BY JOHN CALVIN
DEFENCE OF THE SECRET PROVIDENCE
THE moment I think of speaking upon that Providence of God, by which He governs not only the vast machinery of the whole world and each smallest part of it, but also the hearts and the actions of men, a mighty and complex subject presents itself before me. But as I have already treated of the stupendous matter in a manner calculated, I hope, to satisfy, in a measure, all sound-minded and unprejudiced readers, I shall only touch it in a summary and passing manner upon the present occasion, adopting all possible brevity. Nor indeed can any splendour of speech be expected from me, nor any brilliancy of thought that shall correspond with the magnitude and excellency of the theme. I shall merely recapitulate, in a few bare words, those arguments which I have fully developed in my "Institutes" But if I shall see such need, I will now interweave with these arguments some further testimonies from the Holy Scripture. And I shall also, as I hope, so wash away, by a plain refutation, the designing and malignant cavils of Pighius* and his fellows,? that they shall not, in the least degree, hurt or hinder the minds of the godly.
By Providence, we mean, not an unconcerned sitting of God in heaven, from which He merely observes the things that are done in the world; but that all-active and all-concerned seatedness on His throne above, by which He governs the world which He Himself hath made. So that God, as viewed in the glass of His Providence, is not only the Maker of all things in a moment, but the perpetual Ruler of all things which He hath created. That Providence, therefore, which we ascribe to God, pertains as much to His operating hands as to His observing eyes. When, therefore, God is said to rule the world by His Providence, we do not merely mean that He maintains and preserves that order of nature which He had originally purposed in Himself, but that He holds and continues a peculiar care of every single creature that He has created. And true and certain is the fact, that as it was the wonderful wisdom of God that originally made the world, and disposed it in its present beautiful order, so, unless the omnipotent power of God, ever present, sustained it thus created and disposed it, it could not continue in its designed order and form one hour.
That the sun rises upon us day by day; that in a course so rapid his rays should be so tempered and his degrees so adjusted; that the order of the stars, so wonderfully arranged, should never be disturbed; that the vicissitudes of the seasons should recur so continuously; that the earth should open her bowels with such annual regularity for the nourishment of man; that the elements and their separate particles should not cease to perform their appointed functions; in a word, that the fecundity of nature should never be worn out nor fail?all this marvellous operation, co-operation and continuance, can surely never be thought to proceed from any other cause than from the directing hand of God! And what else is the 104th Psalm but a long and loud praise of this universal Providence! The apostle Paul lauds this same Divine Providence when he says, "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts xvii. 28). Wherefore, as the one only God has an essence peculiar to Himself, so that living principle of vegetation, by which all creatures subsist and without which they must soon perish, must be considered by faith a secret infusion of God.
But the knowledge of a general and universal Providence is vague and confused, unless we hold, at the same time, the belief, and indulge the contemplation, that God covers under the wings of His care each single one of His creatures. To teach us this glorious lesson was the object of Christ when He said, "That not a sparrow that is sold for half a farthing falls to the ground without the heavenly Father's knowledge" (Matt. x. 29). In considering this special Providence of God, however, by which He secretly broods over the care of each individual creature as the work of His hands, it will be necessary that we take a sacred view of the certain degrees and distinct peculiarities which it divinely embraces.
As man is the noblest work of God, for whose "good" all things were created which the heavens and the earth contain, the Scripture sets forth the Providence of God as concerned principally in the care and government of the human race. Paul, in explanation of that passage, "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn," observes, "Doth God take care of oxen?" implying that the providential care of God does not rest on them in particular as its peculiar sphere of action, but is more especially employed in the care of men. In this respect, as the course of the Divine Providence lies in the dealings of God with men as beings endowed with reason, its conduct assumes a surer light and a brighter glory. For marvellous are the judgments of God; at one time, in punishing the wicked; at another, in teaching the faithful patience and crucifying their flesh; at another, in purging out the wickednesses of the world; at another, in awakening the sleep and sloth of many; at another, in breaking down the arrogance of the proud; at another, in making the wisdom of the wise a laughing-stock; at another, in destroying the machinations of the malicious. On the other hand, the surpassing goodness of God is brightly displayed in succouring the distressed, in protecting and defending the cause of the innocent, and in coming to the assistance of those who are in despair of all help. The 107th Psalm contains a beautiful and glorious description of the conduct of the Providence of God, which is manifested towards men. In that Psalm the prophet shows that those vicissitudes, which men generally consider violent floods of change, are not waves of trouble, rolling over men with blind impetuosity, as it were, but bright glasses wherein to behold the goodness, the wrath, or the justice of God! And at the close of this blessed Psalm, the penman of it draws the concluding inference that if the godly and the "wise" would duly "observe" these various changes in the world, they would gain understanding in the ways of God, and would find abundant cause for rejoicing. While the Psalmist also implies that the same contemplation, if exercised by the wicked, would stop their mouths, by giving them an awe-striking sight of the wonderful works of God!
But here we must take a view of other and loftier steps of the Divine Providence. For though God thus shows Himself the Father and the Judge of the whole human race, yet, as the Church is His sanctuary in which He resides, He there manifests His presence by clearer and brighter proofs; He there shows Himself as the Father of His family, and condescends to grant a nearer view of Himself, if I may so speak. The Scripture is filled with testimonies of this, which declare that God keeps a more especial watch over the faithful: "The eyes of the Lord (saith David) are over the righteous" (Ps. xxxiii. 21); "He preserveth the souls of His saints" (Ps. xcvii. 10); "For He careth for you," saith Peter (1 Peter v. 7); "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered," saith the Lord Himself (Matt. x. 30). In a word, the Church is the great workroom of God, wherein, in a more especial manner, He displays His wonderful works; and it is the more immediate theatre of His glorious Providence.
For this reason it is that God is said to have appointed angels, which are, as it were, His hands, to be guardians in a peculiar manner to His saints that believe in Him; that the angels also might have no separate position or office apart from the body of Christ, of which they also are members. Therefore, that we may take a circumspective and comprehensive view of the whole Divine matter, our eyes must rest, first, on that general government of the whole world, by which all things are cherished and caused to vegetate, that the natural state of them all, collectively and individually, may remain and be preserved the same.
Secondly, our eyes must rest on the watchfulness of God, in ruling and guarding the single parts and particles of all these created things, which watchfulness is such that nothing occurs in them or concerning them, unknown or unnoticed. We must look, thirdly, at God's more especial care of the human race, which is such that the life and death of men, the public destinies of kingdoms and of nations, and the private cases of individuals, and whatsoever men usually ascribe to fortune, are under His heavenly rule and disposal. And lastly, we must contemplate that peculiar protection by which God defends His Church, in which protection He more expressly manifests His presence and His power.
