Science and Creation

Articles on creation, science and 6 literal days in Genesis 1-2

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Creation by B.B. Warfield

In developing his system, Calvin proceeds at once from the doctrine of God to an exposition of His works of creation and providence (I. xiv.-xv. and xvi.-xviii.). That he passes over the divine Purpose or Decree at this point, though it would logically claim attention before its execution in creation and providence, is only another indication of the intensely practical spirit of Calvin and the simplicity of his method in this work. He carries his readers at once over from what God is to what God does, reserving the abstruser discussions of the relation of His will to occurrences for a later point in the treatise, when the reader’s mind, by a contemplation of the divine works, will be better prepared to read off the underlying purpose from the actual event. The practical end which has determined this sequence of topics governs also the manner in which the subject of creation, now taken up (chaps. xiv.-xv.), is dealt with. There is no discussion of it from a formal point of view: the treatment is wholly material and is devoted rather to the nature of the created universe than to the mode of the Divine activity in creating it. Even in dealing with the created universe, there is no attempt at completeness of treatment. The spiritual universe is permitted to absorb the attention; and what is said about the lower creation is reduced to a mere hint or two introduced chiefly, it appears, to recommend the contemplation of it as a means of quickening in the heart a sense of God’s greatness and goodness (xiv. §§ 20-22).

It is quite obvious, in fact, from the beginning, that Calvin’s mind is set in this whole discussion of creation primarily on expounding the nature of man as a creature of God; and all else that he incorporates into it is subsidiary to this. He is writing for men and bends all he is writing to what he conceives to be their practical interests. He does not reach the actual discussion of man as creature, to be sure (chap. xv.), until after he has interposed a long exposition of the nature of angels and demons (xiv. 3-12, and 13-19). But this whole exposition is cast in a form which shows that angels and demons are interesting to Calvin only because of the high estimate he places upon the topic for the practical life of man; and it is introduced by a remark which betrays that his thought was already on man as the real subject of his exposition and all he had to say about other spiritual creatures was conceived as only preliminary to that more direct object of interest. “But before I begin to speak more fully concerning the nature of man,” he says quite gratuitously at the opening of the discussion (xiv. 3, ad init.), “something should be inserted (inserere) about angels.” What he actually says about angels, good and bad, in the amount of space occupied by it, is more than what he says about man; but it stood before his mind, we observe, as only “something,” and as something, be it noted, “inserted,” before the real subject of his discourse was reached. In his own consciousness what Calvin undertakes in these chapters is to make man aware of his own nature as a creature of God, and to place him as a creature of God in his environment, the most important elements of which he conceives to be the rest of the intelligent creation.

It is not to be inferred, of course, from the lightness with which Calvin passes over the doctrine of creation itself in this discussion that he took little interest in it or deemed it a matter of no great significance. That he does not dwell more fully on it is due, as we have said, to the practical nature of his undertaking, and was rendered possible by the circumstance that this doctrine was not in dispute.2 All men in the circles which he was addressing were of one mind on it, and there were sources of information within the reach of all which rendered it unnecessary for him to enlarge on it.3 That he had a clear and firm conception of the nature of the creative act and attributed importance to its proper apprehension is made abundantly plain; and is emphasized by his consecration of the few remarks he gives professedly to the topic to repelling assaults upon its credibility drawn from the nature of the Divine Being (xiv. 1-2).

In his conception of creation Calvin definitely separated himself from all dualistic,4 and especially from all pantheistic5 elements of thought by sharply asserting that all substantial existence outside of God owes its being to God, that it was created by God out of nothing, and that it came from God’s hand very good. His crispest definition of creation he lets fall incidentally in repelling the pantheistic notion that, as he scornfully describes it, “the essence of the Creator is rent into fragments that each may have a part of it.” “Creation,” he says, “is not the transfusion, but the origination out of nothing, of essence.”6 “God,” says he again, “by the power of His Word and Spirit created out of nothing, the heavens and the earth,” that is to say, all that exists, whether celestial or terrestial.7 Firmly stated as this doctrine of creation is, however, so as to leave us in no doubt as to Calvin’s conception,8 the elements of it are little elaborated. There is no attempt for example to validate the doctrine of creation ex nihilo whether on Biblical9 or on such rational grounds as we find appealed to by Zwingli, who argues that creation ex materia implies an infinite series whether the material out of which the creation is made be conceived as like or unlike in kind to that which is made from it.10 As we have seen, Calvin does argue, however, (like Zwingli), that creation in its very nature is “origination of essence,” so that he would have subscribed Zwingli’s declaration: “This is the definition of creation: to be out of nothing.”11 He does not even dwell upon the part which the Son takes in the creating, although he does not leave this important matter unmentioned, but declares that “the worlds were created by the Son” (I. xiii. 7), and that God created the heavens and earth “by the power of His Word and Spirit” (I. xiv. 20), thus setting the act of creation in its Trinitarian relation. It is, however, rather in the preceding chapter where he adduces the share they took in creation in proof of the deity of the Son and the Spirit that Calvin develops this fact. There he urges that “the power to create and the authority to command were common to the Father, Son, and Spirit,” as is shown, he says, by the words “Let us make man in our image” of Genesis i. 26; and he argues at length from the creation-narrative of Genesis and the Wisdom passage in Proverbs, no less than from Heb. i. 2, 3, that it was through the Son that God made the worlds.12 On one thing, however, he manages to insist despite the sketchiness with which he treats the whole subject. This is that whatever came from the divine hands came from them good. ” It is monstrous,” he declares,13 “to ascribe to the good God the creation of any evil thing,” and we may not admit that there is in the whole world anything evil in its nature,14 but must perceive that in all that He has made God has displayed His wisdom and justice. Wherever evil has appeared, then, whether in man or devil, it is not ex natura, but ex naturae corruptione (I. xiv. 3), not ex creatione but ex depravatione (I. xiv. 16, ad init.). We must beware, therefore, lest in speaking of evil as natural to man, we should seem to refer it to the author of nature, whether we more coarsely conceive it as in some measure proceeding from God Himself, or, with more appearance of piety, ascribe it only to “nature.” We cannot attribute to God what is in the most absolute sense alien to His very nature, and it is equally dishonoring to Him to ascribe any intrinsic depravity to the “nature” which comes from His hands.15

Calvin expressly disclaims the intention of expounding in detail the story of the creation of the world,16 and judges it sufficient to refer his readers to the account given by Moses, along with the comments perhaps of Basil and Ambrose, for instruction in the particulars of its history (I. xiv. 20, ad init.; cf. I. xiv. 1). He lets fall, however, a few remarks by the way, which enable us to perceive his attitude towards the narrative of Genesis. Needless to say he takes it just as he finds it written. The six days he, naturally, understands as six literal days; and, accepting the prima facie chronology of the Biblical narrative, he dates the creation of the world something less than six thousand years in the past. He does not suppose, however, that Moses has included in his story anything like an exhaustive account of all that was created. The instance of angels, of whose origin Moses gives no history, is conclusive to the contrary. Moses, writing to meet the needs of men at large, accommodated himself to their grade of intellectual preparation, and confines himself to what meets their eyes.17 On the other hand Calvin will not admit that the created universe can be properly spoken of as infinite. God alone is infinite; and, “however wide the circuit of the heavens may be, it nevertheless has some dimension.”18 He frankly conceives of the created universe as geocentric,19 or more properly as anthropocentric. “God Himself,” he declares, “has demonstrated by the very order of creation, that He made all things for the sake of man.”20 For, before making man, “He prepared everything which He foresaw would be useful or salutary for him” (I. xiv. 22). It was “for human use that He disposed the motions of the sun and stars, that He filled the earth, the waters, the air with living creatures, that He produced an abundance of all kinds of fruits which might be sufficient for food – thus acting the part of a provident and sedulous father of a family and showing His wonderful goodness towards us” (I, xiv. 2).

Two difficulties which arise out of the consideration of the infinitude of God in connection with His creative work, Calvin finds sufficiently important to pause even in so rapid a sketch to deal with. These concern the relation of the idea of creation to that of eternity on the one hand, and the description of the creation as a process on the other. Both of these also, however, he treats rather from a practical than a theoretical point of view.

He does not even hint at the metaphysical difficulty which has been perennially derived from the Divine eternity and immutability, that a definite creation implies a change in God – the difficulty which Wollebius so neatly turns by the remark that “creation is not the creator’s but the creature’s passage from potentiality to actuality.”21 The difficulty to which he addresses himself is the purely popular one, which, with a view to rendering the idea of a definite act of creation on God’s part incredible, asks what God was doing all those ages before He created the world (I. xiv. 1). His response proceeds in general on the principle of answering a fool according to his folly, although it is directed to the serious purpose of recalling men’s minds, from fruitless attempts to fathom the mysteries of infinity, to a profitable use of the creation-narrative as a mirror in which is exhibited a lively image of God.22 The gist of this response seems to be summed up in a sentence which occurs in the Argument to his Commentary on the first chapter of Genesis – which runs very much parallel to the discussion here. “God,” he says, “being wholly sufficient for Himself, did not create a world of which He had no need, until it pleased Him to do so.” He does not disdain, however, before closing, to advert, under the leading of Augustine,23 even to the metaphysical consideration that there is no place for a question of “time when” in our thought of that act of God by which time began to be. We might as well inquire, Augustine had reasoned, why God created the world where He did, as why He created it only when He did. We may puzzle ourselves with the notion that there is room in infinite space for an infinite number of finite universes as readily as with the parallel notion that there was opportunity in eternal time for the creation of an infinite series of worlds before ours was reached. The truth is, of course, that, as there is no space outside of that material world the dimensions of which when abstractly considered constitute what we call “space”; so there is no time outside that world of mutable existence from which we abstract the notion of succession and call it “time.” “If they say,” reasons Augustine, ” that the thoughts of men are idle, when they conceive of infinite places, since there is no place beside the world, we reply that, by the same showing, it is vain to conceive of past times of God’s rest, since there is no time before the world.” Utilizing Augustine’s remarks Calvin warns his readers against vainly striving to press “outside of the world” (extra mundum) by “the boundaries of which we are circumscribed,” and exhorts them to seek in “the ample circumference of heaven and earth” and the certainly sufficient space of “six thousand years” material for meditating on the glory of God who has made them all. The primary matter for us to observe in this discussion is the persistence with which Calvin clings to the practical purpose of his treatise, so as even in connection with such abstruse subjects to confine himself to the “practical use” of them. But it is not illegitimate to observe also the hints the discussion supplies of his metaphysical opinions. His doctrines of “space” and “time” are here suggested to us. Clearly, he holds that what we call “space” is only an abstraction from the concrete dimensions of extended substance; and what we call “time,” an abstraction from the concrete successions of mutable being. “Space” and “time,” therefore, were to him qualities of finite being, and have come into existence and will pass out of existence with finite being. To speak of “infinite” space or “infinite” time contains accordingly a contradictio in adjecto.

Perhaps it may not be improper to pause here a moment to observe in passing the employment of humor by Calvin in his discussions. It is rather a mordant bit of humor which appears here, it is true – this story of the “pious old man” who when a “scoffer” demanded of him what God had been doing before He created the world, replied, “Making hell for inquisitive people” (fabricasse inferos curiosis); and moreover it is borrowed – ultimately – from Augustine.24 But though borrowing a story of Augustine’s, Calvin does not follow Augustine in his attitude towards it. Augustine declines to commend such a response, because, says he, he would shrink from making a laughing-stock of anyone who brings forward a profound question; while Calvin approves it as a fit answer to a scoffer who raises frivolous objections.25 And mordant though it is, it provides an instance of that use of humor in argument which was a marked trait of Calvin’s manner – and which reveals to us an element of his character not always fully recognized. As this humor manifests itself in his writings – which are predominantly controversial in tone – it is sufficiently pungent. The instance before us is a fair sample of it; and we have already had occasion to note another characteristic instance – his rallying of Caroli in the matter of the ancient creeds.26 His “Very useful Notice of the great profit which would accrue to Christianity if there should be made an inventory of all the holy bodies and relics which are to be found in Italy, France, Germany, Spain and other kingdoms and nations” (1543) might almost be said to reek with similar instances. He became quickly famous for his biting pen and was solemnly reproved by Sebastian Castellion for employing such weapons and encouraging others in the use of them. He not only, however, approved Beza’s and Viret’s satirical polemics and heartily enjoyed them – commending them to his friends as full of delightfulness – but he even develops a theory of the use of humor in instruction, and of the nature of true facetiousness. “Many – or perhaps we may say, most – men,” he says, “are much more readily helped when they are instructed in a joyous and pleasant manner than otherwise. . . . Those who have the gift to teach in such a manner as to delight their readers, and to induce them to profit by the pleasure they give them, are doubly to be praised.” “He who wishes to use humor,” he adds, however, “ought to guard himself from two faults,” – he must neither be forced in his wit, nor must he descend to scurrility.

