Calvin, Institutes, Vol.3, Part 27
(... continued from part 26)
Chapter 22. 
22. This doctrine confirmed by proofs from Scripture. 
    The divisions of this chapter are, - I. A confirmation of the 
orthodox doctrine in opposition to two classes of individuals. This 
confirmation founded on a careful exposition of our Savior's words, 
and passages in the writings of Paul, sec. 1-7. II. A refutation of 
some objections taken from ancient writers, Thomas Aquinas, and more 
modern writers, sec. 8-10. III. Of reprobation, which is founded 
entirely on the righteous will of God, sec. 11. 
1. Some imagine that God elects or reprobates according to a 
    foreknowledge of merit. Others make it a charge against God 
    that he elects some and passes by others. Both refuted, 1. By 
    invincible arguments; 2. By the testimony of Augustine. 
2. Who are elected, when, in whom, to what, for what reason. 
3. The reason is the good pleasure of God, which so reigns in 
    election that no works, either past or future, are taken into 
    consideration. This proved by notable declarations of one 
    Savior and passages of Paul. 
4. Proved by a striking discussion in the Epistle to the Romans. Its 
    scope and method explained. The advocates of foreknowledge 
    refuted by the Apostle, when he maintains that election is 
    special and wholly of grace. 
5. Evasion refuted. A summary and analysis of the Apostle's 
6. An exception, with three answers to it. The efficacy of 
    gratuitous election extends only to believers, who are said to 
    be elected according to foreknowledge. This foreknowledge or 
    prescience is not speculative but active. 
7. This proved from the words of Christ. Conclusion of the answer, 
    and solution of the objection with regard to Judas. 
8. An objection taken from the ancient fathers. Answer from 
    Augustine, from Ambrose, as quoted by Augustine, and an 
    invincible argument by an Apostle. Summary of this argument. 
9. Objection from Thomas Aquinas. Answer. 
10. Objection of more modern writers. Answers. Passages in which 
    there is a semblance of contradiction reconciled. Why many 
    called and few chosen. An objection founded on mutual consent 
    between the word and faith. Solution confirmed by the words of 
    Paul, Augustine, and Bernard. A clear declaration by our 
11. The view to be taken of reprobation. It is founded on the 
    righteous will of God. 
    1. Many controvert all the positions which we have laid down, 
especially the gratuitous election of believers, which, however, 
cannot be overthrown. For they commonly imagine that God 
distinguishes between men according to the merits which he foresees 
that each individual is to have, giving the adoption of sons to 
those whom he foreknows will not be unworthy of his grace, and 
dooming those to destruction whose dispositions he perceives will be 
prone to mischief and wickedness. Thus by interposing foreknowledge 
as a veil, they not only obscure election, but pretend to give it a 
different origin. Nor is this the commonly received opinion of the 
vulgar merely, for it has in all ages had great supporters, (see 
sec. 8.) This I candidly confess, lest any one should expect greatly 
to prejudice our cause by opposing it with their names. The truth of 
God is here too certain to be shaken, too clear to be overborne by 
human authority. Others who are neither versed in Scripture, nor 
entitled to any weight, assail sound doctrine with a petulance and 
improbity which it is impossible to tolerate. Because God of his 
mere good pleasure electing some passes by others, they raise a plea 
against him. But if the fact is certain, what can they gain by 
quarreling with God? We teach nothing but what experience proves to 
be true, viz., that God has always been at liberty to bestow his 
grace on whom he would. Not to ask in what respect the posterity of 
Abraham excelled others if it be not in a worth, the cause of which 
has no existence out of God, let them tell why men are better than 
oxen or asses. God might have made them dogs when he formed them in 
his own image. Will they allow the lower animals to expostulate with 
God, as if the inferiority of their condition were unjust? It is 
certainly not more equitable that men should enjoy the privilege 
which they have not acquired by any merit, than that he should 
variously distribute favors as seems to him meet. If they pass to 
the case of individuals where inequality is more offensive to them, 
they ought at least, in regard to the example of our Savior, to be 
restrained by feelings of awe from talking so confidently of this 
sublime mystery. He is conceived a mortal man of the seed of David; 
what, I would ask them, are the virtues by which he deserved to 
become in the very womb, the head of angels the only begotten Son of 
God, the image and glory of the Father, the light, righteousness, 
and salvation of the world? It is wisely observed by Augustine, that 
in the very head of the Church we have a bright mirror of free 
election, lest it should give any trouble to us the members, viz., 
that he did not become the Son of God by living righteously, but was 
freely presented with this great honor, that he might afterwards 
make others partakers of his gifts. Should any one here ask, why 
others are not what he was, or why we are all at so great a distance 
from him, why we are all corrupt while he is purity, he would not 
only betray his madness, but his effrontery also. But if they are 
bent on depriving God of the free right of electing and reprobating, 
let them at the same time take away what has been given to Christ. 
