3: The Third Sermon on the First Chapter
I BEGAN to show you earlier that it is not lawful for us to indulge in loose living with the excuse that God has elected us before the creation of the world, as though it were right for us to give ourselves over to all manner of evil, because we cannot perish, seeing that God has taken us for his children. For we must not put things asunder which he has coupled together. Seeing then that he has chosen us to be holy and to walk in purity of life, our election must be as a root that yields good fruits. For so long as God lets us alone in our own natural state we can do nothing but all manner of wickedness, because there is such great corruption and perversity in man s nature that all that men ever think of doing is contrary to God’s righteousness. Therefore there is no other way but to be changed by God. And whence comes this change but only through the grace that we spoke of, namely, that he elected and chose us for his children before we were born into the world.
Yet we must note further that God lets his elect ones go for a time so that they seem to be astray and utterly lost, and yet he brings them home again to his flock when it pleases him. And this serves to humble them the more and to make his goodness and mercy so much the better known to the whole world. If God should make all his elect ones behave perfectly from their very childhood, it would not be so clearly discerned that such behaviour comes through that grace of his Holy Spirit. But when wretched people that lived loosely and for a time were given to all kinds of evil are changed, it cannot happen without God working and putting forth his hand. Thus we see that the reason why God delays the calling of those whom he has elected is (I say) to give them life by his Holy Spirit that he may make them walk in obedience to him. For when we see them suddenly reformed beyond the common expectation and opinion of men, we perceive thereby that God has displayed his power in them, as I said before. And again, on the other hand, every one of us is convinced by experience that we are indebted to God for all the good that is in us. For when we are naturally inclined to any vice and afterwards it is corrected, we well perceive that God has looked mercifully upon us.
We perceive then that we have so much more reason to be humbled seeing that we were in the way of perdition till he had drawn us out of it. And it is essential for us to note that well, for there are some fanciful heads which imagine that God so guides his elect by his Holy Spirit that they are sanctified beforehand, even from the time they are born into the world, as soon as they come out of their mother’s womb. But the contrary appears, and indeed we see how St. Paul in another passage speaking to the faithful says, ‘Some of you were plunged in covetousness, some were given to cruelty, some were scorners, some were whore-mongers and loose-livers and others were gluttons and drunkards; and, in short, you were full of all uncleanness; but God, having changed you and made you clean from such filthiness and infection, has dedicated you to himself.’ [I Cor. 6:10—11]. Again, he says to the Romans, ‘You ought to be ashamed of the life which you led before God drew you to himself’. So then, whereas it is said in this passage that God chose his servants to make them walk in holiness of life, it is not meant that he is bound to govern them by his Holy Spirit even from their childhood. For (as I have already said) experience shows that he lets them go astray till the opportune time has come to call them.
But yet we must always bear in mind that God’s electing of us was in order to call us to holiness of life. For if he should let us alone still as wretched castaways, surely we could do nothing but all manner of wickedness according to the corruption that is in us. The good, then, proceeds from his free mercy which he has already displayed towards us before we were born, yes and before the world was created. Thus we see in effect what we have to learn from this passage. And so the blasphemies of such as would obscure God’s praise are put down, that is, of such as make a conflict and, as it were, a divorce between God’s free election and a seeking to live well. ‘Really’, they say, ‘has God elected us Then let every one of us do what he likes, for we cannot perish!’ And what does it matter whether we do either good or evil seeing that our salvation is grounded upon God’s grace alone and not upon any virtue in us?’
The answer to this is easy, namely, that if there were no such thing as God’s election, corresponding to as many thoughts and appetites as might be found in us, just so many rebellions would there be against all righteousness. For all of us tend to evil, and we are not only inclined to it, but we are, as it were, boiling hot with it. We run to it with frantic impetuosity because the devil possesses all who are not reformed by God’s Holy Spirit. And so we must needs conclude that our giving of ourselves to do good is because God guides and leads us to it by his Holy Spirit, and all because of his election. Therefore (as I said before) we must not separate the things that God has joined together. For we are not elected to give ourselves over to permissiveness, but to show by our deeds that God has adopted us to be his children and taken us into his keeping in order to dwell in us by his Holy Spirit and to unite us to himself in all perfection of righteousness.