But his cutting satire was only one manifestation of a special talent for pleasantry which characterized all his intercourse. Laughter, he taught, is the gift of God: and he held it the right, or rather the duty, of the Christian man to practise it in its due season. He is constantly joking with his friends in his letters,27 and he eagerly joins with them in all the joys of life. “I wish I were with you for half a day,” he writes to one of them, “to laugh with you.”28 In a word, contrary to a general impression, Calvin was a man of a great freshness and jocundness of spirit; and so little was he inclined to suppress the expression of the gayer side of life that he rather sedulously cultivated it in himself and looked with pleasure on its manifestation in others. He enjoyed a joke hugely,29 with that open-mouthed laugh which, as one of his biographers phrases it,30 belonged to the men of the sixteenth century. And he knew even how to smile at human folly – wishing that the people might not be deprived of their pleasures31 and might even be dealt with indulgently in their faults. When his students misbehaved, for example, he simply said he thought they ought to have some indulgence and should be accorded the right to be sometimes foolish.32

That the work of creation should be thought to occupy time was as much a matter of scoffing from the evil-disposed as that it should take place in time. Why should the omnipotent God take six days to make the world? Did He perhaps find it too hard a task for a single effort?33 This cavil, too, Calvin deals with purely from the practical point of view, not so much undertaking to refute it as recalling men’s minds from it to dwell on the condescension of God in distributing His work into six days that our finite intelligence might not be overwhelmed with its contemplation; and on the goodness of God in thus leading our thoughts up to the consideration of the rest of the seventh day; and above all on the paternal care of God in so ordering the work of bringing the world into being as to prepare it for man before He introduced him into it. In drawing the mind thus away from the cavil, Calvin does not, however, fail to meet the difficulty itself, which was adduced. His response to it, is, in effect, to acknowledge that God perfected the world by process (progressus, I. xiv. 2); but to assert that this method of performing His work was not for His own sake, but for ours; so that, so far is this progressive method of producing the world from being unworthy of God, because “alien from His power,”34 that it rather illustrates His higher attributes – His paternal love, for example, which would not create man until He had enriched the world with all things necessary for his happiness. Considered in Himself, “it would have been no more difficult” for God “to complete at once the whole work in all its items in a single moment, than to arrive at its completion gradually by a process of this kind.”35

It should be observed that in this and similar discussions founded on the progressive completion of the world, Calvin does not intend to attribute what we may speak strictly of as progressive creation to God. With Calvin, while the perfecting of the world – as its subsequent government – is a process, creation, strictly conceived, tended to be thought of as an act. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”: after that it was not “creation” strictly so called, but “formation,” gradual modelling into form, which took place. Not, of course, as if Calvin conceived creation deistically; as if he thought of God as having created the world-stuff and then left it to itself to work out its own destiny under the laws impressed on it in its creation. A “momentary Creator, who has once for all done His work,” was inconceivable to him: and he therefore taught that it is only when we contemplate God in providence that we can form any true conception of Him as Creator.36 But he was inclined to draw a sharp distinction in kind between the primal act of creation of the heavens and the earth out of nothing, and the subsequent acts of moulding this created material into the forms it was destined to take; and to confine the term “creation,” strictly conceived, to the former. Hence in perhaps the fullest statement of his doctrine of creation given us in these chapters (I. xiv. 20), he expresses himself carefully thus: “God, by the power of His Word and Spirit created out of nothing (creasse ex nihilo) the heavens and the earth; thence produced (produxisse) every kind of animate and inanimate thing, distinguished by a wonderful gradation the innumerable variety of things, endowed each kind with its own nature, assigned its offices, appointed its place and station to it, and, since all things are subject to corruption, provided, nevertheless, that each kind should be preserved safe to the last day.” “Thus,” he adds, “He marvellously adorned heaven and earth with the utmost possible abundance, variety and beauty of all things, like a great and splendid house, most richly and abundantly constructed and furnished; and then at last by forming (formando) man and distinguishing him with such noble beauty, and with so many and such high gifts, he exhibited in him the noblest specimen of His works.”37 It is God who has made all things what they are, he teaches: but, in doing so, God has acted in the specific mode properly called creation only at the initial step of the process, and the result owes its right to be called a creation to that initial act by which the material of which all things consist was called into being from non-being. “Indigested mass” as it was, yet in that world-stuff was “the seed of the whole world,” and out of it that world as we now see it (for “the world was not perfected at its very beginning, in the manner it is now seen”38) has been evoked by progressive acts of God: and it is therefore that this world, because evoked from it, has the right to be called a creation.

The distinction which Calvin here draws, it is to be observed, is not that which has been commonly made by Reformed divines under the terms, First and Second Creation, or in less exact language Immediate and Mediate Creation. This distinction posits a sequence of truly creative acts of God throughout the six days, and therefore defines creation, so as to meet the whole case, as that act “by which God produced the world and all that is in it, partly ex nihilo, partly ex materia naturaliter inhabili, for the manifestation of the glory of His power, wisdom and goodness”;39 or more fully, as that “first external work of God, by which in the beginning of time, without suffering any change, by His own free will, He produced by His sole omnipotent command immediate per se things which before were not, from simple non-being to being – and that, either ex nihilo, or ex materia which had afore been made e nihilo, but is naturaliter inhabili for receiving the form which, created out of nothing, the Creator induces into it.”40 It is precisely this sequence of truly creative acts which Calvin disallows; and he so expresses himself, indeed, as to give it a direct contradiction. Perhaps as distinct a statement of his view as any is found in his comment on Genesis i. 21, where the term “create” is employed to designate the divine production of the animals of the sea and air, which, according to verse 20, had been brought forth by the waters at the command of God. “A question arises here,” remarks Calvin, “about the word ‘created.’ For we have before contended that the world was made of nothing because it was ‘created’: but now Moses says the things formed from other matter were ‘created.’ Those who assert that the fishes were truly and properly ‘created’ because the waters were in no way suitable (idoneae) or adapted (aptae) to their production, only resort to a subterfuge; for the fact would remain, meanwhile, that the material of which they were made existed before, which, in strict propriety, the word does not admit. I therefore do not restrict ‘creation’ [here] to the work of the fifth day, but rather say it[s use] refers to (hangs from, pendet) that shapeless and confused mass which was, as it were, the fountain of the whole world. God, then, is said to have ‘created’ the seamonsters and other fishes, because the beginning of their ‘creation’ is not to be reckoned from the moment in which they received their form, but they are comprehended in the universal matter (corpus, corpore) which was made out of nothing. So that with respect to their kind, form only was then added to them; ‘creation’ is nevertheless a term used truly with respect to the whole and the parts.”

Calvin’s motive in thus repudiating the notion of “Mediate Creation” is not at all chariness on his part with respect to the supernatural. It is not the supernaturalness of the production of the creatures which the waters and earth brought forth which he disallows; but only the applicability to their production of the term “creation.” On verse 24, he comments thus: “There is in this respect a miracle as great as if God had begun to create out of nothing these things which He commanded to proceed from the earth.” Calvin’s sole motive seems to be to preserve to the great word “create” the precise significance of to “make out of nothing,” and he will not admit that it can be applied to any production in which preëxistent material is employed.41 This might appear to involve the view that after the creation of the world-stuff recorded in Genesis i. 1, there was never anything specifically new produced by the divine power. And this might be expressed by saying that, from that point on, the divine works were purely works of providence, since the very differentia of a providential work is that it is the product proximately of second causes. Probably this would press Calvin’s contention, however, a little too far: he would scarcely say there was no immediacy in the divine action in the productions of the five days of “creation,” or indeed in the working of miracles. But we must bear in mind that his view of providence was a very high one, and he was particularly insistent that God acted through means, when He did act through means, through no necessity but purely at His own volition. Second causes, in his view, are nothing more than “instruments into which God infuses as much of efficiency as He wishes,” and which He employs or not at His will (I. xvi. 2). “The power of no created thing,” says Calvin, “is more wonderful or evident than that of the sun. . . . But the Lord . . . willed that light should exist . . . before the sun was created. A pious man will not make the sun, then, either the principal or the necessary cause of the things which existed before the sun was created, but only an instrument which God uses because He wishes to; since He could without any difficulty at all do without the sun and act of Himself.”42 The facility with which Calvin sets aside the notion of “mediate creation” is then due in no sense to desire to remove the productions of the five days of “creation” out of the category of divine products, but is itself mediated by the height of his doctrine of providence.43

It is important further that we should not suppose that Calvin removed the production of the human soul out of the category of immediate creation, in the strictest sense of that term. When he insists that the works of the days subsequent to the first, when “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” were not strictly speaking “creations,” because they were not productions ex nihilo, he is thinking only of the lower creation, inclusive, no doubt, of the human body; all this is made out of that primal “indigested mass” which sprang into being at the initial command of God. The soul is a different matter; and not only in the first instance, but in every succeeding instance, throughout the whole course of human propagation, is an immediate creation ex nihilo. Moses, he tells us, perfectly understood that the soul was created from nothing;44 and he announces with emphasis (“Institutes,” I. xv. 5), that it is certain that the souls of men are “no less created than the angels,” adding the decisive definition: “now, creation is the origination of essence ex nihilo.” It is thus with the lower creation alone in his mind that Calvin insists that all that can justly be called by the high name of “creation” was wrought by God on the first day, in that one act by which He created, that is called into being out of nothing, the heavens and the earth.

It should scarcely be passed without remark that Calvin’s doctrine of creation is, if we have understood it aright, for all except the souls of men, an evolutionary one. The “indigested mass,” including the “promise and potency” of all that was yet to be, was called into being by the simple fiat of God. But all that has come into being since – except the souls of men alone – has arisen as a modification of this original world-stuff by means of the interaction of its intrinsic forces. Not these forces apart from God, of course: Calvin is a high theist, that is, supernaturalist, in his ontology of the universe and in his conception of the whole movement of the universe. To him God is the prima causa omnium and that not merely in the sense that all things ultimately – in the world-stuff – owe their existence to God; but in the sense that all the modifications of the world-stuff have taken place under the directly upholding and governing hand of God, and find their account ultimately in His will. But they find their account proximately in “second causes”; and this is not only evolutionism but pure evolutionism. What account we give of these second causes is a matter of ontology; how we account for their existence, their persistence, their action – the relation we conceive them to stand in to God, the upholder and director as well as creator of them. Calvin’s ontology of second causes was, briefly stated, a very pure and complete doctrine of concursus, by virtue of which he ascribed all that comes to pass to God’s purpose and directive government. But that does not concern us here. What concerns us here is that he ascribed the entire series of modifications by which the primal “indigested mass,” called “heaven and earth,” has passed into the form of the ordered world which we see, including the origination of all forms of life, vegetable and animal alike, inclusive doubtless of the bodily form of man, to second causes as their proximate account. And this, we say, is a very pure evolutionary scheme. He does not discuss, of course, the factors of the evolutionary process, nor does he attempt to trace the course of the evolutionary advance, nor even expound the nature of the secondary causes by which it was wrought. It is enough for him to say that God said, “Let the waters bring forth. . . . Let the earth bring forth,” and they brought forth. Of the interaction of forces by which the actual production of forms was accomplished, he had doubtless no conception: he certainly ventures no assertions in this field. How he pictured the process in his imagination (if he pictured it in his imagination) we do not know. But these are subordinate matters. Calvin doubtless had no theory whatever of evolution; but he teaches a doctrine of evolution. He has no object in so teaching except to preserve to the creative act, properly so called, its purity as an immediate production out of nothing. All that is not immediately produced out of nothing is therefore not created – but evolved. Accordingly his doctrine of evolution is entirely unfruitful. The whole process takes place in the limits of six natural days. That the doctrine should be of use as an explanation of the mode of production of the ordered world, it was requisite that these six days should be lengthened out into six periods – six ages of the growth of the world. Had that been done Calvin would have been a precursor of the modern evolutionary theorists. As it is, he only forms a point of departure for them to this extent – that he teaches, as they teach, the modification of the original world-stuff into the varied forms which constitute the ordered world, by the instrumentality of second causes – or as a modern would put it, of its intrinsic forces. This is his account of the origin of the entire lower creation.45

Of this lower creation he has, however, as has already been pointed out, very little to say in the discussion of the creature which he has incorporated in the “Institutes” (I. xiv. 20-22). And what he does say is chiefly devoted to the practical end of quickening in our hearts a sense of the glory and perfections of its Maker, whose wisdom, power, justice and goodness are illustrated by it, and of raising our hearts in gratitude to Him for His benefits to us. These are the two things, he says, which a contemplation of what is meant by God being the Creator of heaven and earth should work in us: an apprehension of His greatness as the Creator (§ 21) and an appreciation of His care for us His creatures, in the manner in which He has created us (§ 22). More than to suggest this, the scope of his treatise does not appear to him to demand of him; as it does not permit him to dwell on the details of the history of creation – for which he therefore contents himself with referring his readers to the narrative of Genesis, with the comments of Basil and Ambrose. He pauses, therefore, only to insert the comprehensive statement of the elements of the matter which has already been cited, and which asserts that “God by the power of His Word and Spirit created out of nothing the heavens and the earth” and afterwards moulded this created material into the ordered world we see around us, which also He sustains and governs; in which, then, He has placed man, up to whom all the rest has tended and in whom He has afforded the culminating manifestation of His creative power (§ 20). The main items of his teaching as to the physical universe may therefore be summed up in the propositions that it owes its existence absolutely to the Divine power;46 that it was created out of nothing; that it was perfected through a process of formation which extended through six days; that it was made and adorned for the sake of man, and has been subjected to him; and that it illustrates in its structure and in all its movements the perfections of its Maker.

