Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (... continued from file 1)
    Lecture One Hundred and Seventieth. 
         We saw yesterday what the object of Malachi was in
    reminding the Jews that they were loved and chosen by
    God; it was, that he might the more amplify their
    ingratitude for having rendered such an unworthy reward
    for so great a favour of God: as he had preferred them to
    all other nations, he had justly bound them to perpetual
    obedience; but they had shaken off the yoke, and having
    despised God had given themselves up again to many
    corruptions, as we have yesterday stated. But I reminded
    you at the same time, that the Prophet refers not here to
    those benefits with which God favours indiscriminately
    all mankind, but brings forward the adoption by which he
    had set apart the seed of Abraham as his peculiar people.
         But that it may appear more fully how just this
    expostulation was, let us first observe, that it is one
    kind of obligation that God has created us men in his
    image and after his likeness; for he might have created
    us dogs and asses, and not men. Adam, we know, was taken
    from the earth, as other animals were: then as to the
    body there is no difference between men and other
    creatures. When it is said that God breathed into man the
    breath of life, we ought not to dream as the Manicheans
    do, that man's soul is by traduction; for so they say,
    affirming that man's soul is from the substance of the
    Deity; but Moses on the contrary understands that man's
    soul was created from nothing. We are born by generation,
    and yet our origin is clay; and the chief thing in us,
    the soul, is created from nothing. We hence see that we
    differ from animals because God was pleased to create us
    men. He therefore will justly charge us with ingratitude,
    if we do not serve him; for it was for this end he
    created us in his own image. 
         But there is here mentioned a special favour - that
    the Lord took to himself the seed of Abraham, as it is
    said in the song of Moses, that all nations are God's,
    but that he had cast his line to set apart Israel for
    himself. (Deut. 32: 9.) Though then the whole world was
    under God's government, it was yet his will to choose one
    family. If the cause be enquired, it is not to be found
    in men; for all were created from the earth, and souls
    were implanted in their bodies created from nothing.
    Since it was so, we see that the difference arose from
    the fountain of gratuitous favour - that God preferred
    one race to the rest; and as we stated yesterday, Moses
    often repeats this - that the Jews were not chosen
    because they were more excellent than other nations, but
    because God gratuitously loved their fathers. (Deut. 7:
    7.) By love he means gratuitous favor. 
         Malachi then does not consider here that the Jews
    had been chosen before other nations on the ground of
    their own merit; for if he granted this, they might have
    objected and said - "Why dost thou remind us that God has
    favoured us more than other nations, since he deemed us
    worthy, and rewarded our merit?" But the Prophet takes it
    as admitted, according to what I have already said, that
    the Jews were by nature like other nations, so that their
    different condition did not proceed from themselves, or
    from their own worthiness, but from the gratuitous love
    of God. 
         A third step is also to be noticed here; for God
    selected a part only from the very race of Abraham, as
    Esau and Jacob were brothers, and Esau was first
    according to the order of nature, for he was the
    first-born; and yet God rejected him, and appointed the
    favour of election to be in the posterity of Jacob. This
    third step then was election. 
         These things ought to be carefully considered. Men
    are peculiarly bound to God, because he might have
    created them asses and dogs, and not men; but it has
    pleased him to form them in his own image. The second
    step is, that he chose the race of Abraham, when his
    empire extended over all nations without exception: for
    how was it that God chose to be the father and savior of
    one people only, when the whole world was under his
    authority? Here shines forth, as I have already said, his
    gratuitous favour; and in addition to the testimonies of
    Moses, it is often said in the Psalms that God loved the
    fathers, that he did to them what he had not done to
    other nations, that he made known his judgments to them.
    (Psalm 147:19.) There are many passages in which God
    commemorates his favor to the Jews, because it pleased
    him to distinguish them from other nations, while yet the
    condition of all by nature was wholly the same. Now the
    third step which Malachi mentions ought to be carefully
    noticed - that God not only promised to be a God to
    Abraham and to his seed, but also made a difference
    between the very sons of Abraham, so as to reject some
    and to choose others; and it is on this point that Paul
    dwells in the ninth chapter to the Romans; for he says,
    that not all who are of Israel - that is, who derive
    their origin from him - are true and legitimate
    Israelites, but those who are called. For it was Paul's
    object to refute the Jews, for they boasted that they
    were a holy people, though they wilfully rejected Christ
    and his gospel. For when the apostles proved that the
    Redeemer promised had been sent, the proud answer in the
    mouth of the Jews was this - "Are not we the Church of
    God? but we do not acknowledge this Christ whom ye would
    thrust upon us." As then the Jews, through this false
    pretence, despised the favour of God, and sought to
    trample Christ as it were under foot, Paul repels this
    arrogance, and shows that they excelled not the nations,
    except by virtue of a gratuitous adoption, and that this
    adoption was to be so extended to the whole race of
    Abraham as yet to be confined to a certain number. 
