Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 5
(... continued from part 4) 

Chapter 4 
4. How God works in the hearts of men. 
    The leading points discussed in this chapter are, I. Whether in 
bad actions anything is to be attributed to God; if anything, how 
much. Also, what is to be attributed to the devil and to man, sec. 
1-5. II. In indifferent matters, how much is to be attributed to 
God, and how much is left to man, sec. 6. III. Two objections 
refuted, sec. 7, 8. 
1. Connection of this chapter with the preceding. Augustine's 
    similitude of a good and bad rider. Question answered in 
    respect to the devil. 
2. Question answered in respect to God and man. Example from the 
    history of Job. The works of God distinguished from the works 
    of Satan and wicked men. 1 By the design or end of acting. How 
    Satan acts in the reprobate. 2. How God acts in them. 
3. Old Objection, that the agency of God in such cases is referable 
    to prescience or permission, not actual operation. Answer, 
    showing that God blinds and hardens the reprobate, and this in 
    two ways; 1. By deserting them; 2. By delivering them over to 
4. Striking passages of Scripture, proving that God acts in both 
    ways, and disposing of the objection with regard to prescience. 
    Confirmation from Augustine. 
5. A modification of the former answer, proving that God employs 
    Satan to instigate the reprobate, but, at the same time, is 
    free from all taint. 
6. How God works in the hearts of men in indifferent matters. Our 
    will in such matters not so free as to be exempt from the 
    overruling providence of God. This confirmed by various 
7. Objection, that these examples do not form the rule. An answer, 
    fortified by the testimony of universal experience, by 
    Scripture, and a passage of Augustine. 
8. Some, in arguing against the error of free will, draw an argument 
    from the event. How this is to be understood. 
    1. That man is so enslaved by the yoke of sin, that he cannot 
of his own nature aim at good either in wish or actual pursuit, has, 
I think, been sufficiently proved. Moreover, a distinction has been 
drawn between compulsion and necessity, making it clear that man, 
though he sins necessarily, nevertheless sins voluntarily. But 
since, from his being brought into bondage to the devil, it would 
seem that he is actuated more by the devil's will than his own, it 
is necessary, first, to explain what the agency of each is, and then 
solve the question. Whether in bad actions anything is to be 
attributed to God, Scripture intimating that there is some way in 
which he interferes? Augustine (in Psalm 31 and 33) compares the 
human will to a horse preparing to start, and God and the devil to 
riders. "If God mounts, he, like a temperate and skilful rider, 
guides it calmly, urges it when too slow, reins it in when too fast, 
curbs its forwardness and over-action, checks its bad temper, and 
keeps it on the proper course; but if the devil has seized the 
saddle, like an ignorant and rash rider, he hurries it over broken 
ground, drives it into ditches, dashes it over precipices, spurs it 
into obstinacy or fury." With this simile, since a better does not 
occur, we shall for the present be contented. When it is said, then, 
that the will of the natural man is subject to the power of the 
devil, and is actuated by him, the meaning is not that the wills 
while reluctant and resisting, is forced to submit, (as masters 
oblige unwilling slaves to execute their orders,) but that, 
fascinated by the impostures of Satan, it necessarily yields to his 
guidance, and does him homage. Those whom the Lord favours not with 
the direction of his Spirit, he, by a righteous judgement, consigns 
to the agency of Satan. Wherefore, the Apostle says, that "the god 
of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest 
the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, 
should shine into them." And, in another passage, he describes the 
devil as "the spirit that now worketh in the children of 
disobedience," (Eph. 2: 2.) The blinding of the wicked, and all the 
iniquities consequent upon it, are called the works of Satan; works 
the cause of which is not to be Sought in anything external to the 
will of man, in which the root of the evil lies, and in which the 
foundation of Satan's kingdom, in other words, sin, is fixed. 
