of the sabbath. For the Lord is
hardly so strict in his requisitions of obedience to any other
precept.(865) When he means to intimate, in the Prophets, that religion is
totally subverted, he complains that his sabbaths are polluted, violated,
neglected, and profaned;(866) as though, in case of that duty being
neglected, there remained no other way in which he could be honoured. On
the other hand, he notices the observance of it with singular encomiums.
Wherefore also, among the other Divine communications, the faithful used
very highly to esteem the revelation of the sabbath. For this is the
language of the Levites in a solemn assembly, recorded by Nehemiah: “Thou
madest known unto our fathers thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them
precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses.”(867) We see the
singular estimation in which it is held above all the commandments of the
law. All these things tend to display the dignity of the mystery, which is
beautifully expressed by Moses and Ezekiel. In Exodus we read as follows:
“Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you
throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth
sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto
you. The children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath
throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign
between me and the children of Israel for ever.”(868) This is more fully
expressed by Ezekiel; but the substance of what he says is, that the
sabbath was a sign by which the Israelites might know that God was their
sanctifier.(869) If our sanctification consists properly in the
mortification of our own will, there is a very natural analogy between the
external sign and the internal thing which it represents. We must rest
altogether, that God may operate within us; we must recede from our own
will, resign our own heart, and renounce all our carnal affections; in
short, we must cease from all the efforts of our own understanding, that
having God operating within us, we may enjoy rest in him, as we are also
taught by the Apostle.(870)

XXX. This perpetual cessation was represented to the Jews by the
observance of one day in seven, which the Lord, in order that it might be
the more religiously kept, recommended by his own example. For it is no
small stimulus to any action, for a man to know that he is imitating his
Creator. If any one inquire after a hidden signification in the septenary
number, it is probable, that because in Scripture it is the number of
perfection, it is here selected to denote perpetual duration. This is
confirmed also by the circumstance, that Moses, with that day in which he
narrates that the Lord rested from his works, concludes his description of
the succession of days and nights. We may also adduce another probable
conjecture respecting this number—that the Lord intended to signify that
the sabbath would never be completed until the arrival of the last day.
For in it we begin that blessed rest, in which we make new advances from
day to day. But because we are still engaged in a perpetual warfare with
the flesh, it will not be consummated before the completion of that
prediction of Isaiah, “It shall come to pass, that from one new moon to
another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship
before me, saith the Lord;”(871) that is, when God shall be “all in
all.”(872) The Lord may be considered, therefore, as having delineated to
his people, in the seventh day, the future perfection of his sabbath in
the last day, that, by a continual meditation on the sabbath during their
whole life, they might be aspiring towards this perfection.

XXXI. If any one disapprove of this observation on the number, as too
curious, I object not to its being understood in a more simple manner;
that the Lord ordained a certain day, that the people under the discipline
of the law might be exercised in continual meditations on the spiritual
rest; that he appointed the seventh day, either because he foresaw it
would be sufficient, or in order that the proposal of a resemblance to his
own example might operate as a stronger stimulus to the people, or at
least to apprize them that the only end of the sabbath was to promote
their conformity to their Creator. For this is of little importance,
provided we retain the mystery, which is principally exhibited, of a
perpetual rest from our own works. To the contemplation of this, the
Prophets used frequently to recall the Jews, that they might not suppose
themselves to have discharged their duty merely by a cessation from manual
labours. Beside the passages already cited, we have the following in
Isaiah: “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy
pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the
Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor
finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou
delight thyself in the Lord,” &c.(873) But all that it contained of a
ceremonial nature was without doubt abolished by the advent of the Lord
Christ. For he is the truth, at whose presence all figures disappear; the
body, at the sight of which all the shadows are relinquished. He, I say,
is the true fulfilment of the sabbath. Having been “buried with him by
baptism, we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, that
being partakers of his resurrection, we may walk in newness of life.”(874)
Therefore the Apostle says in another place, that “the sabbath was a
shadow of things to come; but the _body_ is of Christ;”(875) that is, the
real substance of the truth, which he has beautifully explained in that
passage. This is contained not in one day, but in the whole course of our
life, till, being wholly dead to ourselves, we be filled with the life of
God. Christians therefore ought to depart from all superstitious
observance of days.

XXXII. As the two latter causes, however, ought not to be numbered among
the ancient shadows, but are equally suitable to all ages,—though the
sabbath is abrogated, yet it is still customary among us to assemble on
stated days for hearing the word, for breaking the mystic bread, and for
public prayers; and also to allow servants and labourers a remission from
their labour. That in commanding the sabbath, the Lord had regard to both
these things, cannot be doubted. The first is abundantly confirmed even by
the practice of the Jews. The second is proved by Moses, in Deuteronomy,
in these words: “that thy man‐servant and thy maid‐servant may rest as
well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of
Egypt.”(876) Also, in Exodus: “that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and
the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.”(877) Who can
deny that both these things are as proper for us as for the Jews?
Assemblies of the Church are enjoined in the Divine word, and the
necessity of them is sufficiently known even from the experience of life.
Unless there be stated days appointed for them, how can they be held?
According to the direction of the Apostle, “all things” are to “be done
decently and in order” among us.(878) But so far is it from being possible
to preserve order and decorum without this regulation, that, if it were
abolished, the Church would be in imminent danger of immediate convulsion
and ruin. But if we feel the same necessity, to relieve which the Lord
enjoined the sabbath upon the Jews, let no one plead that it does not
belong to us. For our most provident and indulgent Father has been no less
attentive to provide for our necessity than for that of the Jews. But why,
it may be asked, do we not rather assemble on every day, that so all
distinction of days may be removed? I sincerely wish that this were
practised; and truly spiritual wisdom would be well worthy of some portion
of time being daily allotted to it; but if the infirmity of many persons
will not admit of daily assemblies, and charity does not permit us to
require more of them, why should we not obey the rule which we have
imposed upon us by the will of God?

XXXIII. I am obliged to be rather more diffuse on this point, because, in
the present age, some unquiet spirits have been raising noisy contentions
respecting the Lord’s day. They complain that Christians are tinctured
with Judaism, because they retain any observance of days. But I reply,
that the Lord’s day is not observed by us upon the principles of Judaism;
because in this respect the difference between us and the Jews is very
great. For we celebrate it not with scrupulous rigour, as a ceremony which
we conceive to be a figure of some spiritual mystery, but only use it as a
remedy necessary to the preservation of order in the Church. But they say,
Paul teaches that Christians are not to be judged in the observance of it,
because it is a shadow of something future.(879) Therefore he is “afraid
lest” he has “bestowed” on the Galatians “labour in vain,” because they
continued to “observe days.”(880) And in the Epistle to the Romans, he
asserts him to be “weak in the faith,” who “esteemeth one day above
another.”(881) But who, these furious zealots only excepted, does not see
what observance the apostle intends? For they did not observe them for the
sake of political and ecclesiastical order; but when they retained them as
shadows of spiritual things, they were so far guilty of obscuring the
glory of Christ and the light of the gospel. They did not, therefore, rest
from their manual labours, as from employments which would divert them
from sacred studies and meditations; but from a principle of superstition,
imagining their cessation from labour to be still an expression of
reverence for the mysteries formerly represented by it. This preposterous
distinction of days the Apostle strenuously opposes; and not that
legitimate difference which promotes the peace of the Christian Church.
For in the churches which he founded, the sabbath was retained for this
purpose. He prescribes the same day to the Corinthians, for making
collections for the relief of the brethren at Jerusalem. If superstition
be an object of fear, there was more danger in the holy days of the Jews,
than in the Lord’s days now observed by Christians. Now, whereas it was
expedient for the destruction of superstition, the day which the Jews kept
holy was abolished; and it being necessary for the preservation of
decorum, order, and peace, in the Christian Church, another day was
appointed for the same use.

XXXIV. However, the ancients have not without sufficient reason
substituted what we call the Lord’s day in the room of the sabbath. For
since the resurrection of the Lord is the end and consummation of that
true rest, which was adumbrated by the ancient sabbath, the same day which
put an end to the shadows, admonishes Christians not to adhere to a
shadowy ceremony. Yet I do not lay so much stress on the septenary number,
that I would oblige the Church to an invariable adherence to it; nor will
I condemn those churches which have other solemn days for their
assemblies, provided they keep at a distance from superstition. And this
will be the case, if they be only designed for the observance of
discipline and well‐regulated order. Let us sum up the whole in the
following manner: As the truth was delivered to the Jews under a figure,
so it is given to us without any shadows; first, in order that during our
whole life we should meditate on a perpetual rest from our own works, that
the Lord may operate within us by his Spirit; secondly, that every man,
whenever he has leisure, should diligently exercise himself in private in
pious reflections on the works of God, and also that we should at the same
time observe the legitimate order of the Church, appointed for the hearing
of the word, for the administration of the sacraments, and for public
prayer; thirdly, that we should not unkindly oppress those who are subject
to us. Thus vanish all the dreams of false prophets, who in past ages have
infected the people with a Jewish notion, affirming that nothing but the
ceremonial part of this commandment, which, according to them, is the
appointment of the seventh day, has been abrogated, but that the moral
part of it, that is, the observance of one day in seven, still remains.
But this is only changing the day in contempt of the Jews, while they
retain the same opinion of the holiness of a day; for on this principle
the same mysterious signification would still be attributed to particular
days, which they formerly obtained among the Jews. And indeed we see what
advantages have arisen from such a sentiment. For those who adhere to it,
far exceed the Jews in a gross, carnal, and superstitious observance of
the sabbath; so that the reproofs, which we find in Isaiah, are equally
applicable to them in the present age, as to those whom the Prophet
reproved in his time. But the principal thing to be remembered is the
general doctrine; that, lest religion decay or languish among us, sacred
assemblies ought diligently to be held, and that we ought to use those
external means which are adapted to support the worship of God.