Moreover, let us also observe that though God has reformed us and set us in the good way and made us to feel that he has worked in us already to subdue us to his Word and to make us serve him obediently in all things, yet it does not therefore follow that we are fully reformed on the first day, no, nor yet in our whole lifetime. St. Paul does not say that God brings his elected and faithful ones to the fulness of perfection, but that he draws them towards it, and so we are but in the way thitherward even to our death. Therefore, as long as we live in this world, let us learn to profit and go forward more and more, resting assured that there is still always very much that is blameworthy in us. For they that imagine any perfection are as good as bewitched by hypocrisy and pride, or rather, have no feeling or fear of God in them, but they are far-gone mockers. For he that examines himself shall always find such a store of vices that he shall be ashamed of them if he seriously consider them.
They then which say that we can reach any perfection while we dwell in this mortal body clearly show that either they are utterly blinded with devilish pride, or else that they are profane people, void of all religion and piety. As for us, let us note (what I touched on before) that God has elected us that we should be blameless, but that we are not able to be so till we are fully rid of all our infirmities and departed out of this prison of sin in which we are now held fast. [Rom. 7:24] And, therefore, when we feel any vices in us, let us fight bravely against them, and let us not be down-hearted as though we were not God’s children because we are not yet faultless before him, and our sins, which make us blameworthy, are always before our eyes.
Although, then, we find never so many miseries in ourselves to thrust us out of the way, yet let us go on, still assuring ourselves that as long as we live here in this lower world we have our journey to pursue. We must always keep going forward and are not yet come to the end of the way. See how the faithful ought to take heart and strengthen themselves although they are not perfect; and let that fact also cause us to groan and sigh under the burden which we are driven to feel. For the perfection of the faithful and of God’s children is to acknowledge their own weakness and to pray God not only to amend all their misdoings but also to bear with them in his infinite goodness and not call them to account with extremity of rigour. You see, then, that our place of refuge and succour is God’s mercy by which he covers and buries all our sins, because we have not yet attained to the mark to which he calls, that is, to a holy and faultless life. But, be that as it may, let us still go forward and take good heed that we do not get enticed from the right way.
If this word ‘love’ has reference to men, then St. Paul meant to note what is the true righteousness of Christians, namely, to walk in faithfulness and uprightness. For we know that the hypocrites would always appease God with ceremonies and fanfares, as they are called; and yet some of them are given to acts of robbery, some are full of envy, malice, cruelty and treason; some are drunkards and others are whoremongers and loose-livers giving rein to all kinds of wickedness. And yet, despite all this, they think all is safe if they put on a few holy looks [agios (Fr.) i.e., sanctimonious] and pretend some show of holiness by these ceremonies. St. Paul, to make an end of all such nonsense, says that we must walk in love (which is the bond of perfection and the fulfilling of the law) if we mean to have our life approved of God. And so you see what we have to learn from this passage.
Furthermore, let us notice that in this place St. Paul exhorts us to acknowledge ourselves indebted to God for all the virtue and goodness that is in us. For example, if we have any good zeal, if we fight against our own vices, or if we walk in obedience to God, how does it come about Even of this source, that he purposed it, that is, that God elected us beforehand. Let us consider, then, that the praise for it is due to him and let us not defraud him of his right. For although we lived as perfectly as angels, yet if we were so foolish as to think that such living comes from our own free will and self-effort, we miss the chief point of all. For to what purpose serve all our good works but to glorify God And if we regard ourselves as their authors, we see that they are marred thereby and are turned into vices so as to be nothing else but ambition. We see, then, that the thing at which St. Paul aimed in this sentence is to bring us back always to God’s gratuitous election that we might know that all good issues from that source.