It will now be proper to attend to what Scripture declares 
concerning each. When Paul declares that we were chosen in Christ 
before the foundation of the world, (Eph. 1: 4,) he certainly shows 
that no regard is had to our own worth; for it is just as if he had 
said, Since in the whole seed of Adam our heavenly Father found 
nothing worthy of his election, he turned his eye upon his own 
Anointed, that he might select as members of his body those whom he 
was to assume into the fellowship of life. Let believers, then, give 
full effect to this reason, viz., that we were in Christ adopted 
unto the heavenly inheritance, because in ourselves we were 
incapable of such excellence. This he elsewhere observes in another 
passage, in which he exhorts the Colossians to give thanks that they 
had been made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints, 
(Col. 1: 12.) If election precedes that divine grace by which we are 
made fit to obtain immortal life, what can God find in us to induce 
him to elect us? What I mean is still more clearly explained in 
another passage: God, says he, "has chosen us in him before the 
foundation of the world, that we might be holy and without blame 
before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of 
children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure 
of his will," (Eph. 1: 4, 5.) Here he opposes the good pleasure of 
God to our merits of every description. 
    2. That the proof may be more complete, it is of importance to 
attend to the separate clauses of that passage. When they are 
connected together they leave no doubt. From giving them the name of 
elect, it is clear that he is addressing believers, as indeed he 
shortly after declares. It is, therefore, a complete perversion of 
the name to confine it to the age in which the gospel was published. 
By saying they were elected before the foundation of the world, he 
takes away all reference to worth. For what ground of distinction 
was there between persons who as yet existed not, and persons who 
were afterwards like them to exist in Adam? But if they were elected 
in Christ, it follows not only that each was elected on some 
extrinsic ground, but that some were placed on a different footing 
from others, since we see that all are not members of Christ. In the 
additional statement that they were elected that they might be holy, 
the apostle openly refutes the error of those who deduce election 
from prescience, since he declares that whatever virtue appears in 
men is the result of election. Then, if a higher cause is asked, 
Paul answers that God so predestined, and predestined according to 
the good pleasure of his will. By these words, he overturns all the 
grounds of election which men imagine to exist in themselves. For he 
shows that whatever favors God bestows in reference to the spiritual 
life flow from this one fountain, because God chose whom he would, 
and before they were born had the grace which he designed to bestow 
upon them set apart for their use. 
    3. Wherever this good pleasure of God reigns, no good works are 
taken into account. The Apostle, indeed, does not follow out the 
antithesis, but it is to be understood, as he himself explains it in 
another passage, "Who has called us with a holy calling, not 
according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, 
which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," (1 Tim. 