The Fifth Commandment.


    _Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon
    the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee._


XXXV. The end of this precept is, that since the Lord God desires the
preservation of the order he has appointed, the degrees of preëminence
fixed by him ought to be inviolably preserved. The sum of it, therefore,
will be, that we should reverence them whom God has exalted to any
authority over us, and should render them honour, obedience, and
gratitude. Whence follows a prohibition to derogate from their dignity by
contempt, obstinacy, or ingratitude. For in the Scripture the word
“honour” has an extensive signification; as, when the Apostle directs that
“the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour,”(882) he
means not only that they are entitled to reverence, but likewise such a
remuneration as their ministry deserves. But as this precept, which
enjoins subjection to superiors, is exceedingly repugnant to the depravity
of human nature, whose ardent desire of exaltation will scarcely admit of
subjection, it has therefore proposed as an example that kind of
superiority which is naturally most amiable and least invidious; because
that might the more easily mollify and incline our minds to a habit of
submission. By that subjection, therefore, which is most easy to be borne,
the Lord accustoms us by degrees to every kind of legitimate obedience;
because the reason of all is the same. For to those, to whom he gives any
preëminence, he communicates his own authority, as far as is necessary for
the preservation of that preëminence. The titles of Father, God, and Lord,
are so eminently applicable to him, that, whenever we hear either of them
mentioned, our minds cannot but be strongly affected with a sense of his
majesty. Those, therefore, on whom he bestows these titles, he illuminates
with a ray of his splendour, to render them all honourable in their
respective stations. Thus in a father we ought to recognize something
Divine; for it is not without reason that he bears one of the titles of
the Deity. Our prince, or our lord, enjoys an honour somewhat similar to
that which is given to God.

XXXVI. Wherefore it ought not to be doubted that God here lays down a
universal rule for our conduct; namely, that to every one, whom we know to
be placed in authority over us by his appointment, we should render
reverence, obedience, gratitude, and all the other services in our power.
Nor does it make any difference, whether they are worthy of this honour,
or not. For whatever be their characters, yet it is not without the
appointment of the Divine providence, that they have attained that
station, on account of which the supreme Legislator has commanded them to
be honoured. He has particularly enjoined reverence to our parents, who
have brought us into this life; which nature itself ought to teach us. For
those who violate the parental authority by contempt or rebellion, are not
men, but monsters. Therefore the Lord commands all those, who are
disobedient to their parents, to be put to death, as having rendered
themselves unworthy to enjoy the light, by their disregard of those by
whose means they were introduced to it. And various appendices to the law
evince the truth of our observation, that the honour here intended
consists in reverence, obedience, and gratitude. The first the Lord
confirms, when he commands him to be slain who has cursed his father or
mother;(883) for in that case he punishes contempt. He confirms the
second, when he denounces the punishment of death against disobedient and
rebellious children.(884) The third is supported by Christ, who says, “God
commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother;” and, “He that curseth
father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say
to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be
profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.
Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your
tradition.”(885) And whenever Paul mentions this commandment, he explains
it as a requisition of obedience.(886)

XXXVII. In order to recommend it, a promise is annexed, which is a further
intimation how acceptable to God that submission is which is here
enjoined. Paul employs that stimulus to arouse our inattention, when he
says, “This is the first commandment with promise.” For the preceding
promise, in the first table, was not particularly confined to one
commandment, but extended to the whole law. Now, the true explanation of
this promise is, that the Lord spake particularly to the Israelites
concerning the land which he had promised them as an inheritance. If the
possession of that land therefore was a pledge of the Divine goodness, we
need not wonder, if it was the Lord’s will to manifest his favour by
bestowing length of life, in order to prolong the enjoyment of the
blessing conferred by him. The meaning of it therefore is, Honour thy
father and thy mother, that through the space of a long life thou mayest
enjoy the possession of the land, which will be to thee a testimony of my
favour. But, as the whole earth is blessed to the faithful, we justly
place the present life among the blessings we receive from God. Wherefore
this promise belongs likewise to us, inasmuch as the continuance of the
present life affords us a proof of the Divine benevolence. For neither is
it promised to us, nor was it promised to the Jews, as though it contained
any blessedness in itself; but because to the pious it is generally a
token of the Divine favour. Therefore, if a son, that is obedient to his
parents, happen to be removed out of life before the age of
maturity,—which is a case of frequent occurrence,—the Lord, nevertheless,
perseveres with as much punctuality in the completion of his promise, as
if he were to reward a person with a hundred acres of land to whom he had
only promised one. The whole consists in this: We should consider that
long life is promised to us so far as it is the blessing of God; but that
it is a blessing, only as it is a proof of the favour of God, which he
infinitely more richly and substantially testifies and actually
demonstrates to his servants in their death.

XXXVIII. Moreover, when the Lord promises the blessing of the present life
to those children who honour their parents with proper reverence, he at
the same time implies that a certain curse impends over all those who are
disobedient and perverse. And that it might not fail of being executed, he
pronounces them in his law to be liable to the sentence of death, and
commands that punishment to be inflicted on them. If they escape that, he
punishes them himself in some other way. For we see what great numbers of
persons of this character fall in battles and in private quarrels; others
are afflicted in unusual ways; and almost all of them are proofs of the
truth of this threatening. But if any arrive at an extreme age, being
deprived of the Divine blessing, they only languish in misery in this
life, and are reserved to greater punishments hereafter; and consequently
they are far from participating in the blessing promised to dutiful
children. But it must be remarked by the way, that we are commanded to
obey them only “in the Lord;” and this is evident from the foundation
before laid; for they preside in that station to which the Lord has
exalted them by communicating to them a portion of his honour. Wherefore
the submission exercised towards them ought to be a step towards honouring
the Supreme Father. Therefore, if they instigate us to any transgression
of the law, we may justly consider them not as parents, but as strangers,
who attempt to seduce us from obedience to our real Father. The same
observation is applicable to princes, lords, and superiors of every
description. For it is infamous and absurd, that their eminence should
avail to depreciate the preëminence of God, upon which it depends, and to
which it ought to conduct us.



The Sixth Commandment.


    _Thou shalt not kill._


XXXIX. The end of this precept is, that since God has connected mankind
together in a kind of unity, every man ought to consider himself as
charged with the safety of all. In short, then, all violence and
injustice, and every kind of mischief, which may injure the body of our
neighbour, are forbidden to us. And therefore we are enjoined, if it be in
our power, to assist in protecting the lives of our neighbours; to exert
ourselves with fidelity for this purpose; to procure those things which
conduce to their tranquillity; to be vigilant in shielding them from
injuries; and in cases of danger to afford them our assistance. If we
remember that this is the language of the Divine Legislator, we should
consider, at the same time, that he intends this rule to govern the soul.
For it were ridiculous, that he who beholds the thoughts of the heart, and
principally insists on them, should content himself with forming only the
body to true righteousness. Mental homicide, therefore, is likewise
prohibited, and an internal disposition to preserve the life of our
brother is commanded in this law. The hand, indeed, accomplishes the
homicide, but it is conceived by the mind under the influence of anger and
hatred. Examine whether you can be angry with your brother, without being
inflamed with a desire of doing him some injury. If you cannot be angry
with him, then you cannot hate him; for hatred is nothing more than
inveterate anger. However you may dissemble, and endeavour to extricate
yourself by vain subterfuges, whenever there is either anger or hatred,
there is also a disposition to do injury. If you persist in your evasions,
it is already pronounced by the Holy Spirit, that “Whosoever hateth his
brother is a murderer.”(887) It is declared by the Lord Christ, “that
whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of
the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in
danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in
danger of hell fire.”(888)

XL. Now, the Scripture states two reasons on which this precept is
founded; the first, that man is the image of God; the second, that he is
our own flesh. Wherefore, unless we would violate the image of God, we
ought to hold the personal safety of our neighbour inviolably sacred; and
unless we would divest ourselves of humanity, we ought to cherish him as
our own flesh. The motives which are derived from the redemption and grace
of Christ will be treated in another place. These two characters, which
are inseparable from the nature of man, God requires us to consider as
motives to our exertions for his security; so that we may reverence his
image impressed on him, and show an affectionate regard for our own flesh.
That person, therefore, is not innocent of the crime of murder, who has
merely restrained himself from the effusion of blood. If you perpetrate,
if you attempt, if you only conceive in your mind any thing inimical to
the safety of another, you stand guilty of murder. Unless you also
endeavour to defend him to the utmost of your ability and opportunity, you
are guilty of the same inhuman transgression of the law. But if so much
concern be discovered for the safety of the body, we may conclude, how
much care and attention should be devoted to the safety of the soul,
which, in the sight of God, is of infinitely superior value.



The Seventh Commandment.


