Calvin, Institutes, Vol.3, Part 28
(... continued from part 27)
Chapter 23. 
23. Refutation of the calumnies by which this doctrine is always 
unjustly assailed. 
    This chapter consists of four parts, which refute the principal 
objections to this doctrine, and the various pleas and exceptions 
founded on these objections. These are preceded by a refutation of 
those who hold election but deny reprobation, sec. 1. Then follows, 
I. A refutation of the first objection to the doctrine of 
reprobation and election, sec. 2-5. II. An answer to the second 
objection, sec. 6-9. III. A refutation of the third objection. IV. A 
refutation of the fourth objection; to which is added a useful and 
necessary caution, sec. 12-14. 
1. Error of those who deny reprobation. 1. Election opposed to 
    reprobation. 2. Those who deny reprobation presumptuously plead 
    with God, whose counsels even angels adore. 3. They murmur 
    against God when disclosing his counsels by the Apostle. 
    Exception and answer. Passage of Augustine. 
2. First objection, viz., that God is unjustly offended with those 
    whom he dooms to destruction without their own desert. First 
    answer, from the consideration of the divine will. The nature 
    of this will, and how to be considered. 
3. Second answer. God owes nothing to man. His hatred against those 
    who are corrupted by sin is most just. The reprobate convinced 
    in their own consciences of the just judgment of God. 
4. Exception, viz., that the reprobate seem to have been preordained 
    to sin. Answer. Passage of the Apostle vindicated from calumny. 
5. Answer, confirmed by the authority of Augustine. Illustration. 
    Passage of Augustine. 
6. Objection, that God ought not to impute the sins rendered 
    necessary by his predestination. First answer, by ancient 
    writers. This not valid. Second answer also defective. Third 
    answer, proposed by Valla, well founded. 
7. Objection, that God did not decree that Adam should perish by his 
    fall, refuted by a variety of reasons. A noble passage of 
8. Objection, that the wicked perish by the permission, not by the 
    will of God. Answer. A pious exhortation. 
9. Objection and answer. 
10. Objection, that, according to the doctrine of predestination, 
    God is a respecter of persons. Answer. 
11. Objection, that sinners are to be punished equally, or the 
    justice of God is unequal. Answer. Confirmed by passages of 
12. Objection, that the doctrine of predestination produces 
    overweening confidence and impiety. Different answers. 
13. Another objection, depending on the former. Answer. The doctrine 
    of predestination to be preached, not passed over in silence. 
14. How it is to be preached and delivered to the people. Summary of 
    the orthodox doctrine of predestination, from Augustine. 
    1. The human mind, when it hears this doctrine, cannot restrain 
its petulance, but boils and rages as if aroused by the sound of a 
trumpet. Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an 
invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any 
one is reprobated, (Bernard. in Die Ascensionis, Serm. 2.) This they 
do ignorantly and childishly since there could be no election 
without its opposite reprobation. God is said to set apart those 
whom he adopts for salvation. It were most absurd to say, that he 
admits others fortuitously, or that they by their industry acquire 
what election alone confers on a few. Those, therefore, whom God 
passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he 
is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines 
to his children. Nor is it possible to tolerate the petulance of 
men, in refusing to be restrained by the word of God, in regard to 
his incomprehensible counsel, which even angels adore. We have 
already been told that hardening is not less under the immediate 
hand of God than mercy. Paul does not, after the example of those 
whom I have mentioned, labour anxiously to defend God, by calling in 
the aid of falsehood; he only reminds us that it is unlawful for the 
creature to quarrel with its Creator. Then how will those who refuse 
to admit that any are reprobated by God explain the following words 
of Christ? "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted 
shall be rooted up," (Matth. 15: 13.) They are plainly told that all 
whom the heavenly Father has not been pleased to plant as sacred 
trees in his garden, are doomed and devoted to destruction. If they 
deny that this is a sign of reprobation, there is nothing, however 
clear, that, can be proved to them. But if they will still murmur, 
let us in the soberness of faith rest contented with the admonition 
of Paul, that it can be no ground of complaint that God, "willing to 
show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much 
long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction: and that 
he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, 
which he had store prepared unto glory," (Rom. 9: 22, 23.) Let my 
readers observe that Paul, to cut off all handle for murmuring and 
detraction, attributes supreme sovereignty to the wrath and power of 
God; for it were unjust that those profound judgments, which 
transcend all our powers of discernment, should be subjected to our 
calculation. It is frivolous in our opponents to reply, that God 
does not altogether reject those whom in levity he tolerates, but 
remains in suspense with regard to them, if per adventure they may 
repent; as if Paul were representing God as patiently waiting for 
the conversion of those whom he describes as fitted for destruction. 
