Eternal Election

eCHAPTER XXI

Eternal Election, by Which God Has Predestined Some to Salvation, Others to Destruction1

(Importance of the doctrine of predestination excludes both presumption and reticence in speaking of it, 1–4)

1. Necessity and beneficial effect of the doctrine of election; danger of curiosity†

bIn actual fact, the covenant of life is not preached equally among all men, and among those to whom it is preached, it does not gain the same acceptance either constantly or in equal degree. In this diversity the wonderful depth of God's judgment is made known. For there is no doubt that this variety also serves the decision of God's eternal election. If it is plain that it comes to pass by God's bidding that salvation is freely offered to some while others are barred from access to it, at once great and difficult questions spring up, explicable only when reverent minds regard as settled what they may suitably hold concerning election and predestination. eA baffling question this seems to many. For they think nothing more inconsistent than that out of the common multitude of men some should be predestined to salvation, others to destruction.2 But how mistakenly they entangle themselves will become clear in the following discussion. Besides, in the very darkness that frightens them not only is the usefulness of this doctrine made known but also its very sweet fruit. We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation flows from the wellspring of God's free mercy until we come to know his eternal election, which illumines God's grace by this contrast: that he does not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some what he denies to others.

How much the ignorance of this principle detracts from God's glory, how much it takes away from true humility, is well known. Yet Paul denies that this which needs so much to be known can be known unless God, utterly disregarding works, chooses those whom he has decreed within himself. "At the present time," he says, "a remnant has been saved according to the election of grace. But if it is by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace would no more be grace. But if it is of works, it is no more of grace; otherwise work would not be work." [Rom. 11:5–6.]3 If—to make it clear that our salvation comes about solely from God's mere generosity—we must be called back to the course of election, those who wish to get rid of all this are obscuring as maliciously as they can what ought to have been gloriously and vociferously proclaimed, and they tear humility up by the very roots. Paul clearly testifies that, when the salvation of a remnant of the people is ascribed to the election of grace, then only is it acknowledged that God of his mere good pleasure preserves whom he will, and moreover that he pays no reward, since he can owe none.

They who shut the gates that no one may dare seek a taste of this doctrine wrong men no less than God. For neither will anything else suffice to make us humble as we ought to be nor shall we otherwise sincerely feel how much we are obliged to God. And as Christ teaches, here is our only ground for firmness and confidence: in order to free us of all fear and render us victorious amid so many dangers, snares, and mortal struggles, he promises that whatever the Father has entrusted into his keeping will be safe [John 10:28–29]. From this we infer that all those who do not know that they are God's own will be miserable through constant fear. Hence, those who by being blind to the three benefits we have noted4 would wish the foundation of our salvation to be removed from our midst, very badly serve the interests of themselves and of all other believers. How is it that the church becomes manifest to us from this, when, as Bernard rightly teaches, "it could not otherwise be found or recognized among creatures, since it lies marvelously hidden … both within the bosom of a blessed predestination and within the mass of a miserable condemnation?"5

bBut before I enter into the matter itself, I need to mention by way of preface two kinds of men.

Human curiosity renders the discussion of predestination, already somewhat difficult of itself, very confusing and even dangerous. No restraints can hold it back from wandering in forbidden bypaths and thrusting upward to the heights. If allowed, it will leave no secret to God that it will not search out and unravel. Since we see so many on all sides rushing into this audacity and impudence, among them certain men not otherwise bad,6 they should in due season be reminded of the measure of their duty in this regard.

First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into predestination they are penetrating the sacred precincts of divine wisdom. If anyone with carefree assurance breaks into this place, he will not succeed in satisfying his curiosity and he will enter a labyrinth from which he can find no exit. For it is not right for man unrestrainedly to search out things that the Lord has willed to be hid in himself, and to unfold from eternity itself the sublimest wisdom, which he would have us revere but not understand that through this also he should fill us with wonder. He has set forth by his Word the secrets of his will that he has decided to reveal to us. These he decided to reveal in so far as he foresaw that they would concern us and benefit us.

2. Doctrine of predestination to be sought in Scripture only*

c"We have entered the pathway of faith," says Augustine, "let us hold steadfastly to it. It leads us to the King's chamber, in which are hid all treasures of knowledge and wisdom. For the Lord Christ himself did not bear a grudge against his great and most select disciples when he said: 'I have … many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now' [John 16:12]. We must walk, we must advance, we must grow, that our hearts may be capable of those things which we cannot yet grasp. But if the Last Day finds us advancing, there we shall learn what we could not learn here."7 bIf this thought prevails with us, that the Word of the Lord is the sole way that can lead us in our search for all that it is lawful to hold concerning him, and is the sole light to illumine our vision of all that we should see of him, it will readily keep and restrain us from all rashness. For we shall know that the moment we exceed the bounds of the Word, our course is outside the pathway and in darkness, and that there we must repeatedly wander, slip, and stumble. Let this, therefore, first of all be before our eyes: to seek any other knowledge of predestination than what the Word of God discloses is not less insane than if one should purpose to walk in a pathless waste [cf. Job 12:24], or to see in darkness. And let us not be ashamed to be ignorant of something in this matter, wherein there is a certain learned ignorance.8 Rather, let us willingly refrain from inquiring into a kind of knowledge, the ardent desire for which is both foolish and dangerous, nay, even deadly. But if a wanton curiosity agitates us, e(b)we shall always do well to oppose to it this restraining thought: just as too much honey is not good, so for the curious the investigation of glory is not turned into glory [Prov. 25:27, cf. Vg.]. bFor there is good reason for us to be deterred from this insolence which can only plunge us into ruin.

3. The second danger: anxious silence about the doctrine of election

bThere are others who, wishing to cure this evil, all but require that every mention of predestination be buried; indeed, they teach us to avoid any question of it, as we would a reef.9 Even though their moderation in this matter is rightly to be praised, because they feel that these mysteries ought to be discussed with great soberness, yet because they descend to too low a level, they make little progress with the human understanding, which does not allow itself to be easily restrained. Therefore, to hold to a proper limit in this regard also, we shall have to turn back to the Word of the Lord, in which we have a sure rule for the understanding. For Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which, as nothing is omitted that is both necessary and useful to know, so nothing is taught but what is expedient to know. Therefore we must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination in Scripture, lest we seem either wickedly to defraud them of the blessing of their God or to accuse and scoff at the Holy Spirit for having published what it is in any way profitable to suppress.

Let us, I say, permit the Christian man to open his mind and ears to every utterance of God directed to him, provided it be with such restraint that when the Lord closes his holy lips, he also shall at once close the way to inquiry. The best limit of sobriety for us will be not only to follow God's lead always in learning but, when he sets an end to teaching, to stop trying to be wise. The fact that they fear danger is not sufficiently important that we should on that account turn away our minds from the oracles of God. eSolomon's saying is familiar: "It is the glory of God to conceal the word" [Prov. 25:2, Vg.]. But since piety and common sense show that this is not to be understood indiscriminately of everything, we must seek a distinction, lest under the pretense of modesty and sobriety we are satisfied with brutish ignorance. Moses clearly expresses this in a few words: "The secret things," he says, "belong to … our God, but he has manifested them to us and to our children" [Deut. 29:29, cf. Vg.]. We see how he urges the people to study the teaching of the law only on the ground of a heavenly decree, because it pleased God to publish it; and how he held the same people within these bounds for this reason alone: that it is not lawful for mortal men to intrude upon the secrets of God.

