(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 22)

vanish from his sight, or should at least not appease his mind, nor
satisfy his wishes. And this is the very reason why God not only regards
with favour the complaint of his servant, but immediately gives a
propitious answer to his prayer. Moses indeed ascribes to Abram that
affection which is naturally inherent in us all; but this is no proof
that Abram did not look higher when he so earnestly desired to be the
progenitor of an heir. And certainly these promises had not faded from
his recollection; 'To thy seed will I give this land,' and 'In thy seed
shall all nations be blessed;' the former of which promises is so annexed
to all the rest, that if it be taken away, all confidence in them would
perish; while the latter promise contains in it the whole gratuitous
pledge of salvation. Therefore Abram rightly includes in it, every thing
which God had promised.
  "I go childless." The language is metaphorical. We know that our life
is like a race. Abram, seeing he was of advanced age, says that he has so
far proceeded, that little of his course still remains. 'Now,' he says,
'I am come near the goal; and the course of my life being finished, I
shall die childless.' He adds, for the sake of aggravating the indignity,
'that a foreigner would be his heir.' For I do not doubt that Damascus is
the name of his country, and not the proper name of his mother, as some
falsely suppose; as if he had said, 'Not one of my own relatives will be
my heir, but a Syrian from Damascus.' For, perhaps, Abram had bought him
in Mesopotamia. He also calls him the son of "meshek", concerning the
meaning of which word grammarians are not agreed. Some derive it from
"shakak", which means to run to and fro, and translate it, steward or
superintendent, because he who sustains the care of a large house, runs
hither and thither in attending to his business. Others derive it from
"shook", and render it cupbearer, which seems to me incongruous. I rather
adopt a different translation, namely, that he was called the son of the
deserted house, (filius derelictionis), because "mashak" sometimes
signifies to leave. Yet I do not conceive him to be so called because
Abram was about to leave all things to him; but because Abram himself had
no hope left in any other. It is therefore (in my judgment) just as if he
called him the son of a house destitute of children, because this was a
proof of a deserted and barren house, that the inheritance was devolving
upon a foreigner who would occupy the empty and deserted place. He
afterwards contemptuously calls him his servant, or his home-born slave,
'the son of my house (he says) will be my heir.' He thus speaks in
contempt, as if he would say, 'My condition is wretched, who shall not
have even a freeman for my successor.' It is however asked, how he could
be both a Damascene and a home-born slave of Abram? There are two
solutions of the difficulty, either that he was called the son of the
house, not because he was born, but only because he was educated in it;
or, that he sprang from Damascus, because his father was from Syria.

4. "This shall not be thine heir." We hence infer that God had approved
the wish of Abram. Whence also follows the other point, that Abram had
not been impelled by any carnal affection to offer up this prayer, but by
a pious and holy desire of enjoying the benediction promised to him. For
God not only promises him a seed, but a great people, who in number
should equal the stars of heaven. They who expound the passage
allegorically; implying that a heavenly seed was promised him which might
be compared with the stars, may enjoy their own opinion: but we maintain
what is more solid; namely, that the faith of Abram was increased by the
sight of the stars. For the Lord, in order more deeply to affect his own
people, and more efficaciously to penetrate their minds, after he here
reached their ears by his word, also arrests their eyes by external
symbols, that eyes and ears may consent together. Therefore the sight of
the stars was not superfluous; but God intended to strike the mind of
Abram with this thought, 'He who by his word alone suddenly produced a
host so numerous by which he might adorn the previously vast and desolate
heaven; shall not He be able to replenish my desolate house with
offspring?' It is, however, not necessary to imagine a nocturnal vision,
because the stars, which, during the day, escape our sight, would then
appear; for since the whole was transacted in vision, Abram had a
wonderful scene set before him, which would manifestly reveal hidden
things to him. Therefore though he perhaps might not move a step, it was
yet possible for him in vision to be led forth out of his tent. The
question now occurs, concerning what seed the promise is to be
understood. And it is certain that neither the posterity of Ishmael nor
of Esau is to be taken into this account, because the legitimate seed is
to be reckoned by the promise, which God determined should remain in
Isaac and Jacob; yet the same doubt arises respecting the posterity of
Jacob, because many who could trace their descent from him, according to
the flesh, cut themselves off, as degenerate sons and aliens, from the
faith of their fathers. I answer, that this term seed is,
indiscriminately, extended to the whole people whole God has adopted to
himself. But since many were alienated by their unbelief, we must come
for information to Christ, who alone distinguishes true and genuine sons
from such as are illegitimate. By pursuing this method, we find the
posterity of Abram reduced to a small numbers that afterwards it may be
the more increased. For in Christ the Gentiles also are gathered
together, and are by faith ingrafted into the body of Abram, so as to
have a place among his legitimate sons. Concerning which point more will
be said in the seventeenth chapter.

