Calvin on electing and non-electing love:


1) The meaning of Moses is then easy enough, namely that albeit God loves all people, yet that his Saints are in his charge or protection, yea even those whom he has chosen. Unless a man will refer these words, “the People”, to the twelve tribes: but that were hard and constrained. Moses then does here compare all men and all the Nations of the earth with the lineage of Abraham which God had chosen: as if he should say, that God’s grace is spread out everywhere, as we ourselves see, and as the Scripture also witnesses in other places. And not only men are partakers of this goodness of God, and are fed and maintained by his liberality: but he does also show himself bountiful even to brute beasts. Even thither does his mercy extend according to this saying of the Psalm, Who makes the fields and mountains to bring forth grass for the feeding of cattle, but God who has a care of them? Seeing that GOD vouchsafes to have so merciful regard of the beasts which he has created, as to given them food; it is more to be thought that he will be a foster father to men, whom he has made and shaped after his own image, which approaches nearer unto him, and which have a thing far excelling above all other creatures: God then does love all people. Yea, but yet not in comparison to his Church. And why? For all the children of Adam are enemies unto God by reason of the corruption that is in them. True it is that God loves them as his creatures: but yet he must needs hate them, because they be perverted and given to all evil. And that is the cause why the Scripture tells us that God repented him that ever he made man, considering that he is so marred. And in the same respect also is it said, that we be banished out of God’s kingdom, that we be his enemies, that he shakes us off and disclaims us, that he abhors us, that we be the children of wrath, and that we be so corrupted, as there remains nothing but utter confusion upon our heads. When the Scripture speaks so, it is to show us that although God for his part be favorable and merciful to us, for so much as we be his creatures: yet notwithstanding we deserve well to be disclaimed and hated at his hand, and that he should not vouchsafe to have a care of us. Now then, whereas God loves us, let us understand that he overcomes our naughtiness with his goodness, which is infinite. Albeit, as I have touched already, his loving other men is nothing in comparison to those whom he has chosen and whom he acknowledges for his children. Now then, does he love all people? Yet we are his hand: that is to say, he will show that we be far nearer to him, and that he has much more familiar acquaintance with us beyond all comparison, than he has with all the rest of the world. For he has called us unto his house, he dwells among us, he will be known to be our Father, he will have us to call upon him with full trust and liberty, so as we need not to doubt but that his power is spread out to defend us. Lo how Moses meant to magnify God’s goodness in this place, after the manner that he has made himself to be felt in his Church and to his Flock…

We see how brute beasts are sustained by his hand: and therein we ought to consider what his goodness is. Again, as touching the wicked which despise him, and do nothing else but provoke his wrath; when yet for all that, we see the sun shine upon them to give them light, they eat and drink, and they be maintained at God’s cost, and by his liberality: let us consider that although men deserve to be utterly forsaken; yet notwithstanding God spares them and bears with them, and overcomes their wickedness with his goodness, in that he roots them not out at the first, but vouchsafes to foster them still, and to show a fatherly care towards them. Calvin Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon 91, 33:1-3, p., 1188-9.

2) Although God demonstrates tokens of his love toward all mankind in general, the whole of Adam’s lineage has been cut off from him, until they are reunited through Jesus Christ. Thus, although the love of God is shown to all men by virtue of the fact that we were created in his own image, and although he causes his the sun to shine upon all, provides food for all, and watches over all, yet there is nothing compared to that special love which he reserves for his elect, his flock. This is not due to any merit to be found in them, but rather because it has pleased him to make them his own.  John  Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, Sermon 2, 1:3-5, p., 18 [Childress translation.]

3) So let us learn (following what I have already mentioned) to know in everything and by everything the inestimable goodness of our God. For as He declared His love toward mankind when He spared not His Only Son but delivered Him to death for sinners, also He declares a love which He bears especially toward us when by His Holy Spirit He touches us by the knowledge of our sins and He makes us wail and draws us to Himself with repentance. Sermons on the Deity of Christ, Sermon 6: The Fourth Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, p 108. (Old Paths Publ.,)


1) “Yea, he loved the people.” If it be preferred to apply this to the Gentiles, the sentence must be thus resolved, “Although He loves all human beings, still His saints are honored with His peculiar favor, in that He watches over their safety;” but it is more correct to expound it as referring only to the children of Abraham, whom He calls “peoples,” because, on account of the multitude into which they had grown, in their several tribes, they might be reckoned as so many nations. And since the particle ‘asp” signifies prolongation of time, like adhuc in Latin, the following sense will be very satisfactory, that, Although the descendants of Abraham were divided into various races, and might therefore seem to be no longer a single family, nevertheless God still continued to regard them all with affection, and their numbers and divisions did not prevent Him from accounting them to be a single body. The sum is, that God’s favor towards them was not extinguished, either by the progress of time, or the increase of the people; but that it was constantly extended to the race of Abraham, however far or widely it might be spread. Calvin, Deut, 33:3.

2) Hence he says, I loved you. God might indeed have made an appeal to the Jews on another ground; for had he not manifested his love to them, they were yet bound to submit to his authority. He does not indeed speak here of God’s love generally, such as he shows to the whole human race; but he condemns the Jews, inasmuch as having been freely adopted by God as his holy and peculiar people, they yet forgot this honor, and despised the Giver, and regarded what he taught them as nothing. When therefore God says that he loved the Jews, we see that his object was to convict them of ingratitude for having despised the singular favor bestowed on them alone, rather than to press that authority which he possesses over all mankind in common. Calvin on Mal, 1:2.

3) The Father loveth the Son. But what is the meaning of this reason? Does he regard all others with hatred? The answer is easy, that he does not speak of the common love with which God regards men whom he has created, or his other works, but of that peculiar love which, beginning with the Son, flows from him to all the creatures. For that love with which, embracing the Son, he embraces us also in him, leads him to communicate all his benefits to us by his hand. Calvin on John, 3:35.


1) But I will content myself with dwelling on one point only, and let that suffice. Proofs of the love of God towards the whole human race exists innumerable, all of which demonstrate the ingratitude of those who perish or come “to perdition.” This fact, however, forms no reason whatever why God should not confine his especial or peculiar love to a few, whom he has, in infinite condescension, been pleased to chose out of the rest. Calvin, “he Secret Providence of God,” found in Calvin’s Calvinism, p., 268.

Calvin on God’s love to mankind and men:


1) When staggered in our own faith at any time by the prosperity of the wicked, we should learn by his example to rise in our contemplations to a God in heaven, and the conviction will immediately follow in our minds that his enemies cannot long continue to triumph. The Psalmist tells us who they are that are God’s enemies. God hates none without a cause; nay, so far as men are the workmanship of his hand, he embraces them in his fatherly love. But as nothing is more opposed to his nature than sin, he proclaims irreconcilable war with the wicked. It contributes in no small degree to the comfort of the Lord’s people, to know that the reason why the wicked are destroyed is, their being necessarily the objects of God’s hatred, so that he can no more fail to punish them than deny himself. Calvin, Psalms 92:9.