It is to the spiritual universe that Calvin turns with predilection, and the greater portion of the fourteenth chapter is devoted accordingly to a thoroughly Biblical account of angelic beings, good and bad (§§ 3-19). The careful Scripturalness of this account deserves emphasis. Calvin himself emphasizes it, and even permits himself to fall into a digression here, in order to expound at some length the proper attitude of the theological teacher to Scripture (I. xiv. 4). His design is to transmit plainly and clearly what the Scriptures teach,47 and not to pass beyond the simple doctrine of Scripture in anything.48 He therefore warns his readers against speculations as to “the orders” of angels, asking them to consider carefully the meagreness of the Scriptural foundation these have;49 and holds the Pseudo-Dionysius up as a terrible example of misplaced subtlety and acuteness in such matters (I. xiv. 4). Whereas Paul, who was actually rapt beyond the third heavens sealed his lips and declared it not lawful for a man to speak of the hidden things which he saw, Dionysius who never had such an experience writes with a fulness and confidence of detail which could be justified only if he had come down from heaven and was recounting what he had had the privilege of observing carefully with his own eyes. Such prating of things of which we can really know nothing is unworthy of a theologian, says Calvin; “for it is the part of the theologian not to amuse the ear with empty words, but to confirm the conscience by teaching what is true, certain, profitable.”50 And, “since the teaching of the Spirit is invariably profitable (utiliter), but in matters which are of less moment for edification, either He is altogether silent or touches on them only lightly and cursorily, it is our business cheerfully to remain ignorant of what is of no advantage to us.”51 There are two rules therefore which the modest and sober man will certainly bear in mind in the whole business of teaching religion. One is, in obscure matters, neither to speak nor to think, nor even to desire to know, anything more than what has been given us in the Word of God. The other is, in reading Scripture, to tarry for prolonged investigation and meditation only on what conduces to edification, and not to indulge curiosity or fondness for useless things.52 Practising what he preaches, Calvin endeavors therefore in all he has to say of angels to hold to the limit which the rule of piety prescribes, lest by indulging in speculation beyond measure he should lead the reader astray from the simplicity of the faith (I. xiv. 3, end). There are many things about angels, indeed, which it may be a matter of regret to some that the Scriptures have not told us (I. xiv. 16). But surely we ought to be content with the knowledge which the Lord has given us, especially as, passing by frivolous questions, His wish has been to instruct us in what conduces to solid piety, the fear of His name, true confidence and the duties of holiness (I. xiv. 4). If we are not ashamed to be His disciples, how can we be ashamed to follow the method He has prescribed (§ 4)? Nay, will we not even abhor those unprofitable speculations from which He recalls us, and rest in comfort in the simple Scriptural teaching, which with respect to good angels consoles us and confirms our faith by making us see in them the dispensers and administrators of the Divine goodness towards us, guarding our safety, assuring our defence, directing our ways, and protecting us by their care from evil (§ 6, ad init.) – with respect to evil angels, warns us against their artifices and contrivances and provides us with firm and strong weapons to repel their attacks (§ 13, ad init.)?

In accordance with these views of our relation to Scripture as a source of and guide to knowledge, Calvin’s whole discussion of angels is not only kept close to Scripture, but is marked by the strongest practical tendency. Perhaps what strikes the reader most forcibly upon the surface of the discussion is the completeness of the faith which it exhibits in the real existence of angelic beings and the concernment of man with them. We will recall the vividness of Luther’s similar faith. Perhaps we may say that the supernaturalistic tone of the conceptions of the Reformers is in nothing more visible than in their vital sense of the spiritual environment in which human life is cast. To them angels and demons were actual factors in men’s lives, to be counted upon and considered in our arrangement and adjustments as truly as our fellow men.53 Denial of their reality as substantial existences was indeed prevalent enough to require notice and refutation. Calvin’s refutation of it is, of course, derived entirely, however, from Scripture, and he recognizes that, therefore, it can have no force for those who do not believe in the Scriptures. He does not consider that it is on that account useless. He designs it to fortify pious minds against such madness and to call back the slothful and incautious to a more sober and better regulated mode of life. For those who believe in the Scriptural revelation, it must be confessed that his argument is complete and final, adducing as it does in the clearest way the chief Biblical evidence for the actual existence and activity of these superhuman intelligences (I. xiv. 9 and 19).

Calvin, then, teaches in accordance with Scripture, that angels are not “qualities or inspirations without substance, but real spirits.”54 He calls them “spirits,” “minds,” and as such defines them as beings whose characterizing qualities are “perception and intelligence.”55 His intention is to represent them as purely spiritual beings; and therefore he incidentally remarks that “it is certain” that they “have no form.”56 As “celestial spirits” (I. xiv. 5), they are of higher powers than man, and receive in Scripture designations by which their dignity is indicated: Hosts, Powers, Principalities, Dominions, Thrones, even “Gods” – not of course as if they were really “Gods” or ought to be worshipped, but “because in their ministry, as in a glass, they represent in some degree divinity to us.”57 “The preëminence (praestantia) of the angelic nature has,” to be sure, “so impressed the minds of many” that they have felt it would be an injury to angels to degrade them, as it were, under the control of the One only God; and thus there has been invented for them a certain kind of divinity (I. xiv. 3). They are of course like God: for they were made in the image of God.58 They are, however, just creatures of God, His servants who execute His commands.59 Moses, it is true, in the history of creation, does not give any account of their creation: but that history does not pretend to be complete, but limits itself to the visible creation, and it is easy to collect from his subsequent introduction of angels as God’s ministers that He is their maker.60 So a matter of course does this seem to Calvin, that he does not stop here to adduce specific Scriptural assertions of the origination of angels by creation. These however he emphasizes elsewhere. Thus for example, in his commentary on the passage, he expounds Col. i. 16 as follows: “Because Paul wished to make this assertion” – that all things were created in the Son – “particularly of angels, he now mentions the invisible things: not only, then, the heavenly creatures visible to our eyes, but also the spiritual ones (spirituales) have been made (conditae) by the Son of God.” The inferiority of angels to Christ, he proceeds to remark (in his commentary on the next verse), is manifested in the four points: First, “because they were created (creati) by Him; secondly, because their creation (creatio) is referred to Him as its legitimate end; thirdly, because He always existed before they were created (crearentur); fourthly, because it is He who sustains them by His power and conserves them in their condition.”61 Creation in and of itself means with Calvin, as we have seen, absolute origination of essence, and he therefore teaches that the angels have been, like all other creatures, created out of nothing. It is to be held, he says, as a thing certain that the souls of men and angels alike “have been created” – adding at once: “Now creation is not transfusion but the origination out of nothing of essence.”62

The questions of when they were created and how their creation is to be related to Moses’ narrative Calvin puts aside as frivolous. Moses narrates that the earth was perfected, and the heavens were perfected with all their hosts (Gen. ii. 1): that is certainly broad enough to cover the fact of their creation – why make anxious inquisition as to the day, in which besides the stars and planets, these other more hidden (reconditi) celestial hosts began to be?63 The very language in which he repels the question, however, as it certainly suggests that Calvin conceived of the entire creation, inclusive of the angelic hosts, as a systematized whole, seems also to hint that he himself thought of the creation of this unitary whole as taking place at the one creative epoch, if such language can be pardoned. If so, then in his instinctive thought on this subjecton which, however, he laid no stress – he followed the scholastic opinion, as expounded, say, by Thomas Aquinas rather than that of the Greek Fathers, who interposed an immense interval between the creation of the spiritual and the subsequent creation of the corporeal universe.64 It is doubtless, however, a mistake to press his language to imply that he thought of the creation of the angels as taking place on the same day with the stars and planets, that is to say, on the fourth day. More probably he thought of them as produced as part of the general creation of the “heavens and earth,” that is to say on the first day,65 and this became the traditional view in the Reformed Churches. “When were the angels created?” asks Bucanus, and answers, “Not before the ages, for the Son of God alone was existent before the ages: whence it follows that they were made in the beginning of all things. On what day, however, cannot certainly be defined, though it may be gathered with probability from the history of Moses that they were created on the first day, in which the heavens, the inhabitants of which they are, were created; wherefrom they are called the ‘angels of heaven.'”66 “The first day of the creation,” says Wollebius,67 “is illustrious for three works,” the first of which is “the creation of the angels with the highest heaven (the heaven called that of the blessed)”; for, he argues, “the creation of the angels can be referred to no better time than the first day, because when God laid the foundations of the earth, it was already celebrated by them (Job xxxviii. 7)” – an argument which is repeated by others, as for example by Van Mastricht,68 who reasons in general that “it is certain that they were not created before the first day of creation since before that there was nothing but eternity, . . . and it is equally certain that they were not created after man, whom they seduced.”69 Doubtless some such reasoning as this was before Calvin’s mind also, although it is clear that he did not take it so seriously.

On another matter of speculative construction, however, he was not so much inclined to an attitude of indifference. This concerned the distribution of angels into ranks and orders. We have already had occasion to note his reprobation of the Pseudo-Dionysius for his empty speculations on the “celestial hierarchy” (I. xiv. 4). He returns to the general matter later (I. xiv. 8) to express the opinion that data are lacking in Scripture to justify an attempt “to determine degrees of honor among angels, to distinguish the respective classes by their insignia, or to assign its place and station to each.” His positive attitude here is due, of course, to the comparison instituted by the Romanists between the celestial and the ecclesiastical hierarchies,70 which he wishes to discredit. Here too he set the fashion for the Reformed theology. Quite in this sense Van Mastricht 71 remarks that “the Reformed recognize, indeed, that there is some order among the angels, not only because God their Maker is a God of order . . . but because the various names of the angels seem to suggest an order to us (Col. i. 16, Eph. iii. 10, cf. Ezek. ix. 3, Is. vi. 2, I Thes. iv. 16, Gen. iii. 24, Jude 9) while the disjunctive particle, ei;te qro,noi( ei;te kurio,thtej (Col. i. 16), seems especially to confirm some order among angels, to say nothing of the existence of some order among the evil spirits themselves (Mat. xii. 24). But they believe it is not possible for men in this imperfection to determine what the order among the angels is.” If this seems to allow a little more than Calvin does, it is to go a little further than he does in denial on the other hand, to contend with Hyperius that there are no permanent distinctions among angels “by virtue of which some angels are always preëminent, others always subordinate,” or even with Bucanus, that there are no distinctions in nature among the angels but only differences in office. Surely these determinations are open to Calvin’s rebuke of pretensions to knowledge which we do not possess, and contrast sharply with the sobriety with which Calvin abides by the simple statements of Scripture, allowing that there are some hints in Scripture of ranks among angels (I. xiv. 8; cf. 14) and contending only that these hints are insufficient to enable us to develop a complete theory of their organization.

