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A holy meditation on Divine Providence

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015A holy meditation on Divine Providence.
1. All events happen by the ordination of God.
2. All things contribute to the advantage of the godly.
3. The hearts of men and all their endeavors are in the hand of God.
4. Providence watches for the safety of the righteous.
5. God has a special care of his elect.

6. These calumnies, or rather frenzied dreams, will easily be dispelled by a pure and holy meditation on Divine Providence, meditation such as piety enjoins, that we may thence derive the best and sweetest fruit. The Christian, then, being most fully persuaded, that all things come to pass by the dispensation of God, and that nothing happens fortuitously, will always direct his eye to him as the principal cause of events, at the same time paying due regard to inferior causes in their own place. Next, he will have no doubt that a special providence is awake for his preservation, and will not suffer anything to happen that will not turn to his good and safety. But as its business is first with men and then with the other creatures, he will feel assured that the providence of God reigns over both. In regard to men, good as well as bad, he will acknowledge that their counsels, wishes, aims and faculties are so under his hand, that he has full power to turn them in whatever direction, and constrain them as often as he pleases. The fact that a special providence watches over the safety of believers, is attested by a vast number of the clearest promises. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” “Casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you.” “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye.” “We have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Nay, the chief aim of the historical books of Scripture is to show that the ways of his saints are so carefully guarded by the Lord, as to prevent them even from dashing their foot against a stone. Therefore, as we a little ago justly exploded the opinion of those who feign a universal providence, which does not condescend to take special care of every creature, so it is of the highest moment that we should specially recognize this care towards ourselves. Hence, our Savior, after declaring that even a sparrow falls not to the ground without the will of his Father, immediately makes the application, that being more valuable than many sparrows, we ought to consider that God provides more carefully for us. He even extends this so far, as to assure us that the hairs of our head are all numbered. What more can we wish, if not even a hair of our head can fall, save in accordance with his will? I speak not merely of the human race in general. God having chosen the Church for his abode, there cannot be a doubt, that in governing it, he gives singular manifestations of his paternal care.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 17-Henry Beveridge Translation

This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of God in the government of the world, gives no favor to the wicked who argue that they are merely fulfilling God’s decrees

December 30, 2015 Leave a comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015This doctrine, as to the secret counsel of God in the government of the world, gives no countenance either to the impiety of those who throw the blame of their wickedness upon God, the petulance of those who reject means, or the error of those who neglect the duties of religion.

3. Those who have learned this modesty will neither murmur against God for adversity in time past, nor charge him with the blame of their own wickedness, as Homer’s Agamemnon does. — “Ego d’ ou haitios eimi, alla Zeus kai moira.” “Blame not me, but Jupiter and fate.” On the other hand, they will note like the youth in Plautus, destroy themselves in despairs as if hurried away by the Fates. “Unstable is the condition of affairs; instead of doing as they list, men only fulfill their fate: I will hie me to a rock, and there end my fortune with my life.” Nor will they, after the example of another, use the name of God as a cloak for their crimes. For in another comedy Lyconides thus expresses himself: — “God was the impeller: I believe the gods wished it. Did they not wish it, it would not be done, I know.” They will rather inquire and learn from Scripture what is pleasing to God, and then, under the guidance of the Spirit, endeavor to attain it. Prepared to follow whithersoever God may call, they will show by their example that nothing is more useful than the knowledge of this doctrine, which perverse men undeservedly assail, because it is sometimes wickedly abused. The profane make such a bluster with their foolish puerilities, that they almost, according to the expression, confound heaven and earth. If the Lord has marked the moment of our death, it cannot be escaped, — it is vain to toil and use precaution. Therefore, when one ventures not to travel on a road which he hears is infested by robbers; when another calls in the physician, and annoys himself with drugs, for the sake of his health; a third abstains from coarser food, that he may not injure a sickly constitution; and a fourth fears to dwell in a ruinous house; when all, in short, devise, and, with great eagerness of mind, strike out paths by which they may attain the objects of their desire; either these are all vain remedies, laid hold of to correct the will of God, or his certain decree does not fix the limits of life and death, health and sickness, peace and war, and other matters which men, according as they desire and hate, study by their own industry to secure or avoid. Nay, these trifles even infer, that the prayers of the faithful must be perverse, not to say superfluous, since they entreat the Lord to make a provision for things which he has decreed from eternity. And then, imputing whatever happens to the providence of God, they connive at the man who is known to have expressly designed it. Has an assassin slain an honest citizen? He has, say they, executed the counsel of God. Has some one committed theft or adultery? The deed having been provided and ordained by the Lord, he is the minister of his providence. Has a son waited with indifference for the death of his parent, without trying any remedy? He could not oppose God, who had so predetermined from eternity. Thus all crimes receive the name of virtues, as being in accordance with divine ordination.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 17-Henry Beveridge Translation

The profane denial that the world is governed by the secret counsel of God

December 23, 2015 Leave a comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015The profane denial that the world is governed by the secret counsel of God, refuted by passages of Scripture. Salutary counsel.