2) We now see why an oath is interposed, while he pronounces that he will take care that the Jews should not ridicule any longer. Behold, says he, all souls are mine; as the sole of the son so the soul of the father, all souls are mine; the soul, therefore, which has sinned it shall die. Some interpreters explain the beginning of the verse thus: that men vainly and rashly complain when God seems to treat them too severely, since the clay does not rise against the potter. Since God is the maker of the whole world, we are his workmanship: what madness, then, to rise up against him when he does not satisfy us: and we saw this simile used by Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 18:6.) The sentiment, then, is true in itself, that all souls are under God’s sovereignty by the right of creation, and therefore he can arbitrarily determine for each whatever he wishes; and all who clamor against him reap no profit: and this teaching it is advantageous to notice. But this passage ought to be understood otherwise; namely, that nothing is more unworthy than that God should be accused of tyrannizing over men, when he rather defends them, as being his own workmanship. When, therefore, God pronounces that all souls are his own, he does not merely claim sovereignty and power, but he rather shows that he is affected with fatherly love towards the whole human race since he created and formed it; for, if a workman loves his work because he recognizes in it the fruits of his industry, so, when God has manifested his power and goodness in the formation of men, he must certainly embrace them with affection. True, indeed, we are abominable in God’s sight, through being corrupted by original sin, as it is elsewhere said, (Psalm 14:1, 2;) but inasmuch as we are men, we must be dear to God, and our salvation must be precious in his sight. We now see what kind of refutation this is: all souls are mine, says he: I have formed all, and am the creator of all, and so I am affected with fatherly love towards all, and they shall rather feel my clemency, from the least to the greatest, than experience too much rigor and severity. Calvin, Ezekiel 18:1-4.

3) We now see what the Prophet means that God would, as it were, close his eyes, while the Assyrians wantonly laid waste the whole world: and when this tyranny should reach the holy land, what else could the faithful think but that they were forsaken by God? And there is nothing, as I have already said, more monstrous, than that iniquitous tyranny should thus prevail among men; for they have all, from the least to the greatest, been created after God’s image. God then ought to exercise peculiar care in preserving mankind; his paternal love and solicitude ought in this respect to appear evident: but when men are thus destroyed with impunity, and one oppresses almost all the rest, there seems indeed to be no divine providence. For how will it be that he will care for either birds, or oxen, or asses, or trees, or plants, when he will thus forsake men, and bring no aid in so confused a state? We now understand the drift of what the Prophet says. Calvin, Hubakkuk 1:14


1) And therefore we ought the better to note the reason, which David setteth first down, For the earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy. As if he should have said, thou O Lord spreadest abroad thy fatherly goodness over all creatures: we see how of thy mercy thou feedest the beasts of the field, we see the trees flourish, the earth bring forth her increase, thy goodness spreadeth through heaven and earth, and how is it then possible, that thou shouldest not do good unto thy children? I am one of that number which call on thee, and that put their trust in thee. Seeing thou art so loving and merciful to all creatures, thou shalt not forsake me. Calvin, Sermons on Ps 119, Sermon 7,, 119:57-64.

Calvin on God’s love to men or mankind:


1) Now it is certain that nothing putteth us out of God’s favor, but our own sinfulness. For we see that his mercy extendeth itself even to the Sparrows that fly in the air, and unto the brute beasts. For when as God bringeth forth grass in the mountains, and maketh other fodder to grow for cattle: it is a token that he hath a care of them. And truly they be marks of his goodness, as it is said in the Psalms. (Psalm 104:14; Psalm 147:8) How then should he not love those whom he hath created after his own image, and which approach much nearer to him, and to his nature, that is to say, men: God therefore in respect of his creating of us, receiveth and avoweth us for his own. But forsomuch as we be corrupted and our nature is become sinful, it causeth God to hate us and to take us for his enemies, so as there is as it were a deadly feud between him and us, till he have taken us again into his favor for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, Sermon 2, 1:3-5.

2) But yet notwithstanding, herewithal Saint Paul bringeth us always back to the will of God, to show that when our Lord Jesus Christ did in that wise perform all that belonged to our salvation, it was no lett but that God in the meanwhile uttered his mercy in the same, according as it is said in another text, (John 3:16) that God so loved the world, that he spared not his only son, but delivered him to death for us. To the intent therefore that we should not think that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to pacify God his father, was after such a sort that he persuaded him to alter his purpose, (as men are inclined to such gross and earthly imaginations:) Saint Paul (to show us that God was not reconciled unto us after the manner of men) tells us expressly that the cause why Jesus Christ was delivered for our sins, was for that God had so ordained it. For if a man be angry with his child, some other man may step in, to appease his wrath, and such a one shall supply the room of a third party. But the case stood not so with our Lord Jesus Christ when he offered himself in Sacrifice to do away all our sins, and to make us way unto God from whom we were shut out before. He came not as one that stepped in of his own head, and as though God had not meddled with the matter. How then? God (as hath been touched not long since) did both hate us and love us before the reconciliation [was made.] And why loved he us? Because we be his creatures. And again, although he saw we were so wretched, and utterly forlorn and damned folk by reason of sin: yet notwithstanding he had pity upon us, and would not have mankind to perish utterly. Thus ye see how God loved us, notwithstanding that in the person of Adam we were fallen away from him and utterly corrupted. Therewithal he did also hate us, even because he is the wellspring of all righteousness. Therefore he abhorred the naughtiness that was in us by reason whereof there needed an atonement to be made in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the sacrifice which he offered. But yet must not that benefit be fathered upon any other than God. Ye see then how it was God’s doing to send his only son, and to give hiim over unto death for us. And why? To the end that all hatred between him and us should be done away. Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, Sermon 2, 1:1-5.


1) O Jehovah! what is man, etc. He amplifies the goodness shown by God by instituting a comparison. Having declared how singularly he had been dealt with, he turns his eyes inward, and asks, “Who am I, that God should show me such condescension? ” He speaks of man in general; only the circumstance is noticeable that he commends the mercy of God, by considering his lowly and abject condition. In other places he mentions grounds of humiliation of a more personal or private nature, here he confines himself to what has reference to our common nature; and though even in discussing the nature of man there are other reasons he might have specified why he is unworthy of the regard and love of God, he briefly adverts to his being like the smoke, and as a shadow. We are left to infer that the riches of the divine goodness are extended to objects altogether unworthy in themselves. We are warned, when apt at any time to forget ourselves, and think we are something when we are nothing, that the simple fact of the shortness of our life should put down all arrogance and pride. The Scriptures, in speaking of the frailty of man, comprehend whatever is necessarily connected with it. And, indeed, if our life vanish in a moment, what is there stable about us? We taught this truth also that we cannot properly estimate the divine goodness, unless we take into consideration what we are as to our condition, as we can only ascribe to God what is due unto him, by acknowledging that his goodness is bestowed upon undeserving creatures. The reader may seek for further information upon this point in the eighth Psalm, where nearly the same truth is insisted upon. Calvin, Ps 144:3.

2) “Happy the people, etc.” He thus concludes that the divine favor had been sufficiently shown and manifested to his people. Should any object that it breathed altogether a gross and worldly spirit to estimate man’s happiness by benefits of a transitory description, I would say in reply that we must read the two things in connection, that those are happy who recognize the favor of God in the abundance they enjoy, and have such a sense of it from these transitory blessings as leads them through a persuasion of his fatherly love to aspire after the true inheritance. There is no impropriety in calling those happy whom God blesses in this world, provided they do not show themselves blinded in the improvement and use which they make of their mercies, or foolishly and supinely overlook the author of them. The kind providence of God in not suffering us to want any of the means of life is surely a striking illustration of his wonderful love. What more desirable than to be the objects of God’s care, especially if we have sufficient understanding to conclude from the liberality with which he supports us he is our Father? Calvin, Ps 144:15.