The vast and multiform utility of this doctrine no words can adequately express. Nor will anyone profitably contemplate the Providence of God in the government of the world, as it is set before us in the Scriptures and seen by faith, but he who, feeling that he has to do so with his Maker and with the Creator of all things, first "bows the head" with that awe and reverence and with that humility which becomes one standing before such stupendous Majesty! For if man is ever wont to pay such honour to his fellow-men, as to judge of their works with candour and modesty, especially where anything seems somewhat obscure and difficult to comprehend at the moment; if man, in such cases, is the more anxious and diligent in inquiring into the truth, and would rather suspend his judgment than, by a hasty decision, do his fellow-man an injury; is it not, I ask, worse than madness, and something more than ferocity, to use a tenfold greater liberty with God, and to bring His stupendous works down to the scale of our puny judgment; to pronounce a precipitate opinion upon things infinitely sublime and wholly incomprehensible; to attempt to fathom His secret counsels; and, above all, to trifle with mysteries so deep and so profoundly adorable? This insolence has, indeed, stalked abroad in all ages, but has taken greater strides and made louder boasts in the present day than in any age or time preceding. Many infidels now-a-days, finding that they cannot tear God down from heaven (which, like the giants of old, they really attempt to do), strive mightily, at least, to force out of their own and all other men's consciences every particle of religion and of true worship, by vomiting forth the foulest and basest blasphemies, thus betraying their profanity, and their rage against God and His truth.
In the greater part of these characters the source of all the evil is evidently this: being persons of a light and fervid spirit, they first give indulgence to their own vain curiosity. Then, having no fixed aim or object before them, they give themselves up to utterly useless speculations. Upon the back of this comes an unbridled audacity, which instigates their tongues to speak with a rashness exactly commensurate with their impudence. Others, again, are the subjects of an evil state of spirit, different indeed, but just as mischievous. For, bewildering themselves in absurd dreams, they drown their minds in self-will, or desperation, or sloth. Now all these are the very wiles of the devil; and his object in adopting them is to involve the true, sound and holy doctrine in all sorts of "lying wonders" of inventions, by which means he would not only rob us of all its profitableness and fruit, but would also render it either contemptible, or hateful, or destructive. But whatsoever plans the devil may adopt, be it ours ever to steer clear of the perverted caution to which some have recourse, who, to meet such perils as these, find no shorter way than the obscuring or corrupting of that which the Scripture declares with alt possible and naked simplicity.
Now, a much more appropriate and effectual remedy for all these evils is to hold our minds under the constant consideration in what manner and to what end the Providence of God should be contemplated. The first end is, that it may keep us free from all presumptuous confidence and hold us fast in the fear of God, and also may stir us up to continual prayer. A second end is to bring us to rest upon God with still and peaceful minds, and to teach us to despise, in all courage and security, the dangers which surround us on every side and the numberless deaths which constantly threaten us from every quarter. Each of these great ends I will now, with all possible brevity, endeavour to explain. Those who imagine that there is any such a thing as fortune or chance, or who expect anything from their own industry, or plans, or labours, are carried hither and thither after every expedient, are driven in all directions, turn every stone (as they say), devise every new means, and gallop about like the horse in an open field. But with all this to do, there is no prayer, no fear of God!
He, however, who knows and feels that men and their counsels, and the issues of all things, are ruled and overruled by the Providence of God, will confess with trembling, as did the prophet Jeremiah: "I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself: it is not, in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. x. 23). Bearing in mind also those words of Solomon?"A man's goings are of the Lord: how can a man, then, understand his own way?" (Prov. xx. 24) ?he will commit himself wholly unto God, and depend entirely upon Him. Where there is such a state of mind, prayers will ever follow, that God will begin and perfect every work which we undertake, while we thus rest on Him in all quietness, and on Him alone. Just in the same degree will he who dreams about the will of fortune give himself up to be driven about in fear by the devil and by the wicked, as by ferocious brute animals?as if they could do anything of themselves! And thus will such an one fret and fume with perpetual anxiety; and, looking at his life as hanging continually by a single thread, as it were, he will live in unending torment. He will scarcely be able to put forth one foot without despairing of his life or well-being. Whereas the faithful, having the all-ruling hand of God ever before them, will never hesitate to cast all their cares and concerns upon Him. And they will all the while rest assured that the devil and all wicked men, whatever tumults they may cause, are not only held of God by their feet in chains, but are compelled to do His pleasure, under which assurance they will pass their lives in security and peace.
The two following distinctions will also throw a Divine light upon this sacred matter. The Providence of God is to be viewed with reference to all time past, as well as in connection with all time future. In contemplating the Divine Providence of the former, all power is to be ascribed to God in all things (whether viewed with their means [media], without their means [media], or contrary to their mediums [media]?that God ordains and appoints all things. The consideration of the time past should be thus: If anything has taken place successfully, and in fulfilment of a mortal man's wishes, let him not "sacrifice to his own drag" (as Habakkuk expresses it); nor let him speak of his own prudence, virtue or good fortune; nor give that praise to man, nor to any creature, which is due to God alone. But let him ever feel assured that God was the first cause and author of all his good, through what secondary medium soever it came. And in the case of all preceding adversities, let a man rest in the consolation that all took place according to the good pleasure of God; for by complaining and contending against God, I shall profit myself nothing, and shall bind myself in the chain of the guilt of impious obstinacy against my Maker. And let a man so entertain the memory of his past life, as to acknowledge, in all the punishments he has endured, the sins he has committed which caused them.
With reference to the time future, the Providence of God is to be contemplated by all godly minds thus: Let the minds of the godly be ever intently fixed on God's promises and threatenings. For as soon as their minds turn aside from these, they are shut up against all instruction in the fear of God, and the progress of faith ceases. But he who shall always keep his eye fixed on the omnipotence of God, as seen in the glass of His Word, and shall rely on His promises therein also contained, will mount on the wings of faith above all the countless perils of the world. And then, bowing before the threatenings of God also beheld in His Word, he will humble himself under the sight of them as so many rods.