For Augustine, rightly expounding this passage, says that where 
power is united to endurance, God does not permit, but rules 
(August. Cont. Julian., Lib. 5, c. 5.) They add also, that it is not 
without cause the vessels of wrath are said to be fitted for 
destruction, and that God is said to have prepared the vessels of 
mercy, because in this way the praise of salvation is claimed for 
God, whereas the blame of perdition is thrown upon those who of 
their own accord bring it upon themselves. But were I to concede 
that by the different forms of expression Paul softens the harshness 
of the former clause, it by no means follows, that he transfers the 
preparation for destruction to any other cause than the secret 
counsel of God. This, indeed, is asserted in the preceding context, 
where God is said to have raised up Pharaoh, and to harden whom he 
will. Hence it follows, that the hidden counsel of God is the cause 
of hardening. I at least hold with Augustine that when God makes 
sheep out of wolves, he forms them again by the powerful influence 
of grace, that their hardness may thus be subdued, and that he does 
not convert the obstinate, because he does not exert that more 
powerful grace, a grace which he has at command, if he were disposed 
to use it, (August. de Praedest. Sanct., Lib. 1, c. 2.) 
    2. These observations would be amply sufficient for the pious 
and modest, and such as remember that they are men. But because many 
are the species of blasphemy which these virulent dogs utter against 
God, we shall, as far as the case admits, give an answer to each. 
Foolish men raise many grounds of quarrel with God, as if they held 
him subject to their accusations. First, they ask why God is 
offended with his creatures who have not provoked him by any 
previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomsoever he 
pleases, more resembles the caprice of a tyrant than the legal 
sentence of a judge; and, therefore, there is reason to expostulate 
with God, if at his mere pleasure men are, without any desert of 
their own, predestinated to eternal death. If at any time thoughts 
of this kind come into the minds of the pious, they will be 
sufficiently armed to repress them, by considering how sinful it is 
to insist on knowing the causes of the divine will, since it is 
itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists. For if 
his will has any cause, there must be something antecedent to it, 
and to which it is annexed; this it were impious to imagine. The 
will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, so that everything 
which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his 
willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must 
answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he 
pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the 
will of God, and nothing such can be found. Let human temerity then 
be quiet, and cease to inquire after what exists not, lest perhaps 
it fails to find what does exist. This, I say, will be sufficient to 
restrain any one who would reverently contemplate the secret things 
of God. Against the audacity of the wicked, who hesitate not openly 
to blaspheme, God will sufficiently defend himself by his own 
righteousness, without our assistance, when depriving their 
consciences of all means of evasion, he shall hold them under 
conviction, and make them feel their guilt. We, however, give no 
countenance to the fiction of absolute power, which, as it is 
heathenish, so it ought justly to be held in detestation by us. We 
do not imagine God to be lawless. He is a law to himself; because, 
as Plato says, men laboring under the influence of concupiscence 
need law; but the will of God is not only free from all vice, but is 
the supreme standard of perfection, the law of all laws. But we deny 
that he is bound to give an account of his procedure; and we 
moreover deny that we are fit of our own ability to give judgment in 
such a case. Wherefore, when we are tempted to go farther than we 
ought, let this consideration deter us, Thou shalt be "justified 
when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judges," (Ps. 51: 4.) 
    3. God may thus quell his enemies by silence. But lest we 
should allow them with impunity to hold his sacred name in derision, 
he supplies us with weapons against them from his word. Accordingly, 
when we are accosted in such terms as these, Why did God from the 
first predestine some to death, when, as they were not yet in 
existence, they could not have merited sentence of death? let us by 
way of reply ask in our turn, What do you imagine that God owes to 
man, if he is pleased to estimate him by his own nature? As we are 
all vitiated by sin, we cannot but be hateful to God, and that not 
from tyrannical cruelty, but the strictest justice. But if all whom 
the Lord predestines to death are naturally liable to sentence of 
death, of what injustice, pray, do they complain? Should all the 
sons of Adam come to dispute and contend with their Creator, because 
by his eternal providence they were before their birth doomed to 
perpetual destruction, when God comes to reckon with them, what will 
they be able to mutter against this defense? If all are taken from a 
corrupt mass, it is not strange that all are subject to 
condemnation. Let them not, therefore, charge God with injustice, if 
by his eternal judgment they are doomed to a death to which they 
themselves feel that whether they will or not they are drawn 
spontaneously by their own nature. Hence it appears how perverse is 
this affectation of murmuring, when of set purpose they suppress the 
cause of condemnation which they are compelled to recognize in 
themselves, that they may lay the blame upon God. But though I 
should confess a hundred times that God is the author, (and it is 
most certain that he is,) they do not, however, thereby efface their 
own guilt, which, engraven on their own consciences, is ever and 
anon presenting itself to their view. 