    2. The nature of the divine agency in such cases is very 
different. For the purpose of illustration, let us refer to the 
calamities brought upon holy Job by the Chaldeans. They having slain 
his shepherds, carry off his flocks. The wickedness of their deed is 
manifest, as is also the hand of Satan, who, as the history informs 
us, was the instigator of the whole. Job, however, recognises it as 
the work of God, saying, that what the Chaldeans had plundered, "the 
Lord" had "taken away." How can we attribute the same work to God, 
to Satan, and to man, without either excusing Satan by the 
interference of God, or making God the author of the crime? This is 
easily done, if we look first to the end, and then to the mode of 
acting. The Lord designs to exercise the patience of his servant by 
adversity; Satan's plan is to drive him to despair; while the 
Chaldeans are bent on making unlawful gain by plunder. Such 
diversity of purpose makes a wide distinction in the act. In the 
mode there is not less difference. The Lord permits Satan to afflict 
his servant; and the Chaldeans, who had been chosen as the ministers 
to execute the deed, he hands over to the impulses of Satan, who, 
pricking on the already depraved Chaldeans with his poisoned darts, 
instigates them to commit the crime. They rush furiously on to the 
unrighteous deed, and become its guilty perpetrators. Here Satan is 
properly said to act in the reprobate, over whom he exercises his 
sway, which is that of wickedness. God also is said to act in his 
own way; because even Satan when he is the instrument of divine 
wrath, is completely under the command of God, who turns him as he 
will in the execution of his just judgements. I say nothing here of 
the universal agency of God, which, as it sustains all the 
creatures, also gives them all their power of acting. I am now 
speaking only of that special agency which is apparent in every act. 
We thus see that there is no inconsistency in attributing the same 
act to God, to Satan, and to man, while, from the difference in the 
end and mode of action, the spotless righteousness of God shines 
forth at the same time that the iniquity of Satan and of man is 
manifested in all its deformity. 
    3. Ancient writers sometimes manifest a superstitious dread of 
making a simple confession of the truth in this matter, from a fear 
of furnishing impiety with a handle for speaking irreverently of the 
works of God. While I embrace such soberness with all my heart, I 
cannot see the least danger in simply holding what Scripture 
delivers. when Augustine was not always free from this superstition, 
as when he says, that blinding and hardening have respect not to the 
operation of God, but to prescience, (Lib. de Predestina. et 
Gratia.) But this subtilty is repudiated by many passages of 
Scriptures which clearly show that the divine interference amounts 
to something more than prescience. And Augustine himself, in his 
book against Julian, contends at length that sins are manifestations 
not merely of divine permission or patience, but also of divine 
power, that thus former sins may be punished. In like manner, what 
is said of permission is too weak to stand. God is very often said 
to blind and harden the reprobate, to turn their hearts, to incline 
and impel them, as I have elsewhere fully explained, (Book 1 c. 18) 
The extent of this agency can never be explained by having recourse 
to prescience or permission. We, therefore, hold that there are two 
methods in which God may so act. When his light is taken away, 
nothing remains but blindness and darkness: when his Spirit is taken 
away, our hearts become hard as stones: when his guidance is 
withdrawn, we immediately turn from the right path: and hence he is 
properly said to incline, harden, and blind those whom he deprives 
of the faculty of seeing, obeying, and rightly executing. The second 
method, which comes much nearer to the exact meaning of the words, 
is when executing his judgements by Satan as the minister of his 
anger, God both directs men's counsels, and excites their wills, and 
regulates their efforts as he pleases. Thus when Moses relates that 
Simon, king of the Amorites, did not give the Israelites a passage, 
because the Lord "had hardened his spirit, and made his heart 
obstinate," he immediately adds the purpose which God had in view, 
viz., that he might deliver him into their hand, (Deut. 2: 30.) As 
God had resolved to destroy him, the hardening of his heart was the 
divine preparation for his ruin. 