    _Thou shalt not commit adultery._


XLI. The end of this precept is, that because God loves chastity and
purity, we ought to depart from all uncleanness. The sum of it therefore
is, that we ought not to be polluted by any carnal impurity, or libidinous
intemperance. To this prohibition corresponds the affirmative injunction,
that every part of our lives ought to be regulated by chastity and
continence. But he expressly forbids adultery, to which all incontinence
tends; in order that by the turpitude of that which is very gross and
palpable, being an infamous pollution of the body, he may lead us to
abominate every unlawful passion. Since man was created in such a state as
not to live a solitary life, but to be united to a help‐meet; and moreover
since the curse of sin has increased this necessity,—the Lord has afforded
us ample assistance in this case by the institution of marriage—a
connection which he has not only originated by his authority, but also
sanctified by his blessing. Whence it appears, that every other union, but
that of marriage, is cursed in his sight; and that the conjugal union
itself is appointed as a remedy for our necessity, that we may not break
out into unrestrained licentiousness. Let us not flatter ourselves,
therefore, since we hear that there can be no cohabitation of male and
female, except in marriage, without the curse of God.

XLII. Now, since the original constitution of human nature, and the
violence of the passions consequent upon the fall, have rendered a union
of the sexes doubly necessary, except to those whom God has exempted from
that necessity by peculiar grace, let every one carefully examine what is
given to him. Virginity, I acknowledge, is a virtue not to be despised.
But as this is denied to some, and to others is granted only for a season,
let those who are troubled with incontinence, and cannot succeed in
resisting it, avail themselves of the help of marriage, that they may
preserve their chastity according to the degree of their calling. For
persons who “cannot receive this saying,”(889) if they do not assist their
frailty by the remedy offered and granted to them, oppose God and resist
his ordinance. Here let no one object, as many do in the present day, that
with the help of God he can do all things. For the assistance of God is
granted only to them who walk in his ways, that is, in their calling;
which is deserted by all those who neglect the means which God has
afforded them, and strive to overcome their necessities by vain
presumption. That continence is a peculiar gift of God, and of that kind
which is not imparted promiscuously, or to the whole body of the Church,
but only conferred on a few of its members, is affirmed by our Lord. For
he mentions a certain class of men who “have made themselves eunuchs for
the kingdom of heaven’s sake;”(890) that is, that they might be more at
liberty to devote their attention to the affairs of the kingdom of heaven.
But that no one might suppose this to be in the power of man, he had
already declared that “all men cannot receive this saying, save they to
whom it is given.” And he concludes, “He that is able to receive it, let
him receive it.” Paul is still more explicit, when he says, that “every
man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after
that.”(891)

XLIII. Since we are so expressly apprized that it is not in the power of
every one to preserve chastity in celibacy, even with the most strenuous
efforts for that purpose, and that it is a peculiar grace, which the Lord
confers only on particular persons, that he may have them more ready for
his service, do we not resist God, and strive against the nature
instituted by him, unless we accommodate our manner of life to the measure
of our ability? In this commandment the Lord prohibits adultery: therefore
he requires of us purity and chastity. The only way of preserving this is,
that every one should measure himself by his own capacity. Let no one
rashly despise marriage as a thing useless or unnecessary to him; let no
one prefer celibacy, unless he can dispense with a wife. And in that state
let him not consult his carnal tranquillity or advantage, but only that,
being exempted from this restraint, he may be the more prompt and ready
for all the duties of piety. Moreover, as this benefit is conferred upon
many persons only for a season, let every one refrain from marriage as
long as he shall be capable of supporting a life of celibacy. When his
strength fails to overcome his passions, let him consider that the Lord
has laid him under a necessity of marrying. This is evident from the
direction of the Apostle: “To avoid fornication, let every man have his
own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” Again: “If they
cannot contain, let them marry.”(892) Here, in the first place, he
signifies that the majority of men are subject to the vice of
incontinence; in the next place, of those who are subject to it, he makes
no exception, but enjoins them all to have recourse to that sole remedy
which obviates unchastity. Those who are incontinent, therefore, if they
neglect this method of curing their infirmity, are guilty of sin, in not
obeying this injunction of the Apostle. And let not him who refrains from
actual fornication, flatter himself, as though he could not be charged
with unchastity, while his heart at the same time is inflamed with
libidinous desire. For Paul defines chastity to consist in sanctity of
mind connected with purity of body. “The unmarried woman,” he says,
“careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and
in spirit.”(893) Therefore, when he gives a reason to confirm the
preceding injunction, he does not content himself with saying that it is
better for a man to marry than to pollute himself with the society of a
harlot, but affirms that “it is better to marry than to burn.”(894)

XLIV. Now, if married persons are satisfied that their society is attended
with the blessing of the Lord, they are thereby admonished that it must
not be contaminated by libidinous and dissolute intemperance. For if the
honour of marriage conceals the shame of incontinence, it ought not on
that account to be made an incitement to it. Wherefore let it not be
supposed by married persons that all things are lawful to them. Every man
should observe sobriety towards his wife, and every wife, reciprocally,
towards her husband; conducting themselves in such a manner as to do
nothing unbecoming the decorum and temperance of marriage. For thus ought
marriage contracted in the Lord to be regulated by moderation and modesty,
and not to break out into the vilest lasciviousness. Such sensuality has
been stigmatized by Ambrose with a severe, but not unmerited censure, when
he calls those who in their conjugal intercourse have no regard to modesty
or decorum, the adulterers of their own wives. Lastly, let us consider who
the Legislator is, by whom adultery is here condemned. It is no other than
he who ought to have the entire possession of us, and justly requires the
whole of our spirit, soul, and body. Therefore, when he prohibits us from
committing adultery, he at the same time forbids us, either by
lasciviously ornamenting our persons, or by obscene gesticulations, or by
impure expressions, insidiously to attack the chastity of others. For
there is much reason in the address of Archelaus to a young man clothed in
an immoderately effeminate and delicate manner, that it was immaterial in
what part he was immodest, with respect to God, who abominates all
contamination, in whatever part it may discover itself, either of soul or
of body. And that there may be no doubt on the subject, let us remember
that God here recommends chastity. If the Lord requires chastity of us, he
condemns every thing contrary to it. Wherefore, if we aspire to obedience,
neither let our mind internally burn with depraved concupiscence, nor let
our eyes wanton into corrupt affections, nor let our body be adorned for
purposes of seduction, nor let our tongue with impure speeches allure our
mind to similar thoughts, nor let us inflame ourselves with intemperance.
For all these vices are stains, by which the purity of chastity is
defiled.



The Eighth Commandment.


    _Thou shalt not steal._


XLV. The end of this precept is, that, as injustice is an abomination to
God, every man may possess what belongs to him. The sum of it, then, is,
that we are forbidden to covet the property of others, and are therefore
enjoined faithfully to use our endeavours to preserve to every man what
justly belongs to him. For we ought to consider, that what a man possesses
has fallen to his lot, not by a fortuitous contingency, but by the
distribution of the supreme Lord of all; and that therefore no man can be
deprived of his possessions by criminal methods, without an injury being
done to the Divine dispenser of them. But the species of theft are
numerous. One consists in violence; when the property of any person is
plundered by force and predatory license. Another consists in malicious
imposture; when it is taken away in a fraudulent manner. Another consists
in more secret cunning; where any one is deprived of his property under
the mask of justice. Another consists in flatteries; where we are cheated
under the pretence of a donation. But not to dwell too long on the recital
of the different species of theft, let us remember that all artifices by
which the possessions and wealth of our neighbours are transferred to us,
whenever they deviate from sincere love into a desire of deceiving, or
doing any kind of injury, are to be esteemed acts of theft. This is the
only view in which God considers them, even though the property may be
gained by a suit at law. For he sees the tedious manœuvres with which the
designing man begins to decoy his more simple neighbour, till at length he
entangles him in his snares. He sees the cruel and inhuman laws, by which
the more powerful man oppresses and ruins him that is weaker. He sees the
baits with which the more crafty trap the imprudent. All which things are
concealed from the judgment of man, nor ever come to his knowledge. And
this kind of injury relates not only to money, or to goods, or to lands,
but to whatever each individual is justly entitled to; for we defraud our
neighbours of their property, if we deny them those kind offices, which it
is our duty to perform to them. If an idle agent or steward devour the
substance of his master, and be inattentive to the care of his domestic
affairs; if he either improperly waste, or squander with a luxurious
profusion, the property intrusted to him; if a servant deride his master,
if he divulge his secrets, if by any means he betray either his life or
his property; and if, on the other hand, a master inhumanly oppress his
family,—God holds him guilty of theft. For the property of others is
withheld and misapplied by him, who does not perform towards them those
offices which the duty of his situation requires of him.