4. The alleged peril in the doctrine dismissed*

bProfane men, I admit, in the matter of predestination abruptly seize upon something to carp, rail, bark, or scoff at. But if their shamelessness deters us, we shall have to keep secret the chief doctrines of the faith, almost none of which they or their like leave untouched by blasphemy. An obstinate person would be no less insolently puffed up on hearing that within the essence of God there are three Persons than if he were told that God foresaw what would happen to man when he created him. And they will not refrain from guffaws when they are informed that but little more than five thousand years have passed since the creation of the universe, for they ask why God's power was idle and asleep for so long.10 Nothing, in short, can be brought forth that they do not assail with their mockery. Should we, to silence these blasphemies, forbear to speak of the deity of Son and Spirit? Must we pass over in silence the creation of the universe? No! God's truth is so powerful, both in this respect and in every other, that it has nothing to fear from the evilspeaking of wicked men.

So Augustine stoutly maintains in his little treatise The Gift of Perseverance. For we see that the false apostles could not make Paul ashamed by defaming and accusing his true doctrine. They say that this whole discussion is dangerous for godly minds—because it hinders exhortations, because it shakes faith, because it disturbs and terrifies the heart itself—but this is nonsense! Augustine admits that for these reasons he was frequently charged with preaching predestination too freely, but, as it was easy for him, he overwhelmingly refuted the charge.11 We, moreover, because many and various absurdities are obtruded at this point, have preferred to dispose of each in its own place.12 I desire only to have them generally admit that we should not investigate what the Lord has left hidden in secret, that we should not neglect what he has brought into the open, so that we may not be convicted of excessive curiosity on the one hand, or of excessive ingratitude on the other. For Augustine also skillfully expressed this idea: we can safely follow Scripture, which proceeds at the pace of a mother stooping to her child, so to speak, so as not to leave us behind in our weakness.13 eBut for those who are so cautious or fearful that they desire to bury predestination in order not to disturb weak souls14—with what color will they cloak their arrogance when they accuse God indirectly of stupid thoughtlessness, as if he had not foreseen the peril that they feel they have wisely met? Whoever, then, heaps odium upon the doctrine of predestination openly reproaches God, as if he had unadvisedly let slip something hurtful to the church.

(Predestination defined and explained in relation to the Israelitish nation, and to individuals, 5–7)

5. Predestination and foreknowledge of God; the election of Israel

eNo one who wishes to be thought religious dares simply deny predestination, by which God adopts some to hope of life, and sentences others to eternal death. But our opponents, especially those who make foreknowledge its cause, envelop it in numerous petty objections.15 We, indeed, place both doctrines in God, but we say that subjecting one to the other is absurd.

bWhen we attribute foreknowledge to God, we mean that all things always were, and perpetually remain, under his eyes, so that to his knowledge there is nothing future or past, but all things are present. And they are present in such a way that he not only conceives them through ideas, as we have before us those things which our minds remember, but he truly looks upon them and discerns them as things placed before him. And this foreknowledge is extended throughout the universe to every creature. We call predestination16 God's eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.

eGod has attested this not only in individual persons but has given us an example of it in the whole offspring of Abraham, to make it clear that in his choice rests the future condition of each nation. "When the Most High divided the nations, and separated the sons of Adam … the people of Israel were his portion, … the cord of his inheritance." [Deut. 32:8–9 p., cf. Vg.] The separation is apparent to all men: in the person of Abraham, as in a dry tree trunk, one people is peculiarly chosen, while the others are rejected; but the cause does not appear except that Moses, to cut off from posterity any occasion to boast, teaches that they excel solely by God's freely given love. For he declares this the cause of their deliverance: that God loved the patriarchs, "and chose their seed after them" [Deut. 4:37].

More explicitly, in another chapter: "Not because you surpassed all other peoples in number did he take pleasure in you to choose you, … but because he loved you" [Deut. 7:7–8 p., cf. Vg.]. Moses quite frequently repeats the same declaration: "Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven, … earth, and all that is in them. Only he delighted in your fathers and loved them, and chose you their seed" [Deut. 10:14–15, cf. Vg.]. Likewise, elsewhere, sanctification is enjoined upon them because they have been chosen as his "special people" [Deut. 7:6]. And in another passage love is again declared the reason for his protection [Deut. 23:5]. Believers also proclaim this with one voice: "He chooses our heritage for us, the glory of Jacob, whom he has loved" [Ps. 47:4, cf. Comm.]. For all who have been adorned with gifts by God credit them to his freely given love because they knew not only that they had not merited them but that even the holy patriarch himself was not endowed with such virtue as to acquire such a high honor for himself and his descendants. And in order more effectively to crush all pride, he reproaches them as deserving no such thing, since they were a stubborn and stiff-necked people [Ex. 32:9; cf. Deut. 9:6]. Also, the prophets often confront the Jews with this election, to the latters' displeasure and by way of reproach, since they had shamefully fallen away from it [cf. Amos 3:2].

Be this as it may, let those now come forward who would bind God's election either to the worthiness of men or to the merit of works. Since they see one nation preferred above all others, and hear that God was not for any reason moved to be more favorably inclined to a few, ignoble—indeed, even wicked and stubborn—men, will they quarrel with him because he chose to give such evidence of his mercy? But they shall neither hinder his work with their clamorous voices nor strike and hurt his righteousness by hurling the stones of their insults toward heaven. Rather, these will fall back on their own heads! Also, the Israelites are recalled to this principle of a freely given covenant17 when thanks are to be given to God, or when hope is to be aroused for the age to come. "He has made us and not we ourselves," says the prophet, "we are his people and the sheep of his pastures." [Ps. 100:3; cf. Comm. and Ps. 99:3, Vg.] The negative, which is added to exclude "ourselves," is not superfluous, since by it they may know that God is not only the Author of all good things in which they abound but has derived the cause from himself, because nothing in them was worthy of so great honor.

He also bids them be content with God's mere good pleasure, in these words: "O seed of Abraham his servant, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!" [Ps. 105:6; 104:6, Vg.]. And after having recounted the continuing benefits of God as the fruit of election, he finally concludes that he acted so generously because "he remembered his covenant" [Ps. 105:42]. With this doctrine the song of the whole church is in accord: "Thy right hand … and the light of thy countenance gave the land to our fathers, for thou didst delight in them" [Ps. 44:3, 1]. Now we must note that where "land" is mentioned, it is a visible symbol of the secret separation that includes adoption. David elsewhere urges the people to the same gratitude: "Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!" [Ps. 33:12, Comm.]. And Samuel arouses them to good hope: "For God will not forsake you for his great name's sake, since it has pleased him to create you a people for himself" [1 Sam. 12:22 p.]. In this way, David also arms himself for battle when his faith is assailed: "The blessed one whom thou hast elected … will dwell in thy courts" [Ps. 65:4; cf. Comm. and 64:5, Vg.]. Moreover, because the election, being hidden in God, was confirmed by the first liberation, as well as by the second and other intermediate benefits, the word "to elect" is applied to this effect in Isaiah: "God will have mercy on Jacob and will yet elect out of Israel" [ch. 14:1 p., cf. Vg.]. In describing the time to come, the prophet says that the gathering together of the remnant of the people, whom he had seemed to forsake, will be a sign of the stability and firmness of his election, which at that very moment had seemingly failed. When he also says in another place, "I have elected you and not cast you off" [Isa. 41:9], he emphasizes the ceaseless course of the remarkable generosity of his fatherly benevolence. The angel in Zechariah expresses this more clearly: "God … will yet elect Jerusalem" [ch. 2:12]. It is as though he, by more harshly chastening, had rejected her, or as though the exile had been an interruption of election. Yet election remains inviolable, although its signs do not always appear.