When I spoke of the Providence of God being viewed with its mediums, my meaning was this: If anyone shall have assisted his fellow-man when sunk under an extremity of distress, the deliverance rendered by the hand of man is not a human, but a Divine deliverance. The sun rises day by day; but it is God that enlightens the earth by his rays. The earth brings forth her fruits; but it is God that giveth bread, and it is God that giveth strength by the nourishment of that bread. In a word, as all inferior and secondary causes, viewed in themselves, veil like so many curtains the glorious God from our sight (which they too frequently do), the eye of faith must be cast up far higher, that it may behold the hand of God working by all these His instruments. But in what manner the Providence of God can work, without any medium or instrument at all, Christ taught us by His own example, when He repelled the assaulting Tempter with this shield: "Man doth not live by bread only: but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live" (Matt. iv. 4). For as the Redeemer knew that the power of God needed no external support whatever, so He knew that He could supply that strength without bread, which He is nevertheless mercifully pleased to supply by means of bread.
And O! what glory is due to the Providence of God when viewed contrary to all means (media)! When I am persuaded that it is mightier than all obstacles that can oppose it! By this confidence alone I am conqueror of every fear or apprehension. Indeed, this is the very wrestling school in which God exercises and tries our faith. When so many obstacles present themselves before us which seem likely to prevent His designs (as we view them), how many creatures appear in a threatening form, above and below, in heaven and in earth! And what, in such case, is to be done? If our faith can but mount up to the Divine height of the power of God, it will combat and conquer with no great trouble all the means (media) which stand in its way, and which strive to prevent its victory. Whosoever, therefore, shall restrain himself within these bounds, and shall neither torture himself with perplexed speculations, nor make an excuse for indolence because he hears that God alone doeth all things such an one shall neither sink under despair, nor turn aside to frivolous reasonings, which are wholly unbecoming in the presence of the Majesty of God.
But we must now examine this sacred subject still more narrowly. Whence arise contentions about the Providence of God? The Divine Providence itself, rightly considered and contemplated, as it ought to be, genders no contention. But human reason, when considering the works of God, finding itself blind, rushes into a quarrel with its Maker. But what marvel, if those counsels of God harmonise not with fleshly reason, which the angels, with uplift eyes, wonder at and adore! This depravity, however, is utterly intolerable, that we, who by nature are hardly gifted with worthiness to creep as worms on the earth, should approve of nothing but that which, as if lying on the ground, we can look down upon with our natural eyes. But in order that this Divine doctrine of the Providence of God may become profitable, it will be, we hope, a useful labour in us thus to calm the minds of the ignorant and inexperienced, and to refute the "slanders" of the wicked and profane.
For these ends it will be desirable to consider, in the first place, that the will of God is the great cause of all things that are done in the whole world; and yet, that God is not the author of the evils that are done therein. But I will not say, with Augustine?which, however, I readily acknowledge to have been truly said by him?"In sin or in evil, there is nothing positive." For this is an acuteness of argument which, to many, may not be satisfactory. I would rather assume another principle of argument, and say, "Those things which are vainly or unrighteously done by man are, rightly and righteously, the works of God!" And if this should appear to some, at first sight, to be paradoxical or self-contradictory, let not such be so fastidious or hasty as not to inquire, with me, into the Word of God, and see how the Divine matter stands as viewed in that glass. But again, that I may not defend anything with senseless pertinacity as belonging properly to God, which I have only ascribed to Him myself by my own opinion, let us hear what the Scripture really testifies, and let us form our definition of the works of God wholly from thence. As to all those things which God really directs by His counsel, but which, as generally viewed, seem to be fortuitous; concerning all such things the clear testimony of the Scripture runs thus, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord!" (Prov. xvi. 33.) In like manner, if a branch falling from a tree, or an axe slipping out of a man's hand unawares, should fall upon the head of a passer-by and kill him, Moses testifies that God did this according to His Divine purpose (Deut. xix. 5), who willed that that man should be killed. Other Scripture testimonies to the same purport I here advisedly leave unadduced, because my intention is only to point at them with my finger on the present occasion. But since the Stoics found, on such arguments as these, their doctrine of necessity, the true doctrine of the will and purpose of God, is hateful to many, even to those who dare not condemn it as false. But this doctrine of Stoica1 necessity is an old calumny laid upon us, under the burden of which Augustine frequently complains that he was bowed down. It ought to have ceased long ere this. But certainly, for men professing any honesty, or candour, or faith, to lay such a reproach upon us is most unworthy of them, and most disgraceful.
What the vain imagination of the Stoics was is well known. They wove their doctrine of fate out of Gordias' web of complex causes, in which, when they had entangled God Himself, they fabricated certain golden chains (as the fables have it) to bind the very God of heaven, and to make Him subject to inferior and secondary causes! The Stoics are imitated by the astrologers of the present day, who make their doctrine of fated necessity out of certain positions of the stars. We leave the Stoics, then, to their doctrine of fate, while we acknowledge the will of God to be the ruling cause of all things. But to take contingency out of the world altogether would be absurd. I omit to notice here those various distinctions which are made in the schools. That which I shall adduce shall be simple, in my judgment, and not strained; and also, that which shall be profitable for the conduct of life.
I would argue, then, in this manner: What God hath decreed must necessarily come to pass; yet so, that what does thus come to pass is not, in itself, really and naturally a necessity. We have a familiar illustration of this in the bones of Christ our Lord. The Scripture plainly testifies that Christ assumed a body in all things like unto ours. Wherefore, no man in his senses will hesitate to confess that the bones of Christ's body were frangible like our own. There appears to me, however, to be another and a separate question involved in this matter: Whether any bone of Christ's could be broken? For, according to God's decree and Word, it was necessary that all the parts of His body should remain whole, unbroken and uninjured. Not that I am thus speaking and arguing because I wholly object to the received forms of expression, when men speak of necessity as being, in one sense, absolute, or when they speak of the necessity of the consequent or the necessity of the consequence. But I speak thus, and argue thus, that no subtlety of reasoning might prevent the simplest reader from understanding and acknowledging the truth of what I testify. If, therefore, we consider the nature of the bones in the body of Christ, they were frangible, or capable of being broken. But if we look at the decree of God, which was fulfilled in its time, the bones of Christ's body were no more subject to fracture than the angels are subject to human sorrows. In this case, therefore, when we are required to look into the law and order of nature as appointed of God, I by no means reject the contingency involved, in my sense and meaning of such contingency.