    4. They again object, Were not men predestinated by the 
ordination of God to that corruption which is now held forth as the 
cause of condemnation? If so, when they perish in their corruptions 
they do nothing else than suffer punishment for that calamity, into 
which, by the predestination of God, Adam fell, and dragged all his 
posterity headlong with him. Is not he, therefore, unjust in thus 
cruelly mocking his creatures? I admit that by the will of God all 
the sons of Adam fell into that state of wretchedness in which they 
are now involved; and this is just what I said at the first, that we 
must always return to the mere pleasure of the divine will, the 
cause of which is hidden in himself. But it does not forthwith 
follow that God lies open to this charge. For we will answer with 
Paul in these words, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies 
against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why 
hast thou made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of 
the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto 
dishonor?" (Rom. 9: 20, 21.) They will deny that the justice of God 
is thus truly defended, and will allege that we seek an evasion, 
such as those are wont to employ who have no good excuse. For what 
more seems to be said here than just that the power of God is such 
as cannot be hindered, so that he can do whatsoever he pleases? But 
it is far otherwise. For what stronger reason can be given than when 
we are ordered to reflect who God is? How could he who is the Judge 
of the world commit any unrighteousness? If it properly belongs to 
the nature of God to do judgment, he must naturally love justice and 
abhor injustice. Wherefore, the Apostle did not, as if he had been 
caught in a difficulty, have recourse to evasion; he only intimated 
that the procedure of divine justice is too high to be scanned by 
human measure, or comprehended by the feebleness of human intellect. 
The Apostle, indeed, confesses that in the divine judgments there is 
a depth in which all the minds of men must be engulfed if they 
attempt to penetrate into it. But he also shows how unbecoming it is 
to reduce the works of God to such a law as that we can presume to 
condemn them the moment they accord not with our reason. There is a 
well-known saying of Solomon, (which, however, few properly 
understand,) "The great God that formed all things both rewardeth 
the fool and rewardeth transgressors," (Prov. 26: 10.) For he is 
speaking of the greatness of God, whose pleasure it is to inflict 
punishment on fools and transgressors though he is not pleased to 
bestow his Spirit upon them. It is a monstrous infatuation in men to 
seek to subject that which has no bounds to the little measure of 
their reason. Paul gives the name of elect to the angels who 
maintained their integrity. If their steadfastness was owing to the 
good pleasure of God, the revolt of the others proves that they were 
abandoned. Of this no other cause can be adduced than reprobation, 
which is hidden in the secret counsel of God. 
    5. Now, should some Manes or Coelestinus come forward to 
arraign Divine Providence, (see sec. 8,) I say with Paul, that no 
account of it can be given, because by its magnitude it far 
surpasses our understanding. Is there any thing strange or absurd in 
this? Would we have the power of God so limited as to be unable to 
do more than our mind can comprehend? I say with Augustine, that the 
Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknow, were to go to 
destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is 
not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even 
to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. 
Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of 
justice. (See August. Ep. 106.) But when justice clearly appears, 
why should we raise any question of injustice? Let us not, 
therefore, be ashamed to stop their mouths after the example of 
Paul. Whenever they presume to carp, let us begin to repeat: Who are 
ye, miserable men, that bring an accusation against God, and bring 
it because he does not adapt the greatness of his works to your 
meagre capacity? As if every thing must be perverse that is hidden 
from the flesh. The immensity of the divine judgments is known to 
you by clear experience. You know that they are called "a great 
deep", (Ps. 36: 6.) Now, look at the narrowness of your own minds 
and say whether it can comprehend the decrees of God. Why then 
should you, by infatuated inquisitiveness, plunge yourselves into an 
abyss which reason itself tells you will prove your destruction? Why 
are you not deterred, in some degree at least, by what the Book of 
Job, as well as the Prophetical books declare concerning the 
incomprehensible wisdom and dreadful power of God? If your mind is 
troubled, decline not to embrace the counsel of Augustine, "You a 
man expect an answer from me: I also am a man. Wherefore, let us 
both listen to him who says, 'O man, who art thou?' Believing 
ignorance is better than presumptuous knowledge. Seek merits; you 
will find nought but punishment. O the height! Peter denies, a thief 
believes. O the height! Do you ask the reason? I will tremble at the 
height. Reason you, I will wonder; dispute you, I will believe. I 
see the height; I cannot sound the depth. Paul found rest, because 
he found wonder. He calls the judgments of God 'unsearchable;' and 
have you come to search them? He says that his ways are 'past 
finding out,' and do you seek to find them out?" (August. de Verb. 