XLVI. We shall rightly obey this commandment therefore, if, contented with
our own lot, we seek no gain but in an honest and lawful way; if we
neither desire to enrich ourselves by injustice, nor attempt to ruin the
fortune of our neighbour, in order to increase our own; if we do not
labour to accumulate wealth by cruelty, and at the expense of the blood of
others; if we do not greedily scrape together from every quarter,
regardless of right or wrong, whatever may conduce to satiate our avarice
or support our prodigality. On the contrary, it should be our constant
aim, as far as possible, faithfully to assist all by our advice and our
property in preserving what belongs to them; but if we are concerned with
perfidious and fallacious men, let us be prepared rather to recede a
little from our just right than to contend with them. Moreover, let us
communicate to the necessities, and according to our ability alleviate the
poverty, of those whom we perceive to be pressed by any embarrassment of
their circumstances. Lastly, let every man examine what obligations his
duty lays him under to others, and let him faithfully discharge the duties
which he owes them. For this reason the people should honour their
governors, patiently submit to their authority, obey their laws and
mandates, and resist nothing, to which they can submit consistently with
the Divine will. On the other hand, let governors take care of their
people, preserve the public peace, protect the good, punish the wicked,
and administer all things in such a manner, as becomes those who must
render an account of their office to God the supreme Judge. Let the
ministers of churches faithfully devote themselves to the ministry of the
word, and let them never adulterate the doctrine of salvation, but deliver
it pure and uncontaminated to the people of God. Let them teach, not only
by their doctrine, but by the example of their lives; in a word, let them
preside as good shepherds over the sheep. Let the people, on their part,
receive them as the messengers and apostles of God, render to them that
honour to which the supreme Master has exalted them, and furnish them with
the necessaries of life. Let parents undertake the support, government,
and instruction of their children, as committed by God to their care; nor
let them exasperate their minds and alienate their affections from them by
cruelty, but cherish and embrace them with the lenity and indulgence
becoming their character. And that obedience is due to them from their
children has been before observed. Let juniors revere old age, since the
Lord has designed that age to be honourable. Let old men, by their
prudence and superior experience, guide the imbecility of youth; not
teasing them with sharp and clamorous invectives, but tempering severity
with mildness and affability. Let servants show themselves obedient and
diligent in the service of their masters; and that not only in appearance,
but from the heart, as serving God himself. Neither let masters behave
morosely and perversely to their servants, harassing them with excessive
asperity, or treating them with contempt; but rather acknowledge them as
their brethren and companions in the service of the heavenly Master,
entitled to be regarded with mutual affection, and to receive kind
treatment. In this manner, I say, let every man consider what duties he
owes to his neighbours, according to the relations he sustains; and those
duties let him discharge. Moreover, our attention should always be
directed to the Legislator; to remind us that this law is ordained for our
hearts as much as for our hands, in order that men may study both to
protect the property and to promote the interests of others.



The Ninth Commandment.


    _Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour._


XLVII. The end of this precept is, that because God, who is truth itself,
execrates a lie, we ought to preserve the truth without the least
disguise. The sum of it therefore is, that we neither violate the
character of any man, either by calumnies or by false accusations, nor
distress him in his property by falsehood, nor injure him by detraction or
impertinence. This prohibition is connected with an injunction to do all
the service we can to every man, by affirming the truth for the protection
of his reputation and his property. The Lord seems to have intended the
following words as an exposition of this command: “Thou shalt not raise a
false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous
witness.” Again: “Keep thee far from a false matter.”(895) In another
place also he not only forbids us to practise backbiting and tale‐bearing
among the people, but prohibits every man from deceiving his brother;(896)
for he cautions us against both in distinct commandments. Indeed there is
no doubt but that, as, in the preceding precepts, he has prohibited
cruelty, impurity, and avarice, so in this he forbids falsehood; of which
there are two branches, as we have before observed. For either we
transgress against the reputation of our neighbours by malignity and
perverse detraction, or by falsehood and sometimes by obloquy we injure
their interests. It is immaterial whether we suppose the testimony here
designed to be solemn and judicial, or a common one, which is delivered in
private conversations. For we must always recur to this maxim—that, of
each of the separate kinds of vices, one species is proposed as an
example, to which the rest may be referred; and that, in general, the
species selected is that in which the turpitude of the vice is most
conspicuous. It is proper, however, to extend it more generally to
calumnies and detraction, by which our neighbours are unjustly harassed;
because falsehood in a forensic testimony is always attended with perjury.
But perjury, being a profanation and violation of the name of God, has
already been sufficiently condemned in the third commandment. Wherefore
the legitimate observance of this precept is, that our tongue, by
asserting the truth, ought to serve both the reputation and the profit of
our neighbours. The equity of this is self‐evident. For if a good name be
more precious than any treasures whatever, a man sustains as great an
injury when he is deprived of the integrity of his character, as when he
is despoiled of his wealth. And in plundering his substance, there is
sometimes as much effected by false testimony, as by the hands of
violence.

XLVIII. Nevertheless, it is wonderful with what supine security this
precept is generally transgressed, so that few persons can be found, who
are not notoriously subject to this malady; we are so fascinated with the
malignant pleasure of examining and detecting the faults of others. Nor
should we suppose it to be a sufficient excuse, that in many cases we
cannot be charged with falsehood. For he who forbids the character of our
brother to be bespattered with falsehood, wills also that as far as the
truth will permit, it be preserved immaculate. For although he only guards
it against falsehood, he thereby suggests that it is committed to his
charge. But this should be sufficient to induce us to defend the fair
character of our neighbour—that God concerns himself in its protection.
Wherefore detraction is, without doubt, universally condemned. Now, by
detraction we mean, not reproof, which is given from a motive of
correction; not accusation or judicial denunciation, by which recompense
is demanded for an injury; not public reprehension, which tends to strike
terror into other offenders; not a discovery to them whose safety depends
on their being previously warned, that they may not be endangered through
ignorance; but odious crimination, which arises from malice, and a violent
propensity to detraction. This commandment also extends so far as to
forbid us to affect a pleasantry tinctured with scurrilous and bitter
sarcasms, severely lashing the faults of others under the appearance of
sport; which is the practice of some who aim at the praise of raillery, to
the prejudice of the modesty and feelings of others; for such wantonness
sometimes fixes a lasting stigma on the characters of our brethren. Now,
if we turn our eyes to the Legislator whose proper right it is to rule our
ears and our minds, as much as our tongues, it will certainly appear that
an avidity of hearing detraction, and an unreasonable propensity to
unfavourable opinions respecting others, are equally prohibited. For it
would be ridiculous for any one to suppose that God hates slander in the
tongue, and does not reprobate malice in the heart. Wherefore, if we
possess the true fear and love of God, let us make it our study, that as
far as is practicable and expedient, and consistent with charity, we
devote neither our tongues nor our ears to opprobrious and malicious
raillery, nor inadvertently attend to unfavourable suspicions; but that,
putting fair constructions on every man’s words and actions, we regulate
our hearts, our ears, and our tongues, with a view to preserve the
reputation of all around us.



The Tenth Commandment.


    _Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet
    thy neighbour’s wife, nor his man‐servant, nor his maid‐servant,
    nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s._


XLIX. The end of this precept is, that, since it is the will of God that
our whole soul should be under the influence of love, every desire
inconsistent with charity ought to be expelled from our minds. The sum,
then, will be, that no thought should obtrude itself upon us, which would
excite in our minds any desire that is noxious, and tends to the detriment
of another. To which corresponds the affirmative precept, that all our
conceptions, deliberations, resolutions, and undertakings, ought to be
consistent with the benefit and advantage of our neighbours. But here we
meet with what appears to be a great and perplexing difficulty. For if our
previous assertions be true, that the terms _adultery_ and _theft_
comprehend the licentious desire, and the injurious and criminal
intention, this may be thought to have superseded the necessity of a
separate command being afterwards introduced, forbidding us to covet the
possessions of others. But we shall easily solve this difficulty by a
distinction between intention and concupiscence. For an intention, as we
have before observed in explaining the former commandments, is a
deliberate consent of the will, when the mind has been enslaved by any
unlawful desire. Concupiscence may exist without such deliberation or
consent, when the mind is only attracted and stimulated by vain and
corrupt objects. As the Lord, therefore, has hitherto commanded our wills,
efforts, and actions to be subject to the law of love, so now he directs
that the conceptions of our minds be subject to the same regulation, lest
any of them be corrupt and perverted, and give our hearts an improper
impulse. As he has forbidden our minds to be inclined and persuaded to
anger, hatred, adultery, rapine, and falsehood, so now he prohibits them
from being instigated to these vices.

L. Nor is it without cause that he requires such consummate rectitude. For
who can deny that it is reasonable for all the powers of our souls to be
under the influence of love? But if any one deviate from the path of love,
who can deny that that soul is in an unhealthy state? Now, whence is it,
that your mind conceives desires prejudicial to your neighbour, but that,
neglecting his interest, you consult nothing but your own? For if your
heart were full of love, there would be no part of it exposed to such
imaginations. It must therefore be destitute of love, so far as it is the
seat of concupiscence. Some one will object, that it is unreasonable, that
imaginations, which without reflection flutter about in the mind, and then
vanish away, should be condemned as symptoms of concupiscence, which has
its seat in the heart. I reply, that the present question relates to that
kind of imaginations, which, when they are presented to our
understandings, at the same time strike our hearts, and inflame them with
cupidity; since the mind never entertains a wish for any thing after which
the heart is not excited to pant. Therefore God enjoins a wonderful ardour
of love, which he will not allow to be interrupted even by the smallest
degree of concupiscence. He requires a heart admirably well regulated,
which he permits not to be disturbed with the least emotion contrary to
the law of love. Do not imagine that this doctrine is unsupported by any
great authority; for I derived the first idea of it from Augustine. Now,
though the design of the Lord was to prohibit us from all corrupt desires,
yet he has exhibited, as examples, those objects which most generally
deceive us with a fallacious appearance of pleasure; that he might not
leave any thing to concupiscence, after having driven it from those
objects towards which it is most violently inclined. Behold, then, the
second table of the law, which sufficiently instructs us in the duties we
owe to men for the sake of God, on regard to whom the whole rule of love
depends. The duties taught in this second table, therefore, we shall
inculcate in vain, unless our instruction be founded on the fear and
reverence of God. To divide the prohibition of concupiscence into two
precepts, the discerning reader, without any comment of mine, will
pronounce to be a corrupt and violent separation of what is but one. Nor
is the repetition of this phrase, “Thou shalt not covet,” any objection
against us; because, having mentioned the house or family, God enumerates
the different parts of it, beginning with the wife. Hence it clearly
appears that it ought to be read, as it is correctly read by the Hebrews,
in one continued connection; and in short, that God commands, that all
that every man possesses remain safe and entire, not only from any actual
injury or fraudulent intention, but even from the least emotion of
cupidity that can solicit our hearts.

