Moses Amyraut (1596-1664) on Ezekiel 18:23

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11

Appendix 1:

English Translation of Moyse Amyraut’s Sermon on Ezekiel 18:231

[37] On the Words of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapter 18, verse 23:

Would I in any way take pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he turn from his way and that he live?

If, on one hand, you see today prepared before your eyes, my brothers, the table on which is offered for you the bread, which is the commemoration and the token of him who descended from heaven for the life of the world, with the wine which represents the [38] blood of the New Testament; and, on the other hand, with your ears you hear pronounced as being the subject of the discourse by which we must invite you to participation in these graces, a judgment drawn from books of the old covenant, you should not at all find it strange, as if these things did not go well together. Even though it is the Lord who makes himself heard in these words of the Prophet and though in the Old Testament this word has I know not what of grandness and majesty, which fills the soul with respect and reverence, more than it tempts it and draws by its gentleness; yet it is the same God who has manifested himself in these last times in his Son, full of an incomparable gentleness, and bearing a marvelously attractive and mild appearance. Although these tokens of the Body and of the Blood of Christ are the assurances of his most ardent and vehement compassion, they also represent this mercy of which the Prophet speaks in this passage. Although it was to the people of Israel that this voice spoke, so has it been pronounced for the Christian people, and resonates nowhere so loudly as in the Gospel. Although we are .invited to eat the body of our Lord Jesus, and to drink his blood in the celebration of this Sacrament, the faithful of the past did not eat it any less than we, who had recourse with true faith, to [39] this mercy that the Lord God offered them in these words.

The difference is extremely great on one point: That is that the one by whose mouth God held this conversation with his people in the past, was a great and distinguished Prophet, in whose spirit the spirit of God had stimulated excellent and extraordinary insights, to shine in the midst of this very dark age. Whereas the one who speaks now to you is a feeble instrument of the grace of God in your place, who is nothing like the former. Nevertheless this disadvantage will be abundantly overcome, as you come to recognize who it is that has committed this ministry to us, and who consequently speaks to you by our mouth; that is, our Lord Jesus, who in dignity and excellence has so far surpassed all the Prophets. For since the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel until the end of time, these words have their place and their truth, for God having in times past spoken at diverse times and in diverse manners to our fathers by the Prophets, has spoken to us by his Son in these last times. Indeed, whatever weakness there may be among the Ministers of the Church of our time, they can still say to the praise of the grace of God toward you, to whom the last times have come, that they have a [40] clearer and more distinct know ledge of the doctrine of salvation by the Gospel of Christ, than the Prophets had previously, notwithstanding the excellence of their inspirations and heavenly revelations. Because the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven, is in this matter greater than John the Baptist, who nevertheless, because he was the precursor of our Lord Jesus and because he had the honor of seeing him with his eyes, was greater even than all the Prophets in that way. Thus, my brothers, the weakness of those who repeat this voice to you again today, must not diminish the attention and the honor that you should render to it. We will undertake therefore, with the assistance of the grace of God, to show it to you, and this by a method a little different from that we have been accustomed to use. But all things are not appropriate to all times and all circumstances.

One asks, my Brothers, how that sentence ought to be understood, That God does not at all desire the death of the sinner, but that he convert and live? Given that he not only punishes and will punish in the future so many people for their sins, but also that he leaves so great a number of them lying in their natural misery, to whom far from making them feel the efficacy of the grace of his Spirit to believe in Christ when he is announced to them, [41] that he does not even have him announced to them. As is clearly seen in many miserable nations among which he is not preached at all, and he was preached still less at the time when the Prophet spoke, because no one knew of him in any nation except Judah. Again if you compare that with the light of the New Testament, the knowledge that they had in Judah was very vague. If we say therefore, that this passage teaches that God in no way wishes the death of the sinner who converts; but that if he does not convert God necessarily wishes his death, because the Judge wishes the punishment of the one who is guilty; although we have spoken the truth, that neither exhausts the entire meaning, nor equals the whole emphasis of this passage. For firstly, who can doubt that God pronounces these words to invite sinners to repentance? And furthermore who can doubt that he, if! must say it this way, wants men to repent? That is to say, that he takes a sovereign contentment in their conversion, since the Angels, who are, without doubt, not as good as he, rejoice in the Heavens when a sinner converts on the earth? And yet he says it, and wants us to say it with feeling, to preach it, and to insist upon it as a thing which to him is extremely [42] agreeable. Now no one would speak in this way of the Justice of God, that because he loves the exercise of it, and that he takes pleasure in it, he takes pleasure also when men commit the sins which give him the occasion, and without which there would be no exercise of Justice at all. This would be a statement directly opposed to the nature of God and his Gospel. And so he must want the life of the sinner and take pleasure in his conversion in another way than he wants his death: for the mere thought that he takes pleasure in sin, is a horror and a blasphemy. Truly, other than that this is the aim of God and of his Prophet, not in this sentence only, but in all similar ones in the old and new Testament, the very words of the text have a particular efficacy. For he does not say only that he takes pleasure in the life of the sinner, but that he takes pleasure in his conversion. I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, But that he should convert and that he should live. Now the conversion of man may be considered in two manners: either as the means of coming to life, arid without it the sinner will not obtain life: or as, besides that, a thing good and agreeable to God in and of itself, as far as it consists in illumination of the understanding and the knowledge of that which is beautiful, just and honest, [43] which draws in its train the virtues of piety and justice, in which consists the image of God himself. Now it appears clearly from this, that God loves the conversion of the sinner as it is the means of coming to life. But that he only loves it because of this, is a thing unworthy of the excellence of the nature of God, whose sovereign perfection consists in his being holy, and in his sovereignly loving the holiness which shows him in his creature. Therefore there must be something here which testifies to the greater vehemence, in this pleasure that God takes in the conversion and in the life of the sinner, than he takes in the exercise of his Justice.