3) Put thy sword again into its place. By these words, Christ confirms the precept of the Law, which forbids private individuals to use the sword. And above all, we ought to attend to the threatening of punishment which is immediately added; for men did not, at their own pleasure, appoint this punishment for avenging their own blood; but God himself, by severely prohibiting murder, has declared how dearly he loves mankind. First, then, he does not choose to be defended by force and violence, because God in the Law forbade men to strike. This is a general reason; and he immediately descends to a special reason. Calvin, Matt., 26:52.

4) And when he had taken him aside from the multitude. This was done, partly to afford to those who were ignorant, and not yet sufficiently qualified for becoming witnesses, an opportunity of perceiving at a distance the glory of his Divine nature, and partly that he might have a better opportunity of pouring out earnest prayer. When he looked up to heaven and sighed, it was an expression of strong feeling; and this enables us to perceive the vehemence of his love towards men, for whose miseries he feels so much compassion. Nor can it be doubted, that by conveying the spittle from his own mouth to the mouth of another, and by putting his fingers into his ears, he intended to manifest and express the same feeling of kindness. Calvin, Mark 7:33.

5) If God be glorified. Christ concludes that he will obtain a glorious triumph by his death; because his sole design in it is, to glorify his Father; for the Father did not seek his glory from the death of his Son in such a manner as not to make the Son a partaker of that glory. He promises, therefore, that when the ignominy which he shall endure for a short time has been effaced, illustrious honor will be displayed in his death. And this too was accomplished; for the death of the cross, which Christ suffered, is so far from obscuring his high rank, that in that death his high rank is chiefly displayed, since there his amazing love to mankind, his infinite righteousness in atoning for sin and appeasing the wrath of God, his wonderful power in conquering death, subduing Satan, and, at length, opening heaven, blazed with full brightness. This doctrine is now extended also to all of us; for though the whole world should conspire to cover us with infamy, yet if we sincerely and honestly endeavor to promote the glory of God, we ought not to doubt that God will also glorify us. Calvin, John 13:32.

6) But this serveth greatly to the setting forth of grace, that whereas all things do threaten destruction, yet whosoever doth call upon the name of the Lord is sure to be saved. By the darkness of the sun, by the bloody streaming of the moon, by the black vapor of smoke, the prophet meant to declare, that whithersoever men turn their eyes, there shall many things appear, both upward and downward, which may make them amazed and afraid, as he hath already said. Therefore, this is as much as if he should have said, that the world was never in a more miserable case, that there were never so many and such cruel tokens of God’s wrath. Hence may we gather how inestimable the goodness of God is, who offereth a present remedy for so great evils; and again, how unthankful they are towards God, and how froward, which do not flee unto the sanctuary of salvation, which is nigh unto them, and doth meet them. Again, it is out of all doubt, that God meaneth by this so doleful a description, to stir up all godly men, that they may with a more fervent desire seek for salvation. And Peter citeth it to the same end, that the Jews may know that they shall be more miserable unless they receive that grace of the Spirit which is offered unto them. Yet here may a question be asked, how this can hang together, that when Christ is revealed, there should such a sea of miseries overflow and break out therewithal? For it may seem to be a thing very inconvenient, that he should be the only pledge of God’s love toward mankind, in whom the heavenly Father doth lay open all the treasure of his goodness, yea, he poureth out the bowels of his mercy upon us, and that yet, by the coming of the same, his Son, his wrath should be more hot than it was wont, so that it should, as it were, quite consume both heaven and earth at once. Calvin, Acts 2:19.

7) “Notwithstanding, he did not suffer himself to be without witness.” Paul and Barnabas take from the Gentiles in this place the cloak [pretext] of ignorance. For how greatly soever men please themselves in their own inventions, being at length convicted of error, they fly unto this fortress, [asylums] that they ought to bear no blame; but that God was rather cruel, who did not vouchsafe so much as with one hiss to call those back whom he saw perish, [perishing.] Paul and Barnabas cut off this frivolous objection, when they show that God lay hid in such sort, that he [still] bare witness of himself and his divinity. Notwithstanding, we must see how these two things can hang together; for if God bare witness of himself, he did not suffer (so much as in him lay) the world to err. I answer, that this kind of testimony, whereof mention is made, was such as that it made men without excuse, and yet was it not sufficient to salvation. For that of the apostle is true, that by faith it is understood that the worlds were ordained by the word of God, (Hebrews 11:3.) But faith is not conceived by the bare beholding of the heaven and earth, but by the hearing of the word. Whereupon it followeth, that men are brought by the direction of the word alone unto that knowledge of Almighty God which bringeth salvation. And yet this letteth not but that they may be made without excuse, even without the word, who, though they be naturally deprived of light, are blind notwithstanding, through their own malice, as Paul teacheth in the first chapter to the Romans.

“Giving rain and fruitful seasons.” God hath, indeed, revealed himself to all mankind by his word since [from] the beginning. But Paul and Barnabas show that there was no age on which God did not bestow benefits, which might testify that the world is governed by his government (and commandment;) and because the light of doctrine had been buried long thee, therefore they say only, that God was showed by natural arguments, [evidences.] And it is to be thought that they did, in such sort, set forth the magnificence and greatness of the works of God as became them; but it was sufficient for Luke to touch the (sums and) chief points of matters. Neither do I so understand it, that they intreated subtlety, and after the manner of the philosophers, of the secrets of nature, for they spake unto an unlearned multitude; therefore it behooved them to set that before them plainly which the most ignorant did know. Notwithstanding they take this principle, that in the order of nature there is a certain and evident manifestation of God, in that the earth is watered with rain; in that the heat of the sun doth comfort it; in that there cometh such abundance of fruit out of the same yearly, it is thereby gathered for a surety, that there is some God who governeth all things. For even the heaven and earth are not moved or governed by their own motion, and much less by fortune. Therefore it remaineth, that this wonderful workmanship of nature doth manifestly show the providence of God; and those who said that the world was eternal spake not as they thought, but they went about by malicious and barbarous unthankfulness [ingratitude] to suppress the glory of God, wherein they betrayed their impudence.