6. The second stage: election and reprobation of individual Israelites

eWe must now add a second, more limited degree of election, or one in which God's more special grace was evident, that is, when from the same race of Abraham God rejected some but showed that he kept others among his sons by cherishing them in the church. Ishmael had at first obtained equal rank with his brother, Isaac, for in him the spiritual covenant had been equally sealed by the sign of circumcision. Ishmael is cut off; then Esau; afterward, a countless multitude, and well-nigh all Israel. In Isaac the seed was called; the same calling continued in Jacob. God showed a similar example in rejecting Saul. This is also wonderfully proclaimed in the psalm: "He rejected the tribe of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim but chose the tribe of Judah" [Ps. 78:67–68; cf. LXX and Ps. 77:67–68, Vg. and Comm.]. This is several times repeated in the Sacred History, the better to reveal in this change the marvelous secret of God's grace. By their own defect and guilt, I admit, Ishmael, Esau, and the like were cut off from adoption. For the condition had been laid down that they should faithfully keep God's covenant, which they faithlessly violated. Yet this was a singular benefit of God, that he had deigned to prefer them to the other nations, as the psalm says: "He has not dealt thus with any other nations, and has not shown them his judgments" [Ps. 147:9, cf. LXX].

But I had good reason to say that here we must note two degrees, for in the election of a whole nation God has already shown that in his mere generosity he has not been bound by any laws but is free, so that equal apportionment of grace is not to be required of him. The very inequality of his grace proves that it is free. For this reason, Malachi emphasizes Israel's ungratefulness, because, while not only chosen from the whole human race but also separated out of a holy house as his own people, they faithlessly and impiously despise God, their beneficent Father. "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" he asks. "Yet I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau." [Mal. 1:2–3; Rom. 9:13.] For God takes it for granted that, as both had been begotten of a holy father, were successors of the covenant, and in short, were branches of a sacred root, the children of Jacob were now under extraordinary obligation, having been received into that dignity; but after the first-born, Esau, had been rejected, and their father, who was inferior by birth, had been made heir, God accuses them of being doubly thankless, and complains that they were not held by that double bond.

7. The election of individuals as actual election

eAlthough it is now sufficiently clear that God by his secret plan freely chooses whom he pleases, rejecting others, still his free election has been only half explained until we come to individual persons, to whom God not only offers salvation but so assigns it that the certainty of its effect is not in suspense or doubt. These are reckoned among the unique offspring mentioned by Paul [cf. Rom. 9:7–8; Gal. 3:16 ff.]. The adoption was put in Abraham's hands. Nevertheless, because many of his descendants were cut off as rotten members, we must, in order that election may be effectual and truly enduring, ascend to the Head, in whom the Heavenly Father has gathered his elect together, and has joined them to himself by an indissoluble bond. So, indeed, God's generous favor, which he has denied to others, has been displayed in the adoption of the race of Abraham; yet in the members of Christ a far more excellent power of grace appears, for, engrafted to their Head, they are never cut off from salvation. Therefore Paul skillfully argues from the passage of Malachi that I have just cited that where God has made a covenant of eternal life and calls any people to himself, a special mode of election is employed for a part of them, so that he does not with indiscriminate grace effectually elect all [Rom. 9:13]. The statement "I have loved Jacob" [Mal. 1:2] applies to the whole offspring of the patriarch, whom the prophet there contrasts to the posterity of Esau. Still this does not gainsay the fact that there was set before us in the person of one man an example of election that cannot fail to accomplish its purpose. Paul with good reason notes that they are called the "remnant" [Rom. 9:27; 11:5; cf. Isa. 10:22–23]. For experience shows that of the great multitude many fall away and disappear, so that often only a slight portion remains.

It is easy to explain why the general election of a people is not always firm and effectual: to those with whom God makes a covenant, he does not at once give the spirit of regeneration that would enable them to persevere in the covenant to the very end. Rather, the outward change, without the working of inner grace, which might have availed to keep them, is intermediate between the rejection of mankind and the election of a meager number of the godly. The whole people of Israel has been called "the inheritance of God" [Deut. 32:9; 1 Kings 8:51; Ps. 28:9; 33:12; etc.], yet many of them were foreigners. But because God has not pointlessly covenanted that he would become their Father and Redeemer, he sees to his freely given favor rather than to the many who treacherously desert him. Even through them his truth was not set aside, for where he preserved some remnant for himself, it appeared that his calling was "without repentance" [Rom. 11:29]. For the fact that God was continually gathering his church from Abraham's children rather than from profane nations had its reason in his covenant, which, when violated by that multitude, he confined to a few that it might not utterly cease. In short, that adoption of Abraham's seed in common was a visible image of the greater benefit that God bestowed on some out of the many. This is why Paul so carefully distinguishes the children of Abraham according to the flesh from the spiritual children who have been called after the example of Isaac [Gal. 4:28]. Not that it was a vain and unprofitable thing simply to be a child of Abraham; such could not be said without dishonoring the covenant! No, God's unchangeable plan, by which he predestined for himself those whom he willed, was in fact intrinsically effectual unto salvation for these spiritual offspring alone. But I advise my readers not to take a prejudiced position on either side until, when the passages of Scripture have been adduced, it shall be clear what opinion ought to be held.

Summary survey of the doctrine of election

bAs Scripture, then, clearly shows, we say that God once established by his eternal and unchangeable plan those whom he long before determined once for all to receive into salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, he would devote to destruction. e(a)We assert that, with respect to the elect, this plan was founded upon his freely given mercy, without regard to human worth; but by his just and irreprehensible but incomprehensible judgment bhe has barred the door of life to those whom he has given over to damnation. Now among the elect we regard the call as a testimony of election. Then we hold justification another sign of its manifestation, until they come into the glory in which the fulfillment of that election lies. But as the Lord seals his elect by call and justification, so, by shutting off the reprobate from knowledge of his name or from the sanctification of his Spirit, he, as it were, reveals by these marks what sort of judgment awaits them. Here I shall pass over many fictions that stupid men have invented to overthrow predestination. They need no refutation, for as soon as they are brought forth they abundantly prove their own falsity. I shall pause only over those which either are being argued by the learned or may raise difficulty for the simple, or which impiety speciously sets forth in order to assail God's righteousness.


eCHAPTER XXII

Confirmation of This Doctrine from Scriptural Testimonies

(Election is not from foreknowledge of merit but is of God's sovereign purpose, 1–6)

1. Election vs. foreknowledge of merits*

e(b)Many persons dispute all these positions which we have set forth, especially the free election of believers; nevertheless, this cannot be shaken. bFor generally these persons consider that God distinguishes among men according as he foresees what the merits of each will be.1 Therefore, he adopts as sons those whom he foreknows will not be unworthy of his grace; he appoints to the damnation of death those whose dispositions he discerns will be inclined to evil intention and ungodliness. eBy thus covering election with a veil of foreknowledge, they not only obscure it but feign that it has its origin elsewhere. bAnd this commonly accepted notion is not confined to the common folk; important authors of all periods have held it.2 This I frankly confess so that no one may assume that if their names be quoted against us, our case will be greatly damaged. For God's truth is here too sure to be shaken, too clear to be overwhelmed by men's authority.

eBut others, not versed in Scripture, and deserving no approbation, so wickedly assail this sound doctrine that their insolence is intolerable. Because God chooses some, and passes over others according to his own decision, they bring an action against him.3 But if the fact itself is well known, what will it profit them to quarrel against God? We teach nothing not borne out by experience:4 that God has always been free to bestow his grace on whom he wills. I shall not inquire in what respect the descendants of Abraham excelled other men, except in that esteem whose cause is not found outside God. Let them answer why they are men rather than oxen or asses. Although it was in God's power to make them dogs, he formed them to his own image. Will they allow brute beasts to argue with God about their condition, as if the distinction were unjust? Surely, it is not fairer for them to possess a privilege that they have obtained without merits than for God variously to dispense his benefits according to the measure of his judgment!

