Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 10
(... continued from part 9) 
Chapter 9 
9 Christ, though known to the Jews under the law, yet only 
manifested under the gospel. 
    There are three principal heads in this chapter. I. Preparatory 
to a consideration of the knowledge of Christ, and the benefits 
procured by him; the 1st and 2d sections are occupied with the 
dispensation of this knowledge, which, after the manifestation of 
Christ in the flesh, was more clearly revealed than under the Law. 
II. A refutation of the profane dream of Servetus, that the promises 
are entirely abrogated, sec. 3. Likewise, a refutation of those who 
do not properly compare the Law with the Gospel, sec. 4. III. A 
necessary and brief exposition of the ministry of John Baptist, 
which occupies an intermediate place between the law and the Gospel. 
1. The holy fathers under the Law saw the day of Christ, though 
    obscurely. He is more fully revealed to us under the Gospel. A 
    reason for this, confirmed by the testimony of Christ and his 
2. The term Gospel, used in its most extensive sense, comprehends 
    the attestations of mercy which God gave to the fathers. 
    Properly, however, it means the promulgation of grace exhibited 
    in the God-man Jesus Christ. 
3. The notion of Servetus, that the promises are entirely abolished, 
    refuted. Why we must still trust to the promises of God. 
    Another reason. Solution of a difficulty. 
4. Refutation of those who do not properly compare the Law and the 
    Gospel. Answer to certain questions here occurring. The Law and 
    the Gospel briefly compared. 
5. Third part of the chapter. Of the ministry of John the Baptist. 
    1. Since God was pleased (and not in vain) to testify in 
ancient times by means of expiations and sacrifices that he was a 
Father, and to set apart for himself a chosen people, he was 
doubtless known even then in the same character in which he is now 
fully revealed to us. Accordingly Malachi, having enjoined the Jews 
to attend to the Law of Moses, (because after his death there was to 
be an interruption of the prophetical office,) immediately after 
declares that the Sun of righteousness should arise, (Mal. 4: 2;) 
thus intimating, that though the Law had the effect of keeping the 
pious in expectation of the coming Messiah, there was ground to hope 
for much greater light on his advent. For this reason, Peter, 
speaking of the ancient prophets, says, "Unto whom it was revealed, 
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, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven," (1 Pet. 
1: 12.) Not that the prophetical doctrine was useless to the ancient 
people, or unavailing to the prophets themselves, but that they did 
not obtain possession of the treasure which God has transmitted to 
US by their hands. The grace of which they testified is now set 
familiarly before our eyes. They had only a slight foretaste; to us 
is given a fuller fruition. Our Saviour, accordingly, while he 
declares that Moses testified of him, extols the superior measure of 
grace bestowed upon us, (John 5: 46.) Addressing his disciples, he 
says, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they 
hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous 
men 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," (Matth. 13: 16; Luke 10: 23.) It is no small commendation of 
the gospel revelation, that God has preferred us to holy men of old, 
so much distinguished for piety. There is nothing in this view 
inconsistent with another passage, in which our Saviour says, "Your 
father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad," 
(John 8: 56.) For though the event being remote, his view of it was 
obscure, he had full assurance that it would one day be 
accomplished; and hence the joy which the holy patriarch experienced 
even to his death. Nor does John Baptist, when he says, "No man has 
seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom 
of the Father, he has declared him," (John 1: 18,) exclude the pious 
who had previously died from a participation in the knowledge and 
light which are manifested in the person of Christ; but comparing 
their condition with ours, he intimates that the mysteries which 
they only beheld dimly under shadows are made clear to us; as is 
well explained by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in these 
words, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time 
past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken 
unto us by his Son," (Heb. 1: 1, 2.) Hence, although this only 
begotten Son, who is now to us the brightness of his Father's glory 
and the express image of his person, was formerly made known to the 
Jews, as we have elsewhere shown from Paul, that he was the 
Deliverer under the old dispensation; it is nevertheless true, as 
Paul himself elsewhere declares, that "God, who commanded the light 
to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the 
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus 
Christ," (2 Cor. 4: 6;) because, when he appeared in this his image, 
he in a manner made himself visible, his previous appearance having 
been shadowy and obscure. More shameful and more detestable, 
therefore, is the ingratitude of those who walk blindfold in this 
meridian light. Accordingly, Paul says that "the god of this world 
has blinded their minds, lest the light of the glorious gospel of 
Christ should shine unto them," (2 Cor. 4: 4.) 