“Filling with meat and gladness.” The ungodliness of men is more convict in that, if they knew not God, because he cloth not only set before their eyes testimonies of his glory in his works, but doth also appoint all things for their use. For why doth the sun and stars shine in the heavens, save only that they may serve men? Why doth the rain fall from heaven? Why doth the earth bring forth her increase, save only that they may minister food to men? Therefore, God hath not set man upon earth that he may be an idle beholder of his work, as being set upon a theater, but to exercise himself in praising the liberality of God, whilst that he enjoyeth the riches of heaven and earth. And now, is it not more than filthy forwardness [depravity] not to be moved with so great goodness of God in the manifold abundance of things? To fill the hearts with meat, doth signify nothing else but to give food which may satisfy the desires of men. By this word gladness, Paul and Barnabas do mean that God doth give more to men, according to his infinite goodness, than their necessity doth require; as if it had been said, that men have meat given them not only to refresh their strength, but also to make their hearts merry. If any man do object that it falleth out so oftentimes that men do rather mourn, being hungry, then rejoice, being full; I answer, that that cometh to pass contrary to the order of nature; namely, when the Lord shutteth his hand because of the sins of men. For the liberality of God should flow unto us abundantly of his [its] own accord, as it is here described by Paul and Barnabas, unless it were kept back by the lets of our vices. And yet there was never so great barrenness wherein the blessing of God in feeding men did quite wither away. It was, indeed, well said of the prophet, Open thy mouth, and I will fill it, (Psalm 81:10,) that we may know that we be hungry through our own fault, whilst that we do not admit the goodness of God. But how unworthy soever we be and straight, yet the fatherly love of God breaketh through even unto the unworthy. Especially the generality of mankind doth testify that the benefits of God do never cease, wherein he appeareth to be our Father. Calvin. Acts 14:17.



But we ought in the very order of things diligently to contemplate God’s fatherly love toward mankind in that he did not create Adam until he had lavished upon the universe all manner of good things. For if he had put him in an earth as yet sterile and empty, if he had given him life before light, he would have seemed to provide insufficiently for his welfare. Now when he disposed the movements of the sun and stars to human uses, filled the earth, waters, and air with living things, and brought forth an abundance of fruits to suffice as foods, in thus assuming the responsibility of a foreseeing and diligent father of the family he shows his wonderful goodness toward us. If anyone should more attentively ponder what I only briefly touch upon, it will be clear that Moses was a sure witness and herald of the one God, the Creator. I pass over what I have already explained, that he there not only speaks of the bare essence of God, but also sets forth for us His eternal Wisdom and Spirit; that we may not conjure up some other god than him who would have himself recognized in that clear image. Calvin, Institutes 1.14.2.


Also, although faith is a knowledge of the divine benevolence toward us and a sure persuasion of its truth, there is no wonder that the awareness of divine love vanishes in temporary things. Even if it is close to faith, it differs much from it. The will of God is unchangeable, I admit, and his truth ever remains in agreement with itself. Yet I deny that the reprobate proceed so far as to penetrate into that secret revelation which Scripture vouchsafes only to the elect. I deny, therefore, that they either grasp the will of God as it is immutable, or steadfastly embrace its truth, for they tarry in but a fleeting awareness. They are like a tree not planted deep enough to put down living roots. For some years it may put forth not only blossoms and leaves, but even fruits; nevertheless, it withers after the passage of time. To sum up, just as by the rebellion of the first man the image of God could be wiped out from his mind and soul, no wonder he illumines wicked persons with some rays of his grace, which he later allows to be quenched. Nor does anything prevent him from lightly touching some with a knowledge of his gospel, while deeply imbuing others. In the meantime we ought to grasp this: however deficient or weak faith may be in the elect, still, because the Spirit of God is for them the sure guarantee and seal of their adoption [ Ephesians 1:14; cf. 23 2 Corinthians 1:22], the mark he has engraved can never be erased from their hearts; but on the wicked such light is shed as may afterward pass away. Yet, because he does not give life to the seed that lies in their hearts to keep it ever incorruptible as in the elect, it must not be supposed that the Holy Spirit is false. Calvin, Institutes 3.2.12.


Although this statement is tempered to our feeble comprehension, it is not said falsely. For God, who is the highest righteousness, cannot love the unrighteousness that he sees in us all. All of us, therefore, have in ourselves something deserving of God’s hatred. With regard to our corrupt nature and the wicked life that follows it, all of us surely displease God, are guilty in his sight, and are born to the damnation of hell. But because the Lord wills not to lose what is his in us, out of his own kindness he still finds something to love. However much we may be sinners by our own fault, we nevertheless remain his creatures. However much we have brought death upon ourselves, yet he has created us unto life. Thus he is moved by pure and freely given love of us to receive us into grace. Since there is a perpetual and irreconcilable disagreement between righteousness and unrighteousness, so long as we remain sinners he cannot receive us completely. Therefore, to take away all cause for enmity and to reconcile us utterly to himself, he wipes out all evil in us by the expiation set forth in the death of Christ; that we, who were previously unclean and impure, may show ourselves righteous and holy in his sight. Therefore, by his love God the Father goes before and anticipates our reconciliation in Christ. Indeed, “because he first loved us” [1 John 4:19], he afterward reconciles us to himself. But until Christ succors us by his death, the unrighteousness that deserves God’s indignation remains in us, and is accursed and condemned before him. Hence, we can be fully and firmly joined with God only when Christ joins us with him. If, then, we would be assured that God is pleased with and kindly disposed toward us, we must fix our eyes and minds on Christ alone. For actually, through him alone we escape the imputation of our sins to us an imputation bringing with it the wrath of God. Calvin, Calvin Institutes 2.16.3


Now, since we have established above that man is under a twofold government, and since we have elsewhere discussed at sufficient length the kind that resides in the soul or inner man and pertains to eternal life, this is the place to say something also about the other kind, which pertains only to the establishment of civil justice and outward morality. For although this topic seems by nature alien to the spiritual doctrine of faith which I have undertaken to discuss, what follows will show that I am right in joining them, in fact, that necessity compels me to do so. This is especially true since, from one side, insane and barbarous men furiously strive to overturn this divinely established order; while, on the other side, the flatterers of princes, immoderately praising their power, do not hesitate to set them against the rule of God himself. Unless both these evils are checked, purity of faith will perish. Besides, it is of no slight importance to us to know how lovingly God has provided in this respect for mankind, that greater zeal for piety may flourish in us to attest our gratefulness. First, before we enter into the matter itself, we must keep in mind that distinction which we previously laid down so that we do not (as commonly happens) unwisely mingle these two, which have a completely different nature. For certain men, when they hear that the gospel promises a freedom that acknowledges no king and no magistrate among men, but looks to Christ alone, think that they cannot benefit by their freedom so long as they see any power set up over them. They therefore think that nothing will be safe unless the whole world is reshaped to a new form, where there are neither courts, nor laws, nor magistrates, nor anything which in their opinion restricts their freedom. But whoever knows how to distinguish between body and soul, between this present fleeting life and that future eternal life, will without difficulty know that Christ’s spiritual Kingdom and the civil jurisdiction are things completely distinct. Since, then, it is a Jewish vanity to seek and enclose Christ’s Kingdom within the elements of this world, let us rather ponder that what Scripture clearly teaches is a spiritual fruit, which we gather from Christ’s grace; and let us remember to keep within its own limits all that freedom which is promised and offered to us in him. For why is it that the same apostle who bids us stand and not submit to the “yoke of bondage” [Galatians 5:1] elsewhere forbids slaves to be anxious about their state [1 Corinthians 7:21], unless it be that spiritual freedom can perfectly well exist along with civil bondage? These statements of his must also be taken in the same sense: In the Kingdom of God “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free” [Galatians 3:28, Vg.; order changed]. And again, “there is not Jew nor Greek, uncircumcised and circumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman; but Christ is all in all” [Colossians 3:11]. Calvin, Institutes 4.20.1.

calvin on love to the reprobate or specific reprobates:


1) And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram. He desired, in this way, if it might be, by his holy admonitions, to withhold them from that destruction, on which they were rushing. Therefore he ceased not to provide for their welfare, though he had thus far experienced that they were altogether in a desperate state. Herein he presented a likeness of the loving-kindness of God, by whose Spirit he was directed; not only because he was unwilling to pass sentence without hearing the cause, but also because he endeavored to bring them to repentance, that they might not willfully destroy themselves. Nevertheless it came to pass at this time, as also often afterwards, that not only was the earnestness of the Prophet, with respect to these unbelievers, throw away, but that it hardened them more and more. For we know what was said by Isaiah; “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes: lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with hearts, and convert, and be healed.” ( Isaiah 6:10.) Calvin, Num 16:12.