2: 9.) We have already shown that the additional words, "that we 
might be holy," remove every doubt. If you say that he foresaw they 
would be holy, and therefore elected them, you invert the order of 
Paul. You may, therefore, safely infer, If he elected us that we 
might be holy, he did not elect us because he foresaw that we would 
be holy. The two things are evidently inconsistent, viz., that the 
pious owe it to election that they are holy, and yet attain to 
election by means of works. There is no force in the cavil to which 
they are ever recurring, that the Lord does not bestow election in 
recompense of preceding, but bestows it in consideration of future 
merits. For when it is said that believers were elected that they 
might be holy, it is at the same time intimated that the holiness 
which was to be in them has its origin in election. And how can it 
be consistently said, that things derived from election are the 
cause of election? The very thing which the Apostle had said, he 
seems afterwards to confirm by adding, "According to his good 
pleasure which he has purposed in himself," (Eph. 1: 9;) for the 
expression that God "purposed in himself," is the same as if it had 
been said, that in forming his decree he considered nothing external 
to himself; and, accordingly, it is immediately subjoined, that the 
whole object contemplated in our election is, that "we should be to 
the praise of his glory." Assuredly divine grace would not deserve 
all the praise of election, were not election gratuitous; and it 
would not be gratuitous did God in electing any individual pay 
regard to his future works. Hence, what Christ said to his disciples 
is found to be universally applicable to all believers, "Ye have not 
chosen me, but I have chosen you," (John 15: 16.) Here he not only 
excludes past merits, but declares that they had nothing in 
themselves for which they could be chosen except in so far as his 
mercy anticipated. And how are we to understand the words of Paul, 
"Who has first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him 
again?" (Rom. 11: 35.) His meaning obviously is, that men are 
altogether indebted to the preventing goodness of God, there being 
nothing in them, either past or future, to conciliate his favor. 
    4. In the Epistle to the Romans, (Rom. 9: 6,) in which he again 
treats this subject more reconditely and at greater length, he 
declares that "they are not all Israel which are of Israel;" for 
though all were blessed in respect of hereditary rights yet all did 
not equally obtain the succession. The whole discussion was 
occasioned by the pride and vain-glorying of the Jews, who, by 
claiming the name of the Church for themselves, would have made the 
faith of the Gospel dependent on their pleasure; just as in the 
present day the Papists would fain under this pretext substitute 
themselves in place of God. Paul, while he concedes that in respect 
of the covenant they were the holy offspring of Abraham, yet 
contends that the greater part of them were strangers to it, and 
that not only because they were degenerate, and so had become 
bastards instead of sons, but because the principal point to be 
considered was the special election of God, by which alone his 
adoption was ratified. If the piety of some established them in the 
hope of salvation, and the revolt of others was the sole cause of 
their being rejected, it would have been foolish and absurd in Paul 
to carry his readers back to a secret election. But if the will of 
God (no cause of which external to him either appears or is to be 
looked for) distinguishes some from others, so that all the sons of 
Israel are not true Israelites, it is vain for any one to seek the 
origin of his condition in himself. He afterwards prosecutes the 
subject at greater length, by contrasting the cases of Jacob and 
Esau. Both being sons of Abraham, both having been at the same time 
in the womb of their mother, there was something very strange in the 
change by which the honor of the birthright was transferred to 
Jacob, and yet Paul declares that the change was an attestation to 
the election of the one and the reprobation of the other. 
    The question considered is the origin and cause of election. 