Add to this that God makes here a manifest comparison or rather, opposition, between the pleasure that he takes in the life of the sinner and in his conversion, and the pleasure that he may take in his death when he remains impenitent in his vice. Would I take, he says, pleasure in the death of the sinner and not rather in his conversion and his life? Now it is clear that comparisons and oppositions which are made in this manner, are made expressly in order to raise one thing above the other, and in order to make known the great and even incomparable superiority. Furthermore our interpreters have added the word in no way, either in order to represent the emphasis of this opposition, [44] or in order to express the emphasis of the Hebrew phrase which the Prophet used. And it further seems the manner of delivering this sentence adds to it much energy, Would I take pleasure in the death of the sinner, etc. For who does not know that these questions show a singular vehemence? And who does not further know that the vehemence comes from the warmth of the affection and of the emotion that we feel in our hearts, which makes us speak more deeply than ordinarily? That is why what is here articulated as a question, as expressed above, is articulated in the 33rd chapter of this same book, not as a question, but with even more force. “You therefore, son of man, say to the house of Israel, “You have spoken this way and said: Since our crimes and our sins are upon us, and we are wasting away in them, how are we to live?” Say to them, “As I live, says the Lord God, I take no pleasure at all in the death of the wicked, but would rather that the wicked should turn from his way and that he should live. Turn yourselves from your wicked way. Why would you die, O house of Israel? Because this expression so grave; so majestic, with an oath conceived in words so venerable would be an indubitable testimony in a man, if he spoke so, it would be not be any little passion of spirit that would make him speak with such ardor, [45] but rather he would in some sense be horrified if anyone thought the contrary of him. Like when a man accused of something of which he is not guilty, gets worked up in his defense, it is a sign that he holds the matter dearly, and that the wrong which is done to him has excited the passion of his soul But if after that he comes to raise his hand toward heaven, and says no longer with questions, but with words grave and composed, I testify by God and my conscience that I am not guilty of this, it is a sign that he has passed the simple emotion, and that he comes thus to the loathing of the thing of which he is accused. So then, the words which are attributed to God are they taken from anyplace other than the language of men? Or are these emotions, these questions, and these words, anything other than the means by which God wishes to testify to us, that he feels as much as the excellence of his nature can suffer it, the emotions which move us?

Certainly the occasion for which God pronounces these words, even if there were no other reason, leads us to give to them all the force that we can. Israel was in captivity, and Judah on the verge of being led there, too, lays in lamentable desolation. However, hardened as they were to their sins and blind to their own faults, they imagined that they were thereby ill-treated, not because of [46] their sins, but for the sins of their ancestors. Thus this proverb had come into common usage: Our fathers have eaten bitter grapes, and our teeth have been set on edge (Ezek 18:2). Which tended not only to openly blame the severity of God, but to underhandedly accuse his justice. This is why God by his Prophet, after a long speech, in which he explains his inclinations to mercifully receive him who turns to him in repentance, and that the administration of his justice in no way punishes one for another, or children in place of the fathers, poses this touching question, and repeats this protestation with an oath, as we have already told you, so venerable. A little later, as if a Prince who has many, many times offered his pardon to his rebellious subjects, constrained by their obstinacy to take up arms, and accused of cruelty in their punishment, should say; Does anyone think that I take pleasure in the carnage of my subjects? Is it not by their own hardness and obstinacy that they die? I call God as witness that I take no pleasure in their blood nor in their death, I would love incomparably more to see them live, that is to say, to see them live at their ease under my protection, if their hearts were capable of softening and coming to repentance. Therefore, however inexorable the justice of God may be upon impenitent sinners, there [47] is nevertheless a very notable difference between the inclinations that he has to exercise it, and those that bring him to desire the life of the sinner and his repentance.