6. "And he believed in the Lord." None of us would be able to conceive
the rich and hidden doctrine which this passage contains, unless Paul had
borne his torch before us. (Rom. 4: 3.) But it is strange, and seems like
a prodigy, that when the Spirit of God has kindled so great a light, yet
the greater part of interpreters wander with closed eyes, as in the
darkness of night. I omit the Jews, whose blindness is well known. But it
is (as I have said) monstrous, that they who have had Paul as their
luminous expositor; should so foolishly have depraved this place. However
it hence appears, that in all ages, Satan has laboured at nothing more
assiduously than to extinguish, or to smother, the gratuitous
justification of faith, which is here expressly asserted. The words of
Moses are, "He believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for
righteousness." In the first place, the faith of Abram is commended,
because by it he embraced the promise of God; it is commended, in the
second place, because hence Abram obtained righteousness in the sight of
God, and that by imputation. For the word "chashav", which Moses uses, is
to be understood as relating to the judgment of God, just as in Psalm
106: 31, where the zeal of Phinehas is said to have been counted to him
for righteousness. The meaning of the expression will, however, more
fully appear by comparison with its opposites. In Leviticus 7: 18, it is
said that when expiation has been made, iniquity 'shall not be imputed'
to a man. Again, in chap. 17: 4, 'Blood shall be imputed unto that man.'
So, in 2 Sam. 19: 19, Shimei says, 'Let not the king impute iniquity unto
me.' Nearly of the same import is the expression in 2 Kings 12: 15, 'They
reckoned not with the man into whose hand they delivered the money for
the work;' that is, they required no account of the money, but suffered
them to administer it, in perfect confidence. Let us now return to Moses.
Just as we understand that they to whom iniquity is imputed are guilty
before God; so those to whom he imputes righteousness are approved by him
as just persons; wherefore Abram was received into the number and rank of
just persons by the imputation of righteousness. For Paul, in order that
he may show us distinctly the force and nature, or quality of this
righteousness, leads us to the celestial tribunal of God. Therefore, they
foolishly trifle who apply this term to his character as an honest man;
as if it meant that Abram was personally held to be a just and righteous
man. They also, no less unskilfully, corrupt the text, who say that Abram
is here ascribing to God the glory of righteousness seeing that he
ventures to acquiesce surely in His promises, acknowledging Him to be
faithful and true; for although Moses does not expressly mention the name
of God, yet the accustomed method of speaking in the Scriptures removes
all ambiguity. Lastly, it is not less the part of stupor than of
impudence, when this faith is said to have been imputed to him for
righteousness, to mingle with it some other meaning, than that the faith
of Abram was accepted in the place of righteousness with God.
  It seems, however, to be absurd, that Abram should be justified by
believing that his seed would be as numerous as the stars of heaven; for
this could be nothing but a particular faith, which would by no means
suffice for the complete righteousness of man. Besides, what could an
earthly and temporal promise avail for eternal salvation? I answer,
first, that the believing of which Moses speaks, is not to be restricted
to a single clause of the promise here referred to, but embraces the
whole; secondly that Abram did not form his estimate of the promised seed
from this oracle alone, but also from others, where a special benediction
is added. Whence we infer that he did not expect some common or undefined
seed, but that in which the world was to be blessed. Should any one
pertinaciously insist, that what is said in common of all the children of
Abram, is forcibly distorted when applied to Christ; in the first place,
it cannot be denied that God now again repeats the promise before made to
his servant, for the purpose of answering his complaint. But we have
said--and the thing itself clearly proves--that Abram was impelled thus
greatly to desire seed, by a regard to the promised benediction. Whence
it follows, that this promise was not taken by him separately from
others. But to pass all this over; we must, I say, consider what is here
treated of, in order to form a judgment of the faith of Abram. God does
not promise to his servant this or the other thing only, as he sometimes
grants special benefits to unbelievers, who are without the taste of his
paternal love; but he declares, that He will be propitious to him, and
confirms him in the confidence of safety, by relying upon His protection
and His grace. For he who has God for his inheritance does not exult in
fading joy; but, as one already elevated towards heaven, enjoys the solid
happiness of eternal life. It is, indeed, to be maintained as an axiom,
that all the promises of God, made to the faithful, flow from the free
mercy of God, and are evidences of that paternal love, and of that
gratuitous adoption, on which their salvation is founded. Therefore, we
do not say that Abram was justified because he laid hold on a single
word, respecting the offspring to be brought forth, but because he
embraced God as his Father. And truly faith does not justify us for any
other reason, than that it reconciles us unto God; and that it does so,
not by its own merit; but because we receive the grace offered to us in
the promises, and have no doubt of eternal life, being fully persuaded
that we are loved by God as sons. Therefore, Paul reasons from
contraries, that he to whom faith is imputed for righteousness, has not
been justified by works. (Rom. 4: 4.) For whosoever obtains righteousness
by works, his merits come into the account before God. But we apprehend
righteousness by faith, when God freely reconciles us to himself. Whence
it follows, that the merit of works ceases when righteousness is sought
by faith; for it is necessary that this righteousness should be freely
given by God, and offered in his word, in order that any one may possess
it by faith. To render this more intelligible, when Moses says that faith
was imputed to Abram for righteousness, he does not mean that faith was
that first cause of righteousness which is called the efficient, but only
the formal cause; as if he had said, that Abram was therefore justified,
because, relying on the paternal loving-kindness of God, he trusted to
His mere goodness, and not to himself, nor to his own merits. For it is
especially to be observed, that faith borrows a righteousness elsewhere,
of which we, in ourselves, are destitute; otherwise it would be in vain
for Paul to set faith in opposition to works, when speaking of the mode
of obtaining righteousness. Besides, the mutual relation between the free
promise and faith, leaves no doubt upon the subject.
  We must now notice the circumstance of time. Abram was justified by
faith many years after he had been called by God; after he had left his
country a voluntary exile, rendering himself a remarkable example of
patience and of continence; after he had entirely dedicated himself to
sanctity and after he had, by exercising himself in the spiritual and
external service of God, aspired to a life almost angelical. It therefore
follows, that even to the end of life, we are led towards the eternal
kingdom of God by the righteousness of faith. On which point many are too
grossly deceived. For they grant, indeed, that the righteousness which is
freely bestowed upon sinners and offered to the unworthy is received by
faith alone; but they restrict this to a moment of time, so that he who
at the first obtained justification by faith, may afterwards be justified
by good works. By this method, faith is nothing else than the beginning
of righteousness, whereas righteousness itself consists in a continual
course of works. But they who thus trifle must be altogether insane. For
if the angelical uprightness of Abram faithfully cultivated through so
many years, in one uniform course, did not prevent him from fleeing to
faith, for the sake of obtaining righteousness; where upon earth besides
will such perfection be found, as may stand in God's sight? Therefore, by
a consideration of the time in which this was said to Abram, we certainly
gather, that the righteousness of works is not to be substituted for the
righteousness of faith, in any such way, that one should perfect what the
other has begun; but that holy men are only justified by faith, as long
as they live in the world. If any one object, that Abram previously
believed Gods when he followed Him at His calls and committed himself to
His direction and guardianship, the solution is ready; that we are not
here told when Abram first began to be justified, or to believe in God;
but that in this one place it is declared, or related, how he had been
justified through his whole life. For if Moses had spoken thus
immediately on Abram's first vocation, the cavil of which I have spoken
would have been more specious; namely, that the righteousness of faith
was only initial (so to speak) and not perpetual. But now since after
such great progress, he is still said to be justified by faith, it thence
easily appears that the saints are justified freely even unto death. I
confess, indeed, that after the faithful are born again by the Spirit of
God, the method of justifying differs, in some respect, from the former.
For God reconciles to himself those who are born only of the flesh, and
who are destitute of all good; and since he finds nothing in them except
a dreadful mass of evils, he counts them just, by imputation. But those
to whom he has imparted the Spirit of holiness and righteousness, he
embraces with his gifts. Nevertheless, in order that their good works may
please God, it is necessary that these works themselves should be
justified by gratuitous imputation; but some evil is always inherent in
then. Meanwhile, however, this is a settled point, that men are justified
before God by believing not by working; while they obtain grace by faith,
because they are unable to deserve a reward by works. Paul also, in hence
contending, that Abram did not merit by works the righteousness which he
had received before his circumcision, does not impugn the above doctrine.
The argument of Paul is of this kind: The circumcision of Abram was
posterior to his justification in the order of time, and therefore could
not be its cause, for of necessity the cause precedes its effect. I also
grant, that Paul, for this reason, contends that works are not
meritorious, except under the covenant of the law, of which covenant,
circumcision is put as the earnest and the symbol. But since Paul is not
here defining the force and nature of circumcision, regarded as a pure
and genuine institution of God, but is rather disputing on the sense
attached to it, by those with whom he deals, he therefore does not allude
to the covenant which God before had made with Abram, because the mention
of it was unnecessary for the present purpose. Both arguments are
therefore of force; first, that the righteousness of Abram cannot be
ascribed to the covenant of the law, because it preceded his
circumcision; and, secondly, that the righteousness even of the most
perfect characters perpetually consists in faith; since Abram, with all
the excellency of his virtues, after his daily and even remarkable
service of God, was, nevertheless, justified by faith. For this also is,
in the last place, worthy of observation, that what is here related
concerning one man, is applicable to all the sons of God. For since he
was called the father of the faithful, not without reason; and since
further, there is but one method of obtaining salvation; Paul properly
teaches, that a real and not personal righteousness is in this place

