Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.

Translating that which was first in French, then translated into the King’s English into regular English so y’all can follow along. Buckle up, good theology ahead!

Book 2: Of the knowledge of God the Redeemer, in Christ, as first manifested to the fathers, under the law, and thereafter to us under the gospel.

Chapter 4: “How God Works In The Hearts Of Men.”

Section 1: Thus far we’ve determined that man cannot of his own good nature aim at good either in wish or pursuit, and that a distinction has been drawn between compulsion and necessity where it’s clear that even though man sins necessarily, nevertheless he sins voluntarily. From here we recognize that man seems to be more led by the devil’s will than his own, it’s necessary to explain the agency of each will and if man’s bad actions can be attributed to God. Augustine compares the will of man to that of a horse and that God and the devil are the two possible riders. “If God mounts, he, like a temperate and skillful rider, guides it calmly, urges it when too slow, reins it in when too fast, curbs its forwardness and over-action, checks its bad temper, and keeps it on the proper course; but if the devil has seized the saddle, like an ignorant and rash rider, he hurries it over broken ground, drives it into ditches, dashes it over precipices, spurs it into obstinacy or fury.” It is not that the will of man is forced to submit to the devil, but that it is so fascinated by his promises that it yields to his guidance. God grants those whom He does not favor over to the agency of Satan. In 2 Cor 4:4, Paul states that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, and in Eph 2:2 he describes the devil as the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. These are called the works of Satan, though their cause is not to be found anywhere but in the sinful hearts of men – where the root of evil lies.

Section 2: Calvin now turns to Job to show God’s sovereign hand in what happens in the life of someone who has been elected by God to obedience and salvation. The wicked acts of the Chaldeans upon Job, stealing his flocks and killing his shepherds, is by the hand of Satan, but was originally found at the hand of God. Job recognizes this in Job 1:21 where he states,”The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” How can this evil act be attributed to God? He allowed this situation to take place to exercise Job’s patience through adversity. To Satan, he had the ability to do whatever he wanted but in actuality he was limited to only what God allowed. “God also is said to act in his own way; because even Satan when he is the instrument of divine wrath, is completely under the command of God, who turns him as he will in the execution of his just judgments.” There is no inconsistency in attributing the same act to God, to Satan, and to man, “while, from the difference in the end and mode of action, the spotless righteousness of God shines forth at the same time that the iniquity of Satan and of man is manifested in all its deformity.”

Section 3: Ancient writers have often had trouble relating those things well for fear that they were speaking irreverently of the works of God. Calvin, while agreeing with their fear of God does not see any problems with merely reflecting what Scripture clearly states. Augustine himself states that sins are not merely of divine permission or patience, but of divine power. Those who say that God merely grants permission to people to commit sin merely are either not reading the text clearly or are cowards, afraid of the truth of Scripture. “God is very often said to blind and harden the reprobate, to turn their hearts, to incline and impel them, as I have elsewhere fully explained (Book 1 c. 18). The extent of this agency can never be explained by having recourse to prescience or permission.” There are two methods by which God acts which are depicted in scripture: First, where He takes His light away, His Spirit is withdrawn and we immediately turn from the right path. The second is where God acts through Satan by granting him limited reign over our lives to wreak havoc and lead us to sin. In both instances, God is the cause but He does not sin. “Thus when Moses relates that Simon, king of the Amorites, did not give the Israelites a passage, because the Lord “had hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate,” he immediately adds the purpose which God had in view—viz. that he might deliver him into their hand (Deut. 2:30). As God had resolved to destroy him, the hardening of his heart was the divine preparation for his ruin.”

Section 4: Where do we see this in Scripture? For the first method, where God reels back His guidance and lets people walk according to their own will, we see the following references:

Disaster comes upon disaster; rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet, while the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elders ~ Ezekiel 7:26

He pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes ~ Psalm 107:40

He deprives of speech those who are trusted
and takes away the discernment of the elders. ~ Job 12:20

He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth
and makes them wander in a trackless waste. ~ Job 12:24

O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage. ~ Isaiah 63:17

And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. ~ Exodus 4:21

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, ~ Exodus 7:3

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, ~ Exodus 10:1

But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. ~ Exodus 3:19

It is clear from the text that God executed His judgment in these actions to bring about His will. God hardened and turned their hearts against His plans or His chosen people and left the sin to those whom He had hardened. God also turns hearts and minds to bring good things for Israel:

He will raise a signal for nations far away,
and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
and behold, quickly, speedily they come! ~ Isaiah 5:16

In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. ~ Isaiah 7:18

And I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare. And I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, yet he shall not see it, and he shall die there. ~ Ezekiel 12:13

I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me. ~ Ezekiel 17:20

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! ~ Isaiah 10:15

When men sin, they do so by their own hand, but the end result of that sin is owed to the hand of God alone.

Section 5: Satan is used to bring the unconverted to action when the Lord so desires it to accomplish His works. It is said repeatedly in first Samuel that an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul and troubled him (1 Sam 16:14; 18:10; 19:9). This cannot be the act of the Holy Spirit, but an impure spirit which acts under the will of God. Paul adds to this in 2 Thess. 2:11-12 where he states, “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” There is always a wide gap between what God and Satan do, in that Satan is merely a tool of God who acts as controlled chaos to bring about the will of God; for our good and His glory. Satan, however, only has control over the lives of the unconverted whereas God reigns over both.

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