True it is that sometimes he makes such oaths to execute his justice, which testify to a great ardor of wrath. As in Ezek 33: Thus has said the Lord God, you eat flesh with the blood, and you raise your eyes toward; your gods of filth and shed blood and you should possess the land! You trust in your sword, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles the wife of your neighbor, and you should possess the land! You shall speak to them thus. As the Lord God has said, As 1 live those who are in the wilderness shall fall by the sword, and 1 shall give to the beasts whoever is in the fields for them to eat, and whoever is in the fortresses and caverns, shall die of disease. And in Deut 32: I raise my hand toward heaven and say, as I live forever. If 1 sharpen the blade of my sword and if my hand seizes judgment, 1 will take vengeance upon my adversaries and 1 will repay those who hate me. But other than that, God never does that without having already presented his mercy to men; he also often mixes with it some testimony of regret, so that by his manner of speaking, he is constrained [48] to punish them, as in Deut 32. O if they had been wise! If they had been prudent in this, and had considered their ultimate end! And in Ps 81: 14: O if my people had listened to me, if Israel had walked in my ways! Moreover, it is never in making this opposition, take I pleasure in the conversion of the sinner and in his life, and not rather in his death?2 Even less (and it cannot be thought, without horror) would he invite with this vehemence the just to sin in order to punish them, as he does the wicked to be converted in order to give them life.

It is incomparably better to keep to the interpretation that the incomparable Calvin gives of this passage, to whom principally, after God, the Church owes her reformation, not only in France, but in many other parts of Europe. For here is what he says in his commentaries:

The Prophet confirms the same thought by other words, that is, that God desires nothing more than that all those who were perishing and hastening toward death, should return to the way of salvation. And for this reason also the Gospel is not only today proclaimed throughout the world, but God wished to render also

testimony for all times and in all ages how much he is inclined to show mercy. For even though profane men [49] had not the Law or Prophets at all, yet they have always had some taste of this doctrine. It is true that it has been suffocated by many abuses and errors, but still we always find that they have been moved to ask forgiveness, by a secret and hidden movement, because they had this sentiment and persuasion engraved, as if by nature, in themselves, That God is ready to show grace to those who search for it. But God has testified this more clearly by the Law and by the Prophets. As for the Gospel, we know how it draws us gently, promising us forgiveness and grace. And this is also the knowledge of salvation, to embrace his mercy which is offered to us in Jesus Christ. From which it follows that what the Prophet says here is very true; that God does not wish the death of the sinner. Because, of his own good will, he warns and is not only ready to mercifully receive all those who take refuge in his mercy, but he calls them with a loud voice to return to him, when he sees that they are so entirely alienated from all hope of salvation.

But one must note the means by which God wishes that all should be saved, that is after they have turned from their ways. God therefore does not wish that all [50] be saved by overturning all discretion and judgment between good and evil But rather it is necessary, as it is said here, that repentance precedes the forgiveness of sins. In what fashion therefore does God want all to be saved? That is, because the Holy Spirit condemns the world today by the Gospel, of sin, of justice and of judgment, just as in times past he condemned it by the Law and the Prophets. God therefore makes known to men how miserable they are, so that by this means they have occasion to retreat to him, he makes a wound in order to heal it, he kills in order to make alive. We understand now therefore that God does not demand the death of the sinner, because he calls all the world indiscriminately to repentance, and promises that he will always be ready to receive him mercifully, assuming that he has true repentance. Now if someone alleges that there is then no Election of God at all, by which he predestined a certain number to salvation, the response is simple. That is, the Prophet does not speak here of the secret Counsel of God, but rather calls back poor sinners who are in the way of despair, in order that, assured of the remission of their sins, they embrace the salvation which is offered to them, [51] and that by this means they change. If one replies once more that by this means we make God double, the response is readily available, that God always has one same will. But it is in various ways indeed, which are unknown to us. Therefore as much as the will of God is simple, yet there is some variety which is entailed, with regard to our sense and conception. However, it is no wonder if our eyes are dazzled by an infinite and incomprehensible light, so that we are neither able to judge nor discern how it is that God wishes that all be saved, and nevertheless that he has destined to eternal perdition all the reprobate who he wishes to be damned.