7. "I am the Lord that brought thee." Since it greatly concerns us, to
have God as the guide of our whole life, in order that we may know that
we have not rashly entered on some doubtful way, therefore the Lord
confirms Abram in the course of his vocation, and recalls to his memory
the original benefit of his deliverance; as if he had said, 'I, after I
had stretched out my hand to thee, to lead thee forth from the labyrinth
of death, have carried my favour towards thee thus far. Thou, therefore,
respond to me in turn, by constantly advancing; and maintain steadfastly
thy faith, from the beginning even to the end.' This indeed is said, not
with respect to Abram alone, in order that he, gathering together the
promises of God, made to him from the very commencement of his life of
faith, should form them into one whole; but that all the pious may learn
to regard the beginning of their vocation as flowing perpetually from
Abram, their common father; and may thus securely boast with Paul, that
they know in whom they have believed, (2 Tim. 1: 12,) and that God, who,
in the person of Abram, had separated a church unto himself; would be a
faithful keeper of the salvation deposited with Him. That, for this very
end, the Lord declares himself to have been the deliverer of Abram
appears hence; because he connects the promise which he is now about to
give with the prior redemption; as if he were saying, 'I do not now first
begin to promise thee this land. For it was on this account that I
brought thee out of thy own country, to constitute thee the lord and heir
of this land. Now therefore I covenant with thee in the same form; lest
thou shouldst deem thyself to have been deceived, or fed with empty
words; and I command thee to be mindful of the first covenant, that the
new promise, which after many years I now repeat, may be the more firmly