Apost. Serm. 20.) We shall gain nothing by proceeding farther. For 
neither will the Lord satisfy the petulance of these men, nor does 
he need any other defense than that which he used by his Spirit, who 
spoke by the mouth of Paul. We unlearn the art of speaking well when 
we cease to speak with God. 
    6. Impiety starts another objection, which, however, seeks not 
so much to criminate God as to excuse the sinner; though he who is 
condemned by God as a sinner cannot ultimately be acquitted without 
impugning the judge. This, then is the scoffing language which 
profane tongues employ. Why should God blame men for things the 
necessity of which he has imposed by his own predestination? What 
could they do? Could they struggle with his decrees? It were in vain 
for them to do it, since they could not possibly succeed. It is not 
just, therefore, to punish them for things the principal cause of 
which is in the predestination of God. Here I will abstain from a 
defense to which ecclesiastical writers usually recur, that there is 
nothing in the prescience of God to prevent him from regarding; man 
as a sinner, since the evils which he foresees are man's, not his. 
This would not stop the caviler, who would still insist that God 
might, if he had pleased, have prevented the evils which he foresaw, 
and not having done so, must with determinate counsel have created 
man for the very purpose of so acting on the earth. But if by the 
providence of God man was created on the condition of afterwards 
doing whatever he does, then that which he cannot escape, and which 
he is constrained by the will of God to do, cannot be charged upon 
him as a crime. Let us, therefore, see what is the proper method of 
solving the difficulty. First, all must admit what Solomon says, 
"The Lord has made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for 
the day of evil," (Prov. 16: 4.) Now, since the arrangement of all 
things is in the hand of God, since to him belongs the disposal of 
life and death, he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in 
such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb 
to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. If 
any one alleges that no necessity is laid upon them by the 
providence of God, but rather that they are created by him in that 
condition, because he foresaw their future depravity, he says 
something, but does not say enough. Ancient writers, indeed, 
occasionally employ this solution, though with some degree of 
hesitation. The Schoolmen, again, rest in it as if it could not be 
gainsaid. I, for my part, am willing to admit, that mere prescience 
lays no necessity on the creatures; though some do not assent to 
this, but hold that it is itself the cause of things. But Valla, 
though otherwise not greatly skilled in sacred matters, seems to me 
to have taken a shrewder and more acute view, when he shows that the 
dispute is superfluous since life and death are acts of the divine 
will rather than of prescience. If God merely foresaw human events, 
and did not also arrange and dispose of them at his pleasure, there 
might be room for agitating the question, how far his foreknowledge 
amounts to necessity; but since he foresees the things which are to 
happen, simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it 
is vain to debate about prescience, while it is clear that all 
events take place by his sovereign appointment. 
    7. They deny that it is ever said in distinct terms, God 
decreed that Adam should perish by his revolt. As if the same God, 
who is declared in Scripture to do whatsoever he pleases, could have 
made the noblest of his creatures without any special purpose. They 
say that, in accordance with free-will, he was to be the architect 
of his own fortune, that God had decreed nothing but to treat him 
according to his desert. If this frigid fiction is received, where 
will be the omnipotence of God, by which, according to his secret 
counsel on which every thing depends, he rules over all? But whether 
they will allow it or not, predestination is manifest in Adam's 
posterity. It was not owing to nature that they all lost salvation 
by the fault of one parent. Why should they refuse to admit with 
regard to one man that which against their will they admit with 
regard to the whole human race? Why should they in caviling lose 
their labour? Scripture proclaims that all were, in the person of 
one, made liable to eternal death. As this cannot be ascribed to 
nature, it is plain that it is owing to the wonderful counsel of 
God. It is very absurd in these worthy defenders of the justice of 
God to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I again ask how it is 
that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant 
children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed 
meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The 
decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that 
God foreknow what the end of man was to be before he made him, and 
foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree. Should any one 
here inveigh against the prescience of God, he does it rashly and 
unadvisedly. For why, pray, should it be made a charge against the 
heavenly Judge, that he was not ignorant of what was to happen? 