         In the same manner do the Papists act in the present
    day. As they estimate faith by external tokens, they
    haughtily object to us, and say that they are the Church;
    as though a general promise were sufficient without the
    Spirit, who is justly called the Spirit of adoption, by
    whom God seals it within, even in our hearts. 
         Now Paul adds evidences of the fact, and brings
    forward the instance of Jacob and Esau. Of the twin
    brothers, one, he says, was chosen, and the other passed
    by; and yet both were the sons of Abraham. It then
    follows that there is a third step in election, as I have
    already stated. Now from this third proceeds a fourth -
    that God takes some of the sons of Jacob, whom he has
    chosen before the foundation of the world, and others he
    rejects; and of this fact Paul adduces a sure proof, or
    assigns an evident reason: God preferred Jacob to his
    brother, the first-born, but not on account of any merit:
    if then the free mercy of God availed so much in the
    election of Jacob, it follows that the same still
    prevails with reoard to his posterity. If it be again
    asked, whence comes it that some are faithful and others
    are reprobate, the answer is, because it so pleases God.
    Hence Paul ascends higher and says, that before they were
    born, and had done neither good nor evil, it was said,
    the elder shall serve the younger; and then he brings
    forward this prophecy - "Jacob have I loved, but Esau
    have I hated." 
         If then we wisely consider the whole passage, we
    shall find what I have stated - that from the third step
    we may proceed to a fourth, and that is, that from the
    sons of Jacob God chose whom he pleased and rejected
    others; for when he chose Jacob, God was not bound to him
    any more than he was before. The same promise was indeed
    repeated to Jacob, which had been given to Abraham; but
    from Abraham proceeded Ishmael, who was rejected, we
    know, from God's Church; and the same was the case with
    the other sons of Abraham. Isaac was alone chosen. But
    Isaac, the father of Esau and Jacob, was not able at his
    own pleasure to retain them both; but here the free and
    hidden election of God appeared, so that Esau was
    rejected, and Jacob remained as the legitimate heir to
    the divine favour. 
         We now then more fully understand uhat the Prophet
    means: he does not charge the Jews with having shaken off
    every fear of that God, in whose image they had been
    created; but he enhances their ingratitude, because they
    gave no response to the free adoption of God, for they
    had been chosen from all other nations, and not only
    this, but they had been separated again from the very
    race of Abraham, and this was their second election.
    Another thing must also be added respecting their
    gratuitous election; for the reproof of the Prophet would
    not have been received, except God in his adoption had
    regard only to his own favour; for if we grant that
    either Jacob or Abraham had merited anything, what the
    Prophet says, Was not Esau Jacob's brother? would not
    have availed. An answer might have been readily given,
    "He was indeed his brother, but his virtue being
    meritorious set him before his brother." But the Prophet
    here presses this point on the Jews - that having been
    bound by so many benefits, they yet were become as it
    were spurious; for they had degenerated from the favor
    which God had conferred on them. We hence see that by
    these words of the Prophet it is sufficiently proved -
    that Abraham had been chosen by God in preference to all
    other nations, Isaac in preference to his brother
    Ishmael, and Jacob in preference to Esau. 
         And Scripture is full of proofs on the subject, and
    experience also sufficiently demonstrates the truth.
    Moses says, that it wss not by their own virtue that they
    excelled other nations, for they were a rebellious and a
    stiff-necked people. Though God then knew the perverse
    character of that nation, it yet pleased him to make them
    an example of his wonderful goodness. There is therefore
    no reason for us to seek any other cause for adoption
    except the will of God. And since the election of
    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was gratuitous, it follows that
    each one is freely chosen whoml God separates from the
    whole body; and thus we come to the fourth step; for what
    is said here, that Jacob was chosen, ought not to be
    confined to his person, but what he had in common with
    his posterity. Jacob then was chosen - for what purpose?
    that his children might be God's holy and peculiar
    people. Now if we consider his whole offspring, we shall
    find that all who descended from Jacob were not
    legitimate Israelites, for the greatest part of them were
    rejected. As then many who derived their origin from
    Jacob, were not less reprobate than Esau, it follows that
    God's free favor and gratuitous mercy prevails as to
    individuals: and this is the subject which Paul discusses
    in the ninth chapter to the Romans. 