Then after this great man has said many other things on this matter and shown how even though God wishes that all men be saved, nevertheless it is by the efficacy of his grace alone that the elect are converted. He returns to his preceding solution, and says, that by a manner of speaking God plays here two characters:

For in this God wishes that he be judged according to his word. And as I have said, the Prophet does not dispute subtly here of his counsel which is incomprehensible. But he wants to take our feelings as bound and attached [52] to the word of God. So now what does the word of God contain? That is to say, the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel? It is that all are called to repentance, and that salvation is promised to them after they repent. Nevertheless such a will of God that he shows us in his word, in no way prevents however that he has ordained and decreed before the creation of the world what he will do concerning each particular man.

By such words this excellent servant of God gives us two significant things. The first is a good warning of modesty in the things that concern the incomprehensible counsels of God. For instance, when he has revealed to us something in his word touching the dispensation of his will towards men, it is not for us to determine if this is in accord with his nature or not. If this puts in God two opposed wills or not. As if his nature were a thing which could be grasped by our understanding. There is in it depths that not only the spirit of men, but even the intelligence of the Angels cannot sound. And for us who cannot untangle the objections that by this feeble reason we think follow from things which he [53] has revealed to us, it would be to sin grievously against him, to abandon or to twist the truth of his word, and to give it some sort of difficulty, in order to make it say what it doesn’t mean. What? Do we think we have an understanding eye so perceiving, that there is no obscurity at all in things, that it is unable to clarify? Or do we think our understanding is so solid and so unfaltering that there is no beam of glory in the divine nature that it cannot bear? If it is by the providence of God that the sin of Adam came to pass, God is therefore the author of it. If it is said that he has hardened the heart of Pharaoh, he punishes therefore the sins and the vices that he himself created. If he wanted to reprobate the greater part of humanity, then he does not want to save them all. If he tells us that he wishes to save all, then there is no predestination or particular and absolute election of some little number only. If Jesus Christ died for all men universally then the Gospel must be preached equally clearly through all the earth. If the Gospel is not clearly preached everywhere, then God does not draw the rest of men to repentance. If by means of his providence, he so draws men to repentance that they are inexcusable if they do not resort to his goodness, then it is for nothing that he has had his Gospel proclaimed. If he has had [54] his Gospel preached distinctly in our time, then he has other times abandoned the nations in such fashion, that he did not present to them the least spark of his mercy. Good God! who would grant these consequences, feeble and pathetic as we are, who see no better in the splendor of the truth than bats can see in the light, except inasmuch as God enlightens us within by the virtue of his Spirit, is it for us to prescribe for him his counsels, and to carve out for him his roads and ways? When the glory of his virtues is in question, central among his virtues is this of his mercy, that he wanted to be clearer, more vivid, brighter than the others and, in a manner of speaking, dazzling all others in some way with the grandeur of his light. If in the shadow that his light seems to pull after it there is some difficulty that we are not able to resolve, will we for that pull back from his worship by the slightest bit? No, my brothers, when on one hand the word of God teaches me that he has reprobated some and consigned them to eternal punishment, and on the other hand this same word informs me that God wants all men to be saved, that he invites them to repentance, that he stretches out his arms to them, that he goes before them, that he calls them with a loud voice, that it depends on nothing but for him to make them participants in his grace, [55] although my reason should find therein things that seem to clash, although whatever effort I make, I can not make them agree or reconcile them together, I will nevertheless not cease to take these two doctrines as true, and I will not undertake, unless the word of God gives me the means, to resolve the conflict between these two wills of God that seem so repugnant. Either God will give us some day greater illumination by his Spirit, or at least at the appearing of his Son, he will reveal all things. In the meantime, I will guard what has been revealed to me, and will not permit that the daring of my reason should do wrong to his unerring grace towards humanity.