2) They have broken the everlasting covenant. The third term employed by him is, (berith,) by which he means a covenant and contract. This word is limited to those “contracts” by which the Lord, who adopted his people, promised that he would be their God. (Exodus 19:6; 29:45; Leviticus 26:12.) He therefore charges them with ingratitude, because, when the Lord revealed himself by all these methods, and gave proofs of his love, they were disobedient and rebellious, “transgressed the laws,” and “broke the holy covenant.” Calvin, Isaiah 24:5.

3) “Jehovah hath loved him,” and he shall execute his pleasure on Babylon. He points out a single instance, that God had now deigned to foretell to them the end of their captivity in Babylon. Cyrus is not named by him as the dispenser of this favor, but, as if he were speaking of a man who was known and ascertained, he says, without mentioning the name, that God has chosen him to take Babylon by force. The word loved is not employed in an absolute sense, but “pros ti” with reference to a particular object; and therefore it is limited to the successful result of the expedition. In like manner Saul, with reference to a particular object, was dear to God, so that he reigned for a time, and was even endued with the gift of prophecy. (1 Samuel 10:10.) The case is different with believers, whom God has embraced with an unchangeable love, and whom he never permits to fall away from him. He intimates that Cyrus will take Babylon by force, in consequence of having undertaken this work by God’s appointment and direction, not indeed intentionally on his part, but in such a manner as God makes even the ignorant and blind to go where he pleases, or compels them against their will to yield obedience; for the Prophet does not applaud Cyrus for voluntary obedience, but rather magnifies the providence of God, by which he leads all men to execute his counsel…

“Surely I have called him, I have conducted him.” He declares that everything shall go prosperously with Cyrus, because Jehovah “hath called him;” not that he deserved so high a favor, or obtained it by his own industry or power, but because the Lord was pleased to employ the agency of Cyrus in delivering his people. As to his calling him beloved in the preceding verse, and now saying that he has been “called and conducted,” I explained a little before that this cannot refer to the love of God, by which he adopts us to be his children and calls us to himself; for in this sense Cyrus was not “beloved” or “called.” Though he was endowed with great virtues, yet he was stained by very great vices, ambition and the lust of power, avarice, cruelty, and other vices; and his lamentable end shewed what kind of person he was. The Prophet therefore means that God was favorable to Cyrus, so as to bestow upon him an external blessing, but not so as to adopt him, and to impart to him that grace which he bestows on the elect. We must consider the reason why he calls him by these names. It is because he makes use of the agency of Cyrus for delivering the Church, as we have already explained. Calvin on Is 48:14.

4) “Jesus beholding him, loved him.” The inference which the Papists draw from this, that works morally good that is, works which are not performed by the impulse of the Spirit, but go before regeneration have the merit of congruity, is an excessively childish contrivance. For if merit be alleged to be the consequence of the love of God, we must then say that frogs and fleas have merit, because all the creatures of God, without exception, are the objects of his love. To distinguish the degrees of love is, therefore, a matter of importance. As to the present passage, it may be enough to state briefly, that God embraces in fatherly love none but his children, whom he has regenerated with the Spirit of adoption, and that it is in consequence of this love that they are accepted at his tribunal. In this sense, to be loved by God, and to be justified in his sight, are synonymous terms. But God is sometimes said to love those whom he does not approve or justify; for, since the preservation of the human race is agreeable to Him which consists in justice, uprightness, moderation, prudence, fidelity, and temperance he is said to love the political virtues; not that they are meritorious of salvation or of grace, but that they have reference to an end of which he approves. In this sense, under various points of view, God loved Aristides and Fabricius, and also hated them; for, in so far as he had bestowed on them outward righteousness, and that for the general advantage, he loved his own work in them; but as their heart was impure, the outward semblance of righteousness was of no avail for obtaining righteousness. For we know that by faith alone hearts are purified, and that the Spirit of uprightness is given to the members of Christ alone. Thus the question is answered, How was it possible that Christ should love a man who was proud and a hypocrite, while nothing is more hateful to God than these two vices? For it is not inconsistent, that the good seed, which God has implanted in some natures, shall be loved by Him, and yet that He should reject their persons and works on account of corruption. Calvin, Mark 10:21.

5) For whom the Lord loveth, etc. This seems not to be a well-founded reason; for God visits the elect as well as the reprobate indiscriminately, and his scourges manifest his wrath oftener than his love; and so the Scripture speaks, and experience confirms. But yet it is no wonder that when the godly are addressed, the effect of chastisements which they feel, is alone referred to. For however severe and angry a judge God may show himself towards the reprobate, whenever he punishes them; yet he has no other end in view as to the elect, but to promote their salvation; it is a demonstration of his paternal love. Besides, the reprobate, as they know not that they are governed by God’s hand, for the most part think that afflictions come by chance. As when a perverse youth, leaving his father’s house, wanders far away and becomes exhausted with hunger, cold, and other evils, he indeed suffers a just punishment for his folly, and learns by his sufferings the benefit of being obedient and submissive to his father, but yet he does not acknowledge this as a paternal chastisement; so is the case with the ungodly, who having in a manner removed themselves from God and his family, do not understand that God’s hand reaches to them. Let us then remember that the taste of God’s love towards us cannot be had by us under chastisements, except we be fully persuaded that they are fatherly scourges by which he chastises us for our sins. No such thing can occur to the minds of the reprobate, for they are like fugitives. It may also be added, that judgment must begin at God’s house; though, then, he may strike aliens and domestics alike, he yet so puts forth his hand as to the latter as to show that they are the objects of his peculiar care. But the previous one is the true solution, even that every one who knows and is persuaded that he is chastised by God, must immediately be led to this thought, that he is chastised because he is loved by God. For when the faithful see that God interposes in their punishment, they perceive a sure pledge of his love, for unless he loved them he would not be solicitous about their salvation. Hence the Apostle concludes that God is offered as a Father to all who endure correction. For they who kick like restive horses, or obstinately resist, do not belong to this class of men. In a word, then, he teaches us that God’s corrections are then only paternal, when we obediently submit to him. Calvin, Hebrews 12:6:


1) Furthermore, although it is evident from the teaching of Scripture and daily experience that the wicked are sometimes touched by the awareness of divine grace, a desire to love one another must be aroused in their hearts. Thus, for a time in Saul there flourished a pious impulse to love God. For he knew God was as a father to him, and he was attracted by something delightful about His goodness [1 Samuel, chs. 9 to 11]. But as a persuasion of God’s fatherly love is not deeply rooted in the reprobate, so do they not perfectly reciprocate his love as sons, but behave like hirelings. For that Spirit of love was given to Christ alone on the condition that he instill it in his members. And surely that saying of Paul’s is confined to the elect: “The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” [Romans 5:5, cf. Vg.], that is, the love that generates the above-mentioned confidence that we can call upon him [cf. Galatians 4:6]. Calvin’s Institutes 3.2.12.