8. "Lord God, whereby shall I know." It may appear absurd, first, that
Abram, who before had placed confidence in the simple word of God,
without moving any question concerning the promises given to him, should
now dispute whether what he hears from the mouth of God be true or not.
Secondly, that he ascribes but little honour to God, not merely by
murmuring against him, when he speaks, but by requiring some additional
pledge to be given him. Further, whence arises the knowledge which
belongs to faith, but from the word? Therefore Abram in vain desires to
be assured of the future possession of the land, while he ceases to
depend upon the word of God. I answer, the Lord sometimes concedes to his
children, that they may freely express any objection which comes into
their mind. For he does not act so strictly with them, as not to suffer
himself to be questioned. Yea, the more certainly Abram was persuaded
that God was true, and the more he was attached to His word, so much the
more familiarly did he disburden his cares into God's bosom. To this may
be added, that the protracted delay was no small obstacle to Abram's
faith. For after God had held him in suspense through a great part of his
life, now when he was worn down with age, and had nothing before his eyes
but death and the grave, God anew declares that he shall be lord of the
land. He does not, however, reject, on account of its difficulty, what
might have appeared to him incredible, but brings before God the anxiety
by which he is inwardly oppressed. And therefore his questioning with God
is rather a proof of faith, than a sign of incredulity. The wicked,
because their minds are entangled with various conflicting thoughts, do
not in any way receive the promises, but the pious, who feel the
impediments in their flesh, endeavour to remove them, lest they should
obstruct the way to God's word; and they seek a remedy for those evils of
which they are conscious. It is, nevertheless, to be observed, that there
were some special impulses in the saints of old, which it would not now
be lawful to draw into a precedent. For though Hezekiah and Gideon
required certain miracles, this is not a reason why the same thing should
be attempted by us in the present day; let it suffice us to seek for such
confirmation only as the Lord himself according to his own pleasure,
shall judge most eligible.