The second thing that this great person gives us in his Commentary is, if we pay attention, an excellent opening to the solution of this difficulty, certainly at least as is necessary to content a sober and modest reason. The word of God, my Brothers, presents us his mercy to be considered in two manners. For either it proposes it to us as a truly grand and infinite virtue, but nevertheless such that to make itself really felt and to produce its effects to the eternal salvation of men by the remission of their offenses and the enjoyment of life, it [56] requires in them a certain prior quality, without which it is impossible that his mercy pardon them. It is with assurance and repentance they have recourse to his mercy. I ask you, would he make known the virtue of the blood of his Son to those who trample it under foot? Would he give the spirit of sanctification to those who blaspheme it? Would he lodge in his house those who remain obstinate in the hatred that they naturally hold toward him? That certainly cannot be. And without even mentioning the repugnance that there would be in that proceeding, with his wisdom, I say that it is a thing impossible in itself. Because the object of justice and that of mercy cannot be the same object. It must necessarily be that they are differently constituted. Now the object of justice is the impenitent sinner. For this reason the impenitent cannot receive mercy. It is necessary therefore that there come some change in the sinner before he may receive salvation. And this change is what we call faith and repentance. Now it is on this mercy that the promise of the forgiveness of sins made to us in the Gospel depends. If you believe, you will not come under judgment. If you do not believe, you are already condemned. And, God so loved the world that he sent his Son into the world so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. And, here is the bread which has come down from [57] Heaven, if someone eats of it, he will not die. Whoever believes in me will never see death. Whoever does not believe, the wrath of God remains upon him. The other manner in which the word presents this mercy to be considered is in so far as that it does not require this quality, but that it undertakes to form it in men. That mercy does not presuppose faith and repentance already there, I say, but creates them in him. That it does not demand this condition of the creature, but it engenders it there. Of this mercy speaks the Apostle Saint Paul when he says, It is not of those who will, nor of those who run, but of God who extends mercy. Romans 9.16. Because it opposes this mercy, not to justice by which he avenges sins, but to this free dispensation of his will, according to which he does not efficaciously call to his grace a great part of humanity. And he who is called the God who shows mercy in this place is also he who is called the God who calls. That is to say, God not considered as he who justifies because one has believed, but as he who makes the power of his grace felt in order to bring men to believe.

Now of these two degrees or kinds of mercy, because it matters not how one names them, Scripture teaches us that the usage of the latter is purely and simply and absolutely free. That is to say, that if it had pleased God not to use it, humanity [58] would have remained miserable in the condemnation of their sins, but they would have had no grounds to complain. Because who will complain that God having created humanity upright and happy, and humanity itself having thrown away its happiness, God should leave it lying there in its ruins? What law is there in heaven or upon earth that obliges him to extend his hand to humanity? That does not rather oblige him to pour upon humanity all the most dreadful vengeance of his justice? And if it had pleased God to give to all men belief in his Son, who would be able to take issue with his wisdom or his justice? Of his wisdom, who knows its depths? And has not his justice been satisfied in his One and Only Son, and is not his sacrifice sufficient to expiate the sins of all men of the world? That if it has pleased him, as certainly it has pleased him, to leave some in their condemnation and to call others to participation in his grace, who shall make him give a reason for this diversity, that to people equally lost, he has given of grace so inequally? This is why the Apostle cites upon this occasion this passage. I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious (Exod 33:19). As for the other, the usage of it is not equally free in God, there is a big difference. It is not that God has some law above him that obliges him to do anything, [59] but he is his own law to himself. It is not that there is any necessity above his majesty, but that he is his own necessity. And the greater the virtues in him are, the less he would be able to do things which are contrary to them. For instance, if a creature is good and holy, God could not help but love it. Not because he owes anything to his creature, but because he is infinitely good. Likewise, if the creature is corrupt, he can not but hate it because of its sin, not because he has to justify his actions to anyone other than himself, but because he is infinitely just. And so again, if the sinful creature has recourse to his mercy, he can not but have compassion on it, not because he is obliged to do so, but because he is infinitely merciful.

Now it is particularly necessary to note that God’s entire distribution toward his creature, of that which regards punishments and rewards, life and death, all this depends upon the covenants that God has contracted with them. If his goodness renders his creature entirely holy, it is by virtue of the covenant of nature. If he delivers him from death and gives him enjoyment of his glory, it is by virtue of the covenant of grace. If he punishes him because of his sin, it is by virtue of either the covenant of nature, or the legal covenant, or as a consequence of this vengeful justice that he has attached [60] to the Gospel covenant. Also it is notable that all these covenants contracted between God and the creature have their basis in these virtues which are in him, that they require in man some prior quality. In the covenant of nature, none may have life, if he is not perfectly holy. In the covenant of the Law, none may obtain life, if they do not accomplish all his commandments. In the covenant of grace, none may obtain salvation, if they do not believe. And it was impossible that the covenant of grace should have its connection to this mercy of God, which did not presuppose the condition of faith in men, but created it. For what kind of covenant would it be: if you believe, I will enable you to believe? As a result, these words which are from Jer 31, This is the covenant that I will establish with them, I will engrave my laws upon their hearts and write them upon their understanding, do not show us the nature of the Gospel covenant in itself, but the counsel of God to give it an entirely different result than the legal had. Because the legal covenant had not justified anybody, because no one had obeyed it. This is why God complained that it had been rendered useless and broken. But the Gospel covenant must have an entirely different result, for God decided in his eternal counsel to give to some to believe. And so [61J it is an absolute promise, and not a conditional covenantal formula. The Gospel. Covenant therefore is linked to this other mercy which demands the condition, If you believe, you will be saved.