We must here also carefully bear in mind that principle which I have before laid down, that when God displays His power through means (media) and secondary causes, that power of His is never to be separated from those means or inferior causes. It is the excess of a drunkard to say, "God has decreed all that is to come to pass, and that must come to pass; therefore, to interpose any care or study, or endeavour of ours, is superfluous and vain." But since God prescribes to us what we ought to do, and wills that we should be the instruments of the operation of His power, let us ever deem it unlawful in us to sunder those things which He hath joined together. For instance, God, "in the beginning," commanded the earth to bring forth every kind of herb and fruit without any human art or culture. But now He makes use of the hand of man as the instrument of His operation: If any one should boastingly desire to receive bread by merely opening his indolent mouth, because the blessing of God fructifies the earth, he would not only, by such a boast, trample underfoot the Providence of God, but would do away with it altogether. For he would separate and rend asunder those things which God has joined together by an inseparable connection.
Wherefore, with reference to the time future, since the events of things are, as yet, hidden and unknown, everyone ought to be as intent upon the performance of his duty as if nothing whatever had been decreed concerning the issue in each particular case. Or (to speak more properly) every man ought so to hope for success in all things which he undertakes at the command of God, as to be freely prepared to reconcile every contingency with the sure and certain Providence of God. The Lord, moreover, promises His blessing upon the work of our hands. By this promise each godly man will acknowledge himself to be appointed of God, an instrument of His glorious Providence. And such godly one, relying on this same promise, will gird himself with alacrity to his undertaking, and will be persuaded that he is not casting into the air labour in vain; but, resting on the Word of God, he will believe that God, by His secret counsel, will direct all his labour to the issue that shall be best. In a word, as the Providence of God, rightly considered, does not bind our hands, but free them for work, so it not only does not hinder prayer, but strengthens and confirms its earnestness.
A like sobriety of mind ought to temper our judgments concerning the time past, and in reference to things which may have already taken place. There is no exhortation more conducive to patience than our hearing that nothing happens by chance; but that whatever takes place, is the fulfilment of that which has been decreed by "the good pleasure" of God. Meanwhile, it by no means follows that our own indolence, or rashness, or thoughtlessness, or some other fault, is not the immediate cause of any adversity under which we may be suffering. And though the causes of events are not always clearly seen, or understood, yet godly minds will not, even under such ignorance, cease to render unto God the praise of His wisdom and justice in every event that transpires.
Where, however, the counsels, the wills, the purposes, and the attempts of men intervene, a greater difficulty of argument and judgment presents itself to our thoughts, especially when we desire to show how the Providence of God reigns and rules in all such cases also; not only to prevent anything from being done otherwise than according to His will, but also that men may not even agitate anything in their deliberations but what He inspires. God gives indeed daily and marvellous proofs of His Providence where He gives full rein to the foolish counsels of men, and, seeming not to notice their great preparations, frustrates by the issue all their hopes. The Scripture also reveals another field, wherein God manifests His dominion and the mighty working of His hand?when He makes the wicked mad; when He strikes them with a bewildered giddiness, or deprives them of their senses, or stuns them with stupefaction; and when also He "takes away their spirit," strips them of their courage, and so fills them with fear, that they are death-struck by the fall of a leaf! Pighius, therefore, wants common consideration, when he would confine God within the narrow limits of His material creation; when he would make of God nothing more than a kind of wise manager, or a skilful general, who, well versed in military tactics foresees the plans of his enemies, and forms his counterplots, as remedies, according to circumstances. As if the Scripture did not plainly represent God as He "Who taketh the wise in their own craftiness," cutteth off the spirit of princes, and maketh their "knowledge foolishness"! It is, therefore, the grossest ignorance in Pighius, when he denies that when a man is killed designedly by his fellow man, he dies by the will and decree of God! He entertains this idea, I suppose, imagining that where the will of man is engaged, the will of God is not concerned! What is to become, then, of all those testimonies of the Scripture which declare that the swords of men are wielded by the hand of God? Were the sons of Eli killed without the will of man? Yet the praise is given to God; that it was He who righteously willed that they should be slain (1 Sam. iv. 1o~12). But that God continually rules the hands of men, that He sometimes binds them fast and at other times turns them this way and that to execute His eternal decrees, no one will call in question who has the least acquaintance whatever with the Scriptures. Nay, it is a fact, universally admitted by common sense, that whatsoever men undertake, the issue thereof is in the hand of God. But since even this knowledge in men is generally weak and unsettled through the dense darkness of the human mind, the Scripture has erected for us a loftier place of observation, by standing on which we may look around us and behold God so ruling and overruling all the works of men, as to bring them to the issue which Himself hath decreed.
The sum and substance, however, of the whole Divine matter is this: Although men, like brute beasts confined by no chains, rush at random here and there, yet God by His secret bridle so holds and governs them, that they cannot move even one of their fingers without accomplishing the work of God much more than their own! But the faithful, who render unto Him their willing service, as do the angels, are to be considered, in a peculiar manner, the hands of God! I am now, however, speaking more immediately of those men whose purposes are anything but a desire to do the will of God, or to adopt any counsel consistent or in harmony with His counsel, or in accordance with His will. The wicked do indeed frequently glory in themselves at any accomplishment of their wishes. But the event at length proves that they were only fulfilling all the while that which had been ordained of God, and that, too, against their own will, while they knew nothing about it! Moreover, God Himself very frequently makes use of the wicked to punish the sins of men, especially of His own people. And sometimes He drags them by the neck, as it were, to make them the instruments of His goodness to men and saints.
To adduce instances of the former marvellous dispensations of His Providence would be a labour too great and too extensive for our present purpose. It would, however, be better perhaps just to touch with our finger a few examples. God having excited the Assyrian to make war on Judah, calls him the "rod of His anger," and declares that he was armed with the "staff of His indignation" for his weapon (Isaiah x. 5). But the same adorable God afterwards inveighs against his pride, and rebukes him for not acknowledging himself to be "an axe" and "a saw" waged and forged by another's (God's) hand (ver. 15). In this same manner those whom their own ambition, or cruelty, or avarice, urges on to violent deeds, are said to be "sanctified" of God to do His work, and to be His hired soldiers to accomplish His purposes. The Lord Himself, moreover, testifies that He calls such together by His "hiss" and by His "trumpet," to take up arms in His cause, to perform His decrees (ver. 26). That the way of God's goodness is prepared by the evil deeds of men one single portion of the writings of Moses will fully demonstrate. The conspiracy of the brethren of Joseph against him was more than wicked, perfidious and cruel, when they sold him to the Midianites. But Joseph himself transfers the cause of this selling him, though with a different motive, to God Himself! "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God" (Gen. xlv. 5, 8). It is evident, therefore, that though they did wickedly, God nevertheless did His work by their means, that they might find life in death. They, as far as their own intent was concerned, had killed their brother. But, out of that intent life (that is, provision for their natural life, and that of their whole family) shone upon them.