He adds immediately that ‘we are predestinated by adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.’ When he says that God has predestinated us by adoption, it is to show that if we be God’s children it is not through nature but through his pure grace. Now this pure grace is not in respect of anything that God foresaw in us (as I mentioned earlier) but because he had marked us out beforehand and appointed us to such adoption, yes, even in such a way that the cause of it is not to be sought elsewhere than in himself. And that is the reason why St. Paul adds that he did it ‘in himself and according to the good pleasure of his will’. He repeats also the same thing that I previously explained, namely, that all was done in Jesus Christ. You see therefore that what we have to note in this passage is that no other cause makes us God’s children but only his choice of us in himself. For we have no such status by birth or inheritance, neither does it come of flesh and blood, as it is said in the first chapter of St. John, insomuch that all that can ever be looked for in our own selves is excluded and utterly abolished. And this is to show us that if men are left alone in their former plight, they have no communion at all with God but are utterly cut off from his kingdom.
It is true that our father Adam was created after the image of God [Gen. 1:26] and that he was excellent in his first state, but after the coming in of sin we all became utterly helpless, so that even Adam did not have any strength in himself, and his free will that was given him served him to no other purpose but to make him the more inexcusable. For he fell wilfully and through his own malice. But by this we see what sort of constancy he had in him, for, having been created with the utmost care [á grand’ peine (Fr.)] he fell, and ruined himself, and ourselves with him. Now, then, we are all born the children of wrath and cursed of God. [Eph. 2:3]
And so, as long as we remain in our former state and plight there is nothing but eternal death in us. Therefore God must freely call us to himself, for are we able to purchase such a high calling Where is the gold or silver to buy it Where are the virtues with which to recompense God for so great and excellent a privilege To be brief, (as has been said already on this matter) it comes neither of flesh nor of blood, that is to say, it does not come of anything we can find in this world, but only of God’s adoption. [Jn. 1:13] For the word which St. Paul uses means that God constitutes us children. When a man adopts a child he chooses him to be his heir, and all the goods that he has afterwards are passed on under that title. So it is with us who are heirs of the heavenly life because God has adopted and chosen us for his children. And further, St. Paul is not contented with having so far magnified God’s grace, but he says moreover that God has also predestinated us and determined the matter beforehand.
We see, then, that St. Paul gathers together everything that may crush the foolish imaginations which we might conceive of bringing anything to God, or of advancing ourselves towards him to make ourselves acceptable to him. Therefore everything must be brought to nought so that God’s grace only may be acknowledged in this respect. And that also is the reason why he repeats ‘through Jesus Christ’. If it be demanded, then, why and how we are predestinated by God to be his children, it is because he was pleased to look upon us in Christ. For (as I have said before) this is, as it were, the register in which we are written to attain to the heritage of life and salvation. For although God had pitied our miseries, yet we should always be as it were execrable in his sight if Jesus Christ did not come before him, because all of us being descended from Adam are of one measure, all of us alike and equal. Now some are accounted reprobates: and why is that but because God looking upon them in themselves passes them by. But he chooses us in our Lord Jesus Christ and looks upon us there, as in a mirror that is pleasing to him. And so you see how the difference comes about. Nevertheless, to express the matter even better, he says that God’s choosing of us was ‘in himself’. It is true that God does all good himself, but here St. Paul meant to show that which is not seen in all the ordinary works of God, namely, that no other cause moved him to elect us than his own will. St. Paul, therefore, takes away all respect of persons when he says that God elected us in himself. If he had found any merit or worthiness, if he had found any disposition or goodness or virtue, or (to be brief) if he had found one drop of anything he might like and approve of, he would not have elected us in himself but we ourselves should have had some partnership with him.