Again, it is not without cause that we include all the promises in Christ, since the apostle includes the whole gospel under the knowledge of him [cf. Romans 1:17], and elsewhere teaches that “however many are the promises of God, in him they find their yea and amen” [2 Corinthians 1:20 p.]. The reason for this fact is at hand; for if God promises anything, by it he witnesses his benevolence, so that there is no promise of his which is not a testimony of his love. Nor does it make any difference that, while the wicked are plied with the huge and repeated benefits of God’s bounty, they bring upon themselves a heavier judgment. For they neither think nor recognize that these benefits come to them from the Lord’s hand; or if they do recognize it, they do not within themselves ponder his goodness. Hence, they cannot be apprised of his mercy any more than brute animals can, which, according to their condition, receive the same fruit of God’s liberality, yet perceive it not. Nothing prevents them, in habitually rejecting the promises intended for them, from thereby bringing upon themselves a greater vengeance. For although the effectiveness of the promises only appears when they have aroused faith in us, yet the force and peculiar nature of the promises are never extinguished by our unfaithfulness and ingratitude. Therefore, since the Lord, by his promises, invites man not only to receive the fruits of his kindness but also to think about them, he at the same time declares his love to man. Hence we must return to the point: that any promise whatsoever is a testimony of God’s love toward us. But it is indisputable that no one is loved by God apart from Christ: “This is the beloved Son” [Matthew 3:17; 17:5 p.], in whom dwells and rests the Father’s love. And from him it then pours itself upon us, just as Paul teaches: “We receive grace in the beloved” [Ephesians 1:6 p.], bit must therefore derive and reach us when he himself intercedes. Consequently, the apostle in one passage calls him “our peace” [Ephesians 2:14]; in another, Paul puts him forward as the bond whereby God may be found to us in fatherly faithfulness [cf. Romans 8:3 ff.]. It follows that we should turn our eyes to him as often as any promise is offered to us. And Paul rightly teaches us that all God’s promises are confirmed and fulfilled in him [Romans 15:8]. Calvin, Institutes 3.2.32.


Besides, even the very nature and dispensation of the call clearly demonstrate this fact, for it consists not only in the preaching of the Word but also in the illumination of the Spirit. We learn in the prophet to what people God offers his Word: “I have shown myself to a people not seeking me; I have openly appeared to those who were not asking me. I have said, “Here am I, to a nation that did not call on my name” [Isaiah 65:1]. And that the Jews might not regard this kindness as applying only to the Gentiles, he also reminds them whence he took their father Abraham when he deigned to show favor to him: out of the very midst of idolatry, in which with all his people he had been sunk [cf. Joshua 24:2-3]. When he first shines with the light of his Word upon the undeserving, he thereby shows a sufficiently clear proof of his free goodness. Here, then, God’s boundless goodness is already manifesting itself but not to the salvation of all; for a heavier judgment remains upon the wicked because they reject the testimony of God’s love. And God also, to show forth his glory, withdraws the effectual working of his Spirit from them. This inner call, then, is a pledge of salvation that cannot deceive us. To it applies John’s statement: “We recognize that we are his children from the Spirit, which he has given us” [1 John 3:24; cf. chapter 4:13]. But lest the flesh boast that it did at least answer him when he called and freely offered himself, he declares that it has no ears to hear, no eyes to see, unless he makes them. Furthermore, he makes them not according to each person’s gratefulness but according to his election. You have a notable example of this in Luke, where Jews and Gentiles together hear the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. When all have been instructed by the same Word, it is stated that “those who had been ordained to eternal life believed” [Acts 13:48]. With what shamelessness can we deny that the call is free when in it, even to the last part, election alone reigns? Calvin, Institutes 3.24.2.

Apostate israel as a nation loved by God:

1) We must at the same time notice the reproachful conduct of which I have spoken, That though the woman was loved yet she could not be preserved in chastity, and that she was loved, though an adulteress. Here is pointed out the most shameful ingratitude of the people, and contrasted with it is God’s infinite mercy and goodness. It was the summit of wickedness in the people to forsake their God, when he had treated them with so much benignity and kindness. But wonderful was the patience of God, when he ceased not to love a people, whom he had found to be so perverse, that they could not be turned by any acts of kindness nor retained by any favors. Hos 3:1.

Calvin on specific verses:

genesis 9:6:


1) Now for the better understanding hereof, we must first mark the thing that touched afore: that it is to wit, that God abhors murder, insomuch that although he punish not unadivised manslaughters rigorously: yet he chastises them: whereby he shows that he mislikes of bloodshed. This is a thing well worthy to be noted. For first we se thereby, how greatly God loves us: and he shows the cause thereof in the ninth of Genesis (Gen 9:6), to be for that we be created after his image. He says that the slaying of a man is the doing of wrong to himself. Yee see then that God bears us such love, that he takes himself to be wounded and misused in our persons, because he has made us after his own image. And that to be a warrant of his great goodness and loving-kindness toward us, to make us trust wholly unto him and to honor him… Since it is so, let us bear well in mind, that our Lord’s intent is to persuade us to brotherly love among ourselves, and to agree together, endeavoring to help one another. For all mankind is knit together as it were into one body….

There is a second point which I have touched already: and that is, that God would there should be some correction for such as commit manslaughter unawares. And thereby he shows (as I said afore) that he loves mankind dearly: in so much that if we offend that way, although it be not of malice, but by chance (as they say) and in such wise as the law which he has ordained means, and although we meant not so to do: yet nevertheless we must feel by experience and see with our cries, how dear [a] man’s life is unto him.? Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon 29, 4:39-43, pp., 172, 173, and 174.


1) For in the image of God made he man. For the greater confirmation of the above doctrines God declares, that he is not thus solicitous respecting human life rashly, and for no purpose. Men are indeed unworthy of God’s care, if respect be had only to themselves. but since they bear the image of God engraven on them, He deems himself violated in their person. Thus, although they have nothing of their own by which they obtain the favor of God, he looks upon his own gifts in them, and is thereby excited to love and to care for them. This doctrine, however is to be carefully observed that no one can be injurious to his brother without wounding God himself. Were this doctrine deeply fixed in our minds, we should be much more reluctant than we are to inflict injuries. Should any one object, that this divine image has been obliterated, the solution is easy; first, there yet exists some remnant of it, so that man is possessed of no small dignity; and, secondly, the Celestial Creator himself, however corrupted man may be, still keeps in view the end of his original creation; and according to his example, we ought to consider for what end he created men, and what excellence he has bestowed upon them above the rest of living beings. Calvin, Gen 9:6.

