Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Salvation of All Men - by John Calvin, pt. 4

Seeing that God alone turneth men from their wickedness, experience teacheth us, and so doth the Holy Scripture that He giveth not His grace to all men. It is said, "The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" (Deut. 29:4). It is plainly shown that God doth not cast forth His grace without direction, but that it is only for those whom He hath chosen, for those that are of the body of His church, and of His flock. Thus we see what St. Paul meaneth when he saith, God will have all men to be saved: that is, He will have some of all nations, and all conditions.

It is said that He offereth His gospel to all, which is the means of drawing us to salvation. And doth this profit all men? No; of this our own eves are witnesses. For when we hear the truth of God, if we rebel against it, it proves a great condemnation to us. Yet so it is, that there are many who do not profit by the gospel, but rather become worse, even those to whom it is preached; therefore, they are not all saved. God must go farther in order to bring us to salvation; He must not only appoint men, and send them to teach us faithfully, but He must operate upon our hearts. He must touch us to the quick, He must draw us to Him, He must make His work profitable to us, and cause it to take root in our hearts.

It is evident that we have to consider the will of God in two ways: not that it is double of itself (as we before observed), but we must consider it as adapted to our weakness. He formeth His speech to us in His Word, according to our capacity. If God should speak according to His majesty, His speech would be beyond our comprehension; it would utterly confound us! For if our eyes be not able to abide the brightness of the sun, would our minds be able to comprehend the infinite majesty of God? These silly men who would destroy God’s election ought not to abuse this passage; nor say that we make God to have two wills; for therein do they impudently misrepresent us. We say, as far as we can perceive, God would have all men to be saved, whensoever, and how oft soever, He appointeth His gospel to be preached to us.

As we said before, the gate of paradise is opened to us, when we are called to be partakers of that redemption which was purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is the will of God, as far as we can comprehend it: that when He exhorteth us to repentance, He is ready to receive us, if we will come to Him. Although we have answered the doubts which might have been raised- upon this subject, we will bring a similitude to make this doctrine more easy. (I call a similitude that agreement and similarity which God maketh between the children of Israel and us.) God saith that He chose the children of Abraham for His inheritance, and dedicated them to Himself: He loved them, and took them for His own household (Deut. 7).

This is true; for He made His covenant with all those that were circumcised. Was circumcision a vain figure, and of no importance? Nay, it was a sure and undoubted sign that God had chosen that people for His own, accounting all for His flock that came of that race. And yet, was there not a special grace for some of that people?

Surely there was, as St. Paul setteth forth, "For they are not all Israel which are of Israel: neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children" (Romans 9:6, 7), for God deprived some of this benefit that His grace and goodness might seem greater to those whom He called to Himself. Behold, therefore, the will of God which was made manifest to the children of Israel is at this day made manifest to us.

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