It is refreshing to the soul to peruse some of the works of John Calvin in which he both criticizes the modem perversion of the truth he loved and taught and also ably sets forth and defends that truth. When we consider the arguments which he brings forth and notate his repeated appeals to Scripture to support his conviction, we are deeply convinced of his sincerity and persuaded that the system of truth which he propounded is more than a set of dogmas. It is a way of life. It is a redeeming truth. To live it is to experience freedom.
Thus, for example, the Reformer of Geneva in refuting those who interpret grace to be God’s goodness inviting all men to salvation, calls this a puerile and absurd fiction and immediately appeals to the apostle Paul, showing how he “most clearly separates the foreknown from those on whom God deigned not to look in mercy”. And, as if this were not enough he directs us to the memorable words of Jesus, “No man can come unto Me except My Father draw him . . . and All that the Father giveth Me shall come unto Me”. We would that all who claim to be adherents to Calvinism would listen to Calvin instead of to his image which has been modified by theological sculpture. And we certainly emphasize to our present generation of Protestant Reformed youth the importance of being mute to the image and responsive to the true Calvin.
In another place the Reformer speaks a language we embrace when he says: “Now no one doubts that humility lies at the bottom of all true religion, and in the mother of all virtues. But how shall he be humble who will not hear of the original sin and misery from which he has been delivered? And who, by extending the saving mercy of God to all, without difference, lessens, as much as in him lies, the glory of that mercy? Those most certainly are the farthest from glorifying the grace of God according to its greatness, who declares that it is indeed common to all men; but that it rests effectually in them, because they have embraced it by faith.”
Then he says again, “Let those roar at us who will. We will ever brighten forth, with all our power of language, the doctrine which we hold concerning the free election of God, seeing that it is only by it that the faithful can understand how great that goodness of God is which effectually called them to salvation”.
Wonderful, isn’t it! A beautiful doctrine! Your Protestant Reformed heritage extolling the Sovereignty of God. Let no one take it from you!
There always are to the truth of God because men are carnal and profane. Wherever the pure truth is maintained the lie is held up over against it. The calumny that goes with it we have heard before.—“If God does it all and salvation is determined in the eternal counsel, there is no sense to preaching, exhorting, etc. . . .If the election is the deciding factor and we can do nothing about that, we may as well live carelessly, for if we are elect, we will be saved and if not, we can do nothing about it anyway. . . .God becomes the author of sin; man is made irresponsible. . .” And to this much more could be added.
All these arguments the Reformer meets in his work: “Calvin’s Calvinism”. He does not evade them but maintains the truth over against them. Firmly he holds “that the salvation of believers depends on the eternal election of God for which no cause or reason can be rendered but His own gratuitous pleasure.” He asserts “believers embrace the truth and walk in it because it is God who works faith in them” and “unbelievers remain blinded in darkness because God closed their eyes lest seeing they should perceive and be converted.” In the words of Calvin, “I constantly make God the RULE of the whole world, who by His incomprehensible and wonderful counsel governs and directs all things. . .” We say “Soli Deo Gloria”.
Does this make us careless and indifferent? Of course not, for “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God”. And it is impossible to be indifferent when we are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible that the children of grace should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness in all their life. These put off the works of the flesh and strive diligently to flee “every appearance of sin” that may walk after the Spirit and present themselves before God in true holiness. This is worked in and through us by the Spirit of grace and adoption. He regenerates us through which we receive a new life, new desires, new aspirations. He calls through the Word which we hear and obey. He gives faith which we use and by which we walk in truth. No more than a man can calmly and indifferently sit in his house while the entire structure is in flame can the Christian assume such an attitude toward the world of sin. The redeemed saint who has tasted God’s goodness and grace HATES SIN, FIGHTS SIN and seeks his Father’s will.
In the truth of God’s Sovereign and Free Elective Grace there is comfort. How assuring it is to know that the work of salvation seen and known in us is God’s work that “will not . . . that cannot” be destroyed. That gives us confidence. And having confidence we are bold to say, “I will not fear what man shall do unto me . . . The Lord is my helper and stay.” Then, the peace of God reigns in our hearts.
I have tried to encourage you to hold fast to the distinctive truths given to us through the great Reformer. Often we take the most precious truths for granted and then the most common rules of Christian living fail to receive proper emphasis. Our heritage is of unspeakable value. Make your calling and election sure. On that foundation the rest of a pure Christian life will follow. Then, the truth shall make you free!
Maintaining that doctrine our lives will prove to be worthy of that beautiful name …Christian!