    2. By the Gospel, I understand the clear manifestation of the 
mystery of Christ. I confess, indeed, that inasmuch as the term 
Gospel is applied by Paul to the doctrine of faith, (2 Tim. 4: 10,) 
it includes all the promises by which God reconciles men to himself, 
and which occur throughout the Law. For Paul there opposes faith to 
those terrors which vex and torment the conscience when salvation is 
sought by means of works. Hence it follows that Gospel, taken in a 
large sense, comprehends the evidences of mercy and paternal favour 
which God bestowed on the Patriarchs. Still, by way of excellence, 
it is applied to the promulgation of the grace manifested in Christ. 
This is not only founded on general use, but has the sanction of our 
Saviour and his Apostles. Hence it is described as one of his 
peculiar characteristics, that he preached the Gospel of the 
kingdom, (Matth. 4: 23; 9: 35; Mark 1: 14.) Mark, in his preface to 
the Gospel, calls it "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." 
There is no use of collecting passages to prove what is already 
perfectly known. Christ at his advent "brought life and immortality 
to light through the Gospel," (2 Tim. 1: l0.) Paul does not mean by 
these words that the Fathers were plunged in the darkness of death 
before the Son of God became incarnate; but he claims for the Gospel 
the honourable distinction of being a new and extraordinary kind of 
embassy, by which God fulfilled what he had promised, these promises 
being realised in the person of the Son. For though believers have 
at all times experienced the truth of Paul's declaration, that "all 
the promises of God in him are yea and amen," inasmuch as these 
promises were sealed upon their hearts; yet because he has in his 
flesh completed all the parts of our salvation, this vivid 
manifestation of realities was justly entitled to this new and 
special distinction. Accordingly, Christ says, "Hereafter ye shall 
see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon 
the Son of man." For though he seems to allude to the ladder which 
the Patriarch Jacob saw in vision, he commends the excellence of his 
advent in this, that it opened the gate of heaven, and gave us 
familiar access to it. 
    3. Here we must guard against the diabolical imagination of 
Servetus, who, from a wish, or at least the pretence of a wish, to 
extol the greatness of Christ, abolishes the promises entirely, as 
if they had come to an end at the same time with the Law. He 
pretends, that by the faith of the Gospel all the promises have been 
fulfilled; as if there was no distinction between us and Christ. I 
lately observed that Christ had not left any part of our salvation 
incomplete; but from this it is erroneously inferred, that we are 
now put in possession of all the blessings purchased by him; thereby 
implying, that Paul was incorrect in saying, "We are saved by hope," 
(Rom. 3: 24.) I admit, indeed, that by believing in Christ we pass 
from death unto life; but we must at the same time remember the 
words of John, that though we know we are "the sons of God," "it 
does 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," 
(1 John 3: 2.) Therefore, although Christ offers us in the Gospel a 
present fulness of spiritual blessings, fruition remains in the 
keeping of hope, until we are divested of corruptible flesh, and 
transformed into the glory of him who has gone before us. Meanwhile, 
in leaning on the promises, we obey the command of the Holy Spirit, 
whose authority ought to have weight enough with us to silence all 
the barkings of that impure dog. We have it on the testimony of 
Paul, that "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise 
of the life that now is, and of that which is to come," (1 Tim. 4: 
8;) for which reason, he glories in being "an apostle of Jesus 
Christ, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus" 
(2 Tim. 1: 1.) And he elsewhere reminds us, that we have the same 
promises which were given to the saints in ancient time, (2 Cor. 7: 
1.) In fine, he makes the sum of our felicity consist in being 
sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Indeed we have no enjoyment 
of Christ, unless by embracing him as clothed with his own promises. 