In holding back from the temptation to speculate on the organization of the angelic hosts, however, Calvin betrays no tendency to minify their numbers, and he of course recognizes the great distinction between good and bad angels. The numbers of both are very great. Of the good angels, he tells us, “we hear from the mouth of Christ of many legions (Mat. xxvi. 53), from Daniel of many myriads (Dan. vii. 10); Elisha’s servant saw numerous chariots; and when it is said that they encamp around about those that fear God (Ps. xxxiv. 8), a great multitude is suggested” (I. xiv. 8). When he comes to speak of evil angels his language takes on an even increased energy. He speaks of “great crowds” (magnas copias) of them, and even with the exaggerating emphasis of deep conviction of the “infinite multitude” of them (I. xiv. 14). Though these two hosts stand now arrayed against each other they are in origin and nature one; for the evil spirits are just good spirits gone wrong. The fundamental facts which Calvin most insists upon with respect to what he calls “devils” (diaboli) are that they are creatures of God and were therefore once good – “for it is impious (nefas) to ascribe to the good God the creation of any evil thing”72 – and that they have become evil by corrupting the good nature with which God endowed them.73 Their evil, says he crisply, is “not from creation but from depravation.”74 “At their original creation they were angels of God, but they destroyed themselves through degeneration.”75 To ascribe to God, their Creator, the evil they have acquired by their defection and lapse, would be to ascribe to Him what above all things is most alien from Him;76 and thus far the Manichaeans are right – for the good God cannot have created any evil thing (I. xiv. 3, as above). The Scriptural evidence of the fall of the “devils” Calvin states with great brevity but with sufficient point. He adduces II Peter ii. and Jude 6 as a clear statement: and I Timothy v. 21 as a tacit implication; and he argues that when our Lord (Jno. viii. 44) declares that when Satan “speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own,” and adds as a reason “because he abode not in the truth,” He implies that he had once been in the truth and issued from it by an act of his own (I, xiv. 16). In his other writings he returns repeatedly to these conceptions and always with the greatest directness and force of statement. “The devils,” says he, ” have been angels of God but they did not retain the condition in which they were created but have fallen by a horrible fall, so as to become the examples of perdition.”77 “The devils were created by God as well as the angels, but not as they now are. We must always reserve this, – that the evil which is in the devils proceeds from themselves. . . .”78 “For we know that the devil is evil not by nature, nor from his original creation (creationis origine), but by the fault of his own defection.”79

It is worth while to dwell on these deliverances, because they contain not merely Calvin’s doctrine of devils, but also, so far, his doctrine of the origin of evil. This includes, we already perceive, a vigorous repudiation of the notion that God can be in any way the author of evil. The Augustinian doctrine that omne esse est bonum is explicitly reaffirmed. God is good and it is impious to suppose that He may have created anything evil (malum). But as God is the author of all that is, everything that has come into being is in its nature good. There is, therefore, no such thing in the universe as an evil nature (mala natura). All that is evil arises (I. xiv. 3) not from nature (ex natura) but from corruption of nature (ex naturae corruptione). This corruption has been introduced by the free action of the creature: it is (I. xiv. 16) not “of creation” but “of depravation,” – a depravation of which the creature itself is the cause (cuius ipse sibi causa). To put it all in a nutshell, – evil according to Calvin has its source not in the creative act of God but in the deflected action of the creaturely will. Such an assertion takes us, of course, only a little way towards a theodicy: but it is important that as we pass we should note as a first step in Calvin’s theodicy that he very energetically repudiates the notion that God, who is good, can be, as Creator, the author of any evil thing. All that comes from His hands is “very good.”

As the angels owe their existence to God, so of course they subsist in Him. They were not brought into being to stand, deistically, over against God, sufficient to themselves: like all the rest of His creatures their dependence on God is absolute. Nothing can be ascribed to them as if it belonged to them apart from Him. They are, indeed, immortal: but this is so far from meaning that it is beyond the power of God to destroy them, that it rather means merely that it is the will of God to sustain them in endless being. In themselves considered, like all other creaturely existences, they are mortal.80 “We know,” remarks Calvin,81 “that angels are immortal spirits, for God has created them for this condition, that they shall never be destroyed any more than the souls of men shall perish. . . . The angels are immortal because they are sustained by power from on high, and God maintains them – He who is immortal by nature and the fountain of life is in Him, as says the Psalmist (xxxvi. 10). . . . The angels are not stable save as God holds their hand. They are no doubt called Mights and Powers; but this is because God executes His power by them and guides them. Briefly, the angels have nothing in themselves by reason of which they may glory in themselves. For all that they have of power and stability they possess from God. . . .” In all their activities, accordingly, angels are but the instruments of God, although, to be sure, they are “the instruments in which God especially (specialiter) exhibits the presence of His divinity (numinis)” (I. xiv. 5). We must not think of them, then, as interposed between us and God, so as to obscure His glory; nor must we transfer to them what belongs to God and Christ alone (I. xiv. 10) – worshipping them, perchance,82 or at least attributing to them independent activities. The splendor of the divine majesty is indeed reflected in them;83 but the glory by which they shine is a derived glory, and it would be preposterous to allow their borrowed brightness to blind us to its source. In all their varied activities they must be considered merely “the hands of God, which move themselves to no work except under His direction.” 84

Some question may arise as to the wideness of the sphere of activity in which angels are employed as “the hands of God.” There is at least a prima facie appearance that Calvin thought of them as the instruments through which the entirety of God’s providential work is administered. He dwells especially, to be sure, on their employment as “the dispensers and administrators of the divine beneficence” towards His people (I. xiv. 6); but he appears to look upon this as only the culminating instance of a universal activity. When he says that they are “God’s ministers ordained for the execution of His laws,”85 we may indeed hesitate to press the language. But three several spheres of activity of increasing comprehensiveness seem to be distinguished, when he tells us God “uses their service for the protection of His people, and by means of them both dispenses His benefits among men and executes also the rest of His works.”86 And the whole seems summed up in a phrase when he tells us again that God “exercises and administers His government in the world through them.”87 The universal reach of their activities appears to be explicitly asserted in the comprehensive statement that God “uses their ministry and service for executing all that He has decreed.”88 It certainly would appear from such broad statements that Calvin looked upon the angels as agents through which God carries on His entire providential government.

The question is not unnaturally raised whether by this conception Calvin does not remove God too far from His works, interposing between Him and His operations a body of intermediaries by which He is separated from the universe after the fashion of a false transcendenceism.89 It is quite plain that Calvin did not so conceive the matter. So far from supposing that the execution of the works of providence through the medium of angels involves the absence of God from these works, he insists that they are only the channels of the presence of God. “How preposterous it is,” he exclaims, “that we should be separated from God by the angels when they have been constituted for the express purpose of testifying the completer presence of His aid to us” (I. xiv. 12). Are we separated from the works of our hands because it is by our hands that they are wrought? And the angels, if rightly conceived, must be thought of just as the hands of God – the appropriate instruments, not which work instead of Him, but by which He works (I. xiv. 12). He, therefore, once for all dismisses “that Platonic philosophy” which interposes angels between God and His world, and even asks us to seek access to God through the angels, as if we had not immediacy of access to Him. “For this is the reason they are called Angels of Power or Powers,” he remarks in another place;90 “not that God, resigning His power to them, sits idle in heaven, but because, by acting powerfully in them, He magnificently manifests His power to us. They therefore act ill and perversely who assign anything to angels as of themselves, or who so make them intermediaries between us and God that they obscure the glory of God as if it were removed to a distance; since rather it manifests itself as present in them. Accordingly the mad speculations of Plato are to be shunned as instituting too great a distance between us and God. . . .” In his view, therefore, the angels do not stand between God and the world to hold them apart but to draw them together as channels of operation through which God’s power flows into His works.

If he were asked whether he does not, by this interposition of angels between God and His works, infringe on the conception of the Divine immanence and raise doubt as to God’s immanent activity, Calvin would doubtless reply that he does not “interpose” the angels between God and His works, but conceives them as just “the hands of God” working; and that he, of course, conceives God as immanent in the angels themselves, so that their working is just His working through them, as His instruments. We must not confuse the question of the method of God’s immanent activity with that of the fact of that activity. The suggestion that God carries on His providential government through the agency of angels is only a suggestion of the method of His immanent working and can raise doubt of the reality of His immanent working only on the supposition that these angels stand so over against God in their independence as to break – so to speak – His contact with His works. This is Deism, and is therefore of course inconsistent with the Divine immanence; but it has nothing to do with the question whether He employs angels in which He is immanent in His operations. In any event God executes His works of providence through the intermediation of second causes; for this is the very definition of a work of providence. The discovery that among these second causes there are always personal as well as impersonal agencies to be taken into account, can raise no question as between immanence and transcendence in God’s modes of action – unless personal agents are conceived to be, as such, so independent of God as to exclude in all that is performed by their agency the conception of His immanent working. And in that case what shall we say of the Divine immanence in the sphere of human life and activity? In a word, Calvin’s conception that all the works of God’s providence are wrought through the intermediation of angels excludes the immanence of God in His world as little as the recognition of human activities excludes the immanence of God in history.

The real interest of his conception does not lie, therefore, in any bearing it may be supposed to have on his view of the relation of God to the universe – it leaves his view on that point unaffected – but in the insight it gives us into Calvin’s pneumatology. We have already had occasion to note the vividness of his sense of the spiritual environment in which our life is cast. We see here that he conceived the universe as in all its operations moving on under the guiding hand of these superhuman intelligences. This is as much as to say that there was no dualism in his conception of the universe: he did not set the spiritual and physical worlds, or the earthly and supramundane worlds, over against one another as separate and unrelated entities. He conceived them as all working together in one unitary system, acting and interacting on one another. And he accustomed himself to perceive beneath the events of human history – whether corporate or individual – and beneath the very operations of physical nature – not merely the hand of God, upholding and governing; but the activities of those “hands of God” who hearken to His voice and fulfil His word, and whom He not only charges with the care of His “little ones,” and the direction of the movements of the peoples, but makes even “winds” and a “flaming fire.”

To the question why God thus universally operates through the instrumentality of subordinate intelligences, Calvin has no answer, in its general aspects, except a negative one. It cannot be that God needs their aid or is unable to accomplish without them what He actually does through them. If He employs them, “He certainly does not do this from necessity, as if He were unable to do without them; for whenever He pleases, He passes them by and accomplishes His work by nothing but His mere will; so far are they from relieving Him of any difficulty by their aid” (I. xiv. 11). These words have their application to the whole sphere of angelical activities, as indeed they have to the entire body of second causes (I. xvi. 2), but they are spoken directly only of the employment of angels as ministers to the heirs of salvation. It is characteristic of Calvin that he confines his discussion of the subject to this highest function of angelic service, as that which was of special religious value to his readers, and that to which as a practical man seeking practical ends it behooved him particularly to address himself. In this highest sphere of angelic operation he is not without even a positive response to the query why God uses angels to perform His will. It is not for His sake but for the sake of His people; it is, in fact, a concession to their weakness. God is able, certainly, to protect His people by the mere nod of His power; and surely it ought to be enough for them and more than enough that God declares Himself their protector.91 To look around for further aid after we have received the promise of God that He will protect us, is undeniably wrong in us.92 Is not the simple promise of the great God of heaven and earth sufficient safeguard against all dangers? But we are weak;93 and God is good – full of leniency and indulgence94 – and He wishes to give us not only His protection but the sense of His protection. Dealing with us as we are, not as we ought to be, He is willing to appeal to our imagination and to comfort us in our feeling of danger or despair by enabling us to apprehend, in our own way, the presence of His grace. He, therefore, has added to His promise that He will Himself care for us, the further one that “we shall have innumerable escorts to whom He has given charge to secure our safety” (§ 11). Like Elisha, then, who, when he was oppressed by the numerous army of the Syrians, was shown the multitude of the angels sent to guard him, we, when terrified by the thought of the multitude of our enemies, may find refuge in that discovery of Elisha’s: “There are more for us than against us.”