Thus, if there is any just or plausible complaint, it must be 
directed against predestination. Nor ought it to seem absurd when I 
say, that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him 
the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it. 
For as it belongs to his wisdom to foreknow all future events, so it 
belongs to his power to rule and govern them by his hand. This 
question, like others, is skillfully explained by Augustine: "Let us 
confess with the greatest benefit, what we believe with the greatest 
truth, that the God and Lord of all things who made all things very 
good, both foreknow that evil was to arise out of good, and knew 
that it belonged to his most omnipotent goodness to bring good out 
of evil, rather than not permit evil to be, and so ordained the life 
of angels and men as to show in it, first, what free-will could do; 
and, secondly, what the benefit of his grace and his righteous 
judgment could do," (August. Enchir. ad Laurent.) 
    8. Here they recur to the distinction between will and 
permission, the object being to prove that the wicked perish only by 
the permission, but not by the will of God. But why do we say that 
he permits, but just because he wills? Nor, indeed, is there any 
probability in the thing itself, viz., that man brought death upon 
himself merely by the permission, and not by the ordination of God; 
as if God had not determined what he wished the condition of the 
chief of his creatures to be. I will not hesitate, therefore, simply 
to confess with Augustine that the will of God is necessity, and 
that every thing is necessary which he has willed; just as those 
things will certainly happen which he has foreseen, (August. de Gen. 
ad Lit., Lib. 6, cap. 15.) Now, if in excuse of themselves and the 
ungodly, either the Pelagians, or Manichees, or Anabaptists, or 
Epicureans (for it is with these four sects we have to discuss this 
matter,) should object the necessity by which they are constrained, 
in consequence of the divine predestination, they do nothing that is 
relevant to the cause. For if predestination is nothing else than a 
dispensation of divine justice, secret indeed, but unblamable, 
because it is certain that those predestinated to that condition 
were not unworthy of it, it is equally certain, that the destruction 
consequent upon predestination is also most just. Moreover, though 
their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and 
matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord 
deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. 
It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his 
own glory would thereby be displayed. When you hear the glory of God 
mentioned, understand that his justice is included. For that which 
deserves praise must be just. Man therefore falls, divine providence 
so ordaining, but he falls by his own fault. The Lord had a little 
before declared that all the things which he had made were very 
good, (Gen. 1: 31.) Whence then the depravity of man, which made him 
revolt from God? Lest it should be supposed that it was from his 
creation, God had expressly approved what proceeded from himself 
Therefore man's own wickedness corrupted the pure nature which he 
had received from God, and his ruin brought with it the destruction 
of all his posterity. Wherefore, let us in the corruption of human 
nature contemplate the evident cause of condemnation, (a cause which 
comes more closely home to us,) rather than inquire into a cause 
hidden and almost incomprehensible in the predestination of God. Nor 
let us decline to submit our judgment to the boundless wisdom of 
God, so far as to confess its insufficiency to comprehend many of 
his secrets. Ignorance of things which we are not able, or which it 
is not lawful to know, is learning, while the desire to know them is 
a species of madness. 
    9. Someone, perhaps, will say, that I have not yet stated 
enough to refute this blasphemous excuse. I confess that it is 
impossible to prevent impiety from murmuring and objecting; but I 
think I have said enough not only to remove the ground, but also the 
pretext for throwing blame upon God. The reprobate would excuse 
their sins by alleging that they are unable to escape the necessity 
of sinning, especially because a necessity of this nature is laid 
upon them by the ordination of God. We deny that they can thus be 
validly excused, since the ordination of God, by which they complain 
that they are doomed to destruction, is consistent with equity, - an 
equity, indeed, unknown to us, but most certain. Hence we conclude, 
that every evil which they bear is inflicted by the most just 
judgment of God. Next we have shown that they act preposterously 
when, in seeking the origin of their condemnation, they turn their 
view to the hidden recesses of the divine counsel, and wink at the 
corruption of nature, which is the true source. They cannot impute 
this corruption to God, because he bears testimony to the goodness 
of his creation. For though, by the eternal providence of God, man 
was formed for the calamity under which he lies, he took the matter 
of it from himself, not from God, since the only cause of his 
destruction was his degenerating from the purity of his creation 
into a state of vice and impurity. 