We may see the same working of God in Satan, the captain of all the wicked and the prince of all darkness and iniquities. God sends Satan to Ahab, with his own Divine command that he should be "a lying spirit in the mouth of all the king's prophets." Thus the impostor spirit becomes the minister of the wrath of God, to blind the wicked who would not be obedient to His truth. On the other hand, the apostle Paul calls the "thorn in the flesh" that was sent upon him, the "messenger of Satan to buffet him." Here the poison of Satan is made of God an antidote to cure the apostle's pride. Now, what kind of a physician, I pray you, is Satan in himself, who has never learned anything but to kill and to destroy? But God, who once commanded the light to shine out of darkness, can marvellously bring, if He pleases, salvation out of hell itself, and thus turn darkness itself into light. But what worketh Satan? In a certain sense, the work of God! That is, God, by holding Satan fast bound in obedience to His Providence, turns him whithersoever He will, and thus applies the great enemy's devices and attempts to the accomplishment of His own eternal purposes!
Now if the Scripture did not clearly express God's secondary or instrumental mode of operation, this knot would not, even then, be very difficult to untie. The other and more difficult question is, whether it is God that works in the hearts of men, directs all their counsels, and turns their wills this way and that, and prevents them from doing anything but that which He hath decreed they should do. We are not here inquiring whether or not God works all the godly and holy affections which are found in the hearts of His people, because that is, beyond all dispute, certain. The great question is, whether He holds also in the hand of His power all the depraved and impious affections of the wicked, and turns them hither and thither, that they might desire to do that which He hath decreed to accomplish by their means?
Most certainly, when Solomon declares that "the heart of the king is in the hand of God, and that, as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Prov. xxi. 1), his intention is to shew, generally, that not only the wills of kings but all their external actions are overruled by the will and disposal of God. Moses saith that the heart of Pharaoh was hardened by the Lord Himself. It is in vain here to flee to the common refuge of God's permission, as if God could be said to have done that which He only permitted to be done! And Moses positively affirms that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was the work of God. Nor, indeed, is the cruelty of the heart of Pharaoh ascribed to the counsel of God in any other sense than when, elsewhere, He is said to have given unto His people favour in the eyes of the Egyptians. For who does not see that savage and ferocious beasts were tamed and made gentle by the power of God, when such men as the Egyptians were turned, on a sudden, to clemency? From what cause and to what end, then, can we say that Pharaoh evinced such inhuman cruelty, but because it pleased the Lord; partly, that He might thereby prove the patience of His people; and partly, that He might shew forth His own almighty power? In this same manner God is said to have "turned the heart of their enemies to hate His people" (Ps. cv. 25). Nor does that passage at all alter the case, where it is said, that " Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also" (Exod. viii. 32), because we do not make it appear that the minds of men are impelled by any outward influence to do violently, nor do we impute to God the cause of their being hardened; as if cruel and hardhearted persons did not act spontaneously from their own malice, and become of themselves excited to obstinacy and presumption! What we maintain is, that when men act perversely, they do so (according to the testimony of the Scripture) by the ordaining purpose of God. This is also set forth in another part of the Scripture, where it is said that when the inhabitants of Gibeon set themselves in opposition to Israel, they did so according to the decree and purpose of God, who hardened their heart, as it is said, Josh. xi. 20: "For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might destroy them utterly."
The very manner in which God thus works is also set forth in the Scripture. For in one place it testifies that God, being angry with the people, moved the heart of David to number the people (2 Sam. xxiv. 1); but, in another place, it is said concerning this very same act of David, that the instigator of this pride in David was Satan, and that it was he who moved David to number the people (1 Chron. xxi. 1). From which we see that Satan was the rod of God's wrath, and that God, by such means of devils and of men, impels the hearts of men whithersoever He will. This is still more expressly set forth in another part of the Word of God, where it is said that "an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul" (1 Sam. xvi. 24; xvi. 23). Now Saul acted, indeed, from his own wickedness. He exercised the malice concealed within by a voluntary action. Nevertheless, it was Satan that urged him on; and that, not while God was a mere inactive observer, but while God willed it. Indeed, the evil spirit could not, with propriety, have been said to be "from the Lord," unless he had been the Lord's ordained minister, to execute His vengeance and to be, as it were, His executioner. Nor is Satan merely the minister of God's wrath by his instigating men's minds to evil passions and acts, but by effectually dragging them and leading them captive, at his will, into wicked actions.
It is in this same momentous sense that Paul speaks when he testifies that effectual error and "strong delusions" are sent on men, that they might believe a lie; because they would not obey the truth." Hence you see that Satan is not only "a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets," at the express command of God, but also that his impostures so ensnare the reprobate, that, being utterly deprived of their reason, they are, of necessity, dragged headlong into error. In this same manner also must we understand the apostle, when he says that those who were ungrateful to God "were delivered over to a reprobate mind," and "given up to vile and foul affections," that they should work "that which is unseemly, and defile their own natural bodies one among another." Upon which Scripture Augustine remarks that these reprobate characters were not given up to the corrupt affections of their hearts by the mere permission of God as an unconcerned spectator, but by His righteous decree, because they had basely profaned His glory. In what manner this was done that same passage of the Scripture (2 Thess. ii. 11) plainly declares: "God sent upon them strong delusion." Whence that which I have just stated is perfectly plain: that the internal affections of men are not less ruled by the hand of God than their external actions are preceded by His eternal decree; and. moreover, that God performs not by the hands of men the things which He has decreed. without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform. Wherefore, the sentiments of Augustine on these momentous points are to be fully received and maintained. "When God (says he) willeth that to be done which cannot be effected, in the course of the things of this world, without the wills of men. He at the same time inclines their hearts to will to do it, and also Himself does it, not only by aiding their hearts to desire to do it, but also by decreeing it, that they cannot but do it. Whereas these same persons had in their own minds no such purpose as 'to do that which the hand and the counsel of God had afore decreed to be done.'" Augustine, moreover, most wisely proposes that to be considered concerning the very seeds and principles of nature, upon the consideration of which so many are unwilling to enter; that that great diversity which is seen in the dispositions of men, and which is evidently implanted in them of God, affords a manifest evidence of that His secret operation, by which He moves and rules the hearts of all mankind.