Seeing then that St. Paul locks up in God’s counsel all things which belong to our salvation, and says that our election also is shut up in that purpose, it is as if he said that men grossly deceive themselves when they presume they are worth anything or have advanced or prepared themselves to the reception of such grace. Therefore we must be carried up on high if we would know that on which our salvation is grounded and what is its true origin and beginning and its sovereign and only cause. And so you see what is meant by this saying that God did it in himself.
But St. Paul adds even further, ‘according to the good pleasure of his own will’. If he had set down no more but only the word ‘will’, it would have been enough, as we have seen and declared before, that St. Paul had been elected according to the will of God. And how so? Because he was neither fit nor worthy to have such a status except that it pleased God to choose him. St. Paul, therefore, does not brag that he had obtained the apostleship, but with all mildness acknowledges it to be the free gift of God. Thus you see what the word ‘will’ signifies, not in any one place alone but throughout all the holy Scripture. Therefore whenever God’s will is afore-mentioned it is to show that men cannot advance anything of their own. Nevertheless, St. Paul sets down here a term of super abundance and says, ‘according to the good pleasure’; as if he had said, ‘It is true that God’s will is the cause of our salvation; we should not flit to and fro seeking other reasons or means for it. However, since men are so unthankful and wicked that they would always darken God’s glory, and would continually take more to themselves than belongs to them, if they are not sufficiently persuaded of God’s will let them understand that it comes of the good pleasure of his will, that is to say, of a free will which does not depend upon anything other than itself, nor has any respect one way or another, but vouchsafes to choose us freely because it is pleased to do so’.
Now we see why such as seek to establish the cause of God’s election of us would (if it lay in them) overthrow his eternal purpose, for the one is inseparable from the other. If God has chosen us, as is shown here, then nothing can depend upon our deserts or upon anything we might have to bring forward, but God did it according to his own free will and did not find any other reason than his own good pleasure. If anyone thinks this strange, it is because they would treat God in an over-familiar manner. [comme un petít compagnon (Fr.)] And in this appears their devilish audacity in that they cannot allow God to reign in pure liberty so that what is pleasing to him might be received as good, just and rightful without contradiction. But let such people bark like dogs as much as they will, yet is this decree irrevocable which the Holy Spirit has uttered here by the mouth of St. Paul, namely, that it is not for us to look for any further cause of our election than the good pleasure of God, that is to say, than his own free will by which he has chosen us, though we were not worthy. His sole motive in so doing lies in the words, ‘thus it pleased me’. And so we see in effect what we have to gather from these words of St. Paul.
Now St. Paul immediately says that it is ‘to the praise of the glory of his grace’. Here he shows the final reason that moved God to elect us, namely, that his grace might be praised by it, yes, not after a common and ordinary manner, but with a certain glory. For he coupled those two things together so that we should be ravished when we see how God has drawn us out of the bottom of hell to open to us the gate of his kingdom and to call us to the heritage of salvation. Here we see once more the matter I dealt with previously, namely, that all who would do away with God’s predestination or are loth to hear it spoken of, thereby show themselves to be mortal enemies of God’s praise. It seems to them that that passes away and vanishes. Yes, but who is the competent judge of that? Do they think themselves to be wiser than God who has spoken clean contrary to that which they allege O (they say), that would be the way to open the mouths of many men to blaspheme God. Now, as for the wicked, it is certain that they will always find something to blaspheme about, and they cannot be stopped from doing so. But, for all that, God will have enough with which to justify himself, [Rom. 3:4] and all who so defy him and his righteousness will be confounded. [Ps. 51:4]
Be that as it may, it is not said here without cause that God is duly glorified and his high praise maintained, when we acknowledge that he has freely elected whom he willed, and that there is no other cause of difference between man and man, so that they whom he has reprobated perish because they deserve it, and they whom he calls to salvation ought not to seek the cause of it anywhere else than in this gratuitous adoption.