    10. There is a third absurdity by which the adversaries of 
predestination defame it. As we ascribe it entirely to the counsel 
of the divine will, that those whom God adopts as the heirs of his 
kingdom are exempted from universal destruction, they infer that he 
is an acceptor of persons; but this Scripture uniformly denies: and, 
therefore Scripture is either at variance with itself, or respect is 
had to merit in election. First, the sense in which Scripture 
declares that God is not an acceptor of persons, is different from 
that which they suppose: since the term person means not man, but 
those things which when conspicuous in a man, either procure favor, 
grace, and dignity, or, on the contrary, produce hatred, contempt, 
and disgrace. Among, these are, on the one hand, riches, wealth, 
power, rank, office, country, beauty, &c.; and, on the other hand, 
poverty, want, mean birth, sordidness, contempt, and the like. Thus 
Peter and Paul say, that the Lord is no acceptor of persons, because 
he makes no distinction between the Jew and the Greek; does not make 
the mere circumstance of country the ground for rejecting, one or 
embracing the other, (Acts 10: 34; Rom. 2: 10, Gal. 3: 28.) Thus 
James also uses the same words, when he would declare that God has 
no respect to riches in his judgment, (James 2: 5.) Paul also says 
in another passage, that in judging God has no respect to slavery or 
freedom, (Eph. 6: 9; Col. 3: 25.) There is nothing inconsistent with 
this when we say, that God, according to the good pleasure of his 
will, without any regard to merit, elects those whom he chooses for 
sons, while he rejects and reprobates others. For fuller 
satisfaction the matter may be thus explained, (see August. Epist. 
115, et ad Bonif., Lib. 2, cap. 7.) It is asked, how it happens that 
of two, between whom there is no difference of merit, God in his 
election adopts the one, and passes by the other? I, in my turn, 
ask, Is there any thing in him who is adopted to incline God towards 
him? If it must be confessed that there is nothing. it will follow, 
that God looks not to the man, but is influenced entirely by his own 
goodness to do him good. Therefore, when God elects one and rejects 
another, it is owing not to any respect to the individual, but 
entirely to his own mercy which is free to display and exert itself 
when and where he pleases. For we have elsewhere seen, that in order 
to humble the pride of the flesh, "not many wise men after the 
flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called," (1 Cor. 1: 26;) 
so far is God in the exercise of his favor from showing any respect 
to persons. 
    11. Wherefore, it is false and most wicked to charge God with 
dispensing justice unequally, because in this predestination he does 
not observe the same course towards all. If (say they) he finds all 
guilty, let him punish all alike: if he finds them innocent, let him 
relieve all from the severity of judgment. But they plead with God 
as if he were either interdicted from showing mercy, or were 
obliged, if he show mercy, entirely to renounce judgment. What is it 
that they demand? That if all are guilty all shall receive the same 
punishment. We admit that the guilt is common, but we say, that God 
in mercy succors some. Let him (they say) succor all. We object, 
that it is right for him to show by punishing that he is a just 
judge. When they cannot tolerate this, what else are they attempting 
than to deprive God of the power of showing mercy; or, at least, to 
allow it to him only on the condition of altogether renouncing 
judgment? Here the words of Augustine most admirably apply: "Since 
in the first man the whole human race fell under condemnation, those 
vessels which are made of it unto honor, are not vessels of 
self-righteousness, but of divine mercy. When other vessels are made 
unto dishonor, it must be imputed not to injustice, but to 
judgment," (August. Epist. 106, De Praedest. et Gratia; De Bone 
Persever., cap. 12.) Since God inflicts due punishment on those whom 
he reprobates, and bestows unmerited favor on those whom he calls, 
he is free from every accusation; just as it belongs to the creditor 
to forgive the debt to one, and exact it of another. The Lord 
therefore may show favor to whom he will, because he is merciful; 
not show it to all, because he is a just judge. In giving to some 
what they do not merit, he shows his free favor; in not giving to 
all, he declares what all deserve. For when Paul says, "God has 
concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all," 
it ought also to be added, that he is debtor to none; for "who has 
first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" 
(Rom. 11: 32, 33.) 