If they shift the argument to individual persons where they find the inequality more objectionable, they ought at least so to tremble at the example of Christ as not to prate so irresponsibly about this lofty mystery. He is conceived a mortal man of the seed of David. By what virtues will they say that he deserved in the womb itself to be made head of the angels, only-begotten Son of God, image and glory of the Father, light, righteousness, and salvation of the world [cf. Heb. 1:2 ff.]? Augustine wisely notes this: namely, that we have in the very Head of the church the clearest mirror of free election that we who are among the members may not be troubled about it; and that he was not made Son of God by righteous living but was freely given such honor so that he might afterward share his gifts with others.5 If here anyone should ask why others were not as he was—or why all of us are separated from him by such a long distance—why all of us are corrupt, while he is purity itself, such a questioner would display not only his madness but with it also his shamelessness. But if they willfully strive to strip God of his free power to choose or reject, let them at the same time also take away what has been given to Christ.

Now it behooves us to pay attention to what Scripture proclaims of every person. bWhen Paul teaches that we were chosen in Christ "before the creation of the world" [Eph. 1:4a], he takes away all consideration of real worth on our part, for it is just as if he said: since among all the offspring of Adam, the Heavenly Father found nothing worthy of his election, he turned his eyes upon his Anointed, to choose from that body as members those whom he was to take into the fellowship of life. Let this reasoning, then, prevail among believers: we were adopted in Christ into the eternal inheritance because in ourselves we were not capable of such great excellence.

This Paul also notes, in another passage, when he urges the Colossians to give thanks because God has made them fit to share the inheritance of the saints [Col. 1:12 p.]. If, to make us fit to receive the glory of the life to come, election precedes this grace of God, what will God find in us now to move him to choose us? Another statement of Paul's will express even more clearly what I mean. "He chose us," says he, "before the foundations of the world were laid" [Eph. 1:4a], "according to the good pleasure of his will" [Eph. 1:5, Comm.], "that we should be holy and spotless and irreproachable in his sight" [Eph. 1:4b, conflated with Col. 1:22]. There Paul sets "God's good pleasure" over against any merits of ours.

2. Election before creation and not associated with foreknowledge of merit*

eThat the proof may be more complete, it is worth-while to note the individual parts of this passage [Eph. 1:4–5], which, coupled together, leave no doubt. Since he calls them "elect," it cannot be doubted that he is speaking to believers, as he also soon declares; therefore those who misinterpret the word "elect" as confined to the age when the gospel was proclaimed disfigure it with a base fabrication.6 By saying that they were "elect before the creation of the world" [Eph. 1:4], he takes away all regard for worth. For what basis for distinction is there among those who did not yet exist, and who were subsequently to be equals in Adam? Now if they are elect in Christ, it follows that not only is each man elected without respect to his own person but also certain ones are separated from others, since we see that not all are members of Christ. Besides, the fact that they were elected "to be holy" [Eph. 1:4b] plainly refutes the error that derives election from foreknowledge, since Paul declares all virtue appearing in man is the result of election. Now if a higher cause be sought, Paul answers that God has predestined it so, and that this is "according to the good pleasure of his will" [Eph. 1:5b]. By these words he does away with all means of their election that men imagine in themselves. For all benefits that God bestows for the spiritual life, as Paul teaches, flow from this one source: namely, that God has chosen whom he has willed, and before their birth has laid up for them individually the grace that he willed to grant them.

3. Elected to be holy, not because already holy*

bWherever this decision of God's holds sway, there is no consideration of works. Of course, Paul does not develop the antithesis here, but it must be understood as he himself elsewhere explains it. "He called us," Paul says, "with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose, and the grace that was given to us by Christ before time began." [2 Tim. 1:9 p.] And we have already shown that in the words that follow, "that we should be holy and spotless" [Eph. 1:4, cf. Vg.], we are freed of every doubt.7 Say: "Since he foresaw that we would be holy, he chose us," and you will invert Paul's order. Therefore you can safely infer the following: if he chose us that we should be holy, he did not choose us because he foresaw that we would be so. For these two notions disagree: that the godly have their holiness from election, and that they arrive at election by reason of works. The quibble to which they frequently have recourse, that the Lord does not reward preceding merits with the grace of election yet grants it to future merits,8 has no validity. For when it is said that believers were chosen that they might be holy, at the same time it is suggested that the holiness that was to be in them originated from election. What consistency is there in saying that the things derived from election gave cause to election?

Paul seems afterward further to confirm what he had said when he states: "According to the purpose of his will" [Eph. 1:5, Vg.], "which he had purposed in himself" [Eph. 1:9]. For to say that "God purposed in himself" means the same thing as to say that he considered nothing outside himself with which to be concerned in making his decree. Therefore he adds at once that the whole intent of our election is that we should be to the praise of divine grace [cf. Eph. 1:6]. Surely the grace of God deserves alone to be proclaimed in our election only if it is freely given. Now it will not be freely given if God, in choosing his own, considers what the works of each shall be. We therefore find Christ's statement to his disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" [John 15:16], generally valid among all believers. There he not only rules out past merits but also indicates his disciples had nothing in themselves for which to be chosen if he had not first turned to them in his mercy. And how is Paul's statement to be understood, "Who has first given to him, and he shall receive recompense" [Rom. 11:35]? He means to show that God's goodness so anticipates men that among them he finds nothing either past or future to win them his favor.

4. Romans, chs. 9 to 11, and similar passages

bTherefore, in the letter to the Romans, where Paul both reiterates this argument more profoundly and pursues it more at length, ehe states that "not all who are descendants of Israel are Israelites" [Rom. 9:6]. For even though all had been blessed by hereditary right, the succession did not pass to all equally. This discussion arose from the pride and false boasting of the Jewish people. For when they claimed for themselves the name "church," they wanted belief in the gospel to depend upon their decision. Today, in like manner, the papists with this false pretext would willingly substitute themselves for God. Paul, although he admits that, by virtue of the covenant, the offspring of Abraham are holy, still contends that many among them are outside of it. And that is not only because they degenerate from legitimate children to bastards but also because God's special election towers and rules over all, alone ratifying his adoption. If their own piety established some in the hope of salvation, and their own desertion disinherited others, it would be quite absurd for Paul to lift his readers to secret election. Now if the will of God, the cause of which neither appears nor ought to be sought outside of himself, distinguishes some from others, so that not all the sons of Israel are true Israelites, it is vain to pretend that every man's condition begins in himself.

e(b)From the example of Jacob and Esau, Paul then develops the matter further. eFor although both were sons of Abraham, enclosed together in their mother's womb, the honor of the first-born was transferred to Jacob. Here was a change like a portent, which, as Paul contends, testified to the election of Jacob and the reprobation of Esau. When one asks the origin and cause, the teachers of foreknowledge would locate it in the virtues and vices of the men. Here is the sum of their facile argument: in the person of Jacob, God showed that he chooses those worthy of his grace; in the person of Esau, that he repudiates those whom he foresees as unworthy.9 So, indeed, they boldly argue. But what does Paul say? b"Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, it was said, 'The elder will serve the younger.' As it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.' " [Rom. 9:11–13; cf. Gen. 25:23.] eIf foreknowledge had any bearing upon this distinction between the brothers, the mention of time would surely have been inopportune.

Suppose we admit that Jacob was chosen because he had worth arising out of virtues to come; why should Paul say that he had not yet been born? Now it would have been rash to add that he still had done no good, for this answer will be ready: nothing is hidden from God, and so Jacob's godliness was present before him. If works obtain grace, God's reward for them ought rightly to have been already established before Jacob's birth, just as if he had grown up. But the apostle proceeds to resolve this difficulty, and teaches that the adoption of Jacob comes not from works but from God's call. In treating of works he does not bring in future or past time; he decidedly sets them over against God's call, wishing by establishing the one skillfully to refute the other. This is as if he said: "It is what God pleased that is to be considered, not what men brought of themselves." Finally, from the words "election" and "purpose" it is certain that all causes that men commonly devise apart from God's secret plan are remote from this cause.