The advocates of foreknowledge insist that it is to be found in the 
virtues and vices of men. For they take the short and easy method of 
asserting, that God showed in the person of Jacob, that he elects 
those who are worthy of his grace; and in the person of Esau, that 
he rejects those whom he foresees to be unworthy. Such is their 
confident assertion; but what does Paul say? "For the children being 
not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose 
of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him 
that calleth; it was said unto her, [Rebecca,] The elder shall serve 
the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I 
hated," (Rom. 9: 11-13.) If foreknowledge had anything to do with 
this distinction of the brothers, the mention of time would have 
been out of place. Granting that Jacob was elected for a worth to be 
obtained by future virtues, to what end did Paul say that he was not 
yet born? Nor would there have been any occasion for adding, that as 
yet he had done no good, because the answer was always ready, that 
nothing is hid from God, and that therefore the piety of Jacob was 
present before him. If works procure favor, a value ought to have 
been put upon them before Jacob was born, just as if he had been of 
full age. But in explaining the difficulty, the Apostle goes on to 
show, that the adoption of Jacob proceeded not on works but on the 
calling of God. In works he makes no mention of past or future, but 
distinctly opposes them to the calling of God, intimating, that when 
place is given to the one the other is overthrown; as if he had 
said, The only thing to be considered is what pleased God, not what 
men furnished of themselves. Lastly, it is certain that all the 
causes which men are wont to devise as external to the secret 
counsel of God, are excluded by the use of the terms purpose and 
    5. Why should men attempt to darken these statements by 
assigning some place in election to past or future works? This is 
altogether to evade what the Apostle contends for, viz., that the 
distinction between the brothers is not founded on any ground of 
works, but on the mere calling of God, inasmuch as it was fixed 
before the children were born. Had there been any solidity in this 
subtlety, it would not have escaped the notice of the Apostle, but 
being perfectly aware that God foresaw no good in man, save that 
which he had already previously determined to bestow by means of his 
election, he does not employ a preposterous arrangement which would 
make good works antecedent to their cause. We learn from the 
Apostle's words, that the salvation of believers is founded entirely 
on the decree of divine election, that the privilege is procured not 
by works but free calling. We have also a specimen of the thing 
itself set before us. Esau and Jacob are brothers, begotten of the 
same parents, within the same womb, not yet born. In them all things 
are equal, and yet the judgment of God with regard to them is 
different. He adopts the one and rejects the other. The only right 
of precedence was that of primogeniture; but that is disregarded, 
and the younger is preferred to the elder. Nay, in the case of 
others, God seems to have disregarded primogeniture for the express 
purpose of excluding the flesh from all ground of boasting. 
Rejecting Ishmael he gives his favor to Isaac, postponing Manasseh 
he honors Ephraim. 
    6. Should any one object that these minute and inferior favors 
do not enable us to decide with regard to the future life, that it 
is not to be supposed that he who received the honor of 
primogeniture was thereby adopted to the inheritance of heaven; 
(many objectors do not even spare Paul, but accuse him of having in 
the quotation of these passages wrested Scripture from its proper 
meaning;) I answer as before, that the Apostle has not erred through 
inconsideration, or spontaneously misapplied the passages of 
Scripture; but he saw (what these men cannot be brought to consider) 
that God purposed under an earthly sign to declare the spiritual 
election of Jacob, which otherwise lay hidden at his inaccessible 
tribunal. For unless we refer the primogeniture bestowed upon him to 
the future world, the form of blessing would be altogether vain and 
ridiculous, inasmuch as he gained nothing by it but a multitude of 
toils and annoyances, exile, sharp sorrows, and bitter cares. 
Therefore, when Paul knew beyond a doubt that by the external, God 
manifested the spiritual and unfading blessings, which he had 
prepared for his servant in his kingdom, he hesitated not in proving 
the latter to draw an argument from the former. For we must remember 
that the land of Canaan was given in pledge of the heavenly 
inheritance; and that therefore there cannot be a doubt that Jacob 
was like the angels ingrafted into the body of Christ, that he might 
be a partaker of the same life. Jacob, therefore, is chosen, while 
Esau is rejected; the predestination of God makes a distinction 
where none existed in respect of merit. If you ask the reason the 
Apostle gives it, "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom 
I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have 
compassion" (Rom. 9: 15.) And what pray, does this mean? It is just 
a clear declaration by the Lord that he finds nothing in men 
themselves to induce him to show kindness, that it is owing entirely 
to his own mercy, and, accordingly, that their salvation is his own 
work. Since God places your salvation in himself alone, why should 
you descend to yourself? Since he assigns you his own mercy alone, 
why will you recur to your own merits? Since he confines your 
thoughts to his own mercy why do you turn partly to the view of your 
own works? 
    We must therefore come to that smaller number whom Paul 
elsewhere describes as foreknown of God, (Rom. 11: 2;) not 
foreknown, as these men imagine, by idle, inactive contemplations 
but in the sense which it often bears. For surely when Peter says 
that Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and 
foreknowledge of God," (Acts 2: 23,) he does not represent God as 
contemplating merely, but as actually accomplishing our salvation. 
