O man who art thou that pleadest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?
Dearly Beloved Brethren,
We must not be amazed if the article of the everlasting predestination to God, be so assaulted and fought against by Satan’s maintainers, seeing it is the foundation of our salvation, and also serveth for the better magnifying of the free goodness of God towards us. On the other side those Dogs which bark against it thinking to have a good and favorable cause are therein more hardy: as in very truth there is nothing more contrary to man’s understanding, than to place the cause of our salvation in the good will of God, in saying, that it belongeth to him alone to choose us: without finding of anything in us wherefore he should choose us: and after he hath chosen us, to give us faith through which we should be justified. But what? Inasmuch as he is not bound to the person, it is good reason that he be left in his mere liberty to give grace unto whom he will, and to leave the rest in his perdition. But I defer myself to entreat more largely of this matter, because you may have large discourse thereof in those Books which are imprinted: which ought to content you. Concerning the writing which was scattered about, to abolish this article of our faith, in very truth it deserveth no answer: being on the one side so full of ignorance and beastliness, that everyone ought easily to judge thereof: and on the other side so full of impudence, that it is a wonder how these troublecoasts and shameless deceivers, abusing so villainously the holy Scriptures should be hearkened unto: notwithstanding because I have understood that there are yet some simple and weak ones that are troubled therewith, I therefore thought good to take the pain to show them that will show themselves teachable: how they ought to resolve themselves, to the end they might be no more deceived by these deceivers.
In the first place, he that hath made that writing, were it Sebastian Chastalio or some such like: to show that God hath created all the world to be saved, he allegeth that he laboreth to draw unto him all that went astray: the which I confess in respect of the doctrine of faith and repentance, the which he propoundeth to all in general: be it to draw his elect unto him, or to make other inexcusable. God then calleth everyone to repentance and promiseth all those that return unto him, to receive them to mercy. But this meaneth not that he toucheth to the quick by his holy spirit, all those to whom he speaketh: as it is said by Isay in the fifty-third chapter, His arm is not revealed to all those that hear. To which agreeth the sentence of our Lord Jesus Christ, None can come unto me, except my father draw him. And the holy scripture showeth throughout, that conversion is a special gift of God. And indeed the place of Ezechie13, whereof this troublecoast maketh his buckler, very well confirmeth my saying. For the Prophet having said, “that God will not have pleasure in the death of a sinner”, addeth, “but rather will that he return and live.” Whereby he signifieth that God biddeth and exhorteth all which are gone astray to return to the right way. But not that indeed he leadeth them all to himself by the power of his spirit. The which he promiseth not, but to a certain number, which appeareth as well in the thirty-first chapter of Jeremy4, as in the thirty-seventh of Ezechiel and in the eleventh5 and throughout the whole scripture.
The second reason of this writing is, that all men are created to the image of GOD, the which he saith not to have been abolished but only subjected to evil. As though it behooved man at adventure to believe his simple saying. But contrariwise the Scripture showeth, that albeit there remain yet some trace of the image of God in us, yet that the whole is disfigured, so as reason is blind, and the heart perverse: wherefore by nature we are wholly accursed. We see therefore at the least, that by the will and decree of God, we have been all subject to everlasting damnation through the fall of one man. Concerning that which this troublecoast addeth, that if we believe, we are delivered through Christ by the power of the gospel, and of the holy ghost: that serves for nothing, but to confirm our doctrine. For it behooveth that we always come thither, that none believe, unless those which are ordained to salvation. Acts thirteen6 and all the scripture is full thereof. Wherefore this is as much, as if he should say, that the elect of God are delivered from that common damnation through faith.
The third article containeth an horrible blasphemy that if God have created men to damn them, his will and the Devil’s is all one. They that speak so, show plainly enough that they are altogether mockers of God, and despisers of all religion. It pleased God that Job should be robbed and spoiled: to be short, all that is there attributed to the Devil, and to those thieves and robbers, it is said plainly, that it came not to pass but by the good pleasure of GOD. Must we therefore conclude that God’s will and the Devil’s are all one? But they that know that the judgments of God are bottomless, and shall have once known their own weakness, will adore them with all reverence and humility and know well to put a difference, although that GOD willeth the same thing that the devil doth, yet that this is indeed in divers respects. And so, that he deserveth always to be acknowledged righteous, although that his counsel be incomprehensible unto us.
Afterwards to abolish the Election of GOD, seeming as though he would confess it, he answereth that God hath not created nor predestinated any man not to believe, seeing he calleth everyone. Wherein he showed that he never yet learned the ABC of Christians, seeing he knoweth not how to distinguish between the outward preaching, which is done by the mouth of men, and the secret calling of God whereby he toucheth the hearts within. Now when it is commanded in the last of Mark7, to preach the Gospel to all, this importeth not that God therefore worketh in all by the power of his spirit: and when it is said in the second Chapter of the first to Timothy, “that God would all men to be saved,” the solution is added by and by, “that come to the knowledge of his truth.” Wherefore then is it, that he himself would not at that present time, that the gospel should be preached to all? so far off is it that he hath enlightened all the world in the faith. It is marvelous that this shameless forehead, is not ashamed to allege for himself the tenth to the Romans11, where the text expressly setteth forth that all believe not the Gospel, because that Isay saith, “that the arm of the Lord is not revealed to all.” Also the sixth chapter of Saint John10 where Jesus Christ expressly pronounceth, “that all that are given him of his father come unto him.” And touching that, that he saith, “that all shall be taught of God:” it is a special promise made to the Church: as also the Lord Jesus Christ was a faithful expositor thereof, saying”: “He therefore that hath heard and learned of my father, shall come unto me.” Whereby he showeth, that all are not inwardly called. According as a little after also he confirmeth the same. “Therefore I have said unto you, that none can come unto me, unless it be given him from God my father.” Notwithstanding this Rustic imagineth he hath well escaped, having spoken a word of predestination, without making any semblance of the text so expressly set forth, where it is said, “that God will have mercy, upon him on whom he will have mercy, and that our salvation is of the same mercy: and not of the willer nor of the runner, and that before the two twins were born, when they had neither done good nor evil: to the end the purpose of his election might stand sure, he had chosen the one and rejected the other.” Also when we believe that this proceedeth of that, that God hath chosen us: Thereupon it followeth, that the rest of the world remaineth blind. But because it would be too long to allege all, consider those places which are gathered in a little book that our brother master Beza hath made thereof, and you shall be fully satisfied therein.
* This is an excerpt from the book, Sermons on Election and Reprobation by John Calvin, reviewed elsewhere in this issue of the Standard Bearer. The excerpt is Calvin’s defense of biblical predestination against attacks upon it by its enemies. The excerpt is taken from the “appendix” that concludes the book of sermons. Only the first part of Calvin’s defense is reprinted here, with permission from the publisher.
1 Isaiah 53:l
2 John 6:44
3 Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:ll
4 Jeremiah 31
5 Ezekiel 11 & 37
6 Acts 13:48
7 Mark 16:15
8 1 Timothy 2:4
9 Romans 10:16, 20
10 John 6:37
11 John 6:45
12 John 6:65
13 Romans 9:11-18