2) We hence see that though these men had never known the doctrine of the law, they were yet so taught by nature that they knew that the blood of man is dear and precious in the sight of God. And as to us, we ought not only to imitate these sailors, but to go far beyond them: for not only ought the law of nature to prevail among us, but also the law of God; for we hear what God had formerly pronounced with his own mouth, ‘Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, shed shall his blood be,’ (Genesis 9:6.) And we know also the reason why God undertakes to protect the life of men, and that is, because they have been created in his image. Whosoever then uses violence against the life of man, destroys, as far as he can the image of the eternal God. Since it is so, ought not violence and cruelty to be regarded by us with double horror? We ought also to learn another thing from this doctrine: God proves by this remarkable testimony what paternal feeling he manifests towards us by taking our life under his own guardianship and protection; and he even proves that we are really the objects of his care, inasmuch as he will execute punishment and vengeance when any one unjustly injures us. We then see that this doctrine on the one side restrains us, that we may not attempt anything against the lives of our brethren; and, on the other side, it assures us of the paternal love of God, so that being allured by his kindness we may learn to deliver up ourselves wholly to his protection. Calvin Jonah 1:13-14.

psalm 8:


1) David, reflecting upon God’s fatherly beneficence towards mankind, is not content with simply giving thanks for it, but is enraptured by the contemplation of it….

David here, with great propriety, expressly celebrates the special favour which God manifests towards mankind; for this, of all the subjects which come under our contemplation, is the brightest mirror in which we can behold his glory….

David, therefore, when reflecting on the incomprehensible goodness which God has been graciously pleased to bestow on the human race, and feeling all his thoughts and senses swallowed up, and overwhelmed in the contemplation, exclaims that it is a subject worthy of admiration, because it cannot be set forth in words. Besides, the Holy Spirit, who directed David’s tongue, doubtless intended, by his instrumentality, to awaken men from the torpor and indifference which is common to them, so that they may not content themselves with celebrating the infinite love of God and the innumerable benefits which they receive at his hand, in their sparing and frigid manner, but may rather apply their whole hearts to this holy exercise, and put forth in it their highest efforts. Calvin, Ps 8:1.

2) Why does he not entrust this business to men, but to show that the tongues of infants, even before they are able to pronounce a single word, speak loudly and distinctly in commendation of God’s liberality towards the human race? Calvin, Ps 8:2:

3) The Hebrew word, ki, might be very properly translated into the disjunctive particle, although, making the meaning to be this although the infinite majesty of God shines forth in the heavenly bodies, and justly keeps the eyes of men fixed on the contemplation of it, yet his glory is beheld in a special manner, in the great favour which he bears to men, and in the goodness which he manifests towards them.

This interpretation would not be at variance with the scope of the passage; but I choose rather to follow the generally received opinion. My readers, however, must be careful to mark the design of the Psalmist, which is to enhance, by this comparison, the infinite goodness of God; for it is, indeed, a wonderful thing that the Creator of heaven, whose glory is so surpassingly great as to ravish us with the highest admiration, condescends so far as graciously to take upon him the care of the human race. That the Psalmist makes this contrast may be inferred from the Hebrew word, enosh, which we have rendered man, and which expresses the frailty of man rather than any strength or power which he possesses. We see that miserable men, in moving upon the earth, are mingled with the vilest creatures; and, therefore, God, with very good reason, might despise them and reckon them of no account if he were to stand upon the consideration of his own greatness or dignity. The prophet, therefore, speaking interrogatively, abases their condition, intimating that God’s wonderful goodness is displayed the more brightly in that so glorious a Creator, whose majesty shines resplendently in the heavens, graciously condescends to adorn a creature so miserable and vile as man is with the greatest glory, and to enrich him with numberless blessings. If he had a mind to exercise his liberality towards any, he was under no necessity of choosing men who are but dust and clay, in order to prefer them above all other creatures, seeing he had a sufficient number in heaven towards whom to show himself liberal. Whoever, therefore, is not astonished and deeply affected at this miracle, is more than ungrateful and stupid. When the Psalmist calls the heavens God’s heavens, and the works of his fingers, he has a reference to the same subject, and intends to illustrate it. How is it that God comes forth from so noble and glorious a part of his works, and stoops down to us, poor worms of the earth, if it is not to magnify and to give a more illustrious manifestation of his goodness? From this, also, we learn, that those are chargeable with a very presumptuous abuse of the goodness of God, who take occasion from it to be proud of the excellence which they possess, as if they had either obtained it by their own skill, or as if they possessed it on account of their own merit; whereas their origin should rather remind them that it has been gratuitously conferred upon those who are otherwise vile and contemptible creatures, and utterly unworthy of receiving any good from God. Whatever estimable quality, therefore, we see in ourselves, let it stir us up to celebrate the free and undeserved goodness of God in bestowing it upon us.

The verb, at the close of the third verse, which others translate to prepare, or to found, or to establish, I have thought proper to render to arrange; for the Psalmist seems to have a reference to the very beautiful order by which God has so appropriately distinguished the position of the stars, and daily regulates their course. When it is said, God is mindful of man, it signifies the same thing as that he bears towards him a fatherly love, defends and cherishes him, and extends his providence towards him. Almost all interpreters render, pakad, the last word of this verse, to visit; and I am unwilling to differ from them, since this sense suits the passage very well. But as it sometimes signifies to remember, and as we will often find in the Psalms the repetition of the same thought in different words, it may here be very properly translated to remember; as if David had said, This is a marvelous thing, that God thinks upon men, and remembers them continually. Calvin, Ps 8:3-4.

4) Thou hast made him little lower. The Hebrew copulative, ki, I have no doubt, ought to be translated into the causal particle for, seeing the Psalmist confirms what he has just now said concerning the infinite goodness of God towards men, in showing himself near to them, and mindful of them. In the first place, he represents them as adorned with so many honours as to render their condition not far inferior to divine and celestial glory. In the second place, he mentions the external dominion and power which they possess over all creatures, from which it appears how high the degree of dignity is to which God hath exalted them. I have, indeed, no doubt but he intends, by the first, the distinguished endowments which clearly manifest that men were formed after the image of God, and created to the hope of a blessed and immortal life. The reason with which they are endued, and by which they can distinguish between good and evil; the principle of religion which is planted in them; their intercourse with each other, which is preserved from being broken up by certain sacred bonds; the regard to what is becoming, and the sense of shame which guilt awakens in them, as well as their continuing to be governed by laws; all these things are clear indications of pre-eminent and celestial wisdom. David, therefore, not without good reason, exclaims that mankind are adorned with glory and honour. To be crowned, is here taken metaphorically, as if David had said, he is clothed and adorned with marks of honour, which are not far removed from the splendour of the divine majesty. The Septuagint render, Elohim, by angels, of which I do not disapprove, since this name, as is well known, is often given to angels, and I explain the words of David as meaning the same thing as if he had said, that the condition of men is nothing less than a divine and celestial state. But as the other translation seems more natural, and as it is almost universally adopted by the Jewish interpreters, I have preferred following it. Nor is it any sufficient objection to this view, that the apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 2:7) quoting this passage, says, little less than the angels, and not than God; for we know what freedoms the apostles took in quoting texts of Scripture; not, indeed, to wrest them to a meaning different from the true one but because they reckoned it sufficient to show, by a reference to Scripture, that what they taught was sanctioned by the word of God, although they did not quote the precise words. Accordingly, they never had any hesitation in changing the words, provided the substance of the text remained unchanged. There is another question which it is more difficult to solve. While the Psalmist here discourses concerning the excellency of men, and describes them, in respect of this, as coming near to God, the apostle applies the passage to the humiliation of Christ. In the first place, we must consider the propriety of applying to the person of Christ what is here spoken concerning all mankind; and, secondly, how we may explain it as referring to Christ’s being humbled in his death, when he lay without form or beauty, and as it were disfigured under the reproach and curse of the cross.