LI. But what is the tendency of the whole law, will not now be difficult
to judge: it is to a perfection of righteousness, that it may form the
life of man after the example of the Divine purity. For God has so
delineated his own character in it, that the man who exemplifies in his
actions the precepts it contains, will exhibit in his life, as it were, an
image of God. Wherefore, when Moses would recall the substance of it to
the remembrance of the Israelites, he said, “And now, Israel, what doth
the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in
all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord?”(897)
Nor did he cease to reiterate the same things to them, whenever he
intended to point out the end of the law. The tendency of the doctrine of
the law is to connect man with his God, and, as Moses elsewhere expresses
it, to make him cleave to the Lord in sanctity of life.(898) Now, the
perfection of this sanctity consists in two principal points, already
recited—“that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all
our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our
neighbour as ourselves.”(899) And the first is, that our souls be
completely filled with the love of God. From this the love of our
neighbour will naturally follow; as the Apostle signifies, when he says,
that “the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a
good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.”(900) Here we find a good
conscience and faith unfeigned, that is, in a word, true piety, stated to
be the grand source from which charity is derived. He is deceived,
therefore, who supposes that the law teaches nothing but certain rudiments
and first principles of righteousness, by which men are introduced to the
commencement, but are not directed to the true goal of good works; since
beyond the former sentence of Moses, and the latter of Paul, nothing
further can be wanted to the highest perfection. For how far will he wish
to proceed, who will not be content with this instruction, by which man is
directed to the fear of God, to the spiritual worship of him, to the
observance of his commands, to persevering rectitude in the way of the
Lord, to purity of conscience, and sincere faith and love? Hence we derive
a confirmation of the foregoing exposition of the law, which traces and
finds in its precepts all the duties of piety and love. For they who
attend merely to dry and barren elements, as though it taught them but
half of the Divine will, are declared by the Apostle to have no knowledge
of its end.

LII. But because Christ and his Apostles, in reciting the substance of the
law, sometimes omit the first table,(901) many persons are deceived in
this point, who wish to extend their expressions to both tables. In the
Gospel of Matthew, Christ calls judgment, mercy, and faith, “the weightier
matters of the law.” By the word faith it is evident to me that he intends
truth or fidelity towards men. Some, however, in order to extend the
passage to the whole law, take the word faith to mean religion towards
God. But for this there is no foundation; for Christ is treating of those
works by which man ought to prove himself to be righteous. If we attend to
this observation, we shall cease also to wonder, why, in another place, to
the inquiry of a young man, what those commandments are by the observance
of which we enter into life, he only returns the following answer: “Thou
shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal,
Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother; and,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”(902) For obedience to the first
table consisted chiefly either in the disposition of the heart, or in
ceremonies. The disposition of the heart was not visible, and the
ceremonies were diligently performed by hypocrites; but the works of
charity are such as enable us to give a certain evidence of righteousness.
But the same occurs in the Prophets so frequently, that it must be
familiar to the reader who is but tolerably conversant with them. For in
almost all cases when they exhort to repentance, they omit the first
table, and insist on faith, judgment, mercy, and equity. Nor do they by
this method neglect the fear of God, but require substantial proof of it
from those marks. It is well known that when they treat of the observation
of the law, they generally insist on the second table; because it is in it
that the love of righteousness and integrity is principally discovered. It
is unnecessary to quote the passages, as every person will of himself
easily remark what I have stated.

LIII. Is it, then, it will be asked, of more importance towards the
attainment of righteousness to live innocently with men, than piously
towards God? By no means. But because no man fulfils all the duties of
charity, unless he really fear God, we derive from those duties a proof of
his piety. Besides, the Lord, well knowing that he can receive no benefit
from us, which he also declares by the Psalmist,(903) requires not our
services for himself, but employs us in good works towards our neighbour.
It is not without reason, then, that the Apostle makes all the perfection
of the saints to consist in love;(904) which in another place he very
justly styles “the fulfilling of the law;” adding, that “he that loveth
another hath fulfilled the law.”(905) Again: that “all the law is
fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself.”(906) For he teaches nothing different from what is taught by
Christ himself, when he says, “All things whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the
prophets.”(907) It is certain that in the law and the prophets, faith, and
all that pertains to the legitimate worship of God, hold the principal
place, and that love occupies an inferior station; but our Lord intends
that the observance of justice and equity among men is only prescribed to
us in the law, that our pious fear of him, if we really possess any, may
be proved by our actions.

LIV. Here, then, we must rest, that our life will then be governed
according to the will of God, and the prescriptions of his law, when it is
in all respects most beneficial to our brethren. But we do not find in the
whole law one syllable, that lays down any rule for a man respecting those
things which he should practise or omit for his carnal convenience. And
surely, since men are born in such a state, that they are entirely
governed by an immoderate self‐love,—a passion which, how great soever
their departure from the truth, they always retain,—there was no need of a
law which would inflame that love, already of itself too violent. Whence
it plainly appears, that the observance of the commandments consists not
in the love of ourselves, but in the love of God and of our neighbour;
that his is the best and most holy life, who lives as little as possible
to himself; and that no man leads a worse or more iniquitous life, than he
who lives exclusively to himself, and makes his own interest the sole
object of his thoughts and pursuits. Moreover, the Lord, in order to give
us the best expression of the strength of that love which we ought to
exercise towards our neighbours, has regulated it by the standard of our
self‐love, because there was no stronger or more vehement affection. And
the force of the expression must be carefully examined; for he does not,
according to the foolish dreams of some sophists, concede the first place
to self‐love, and assign the second to the love of our neighbour; but
rather transfers to others that affection of love which we naturally
restrict to ourselves. Whence the Apostle asserts that “charity seeketh
not her own.”(908) Nor is their argument, that every thing regulated by
any standard is inferior to the standard by which it is regulated, worthy
of the least attention. For God does not appoint our self‐love as the
rule, to which our love to others should be subordinate; but whereas,
through our natural depravity, our love used to terminate in ourselves, he
shows that it ought now to be diffused abroad; that we may be ready to do
any service to our neighbour with as much alacrity, ardour, and
solicitude, as to ourselves.

LV. Now, since Christ has demonstrated, in the parable of the Samaritan,
that the word “neighbour” comprehends every man, even the greatest
stranger, we have no reason to limit the commandment of love to our own
relations or friends. I do not deny, that the more closely any person is
united to us, the greater claim he has to the assistance of our kind
offices. For the condition of humanity requires, that men should perform
more acts of kindness to each other, in proportion to the closeness of the
bonds by which they are connected, whether of relationship, or
acquaintance, or vicinity; and this without any offence to God, by whose
providence we are constrained to it. But I assert, that the whole human
race, without any exception, should be comprehended in the same affection
of love, and that in this respect there is no difference between the
barbarian and the Grecian, the worthy and unworthy, the friend and the
foe; for they are to be considered in God, and not in themselves, and
whenever we deviate from this view of the subject, it is no wonder if we
fall into many errors. Wherefore, if we wish to adhere to the true law of
love, our eyes must chiefly be directed, not to man, the prospect of whom
would impress us with hatred more frequently than with love, but to God,
who commands that our love to him be diffused among all mankind; so that
this must always be a fundamental maxim with us, that whatever be the
character of a man, yet we ought to love him because we love God.

LVI. Wherefore the schoolmen have discovered either their ignorance or
their wickedness in a most pestilent manner, when, treating of the
precepts prohibiting the desire of revenge, and enjoining the love of our
enemies, which were anciently delivered to all the Jews, and afterwards
equally to all Christians, they have made them to be counsels which we are
at liberty to obey or not to obey, and have confined the necessary
observance of them to the monks, who, on account of this very
circumstance, would be more righteous than plain Christians, because they
voluntarily bound themselves to observe these counsels. The reason which
they assign for not receiving them as laws, is, that they appear too
burdensome and grievous, especially to Christians who are under the law of
grace. Do they presume in this manner to disannul the eternal law of God
respecting the love of our neighbour? Is such a distinction to be found in
any page of the law? On the contrary, does it not abound with commandments
most strictly enjoining the love of our enemies? For what is the meaning
of the injunction to feed our neighbour when he is hungry?(909) to direct
into the right way his oxen or his asses when they are going astray, and
to help them when sinking under a burden?(910) Shall we do good to his
cattle for his sake, and feel no benevolence to his person? What! is not
the word of the Lord eternal? “Vengeance is mine, I will repay:”(911)
which is expressed in another passage still more explicitly: “Thou shalt
not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people.”(912)
Let them either obliterate these passages from the law, or acknowledge
that the Lord was a Legislator, and no longer falsely pretend that he was
only a counsellor.