    12. Another argument which they employ to overthrow 
predestination is that if it stand, all care and study of well doing 
must cease. For what man can hear (say they) that life and death are 
fixed by an eternal and immutable decree of God, without immediately 
concluding that it is of no consequence how he acts, since no work 
of his can either hinder or further the predestination of God? Thus 
all will rush on, and like desperate men plunge headlong wherever 
lust inclines. And it is true that this is not altogether a fiction; 
for there are multitudes of a swinish nature who defile the doctrine 
of predestination by their profane blasphemies, and employ them as a 
cloak to evade all admonition and censure. "God knows what he has 
determined to do with regard to us: if he has decreed our salvation, 
he will bring us to it in his own time; if he has doomed us to 
death, it is vain for us to fight against it." But Scripture, while 
it enjoins us to think of this high mystery with much greater 
reverence and religion, gives very different instruction to the 
pious, and justly condemns the accursed license of the ungodly. For 
it does not remind us of predestination to increase our audacity, 
and tempt us to pry with impious presumption into the inscrutable 
counsels of God, but rather to humble and abase us, that we may 
tremble at his judgment, and learn to look up to his mercy. This is 
the mark at which believers will aim. The grunt of these filthy 
swine is duly silenced by Paul. They say that they feel secure in 
vices because, if they are of the number of the elect, their vices 
will be no obstacle to the ultimate attainment of life. But Paul 
reminds us that the end for which we are elected is, "that we should 
be holy, and without blame before him," (Eph. 1: 4.) If the end of 
election is holiness of life, it ought to arouse and stimulate us 
strenuously to aspire to it, instead of serving as a pretext for 
sloth. How wide the difference between the two things, between 
ceasing from well-doing because election is sufficient for 
salvation, and its being the very end of election, that we should 
devote ourselves to the study of good works. Have done, then, with 
blasphemies which wickedly invert the whole order of election. When 
they extend their blasphemies farther, and say that he who is 
reprobated by God will lose his pains if he studies to approve 
himself to him by innocence and probity of life, they are convicted 
of the most impudent falsehood. For whence can any such study arise 
but from election? As all who are of the number of the reprobate are 
vessels formed unto dishonor, so they cease not by their perpetual 
crimes to provoke the anger of God against them, and give evident 
signs of the judgment which God has already passed upon them; so far 
is it from being true that they vainly contend against it. 
    13. Another impudent and malicious calumny against this 
doctrine is, that it destroys all exhortations to a pious life. The 
great odium to which Augustine was at one time subjected on this 
head he wiped away in his treatise De Correptione et Gratia, to 
Valentinus, a perusal of which will easily satisfy the pious and 
docile. Here, however, I may touch on a few points, which will, I 
hope, be sufficient for those who are honest and not contentious. We 
have already seen how plainly and audibly Paul preaches the doctrine 
of free election: is he, therefore, cold in admonishing and 
exhorting? Let those good zealots compare his vehemence with theirs 
and they will find that they are ice, while he is all fervor. And 
surely every doubt on this subject should be removed by the 
principles which he lays down, that God has not called us to 
uncleanness; that every one should possess his vessel in honor; that 
we are the workmanship of God, "created in Christ Jesus unto good 
works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them," 
(1 Thess. 4: 4, 7; Eph. 2: 10.) In one word, those who have any 
tolerable acquaintance with the writings of Paul will understand, 
without a long demonstration, how well he reconciles the two things 
which those men pretend to be contradictory to each other. Christ 
commands us to believe in him, and yet there is nothing false or 
contrary to this command in the statement which he afterwards makes: 
"No man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father," 
(John 6: 65.) Let preaching then have its free course, that it may 
lead men to faith, and dispose them to persevere with uninterrupted 
progress. Nor, at the same time, let there be any obstacle to the 
knowledge of predestination, so that those who obey may not plume 
themselves on anything of their own, but glory only in the Lord. It 
is not without cause our Savior says, "Who has ears to hear, let him 
hear," (Matth. 13: 9.) Therefore, while we exhort and preach, those 
who have ears willingly obey: in those again, who have no ears is 
fulfilled what is written: "Hear ye indeed, but understand not," 
(Isaiah 6: 9.) "But why (says Augustine) have some ears, and others 
not? Who has known the mind of the Lord? Are we, therefore, to deny 
what is plain because we cannot comprehend what is hid?" This is a 
faithful quotation from Augustine; but because his words will 
perhaps have more authority than mine, let us adduce the following 
passage from his treatise, De Bone Persever., cap. 15. 