9. "Take me an heifer of three years old." Some, instead of an heifer of
three years old translate the passage, 'three heifers' and in each
species of animals enumerated, would make the number three. Yet the
opinion of those who apply the word three to the age of the heifer, is
more general. Moreover, although God would not deny his servant what he
had asked; he yet, by no means, granted what would gratify the desire of
the flesh. For, what certainty could be added to the promise, by the
slaughter of an heifer, or goat, or ram? For the true design of
sacrifice, of which we shall see more presently, was hitherto hidden from
Abram. Therefore by obeying the command of God, of which, however, no
advantage was apparent, he hence proves the obedience of his faith; nor
did his wish aim at any other end than this; namely, that the obstacle
being removed, he might, as was just, reverently acquiesce in the word of
the Lord. Let us, therefore, learn meekly to embrace those helps which
God offers for the confirmation of our faith; although they may not
accord with our judgment, but rather may seem to be a mockery; until, at
length, it shall become plain from the effect, that God was as far as
possible from mocking us.

10. "And divided them in the midst." That no part of this sacrifice may
be without mystery, certain interpreters weary themselves in the
fabrication of subtleties; but it is our business, as I have often
declared, to cultivate sobriety. I confess I do not know why he was
commanded to take three kinds of animals besides birds; unless it were,
that by this variety itself, it was declared, that all the posterity of
Abram, of whatever rank they might be, should be offered up in sacrifice,
so that the whole people, and each individual, should constitute one
sacrifice. There are also some things, concerning which, if any one
curiously seeks the reason, I shall not be ashamed to acknowledge my
ignorance, because I do not choose to wander in uncertain speculations.

Moreover, this, in my opinion, is the sum of the whole: That God, in
commanding the animals to be killed, shows what will be the future
condition of the Church. Abram certainly wished to be assured of the
promised inheritance of the land. Now he is taught that it would take its
commencement from death; that is that he and his children must die before
they should enjoy the dominion over the land. In commanding the
slaughtered animals to be cut in parts, it is probable that he followed
the ancient rite in forming covenants whether they were entering into any
alliance, or were mustering an army, a practice which also passed over to
the Gentiles. Now, the allies or the soldiers passed between the severed
parts, that, being enclosed together within the sacrifice, they might be
the more sacredly united in one body. That this method was practiced by
the Jews, Jeremiah bears witness, (34: 18,) where he introduces God as
saying, 'They have violated my covenant, when they cut the calf in two
parts, and passed between the divisions of it, as well the princes of
Judas, and the nobles of Jerusalem, and the whole people of the land.'
Nevertheless, there appears to me to have been this special reason for
the act referred to; that the Lord would indeed admonish the race of
Abram, not only that it should be like a dead carcass, but even like one
torn and dissected. For the servitude with which they were oppressed for
a time, was more intolerable than simple death; yet because the sacrifice
is offered to God, death itself is immediately turned into new life. And
this is the reason why Abram, placing the parts of the sacrifice opposite
to each other, fits them one to the other, because they were again to be
gathered together from their dispersion. But how difficult is the
restoration of the Church and what troubles are involved in it, is shown
by the horror with which Abram was seized. We see, therefore, that two
things were illustrated; namely, the hard servitude, with which the sons
of Abram were to be pressed almost to laceration and destruction; and
then their redemption, which was to be the signal pledge of divine
adoption; and in the same mirror the general condition of the Church is
represented to us, as it is the peculiar province of God to create it out
of nothing, and to raise it from death.