What some say, that what is true of the members may be properly and suitably transferred to the head, might be a sufficient answer to the first question; but I go a step farther, for Christ is not only the first begotten of every creature, but also the restorer of mankind. What David here relates belongs properly to the beginning of the creation, when man’s nature was perfect. But we know that, by the fall of Adam, all mankind fell from their primeval state of integrity, for by this the image of God was almost entirely effaced from us, and we were also divested of those distinguishing gifts by which we would have been, as it were, elevated to the condition of demigods; in short, from a state of the highest excellence, we were reduced to a condition of wretched and shameful destitution. In consequence of this corruption, the liberality of God, of which David here speaks, ceased, so far, at least, as that it does not at all appear in the brilliancy and splendour in which it was manifested when man was in his unfallen state. True, it is not altogether extinguished; but, alas! how small a portion of it remains amidst the miserable overthrow and ruins of the fall. But as the heavenly Father hath bestowed upon his Son an immeasurable fullness of all blessings, that all of us may draw from this fountain, it follows that whatever God bestows upon us by him belongs of fight to him in the highest degree; yea, he himself is the living image of God, according to which we must be renewed, upon which depends our participation of the invaluable blessings which are here spoken of. If any person object that David first put the question, What is man? because God has so abundantly poured forth his favour upon a creature, so miserable, contemptible, and worthless; but that there is no cause for such admiration of God’s favour for Christ, who is not an ordinary man, but the only begotten Son of God. The answer is easy, and it is this: What was bestowed upon Christ’s human nature was a free gift; nay, more, the fact that a mortal man, and the son of Adam, is the only Son of God, and the Lord of glory, and the head of angels, affords a bright illustration of the mercy of God. At the same time, it is to be observed, that whatever gifts he has received ought to be considered as proceeding from the free grace of God, so much the more for this reason, that they are intended principally to be conferred upon us. His excellence and heavenly dignity, therefore, are extended to us also, seeing it is for our sake he is enriched with them. What the apostle therefore says in that passage concerning the abasement of Christ for a short time, is not intended by him as an explanation of this text; but for the purpose of enriching and illustrating the subject on which he is discoursing, he introduces and accommodates to it what had been spoken in a different sense. The same apostle did not hesitate, in Romans 10:6, in the same manner to enrich and to employ, in a sense different from their original one, the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:12: etc. The apostle, therefore, in quoting this psalm, had not so much an eye to what David meant; but making an allusion to these words, Thou hast made him a little lower; and again, Thou hast crowned him with honour, he applies this diminution to the death of Christ, and the glory and honour to his resurrection. A similar account may be given of Paul’s declaration in Ephesians 4:8, in which he does not so much explain the meaning of the text, (Psalm 68:18) as he devoutly applies it, by way of accommodation, to the person of Christ. Calvin, Ps 8:5.

5) Thou hast set him over. David now comes to the second point, which I have just now spoken of, namely, that from the dominion over all things which God has conferred upon men, it is evident how great is the love which he has borne towards them, and how much account he has made of them. As he does not stand in need of any thing himself, he has destined all the riches, both of heaven and earth, for their use. It is certainly a singular honour, and one which cannot be sufficiently estimated, that mortal man, as the representative of God, has dominion over the world, as if it pertained to him by right, and that to whatever quarter he turns his eyes, he sees nothing wanting which may contribute to the convenience and happiness of his life. As this passage is quoted by Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 15:27) where he discourses concerning the spiritual kingdom of Christ, some may object and say, that the meaning he puts upon it is very different from the sense which I have given. But it is easy to answer this objection, and the answer which I give to it is this, That generally the whole order of this world is arranged and established for the purpose of conducing to the comfort and happiness of men. In what way the passage may properly apply to Christ alone, I have already declared a little before. The only thing which now remains to be considered is, how far this declaration extends that all things are subjected to men. Now, there is no doubt, that if there is any thing in heaven or on earth which is opposed to men, the beautiful order which God had established in the world at the beginning is now thrown into confusion. The consequence of this is, that mankind, after they were ruined by the fall of Adam, were not only deprived of so distinguished and honourable an estate, and dispossessed of their former dominion, but are also held captive under a degrading and ignominious bondage. Christ, it is true, is the lawful heir of heaven and earth, by whom the faithful recover what they had lost in Adam; but he has not as yet actually entered upon the full possession of his empire and dominion. Whence the apostle concludes, that what is here said by David will not be perfectly accomplished until death be abolished. Accordingly, the apostle reasons in this manner, “If all things are subdued to Christ, nothing ought to stand in opposition to his people. But we see death still exercising his tyranny against them. It follows then, that there remains the hope of a better state than the present.” Now, this flows from the principle of which I have spoken, that the world was originally created for this end, that every part of it should tend to the happiness of man as its great object. In another part of his writings, the apostle argues on the same principle, when, in order to prove that we must all stand at the last day before the judgment-seat of Christ, he brings forward the following passage, “Unto me every knee shall bow,” (Romans 14:10.) In this syllogism, what Logicians call the minor proposition must be supplied, namely, that there are still too many who proudly and obstinately cast off his yoke, and are averse to bow the knee in token of their submission to him. Calvin Ps 8:6.

6) The sum is this: God, in creating man, gave a demonstration of his infinite grace and more than fatherly love towards him, which ought justly to strike us with amazement; and although, by the fall of man, that happy condition has been almost entirely ruined, yet there is still in him some remains of the liberality which God then displayed towards him, which should suffice to fill us with admiration. In this mournful and wretched overthrow, it is true, the legitimate order which God originally established no longer shines forth, but the faithful whom God gathers to himself, under Christ their head, enjoy so much of the fragments of the good things which they lost in Adam, as may furnish them with abundant matter of wonder at the singularly gracious manner in which God deals with them. David here confines his attention to God’s temporal benefits, but it is our duty to rise higher, and to contemplate the invaluable treasures of the kingdom of heaven which he has unfolded in Christ, and all the gifts which belong to the spiritual life, that by reflecting upon these our hearts may be inflamed with love to God, that we may be stirred up to the practice of godliness, and that we may not suffer ourselves to become slothful and remiss in celebrating his praises. Calvin Ps 8:7-9.

The wicked cherished by God:

1) Some here take the Hebrew word, olam, for the world, but improperly. It rather denotes in this passage an age; and what David complains of is, that the prosperity of the wicked is stable and of long duration, and that to see it last so long wears out the patience of the righteous. Upon seeing the wicked so tenderly cherished by God, he descends to the consideration of his own case; and as his conscience bore him testimony that he had walked sincerely and uprightly, he reasons with himself as to what advantage he had derived from studiously devoting himself to the practice of righteousness, since he was afflicted and harassed in a very unusual degree. Calvin, Ps 73: 12.

[See also Calvin on Matthew 23:37, John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9]

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