    "Should some on hearing this turn to indolence and sloth, and 
leaving off all exertion, rush headlong into lust, are we, therefore 
to suppose that what has been said of the foreknowledge of God is 
not true? If God foreknew that they would be good, will they not be 
good, however great their present wickedness? and if God foreknow 
that they would be wicked, will they not be wicked, how great soever 
the goodness now seen in them? For reasons of this description, must 
the truth which has been stated on the subject of divine 
foreknowledge be denied or not mentioned? and more especially when, 
if it is not stated, other errors will arise?" In the sixteenth 
chapter he says, "The reason for not mentioning the truth is one 
thing, the necessity for telling the truth is another. It were 
tedious to inquire into all the reasons for silence. One, however, 
is, lest those who understand not become worse, while we are 
desirous to make those who understand better informed. Now such 
persons, when we say anything of this kind, do not indeed become 
better informed, but neither do they become worse. But when the 
truth is of such a nature, that he who cannot comprehend it becomes 
worse by our telling it, and he who can comprehend it becomes worse 
by our not telling it, what think ye ought we to do? Are we not to 
tell the truth, that he who can comprehend may comprehend, rather 
than not tell it, and thereby not only prevent both from 
comprehending, but also make the more intelligent of the two to 
become worse, whereas if he heard and comprehended others might 
learn through him? And we are unwilling to say what, on the 
testimony of Scripture, it is lawful to say. For we fear lest, when 
we speak, he who cannot comprehend may be offended; but we have no 
fear lest while we are silent, he who can comprehend the truth be 
involved in falsehood." In chapter twentieth, glancing again at the 
same view, he more clearly confirms it. "Wherefore, if the apostles 
and teachers of the Church who came after them did both; if they 
discoursed piously of the eternal election of God, and at the same 
time kept believers under the discipline of a pious life, how can 
those men of our day, when shut up by the invincible force of truth, 
think they are right in saying, that what is said of predestination, 
though it is true, must not be preached to the people? Nay, it ought 
indeed to be preached, that whoso has ears to hear may hear. And who 
has ears if he has not received them from him who has promised to 
give them? Certainly, let him who receives not, reject. Let him who 
receives, take and drink, drink and live. For as piety is to be 
preached, that God may be duly worshipped; so predestination also is 
to be preached, that he who has ears to hear may, in regard to 
divine grace, glory not in himself, but in God." 
    14. And yet as that holy man had a singular desire to edify, he 
so regulates his method of teaching as carefully, and as far as in 
him lay, to avoid giving offense. For he reminds us, that those 
things which are truly should also be fitly spoken. Were any one to 
address the people thus: If you do not believe, the reason is, 
because God has already doomed you to destruction: he would not only 
encourage sloth, but also give countenance to wickedness. Were any 
one to give utterance to the sentiment in the future tense, and say, 
that those who hear will not believe because they are reprobates, it 
were imprecation rather than doctrine. Wherefore, Augustine not 
undeservedly orders such, as senseless teachers or minister and 
ill-omened prophets, to retire from the Church. He, indeed, 
elsewhere truly contends that "a man profits by correction only when 
He who causes those whom He pleases to profit without correction, 
pities and assists. But why is it thus with some, and differently 
with others? Far be it from us to say that it belongs to the clay 
and not to the potter to decide." He afterwards says, "When men by 
correction either come or return to the way of righteousness, who is 
it that works salvation in their hearts but he who gives the 
increase, whoever it be that plants and waters? When he is pleased 
to save, there is no free-will in man to resist. Wherefore, it 
cannot be doubted that the will of God (who has done whatever he has 
pleased in heaven and in earth, and who has even done things which 
are to be) cannot be resisted by the human will, or prevented from 
doing what he pleases, since with the very wills of men he does so." 
Again, "When he would bring men to himself, does he bind them with 
corporeal fetters? He acts inwardly, inwardly holds, inwardly moves 
their hearts, and draws them by the will, which he has wrought in 
them." What he immediately adds must not be omitted: "because we 
know not who belongs to the number of the predestinated, or does not 
belong, our desire ought to be that all may be saved; and hence 
every person we meet, we will desire to be with us a partaker of 
peace. But our peace will rest upon the sons of peace. Wherefore, on 
our part, let correction be used as a harsh yet salutary medicine 
for all, that they may neither perish, nor destroy others. To God it 
will belong to make it available to those whom he has foreknown and 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, Part 28

(continued in part 29...)

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