Thus also Peter, in saying that the believers to whom he writes are 
elect "according to the foreknowledge of God," (1 Pet. 1: 2,) 
properly expresses that secret predestination by which God has 
sealed those whom he has been pleased to adopt as sons. In using the 
term purpose as synonymous with a term which uniformly denotes what 
is called a fixed determination, he undoubtedly shows that God, in 
being the author of our salvation, does not go beyond himself. In 
this sense he says in the same chapters that Christ as "a lamb" "was 
foreordained before the creation of the world," (1 Pet. 1: 19, 20.) 
What could have been more frigid or absurd than to have represented 
God as looking from the height of heaven to see whence the salvation 
of the human race was to come? By a people foreknown, Peter means 
the same thing as Paul does by a remnant selected from a multitude 
falsely assuming the name of God. In another passage, to suppress 
the vain boasting of those who, while only covered with a mask, 
claim for themselves in the view of the world a first place among 
the godly, Paul says, "The Lord knoweth them that are his," (2 Tim. 
2: 19.) In short, by that term he designates two classes of people, 
the one consisting of the whole race of Abraham, the other a people 
separated from that race, and though hidden from human view, yet 
open to the eye of God. And there is no doubt that he took the 
passage from Moses, who declares that God would be merciful to 
whomsoever he pleased (although he was speaking of an elect people 
whose condition was apparently equal;) just as if he had said, that 
in a common adoption was included a special grace which he bestows 
on some as a holier treasure, and that there is nothing in the 
common covenant to prevent this number from being exempted from the 
common order. God being pleased in this matter to act as a free 
dispenser and disposer, distinctly declares, that the only ground on 
which he will show mercy to one rather than to another is his 
sovereign pleasure; for when mercy is bestowed on him who asks it, 
though he indeed does not suffer a refusal, he, however, either 
anticipates or partly acquires a favour, the whole merit of which 
God claims for himself. 
    7. Now, let the supreme Judge and Master decide on the whole 
case. Seeing such obduracy in his hearers, that his words fell upon 
the multitude almost without fruit, he to remove this 
stumbling-block exclaims, "All that the Father giveth me shall come 
to me." "And this is the Father's will which has sent me, that of 
all which he has given me I should lose nothing," (John 6: 37, 39.) 
Observe that the donation of the Father is the first step in our 
delivery into the charge and protection of Christ. Some one, 
perhaps, will here turn round and object, that those only peculiarly 
belong to the Father who make a voluntary surrender by faith. But 
the only thing which Christ maintains is that though the defections 
of vast multitudes should shake the world, yet the counsel of God 
would stand firm, more stable than heaven itself, that his election 
would never fail. The elect are said to have belonged to the Father 
before he bestowed them on his only begotten Son. It is asked if 
they were his by nature? Nay, they were aliens, but he makes them 
his by delivering them. The words of Christ are too clear to be 
rendered obscure by any of the mists of caviling. "No man can come 
to me except the Father which has sent me draw him." "Every man, 
therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father comes unto me," 
(John 6: 44, 45.) Did all promiscuously bend the knee to Christ, 
election would be common; whereas now in the small number of 
believers a manifest diversity appears. Accordingly our Savior, 
shortly after declaring that the disciples who were given to him 
were the common property of the Father, adds, "I pray not for the 
world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine," 
(John 17: 9.) Hence it is that the whole world no longer belongs to 
its Creator, except in so far as grace rescues from malediction, 
divine wrath, and eternal death, some, not many, who would otherwise 
perish, while he leaves the world to the destruction to which it is 
doomed. Meanwhile, though Christ interpose as a Mediator, yet he 
claims the right of electing in common with the Father, "I speak not 
of you all: I know whom I have chosen" (John 13: 18.) If it is asked 
whence he has chosen them, he answers in another passages "Out of 
the world;" which he excludes from his prayers when he commits his 
disciples to the Father, (John 15: 19.) We must, indeed hold, when 
he affirms that he knows whom he has chosen, first, that some 
individuals of the human race are denoted; and, secondly, that they 
are not distinguished by the quality of their virtues, but by a 
heavenly decree. Hence it follows, that since Christ makes himself 
the author of election, none excel by their own strength or 
industry. In elsewhere numbering Judas among the elect, though he 
was a devil, (John 6: 70,) he refers only to the apostolical office, 
which though a bright manifestation of divine favor, (as Paul so 
often acknowledges it to be in his own person,) does not, however, 
contain within itself the hope of eternal salvation. Judas, 
therefore, when he discharged the office of Apostle perfidiously, 
might have been worse than a devil; but not one of those whom Christ 
has once ingrafted into his body will he ever permit to perish, for 
in securing their salvation, he will perform what he has promised; 
that is, exert a divine power greater than all, (John 10: 28.) For 
when he says, "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of 
them is lost but the son of perdition," (John 17: 12,) the 
expression, though there is a catachresis in it, is not at all 
ambiguous. The sum is, that God by gratuitous adoption forms those 
whom he wishes to have for sons; but that the intrinsic cause is in 
himself, because he is contented with his secret pleasure. 