5. The case of Jacob and Esau refutes the argument from works*

bWhat will those who assign some place in election to works, either past or future, use for a pretext to obscure these things? For this is directly to evade the apostle's contention that the distinction between the brothers depends not upon any basis of works but upon the mere calling of God, because it was established between them before they were born. And their subtlety would not have been hidden from Paul if it had had anything genuine in it. But because he well knew that God could foresee nothing good in man except what he had already determined to bestow by the benefit of his election, he does not resort to that absurd disorder of putting good works before their cause. For we have it from the words of the apostle that the salvation of believers has been founded upon the decision of divine election alone, and that this favor is not earned by works but comes from free calling. We have, as it were, an example10 of this thing set before us. Esau and Jacob are brothers, born of the same parents, as yet enclosed in the same womb, not yet come forth into the light. In them all things are equal, yet God's judgment of each is different. For he receives one and rejects the other. It was only by right of primogeniture that one excelled the other. Yet even that is disregarded, and what is denied to the elder is given to the younger. Indeed, in other cases also God seems always purposely to have despised the right of the first-born, to deprive the flesh of all reason to boast. Disowning Ishmael, he sets his heart on Isaac [Gen. 21:12]. Setting Manasseh aside, he honors Ephraim more [Gen. 48:20].

6. Jacob's election not to earthly blessings*

bBut suppose someone interrupts me to say that we ought not to conclude from these inferior and slight benefits, concerning the whole of the life to come, that he who has been elevated to the honor of first-born should accordingly be considered as adopted into the inheritance of heaven. For there are very many who do not spare even Paul from the charge that in the testimonies quoted he twisted Scripture to a foreign meaning.11 I reply as before that the apostle neither slipped through thoughtlessness nor willfully misused the testimonies of Scripture.12 But he saw what they cannot bear to consider: that God willed by an earthly symbol to declare Jacob's spiritual election, which otherwise lay hid in his inaccessible judgment seat. For unless we refer the right of primogeniture granted him to the age to come, it would be an empty and absurd kind of blessing, since from it he obtained nothing but e(b)manifold hardships, troubles, sad exile, many sorrows, and bitter cares. bTherefore, when Paul saw without doubt that by outward blessing God testified to the blessing, spiritual and unfading, that he had prepared in his Kingdom for his servant, he did not hesitate to seek in the outward blessing evidence to prove the spiritual blessing [cf. Eph. 1:3 ff.]. eWe must also bear in mind that the pledge of a heavenly dwelling place was attached to the Land of Canaan. Hence, it ought not to be doubted that Jacob was, with the angels, engrafted into the body of Christ that he might share the same life.

bJacob, therefore, is chosen and distinguished from the rejected Esau by God's predestination, while not differing from him in merits. If you ask the reason, the apostle gives this: "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion' " [Rom. 9:15]. And what does this mean, I ask? It is simply the Lord's clear declaration that he finds in men themselves no reason to bless them but takes it from his mercy alone [Rom. 9:16]; therefore the salvation of his own is his own work. Inasmuch as God establishes your salvation in himself alone, why do you descend to yourself? Since he appoints for you his mercy alone, why do you have recourse to your own merits? Seeing that he confines your thought within his mercy alone, why do you turn your attention in part to your own works?

eTherefore we must come to that lesser people, of whom Paul elsewhere writes that they were foreknown of God [Rom. 11:2]. They are foreknown, not as our opponents imagine that he foreknows, from an idle watchtower, what he does not himself carry out, but in a sense in which we often find the word used. For surely when Peter says, in Luke, that Christ was "delivered up" to death "according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" [Acts 2:23], the God he brings forward is not a watcher but the Author of our salvation. Thus also the same Peter, speaking of the believers to whom he writes as chosen according to the prior knowledge of God [1 Peter 1:2], duly expresses that secret predestination by which God has designated those whom he would have as sons for himself [1 Peter 1:2]. In adding the word "purpose" as a synonym, since this word everywhere in common parlance expresses a fixed determination, he doubtless teaches that God, while he is the Author of our salvation, does not go outside himself. In this sense, in the same chapter, he speaks of Christ as the lamb foreknown before the creation of the world [1 Peter 1:19–20]. For what is more absurd or meaningless than for God to look down from on high to see whence salvation was to come to mankind! The people foreknown, then, mean for Paul only a small portion mixed with the multitude, which falsely claims the name of God. Elsewhere, to repress the boasting of those who, only covered with a mask, claim for themselves before the world the chief place among the pious, Paul also says that "the Lord knows who are his" [2 Tim. 2:19]. In short, with that word Paul points out to us two kinds of people: one, from the whole race of Abraham; the other, separated from it, and being withdrawn under the eyes of God, hidden from human sight. There is no doubt that he has taken this from Moses, who declares that God would be merciful to whom he willed [Ex. 33:19], even though the statement concerned the chosen people, whose condition was outwardly equal, as if he had said that in the common adoption is included in his presence a special grace toward some, like a more holy treasure; and that the common covenant does not prevent that small number from being set apart from the rank and file. And he, willing to make himself the free dispenser and judge of this matter, summarily declares that only as it so pleases him will he be merciful to one rather than to another. For when mercy comes to him who seeks it, though he does not indeed suffer refusal, yet he either anticipates or in part acquires for himself the favor for which God claims the praise unto himself.

(Answers to opponents of this basis of election, which also is reprobation, 7–11)

7. Christ's witness concerning election

eNow let the sovereign Judge and Master give utterance on the whole question. Detecting such great hardness in his listeners that he would be almost wasting words before the crowd, in order to overcome this hindrance he cries out: "All that the Father gives me will come to me" [John 6:37]. "For this is the will of the Father, … that whatever he has given me, I should lose nothing of it." [John 6:39.] Note that the Father's gift is the beginning of our reception into the surety and protection of Christ. Perhaps someone will here turn the argument around and object that only those who in faith have voluntarily yielded are considered to be the Father's own. Yet Christ insists upon this point alone: even though the desertions of vast multitudes shake the whole world, God's firm plan that election may never be shaken will be more stable than the very heavens. The elect are said to have been the Father's before he gave them his only-begotten Son. They ask whether by nature. No, those who were strangers he makes his own by drawing them to him. Christ's words are too clear to be covered up with any clouds of evasion. "No one," he says, "can come to me unless the Father … draws him.… Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me." [John 6:44–45.] If all men in general bowed the knee before Christ, election would be general; now in the fewness of believers a manifest diversity appears. Therefore, after Christ declared that the disciples who were given him were the special possession of God the Father [John 17:6], a little later he adds: "I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine" [John 17:9 p.; see also John 15:19]. Whence it comes about that the whole world does not belong to its Creator except that grace rescues from God's curse and wrath and eternal death a limited number who would otherwise perish. But the world itself is left to its own destruction, to which it has been destined. Meanwhile, although Christ interposes himself as mediator, he claims for himself, in common with the Father, the right to choose. "I am not speaking," he says, "of all; I know whom I have chosen." [John 13:18.] If anyone ask whence he has chosen them, he replies in another passage: "From the world" [John 15:19], which he excludes from his prayers when he commends his disciples to the Father [John 17:9]. This we must believe: when he declares that he knows whom he has chosen, he denotes in the human genus a particular species, distinguished not by the quality of its virtues but by heavenly decree.