From all that has been said, we can at once gather how vain and fluctuating is that flimsy defence of the Divine justice which desires to make it appear that the evil things that are done, are so done, not by the will of God, but by His permission only. As far, indeed, as those evil things which men perpetrate with an evil mind are, in themselves, evil, I willingly confess (as I will immediately more fully explain) that they by no means please God. But for men to represent God as sitting unconcerned, and merely permitting those things to be done which the Scripture plainly declares to be done, not only by His will, but by His authority, is a mere way of escape from the truth, utterly frivolous and vain. Augustine did, indeed, sometimes give way to this popular method of speaking; but where he devotes himself more closely to the consideration of the matter, and examines it more thoroughly, he by no means suffers the permission to be substituted for the act of God. I will not cite verbatim all that the holy father says upon this subject in the Fifth Book of his Discussion of it, written against Julian. Let the production of one passage from it suffice on this occasion: "He who knoweth His own just judgments, doeth all these things by working in a marvellous and inexpressible manner, not only in the bodies, but in the hearts of men. He doth not make wills evil, but useth the wills of men already evil as He pleaseth; nor can He, of Himself, will anything that is evil." "Just in this same manner (continues Augustine) does the Scripture, if diligently considered, shew that not only the good wills of men, which God Himself has made good out of evil wills, but also the wills which He has made good by His grace are directed by Him to good actions and to the attainment of eternal life; and, moreover, that those wills of men which preserve the good order of things in the world, from age to age, as kings, and princes, and rulers, etc., are so under the power of God, that He inclines them whithersoever He will, either to confer kindnesses on these, or to inflict punishments on those, according to His will and pleasure." The holy father then adds: "Who does not tremble before these stupendous judgments of God, by which He does whatsoever He will even in the hearts of men, rendering unto them all the while according to their works!" And again: "It is fully evident, from the testimonies of the Scripture, that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills whithersoever He pleases, whether it be to confer good according to His mercy, or to inflict evil according to their deserts, and all according to His purpose and decree, which is sometimes manifest and sometimes hidden, but always just! For it ought ever to be deeply fixed in our hearts that there is no iniquity in God." But the reason why the decree of God is sometimes utterly hidden may be seen in the former part of his book, where, after he had frequently testified that the sins of men are often in themselves punishments which God justly inflicts upon them, on account of former sins which they have committed, he at length carries up his contemplation to that higher and still more hidden secret of God, namely, that God finds just materials in all men (except those whom He has chosen by His grace) for making them the executors of His wrath!
"As to all mortals beside (saith Augustine) who are not of this number of God's elect, but are of the common mass of mankind (from which mass these were also chosen), they are made the 'vessels of God's wrath,' and are born for the use and service of God's chosen! For God doth not create one of these 'vessels of His wrath' at random or by chance. And He knows full well every particle of good which He works by their means. One part of which good is that He creates in them the excellency of human nature, and adorns by their means, as kings, princes and magistrates, etc., the order of things in the world. But why God sometimes paralyzes the hearts of men with fear and dread, and sometimes enspirits them with courage; why He takes away the spirit of princes, and turns the counsels of the wise into foolishness; why He gifts some with the spirit of temperance, and makes others drunk with the spirit of confusion and madness; for these His marvellous judgments He sometimes manifests a plain and conspicuous reason. While it is equally evident that His secret counsel so rules over all men, that He turns the wills of whomsoever He pleases wheresoever He pleases." For human nature is common to all men, but not so Divine grace (as the same holy father in another part of his works also strikingly observes).
Taking, then, an honest and sober review of the whole of this high and Divine matter, the plain and indubitable conclusion will be that the will of God is the one principal and all-high cause of all things in heaven and earth! Our minds, therefore, ought ever to be bridled with the knowledge of this mighty fact, that they may not intemperately and unlawfully indulge in searching into the causes of things. That saying of Augustine, "The will of God is the necessity of all things," seems harsh when first heard. As does also that which he immediately adds by way of explanation; that "God so ordained all secondary causes, that by their means that might be effected for the sake of which they were ordained, but not necessarily so effected."
But that "God ordained all primary and remote causes, that by them that might of necessity be effected which He had purposed to be effected by their causation." When the whole argument, however, is attentively investigated, its asperity soon vanishes. For that which the holy father elsewhere says, though expressed in different terms, is precisely the same in sentiment; nor does his argument contain anything which ought to offend: "God retains (saith he), hidden in Himself, the causes of some of His actions, which He has not intermingled with His created things. These causes He brings out to their effects, not by that operation of His Providence, by which He has appointed certain natures and their powers to be and to act, but by that operation by which He rules and directs as He will the creatures that He has made."
Herein, indeed, lies the grace by which those are saved who were lost. For what can be more true than that God, in the government of His creatures, retains hidden in Himself something more than He has made visible in their nature? But of all the things that are done, the will of God is therefore rightly considered to be the first cause, because He so rules at His pleasure the natures of all things created by Him, that He directs all the counsels and actions of men to the end which He had Himself preordained. By this doctrine, as I have before justly observed, a rein is put upon our minds and spirits which ought to hold us within the bounds of modesty. For it is absurd, in the last degree, not to yield ourselves to that will of God which is high above all other causes, unless we can see (as we think) a plain reason for our so doing.
We should ever, indeed, bear in mind that which I have before said, that God doth nothing without the highest of reasons. But as the will of God is the surest rule of all righteousness, that will ought ever to he to us the principal reason, yea? if I may so speak? the reason of all reasons! For that humility of faith, which is the offspring of reverence for the Divine justice, is by no means a stupid thing, as many imagine. For who but the man that hath the persuasion deeply forced on his heart that God is just, and all His works righteous, will rest satisfied with His good pleasure alone? That Sarbonic dogma, therefore, in the promulgation of which the Papal theologians so much pride themselves, "that the power of God is absolute and tyrannical," I utterly abhor. For it would be easier to force away the light of the sun from his heat, or his heat from his fire, than to separate the power of God from His justice. Away, then, with all such monstrous speculations from godly minds, as that God can possibly do more, or otherwise, than He has done, or that He can do anything without the highest order and reason. For I do not receive that other dogma, "that God, as being free from all law Himself, may do anything without being subject to any blame for so doing." For whosoever makes God without law, robs Him of the greatest part of His glory, because he spoils Him of His rectitude and justice. Not that God is, indeed, subject to any law, excepting in as far as He is a law to Himself. But there is that inseparable connection and harmony between the power of God and His justice, that nothing can possibly be done by Him but what is moderate, legitimate, and according to the strictest rule of right. And most certainly, when the faithful speak of God as omnipotent, they acknowledge Him at the same time to he the Judge of the world, and always hold His power to be righteously tempered with equity and justice.