    8. But Ambrose, Origin, and Jerome, were of opinion, that God 
dispenses his grace among men according to the use which he foresees 
that each will make of it. It may be added, that Augustine also was 
for some time of this opinion; but after he had made greater 
progress in the knowledge of Scripture, he not only retracted it as 
evidently false, but powerfully confuted it, (August. Retract. Lib. 
1, c. 13.) Nay, even after the retractation, glancing at the 
Pelagians who still persisted in that error, he says, "Who does not 
wonder that the Apostle failed to make this most acute observation? 
For after stating a most startling proposition concerning those who 
were not yet born, and afterwards putting the question to himself by 
way of objection, 'What then? Is there unrighteousness with God?' he 
had an opportunity of answering, that God foresaw the merits of 
both, he does not say so, but has recourse to the justice and mercy 
of God," (August. Epist. 106, ad Sixtum.) And in another passage, 
after excluding all merit before election, he says, "Here, 
certainly, there is no place for the vain argument of those who 
defend the foreknowledge of God against the grace of God, and 
accordingly maintain that we were elected before the foundation of 
the world, because God foreknow that we would be good, not that he 
himself would make us good. This is not the language of him who 
says, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' (John 15: 16.) 
For had he chosen us because he foreknow that we would be good, he 
would at the same time also have foreknown that we were to choose 
him," (August. in Joann. 8, see also what follows to the same 
effect.) Let the testimony of Augustine prevail with those who 
willingly acquiesce in the authority of the Fathers: although 
Augustine allows not that he differs from the others, but shows by 
clear evidence that the difference which the Pelagians invidiously 
objected to him is unfounded. For he quotes from Ambrose, (Lib. de 
Praedest. Sanct. cap. 19,) "Christ calls whom he pities." Again, 
"Had he pleased he could have made them devout instead of undevout; 
but God calls whom he deigns to call, and makes religious whom he 
will." Were we disposed to frame an entire volume out of Augustine, 
it were easy to show the reader that I have no occasion to use any 
other words than his: but I am unwilling to burden him with a prolix 
statement. But assuming that the fathers did not speak thus, let us 
attend to the thing itself. A difficult question had been raised, 
viz., Did God do justly in bestowing his grace on certain 
individuals? Paul might have disencumbered himself of this question 
at once by saying, that God had respect to works. Why does he not do 
so? Why does he rather continue to use a language which leaves him 
exposed to the same difficulty? Why, but just because it would not 
have been right to say it? There was no obliviousness on the part of 
the Holy Spirit, who was speaking by his mouth. He, therefore, 
answers without ambiguity, that God favors his elect, because he is 
pleased to do so, and shows mercy because he is pleased to do so. 
For the words, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and 
show mercy on whom I will show mercy," (Exod. 33: 19,) are the same 
in effect as if it had been said, God is moved to mercy by no other 
reason than that he is pleased to show mercy. Augustine's 
declaration, therefore, remains true. The grace of God does not 
find, but makes persons fit to be chosen. 