         It seems hard to many, that God should choose some
    and not all, and that he should regard no worthiness, but
    of his own free will choose whom he pleases, and reject
    others. But whence comes this objection, except that they
    wish to restrain God and subject him to their own
    judgment? But we must come to the principle to which I
    have referred. If it seems unreasonable to them that one
    of two should be chosen and the other rejected, how can
    they defend the justice of God (if need there be of their
    apology) with regard to an ass and man? for as I have
    said, they both proceeded, both asses and men, from the
    same lump as to their bodies. Every vigor and strength in
    the ass has been created by the hidden power of God: and
    as to the soul of man, though its essence is immortal, it
    has yet been created from nothing. Now, then, let these
    wise censors answer for God in this case, whom they think
    to be exposed to many calumnies, when we say that men's
    salvation depends on his will, so that he rejects some
    and chooses others. 
         But as to general election, there is the same
    difficulty to satisfy the judgment of men: for as we have
    already said, there is no difference between men but what
    arises from hidden election. They indeed imagine in this
    case a foreknowledge as the mother of election: but the
    notion is extremely foolish and puerile. They then say,
    that some are elected by God and some are rejected,
    because God, to whom nothing is hid, foresees what every
    one will be. But I now ask, Whence is it that one is
    virtuous, while another is vicious? If they say, from
    free-will, doubtless creation is anterior to free-will:
    this is one thing. Then we know that in Adam all men were
    created alike; for how is it that we are all exposed to
    eternal death, and that the vengeance of God extends over
    us all, and at this day prevails through the whole world?
    How is this, except that the condition of us all
    originally is one and the same? It follows then, that if
    Adam stood upright, all men would be alike in their
    integrity. I do not now speak of special gifts: for there
    would have been, I allow, a difference of endowments had
    nature remained perfect; but as to eternal life the
    condition of all would have been the same. Now after the
    fall of Adam we are all lost. What can then be more
    foolish and absurd than to imagine that there is some
    virtue in man by which he excels others, since we are all
    equally accursed in the person of Adam? For who hath made
    thee to excel, saith Paul? He proves that there is no
    excellency in man, except what proceeds from the bounty
    of God only, and as I have stated, the reason is quite
         For either original sin does not belong to all men,
    or God cannot foresee that this man will be just and that
    man unjust. Why? All are naturally reprobate in Adam and
    liable to eternal death, and the reason is evident, for
    nothing is found in men but sin. The foreknowledge of God
    then cannot be the cause of our election, for by looking
    on the whole race of man, he finds them all under a curse
    from the least to the greatest. 
         We see then how foolishly do they talk and prattle
    who ascribe to mere and naked prescience what ought to be
    ascribed to the good pleasure of God. That God made
    himself known to the race of Abraham, that he designed to
    deposit his law with the Israelites - all this was his
    peculiar favour, and no other reason can be assigned for
    it except gratuitous adoption. God then favoured the
    children of Abraham with this privilege, because it so
    pleased him: for if we say that they were worthy, and by
    their virtue rendered themselves deserving, the Holy
    Spirit does in the first place everywhere speak against
    us, and in the second place experience and facts, for the
    obstinacy of that people was extraordinary. But we ought
    to be satisfied with the authority of Scripture, since
    God makes known and illustrates his favour by this
    instance - that he loved Abraham and his children, that
    is, that he was favourable to the Jews through his own
    goodness only, and this is what we shall hereafter see
    still more clearly. Let this then remain as a fixed
    principle - that the cause of our election is notlling
    else but the mere favour of God. If we seek a cause apart
    from God, when we enquire about our election, we shall
    wander in a labyrinth. 