We have not yet, however, met the great objection of our adversaries: " If all things are done (say they) according to the will of God, and men can do or design nothing, but as He wills or ordains, God must be the author of all evils." That distinction which formerly prevailed in the schools, and is now everywhere current, is perfectly true, provided it be rightly understood? "that the evil of the punishment, but not the evil of the fault, proceeds from God." But some inexperienced ones, imagining that the matter in question can be settled in one short word, pass by in security the very point at issue, namely, "How God can be free from blame in that very deed which He Himself condemns in Satan and in the reprobate, and which He declares that men condemn in their fellow-men." For both evils are often seen in the same work, not in different works, namely, that the praise of the punishment must, of necessity, be ascribed to God, and the fault of the act to man. For instance, robbers carry off the cattle of the holy Job. The deed is cruel and disgraceful. Satan by this means drives the patriarch to desperation; a machination still more detestable. But Job declares another to be the author of it all! "The Lord gave (saith he), and the Lord hath taken away." Nor is Job wrong in attributing that to God which, in another sense, could be imputed to the robbers only. For the patriarch, as if beholding with uplift eyes the things that are decreed on the throne of God in heaven, confesses that the Lord took away by the hands of the robbers those things which they could not have touched but by His authority and command. All this Job explains in the words which follow: "The Lord hath done whatsoever pleased Him." We hear that in this instance, the work of Satan was in common with that of God. We hear that nothing was done but by God's good pleasure. It may here be said, "How shall God be exempted from that fault of which Satan and his instruments are guilty?" Why, if a distinction be made between the works of men, derived from a consideration of their purpose and end in each particular case; and if the cruelty of that man is condemned who pierces the eyes of a crow or kills a crane, while the virtue of the judge is praised who cleanses his hands by the execution of the wicked person; shall the condition of God Himself be worse than that of man? Shall not His justice keep Him separate from the wicked actions of human or Satanic offenders?
But let us adopt a similitude somewhat more close and applicable. That prince will ever be praised among men who shall, by a just and legitimate war, repel from his dominions violence, rapine and plunder. For this end he will hasten to arm thousands of soldiers, who will rush forward with cupidity to shed blood, to despoil the poor and helpless of their property, and to commit every act of licentiousness and violence, for which deeds of wickedness they certainly will not deserve praise. Two armies, in another part of the world, enter into the mighty battle. If you behold a prosperous issue of the skill of the general, under whose conduct and command the battle is fought, you absolve him from all blame, though he be but a mortal man, while you nevertheless condemn the soldiers who lend out their hands to murder their fellow-men for nefarious hire. Will you, then, rob God of the glory of His justice, because He sometimes doth His works by means of Satan? Yet so it is. And as the mists which the earth exhales sometimes obscure the brightness of the sun, and intercept its view from the sight of men, while the sun still really remains the same in all its brightness; so the vanity of men creates many vaporous impediments, as it were, which obstruct their sight of the equity of God, while that equity remains, nevertheless, as pure and perfect as ever! Yet these ignorant reasoners would involve God and the wicked in the same guilt, where the act of God, working by the wicked, is in such sense common to Him and them. But not so did David. When Shimei assaulted him with reproaches and stones, he did not stop at the man, but looked at the command of God: "Let him curse (said he), for God hath bidden him" (2 Sam. xvi. 6). And yet he does not rise up against God, but with all humility offers his back to the stripes, and says, "'Who shall then say, Wherefore hast Thou done so?" (ver. 10). As he speaks also in the Psalms, "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it" (Ps. xxxix. 9). For what one of the godly will not the majesty of God in a moment reduce to silence? And from what one of them will not the justice of God force the expression of praise and constrain him to break forth into that devoted exclamation of David) "So let him curse; because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for His cursing this day" (2 Sam. xvi. 11, 12).
Wherefore, when the wickedness of men proceeds thus from the Lord, and from a just cause, but from a cause unknown to us, although the first cause of all things be His will, that He is therefore the author of sin I most solemnly deny. Nevertheless, that difference of causes, on which I have before dwelt, is by no means to be forgotten?that one cause is proximate, another remote. The careful observance of this distinction is indispensable, that we may clearly understand how wide a difference there is, and how momentous a distinction between the just and equal Providence of God and turbulent impetuosities of men. Our adversaries load us with illiberal and disgraceful calumny, when they cast it in our teeth that we make God the author of sin, by maintaining that His will is the cause of all things that are done. For when a man perpetrates anything unjustly, incited by ambition, or avarice, or lust, or any other depraved passion; if God, by His just but secret judgment, perform His works by means of such an one's hands, the mention of sin cannot be made with reference to God in those His righteous acts. It is perfidy, pride, cruelty, intemperance, envy, self-conceit, or some like depraved desire that constitutes sin in man. But no such desire can be found in God. Shimei attacks his king with brutal insolence. The sin is at once manifest. God uses such an instrument to effect the righteous humiliation of David. Such a rod it pleases God to use. But who will dare to charge God with sin in so doing? The Arabians and the Saboeans carry off their plunder from another man's substance. The sin of robbery is evident. God exercises the patience of His servant by the violence of the plunderers. Let the heroic confession of the patriarch, "Blessed be the name of the Lord," he heard rising from out the midst of these ravages, rather than the profane revilings of the wicked and the ignorant. In a word, such is God's manner of working by the sins of men, that when we come to deal with Him in the matter of His righteous judgments, His eternal purity wipes off in a moment every spot that the wicked reasoning of men may attempt to cast upon His glorious Majesty.