11. "And when the fowls came down." Although the sacrifice was dedicated
to God, yet it was not free from the attack and the violence of birds. So
neither are the faithful, after they are received into the protection of
God, so covered with his hand, as not to be assailed on every side; since
Satan and the world cease not to cause them trouble. Therefore, in order
that the sacrifice we have once offered to God may not be violated, but
may remain pure and uninjured, contrary assaults must be repulsed, with
whatever inconvenience and toil.

12. "A deep sleep fell upon Abram." The vision is now mingled with a
dream. Thus the Lord here joins those two kinds of communication
together, which I have before related from Numbers 12: 6, where it is
said, 'When I appear unto my servants the prophets, I speak to them in a
vision or a dream.' mention has already been made of a vision: Moses now
relates, that a dream was superadded. A horrible darkness intervened,
that Abram might know that the dream is not a common one, but that the
whole is divinely conducted; it has, nevertheless, a correspondence with
the oracle then present, as God immediately afterwards explains in his
own words, "Thou shalt surely know that thy seed shall be a stranger,"
&c. We have elsewhere said, that God was not wont to dazzle the eyes of
his people with bare and empty spectres; but that in visions, the
principal parts always belonged to the word. Thus here, not a mute
apparition is presented to the eyes of Abram, but he is taught by an
oracle annexed, what the external and visible symbol meant. It is,
however, to be observed, that before one son is given to Abram, he hears
that his seed shall be, for a long time, in captivity and slavery. For
thus does the Lord deal with his own people; he always makes a beginning
from death, so that by quickening the dead, he the more abundantly
manifests his power. It was necessary, in part, on Abram's account, that
this should have been declared; but the Lord chiefly had regard to his
posterity, lest they should faint in their sufferings, of which, however,
the Lord had promised a joyful and happy issue; especially since their
long continuance would produce great weariness. And three things are,
step by step, brought before them; first, that the sons of Abram must
wander four hundred years, before they should attain the promised
inheritance; secondly, that they should be slaves; thirdly that they were
to be inhumanly and tyrannically treated. Wherefore the faith of Abram
was admirable and singular, seeing that he acquiesced in an oracle so
sorrowful, and felt assured, that God would be his Deliverer, after his
miseries had proceeded to their greatest height.
  It is, however, asked, how the number of years here given agrees with
the subsequent history? Some begin the computation from the time of his
departure out of Charran. But it seems more probable that the
intermediate time only is denoted; as if he would say, 'It behoves thy
posterity to wait patiently; because I have not decreed to grant what I
now promise, until the four hundredth year: yea, up to that very time
their servitude will continue.' According to this mode of reckoning,
Moses says, (Exod. 12: 40,) that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt
four hundred and thirty years: while yet, from the sixth chapter, we may
easily gather, that not more than two hundred and thirty years, or
thereabouts, elapsed from the time that Jacob went down thither, to their
deliverance. Where then, shall we find the remaining two hundred years,
but by referring to the oracle? Of this matter all doubt is removed by
Paul, who (Gal. 3: 17) reckons the years from the gratuitous covenant of
life, to the promulgation of the Law. In short, God does not indicate how
long the servitude of the people should be from its commencement to its
close, but how long he intended to suspend, or to defer his promise. As
to his omitting the thirty years, it is neither a new nor unfrequent
thing, where years are not accurately computed, to mention only the
larger sums. But we see here, that for the sake of brevity, the whole of
that period is divided into four centuries. Therefore, there is no
absurdity in omitting the short space of time: this is chiefly to be
considered, that the Lord, for the purpose of exercising the patience of
his people, suspends his promise more than four centuries.