Furthermore, by these two words, St. Paul meant also to stir us up to a greater and more fervent earnestness in praising God. For it is not enough for us to confess coldly that our salvation springs from God’s pure liber4ity, but we must be, as it were, inflamed to give ourselves wholly to his praise, as if we were wholly dedicated to it, according as St. Peter shows that since we are drawn out of the darkness of death, there is good reason for us to be speaking of the unutterable praises of God. [I Pet. 2:9] And by this he gives us to understand that when the faithful have strained themselves to the uttermost to acquit themselves in praising God’s goodness, yet they shall never perfectly accomplish it because it is an incomprehensible thing. [Lk. 17:10] Note well therefore what we have to bear in mind. And so, from this goodness or grace of which he speaks, we must learn that men will never yield to God his due glory till they are utterly brought to nothing, so that there remains in them not a single drop in which they may boast. Let us suppose that God’s election had never been thought of, should he therefore cease to be praised No! No! For that is only a part of his praise. For if men should say no more than that God causes his sun to shine upon them, it were a reason to praise him. [Matt. 5:45] And when we open our eyes to look upward and downward upon the wonderful works he shows us, there is indeed reason enough to exercise us in his praise all our life long. Moreover, when his gospel is preached to us, there also we have reason to praise him though no mention at all is made of his election. I say there is enough in respect of us, but then he would be robbed of his chief praise and we should yield him but a portion of that which is due to him. And why? For the faithful would think that they had faith through their own impulse and free will. I told you earlier that faith is a fruit of election. For there is no other difference between us and unbelievers but that God reached out his hand and drew us to himself by a secret means at such time as we were turning our backs upon him and were making ourselves strange to him. [Rom. 5:10] To be brief, it is not without reason that St. Paul says here that God’s praise shall never be glorified as it ought to be till we acknowledge his election to be the cause of all the benefits he bestows upon us, and that if he had not adopted us by his infinite mercy according to his eternal counsel, we should take part of the praise to ourselves which is due to him. And so God would be reduced and deprived of so much of his right. In short, we see well enough what is said here, that men must be utterly abased in order that God may have his right and no man be made a co-partner with him, but that all men may confess that he is both the beginning and the perfection of our salvation.
We must also note carefully how St. Paul adds that ‘of his own grace he has accepted us in his well-beloved’. By this he makes it even clearer why our salvation is grounded upon God’s mere election and free grace. For men will never quit their foolish presumption if they are not so overcome that they do not have one more word with which to answer back. St. Paul, therefore, to bring us to such reason, tells us that we are damned and lost in ourselves. Now when such a thunderbolt falls upon our heads, it is not for us to demonstrate our insolence. If men will then be so foolish as still to search everywhere, looking for something belonging to and reserved for themselves apart from the grace of God alone, no more than this saying is needed to turn them from it, namely, that we were not in God’s favour till we were in Jesus Christ, because we are utterly damned and accursed in our own persons. This matter were sufficiently expounded already, if we were not so slow in understanding that which is so needful and which ought to be clear to us. And in truth, even experience ought to teach us in this matter. And, in fact, if hypocrisy did not blind us too much, we should well perceive that there is nothing but wickedness in us, and God’s wrath would strike us with such fear that we should be at our wits’ end. But God must compel us to obedience by a strong hand, or else we cannot find in our hearts to relinquish all praise from ourselves to him. Let us therefore note well what is meant by this statement in which it is said that we were taken into favour in Jesus Christ, because he is the well-beloved. And why is Jesus Christ called God’s well-beloved, as he is termed in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew [v. 5] and in other places, and also is shown to be so in the prophet Isaiah? [Isa. 43:4] It is thereby shown us that God justly hates and abhors us so long as we remain in our own natural state.