And here the admonition of Augustine may be listened to with profit: "In point of oneness or agreement, there is sometimes a mighty difference between men and God in the matters of His righteous acts and judgments. As when, for instance, God wills righteously that which men will evilly, and when God righteously willeth not that which men evilly will not. And so again, in point of difference or contrariety, God and men do not ill agree. As when men will well that which God righteously doth not will, and when, also, men righteously do not will that which God righteously doth will; for example, the son may wish for the death of his father, that he may rush upon the inheritance. God also may will that this same father should die. God willed that Jerusalem should be utterly destroyed, that the temple should be profaned and demolished, and that the Jews should suffer every extreme of torment. The Idumaens were all the while longing for the same. In order that the same measure might be measured to a dire and ruthless man, who had spared no one, God wills that no help whatever should be brought to him; when pressed to destruction on every side, by inevitable necessity. His own son shall refuse him every duty of affection, nor shall he have the least desire to aid him in his desperate need. God willed that the sons of Eli should not listen to the counsels of their father, because He had determined to destroy them. The sons, on their part also, would not hear their father. Now there appears herein, at first sight a certain kind of harmony and agreement; but when we consider abstractedly the evil and the good involved, there is as much disagreement and contrariety as between fire and water. A husband shall wish for a longer life of a beloved wife whom God calls out of this world. Christ shuddered at, and prayed against, that death, which was a sacrifice of the sweetest odour unto God. Now the will of each, both of the husband and of Christ, although diverse from the will of God, at first appearance, was equally without blame. Wherefore, far be it from any man to drag God into a participation of sin, or guilt, or blame, whenever any apparent similitude between the plainly depraved passions of men and His secret counsel may present itself. Let that sentiment of Augustine be ever present to our minds: "Wherefore, by the mighty and marvellous working of God (which is so exquisitely perfect in the accomplishment of every purpose and bent of His will), that, in a wonderful and ineffable way, is not done without His will which is even done contrary to His will, because it could not have been done had He not permitted it to be done; and yet, He did not permit it without His will, but according to His will."
And hereby is refuted either the ignorance or the wickedness of those who deny that the nature of the will of God can be one and simple, if there be any other will ascribed to Him than that which is plainly and manifestly revealed by Him in His own law. Some also ask in derision. "If there be any will of God which is not revealed in His law, by what name is that will called? " But those men must be deprived of their senses, in whose opinion all those Scriptures signify nothing which speak with so much wonder and admiration of the profound "depth" of the judgments of God! When Paul exclaims, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments!" he most certainly teaches us, in all plainness, that the judgment of God was something more and deeper than that which is expressed by the simple words of Christ in that memorable ejaculation, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children. together as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not" (Matt. xxiii. 37). And whereas God willed that the sons of Eli should not be obedient to their father, that Divine will differed, in appearance, from the precept of the law, which commands children to obey their parents. In a word, wherever the apostle sets forth the wonderful judgments of God, and the depth of His thoughts and ways, which are "past finding out," he is not speaking at all of the works of the law, which stand always plain before our eyes; he is rather magnifying that inaccessible light in which is hidden God's secret counsel, which, being exalted far above the utmost stretch of the human mind, we are compelled to gaze upon with uplift eyes and to adore!
Someone will perhaps say, " If that light is inaccessible, why do you approach it?" I do not so approach it as to wish, by an insolent curiosity, to search into those things which God wills to keep deeply hidden in Himself; but that which the Scripture openly declares, I embrace with a sure faith and look upon with reverence. But you will say, "How can it be that God, who is ever consistent with Himself, and unchangeable even in the shadow of a turn, should yet will that which is contrary to that which He seems to be?" I reply, It is no matter of wonder that God, when speaking with men, should accommodate Himself to the limits of their comprehension. Who will affirm that God ever appeared to His servants, even in visions, such as He really is? For the brightness of His glory is such, that the sight of Him as He is, by our naked vision, would absorb and overwhelm all our senses in a moment. He has, therefore, ever so revealed Himself as men were able to bear the revelation. But whether God talks with us in the language of a child, or whether He conceals that which He knows to be beyond our comprehension? that there is anything in what He pleased to say, feigned or dissembled, I solemnly deny. Most true is that which the Psalm affirms, "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity (Psalm v; 5). Nor, indeed, does God there testify, by the mouth of David, anything else than that which He exemplifies in reality every day when He punishes men for their transgressions. Nor would He punish their sins if He did not hate those sins. You here see, then, that God is an avenger, from which we are fully assured that He is not an approver. But many are deceived in these sacred matters, not rightly considering that God willeth righteously those things which men do wickedly. "How will you explain this?" you may say. I reply, God abominates all adulterous and incestuous intercourse. Absalom defiles his father's concubines in the sight of the people. Was this done, in every sense, contrary to the will of God? No! God had predicted, by His servant Nathan, that Absalom should do this (2 Sam. xii. 11, 12): "I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun."
The Scripture is replete with examples of the same, nature and tendency. Shall we, then, on that account either impute the cause or fault of sin to God, or represent Him as having a double or twofold will, and thus make Him inconsistent with Himself? But as I have already shown that He wills the same thing in certain cases, as the wicked and profane, but in a different manner; so we must, on the other hand, hold that He wills in the same manner with the wicked and reprobate that which is in appearance different; so that, in those things which are presented to our minds, the apparent diversity is tempered with the utmost oneness and harmony. Thus, inasmuch as Absalom's monstrous impiety towards his father was a perfidious violation of the law of marriage and a gross profanation of the order of nature, it is most certain that his atrocious wickedness was highly offensive to God, who can be pleased with nothing but honesty, modesty, fidelity and chastity, and who wills that the lawful order which He has established among men should be preserved sacred and inviolate. And yet, it pleased Him to punish in this manner the adultery of David. And thus He wills in the same manner with men things which seem to us quite diverse. For that will of God by which He commands what shall be done, and by which He punishes all transgressions of His law, is one and simple.
We have before observed that sins are frequently punishments by which God retributively avenges men's former transgressions. In all such dispensations of His Providence, there are two things which claim our deep consideration: the just judgment of God, by which He testifies that He hates the sin, which He thus visits with its due punishment; and the wickedness of man, which stands directly opposed to the will of God. If such infinite brightness should dazzle our mental vision, what wonder when the eyes of our body cannot endure the sight of the natural sun! For is the vision of the body stronger than that of the mind? Or is the brightness of the majesty of God less than that of the natural sun? Wherefore, it behoves us not to be too acute in our penetration into the splendour of the Divine Majesty! Lest, in the meantime, we either deny that to be true which the Scripture plainly teaches and confirms by experience, or lest we dare consider this or that to be, as we think, not quite consistent with the character of God. "When the last day (says Augustine) shall have come, then will be seen in the brightest light of understanding that which the godly now hold in faith, until it shall be then understood by the fullest comprehension. How sure, immutable and all-efficacious is the will of God! and also, how many things He can do, and yet not will! But that He wills nothing that He cannot do!"
* To silence whose clamorous opposition to the doctrine of "the eternal election of God," Calvin wrote the preceding Treatise.
* Such. for instance, as the present "certain worthless Calumniator."