    9. Nor let us be detained by the subtlety of Thomas, that the 
foreknowledge of merit is the cause of predestination, not, indeed, 
in respect of the predestinating act, but that on our part it may in 
some sense be so called, namely, in respect of a particular estimate 
of predestination; as when it is said, that God predestinates man to 
glory according to his merit, inasmuch as he decreed to bestow upon 
him the grace by which he merits glory. For while the Lord would 
have us to see nothing more in election than his mere goodness, for 
any one to desire to see more is preposterous affectation. But were 
we to make a trial of subtlety, it would not be difficult to refute 
the sophistry of Thomas. He maintains that the elect are in a manner 
predestinated to glory on account of their merits, because God 
predestines to give them the grace by which they merit glory. What 
if I should, on the contrary, object that predestination to grace is 
subservient to election unto life, and follows as its handmaid; that 
grace is predestined to those to whom the possession of glory was 
previously assigned the Lord being pleased to bring his sons by 
election to justification? For it will hence follow that the 
predestination to glory is the cause of the predestination to grace, 
and not the converse. But let us have done with these disputes as 
superfluous among those who think that there is enough of wisdom for 
them in the word of God. For it has been truly said by an old 
ecclesiastical writer, Those who ascribe the election of God to 
merits, are wise above what they ought to be, (Ambrose. de Vocat. 
Gentium, lib. 1, c. 2.) 
    10. Some object that God would be inconsistent with himself, in 
inviting all without distinction while he elects only a few. Thus, 
according to them, the universality of the promise destroys the 
distinction of special grace. Some moderate men speak in this way, 
not so much for the purpose of suppressing the truth, as to get quit 
of puzzling questions, and curb excessive curiosity. The intention 
is laudable, but the design is by no means to be approved, 
dissimulation being at no time excusable. In those Again who display 
their petulance, we see only a vile cavil or a disgraceful error. 
The mode in which Scripture reconciles the two things, viz., that by 
external preaching all are called to faith and repentance, and that 
yet the Spirit of faith and repentance is not given to all, I have 
already explained, and will again shortly repeat. But the point 
which they assume I deny as false in two respects: for he who 
threatens that when it shall rain on one city there will be drought 
in another, (Amos 4: 7;) and declares in another passage, that there 
will be a famine of the word, (Amos 8: 11,) does not lay himself 
under a fixed obligation to call all equally. And he who, forbidding 
Paul to preach in Asian and leading him away from Bithynia, carries 
him over to Macedonia, (Acts 16: 6,) shows that it belongs to him to 
distribute the treasure in what way he pleases. But it is by Isaiah 
he more clearly demonstrates how he destines the promises of 
salvation specially to the elect, (Isa. 8: 16;) for he declares that 
his disciples would consist of them only, and not indiscriminately 
of the whole human race. Whence it is evident that the doctrine of 
salvation, which is said to be set apart for the sons of the Church 
only, is abused when it is represented as effectually available to 
all. For the present let it suffice to observe, that though the word 
of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith 
is rare. Isaiah assigns the cause when he says that the arm of the 
Lord is not revealed to all, (Isa. 53: 1.) Had he said, that the 
gospel is malignantly and perversely condemned, because many 
obstinately refuse to hear, there might perhaps be some color for 
this universal call. It is not the purpose of the Prophet, however, 
to extenuate the guilt of men, when he states the source of their 
blindness to be, that God deigns not to reveal his arm to them; he 
only reminds us that since faith is a special gift, it is in vain 
that external doctrine sounds in the ear. But I would fain know from 
those doctors whether it is mere preaching or faith that makes men 
sons of God. Certainly when it is said, "As many as received him, to 
them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that 
believe on his name," (John 1: 12,) a confused mass is not set 
before us, but a special order is assigned to believers, who are 
"born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of 
man, but of God." 
    But it is said, there is a mutual agreement between faith and 
the word. That must be wherever there is faith. But it is no new 
thing for the seed to fall among thorns or in stony places; not only 
because the majority appear in fact to be rebellious against God, 
but because all are not gifted with eyes and ears. How, then, can it 
consistently be said, that God calls while he knows that the called 
will not come? Let Augustine answer for me: "Would you dispute with 
me? Wonder with me, and exclaim, O the depth! Let us both agree in 
dread, lest we perish in error," (August. de Verb. Apost. Serm. 11.) 