Let us see now, my Brothers, how these observations serve to resolve these two wills which seem repugnant in God, and by the same means to explain the solution that this great man gives to the problem. As certainly as there is no contradiction between these two kinds or these two degrees of mercy, there is not contradiction between the two wills that follow from it. He wants all men be saved. It is true, and he wants it with passion. But it is according to the mercy that presupposes the condition and not otherwise. If the condition is not found in them, he does not wish it. He wishes that few men should be saved. It is true, but it is according to this second kind of mercy that does not demand the condition, but creates it; that does not presuppose it, but makes it in men. And to explain this in everyday speech, we are not afraid to use some comparisons of Scripture, taken from the affections that men have in seeking a woman to marry. Might not a man like a girl to the degree that he wishes to marry her, provided that such and such conditions [62] be met? He likes her and likes her even with some vehemence. But he likes her only to a point. If these conditions are not found in her, he does engage her to himself. That is to say, he will not take her for his wife. On the contrary, he will begin to hate her if she comes to scorn his person and his advances. But this same man will come to love another so much that even though these conditions are not there, he wants to marry her. If one says to him, she is not well off, he responds, I have enough for us both. If someone adds, she is not of good lineage, he will say, I have enough nobility for her. If someone presses him again, but she is not pretty, supposing that he has the power to make it so, he will say, I will make her beautiful. Be that as it may, I want to marry her, and want to marry her because I love her, and I love her because I love her. With this first sort of love God has loved the entire human race. With this second, he has loved his Church, that he had found lying in her blood, whose birth cord was not taken care of, who would have horrified anyone who saw her, and he did not cease to want to marry her in his eternal compassion, in order to preserve her to himself as a chaste, pure, and holy spouse, in our Lord Jesus.

As for the response of this servant of God, here is how these observations serve [63] to clarify the issue. To engender this faith in men, requires two things: the internal efficacy of the spirit, and the external preaching of the Word. Concerning the efficacy of the spirit, it depends upon this second kind of mercy, that is to say, on this will to create faith in men, that we call election. Because God makes it known only to his elect, and it is only his elect who have been loved in this way. But as for the external preaching of the Word, it depends on this other sort of mercy. Because it consists of the external offer of grace to all who repent. We are not accustomed to preach otherwise, but believe, and you will be saved, because God is compassionate and merciful in his Son toward those who repent. In a word, external preaching is nothing other than the authentic publication of this infinite compassion that God presents to men provided that they receive it. What does Calvin mean therefore, that the Prophet does not want subtly to quarrel over the secret counsel of God, but that he wants to keep all our senses bound to his Word? Certainly he does not want to speak of the decree that depends upon this second kind of mercy whose counsel is so free that one cannot sound the reasons, and we cannot allege anything but his good pleasure. So that when [64] one comes to examine why some believe and others do not believe, why God has given to believe to these here, and not to those there, it is necessary to stop there as on the edge of an abyss and cry, O the depths of the riches and of the Wisdom a/God. How incomprehensible are his judgments and his ways impossible to discover (Rom 11 :33). But that the intention of the Prophet was to speak of this first sort of mercy, and of this first sort of will, according to which he wishes that all men may be saved provided that they believe, and invites them there by the preaching of his Word. There, my Brothers, is the solution of this difficulty, there is the explanation of this solution, which otherwise could have seemed obscure and difficult.

But if we want to go into still further detail, you will see more clearly the appropriateness of his response. These two types of mercy are taught us in the Word of God, and he wants the Ministers of the Gospel to announce the one or the other according to the occasions that present themselves. But nevertheless there is a great difference between these occasions and the preaching for each must be employed according to the nature of the circumstances. Is it therefore a question of leading men to faith and repentance? You will then make no mention of this second type of mercy and the will that [65] depends upon it. You will not say to him, “Believe, for God has ordained to enable you to believe!” Even less, “Believe, for there is only God who can make you believe!” Even less, “Believe, for you are reprobate, and never will God enable you to believe!But you will say to him, “Believe, for if you believe you will be saved. Believe, for if you do not believe, the wrath of God remains upon you. Believe, for that is the only way to attain to life.” And since this mercy is universal, you preach it to all men indiscriminately, and tell them that God loved them so much, that he sent his Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. And the higher you praise this mercy, the more you spread it far and wide, the more you make it universal, the more you represent the affections tender and powerful of it, the more it is to the glory of God, and the more you render it efficacious in the conversion of the souls of men. For from where else does this conversion come but from the admiration of this goodness toward us. And if you represent it as great, will not the admiration of it be similarly even greater?