For if that title were not peculiar to Jesus Christ, then it was said in vain, ‘This is my well-beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’. [Lk. 3:22] But if it is peculiar to Jesus Christ, then no other creature can claim it, insomuch that, although God loves his angels, yet they cannot be loved by him to perfection but by means of Jesus Christ. And as for us, there is indeed another consideration to be taken into account. For (as I have said already) we are hated, and Jesus Christ is the mediator to set the angels at full accord with God, insomuch that there would be no steadfastness or constancy in them if they were not upheld by him. [Col. 1:17—20] And besides, their righteousness should not be perfect except they were blessed and elected in him. So much for one point.
As for us, seeing we are estranged from God through sin, he must needs take us as his enemies and be an adversary to us. Jesus Christ therefore is the only well-beloved among men, and as for all the rest of us, God detests and disclaims us, even so far as to say that it repented him that he had made man; [Gen. 6:7] which saying of his means that we are not worthy to be numbered among asses, dogs and other beasts. For they remain still God’s creatures in the same state that he created them, but we are so wretched and perverse that we deserve to be cut down and to have the remembrance of us cursed and execrable before God. Now let us go on bragging and boasting, and seeking our coats of arms to ennoble ourselves, for we see how the Holy Spirit degrades all such as think themselves to be worth anything. Wherefore, let us consider that if we are enemies unto God, we are in a worse state than if we had never been created.
But at this point St. Paul tells us that ‘God has accepted us in his well-beloved’. Seeing then that our Lord Jesus Christ is received by God his Father to be the beloved, not only in his own person but also in respect of the love that is extended to all the members of his body, by that means we are gathered together again and God embraces us for his children, whereas formerly we were his enemies and utterly detestable to him. But, be that as it may, we must always come back to this election that we have spoken of before. For the graces communicated to us in our Lord Jesus Christ proceed also from the same source.
Next, continuing the subject I have touched on already, he shows us the great need we have of being well-beloved in Jesus Christ. For if we were not persuaded (by God) we would never grant (I mean unfeignedly) that we owe everything to God. For we are always labouring to advance ourselves some way or other, and every one of us seeks how he may reserve something to himself though it amount to no more than the point of a pin.
But, on the contrary, St. Paul shows us that God must really love us apart from ourselves, and that if we are well pleasing to him it must not be in respect of our own selves. And why? For we are captives and bondslaves of sin. We are held down under the yoke and tyranny of Satan. In short, we are shut up in the bondage of death till we are ransomed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Now then we see that the sum of this teaching is that men are admonished to get out of themselves and to seek their salvation in the pure goodness of God, even by adopting the means proposed to us here, namely, to resort to our Lord Jesus Christ. For there are two evil extremes against which we must be on our guard. One is that in coming to our Lord Jesus Christ we must not imagine that there is any worthiness in us why he should make us partakers of his benefits. [Matt. 8:8] And how may that vice be corrected? Even by being led to God’s gratuitous election. For the very reason why men presume so much upon their own free will, and the very ground also on which they build the opinion that they have conceived of their own merits and worthiness, is that they do not know that they are nothing in any other respect than that God has accepted them of his own pure goodness and grace because he had elected them already in his own eternal counsel.
Therefore, we cannot by any means attribute the beginning of our salvation to God, except we confess that which is shown us here, namely, that we were utterly damned and accursed at the time he adopted us, and that the origin of his adoption of us is that he had predestinated us beforehand, even before the creation of the world. Take note of that for one point.
The second evil extreme against which we must guard ourselves well, is speculation. Many fanciful people say, ‘Ho! as for me, I shall never know whether God has elected me and, therefore, I must still remain in my perdition’. Yes, but that is for want of coming to Jesus Christ. How do we know that God has elected us before the creation of the world? By believing in Jesus Christ. I said before that faith proceeds from election and is the fruit of it, which shows that the root is hidden within. Whosoever then believes is thereby assured that God has worked in him, and faith is, as it were, the duplicate copy that God gives us of the original of our adoption. God has his eternal counsel, and he always reserves to himself the chief and original record of which he gives us a copy by faith.