From this we may infer that none excel by their own effort or diligence, seeing that Christ makes himself the Author of election. He elsewhere numbers Judas among the elect, although he "is a devil" [John 6:70]. This refers only to the office of apostle, which, even though it is a clear mirror of God's favor, as Paul often acknowledges in his own person [e.g., Gal. 1:16; Eph. 3:7], still does not contain in itself the hope of eternal salvation. Judas, then, could be worse than a devil, since he faithlessly discharged the office of apostle, but Christ does not allow any of those whom he has once for all engrafted into his body to perish [John 10:28]; for in preserving their salvation he will perform what he has promised—namely, he will show forth God's power, which "is greater than all" [John 10:29].13 For what he says elsewhere, "Father, … of those … whom thou hast given me none … is lost but the son of perdition" [John 17:11–12], even though the expression is misused,14 involves no ambiguity. To sum up: by free adoption God makes those whom he wills to be his sons; the intrinsic cause of this is in himself, for he is content with his own secret good pleasure.

8. The church fathers, especially Augustine, on God's "foreknowledge"

bBut Ambrose, Origen, and Jerome held that God distributed his grace among men according as he foresaw that each would use it well.15 Besides, Augustine was of this opinion for a time, but after he had gained a better knowledge of Scripture, he not only retracted it as patently false, but stoutly refuted it.16 Indeed, after having retracted it, in censuring the Pelagians because they persisted in this error, he says: "Who would not marvel that the apostle failed to catch this subtlety? For after he had set forth something amazing concerning persons not yet born, and then confronted himself with the question: 'What then? Is there injustice with God?' [Rom. 9:14], here was the place for him to answer that God foresaw the merits of every man. Still he does not say this but takes refuge in God's judgments and mercy."17 cAnd in another passage, having taken away all merits before election, Augustine says: "Here, surely, is rendered void the reasoning of those who defend God's foreknowledge against God's grace, and therefore say that we were chosen before the establishment of the world because God foresaw that we would be good, not that he himself would make us good. He who says, 'You did not choose me, but I chose you' [John 15:16], does not speak of foreseen goodness. For if he had chosen us because he had foreseen that we would be good, he would also have foreseen that we would choose him, and the consequence thereof."18 bLet Augustine's testimony have weight among us who want to rely upon the fathers' authority. eHowever, Augustine does not allow himself to be cut off from the other fathers but with clear proofs demonstrates that this separation, with the odium of which the Pelagians burdened him, is false. For he quotes from Ambrose: "Christ calls him on whom he shows mercy." Likewise: "If he had willed, he would have made the undevout devout; but God calls whom he vouchsafes to call, and makes godly whom he wills."19 If I wanted to weave a whole volume from Augustine, I could readily show my readers that I need no other language than his. But I do not want to burden them with wordiness.

bBut come now, let us imagine that these fathers are silent; let us pay attention to the matter itself. A difficult question was raised: whether God acted righteously in vouchsafing his grace to certain men. Paul could have settled this in one word, by proposing a regard for works. Why, then, does he not do this but rather continues a discourse that is fraught with the same difficulty? Why but because he ought not? For the Holy Spirit, speaking through his mouth, did not suffer from the fault of forgetfulness. Therefore he answers without circumlocutions: God shows favor to his elect because he so wills; he has mercy upon them because he so wills. Accordingly, that declaration prevails: "I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy, and I will take pity on whom I will take pity" [Ex. 33:19 p.], as if he said: "God is moved to mercy for no other reason but that he wills to be merciful." Then that saying of Augustine remains true: "God's grace does not find but makes those fit to be chosen."20

9. Is not election joined to God's "foreknowledge" of man's merits in so far as free grace makes just such merits possible?

bWe do not even tarry over the subtlety of Thomas, that foreknowledge of merits is not the cause of predestination on the side of the predestinator's act but that on our side it may in a way be so called: namely, according to the particular estimate of predestination, as when God is said to predestine glory for man on account of merits, because he has decreed to bestow upon him grace by which to merit glory.21 For since the Lord wills that in election we contemplate nothing but his mere goodness, if anyone longs to discern anything more in it, this will be absurd affectation. But if we were willing to contend in subtlety, we have the means to refute this quibble of Thomas'. He contends that glory is in a measure predestined to the elect from merits, for God predestines grace to them by which they may merit glory. But what if I should raise the objection that predestination to grace is subordinate to election to life, and is like a handmaiden to it? that grace is predestined for those to whom the possession of glory has long since been assigned because it pleases the Lord to bring his children from election to justification? Thence it will follow that predestination to glory is the cause of predestination to grace, rather than the converse. But farewell to these contentions, as they are superfluous among those who consider that there is enough wisdom for them in the Word of God. For long ago an ecclesiastical writer truly wrote, "Those who assign God's election to merits are wiser than they ought to be."22

10. The universality of God's invitation and the particularity of election

eSome object that God would be contrary to himself if he should universally invite all men to him but admit only a few as elect. Thus, in their view, the universality of the promises removes the distinction of special grace; and some moderate men speak thus, not so much to stifle the truth as to bar thorny questions, and to bridle the curiosity of many.23 A laudable intention, this, but the design is not to be approved, for evasion is never excusable. But those who insolently revile election offer a quibble too disgusting, or an error too shameful.24

I have elsewhere explained how Scripture reconciles the two notions that all are called to repentance and faith by outward preaching, yet that the spirit of repentance and faith is not given to all. Soon I shall have to repeat some of this.25 Now I deny what they claim, since it is false in two ways. For he who threatens that while it will rain upon one city there will be drought in another [Amos 4:7], and who elsewhere announces a famine of teaching [Amos 8:11], does not bind himself by a set law to call all men equally. And he who, forbidding Paul to speak the word in Asia [Acts 16:6], and turning him aside from Bithynia, draws him into Macedonia [Acts 16:7 ff.] thus shows that he has the right to distribute this treasure to whom he pleases. Through Isaiah he still more openly shows how he directs the promises of salvation specifically to the elect: for he proclaims that they alone, not the whole human race without distinction, are to become his disciples [Isa. 8:16]. Hence it is clear that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be reserved solely and individually for the sons of the church, is falsely debased when presented as effectually profitable to all.

Let this suffice for the present: although the voice of the gospel addresses all in general, yet the gift of faith is rare. Isaiah sets forth the cause: that "the arm of the Lord has" not "been revealed" to all [Isa. 53:1]. If he had said that the gospel is maliciously and wickedly despised because many stubbornly refuse to hear it, perhaps this aspect of universal calling would have force. But it is not the prophet's intention to extenuate men's guilt when he teaches that the source of the blindness is that the Lord does not deign to reveal his arm to them [Isa. 53:1]. He only warns that, because faith is a special gift, the ears are beaten upon in vain with outward teaching. Now I should like to know from these doctors whether preaching alone, or faith, makes God's sons. Surely, when it is said that in the first chapter of John: "All who believe in the only-begotten Son of God also become sons of God themselves" [John 1:12], no confused mass is placed there, but a special rank is given to believers, "who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" [John 1:13, Vg.].