But you use preaching of the second, notably in three other kinds of circumstances. First, in order to lead men toward humility. For if a man who has believed is in some manner tickled [66] by the thought of the strength of his free will as if it were by the strength of his nature or by the freedom of his will that he had believed, whereas others remained in their natural incredulity, you say to him, What do you have that you did not receive? And if you have received it, why do you glorify yourself? (1 Cor 4:7). Work out your own salvation (and how?) with fear and trembling. That is to say with a profound humility and submission. Because it is not from you that it comes. It is God who works in you both the will and the accomplishment according to his good pleasure. (Phil 2: 12). And then in order to remedy the scandal of the incredulity of some and the rebellion of others. For when you see so many people to whom the Gospel is preached, reject it with such a great obstinacy, is there not in this much material for scandal at the infinity of the flesh. In order to remedy this, the Apostle Paul anticipates the problem, and says of the astonishment that one could feel at the fact that the Jews who had so many benefits of the covenants, of prophecies, of oracles, of promises, did not believe, that nonetheless it cannot be that the Word of God is overthrown. For all those who are of Israel are not truly Israel. And that God had revealed enough in the examples of Esau and Jacob, what kind of solution would be necessary. It is that before the children were born, and they had done either good or evil, so that the purpose [67] determined according to the election of God might stand, not by works, but by him who calls, it was said, the greater will serve the lesser (Rom 9:6-11). And if it comes about that someone professing the truth, abandons it, the same Apostle teaches you in 2 Tim 2 in the affair of Hymeneaus and of Philetus who had abandoned the truth, to say, that nevertheless the foundation of God remains firm, having this seal, the Lord knows those who are his. Finally in order to give an incredibly tenderhearted consolation to those who have believed. For does not the weakness of the flesh sometimes wage battle against assurance? Do the same afflictions which accompany the conditions of the children of God, seem sometimes able to shake our constancy? That is when the words of the Apostle in Rom 8 are useful: That all things work together for the good of those who love God, and who are called according to his determined purpose. That those whom God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. That those whom God predestined, he also called. Those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified. What shall we say then to these things? If God is for us, who will be against us? What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will oppression, or anguish, or famine, or nakedness, or [68] peril, or sword? Rather in all these things we are more than conquerors in him who has loved us. In fact, if this certain to call us to Christ is founded only upon the good pleasure of God, and has no other cause outside of himself, why would he change it? If God loved us so much, when we did not know him, as to want to call us efficaciously to knowledge of him, now that we know him why wouldn’t he enable us to continue knowing him?

But since on the one hand the occasions for this doctrine do not present themselves so often to Ministers of the Gospel, and on the other hand this doctrine is only useful for those who have already been converted, whereas there are nearly continually occasions for the preaching of the other mercy, and it is destined both to convert those who are not, and to confirm in the faith those who have already received it, (for it is the universal order of things, of this nature, that they nourish and maintain themselves by the same means by which they were first engendered) the Apostle calls this doctrine, as by a special prerogative, the word of faith. Do not say in your heart, who will go up to Heaven? That would be to bring Christ down from on high. Or who will descend into the abyss? That would be to bring Christ back from the dead But what does it say? The word is close. to [69) you, in your mouth and in your heart. That is, the word of faith, which we preach. For if you confess the Lord with your mouth, and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved For from the heart one believes to justification, and from the mouth one confesses unto salvation (Rom 10:6-7). And our Lord Jesus giving the commission to his disciples, said to them: Go throughout all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. Whoever has believed and been baptized will be saved But whoever does not believe shall be condemned (Mark 16: 15-16).