LVII. And what is the meaning of the following expressions, which they
have presumed to abuse by the absurdity of their comment? “Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and
pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may
be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”(913) Here, who would
not argue with Chrysostom, that the allegation of such a necessary cause
clearly proves these to be, not exhortations, but commandments? What have
we left us, after being expunged from the number of the children of God?
But according to them, the monks will be the only sons of the heavenly
Father; they alone will venture to invoke God as their Father. What will
now become of the Church? Upon the same principle it will be confined to
heathen and publicans. For Christ says, “If ye love them which love you,
what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”(914) Shall not
we be in a happy situation, if they leave us the title of Christians, but
deprive us of the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven? The argument of
Augustine is equally strong. When the Lord, says he, prohibits adultery,
he forbids you to violate the wife of your enemy no less than of your
friend: when he prohibits theft, he permits you not to steal from any one,
whether he be a friend or an enemy. Now, Paul reduces these two
prohibitions of theft and adultery to the rule of love, and even teaches
that they are “briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself.”(915) Either, then, Paul must have been an
erroneous expositor of the law, or it necessarily follows from this, that
we are commanded to love, not only our friends, but also our enemies.
Those, therefore, who so licentiously shake off the yoke common to the
children of God, evidently betray themselves to be the sons of Satan. It
is doubtful whether they have discovered greater stupidity or impudence in
the publication of this dogma. For all the fathers decidedly pronounce
that these are mere precepts. That no doubt was entertained on the subject
in the time of Gregory, appears from his positive assertions; for he
treats them as precepts, as though it had never been controverted. And how
foolishly do they argue! They would be a burden, say they, too grievous
for Christians; as though truly any thing could be conceived more
difficult, than to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and
with all our strength. Compared with this law, every thing must be
accounted easy, whether it be to love an enemy, or to banish from the mind
all desire of revenge. To our imbecility, indeed, every thing is arduous
and difficult, even the smallest point in the law. It is the Lord in whom
we find strength: let him give what he commands, and let him command what
he pleases. The being Christians under the law of grace consists not in
unbounded license uncontrolled by any law, but in being ingrafted into
Christ, by whose grace they are delivered from the curse of the law, and
by whose Spirit they have the law inscribed on their hearts. This grace
Paul has figuratively denominated a law, in allusion to the law of God, to
which he was comparing and contrasting it. Their dispute concerning the
word law is a dispute about nothing.

LVIII. Of the same nature is what they have called venial sin—a term which
they apply to secret impiety, which is a breach of the first table, and to
the direct transgression of the last commandment. For this is their
definition, that “it is evil desire without any deliberate assent, and
without any long continuance in the heart.” Now, I assert that evil desire
cannot enter the heart, except through a deficiency of those things which
the law requires. We are forbidden to have any strange gods. When the
mind, assaulted by mistrust, looks around to some other quarter; when it
is stimulated by a sudden desire of transferring its happiness from God to
some other being; whence proceed these emotions, however transient, but
from the existence of some vacant space in the soul to receive such
temptations? And not to protract this argument to greater length, we are
commanded to love God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all
our soul: therefore, unless all the powers of our soul be intensely
engaged in the love of God, we have already departed from the obedience
required by the law; for that the dominion of God is not well established
in our conscience, is evident, from the enemies that there rebel against
his government, and interrupt the execution of his commands. That the last
commandment properly belongs to this point, has been already demonstrated.
Have we felt any evil desire in our heart? we are already guilty of
concupiscence, and are become at once transgressors of the law; because
the Lord forbids us, not only to plan and attempt any thing that would
prove detrimental to another, but even to be stimulated and agitated with
concupiscence. Now, the curse of God always rests on the transgression of
the law. We have no reason, therefore, to exempt even the most trivial
emotions of concupiscence from the sentence of death. “In determining the
nature of different sins,” says Augustine, “let us not use deceitful
balances, to weigh what we please and how we please, according to our own
humour, saying, This is heavy,—This is light; but let us borrow the Divine
balance from the Holy Scriptures, as from the treasury of the Lord, and
therein weigh what is heavy; or rather let us weigh nothing ourselves, but
acknowledge the weights already determined by the Lord.” And what says the
Scripture? The assertion of Paul, that “the wages of sin is death,”(916)
sufficiently demonstrates this groundless distinction to have been unknown
to him. As we have already too strong a propensity to hypocrisy, this
opiate ought by no means to have been added, to lull our consciences into
greater insensibility.

LIX. I wish these persons would consider the meaning of this declaration
of Christ: “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and
shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of
heaven.”(917) Are not they of this number, who thus presume to extenuate
the transgression of the law, as though it were not worthy of death? But
they ought to consider, not merely what is commanded, but who it is that
gives the commands; because the smallest transgression of the law, which
he has given, is a derogation from his authority. Is the violation of the
Divine majesty in any case a trivial thing in their estimation? Lastly, if
God has declared his will in the law, whatever is contrary to the law
displeases him. Will they pretend that the wrath of God is so debilitated
and disarmed, that the punishment of death cannot immediately follow? He
has unequivocally declared, if they could induce themselves to listen to
his voice, rather than obscure the plain truth with their frivolous
subtleties, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;”(918) and, which I have
before cited, “The wages of sin is death.”(919) They acknowledge it to be
sin, because it is impossible to deny it; yet they contend that it is not
_mortal_ sin. But, as they have hitherto too much resigned themselves to
infatuation, they should at length learn to return to the exercise of
their reason. If they persevere in their dreams, we will take our leave of
them. Let the children of God know that all sin is _mortal_; because it is
a rebellion against the will of God, which necessarily provokes his wrath;
because it is a transgression of the law, against which the Divine
judgment is universally denounced; and that the offences of the saints are
_venial_, not of their own nature, but because they obtain pardon through
the mercy of God.



Chapter IX. Christ, Though Known To The Jews Under The Law, Yet Clearly
Revealed Only In The Gospel.


As it was not without reason, or without effect, that God was pleased, in
ancient times, to manifest himself as a Father by means of expiations and
sacrifices, and that he consecrated to himself a chosen people, there is
no doubt that he was known, even then, in the same image in which he now
appears to us with meridian splendour. Therefore Malachi, after having
enjoined the Jews to attend to the law of Moses, and to persevere in the
observance of it, (because after his death there was to be an interruption
of the prophetical office,) immediately announces, that “the Sun of
righteousness shall arise.”(920) In this language he suggests, that the
law tended to excite in the pious an expectation of the Messiah that was
to come, and that at his advent there was reason to hope for a much
greater degree of light. For this reason Peter says that “the Prophets
have inquired and searched diligently concerning the salvation,” which is
now manifested in the gospel; and that “it was revealed to them, that not
unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now
reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you.”(921)
Not that their instructions were useless to the ancient people, or
unprofitable to themselves, but because they did not enjoy the treasure,
which God through their hands has transmitted to us. For in the present
day, the grace, which was the subject of their testimony, is familiarly
exhibited before our eyes; and whereas they had but a small taste, we have
offered to us a more copious fruition of it. Therefore Christ, who asserts
that “Moses wrote of him,”(922) nevertheless extols that measure of grace
in which we excel the Jews. Addressing his disciples, he says, “Blessed
are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.”(923) “For I
tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things
which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye
hear, and have not heard them.”(924) This is no small recommendation of
the evangelical revelation, that God has preferred us to those holy
fathers who were eminent for singular piety. To this declaration that
other passage is not at all repugnant, where Christ says, “Abraham saw my
day, and was glad.”(925) For though his prospect of a thing so very remote
was attended with much obscurity, yet there was nothing wanting to the
certainty of a well founded hope; and hence that joy which accompanied the
holy patriarch even to his death. Neither does this assertion of John the
Baptist, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which
is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him,”(926) exclude the
pious, who had died before his time, from a participation of the
understanding and light which shine in the person of Christ; but,
comparing their condition with ours, it teaches us that we have a clear
manifestation of those mysteries, of which they had only an obscure
prospect through the medium of shadows; as the author of the Epistle to
the Hebrews more copiously and excellently shows, that “God, who at sundry
times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the
prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”(927)
Therefore, though the only begotten Son, who is now to us “the brightness
of the glory, and the express image of the person,”(928) of God the
Father, was formerly known to the Jews, as we have elsewhere shown by a
quotation from Paul, that he was the leader of their ancient deliverance
from Egypt; yet this also is a truth, which is asserted by the same Paul
in another place, that “God, who commanded the light to shine out of
darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of
the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”(929) For when he appeared
in this his image, he made himself visible, as it were, in comparison with
the obscure and shadowy representation of him which had been given before.
This renders the ingratitude and obstinacy of those, who shut their eyes
amid this meridian blaze, so much the more vile and detestable. And
therefore Paul says that Satan, “the god of this world, hath blinded their
minds, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto
them.”(930)

II. Now, I understand the gospel to be a clear manifestation of the
mystery of Christ. I grant indeed, since Paul styles the gospel _the
doctrine of faith_,(931) that whatever promises we find in the law
concerning the gracious remission of sins, by which God reconciles men to
himself, are accounted parts of it. For he opposes faith to those terrors
which torment and harass the conscience, if salvation is to be sought by
works. Whence it follows, that taking the word _gospel_ in a large sense,
it comprehends all those testimonies, which God formerly gave to the
fathers, of his mercy and paternal favour; but it is more eminently
applicable to the promulgation of the grace exhibited in Christ. This
acceptation is not only sanctioned by common use, but supported by the
authority of Christ and the Apostles. Whence it is properly said of him,
that he “preached the gospel of the kingdom.”(932) And Mark introduces
himself with this preface: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
But it is needless to collect more passages to prove a thing sufficiently
known. Christ, then, by his advent, “hath brought life and immortality to
light through the gospel.”(933) By these expressions Paul means, not that
the fathers were immerged in the shades of death, till the Son of God
became incarnate; but, claiming for the gospel this honourable
prerogative, he teaches that it is a new and unusual kind of legation, in
which God has performed those things that he had promised, that the truth
of the promises might appear in the person of his Son. For though the
faithful have always experienced the truth of the assertion of Paul, that
“all the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen,”(934) because
they have been sealed in their hearts, yet, since he has completed in his
body all the parts of our salvation, the lively exhibition of those things
has justly obtained new and singular praise. Hence this declaration of
Christ: “Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”(935) For though he seems to
allude to the ladder which the patriarch Jacob saw in a vision, yet he
displays the superior excellence of his advent by this character—that he
has opened the gate of heaven to give us free admittance into it.