    4. In accordance with the former methods it seems to be said, 
"The law shall perish from the priests and counsel from the 
ancients." "He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to 
wander in the wilderness, where there is no way." Again "O Lord, why 
hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from 
thy fear?" These passages rather indicate what men become when God 
deserts them, than what the nature of his agency is when he works in 
them. But there are other passages which go farther, such as those 
concerning the hardening of Pharaoh: "I will harden his heart, that 
he shall not let the people go." The same thing is afterwards 
repeated in stronger terms. Did he harden his heart by not softening 
it? This is, indeed, true; but he did something more: he gave it in 
charge to Satan to confirm him in his obstinacy. Hence he had 
previously said, "I am sure he will not let you go." The people come 
out of Egypt, and the inhabitants of a hostile region come forth 
against them. How were they instigated? Moses certainly declares of 
Sihon, that it was the Lord who "had hardened his spirit, and made 
his heart obstinate," (Deut. 2: 30.) The Psalmists relating the same 
history says, "He turned their hearts to hate his people," (Psalm 
105: 25.) You cannot now say that they stumbled merely because they 
were deprived of divine counsel. For if they are hardened and 
turned, they are purposely bent to the very end in view. Moreover, 
whenever God saw it meet to punish the people for their 
transgression, in what way did he accomplish his purpose by the 
reprobate? In such a way as shows that the efficacy of the action 
was in him, and that they were only ministers. At one time he 
declares, "that he will lift an ensign to the nations from far, and 
will hiss unto them from the end of the earth;" at another, that he 
will take a net to ensnare them; and at another, that he will be 
like a hammer to strike them. But he specially declared that he was 
not inactive among theme when he called Sennacherib an axe, which 
was formed and destined to be wielded by his own hand. Augustine is 
not far from the mark when he states the matter thus, That men sin, 
is attributable to themselves: that in sinning they produce this or 
that result, is owing to the mighty power of God, who divides the 
darkness as he pleases, (August. de Praedest. Sanct.) 
    5. Moreover, that the ministry of Satan is employed to 
instigate the reprobate, whenever the Lord, in the course of his 
providence, has any purpose to accomplish in them, will sufficiently 
appear from a single passage. It is repeatedly said in the First 
Book of Samuel, that an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, 
and troubled him, (1 Sam. 16: 14; 18: 10; 19: 9.) It were impious to 
apply this to the Holy Spirit. An impure spirit must therefore be 
called a spirit from the Lord, because completely subservient to his 
purpose, being more an instrument in acting than a proper agent. We 
should also add what Paul says, "God shall send them strong 
delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be 
damned who believed not the truth," (2 Thess. 2: 11, 12.) But in the 
same transaction there is always a wide difference between what the 
Lord does, and what Satan and the ungodly design to do. The wicked 
instruments which he has under his hand and can turn as he pleases, 
he makes subservient to his own justice. They, as they are wicked, 
give effect to the iniquity conceived in their wicked minds. Every 
thing necessary to vindicate the majesty of God from calumny, and 
cut off any subterfuge on the part of the ungodly, has already been 
expounded in the Chapters on Providence, (Book 1 Chapter 16-18.) 
Here I only meant to show, in a few words, how Satan reigns in the 
reprobate, and how God works in both. 
    6. In those actions, which in themselves are neither good nor 
bad, and concern the corporeal rather than the spiritual life, the 
liberty which man possesses, although we have above touched upon it, 
(supra, Chap. 2 sect. 13-17,) has not yet been explained. Some have 
conceded a free choice to man in such actions; more, I suppose, 
because they were unwilling to debate a matter of no great moment, 
than because they wished positively to assert what they were 
prepared to concede. While I admit that those who hold that man has 
no ability in himself to do righteousness, hold what is most 
necessary to be known for salvation, I think it ought not to be 
overlooked that we owe it to the special grace of God, whenever, on 
the one hand, we choose what is for our advantage, and whenever our 
will inclines in that direction; and on the other, whenever with 
heart and soul we shun what would otherwise do us harm. And the 
interference of Divine Providence goes to the extent not only of 
making events turn out as was foreseen to be expedient, but of 
giving the wills of men the same direction. If we look at the 
administration of human affairs with the eye of sense, we will have 
no doubt that, so far, they are placed at man's disposal; but if we 
lend an ear to the many passages of Scripture which proclaim that 
even in these matters the minds of men are ruled by God, they will 
compel us to place human choice in subordination to his special 
influence. Who gave the Israelites such favour in the eyes of the 
Egyptians, that they lent them all their most valuable commodities? 