In insisting upon this particular function of angels above all others, Calvin feels himself to be, as a Biblical theologian, simply following the lead of Scripture. For, intent especially on what may most make for our consolation and the confirmation of our faith, the Scripture lays its stress, he tells us, on angels as the dispensers and administrators of the Divine beneficence towards God’s people; and ” reminds us that they guard our safety, undertake our defence, direct our ways, and exercise solicitude that no harm shall befall us” (I. xiv. 6). These great provisions are universal, he tells us, and belong “to all believers” without exception. Every follower of Christ has, therefore, pledged to his protection the whole host of the angels of God. In the interests of the greatness of this pledge, Calvin enters the lists against the idea of “guardian angels,” which had become the settled doctrine of the old Church (I. xiv. 7), not indeed with the sharpness and decision which afterwards obtained in the Reformed Churches,95 but yet with an obvious feeling that this notion lacks Scriptural basis and offers less than what the Scriptures provide for the consolation and support of God’s people. If it is to be accepted at all, Calvin wishes it to be accepted not instead of, but alongside of, what he feels to be the much greater assurance that the whole body of angels is concerned with the protection and salvation of everyone of the saints. “Of this indeed,” he remarks, “we may be sure – that the case of each one of us is not committed to one angel alone, but that all of them with one consent watch over our salvation” (I. xiv. 7). This being a settled fact, he does not consider the question of “guardian angels” worth considering: if “all the orders of the celestial army stand guard over our salvation,” he asks, what difference does it make to us whether one particular angel is also told off to act as our particular guardian or not? But if any one wishes to restrict the protection granted us by God to this one angel – why that is a different matter: that would be to do a great injury to himself and to all the members of the Church, by depriving them of the encouragement they receive from the divine assurance that they are compassed about and defended on all sides in their conflict by the forces of heaven.96

What Calvin has to say about the evil spirits – the “devils” as he calls them – is determined by the same practical purpose which dominates his discussion of the good angels. He begins, therefore, with the remark that “almost everything which Scripture transmits concerning devils, has as its end that we should be solicitous to guard against their snares and machinations, and may provide ourselves with such arms as are firm and strong enough to repel the most powerful enemies” (§ 13, ad init.). He proceeds by laying stress on the numbers, the malice, and the subtlety of these devils; and by striving in every way to awaken the reader to a realizing sense of the desperation of the conflict in which he is engaged with them (§§ 13-15). The effect is to paint a very vivid picture of the world of evil, set over against the world of good as in some sense its counterfeit,97 determined upon overturning the good, and to that end waging a perpetual war against God and His people.98 He then points out that the evil of these dreadful beings is of themselves, not of God – coming not from creation but from corruption (§ 16) – and closes with two sections upon the relation they sustain to God’s providential government. To these closing sections (§§ 17 and 18), it will repay us to devote careful attention. In them Calvin resolves the dualism which is introduced into the universe by the intrusion of evil into it, by showing that this evil itself is held under the control of God and is employed for His divine purposes; and he does this in such a manner that we scarcely know whether to admire most the justice of the conceptions or the precision and clearness of the language in which they are given expression.99

The first of these sections asserts the completeness of the control which God exercises over the devils. It is true that Satan is at discord and strife with God:100 he is by nature – that is, acquired nature – wicked (improbus) and every propension of his will is to contumacy and rebellion; of his own accord he does nothing, therefore, which he does not mean to be in opposition to God (§ 17). But he is, after all, but a creature of God’s and God holds him in with the bridle of His power and controls his every act. Although, therefore, every impulse of his will is in conflict with God, he can do nothing except by God’s will and approval.101 So it is uniformly represented in Scripture. Thus we read that Satan could not assault Job until he had obtained permission so to do;102 that the lying spirit by which Ahab was deceived was commissioned from the Lord;103 that the evil spirit which punished Saul for his sins was from the Lord;104 that the plagues of Egypt, sent by God as they were, were wrought, nevertheless, by evil angels.105 And thus Paul, generalizing, speaks of the blinding of unbelievers both as the “work of God” and the “operation of Satan,” meaning of course that Satan does it only under the government of God.106 “It stands fast, therefore,” Calvin concludes, “that Satan is under God’s power, and is so governed by God’s will (nutu) that he is compelled to render God obedience. We may say certainly that Satan resists God, and his works are contrary to God’s works; but we at the same time assert that this repugnancy and this strife are dependent on God’s permission. I am not now speaking of his will (voluntate), nor yet of his efforts (conatu), but only of the results (effectu). For the devil is wicked by nature and has not the least propension towards obedience to the divine will, but is wholly bent on contumacy and rebellion. What he has from his own iniquity, therefore, is that he desires and purposes to oppose God: by this depravity he is stimulated to try to do those things which he thinks in the highest degree inimical to God. But God holds him bound and curbed by the bridle of His power, so that he can carry out only those things which are divinely permitted to him, and thus, will he nill he, he obeys his Creator, seeing that he is compelled to perform whatever service God impels him to” (§ 17, end).

This important passage appears first in the edition of the “Institutes” published in 1543; but its entire substance was in Calvin’s mind from the beginning. It is given expression, first, in the course of the broader discussion of the relation of God’s providence to the evil acts of men and devils incorporated into the second chapter (De Fide) of the first edition of the “Institutes” (1536).107 “Thus, the affliction of Job,” Calvin there declares, “was the work of God and of the devil; and yet the wickedness of the devil must be distinguished from the righteousness of God; for the devil was endeavoring to destroy Job, God was testing him (Job i. and ii.). So Assur was the rod of the Lord’s anger, Sennacherib the axe in His hand (Is. x.); all called, raised up, impelled by Him, in a word His ministers. But how? While they were obeying their unbridled lust, they were unconsciously serving the righteousness of God (Jer. xxvii.). Behold God and them, the authors of the same work, but in the same work the righteousness of God and their iniquity manifested!” The same line of thought is much more completely worked out, and very fully illustrated from the instance of Job, as a part of the discussion of man’s sinfulness in the presence of the machinations of evil and the providence of God, which was incorporated into the second edition of the “Institutes” (1539) and retained from it throughout all the subsequent editions – in the final edition forming the opening sections of the discussion of “How God works in the hearts of men” (II. iv. 1-2).108

Much the same line of thought is developed again in the full discussion of the providence of God which appears in the tract against the Libertines, which was published in 1545. Speaking here of the particular providence of God, Calvin proceeds as follows:109 “It is furthermore to be noted that not only does God serve Himself thus with the insensible creatures, to work and execute His will through them; but also with men and even with devils. So that Satan and the wicked are executors of His will. Thus He used the Egyptians to afflict His people, and subsequently raised up the Assyrians to chastise them, when they had sinned; and others in like manner. As for the devil, we see that he was employed to torment Saul (I Sam. xvi. 14, xviii. 10), to deceive Ahab (I Kings xxii. 22), and to execute judgment upon all the wicked whenever they require it (Ps. lxxviii. 49); and on the other hand to test the constancy of God’s people, as we see in the case of Job. The Libertines, now, meeting with these passages, are dumfounded by them and without due consideration conclude that, therefore, the creatures do nothing at all. Thus they fall into a terrible error. For not only do they confound heaven and earth together but God and the devil. This comes from not observing two limitations which are very necessary. The first is that Satan and wicked men are not such instruments of God that they do not act also of their own accord. For we must not imagine that God makes use of a wicked man precisely as He does of a stone or of a piece of wood. He employs him rather as a reasonable creature according to the quality of the nature He has given him. When, then, we say that God works by means of the wicked, this does not forbid that the wicked work also on their own account. This Scripture shows us with even remarkable clearness. For while, on the one hand, it declares that God shall hiss (Is. v. 26), and as it were sound the drum to call the infidels to arms and shall harden or inflame their hearts – yet, on the other, it does not leave out of account their own thought and will, and attributes to them the work they do by the appointment of God. The second limitation which these unhappy men disregard is that there is a very real distinction between the work of God and that of a wicked man when he serves as the instrument of God. For it is by his own avarice, or his own ambition, or his own jealousy, or his own cruelty, that a wicked man is incited to do what he does; and he has no regard to any other end. And it is according to the root, which is the affection of the heart, and to the end which it seeks, that the work is qualified; and so it is rightly accounted wicked. But God has an entirely contrary purpose. It is to execute His righteousness, to save and conserve the good, to employ His goodness and grace towards the faithful, to chastise the ill-deserving. Here, then, lies the necessity of distinguishing between God and men, so as to contemplate in the same work God’s righteousness, goodness, judgment, and, on the other side, the malice of the devil or of the wicked. Let us take a good and clear mirror in which to see all that I am saying. When Job heard the news of the loss of his goods, of the death of his children, of the many calamities which had fallen on him, he recognized that it was God who was visiting him, and said, ‘The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away.’ And, in truth, it was so. But was it not also the devil who had brewed this pottage? Was it not the Chaldeans who had spoiled his goods? Did he commend the thieves and brigands, and excuse the devil, because his affliction had come to him from God? Certainly not. He well knew there was an important distinction to be observed here. And so he condemns the evil, and says ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Similarly David, when he was persecuted by Shimei, no doubt said that he had received this from the Lord (II Sam. xvi. 11), and saw that this wretch was a rod by which God was chastising him. But while he praised God, he did not omit to condemn Shimei (I Kings ii. 9). We shall return to this at another place. For the present let it suffice to hear this: that God so uses His creatures and makes them serve His providence, that the instrument which He employs may often be bad; that His turning the malice of Satan or of bad men to good does not in the least excuse their evil or make their work other than bad and to be condemned, seeing that every work receives its quality from the intention with which it is done. . . . On the contrary, we must needs observe that the creatures do their works here in their own degree, and these are to be estimated as good or bad according as they are done in obedience to God or to offend Him. All the time, God is above, directing everything to a good end, and turning the evil into good, or, at least, drawing good out of what is evil, acting according to His nature, that is in righteousness and equity; and making use of the devil in such a manner as in no way to mix Himself with him so as to have anything in common with him, or to entangle Himself in any evil association, or to efface the nature of what is evil by His righteousness. It is just like the sun which, shining on a piece of carrion and causing putrefaction in it, contracts no taint whatever from the corruption, and does not by its purity destroy the foulness and infection of the carrion. So God deals in such a manner with the deeds of the wicked that the holiness which is in Him does not justify the infection which is in them, nor is contaminated by it.”

We have thought it desirable to quote at some length one of the more extended passages in which Calvin develops the doctrine announced in the section before us, although it leads us somewhat away from the single point here to be emphasized, into the mysteries of the divine providence. This broader view once before us, however, we may return to emphasize the single point which now concerns us – Calvin’s teaching of the absolute control of the evil spirits by God. This seemed to Calvin to lie so close to the center of Christian hope and life that he endlessly repeats it in his occasional writings, and has even incorporated an assertion of it in his Catechism (1545).110 “But what shall we think of the wicked and of devils,” he there asks – “are they, too, subject to God?” And he answers: “Although God does not lead them by His Spirit, He nevertheless holds them in check as with a bridle, so that they cannot move save as He permits them. And He even makes them ministers of His will, so that He compels them to execute unwillingly and against their determination what seems good to Him.” The recognition of this fact seemed to him essential even to an intelligent theism, which, he urges, certainly requires that God should be conceived not less as Governor than as Creator of all things – as, indeed, the two things go together. “If, then, we imagine,” he writes,111 “that God does not govern all, but that some things come about by fortune, it follows that this fortune is a goddess who has created part of the world, and that the praise is not due to God alone. And it is an execrable blasphemy if we think that the devil can do anything without the permission of God: that is all one with making him creator of the world in part.” “Now Satan,” says he again,112 “is also subject to God, so that we are not to imagine that Satan has any principality except what is given him by God; and there is good reason why he should be subject to Him since he proceeds from Him. The devils were created by God as well as the angels, but not such as they are. It is necessary that we always reserve this, – that the evil which is in the devils proceeds from themselves.”113

Calvin was not the man, however, to insist on the control of the devils by God without consideration of the ends for which this control was exercised. He therefore follows up his assertion of this control (§ 17) with a discussion of the use God makes of “unclean spirits” (immundi spiritus) (§ 18). This use, he tells us, is twofold. They are employed to test, try, exercise and develop the faithful. And they are employed to punish the wicked. On the latter of these he dwells as little as its faithful presentation permitted. Those whom God “does not design to enroll in His own flock,” he tells us, He delivers over to the control of Satan as the minister of the divine vengeance; and he pictures in a few burning words the terribleness of their fate. On the employment of Satan and his angels for the profit of God’s people he dwells more at length and with evident reminiscence of his own Christian experience. “They exercise the faithful with fighting,” he tells us, “they assail them with snares, harass them with assaults, push them in combat, even fatigue them often, confuse, terrify, and sometimes wound them.” Yet they never, he adds, “conquer or overcome them.” God’s children may often be filled with consternation, but they are never so disheartened that they cannot recover themselves; they may be struck down by the violence of the blows they receive, but they always rise again; they may be wounded, but they cannot be slain; they may be made to labor through their whole lives, but in the end they obtain the victory.

There are several things that are thrown out into a high light in this discussion which it will repay us to take notice of. We observe, first of all, Calvin’s view of the Christian life as a conflict with the powers of evil. “This exercise,” he says, or we might perhaps almost translate it “this drill” (exercitium) – it is the word for military training – “is common to all the children of God.” We observe, next, his absolute confidence in the victory of God’s children. The promise that the seed of the woman shall crush the head of Satan belongs not only to Christ, but to all His members; and, therefore, he can categorically deny that it is possible for the faithful ever to be conquered or overcome of evil. The dominion of Satan is over the wicked alone, and shall never be extended to the soul of a single one of the faithful. We observe again that Calvin conceives the victory as therefore complete already in principle for every one who is in Christ. “In our Head indeed,” he declares, “this victory has always been full and complete (ad plenum exstitit); because the prince of the world had nothing in Him.” And we observe, finally, that he holds with clear conviction that it will never be complete for any of us in this life. We labor here throughout the whole course of life (toto vitae curriculo) and obtain the victory only in the end (in fine). The fulfilment of the promise of crushing the head of Satan is only “begun in this life,” the characteristic of which is that it is the period of conflict (ubi luctandum est): it is only after this period of conflict is over (post luctam) that it shall be completely fulfilled. It is only in our Head that the victory is now complete: in us who are members, it appears as yet only in part: and it is only when we put off our flesh, according to which we are liable to infirmity, that we shall be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. In these several considerations we have outlined for us very vividly Calvin’s conception of the life which we now live in the flesh, a life of faith and hope, not of full attainment: a life filled with conflict, but with the sure promise of victory.