But, they say, there is a mutual agreement between faith and the Word.26 This is so wherever there is faith; but for seed to fall among thorns [Matt. 13:7] or on rocky ground [Matt. 13:5] is nothing new, not only because the greater part indeed show themselves obstinately disobedient to God, but because not all have been supplied with eyes and ears. How, then, shall it be consistent that God calls to himself persons who he knows will not come? Let Augustine answer for me: "You wish to argue with me? Marvel with me, and exclaim, 'O depth!' Let both of us agree in fear, lest we perish in error."27 Besides, if election, as Paul testifies, is the mother of faith, I turn back upon their head the argument that faith is not general because election is special. For from this series of causes and effects we may readily draw this inference: when Paul states that "we have been supplied with every spiritual blessing … even as he chose us from the foundation of the world" [Eph. 1:3–4 p.], these riches are therefore not common to all, for God has chosen only whom he willed. This is why Paul in another place commends faith to the elect [Titus 1:1]: that no one may think that he acquires faith by his own effort but that this glory rests with God, freely to illumine whom he previously had chosen. For Bernard rightly says: "Friends listen individually when he also says to them, 'Fear not, little flock' [Luke 12:32], for 'to you has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven' [Matt. 13:11]. Who are they? 'Those whom he has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son' [Rom. 8:29 p.], and to whom God's great and secret plan has become known: 'The Lord knows those who are his' [2 Tim. 2:19], but what was known to God has been revealed to men. And, indeed, he does not vouchsafe to others participation in so great a mystery, save to those whom he has foreknown and predestined to become his own." A little later he concludes: " 'The mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him' [Ps. 103:17; 102:17, Vg.]. From everlasting because of predestination, to everlasting because of beatification—the one knowing no beginning, the other, no end."28 But why do we need to quote Bernard as a witness, when we hear from the Master's own lips: "Only those see the Father who are from God" [John 6:46]? By these words he means that all those not reborn of God are astonished at the brightness of his countenance. And indeed, faith is fitly joined to election, provided it takes second place. This order is elsewhere clearly expressed in Christ's words: "This is the will of my Father, that I should not lose what he has given. This is his will, that everyone who believes in the Son may not perish" [John 6:39–40, freely rendered]. If he willed all to be saved, he would set his Son over them, and would engraft all into his body with the sacred bond of faith. Now it is certain that faith is a singular pledge of the Father's love, reserved for the sons whom he has adopted. Hence Christ says in another passage: "The sheep follow the shepherd, for they know his voice. But a stranger they will not follow, … for they do not know the voice of strangers" [John 10:4–5, cf. Vg.]. Whence does this distinction arise but from the fact that their ears have been pierced by the Lord?29 For no man makes himself a sheep but is made one by heavenly grace. Whence also the Lord teaches that our salvation will be forever sure and safe, for it is guarded by God's unconquerable might [John 10:29]. Accordingly, he concludes that unbelievers are not of his sheep [John 10:26]. That is, they are not of the number of those who, as God promised through Isaiah, were to become disciples [cf. Isa. 8:16; 54:13]. Now because the testimonies that I have quoted express perseverance, they at the same time attest the unvarying constancy of election.

11. Rejection also takes place not on the basis of works but solely according to God's will

bNow a word concerning the reprobate,30 with whom the apostle is at the same time there concerned. For as Jacob, deserving nothing by good works, is taken into grace, so Esau, as yet undefiled by any crime, is hated [Rom. 9:13]. If we turn our eyes to works, we wrong the apostle, as if he did not see what is quite clear to us! Now it is proved that he did not see it, since he specifically emphasizes the point that when as yet they had done nothing good or evil, one was chosen, the other rejected. This is to prove that the foundation of divine predestination is not in works. Then when he raised the objection, whether God is unjust, he does not make use of what would have been the surest and clearest defense of his righteousness: that God recompensed Esau according to his own evil intention. Instead, he contents himself with a different solution, that the reprobate are raised up to the end that through them God's glory may be revealed. Finally, he adds the conclusion that "God has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills" [Rom. 9:18]. Do you see how Paul attributes both to God's decision alone? If, then, we cannot determine a reason why he vouchsafes mercy to his own, except that it so pleases him, neither shall we have any reason for rejecting others, other than his will. For when it is said that God hardens or shows mercy to whom he wills, men are warned by this to seek no cause outside his will.

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1 While predestination is much stressed by Calvin, the formal treatment of the topic falls under the head not of the doctrine of God but of the doctrine of salvation, and is reserved to this point after the main outlines of the latter doctrine have been made clear. Calvin argues from Scripture, with much aid from Augustine. For his increasing use of passages from Augustine, and the expansion of his treatment of predestination, see Smits I. 45 f., 61 f., 104 f., 109. His position had, in fact, been in the main anticipated in the writings of medieval Augustinians, especially those of the fourteenth century, such as Thomas Bradwardine and Gregory of Rimini. See Introduction, sec. X, notes 54 to 59. Amid an extensive literature of research the following titles will furnish useful orientation here: J. B. Mozley, A Treatise on the Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination; K. Ermisch, Predestination, an Historical Sketch; P. Vigneau, Justification et Prédestination au xive siècle: Duns Scot, Pierre d'Auriole, Guillaume d'Occam, Grégoire de Rimini, ch. iv.; H. A. Oberman, Archbishop Thomas Bradwardine, a Fourteenth-Century Augustinian; G. Leff, Bradwardine and the Pelagians. Important early discussions by Reformed theologians are Jerome (Girolamo) Zanchi, De praedestinatione (1562), and J. Piscator, Disputatio theologica de praedestinatione (Herborn in Nassau, 1595). Zanchi's treatise was utilized and largely translated by A. Toplady in The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination (London, 1769), replying to Wesley, who (in Dialogue Between a Predestinarian and His Friend and related writings) represents the eighteenth-century Arminian view. Modern Calvinist statements include B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation; L. Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination; K. Barth, Gottes Gnadenwahl (Theologische Existenz Heute, No. 47). Wendel has a well-informed and useful treatment of Calvin's doctrine of predestination, Calvin, pp. 199–216. For additional titles, see his note 100 on p. 200.

† indicates that the section title is taken from the German translation of the Institutes by Otto Weber, but with modification.

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2 Of the many who took this attitude, Calvin may have had chiefly in mind Erasmus, Eck, and Albert Pighius, each of whom had written a treatise on free will attacking the predestination doctrine of Luther. See also here the documents connected with the prosecution of Jerome Bolsec (1551) (CR VIII. 145).

3 Cf. the treatment of this verse in Aquinas, Summa Theol. I. cxi. 2; cxiv. 5. Calvin, in his approach to the doctrine of predestination, stresses humility, a virtue elsewhere commended in the highest terms. Cf. II. ii. 11, note 49.

4 I.e., God's free mercy, God's glory, and our sincere humility, as just observed. Cf. Cadier, Institution III. 394.

5 Bernard, Sermons on the Song of Songs lxxviii. 4 (MPL 183. 1161; tr. Eales, Life and Works of St. Bernard IV. 480 f.).

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6 The phrase "certain men not otherwise bad" (written 1539) has been made to refer to Zwingli, whose discourse On Providence (mainly on predestination) Calvin censured in a confidential letter to Bullinger, January, 1552, which reflects one from Bullinger to him of December, 1551 (CR XIV. 215, 253; OS IV. 370, note 4). "If I seem to you to be wrong," says Calvin here, "I shall willingly suffer your admonition."

* following a section title indicates that the title has been supplied by the present editor.

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7 Augustine, John's Gospel liii. 7 (MPL 35. 1777; tr. NPNF VII. 293).

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8 "Docta ignorantia." Cf. III. xxiii. 8. The phrase is from Augustine, Letters cxxx. 15. 28 (MPL 33. 505; tr. FC 18. 398). A century before Calvin, it formed the title of an important philosophical study of the knowledge of God by Nicolas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (1440), ed. P. Rotta; tr. G. Heron, Of Learned Ignorance (John Rylands Library Bulletin XXI [1937], 2).

e(b) edition of 1539 as altered in 1559

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

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9 Cf. Melanchthon, Loci theologici (1535) (CR Melanchthon XXI. 452); Cadier, Institution III. 395, note 6. Cf. sec. 4, note 12.

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Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

* following a section title indicates that the title has been supplied by the present editor.

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10 Cf. I. xiv. 1.

11 Augustine, On the Gift of Perseverance xiv. xxxiv (MPL 45. 1013–1020; tr. NPNF V. 538–547). (For "dono" in Augustine's title, the 1559 text has "bono"). Cf. Melanchthon, op. cit. (CR Melanchthon III. 337, 452).