2. No man, therefore, will duly and usefully ponder on the providence of God save he who recollects that he has to do with his own Maker, and the Maker of the world, and in the exercise of the humility which becomes him, manifests both fear and reverence. Hence it is, that in the present day so many dogs tear this doctrine with envenomed teeth, or, at least, assail it with their bark, refusing to give more license to God than their own reason dictates to themselves. With what petulance, too, are we assailed for not being contented with the precepts of the Law, in which the will of God is comprehended, and for maintaining that the world is governed by his secret counsels? As if our doctrine were the figment of our own brain, and were not distinctly declared by the Spirit, and repeated in innumerable forms of expression! Since some feeling of shame restrains them from daring to belch forth their blasphemies against heaven, that they may give the freer vent to their rage, they pretend to pick a quarrel with us. But if they refuse to admit that every event which happens in the world is governed by the incomprehensible counsel of God, let them explain to what effect Scripture declares, that “his judgments are a great deep,” (Psalm 36:7.) For when Moses exclaims that the will of God “is not in heaven that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us? Neither is it beyond the sea that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea and bring it unto us?” (Deuteronomy 30:12, 13,) because it was familiarly expounded in the law, it follows that there must be another hidden will which is compared to “ a great deep.” It is of this will Paul exclaims, “O! the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33, 34.) It is true, indeed, that in the law and the gospel are comprehended mysteries which far transcend the measure of our sense; but since God, to enable his people to understand those mysteries which he has deigned to reveal in his word, enlightens their minds with a spirit of understanding, they are now no longer a deep, but a path in which they can walk safely — a lamp to guide their feet — a light of life — a school of clear and certain truth. But the admirable method of governing the world is justly called a deep, because, while it lies hid from us, it is to be reverently adored. Both views Moses has beautifully expressed in a few words. “Secret things,” saith he, “belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever,” (Deuteronomy 29:29.) We see how he enjoins us not only studiously to meditate on the law, but to look up with reverence to the secret Providence of God. The Book of Job also, in order to keep our minds humble, contains a description of this lofty theme. The author of the Book, after taking an ample survey of the universe, and discoursing magnificently on the works of God, at length adds, “Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him?” (Job 26:14.) For which reason he, in another passage, distinguishes between the wisdom which dwells in God, and the measure of wisdom which he has assigned to man, (Job 28:21, 28.) After discoursing of the secrets of nature, he says that wisdom “is hid from the eyes of all living;” that “God understandeth the way thereof.” Shortly after he adds, that it has been divulged that it might be investigated; for “unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.” To this the words of Augustine refer, “As we do not know all the things which God does respecting us in the best order, we ought, with good intention, to act according to the Law, and in some things be acted upon according to the Law, his Providence being a Law immutable,” (August. Quest. lib. 83 c. 27.) Therefore, since God claims to himself the right of governing the world, a right unknown to us, let it be our law of modesty and soberness to acquiesce in his supreme authority regarding his will as our only rule of justice, and the most perfect cause of all things, — not that absolute will, indeed, of which sophists prate, when by a profane and impious divorce, they separate his justice from his power, but that universal overruling Providence from which nothing flows that is not right, though the reasons thereof may be concealed.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 17-Henry Beveridge Translation

Special Providence proved by passages relating to the human race

November 18, 2015 Leave a comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Special Providence proved by passages relating to the human race, and the more especially that for its sake the world was created.

6. But as we know that it was chiefly for the sake of mankind that the world was made, we must look to this as the end which God has in view in the government of it. The prophet Jeremiah exclaims, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps,” (Jeremiah 10:23.) Solomon again says, “Man’s goings are of the Lord: how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24.) Will it now be said that man is moved by God according to the bent of his nature, but that man himself gives the movement any direction he pleases? Were it truly so, man would have the full disposal of his own ways. To this it will perhaps be answered, that man can do nothing without the power of God. But the answer will not avail, since both Jeremiah and Solomon attribute to God not power only, but also election and decree. And Solomon, in another place, elegantly rebukes the rashness of men in fixing their plans without reference to God, as if they were not led by his hand. “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord,” (Proverbs 16:1.) It is a strange infatuation, surely for miserable men, who cannot even give utterance except in so far as God pleases, to begin to act without him! Scriptures moreover, the better to show that every thing done in the world is according to his decree, declares that the things which seem most fortuitous are subject to him. For what seems more attributable to chance than the branch which falls from a tree, and kills the passing traveler? But the Lord sees very differently, and declares that He delivered him into the hand of the slayer, (Exodus 21:13.) In like manners who does not attribute the lot to the blindness of Fortune? Not so the Lord, who claims the decision for himself, (Proverbs 16:33.) He says not, that by his power the lot is thrown into the lap, and taken out, but declares that the only thing which could be attributed to chance is from him. To the same effect are the words of Solomon, “The poor and the deceitful man meet together; the Lord lighteneth both their eyes,” (Proverbs 29:13.) For although rich and poor are mingled together in the world, in saying that the condition of each is divinely appointed, he reminds us that God, Who enlightens all, has his own eye always open, and thus exhorts the poor to patient endurance, seeing that those who are discontented with their lot endeavor to shake off a burden which God has imposed upon them. Thus, too, another prophet upbraids the profane, who ascribe it to human industry, or to fortune, that some grovel in the mire while others rise to honor. “Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down ones and setteth up another,” (Psalm 75:6, 7.) Because God cannot divest himself of the office of judge, he infers that to his secret counsel it is owing that some are elevated, while others remain without honor.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 16-Henry Beveridge Translation