The preoccupation of Calvin’s mind with man throughout his whole discussion of creation is very strikingly illustrated by his absorption, even while discussing angels and devils, with human relations and human problems. What he is apparently chiefly concerned about is that men shall understand and take their comfort out of the assurance that angelic hosts encamp about them for their protection, and angelic messengers are busied continually with their direction; that men shall understand and take their admonition from the certainty that numerous most subtle and malignant unseen foes lie in wait continually for their souls. We have pointed out that Calvin’s conception of the universe was frankly anthropocentric. We see that this anthropocentrism of thought embraced in it the spiritual as well as the physical universe. He does not say, indeed, that these higher spiritual existences exist purely for man: he only says that for our consolation and the confirmation of our faith the Scriptures insist principally on their employment for the dispensing and administering of God’s kindness to His people. Here is no speculative investigation into the final cause of angels. Here is only a practical reference to those functions of angels which it most concerns us to know. But he does teach of course (on the basis of Col. i. 16) that the very creation of angels is referred to Christ as its end: and it might be contended that in this declaration there lie the beginnings of a “gospel of creation” by which all things without exception which have been brought into being are set forth as ancillary to the great end of the redemption of the human race. A certain amount of confirmation may be found for this contention in the unitary conception which, as has been pointed out, Calvin cherished of the universe as a systematized whole. Meanwhile we have no formal discussion from him of the final cause of angels, and not even (at this place, at all events) any guiding hints of how he would resolve such a question. Least of all have we here any such discussion as meets us in many of his followers of the final cause of the devil,114 although the elements of such a discussion are involved in any theodicy, and cannot escape suggestion in any attempt to deal seriously with the great problem of evil. Calvin, therefore, has not failed to suggest them; but not directly in our present context, where he contents himself with assuming the existence of evil in the spiritual world, declaring its origination by the creature and asserting the divine control of it and utilization of it in God’s government of the world.115 For what may penetrate into the problem more deeply than this, we shall have to go elsewhere.

Meanwhile, having expounded at some length the nature of the spiritual, and more briefly the nature of the physical, environment of man, Calvin is now able to turn definitely to the subject which had really been occupying his thoughts throughout the entire discussion of creation – man, considered as a creature of God. The ruin which has been wrought in man by sin, he postpones for a later discussion; here he concerns himself only with the nature of man as such. Not of course as if he were inviting an idle contemplation of something which no longer exists and therefore cannot deeply concern us. But with a twofold practical object in view. In the first place, that we may not attribute to God, the author of our nature, those natural evils which we perceive in ourselves, in our present condition. And next, that we may properly estimate the lamentable ruin into which we have fallen, by seeing it as it really is – as a corruption and deformity of our proper nature. With these ends in view he invites us to attend to a descriptio integrae naturae, that is to an account of the constitution and nature of man as such (I. xv. 1).

Man, in his view, owes his origin, of course, to the productive energy of God (I. xv. 5) and is spoken of by Calvin as among all the works of God, “the most noble and supremely admirable example of the Divine righteousness and wisdom and goodness.”116 His peculiarity among the creatures of God is that he is of a duplex nature. For that man consists of two disparate elements – soul and body – ought, in Calvin’s opinion, to be beyond controversy.117 On the one side, then, man takes hold of lower nature – “he was taken from earth and clay”;118 and this surely ought to be a curb to our pride. On the other side – which is “the nobler part” of man119 – he is an immortal spirit dwelling in this earthly vessel as a domicile; and in this he may justly glory as a mark of the great goodness of his Maker.120 Calvin, we perceive then, is a dichotomist, and that not merely inadvertently but with an express rejection of the trichotomistic schematization. He recognizes some plausibility in the arguments advanced to distinguish between the sensitive and rational souls in man; but he finds that there is really no substance in them and advises that we draw off from such questions as frivolous and useless.121

Of the bodily nature of man, Calvin has (here at least) little to say. He is not insensible to the dignity of the human form and carriage, celebrating it in a familiar classical quotation;122 and he admits that by as much as it distinguishes and separates us from brute animals by that much it brings us nearer to God.123 Though he insists that the image of God is properly spiritual,124 and that even though it may be discerned sparkling in these external things it is only as they are informed by the spirit;125 he yet in this very statement seems in some sense to allow that it does “sparkle” at least in these external things, and indeed says plainly that “there is no part of man including the body itself, in which there is not some luminous spark of the divine image.”126 What he objected to in Osiander’s view accordingly was not. that he allowed to the body some share in the divine image but that he placed the image of God “promiscuously” and “equally” in the soul and body.127 Calvin might allow it to extend even to the body, but certainly he would not admit that it had its seat there in equal measure as in the soul. The only proper seat of the image of God was to him indeed precisely the soul itself,128 from which only it might shine into the body.129

He even, indeed, permits himself to speak of the body as a “prison” from which the soul is liberated at death;130 though this is doubtless merely a classical manner of speech, adhered to without intentional implication of its corollaries,131 whenever at least his mind is not consciously on “the body of this death,” that is, specifically, the sinful body. In contrast with the soul, he never tires indeed of pouring contempt upon the body as a mere lump of clay, which is sustained and moved and impelled solely by the soul which dwells in it.132 Dust in its origin, it shall in accordance with its nature, in obedience to the curse of God, return to dust,133 although of course afterwards it shall be raised again in virtue of Christ’s redemption; but here we are speaking again of the body, not as it is in itself, but as it is under sin, subject on the one hand to the death from which it was wholly free in the state of integrity134 and to the redemption by which it is recovered from the death incurred by sin. Though then our bodies are in themselves, under sin, mere carcasses, yet as “members of Christ” they cannot “sink into putrefaction without hope of resurrection” (III. xxv. 7). They may be “wretched corpses,” but they do not cease to be “temples of the Holy Ghost,” and God “wishes to be adored in them.” “We are the altars at which He is worshipped, in our bodies and in our souls.”135 Hence, as well as for other reasons, Calvin has much to say of the duty of a proper care of the body – of its health and even of its cleanliness. If God deigns to dwell in us we should endeavor to walk in purity of body as well as of soul, to keep our bodies in decency, not to afflict them with austerities, or to neglect them in disease, but so to regulate our lives that we shall be able to serve God, and be in suitable condition to do good.136

Even the body, it must be borne in mind, was not according to Calvin created to be the prey of death. In his commentary on Gen. ii. 16 he tells us that had man not sinned, his earthly life indeed would have ceased but only to give way to a heavenly life for the whole man.137 That man dies is due therefore entirely to sin. Without sin the body itself would have been immortal. Its exinanitio is as much due to sin as the maledictio which falls on the soul.138 By Adam’s sin death entered into the world139 and thus alienation from God for the soul, and return to dust for the body. And therefore by the redemption in Christ there is purchased for the soul restoration to communion with God and for the body return from the dust, in order that the whole man, soul and body, may live forever in the enjoyment of the Divine favor. The body is not in and of itself therefore, although the lower part of man and uniting him with the lower creation, an unworthy element of human nature. All that is unworthy in it comes from sin.140

The “nobler part”141 of man, the “soul,” or as it is alternatively called, the “spirit,”142 differs from the body not merely in nature but in origin. In its nature, Calvin conceives it as distinctively percipient substance: whose “very nature, without which it cannot by any means exist, is movement, feeling, activity, understanding.”143 From the metaphysical point of view Calvin defines it as “an immortal, yet created essence,”144 and he is at considerable pains to justify each element of this definition.

In opposition to the notion that the soul is but a breath (flatus) or power (vis) divinely infused into bodies, but itself lacking essence (quae tamen essentia careat),145 he affirms that it is a substantial entity distinct from the body, incorporeal in its own nature (substantia incorporea),146 and therefore incapable of occupying space, and yet inhabiting the body as its domicile “not only that it may quicken all its parts,147 and render its organs fit (apta) and useful for their activities, but also that it may hold the primacy (primatum) in the government of the life of man,” whether in concerns of this life or in those of the life to come (§ 6). The substantiality of the soul as an essence distinct from the body he considers to be clear on its own account, and on the testimony of Scripture as well.148 The powers with which the soul is endowed, he urges, transcend the capacities of physical substance, and themselves afford therefore ample proof that there is “hidden in man something which is distinct from the body.”149 Here is conscience, for example, which, discriminating between good and evil, responds to the judgment of God. “How shall an affection without essence150 penetrate to the tribunal of God and strike terror into itself from its guilt”; or fear of a purely spiritual punishment afflict the body? Here is the knowledge of God itself. How should an evanescent activity (evanidus vigor) rise to the fountain of life? Here is the marvelous agility of the human mind, traversing heaven and earth, and all the secret places of nature; here are the intellect and memory gathering into themselves all the ages, arranging everything in proper order and even forecasting the future from the past; here is the intellect, conceiving the invisible God and the angels, which have nothing in common with the body, apprehending what is right, and just, and honest, things to which no bodily sense is related: must there not be something essentially distinct. from the body which is the seat of such intelligence (§ 2)? It is upon the Scriptural argument for the distinctness of the soul, however, that Calvin especially dwells; and he has, of course, no difficulty in making it perfectly plain that from beginning to end the Scriptures go on the assumption of the distinctness and even the separability of the soul from the body (§ 2, ad fin.).

This whole argument was inserted into the “Institutes” for the first time in the preparation of the last edition (1559). But it is old ground for Calvin. It was already traversed by him with great fulness in his youthful tract against the advocates of Soul-Sleep (1534), the main contention of which is that the soul “is a substance and lives after the death of the body, endowed with sense and intelligence.”151 Ten years later (1544) it was gone over again somewhat more concisely in his “Brief Instructions to arm all good Christians against the errors of the common sect of the Anabaptists,” among whose errors was the contention that “souls, departed from the body, do not live until the resurrection,” whether because the soul was conceived, not as “a substance or as a creation having essence, but only as the power which man has to breathe, move and perform the other acts of life, while he is living,” or because, while it was conceived as “an essential creature,” it was thought to sleep “without feeling or knowledge” until the judgment day. As over against the former and extremer type of Anabaptism he undertakes to demonstrate that “souls have an essence of their own”152 “given to them by God.”153 The richness of the Scriptural material at Calvin’s disposal is fairly illustrated by the fact that in these three Scriptural arguments, although some of it is employed more than once, yet much of it is in each case drawn from different passages.

It is interesting to observe that Calvin conceives himself to establish the immortality of the soul in establishing its distinct substantiality. In the argument in the “Institutes,” the two topics of the essentiality and the immortality of the soul are treated so completely as one, that the reader is apt to be a little confused by what seems their confusion (I. xv. 2). Calvin’s idea seems to be that if it be clear that there is “something in man essentially distinct from the body,” the subject of all these great powers of intellect, sensibility and will, it will go of itself that this wonderful somewhat will survive death. This point of view is perhaps already present to his mind in the “Psychopannychia,” although there he more clearly distinguishes between the proof “that the soul or spirit of man is a substance distinct from the body,” and the proof that the soul remains in existence after the death of the body, representing the latter specifically as the question of the immortality of the soul154 – although it does not seem obvious that even the question of the survival of the crisis of death is quite the same question as that of immortality. His method seems in point of fact to be the result of a more fundamental conception. This fundamental conception which underlies his whole point of view seems to be that a spiritual substance is, as uncompounded, naturally immortal. On that presupposition the proof that there is a spiritual substance in man is the proof of his immortality. Of course this assumption is not to be understood to mean that Calvin imagined that any creatures of God whether men or angels are so immortal in and of themselves, that God cannot destroy them or that they exist otherwise than “in Him,” and by virtue not only of His purpose in constituting them as He has constituted them, but of His constant upholding power.155 It means only that Calvin supposed that in constituting them spirits God has constituted them for immortality and given them natures adapted for and implicating their endless existence. The proof that there is an uncompounded spirit in man, therefore, is in his view already a proof of immortality.