I speak here after the manner of men, for we know that God uses neither paper nor parchment on which to write our names, and I have told you already that, to speak properly, the register in which we are enrolled is our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, God keeps to himself the knowledge of our election, as a prince would do the chief and original register. But yet he gives us sufficiently authentic copies or deeds of it, in that he imprints it in our hearts by his Holy Spirit that we are his children.
You see then that the faith which we have in our Lord Jesus Christ is enough to assure us of our election, and therefore, what more do we ask I told you that Jesus Christ is the mirror in which God beholds us when he wishes to find us acceptable to himself. Likewise, on our side, he is the mirror on which we must cast our eyes and look, when we desire to come to the knowledge of our election. For whoever believes in Jesus Christ is God’s child and consequently his heir, as I have declared before. [Jn. 1:12; I Jn. 5:1] It follows then that if we have faith, we are also adopted. For why does God give us faith? Even because he elected us before the creation of the world. This therefore is an infallible order, that insofar as the faithful receive God’s grace and embrace his mercy, holding Jesus Christ as their Head, to obtain salvation in his way, they know assuredly that God has adopted them.
It is true that election is in itself secret. It is so profound and hidden a purpose that we can only wonder at it. Yet, despite this, God shows it to us insofar as it is needed and as he knows it to be for our benefit and salvation. And he does that when he enlightens us with the faith of the gospel. Thus you see why, after St. Paul has spoken of God’s eternal election, he sets forth Jesus Christ as the party to whom we must resort to be assured that God loves us and acknowledges us as his children and, consequently, that he had adopted us before we knew him and even before the world was created.
Moreover, we must gather from this passage that the doctrine of predestination does not serve to carry us away into extravagant speculations, but to beat down all pride in us and the foolish opinion we always conceive of our own worthiness and deserts, and to show that God has such free power, privilege and sovereign dominion over us that he may reprobate whom he pleases and elect whom he pleases; and thus, by this means, we are led to glorify him and further to acknowledge that it is in Jesus Christ he has elected us, in order that we should be held fast under the faith of his gospel. For if we are his members and hold him for our Head—for he has allied himself with us in a holy union which can never be broken so long as we believe his gospel—we must come to him to be assured of our salvation. For we see and feel by experience that God has adopted and elected us and that he now calls us and tells us that the assurance he has given us and daily gives us by his gospel, namely, that he will be our Father, and especially his engraving of it in our hearts by his Holy Spirit, is no deceitful thing. For the gospel may well be preached to all men, even to the reprobate, but, for all that, God does not extend to them this special grace of quickening them into life.
Therefore when we have our adoption engraven in our hearts, then (as shall further be declared afterwards) we have a good and infallible pledge that God will guide us unto the end, and that since he has begun to lead us into the way of salvation, he will bring us to the perfection to which he calls us, because, in truth, without him we could not continue so much as a single day.
And now let us fall down before the majesty of our good God with acknowledgement of our faults, praying him to make us perceive them more and more, that being utterly ashamed of them we may bate our vices and our life in every part, as it is evil and perverse, and resort to him who alone is able to give the remedy, and not swerve one way or another from him as he communicates himself to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us keep on straight to him, acknowledging that we are chosen in him, believing also that we are sustained and preserved for his sake and that he will exert his power more and more in us until we have finished our race and are come to the heavenly heritage whither we are going; beseeching him that although we are yet far from it, yet he will vouchsafe to give us a steady and invincible strength to hold out continually till we have fully renounced the world. And, being quite abased in ourselves, let us seek that we may be so renewed in the image of God that it may shine perfectly in us, till we are made partakers of the glorious immortality which he has so dearly bought for us; also that it may please him to grant this grace not only to us, but also to all people and nations.
Calvin's Ephesian Sermons, preached on Sundays at Geneva in 1558-59, when he was 49 years of age, were first printed in French in 1562, then in English in 1577. They have long been one of the rarest of all the Reformer's works and merited the comment of C. H. Spurgeon, a century ago, "Not the same as the exposition. The sermons are priceless."