Hence it is that he indeed dwells in our hearts and yet we are as 
pilgrims in regard to him, because "we walk by faith, not by sight," 
(2 Cor. 5: 6, 7.) There is no inconsistency in the two things, viz., 
that in Christ we possess every thing pertaining to the perfection 
of the heavenly life, and yet that faith is only a vision "of things 
not seen," (Heb. 11: 1.) Only there is this difference to be 
observed in the nature or quality of the promises, that the Gospel 
points with the finger to what the Law shadowed under types. 
    4. Hence, also, we see the error of those who, in comparing the 
Law with the Gospel, represent it merely as a comparison between the 
merit of works, and the gratuitous imputation of righteousness. The 
contrast thus made is by no means to be rejected, because, by the 
term Law, Paul frequently understands that rule of holy living in 
which God exacts what is his due, giving no hope of life unless we 
obey in every respect; and, on the other hand, denouncing a curse 
for the slightest failure. This Paul does when showing that we are 
freely accepted of God, and accounted righteous by being pardoned, 
because that obedience of the Law to which the reward is promised is 
nowhere to be found. Hence he appropriately represents the 
righteousness of the Law and the Gospel as opposed to each other. 
But the Gospel has not succeeded the whole Law in such a sense as to 
introduce a different method of salvation. It rather confirms the 
Law, and proves that every thing which it promised is fulfilled. 
What was shadow, it has made substance. When Christ says that the 
Law and the Prophets were until John, he does not consign the 
fathers to the curse, which, as the slaves of the Law, they could 
not escape. He intimates that they were only imbued with the 
rudiments, and remained far beneath the height of the Gospel 
doctrine. Accordingly Paul, after calling the Gospel "the power of 
God unto salvation to every one that believeth," shortly after adds, 
that it was "witnessed by the Law and the Prophets," (Rom. 1: 16; 3: 
21.) And in the end of the same Epistle, though he describes "the 
preaching of Jesus Christ" as "the revelation of the mystery which 
was kept secret since the world began," he modifies the expression 
by adding, that it is "now made manifest" "by the scriptures of the 
prophets," (Rom. 16: 25, 26.) Hence we infer, that when the whole 
Law is spoken of, the Gospel differs from it only in respect of 
clearness of manifestation. Still, on account of the inestimable 
riches of grace set before us in Christ, there is good reason for 
saying, that by his advent the kingdom of heaven was erected on the 
earth, (Matth. 12: 28.) 
    5. John stands between the Law and the Gospel, holding an 
intermediate office allied to both. For though he gave a summary of 
the Gospel when he pronounced Christ to be "the Lamb of God who 
taketh away the sin of the world," yet, inasmuch as he did not 
unfold the incomparable power and glory which shone forth in his 
resurrection, Christ says that he was not equal to the Apostles. For 
this is the meaning of the words: "Among them that are born of 
woman, there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: 
notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is 
greater than he," (Matth. 11: 28.) He is not there commending the 
persons of men, but after preferring John to all the Prophets, he 
gives the first place to the preaching of the Gospel, which is 
elsewhere designated by the kingdom of heaven. When John himself, in 
answer to the Jews, says that he is only "a voice," (John 1: 23,) as 
if he were inferior to the Prophets it is not in pretended humility 
but he means to teach that the proper embassy was not entrusted to 
him, that he only performed the office of a messenger, as had been 
foretold by Malachi, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophets 
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord," (Mal. 
4: 5.) And, indeed, during the whole course of his ministry, he did 
nothing more than prepare disciples for Christ. He even proves from 
Isaiah that this was the office to which he was divinely appointed. 
In this sense, he is said by Christ to have been "a burning and a 
shining light," (John 5: 35,) because full day had not yet appeared. 
And yet this does not prevent us from classing him among the 
preachers of the gospel, since he used the same baptism which was 
afterwards committed to the Apostles. Still, however, he only began 
that which had freer course under the Apostles, after Christ was 
taken up into the heavenly glory. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 10
(continued in part 11...)

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