         That the same principle holds as to individuals, I
    have already proved. It ought indeed to be sufficient for
    us, that Paul passes from the person of Jacob to
    individuals among his posterity. For he adduces as it wet
    e an instance in the two brothers, in order to convince
    us that no one is chosen on account of his own virtue,
    but according to the good pleasure of God: nor was it
    necessary to state these circumstances - that one was
    chosen when the brothers were not yet born, and when they
    had not done either good or evils that it was not through
    works but through him who called, except he meant to
    prove this, that it is in God's power to choose whom he
    wills and to reject whom he wills. But as Augustine
    reminds us, nothing can be imagined more absurd than that
    notion, with which many are pleased, that God has
    foreknown what men will be, for Paul excludes such
    foreknowledge as the cause which he infers, that it was
    not owing to works but to him who called, that God
    preferred the one to the other, for neither of them,
    while in their mother's womb, had done either good or
         Paul brings also a confirmation from another
    declaration of Moses, "I will pity whom I will pity, and
    mercy will I show to whom I will be merciful. "By these
    words God clearly declares that it was in his power to
    reject whom he pleased of the seed of Jacob, and to
    choose whom he pleased. What then he had before said
    respecting one man, God now applies to the whole seed,
    for he speaks not there of foreign nations, but of that
    holy and chosen people. When God threatened with ruin all
    the children of Abraham, Moses humbly deprecated this,
    lest he should annul his own covenant: God answered him,
    "I will pity whom I will pity," - what does this mean?
    that there is no other cause why God retains some for
    himself and rejects others, than his own will. The
    repetition may seem superfluous and frigid, "I will pity
    whom I will pity," but it is very emphatical; as though
    he had said, "I might have chosen for myself another from
    the world and not Abraham, but I have according to my own
    good pleasure adopted him; and Ishmael might have been as
    dear to me as Isaac, but it has been my will that the
    blessing should rest on Isaac; when he also had begotten
    two children, I repudiated the first born and choose
    Jacob, and now from the posterity of Jacob I will choose
    for myself whom I please, for there is to be found no
    other cause but my will, 'I will then pity whom I will
    pity, and mercy will I show to whom I will be merciful.'"
    If then in this case men will contend with God, and would
    know why he chooses this rather than that man, the answer
    he gives is, that the cause is to be found in his mercy
    alone, for he is bound to no one. 
         We now see how the folly of those vanishes away who
    would have foreknowledge to be the cause of election; and
    also that they who murmur against God, are sufficiently
    refuted by this reason, that it is in his power either to
    choose or to reject, inasmuch as he is under obligations
    to none. 
         As to reprobation, the cause of it is sufficiently
    manifest in the fall of Adam, for, as we have said, we
    all fell with him. It must still be observed, that the
    election of God is anterior to Adam's fall; and that
    hence all we who are rescued from the common ruin have
    been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world,
    but that others justly perish though they had not been
    lost in Adam; because God appointed Christ the head of
    his Church, in order that we might be saved in him, not
    all, but those who have been chosen. 
         And with regard to the proof, it is not necessary
    here to bring together the mass of passages found in
    scripture, for this would be endless. But there are,
    however, some remarkable passages, by which it is
    sufficiently evident that some are chosen from the whole
    world as well as from the race of Abraham, according to
    God's good pleasure only, and that others are rejected,
    and that there is no other cause to be found but his
    will; for our election is hid in the eternal and secret
    counsel of God, and founded on Christ, and reprobation is
    also hid in the judgment of God. Now if we wish to
    penetrate into this mystery, we must know that it is a
    great and unfathomable abyss: here all our ideas vanish
    away. In the meantime, however, God does not lose his
    liberty to choose and reject whom he pleases. 
         With regard to election, the ninth chapter to the
    Romans ought to be sufficient, or rather the three
    chapters, for Paul pursues the same argument to the end
    of the eleventh chapter, and then exclaims that the
    riches of God's wisdom and goodness are incomprehensible,
    and that his judgments are untraceable. He speaks also of
    the elect in the first chapter to the Ephesians; and the
    sum of what he says is, that all the faithful had been
    chosen in Christ before the creation of the world, and
    through the good pleasure of God only, in order that he
    might show in them the glory of his goodness. 