Moreover, if election is, as Paul declares, the parent of faith, I 
retort the argument, and maintain that faith is not general, since 
election is special. For it is easily inferred from the series of 
causes and effects, when Paul says, that the Father "has blessed us 
with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according 
as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world," 
(Eph. 1: 3, 4,) that these riches are not common to all, because God 
has chosen only whom he would. And the reason why in another passage 
he commends the faith of the elect is, to prevent any one from 
supposing that he acquires faith of his own nature; since to God 
alone belongs the glory of freely illuminating those whom he had 
previously chosen, (Tit. 1: 1.) For it is well said by Bernard, "His 
friend hear apart when he says to them, Fear not, little flock: to 
you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom. Who are these? 
Those whom he foreknew and predestinated to be conformed to the 
image of his Son. He has made known his great and secret counsel. 
The Lord knoweth them that are his, but that which was known to God 
was manifested to men; nor, indeed, does he deign to give a 
participation in this great mystery to any but those whom he 
foreknew and predestinated to be his own," (Bernard. ad Thomas 
Praepos. Benerlae. Epist. 107.) Shortly after he concludes, "The 
mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that 
fear him; from everlasting through predestination, to everlasting 
through glorification: the one knows no beginning, the other no 
end." But why cite Bernard as a witness, when we hear from the lips 
of our Master, "Not that any man has seen the Father, save he which 
is of God"? (John 6: 46.) By these words he intimates that all who 
are not regenerated by God are amazed at the brightness of his 
countenance. And, indeed, faith is aptly conjoined with election, 
provided it hold the second place. This order is clearly expressed 
by our Savior in these words, "This is the Father's will which has 
sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing;" 
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees 
the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life," (John 6: 
39, 40.) If he would have all to be saved, he would appoint his Son 
their guardian, and would ingraft them all into his body by the 
sacred bond of faith. It is now clear that faith is a singular 
pledge of paternal love, treasured up for the sons whom he has 
adopted. Hence Christ elsewhere says, that the sheep follow the 
shepherd because they know his voice, but that they will not follow 
a stranger, because they know not the voice of strangers, (John 10: 
4.) But whence that distinction, unless that their ears have been 
divinely bored? For no man makes himself a sheep, but is formed by 
heavenly grace. And why does the Lord declare that our salvation 
will always be sure and certain, but just because it is guarded by 
the invincible power of God? (John 10: 29.) Accordingly, he 
concludes that unbelievers are not of his sheep, (John 10: 16.) The 
reason is, because they are not of the number of those who, as the 
Lord promised by Isaiah, were to be his disciples. Moreover, as the 
passages which I have quoted imply perseverance, they are also 
attestations to the inflexible constancy of election. 
    11. We come now to the reprobate, to whom the Apostle at the 
same time refers, (Rom. 9: 13.) For as Jacob, who as yet had merited 
nothing by good works, is assumed into favor; so Esau, while as yet 
unpolluted by any crime, is hated. If we turn our view to works, we 
do injustice to the Apostle, as if he had failed to see the very 
thing which is clear to us. Moreover, there is complete proof of his 
not having seen it, since he expressly insists that when as yet they 
had done neither good nor evil, the one was elected, the other 
rejected, in order to prove that the foundation of divine 
predestination is not in works. Then after starting the objection, 
Is God unjust? instead of employing what would have been the surest 
and plainest defense of his justice, viz., that God had recompensed 
Esau according to his wickedness, he is contented with a different 
solution, viz., that the reprobate are expressly raised up, in order 
that the glory of God may thereby be displayed. At last, he 
concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he 
will he hardeneth, (Rom. 9: 18.) You see how he refers both to the 
mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for 
his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, 
neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his 
will. When God is said to visit in mercy or harden whom he will, men 
are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, Part 

(continued in part 28...)

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