12 These "notions" are refuted in III. xxiii.

13 Augustine, On Genesis in the Literal Sense V. 3, 6 (MPL 34. 323).

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14 This is regarded by Barth and Niesel as a reference to the policy of Bern, whose ministers and magistrates sent responses to the Genevese December 7, 1551. In these they called for "a cessation of discussion" of the predestination issue for the sake of "the tranquillity and peace of the church." (CR VIII. 237–242.)

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15 Pighius, De libero arbitrio IV (in Controversiarum praecipuarum … explicatio, 1542), fo. 64b f.; IX. ii, fo. 159b. Cf. III. xxii. 1–8; III. xxiii. 6. In the sentences following, Calvin clearly distinguishes foreknowledge from predestination. F. Wendel cites texts to show how Calvin's view here is related to the various positions of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Bucer, and Duns Scotus (Wendel, Calvin, pp. 202, 206 f.).

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16 With this brief definition. cf. the latter part of sec. 7. See also Wendel, Calvin, pp. 211 f.

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p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

Comm. Commentary, in the text designates a Scripture passage conforming to translation given, in the notes indicates a statement made in the appropriate commentary of Calvin.

17 On the covenant of grace, cf. I. vi. 1, note 3; II. x. 1, note 1; II. xi. 4, note 6; III. xiv. 6, note 6; III. xvii. 6; and secs. 6, 7, below. See also L. Goumaz, La Doctrine du salut, pp. 151 ff.; Heppe RD, ch. xvi; T. F. Torrance, The School of Faith, Introduction, pp. i, lxiii, lxxiii, cxx f.

Comm. Commentary, in the text designates a Scripture passage conforming to translation given, in the notes indicates a statement made in the appropriate commentary of Calvin.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

Comm. Commentary, in the text designates a Scripture passage conforming to translation given, in the notes indicates a statement made in the appropriate commentary of Calvin.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

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LXX The Septuagint: Greek version of the Old Testament.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

Comm. Commentary, in the text designates a Scripture passage conforming to translation given, in the notes indicates a statement made in the appropriate commentary of Calvin.

LXX The Septuagint: Greek version of the Old Testament.

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e(a) edition of 1536 as altered in 1559

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* following a section title indicates that the title has been supplied by the present editor.

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1 Wimpina, Conrad, Sectarum errorum, hallutinationum, et schismatum … concisior Anacephalaeosis (1528) III. De praedestinatione I. iii, fo. R 3a. Piscator deals at length, negatively, with the question "whether election depends on foreseen faith": Disputatio theologica de praedestinatione, pp. 88–172. Cf. J. Wolleb, Christianae theologiae compendium 21 (Basel, 1626), as quoted in Heppe RD, p. 167.

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2 Sec. 8, below.

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3 Cf. Pighius, De libero arbitrio VII, fo. 118b f.

4 Calvin rests his doctrine of predestination on Scripture, but declares it also consonant with observation and experience: cf. III. xxiv. 4, 12, 15; Doumergue, Calvin IV. 437; K. Barth, Gottes Gnadenwahl, pp. 12 f. Numerous similar passages appear in Calvin's Eternal Predestination of God. There, for example, he holds it "undeniably manifest" that very few of those outwardly called believe. (CR VIII. 298 f.; tr. H. Cole, Calvin's Calvinism, p. 95.)

5 Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace xi. 30 (MPL 44. 934 f.; tr. NPNF V. 484); On the Gift of Perseverance xxiv. 67 (MPL 45. 1033 f.; tr. NPNF V. 552); Sermons clxxiv. 2 (MPL 38. 941; tr. LF Sermons II. 891 f.). The theme of adoption in Christ is here resumed from the closing section of ch. xxi.

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p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

* following a section title indicates that the title has been supplied by the present editor.

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6 Calvin assails this view in his treatise On the Eternal Predestination of God (1552) (CR VIII. 255 f., 260, 344; tr. H. Cole, op. cit., pp. 22 ff., 29, 181).

* following a section title indicates that the title has been supplied by the present editor.

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p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

7 Containing the argument from Eph. 1:4 begun in sec. 1.

8 Cf. sec. xxii. 9, note 21; Aquinas, Summa Theol. I. xxiii. 5; God foreordains that he will give grace, that glory may be merited (tr. LCC XI. 110); Clichtove, Improbatio, fo. 8b.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

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9 Pighius, De libero arbitrio VII, fo. 117ab; IX. ii, fo. 157 ff. The reprobate, God foresees to be unworthy.

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* following a section title indicates that the title has been supplied by the present editor.

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10 "ὑποτύποσιν."

* following a section title indicates that the title has been supplied by the present editor.

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11 Erasmus, De libero arbitrio, ed. J. von Walter, p. 54.

12 Cf. III. xxi. 4, 7.

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p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

13 The perseverance of the elect rests upon the sovereign power of God [Dei potentiam quae maior omnibus est] exercised by Christ on their behalf.

14 "καταχρηστικῆ."

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15 Ambrosiaster (cf. III. xvii. 13, note 15), Commentary on Romans, Rom. 8:29 (MPL 17. 134); Origen, Commentary on Romans VII. viii (MPG 14. 1126); Pelagius, on Rom. 8:29 (in Jerome's Works) (MPL 30. 684 f.).

16 Augustine, Retractations I. xxiii. 2–4 (MPL 32. 621 f.); Exposition of Romans lv, lx (MPL 35. 2076, 2078).

17 Augustine, Letters cxciv. 8. 35 (MPL 33. 886; tr. FC 30. 327); On the Predestination of the Saints iii. 7 (MPL 44. 964 f.; tr. NPNF V. 500).

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18 Augustine, John's Gospel lxxxvi. 2 (MPL 35. 1851; tr. NPNF VII. 353).

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19 Augustine, On the Gift of Perseverance xix. 49 (quoting Ambrose, Exposition of Luke's Gospel i. 10; vii. 27) (MPL 45. 1024; tr. NPNF V. 546); On the Grace of Christ and Original Sin I. xlvi. 51 (MPL 44. 383).

b edition of 1539

p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

20 Augustine, Letters clxxxvi. 5. 15: "electio gratiae, quae non invenit eligendos sed facit" (MPL 33. 821; tr. FC 30. 202).

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21 Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences I. xli. 1, art. 3; Summa Theol. I. xxiii. 5; cf. sec. 3, note 8, above.

22 Erroneously attributed to Pseudo-Ambrose (i.e., Prosper of Aquitaine), The Call of the Gentiles I. ii, but not found in either of Migne's texts of this work (MPL 17; MPL 51).

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23 Cf. Melanchthon's letter to Calvin, May 11, 1543 (CR XI. 541; Herminjard, Correspondance VIII. 343 f.); Melanchthon, Loci theologici (1543) (CR Melanchthon XXI. 914 ff.). Calvin's preface to the French translation (1546) of this work of Melanchthon refers to the avoidance of disputed points on election (CR IX. 849).

24 The "revilers" of election in controversy with Calvin were such men as Jerome Bolsec, banished from Geneva 1551, and Sebastian Castellio, author of three dialogues on predestination, election, and free will, respectively.

25 III. iii. 21; III. xxiv.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

26 Cf. III. ii. 6, 7, 31; Melanchthon, Loci theologici 1535 (1543) (CR Melanchthon XXI. 451, 916).

27 Augustine, Sermons xxvi. 12, 13 (MPL 38. 177).

p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

28 Bernard, Letters cvii. 4, 5 (MPL 182. 244 f.; tr. Eales, Life and Works of St. Bernard I. 356–359).

Vg. Vulgate version of the Bible.

29 "Nisi quia divinitus perforatae sunt illis aures." The figure is that of a shepherd earmarking his sheep.

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30 Cf. Wendel, Calvin, pp. 212 ff.

Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) (Vol. 1, pp. 920–947). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

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