It must not be inferred, however, that Calvin always relies solely on this indirect proof of the immortality of the soul. More direct proofs are found elsewhere in the “Institutes” as for example, in the chapter on the witness of the works and deeds of God to Him (I. v. 10), where a digression is made to point out that the apparent inequality of the moral government of the world suggests the hypothesis of a further life for its rectification. But the simplicity with which he as a Biblical theologian relies on the Scriptures precluded the development by Calvin of an extended or a complete argument for immortality on general considerations. On his view of the disabilities of the human mind induced by sin, he would not look for such an argument among the heathen. The heathen philosophers, he tells us accordingly, having no knowledge of the Scriptures, scarcely attained to a knowledge of immortality. Almost no one of them, except Plato, roundly asserts the soul to be an immortal essence. Certain other Socratics reach out towards such a conception indeed; but they are all in more or less doubt and cannot teach clearly what they only half believe. Nevertheless Calvin is persuaded that there is ineradicably imprinted on the heart of man a desire for the celestial life, and also some knowledge of it (I. xv. 6). No man can escape then from some intimations of immortality. And after the heart has been quickened by grace and the intellect illuminated by the workings of the Spirit, proofs of it will abundantly suggest themselves.156

Now, this immortal substance, alternately called soul and spirit, which constitutes the animating or governing principle in the human constitution, Calvin is insistent, is an immediate creation of God. He insists upon this, not merely in opposition to the notion that it is no thing at all, but a mere “breath” or “power,” but with equal strenuousness in opposition to that “diabolical error” which considers the soul a derivative (traducem) of the substance of God – seeing that this would make “the divine nature not only subject to change and passions, but to ignorance also, to depraved desires, to weakness and every kind of vice” (I. xv. 5) . . . “rending the essence of the Creator that every one may possess a part of it.” No, says he, “it is to be held as certain that souls are created” and “creation is not transfusion of essence, but the origination of it from nothing” (§ 5). This “origination of the soul out of nothing,” which alone can be called “creation,” he insists on, again, not merely with reference to the origin of the first soul,157 but also with reference to every soul which has come into existence since. It is horrible, says he, that it should be thrown into doubt by men who call themselves Christians, whether the souls of men are a true created substance.158 Calvin’s doctrine of the creation of the soul is thrown up into contrast, therefore, on the one side with his view that all else which was brought into being during the creative week, after the primal creation of the indigested mass of the world-stuff on the first day, was proximately the product of second causes; and on the other side, with his belief in the production of the body by ordinary generation in the case of all the descendants of Adam. The soul of the first man stands out as an exception in the midst of mediately produced effects, as the one product of God’s direct creative power in the process of the perfecting of the creative scheme. And the souls of the descendants of this first man stand out in contrast with their bodily forms, as in every case also products of God’s direct creative activity. In creating souls (in creandis animabus), he says, “God does not use the instrumentality of man (non adhibet hominum operam).”159 “There is no need,” he says again, “to resort to that old figment of some (figmentum), that souls come into being (oriantur) ex traduce.”160 “We have not come of the race of Adam,” he says yet again, “except as regards the body.”161 And not only does he thus over and over again through his writings sharply assert creationism as over against traducianism, but he devotes a whole section of the “Institutes” to the question and formally rejects the whole traducian conception.162

In its nature, as we have seen, this “immortal and yet created essence” which vitalizes and governs the human frame, is defined by Calvin as percipient substance, whose very nature it is to move, feel, act, understand; which is, in a word, characteristically sensibility.163 When we attend to Calvin’s conception of the soul from this point of view we are in effect observing his psychology: and, of course, he develops his psychology with his eye primarily upon the nature of man in his state of integrity – or rather, let us say, in his uncorrupted condition (I. xv. 1). “When definitions are to be given,” he remarks in another place,164 “the nature of the soul is accustomed to be considered in its integrity.” He develops it also, however, under the influence of a strong desire to be clear and simple. Subtleties in such matters he gladly leaves to the philosophers, whose speculations he has no desire to gainsay as to either their truth or their usefulness; for his purposes, however, which look to building up piety, a simple definition will suffice.165 It is naturally upon the questions which cluster around the Will that Calvin’s chief psychological interest focuses. We must, however, leave the whole matter of Calvin’s psychology and his doctrine of the Will to another occasion. We must postpone also an exposition of his doctrine of the image of God. A survey of these two topics remains in order to complete our exposition of his doctrine of the creature.