III. Nevertheless, we must beware of the diabolical imagination of
Servetus, who, while he designs to extol the magnitude of the grace of
Christ, or at least professes such a design, totally abolishes all the
promises, as though they were terminated together with the law. He
pretends, that by faith in the gospel we receive the completion of all the
promises; as though there were no distinction between us and Christ. I
have just observed, that Christ left nothing incomplete of all that was
essential to our salvation; but it is not a fair inference, that we
already enjoy the benefits procured by him; for this would contradict the
declaration of Paul, that “hope is laid up for us.”(936) I grant, indeed,
that when we believe in Christ, we at the same time pass from death to
life; but we should also remember the observation of John, that though “we
are now the sons of God, it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we
know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see
him as he is.”(937) Though Christ, therefore, offers us in the gospel a
present plenitude of spiritual blessings, yet the fruition of them is
concealed under the custody of hope, till we are divested of our
corruptible body, and transfigured into the glory of him who has gone
before us. In the mean time, the Holy Spirit commands us to rely on the
promises; and his authority we ought to consider sufficient to silence all
the clamours of Servetus. For according to the testimony of Paul,
“godliness hath promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to
come;”(938) and therefore he boasts of being an Apostle of Christ;
“according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.”(939) In
another place he apprizes us that we have the same promises which were
given to the saints in former times.(940) Finally, he represents it as the
summit of felicity, that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of
promise.(941) Nor, indeed, have we otherwise any enjoyment of Christ, any
further than as we embrace him invested with his promises. Hence it is,
that he dwells in our hearts, and yet we live like pilgrims at a distance
from him; because “we walk by faith, and not by sight.” Nor is there any
contrariety in these two positions, that we possess in Christ all that
belongs to the perfection of the life of heaven, and yet that faith is a
vision of invisible blessings. Only there is a difference to be observed
in the nature or quality of the promises; because the gospel affords a
clear discovery of that which the law has represented in shadows and
types.

IV. This likewise evinces the error of those who never make any other
comparison between the Law and the Gospel, than between the merit of works
and the gratuitous imputation of righteousness. This antithesis, I grant,
is by no means to be rejected; because Paul by the word _law_ frequently
intends the rule of a righteous life, in which God requires of us what we
owe to him, affording us no hope of life, unless we fulfil every part of
it, and, on the contrary, annexing a curse if we are guilty of the
smallest transgression. This is the sense in which he uses it in those
passages, where he argues that we are accepted by God through grace, and
are accounted righteous through his pardon of our sins, because the
observance of the law, to which the reward is promised, is not to be found
in any man. Paul, therefore, justly represents the righteousness of the
law and that of the gospel as opposed to each other. But the gospel has
not succeeded the whole law, so as to introduce a different way of
salvation; but rather to confirm and ratify the promises of the law, and
to connect the body with the shadows. For when Christ says that “the law
and the prophets were until John,” he does not abandon the fathers to the
curse which the slaves of the law cannot escape; he rather implies that
they were only initiated in the rudiments of religion, so that they
remained far below the sublimity of the evangelical doctrine. Wherefore,
when Paul calls the gospel “the power of God unto salvation to every one
that believeth,” he afterwards adds that it is “witnessed by the law and
the prophets.”(942) But at the end of the same Epistle, although he
asserts that the preaching of Jesus Christ is “the revelation of the
mystery which was kept secret since the world began,” he qualifies this
sentiment with the following explication—that it “is now made manifest,
and by the Scriptures of the prophets made known to all nations.”(943)
Hence we conclude, that when mention is made of the whole law, the gospel
differs from it only with respect to a clear manifestation; but on account
of the inestimable plenitude of grace, which has been displayed to us in
Christ, the celestial kingdom of God is justly said to have been erected
in the earth at his advent.

V. Now, John was placed between the Law and the Gospel, holding an
intermediate office connected with both. For though, in calling Christ
“the Lamb of God” and “the victim for the expiation of sins,”(944) he
preached the substance of the gospel; yet, because he did not clearly
express that incomparable power and glory which afterwards appeared in his
resurrection, Christ affirms that he is not equal to the Apostles. This is
his meaning in the following words: “Among them that are born of women,
there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he
that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”(945) For he is
not there commending the persons of men, but after having preferred John
to all the prophets, he allots the highest degree of honour to the
preaching of the gospel, which we have elsewhere seen is signified by “the
kingdom of heaven.” When John himself said that he was only a
“voice,”(946) as though he were inferior to the prophets, this declaration
proceeded not from a pretended humility; he meant to signify that he was
not intrusted with a proper embassy, but acted merely in the capacity of a
herald, according to the prediction of Malachi: “Behold, I will send you
Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the
Lord.”(947) Nor indeed, through the whole course of his ministry, did he
aim at any thing but procuring disciples for Christ, which he also proves
from Isaiah to have been the commission given him by God. In this sense he
was called by Christ “a burning and a shining light,”(948) because the
full day had not yet arrived. Yet this is no reason why he should not be
numbered among the preachers of the gospel, as he used the same baptism
which was afterwards delivered to the apostles. But it was not till after
Christ was received into the celestial glory, that the more free and rapid
progress of the apostles completed what John had begun.



Chapter X. The Similarity Of The Old And New Testaments.


From the preceding observations it may now be evident, that all those
persons, from the beginning of the world, whom God has adopted into the
society of his people, have been federally connected with him by the same
law and the same doctrine which are in force among us: but because it is
of no small importance that this point be established, I shall show, by
way of appendix, since the fathers were partakers with us of the same
inheritance, and hoped for the same salvation through the grace of our
common Mediator, how far their condition in this connection was different
from ours. For though the testimonies we have collected from the law and
the prophets in proof of this, render it sufficiently evident that the
people of God have never had any other rule of religion and piety, yet
because some writers have raised many disputes concerning the difference
of the Old and New Testaments, which may occasion doubts in the mind of an
undiscerning reader, we shall assign a particular chapter for the better
and more accurate discussion of this subject. Moreover, what would
otherwise have been very useful, has now been rendered necessary for us by
Servetus and some madmen of the sect of the Anabaptists, who entertain no
other ideas of the Israelitish nation, than of a herd of swine, whom they
pretend to have been pampered by the Lord in this world, without the least
hope of a future immortality in heaven. To defend the pious mind,
therefore, from this pestilent error, and at the same time to remove all
difficulties which may arise from the mention of a diversity between the
Old and New Testaments, let us, as we proceed, examine what similarity
there is between them, and what difference; what covenant the Lord made
with the Israelites, in ancient times, before the advent of Christ, and
what he has entered into with us since his manifestation in the flesh.

II. And, indeed, both these topics may be despatched in one word. The
covenant of all the fathers is so far from differing substantially from
ours, that it is the very same; it only varies in the administration. But
as such extreme brevity would not convey to any man a clear understanding
of the subject, it is necessary, if we would do any good, to proceed to a
more diffuse explication of it. But in showing their similarity, or rather
unity, it will be needless to recapitulate all the particulars which have
already been mentioned, and unseasonable to introduce those things which
remain to be discussed in some other place. We must here insist chiefly on
three principal points. We have to maintain, First, that carnal opulence
and felicity were not proposed to the Jews as the mark towards which they
should ultimately aspire, but that they were adopted to the hope of
immortality, and that the truth of this adoption was certified to them by
oracles, by the law, and by the prophets. Secondly, that the covenant, by
which they were united to the Lord, was founded, not on any merits of
theirs, but on the mere mercy of God who called them. Thirdly, that they
both possessed and knew Christ as the Mediator, by whom they were united
to God, and became partakers of his promises. The second of these points,
as perhaps it is not yet sufficiently known, shall be demonstrated at
large in its proper place. For we shall prove by numerous and explicit
testimonies of the prophets, that whatever blessing the Lord ever gave or
promised to his people, proceeded from his indulgent goodness. The third
point has been clearly demonstrated in several places. And we have not
wholly neglected the first.

III. In discussing the first point, therefore, because it principally
belongs to the present argument, and is the grand subject of their
controversy against us, we will use the more diligent application; yet in
such a manner, that if any thing be wanting to the explication of the
others, it may be supplied as we proceed, or added afterwards in a
suitable place. Indeed, the apostle removes every doubt respecting all
these points, when he says, that God the Father “promised afore by his
prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son,”(949)
which he promulgated in the appointed time: and again, that the
righteousness of faith, which is revealed in the gospel, is “witnessed by
the law and the prophets.”(950) For the gospel does not detain men in the
joy of the present life, but elevates them to the hope of immortality;
does not fasten them to terrestrial delights, but announcing to them a
hope reserved in heaven, does as it were transport them thither. For this
is the description which he gives in another place: “In whom also after
that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which
is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased
possession.”(951) Again: “We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of
the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up
for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the
gospel.”(952) Again: “He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the
glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(953) Whence it is called “the word of
salvation,” and “the power of God to the salvation of believers,” and “the
kingdom of heaven.” Now, if the doctrine of the gospel be spiritual, and
open a way to the possession of an immortal life, let us not suppose that
they, to whom it was promised and announced, were totally negligent and
careless of their souls, and stupefied in the pursuit of corporeal
pleasures. Nor let any one here cavil, that the promises which are
recorded in the law and the prophets, respecting the gospel, were not
designed for the Jews. For just after having spoken of the gospel being
promised in the law, he adds, “that what things soever the law saith, it
saith to them who are under the law.”(954) This was in another argument, I
grant; but when he said that whatever the law inculcates truly belonged to
the Jews, he was not so forgetful as not to remember what he had affirmed,
a few verses before, concerning the gospel promised in the law. By
declaring that the Old Testament contained evangelical promises,
therefore, the apostle most clearly demonstrates that it principally
related to a future life.