Now my brothers, if the time permits it, we should announce to you this first kind of mercy, and remind you of, and revive in your hearts, the sentiment of the other. God, dear and beloved brothers, this God, I say, of compassions, this Father of mercy, takes so little pleasure in the death of sinners, takes such a great contentment in their life and in their salvation, provided that they repent and believe, that because his justice impeded the use of this his mercy, and because you were so far from having in you any condition which could claim his goodness, and that on the contrary, there was nothing but sin, which provoked his wrath to vengeance. He sent his Son, his only Son to the earth, in order to make propitiation for your sins, and to abandon him to an ignominious cross [70] for your life. It is in him that the mercies of God have been displayed. It is there, if you wish to enjoy it, that you must have recourse. It is the only name given to men under heaven in order to be saved, and anathema, we say, to all those who write, who speak, who think, and who will ever think to the contrary. All that God has ever testified of his mercy to the Gentiles, as the great author that we have mentioned to you says, “he has done by way of his providence. All that he has ever revealed in the dispensation of the Law, all that he has caused his Prophets say of it, all that he has declared of it in the Gospel, where he has put unveiled his riches before our eyes, all this has been because his Son has suffered, because his Son had to suffer. Without him, there would never appear of it a single spark. All those who are saved under the covenant of grace, all those who were saved while the Law reigned, all those who were saved before the Law was given, were saved by Christ, and could not have been saved without him, and no one will ever be saved without him until the consummation of the age. It is this Christ who we present before you here dead for your offences and raised for your justification. He allowed his body to be broken on the cross for you. He willed that his blood be spilled for the washing of your souls. He gives you [71) now his flesh to eat, he gives you his blood to drink. That is to say, the guarantee of the one and the other, in order to assure you that if you believe, you have life in him. But I say, if you believe. Let not those who do not believe that this is their Redeemer, those who think that they can do without this Redeemer, approach his Table, and let them not think they have any part of his graces. This is the fountain from which you draw your salvation, and the means of drawing it, is faith. This is the tree of life from which you eat, and the means of eating, is to believe. This is the serpent raised in the desert of this world, by which you must be healed, and the means of being healed, is to look at it. This is the Priest and the victim by which you are sanctified, and the means of being truly sanctified is to be covered with his blood and to receive it avidly, when by the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments it is poured out on you. This is the stricken rock from which you are refreshed and your thirst quenched, and the means of refreshment, is by drinking, is by believing.

But what am.! saying, “If you believe”? Do I call that into question? Having made the name of our Lord Jesus so resonate in your ears, could he not have entered into your hearts? Having painted so brilliantly [72] before your eyes, could the holy portrait of his Cross not be engraved upon your souls? No, my brothers, we hope better things for you and more suitable to salvation. We do not tell you, “If you believe, approach.” But, “Because you have believed, come to this Table.” You have there the nourishment of your faith, one of the means that God uses to augment it, to foment it in you, to confirm it in an invincible perseverance. Because here he showers you with his Spirit, Spirit of consolation, and of an ineffable joy. Spirit which bears witness to your spirit that you are of the number of the children of God, and if you are children, you are then heirs, heirs, I say, of God and co-heirs with our Lord Jesus. If when you were enemies he gave you his Son, so as to live in him in whom you believe, how much will he not sustain you in this life? If when you were as the rest of humanity, lying in your errors and sins, and so blind that your blindness was invincible to any other thing but his divine omnipotence, he desired to enlighten you to see the riches of his compassion in the redeemer. Now that he has enabled you to see him, to extend to him the hand of faith, and to enter into the enjoyment of it, would he permit you to lose this treasure and [73] return to your old misery? No, my brothers, he is powerful to complete the work that he has begun in you. He is faithful to give you no temptation beyond your strength, but with the temptation he will give you the way out, in such manner that you will be able to bear it. The Father who has called you from darkness to his marvelous light,’ the Son who has bought you and who is light itself, the Holy Spirit who makes known to you his virtue in consolation and sanctification, may he perfect you, strengthen you, and completes in you this good work. And to him, one God alone blessed forever, be glory from age to age. Amen.

Harmon, Matthew Paul, “Moyse Amyraut’s Six Sermons: Directions for Amyrauldian Studies.” (Th.M. thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2008), 81-93. [Italics Original; bracketed inserts original; footnotes and values original; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1) This thesis is an important contribution to the literature on Amyraut. For while Harmon is highly critical of Armstrong, he clarifies Amyraut’s theology on a number of important points. 2) This sermon has been translated by Harmon. 3) The reader should note Amyraut’s stress on the paradoxical nature of divine revelation, whereby one truth is not to be denied at the expense of another. 4) Copies are available for purchase from Curt Daniel’s Good Books (2456 Devonshire Road, Springfield, IL. 62703, USA).]


1Moyse Amyraut, Sermons sur divers Textes de la Sainte Ecriture. Prononcés en divers lieux, (Saumur: Desbordes, 1653),37-73. Page numbers are indicated in brackets at the beginning of each page. Scripture citations are indicated with italics as in the original text.

2This sentence is a fragment in the original text.

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