         By no refinements can they escape who attempt to
    darken this truth; for Paul very clearly and briefly
    declares that the whole world has not been chosen, but
    the faithful, who are afterwards favored with the Spirit
    of adoption: and thus sufficiently is that fancy refuted,
    that the election of God ought to be connected with his
    promises. I wonder that men of learning, endued with
    judgment and versed in scripture, so frigidly pass over
    the subject, and that they are not at least moved when
    they see that they give to many the occasion of foolishly
    going astray, and that some take hence the opportunity to
    calumniate. We must, however, declare what this passage
    requires - that those are very unwise who seek to subvert
    or overthrow the eternal election of God by this
    contrivance - that God addresses all men generally, "Come
    unto me" - "I am your Father." Since God then offers his
    grace to all by the external preaching of his word, they
    will have it that all are elected: but Paul says, that we
    are believers, because we have been elected. If then it
    be asked, why some obstinately reject the grace of God,
    and others embrace it in the spirit of meekness, Paul
    assigns the reason, and it is this - because God
    illuminates those who believe, inasmuch as he has chosen
    them before the creation of the world. It then follows
    that God so speaks generally, as that the efficacy of the
    doctrine still depends on his secret good pleasure; for
    whence is faith, but from his peculiar favor? and why
    does he not communicate his grace to all? even because he
    has not chosen all. We see that Paul thus proceeds step
    b,y step, that he might teach us that faith emanates from
    the fountain of free election; and he raises up election
    into the highest eminence to show that it is not right to
    enquire into its cause. Thus much about election. 
         As to reprobation, I know that many greatly dislike
    this doctrine - that some are rejected, and that yet no
    cause can be found in themselves why they thus remain
    disapproved by God. But there is here need of docility
    and of a meek spirit, to which Paul also exhorts us, when
    he says, "O man, who art thou who answerest against God?"
    (Rom. 9: 20.) For were it lawful to investigate the
    cause, surely Paul, who had been taken up to the third
    heaven, might have showed us the way; but he is here
    silent and drives us away from the indulgence of a bold
    and an over curious spirit. Since the Holy Spirit by the
    mouth of Paul restrains the presumption of men, that they
    may not dare to go beyond this step - that God hardens
    whom he wills and rejects whom he wills, why do men leap
    beyond this, except they wilfully seek to carry on war
    with God? and yet they pretend modesty, and under this
    pretext they seek to bury the doctrine of election; we
    ought, they say, to speak soberly of mysteries. This last
    sentence I allow fully; but what is our sobriety but our
    docility? that is, when we embrace what God declares in
    his word, and never allow ourselves to investigate more
    than what he teaches us. But they would extinguish God's
    word; nay, they dare openly to pronounce blasphemies
    against God, and to find fault with the Spirit, who has
    spoken by the prophets and the apostles. 
         We indeed see that there are many devils who preach
    modesty, when their object is to suppress the light and
    this chief doctrine, the main basis of our salvation; and
    they extort wicked edicts from the ignorant and the
    slumbering, as though it were in the power of men, by
    babbling about things unknown, and by barbarously mixing
    all things together, to thrust God as it were from his
    celestial throne. This is horribly monstrous, and ought
    to be detested by all; for it would be better that all
    the empires of the world should be swallowed up in the
    lowest depths, than that mortal creatures should raise
    themselves up as it were into heaven, and attempt to
    penetrate into the secret things of God. But, however,
    when the whole world either assail this doctrine by
    barking, or seek to subvert it by threats and terrors, or
    when all in various ways manifest their rage, and when
    they roll thunders who seem to themselves to be very
    powerful, it behoves us to hold fast this doctrine, that
    God alone is the author of our salvation, because he has
    been pleased freely to elect us, and also that he
    possesses power over all the human race, so that some,
    according to his will, are elected and some are rejected,
    and that he ever acts justly, and holds secret the cause
    both of election and of reprobation. But it is no wonder
    that we are so blind, for we are stupid by nature, nay,
    blind altogether; and were we angels, it would be still
    our duty reverently to regard the manifold wisdom of God,
    which no human minds, no, not even angelic minds, can
    fully comprehend. Other things we must defer. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou best been pleased to
    adopt us as thy people for this end, that we may be
    ingrafted as it were into the body of thy Son, and be
    made conformable to our head, - O grant, that through our
    whole life we may strive to seal in our hearts the faith
    of our election, that we may be the more stimulated to
    render thee true obedience, and that thy glory may also
    be made known through us; and those whom thou hast chosen
    together with us may we labour to bring together, that we
    may unanimously celebrate thee as the Author of our
    salvation, and so ascribe to thee the glory of thy
    goodness, that having cast away and renounced all
    confidence in our own virtue, we may be led to Christ
    only as the fountain of thy election, in whom also is set
    before us the certainty of our salvation through thy
    gospel, until we shall at length be gathered into that
    eternal glory which He has proctored for us by his own
    blood. - Amen. 

    Calvin's Commentary on Malachi
    (continued in file 3...)

    file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-02.txt