IV. For the same reason it follows, that it was founded on the free mercy
of God, and confirmed by the mediation of Christ. For even the preaching
of the gospel only announces, that sinners are justified by the paternal
goodness of God, independently of any merit of their own; and the whole
substance of it terminates in Christ. Who, then, dares to represent the
Jews as destitute of Christ,—them with whom we are informed the
evangelical covenant was made, of which Christ is the sole foundation? Who
dares to represent them as strangers to the benefit of a free salvation,
to whom we are informed the doctrine of the righteousness of faith was
communicated? But not to be prolix in disputing on a clear point, we have
a remarkable expression of the Lord: “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and
he saw it, and was glad.”(955) And what Christ there declares concerning
Abraham, the apostle shows to have been universal among the faithful, when
he says that Christ remains “the same yesterday, and to‐day, and for
ever.”(956) For he there speaks, not only of the eternal Divinity of
Christ, but of his power, which has been perpetually manifested to the
faithful. Wherefore both the blessed Virgin and Zachariah declare, in
their songs, that the salvation revealed in Christ is a performance of the
promises which the Lord had made to Abraham and the patriarchs.(957) If
the Lord, in the manifestation of Christ, faithfully performed his ancient
oath, it cannot be denied that the end of the Old Testament was always in
Christ and eternal life.

V. Moreover the apostle makes the Israelites equal to us, not only in the
grace of the covenant, but also in the signification of the sacraments.
For when he means to adduce examples of the punishments with which the
Scripture states them to have been formerly chastised, in order to deter
the Corinthians from running into similar crimes, he begins by premising,
that we have no reason to arrogate any preëminence to ourselves, which can
deliver us from the Divine vengeance inflicted on them; since the Lord not
only favoured them with the same benefits, but illustrated his grace among
them by the same symbols;(958) as though he had said, If ye confide in
being beyond the reach of danger, because both baptism by which you have
been sealed, and the supper which you daily receive, have excellent
promises, while at the same time you despise the Divine goodness, and live
licentious lives,—know ye, that the Jews also were not destitute of such
symbols, though the Lord inflicted on them his severest judgments. They
were baptized in their passage through the sea, and in the cloud by which
they were protected from the fervour of the sun. Our opponents maintain
that passage to have been a carnal baptism, corresponding in some degree
to our spiritual one. But if that were admitted, the apostle’s argument
would not proceed; for his design here is to prevent Christians from
supposing that they excel the Jews in the privilege of baptism. Nor is
what immediately follows, that they “did all eat the same spiritual meat,
and did all drink the same spiritual drink,” which he interprets of
Christ, liable to this cavil.

VI. To invalidate this declaration of Paul, they object the assertion of
Christ, “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. If
any man eat of this bread, (that is, my flesh,) he shall live for
ever.”(959) But the two passages are reconciled without any difficulty.
The Lord, because he was addressing auditors who only sought to be
satisfied with corporeal sustenance, but were unconcerned about food for
the soul, accommodates his discourse in some measure to their capacity,
and institutes a comparison between manna and his own body, particularly
to strike their senses. They demand that in order to acquire authority to
himself, he should prove his power by some miracle, such as Moses
performed in the desert, when he obtained manna from heaven. In the manna,
however, they had no idea of any thing but a remedy for corporeal hunger,
with which the people were then afflicted. They did not penetrate to that
sublimer mystery of which Paul treats. Christ, therefore, to demonstrate
the superiority of the blessing they ought to expect from him, to that
which they said their fathers had received from Moses, makes this
comparison: If it be in your opinion a great and memorable miracle, that
the Lord, to prevent his people from perishing in the wilderness, supplied
them, by means of Moses, with heavenly food, which served them as a
temporary sustenance,—hence conclude how much more excellent that food
must be, which communicates immortality. We see, then, why the Lord
omitted the principal thing designed by the manna, and only remarked the
lowest advantage that resulted from it. It was because the Jews, as if
with an intention of reproaching him, contrasted him with Moses, who had
supplied the necessities of the people with manna. He replies, that he is
the dispenser of a far superior favour, in comparison with which the
corporeal sustenance of the people, the sole object of their great
admiration, deserves to be considered as nothing. Knowing that the Lord,
when he rained manna from heaven, not only poured it down for the support
of their bodies, but likewise dispersed it as a spiritual mystery, to
typify that spiritual vivification which is experienced in Christ, Paul
does not neglect that view of the subject which is most deserving of
consideration. Wherefore it is certainly and clearly proved, that the same
promises of an eternal and heavenly life, with which the Lord now favours
us, were not only communicated to the Jews, but even sealed and confirmed
by sacraments truly spiritual. This subject is argued at length by
Augustine against Faustus the Manichæan.

VII. But if the reader would prefer a recital of testimonies from the law
and the prophets, to show him that the spiritual covenant was common also
to the fathers, as we have heard from Christ and his apostles,—I will
attend to this wish, and that with the greater readiness, because our
adversaries will thereby be more decisively confuted, and will have no
pretence for any future cavil. I will begin with that demonstration,
which, though I know the Anabaptists will superciliously deem it futile
and almost ridiculous, yet will have considerable weight with persons of
docility and good understanding. And I take it for granted, that there is
such a vital efficacy in the Divine word as to quicken the souls of all
those whom God favours with a participation of it. For the assertion of
Peter has ever been true, that it is “an incorruptible seed, which abideth
for ever;”(960) as he also concludes from the words of Isaiah.(961) Now,
when God anciently united the Jews with himself in this sacred bond, there
is no doubt that he separated them to the hope of eternal life. For when I
say, that they embraced the word which was to connect them more closely
with God, I advert not to that general species of communication with him,
which is diffused through heaven and earth, and all the creatures in the
universe, which although it animates all things according to their
respective natures, yet does not deliver from the necessity of corruption.
I refer to that particular species of communication, by which the minds of
the pious are enlightened into the knowledge of God, and in some measure
united to him. Since Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs,
were attached to God by such an illumination of his word, I maintain,
there can be no doubt that they had an entrance into his immortal kingdom.
For it was a real participation of God, which cannot be separated from the
blessing of eternal life.

VIII. If the subject still appear involved in any obscurity, let us
proceed to the very form of the covenant; which will not only satisfy
sober minds, but will abundantly prove the ignorance of those who
endeavour to oppose it. For the Lord has always made this covenant with
his servants: “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”(962) These
expressions, according to the common explanation of the prophets,
comprehend life, and salvation, and consummate felicity. For it is not
without reason that David frequently pronounces, how “blessed is the
nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his
own inheritance;”(963) and that not on account of any earthly felicity,
but because he delivers from death, perpetually preserves, and attends
with everlasting mercy, those whom he has taken for his people. As it is
expressed in the other prophets, “Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my
God, mine Holy One? we shall not die.”(964) “The Lord is our Lawgiver, the
Lord is our King; he will save us.”(965) “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is
like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord?”(966) But not to labour much
on a point which does not require it, we are frequently reminded, in
reading the prophets, that we shall have a plenitude of all blessings, and
even a certainty of salvation, provided the Lord be our God. And that on
good ground; for if his face, as soon as it has begun to shine, be a
present pledge of salvation, will God manifest himself to any man without
opening the treasures of salvation to him? For God is our God, on the
express condition of his “walking in the midst of us,” as he declared by
Moses.(967) But this presence of his cannot be obtained without the
possession of life. And though nothing further had been expressed, they
had a promise of spiritual life sufficiently clear in these words: “I am
the Lord your God.”(968) For he announced that he would be a God, not only
to their bodies, but chiefly to their souls; for the soul, unless united
to God by righteousness, remains alienated from him at death. But let that
union take place, and it will be attended with eternal salvation.

IX. Moreover, he not only declared himself to be their God, but promised
to continue so for ever; in order that their hope, not contented with
present blessings, might be extended to eternity. And that the use of the
future tense conveyed this idea to them, appears from many expressions,
where the faithful console themselves not only amidst present evils, but
for futurity, that God will never desert them. But in regard to the second
part of the promise, he still more plainly encouraged them concerning the
extension of the Divine blessing to them beyond the limits of the present
life: “I will be a God to thy seed after thee.”(969) For if he intended to
declare his benevolence to them after they were dead, by blessing their
posterity, much more would he not fail of manifesting his favour towards
themselves. For God is not like men, who transfer their love to the
children of their friends, because death takes away their opportunity of
performing kind offices to those who were objects of their regard. But
God, whose beneficence is not interrupted by death, deprives not the dead
of the blessings of his mercy, which for their sakes he diffuses through a
thousand generations. The design of the Lord, therefore, was to show them,
by a clear proof, the magnitude and abundance of his goodness which they
should experience after death, when he described its exuberance as
reaching to all their posterity.(970) Now, the Lord sealed the truth, and,
as it were, exhibited the completion of this promise, when he called
himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, long after they were
dead.(971) For what is implied in it? Would it not have been a ridiculous
appellation, if they had perished? It would have been just as if he had
said, I am the God of those who have no existence. Wherefore, the
evangelists relate, that with this single argument the Sadducees were so
embarrassed by Christ,(972)