(Exod. 11: 3.) They never would have been so inclined of their own 
accord. Their inclinations, therefore, were more overruled by God 
than regulated by themselves. And surely, had not Jacob been 
persuaded that God inspires men with divers affections as seemeth to 
him good, he would not have said of his son Joseph, (whom he thought 
to be some heathen Egyptian,) "God Almighty give you mercy before 
the man," (Gen. 43: 14.) In like manner, the whole Church confesses 
that when the Lord was pleased to pity his people, he made them also 
to be pitied of all them that carried them captives, (Ps. 106: 46.) 
In like manner, when his anger was kindled against Saul, so that he 
prepared himself for battle, the cause is stated to have been, that 
a spirit from God fell upon him, (1 Sam. 11: 6.) who dissuaded 
Absalom from adopting the counsel of Ahithophel, which was wont to 
be regarded as an oracle? (2 Sam. 17: 14.) Who disposed Rehoboam to 
adopt the counsel of the young men? (1 Kings 12: 10.) Who caused the 
approach of the Israelites to strike terror into nations formerly 
distinguished for valour? Even the harlot Rahab recognised the hand 
of the Lord. Who, on the other hand, filled the hearts of the 
Israelites with fear and dread, (Lev. 26: 36,) but He who threatened 
in the Law that he would give them a nn "trembling heart"? (Deut. 
28: 65.) 
    7. It may be objected, that these are special examples which 
cannot be regarded as a general rule. They are sufficient, at all 
events, to prove the point for which I contend, viz., that whenever 
God is pleased to make way for his providence, he even in external 
matters so turns and bends the wills of men, that whatever the 
freedom of their choice may be, it is still subject to the disposal 
of God. That your mind depends more on the agency of God than the 
freedom of your own choice, daily experience teaches. Your judgement 
often fails, and in matters of no great difficulty, your courage 
flags; at other times, in matters of the greatest obscurity, the 
mode of explicating them at once suggests itself, while in matters 
of moment and danger, your mind rises superior to every difficulty. 
In this way, I interpret the words of Solomon, "The hearing ear, and 
the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them," (Prov. 20: 
12.) For they seem to me to refer not to their creation, but to 
peculiar grace in the use of them, when he says, "The king's heart 
is in the hand of the Lard as the rivers of water; he turneth it 
whithersoever he will," (Prov. 21: l,) he comprehends the whole race 
under one particular class. If any will is free from subjection, it 
must be that of one possessed of regal power, and in a manner 
exercising dominion over other wills. But if it is under the hand of 
God, ours surely cannot be exempt from it. On this subject there is 
an admirable sentiment of Augustine, "Scripture, if it be carefully 
examined, will show not only that the good wills of men are made 
good by God out of evil, and when so made, are directed to good 
acts, even to eternal life, but those which retain the elements of 
the world are in the power of God, to turn them whither he pleases, 
and when he pleases, either to perform acts of kindness, or by a 
hidden, indeed, but, at the same time, most just judgement to 
inflict punishment," (August. De Gratia et Lib. Arb. ad Valent. cap. 
    8. Let the reader here remember, that the power of the human 
will is not to be estimated by the event, as some unskilful persons 
are absurdly wont to do. They think it an elegant and ingenious 
proof of the bondage of the human will, that even the greatest 
monarchs are sometimes thwarted in their wishes. But the ability of 
which we speak must be considered as within the man, not measured by 
outward success. In discussing the subject of free will, the 
question is not, whether external obstacles will permit a man to 
execute what he has internally resolved, but whether, in any matter 
whatever, he has a free power of judging and of willing. If men 
possess both of these, Attilius Regulus, shut up in a barrel studded 
with sharp nails, will have a will no less free than Augustus Caesar 
ruling with imperial sway over a large portion of the globe. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2
(continued in part 6...)

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