14. "Also that nations whom they serve." A consolation is now subjoined,
in which this is the first thing, God testifies that he will be the
vindicator of his people. Whence it follows, that he will take upon
himself the care of the sa1vation of those whom he has embraced, and will
not suffer them to be harassed by the ungodly and the wicked with
impunity. And although he here expressly announces that he will take
vengeance on the Egyptians; yet all the enemies of the Church are exposed
to the same judgment: even as Moses in his song extends to all ages and
nations the threat that the Lord will exact punishment for unjust
persecutions. 'Vengeance is mine, I, saith he, will repay,' (Dent. 32:
35.) Therefore, whenever we happen to be treated with inhumanity by
tyrants, (which is very usual with the Church,) let this be our
consolation, that after our faith shall be sufficiently proved by bearing
the cross, God, at whose pleasure we are thus humbled, will himself be
the Judge, who will repay to our enemies the due reward of the cruelty
which they now exercise. Although they now exult with intoxicated joy, it
will at length appear by the event itself, that our miseries are happy
ones, but their triumphs wretched; because God, who cares for us, is
their adversary. But let us remember that we must give place unto the
wrath of God, as Paul exhorts, in order that we may not be hurried
headlong to seek revenge. Place also must be given to hope, that it may
sustain us when oppressed and groaning under the burden of evils. To
judge the nation, means the same thing as to summon it to judgment, in
order that God, when he has long reposed in silence, may openly manifest
himself as the Judge.

15. "And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace." Hitherto the Lord had
respect to the posterity of Abram as well as to himself, that the
consolation might be common to all; but now he turns his address to Abram
alone, because he had need of peculiar confirmation. And the remedy
proposed for alleviating his sorrow was, that he should die in peace,
after he had attained the utmost limit of old age. The explanation given
by some that he should die a natural death, exempt from violence; or an
easy death, in which his vital spirits should spontaneously and naturally
fail, and his life itself should fall by its own maturity, without any
sense of pain, is, in my opinion, frigid. For Moses wishes to express
that Abram should have not only a long, but a placid old age, with a
corresponding joyful and peaceful death. The sense therefore is that
although through his whole life, Abram was to be deprived of the
possession of the land, yet he should not be wanting in the essential
materials of quiet and joy, so that having happily finished his life, he
should cheerfully depart to his fathers. And certainly death makes the
great distinction between the reprobate and the sons of God, whose
condition in the present life is commonly one and the same, except that
the sons of God have by far the worst of it. Wherefore peace in death
ought justly to be regarded as a singular benefit, because it is a proof
of that distinction to which I have just alluded. Even profane writers,
feeling their way in the dark, have perceived this. Plato, in his book on
the Republic, (lib. i.) cites a song of Pindar, in which he says, that
they who live justly and homily, are attended by a sweet hope, cherishing
their hearts and nourishing their old age; which hope chiefly governs the
fickle mind of men. Because men, conscious of guilt, must necessarily be
miserably harassed by various torments; the Poet, when he asserts that
hope is the reward of a good conscience, calls it the nurse of old age.
For as young men, while far removed from death, carelessly take their
pleasure; the old are admonished by their own weakness, seriously to
reflect that they must depart. Now unless the hope of a better life
inspires them, nothing remains for them but miserable fears. Finally, as
the reprobate indulge themselves during their whole life, and stupidly
sleep in their vices, it is necessary that their death should be full of
trouble; while the faithful commit their souls into the hand of God
without fear and sadness. Whence also Balaam was constrained to break
forth in this expression, 'Let my soul die the death of the righteous,'
(Numb. 23: 10.) Moreover, since men have not such a desirable close of
life in their own power; the Lord, in promising a placid and quiet death
to his servant Abram, teaches us that it is his own gift. And we see that
even kings, and others who deem themselves happy in this world, are yet
agitated in death; because they are visited with secret compunctions for
their sins, and look for nothing in death but destruction. But Abram
willingly and joyfully went forward to his death, seeing that he had in
Isaac a certain pledge of the divine benediction, and knew that a better
life was laid up for him in heaven.

16. "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." The reason here given
is deemed absurd, as seeming to imply that the sons of Abram could not
otherwise be saved, than by the destruction of others. I answer, that we
must with modesty and humility yield to the secret counsel of God. Since
he had given that land to the Amorites, to be inhabited by them in
perpetuity, he intimates, that he will not, without just cause, transfer
the possession of it to others; as if he would say, 'I grant the dominion
of this land to thy seed without injury to any one. The land, at present,

(continued in part 23...)

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