From The Princeton Theologial Review, xiii. 1915, pp. 190-255, continuing the series of articles published in the Review during 1909 (pp. 27-284 of this volume).
Cf. P. J. Muller, “De Godsleer van Zwingli en Calvijn,” 1883, pp. 50-51: “Although the importance of the doctrine of creation is felt by the two reformers, yet we seek in vain in Zwingli as well as in Calvin for a definite theory of creation…. The reason why the doctrine of creation was not developed by them in the same degree as that of providence, must no doubt be sought in the fact that this dogma did not at the time give occasion to any polemic.” Also, “De Godsleer van Calvijn,” 1881, p. 51: “We cannot think it strange that Calvin, as a Biblical theologian, will know nothing of any other theory of creation than that which is given us in the Scriptures.”
I. xiv. 20: He refers his readers to Moses, as expounded particularly by Basil and Ambrose, “since it is not my design to treat at large of the creation of the world.”
Cf. I. xiv. 3, where he inveighs against “Manichaeus and his sect,” who attributed to God the origin of good things only, but referred evil natures to the devil. The sole foundation of this heresy, he remarks, is that it is nefarious to ascribe to the good God the creation of any evil thing: but this is inoperative as “there is nothing in the universe which has an evil nature,” – “since neither the pravity nor the malice of either man or devil, or the sins that are born from them, are of nature, but rather of corruption of nature.”
Cf. I. xv. 5 : “To rend the essence of the Creator so that everything should possess a part, is the extremity of madness.”
I. xv. 5, med.: creatio autem non transfusio est, sed essentiae ex nihilo exordium.
I. xiv. 20: Deum verbi ac Spiritua sui potentia ex nihilo creasse coelum et terram. Cf. Genevan Catechism, 1545, Opp. vi. 15, 16: Per coelum et terram an non quidquid praeterea creaturarum exatat, intelligis? Imo vero; sed his duobus nominibus continentur omnes, quod aut coelestes sint omnes aut terrenae.
Cf. P. J. Muller, “De Godsleer van Calvijn,” 1881, p. 53: “Calvin’s doctrine of creation is in brief, this: God created the world out of nothing in six days through His Word, i.e. through His Son.”
In his Commentary on Gen. i. 1, however, he does argue that the Bible teaches that creation is ex nihilo, the weight of the argument being made to rest on the use of arb, which he sharply discriminates from rcy. Cf. Baumgartner, “Calvin Hebraïsant,” 1889, pp. 50, 51: “Richard Simon has pointed, as a proof that Calvin was not strong in Hebrew, to the fact that he understands the ar’B’ of Gen. i. 1 in the sense of ‘creation ex nihilo.’ But here again R. Simon has been misled by his party-spirit, for the modern lexicographers are far from pronouncing Calvin’s interpretation wrong (e.g. Gesenius, “Thesaurus,” i. p. 236). The most recent view will scarcely allow that the specific idea of creation ex nihilo is expressed in arb but recognizes that the ideas of novelty, extraordinariness, effortlessness are expressed in it, and that thus it may be said to lay a basis for the doctrine in question: cf. Franz Bohl, “Alttestamentliche Studien Rudolf Kittel zum 60. Geburtatag dargebracht,” 1913, pp. 42-60, and Skinner, “Genesis,” 1910, pp. 14, 15. Calvin does not understand Heb. xi. 3 of creation ex nihilo, but interprets it as the manifestation of the Invisible God in the visible works of His hands, “that we have in this visible world a conspicuous image of God”; “thus the same truth is taught here as in Rom. i. 20, where it is said that the invisible things of God are made known to us by the creation of the world, they being seen by His works.” This is the burden of the Argument to the Commentary on Gen. i. and its echoes are heard in “Institutes,” I. xiv. 1.
“Opera” (Schuler u. Schulthess), iv. pp. 86 sq.: Zwingli argues that, if the preëxisting stuff is the same in kind as the thing created, we have an infinite series of worlds: if of a different kind, we have an infinite series of materials. Hence the world is not ex materia, but ex causa, which is as much as to say ex nihilo.
Ibid., iv. p. 87: he defines creation as “esse e nihilo; vel: esse quod prius non fuit; attamen non ex alio tamquam ex materia.”
I. xiii. 24; I. xiii. 7; cf. Commentary on Heb. i. 2: “By Him … the world was created, since He is the eternal Wisdom of God, which was the director of all His works from the beginning. Hence too we gather that Christ is eternal, for He must needs be before the world has been made by Him.” Cf. also Commentary on Gen. i. 3: “Since He is the Word of God, all things have been created by Him.” And see especially the passage in the first edition of the “Institutes” (1536), at the beginning of the comment on the “second part of the Symbol” (Opp. i. 64), where, after declaring on the basis of Heb. i. that “since God the Son is the same God with the Father” He is “the creator of the heavens and the earth,” he proceeds to explain that the habit of alluding to the Father nevertheless peculiarly as the “creator of the heavens and the earth” is due to “that distinction of properties, already stated, by which there is referred to the Father the principium agendi, so that He Himself is indeed properly said to act (agere), yet through His Word and Wisdom – yet in His Power.” “But,” he adds, “that the action in the creation of the world was common to the three Persons is made clear by that word (Gen. i.): ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness’ by which there is not expressed a deliberation with angels, nor a colloquy with Himself, but a summoning of His Wisdom and Power.” Cf. P. J. Muller, “De Godsleer van Calvijn,” 1881, pp. 51-52; “De Godsleer van Zwingli en Calvijn,” 1883, p. 53.
I. xiv. 3, med.: nefas esse adscribi bono Deo ullius rei malae creationem.
Do.: aliquam esse in mundi universitate malam naturam.
I. xiv. 16 and I. xv. 1: Quidquid damnabile … est a Deo alienissimum: Cuius in contumeliam recideret, si quid vitii inesse naturae probaretur.
I. xiv. 20, ad fin.: creationem enarrare.
I. xiv. 3, ad init.: vulgi ruditati se accommodans … populariter loquens.
I. xiv. 1: certe quantumvis late pateat coelorum circuitus, est tamen aliqua eius dimensio.
Cf. the Argt. to the Commentary on Gen. i.: “The circle of the heavens is finite, and the earth, like a little globe, is placed in the center.”
I. xiv. 22: omnia se hominis causa condere. Cf. Commentary on Gen. iii. 1: “the whole world which had been created for the sake of man.”
“Compendium Theologiae Christ.,” Oxford, 1657, p. 36 (I. v.).
This point is very fully elaborated in the Argument to the Commentary on Gen. i. and in the comment on Heb. xi. 3.
“City of God,” xi. 5.
“Confessions,” XI. xii. 14: “Behold, I answer to him who asks ‘What was God doing before He made heaven and earth’ – I answer not, as a certain person is reported to have done facetiously (avoiding the pressure of the question), ‘He was preparing hell,’ saith he, ‘for those who pry into mysteries.’ It is one thing to perceive, another to laugh-these things I answer not. Far more willingly would I have answered, ‘I know not what I know not’, than that I should make him a laughing-stock who asks deep things, and gain praise as one who answers false things.” The Argument to the Commentary on Genesis i. runs parallel to the opening paragraphs of this chapter in the “Institutes”; and we are there told that Calvin borrows this anecdote immediately, not from Augustine, but from “The Tripartite History,” – that is to say, the “Historiae Ecclesiasticae Tripartitae Epitome,” Cassiodorus’ revision of the translation made at his instance of the histories of Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret by Epiphanius Scholasticus (for whom see Smith and Wace, “Dict. of Christ. Biography,” ii. 1880, p. 159). This book supplied the mediaeval Church with its knowledge of post-Eusebian church history.
Ac scite pius ille senex quum protervus quispiam … per ludibrium quaeriret.
See above, p. 210.
E.g., xi. 321 (iocari quam serio conqueri).
xii. 578.
In his youthful work as a humanist -the Commentary on Seneca’s “De clementia” – he betrays the readiness of his laughter by his comments on the amusing matters that come before him. In the comment on I. vii. (Opp. v. 62) he expresses his sense of the ridiculousness of the soothsayer’s solemn mummery and quotes Cato’s remark “that it was wonderful that every soothsayer did not laugh whenever he met a fellow soothsayer.” On I. x. (Opp. v. 84), speaking of the apotheoses of the Roman emperors, he adds: “The rites and ceremonies by which the emperors were consecrated are set forth by Herodianus in his iv. Book; and I am never able to refrain from laughter when I read that passage. The religion of the Romans was as ridiculous as this . . .” Calvin enjoyed his reading and responded to the matter he read with an emotional movement.
Doumergue, “Jean Calvin,” iii. 1905, pp. 535-540, where the whole subject is admirably illustrated. See also Doumergue, ” L’art et le sentiment dans l’oeuvre de Calvin,” Geneva, 1902, the third Conference, pp. 61-67. On Calvin’s use of satire, see C. Lenient, “La Satire en France, ou la Littérature militante au XVIe siècle,” 1877, i. pp. 107 sq., especially pp. 175 sq. Cf. also the first article in this volume, pp. 11 sqq.
xii. 348: non posse negari omnia oblectamenta.
Opp. xb. 441.
I. xiv. 2: Hic etiam obstrepit humana ratio, quasi a Dei potentia alieni fuerint tales progressus.
I. xiv. 2: a Dei potentia alieni.
I. xiv. 22: quum nihilo difficilius esset, uno momento totum opus simul omnibus numeris complere, quam eiusmodi progressione sensim ad complementum pervenire.
I. xvi. 1. Cf. the Genevan Catechism of 1545 (Opp. vi. 15-16, 1718) where the question is asked why God is called in the Creed only Creator of heaven and earth, when “tueri conservareque in suo statu creaturas,” is “multo praestantius” than just to have once created them. The answer is that by this particularizing of creation, it is not intended to imply that “God so created His works at one time (semel) that He afterwards rejects the care of them.” On the contrary, He upholds and governs all He made; and this is included in the idea of His creation of them all. Cf. also the “Confession des Escholiers” of 1559 (Opp. ix. 721-722) where we read: “I confess that God created the world at once (semel), in such a manner as to be its perpetual governor. . . .”
It is worth while to observe here how Calvin betrays his sensibility to the glory and beauty of nature (cf. also I. v. 6; Opp. xxix. 300). See the remarks of E. Doumergue, “Jean Calvin,” iv. 1910, p. 105.
These phrases occur in the Commentary on Genesis i.
Joannes Wollebius, op. cit., p. 35.
Amand. Polanus, “Syntagma theologiae christianae,” Hanov., 1525, v. 2. Cf. Gisb. Voetius, “Disp.,” i. 1648, p. 554: “Creation may be distinguished … into first and second. The first is the production of a thing ex nihilo, and in this manner were produced the heavens, the elements, light; and every day there are so produced human souls, so far as they are spiritual in essence. The second is the production of the essential or accidental form, in praesubjecta sed indisposita plane materia, and that by the immediate operation of the divine power; and in this manner were produced the works of the five days as also many miraculous works in the order of nature as now constituted.”
See above, note 9.
I. xvi. 2; cf. also the Commentary on Gen. i. 3.
Cf. Köstlin, TSK, 1868, p. 427: “In the section of edition 2b (vol. xxix. 510) on God as the Almighty Creator there should be particularly noted the emphasis with which Calvin maintains, in spite of the mediation of the divine activity through creaturely instruments, yet the dependence of these instruments, and the absolute independence of God with respect to them. And in ed. 3 (vol. xxx. 145 sq., 150; Lib. I. c. xvi. §§ 2, 7) there are given still stronger expositions of this. God, says Calvin, bestows on the instruments powers purely in accordance with His own will, and governs them; and God could work what He works through them, say through the sun, just as easily without them, purely by Himself. God, he says, in ed. 3, lets us be nourished ordinarily by bread; and yet according to Scripture, man does not live by bread alone, for it is not the abundance of food but the divine blessing which nourishes us; and on the other hand (Isaiah iii. 1) He threatens to break the staff of bread.” “We have here already,” adds Köstlin, “the general premises for the special use which God, according to Calvin, makes of the Word and of the Sacraments for His saving work.” Would anybody but a Lutheran have ever thought of the “means of Grace” in this connection? Nevertheless it is not bad to be reminded that the Reformed doctrine of the “means of Grace” has its analogue in the Reformed doctrine of providence: it is a corollary of the fundamental notion of God as the Independent One.
Commentary on Malachi i. 2-6 (Opp. xliv. 401).
H. Bavinck in the first of his Stone Lectures (“The Philosophy of Revelation,” 1909, pp. 9-10) remarks: “The idea of development is not a production of modern times. It was already familiar to Greek philosophy. More particularly Aristotle raised it to the rank of the leading principle of his entire system by his significant distinction between potentia and actus. . . . This idea of development aroused no objection whatever in Christian theology and philosophy. On the contrary, it received extension and enrichment by being linked with the principle of theism.” Calvin accordingly very naturally thought along the lines of a theistic evolutionism.
Commenting on Ps. cxlviii. 5 (Opp. xxxii. 434), he remarks: “The pronoun He is therefore emphatic, as if the prophet would say that the world is not eternal as profane men dream, nor is produced by some concurring atoms, but this beautiful order which we see suddenly stood forth (exstitisse) on the mandate of God.” Cf. also Opp. xxxi. 327.
I. xiv. 3: diserte et explicate . . . tradamus quae . . . docet scriptura.
I. xiv. 4, end: ex simplici scripturae doctrina.
I. xiv. 8, ad init.: viderint quale habeant fundamentum.
I, xiv. 4: Theologo autem non garriendo aurea oblectare, sed vera, certa, utilia docendo, conscientias confirmare propositum est.
I. xiv. 3: Et certe, quum utiliter semper nos doceat Spiritus, in quibus vero parum est momenti ad aedificationem, vel subticeat prorsus, vel leviter tantum et cursim attingat: nostri quoque officii est, libenter ignorare quae non conducunt.
I. xiv. 4: Ne longior sim, meminerimus hic, ut in tota religionis doctrina, tenendam esse unam modestiae et sobrietatis regulam, ne de rebus obscuris aliud vel loquamur, vel sentiamus, vel scire etiam appetamua quam quod Dei verbo fuerit nobis traditum. Alterum, ut in lectione acripturae, iis continenter quaerendis ac meditandis immoremur quae ad aedificationem pertinent, non curiositati aut rerum inutilium studio indulgeamus.
Zwingli seems to have been an exception, and to have looked upon the ascription of all events to the action of angels and especially to that of devils as inconsistent with the doctrine of providence: he twits Luther with ascribing everything to “the poor devil” and asks what then becomes of universal providence (“Opera,” Schuler u. Schulthess, iib. p. 27). Cf. P. J. Muller, “De Godsleer van Zwingli en Calvijn, 1883, p. 77, note. But Luther, remarks Muller, could believe in the determining providence of God, “und wenn die welt voll teufel wär.” How it strikes a modern of the moderns may be learned from William Wrede’s remark (“Paul,” E. T. 1907, p. 95): “Angels, in our time, belong to children and to poets; to Paul and his age they were a real and serious quantity.”
I. xiv. 9: ex quibus [Scripturis] clarissime evincitur re vera esse spiritus naturae subsistentis; . . . non qualitates aut inspirationes sine substantia sed veros spiritus. Note also § 19: non motiones aut affectiones mentium, sed magis revera, quod dicuntur, mentes, vel spiritus sensu et intelligentia praeditos. Cf. Opp. xlv. 271.
I. xiv, 19: sensu et intelligentia praeditos.
I. xiv. 8: forma spiritus carere certum est. Cf. Opp. xl. 659: quoniam angeli carent corporibus.
I. xiv. 5. Cf. Opp. xlii. 455; Iii. 86.
I. xv. 3, end: “Neither is it to be denied angelos ad Dei similitudinem creatos esse, since our highest perfection, as Christ testifies (Mat. xxii. 30), will be to become like them.”
I. xiv. 3; [Moses] angelos Dei ministros inducit, colligere facile licet eorum esse conditorem, cui suam operam et officia impendunt. Cf. 4: angelos sane, quum Dei sint ministri ad iussa eius exsequenda ordinati, esse quoque illius creaturas, extra controversiam esse debet. Again 16: quum a Deo conditus sit diabolus. Cf. Opp. xxxiii. 206; lv. 334.
I. xiv. 3: eorum conditor. Cf. Opp. xxxv. 466, to the same effect.
Opp. Iii. 85–86. The assertion of Psalm cxlviii. 5 (Opp. xxxii. 434) he apparently confines to “creaturia sensu carentibus”: but on the first verse he incidentally remarks of the angels that “they were created (conditi sunt).” Cf. the assertions of the creation of the angels, good and bad, Opp. xxx. 316; xxxiii. 206. In the exposition of the Symbol, in the “Institutes,” of 1543, he comments on the words “Creator of heaven and earth” thus (chap. vi. $§28 and 29): “Under the names of heaven and earth all celestial and terrestial things are comprehended, as if God were said to be the Creator of all things without exception. This is found more clearly expressed in the Nicene Creed, where He is called the Maker of all things visible and invisible. That was done probably on account of the Manichees, who imagined two principles, God and the Devil; and attributed to God the creation of good things, indeed, but referred evil natures to the Devil as their author,” – and so on as in the “Institutes” of 1559, I. xiv. 3. Then in § 29: “God then is in the first place said to have created the heavens and all that is contained in the heavens. But in that order are the celestial spirits, as well those who have persisted by obedience in their integrity, as those who by defection have fallen into ruin,” etc.-explaining that the fact that Moses does not mention this in the history of creation in no respect throws it into doubt. Cf. the “Confession des Escholiers,” 1559 (Opp. ix. 721-722): “I confess that God created not only the visible world, that is the heaven and the earth, and whatever is contained in them, but also the invisible spirits, some of whom have persisted in obedience to God, and some by their own sin have been precipitated into destruction.”
I. xv. 5: animas ergo … creatas esse non minus quam angelos, certo statuendum est. Creatio autem non transfusio eat, sed essentiae ex nihilo exordium.
I. xiv. 4: terram esse perfectam, et coelos perfectos cum omni exercitu eorum, narrat Moses (Gen. ii. 1). Quid attinet anxie precontari quoto die, praeter astra et planetas, alii quoque magis reconditi coelestes exercitus esse coeperint?
Aquinas, “Summa,” Pars I. qu. lxi. art. 3, argues: “Angels are a part of the universe. For they do not constitute in themselves a universe; but unite along with the corporeal creation in a universe. This appears from the relation of one creature to another. For the mutual relation of things is the good of the universe. But no part is perfect, when separated off into a whole by itself. It is not therefore probable that God, ‘whose works are perfect,’ as is said in Deut. xxxii, created the angelic creation off to itself before the other creatures.” Jerome, on the other hand, following the Greeks, exclaims on the multitudinous ages which intervened between the creation of the angels and that of man. It is interesting to observe Dante following Aquinas and making the creation of the angels simultaneous with that of the universe at large, the fall of the evil angels being delayed but twenty seconds after their creation (cf. Maria Rossetti’s “Shadow of Dante,” 1886, pp. 14, 15), and Milton following Jerome and putting the creation of angels aeons before that of man.
So he seems to say explicitly in the middle editions of the “Institutes” (first in 1543), vi. § 29 (Opp. i. 497): “First then God is said to have created the heavens and all that the heavens contain. But in this order are the celestial spirits, whether those who by obedience remained in their integrity, or those who by defection fell into ruin.”
“Instit. Theolog.,” Geneva, 1625, Loc. vi. 4, p. 61.
“Compend. Theolog. Christ.,” ed. Oxford, 1657, p. 36.
“Theoretico-practica theol.,” Amstel., 1724, III. vii. 4, p. 340.
Heppe, “Dog. d. ev.-ref. Kirche,” 1861, p. 149, adds that this is also the teaching of the Leiden Synopsis, Riissen, Wendelinus and of the Reformed in general. Cocceius (“Summa Theol.,” xvi. 12) thought of the day when the waters above and below the firmament were separated.
Cf. a similar rejection of the efforts to determine the numbers and orders of angels in Opp. li. 158.
As cited, III. vii. 30 (p. 348).
I. xiv. 3: nefas esse adscribi bono Deo ullius rei malae creationem.
I. xiv. 3: “The orthodox faith … does not admit that any evil nature exists in the universe of the world; since neither the pravity and malice whether of man or devil or the sins which proceed from them, came from nature but from the corruption of nature; nor has anything at all come into being from the beginning in which God has not given a specimen of His wisdom and righteousness.”
I. xiv. 16: quum a Deo conditus sit diabolus, bane malitiam quam eius naturae tribuimus, non ex creatione sed ex depravatione esse meminerimus.
Do.: contenti simus hoc breviter habere de diabolorum natura: fuisse prima creatione angelos Dei, sed degenerando se perdidisse et aliis factos esse instrumenta perditionis.
I. xiv. 16: quod est ab eo alienissimum.
Sermon xvi. on Job iv. (Opp. xxxiii. 206).
Sermon iv. on Job i. (Opp. xxxiii. 60).
Commentary on I Jno. iii. 8 (Opp. Iv. 334). Cf. farther Opp. xxx. 316 (“Hom. 71 on I Sam. xix.”): “Just as when we call the good angels spirits of God, not because they have the same essence with God, but because they were formed and created (formati et creati sunt) by Him, so also it is to be thought of devils whose origin was the same with the good angels. For they were not created evil as we see them today, and with that evil with which the Scriptures depict them, but they were corrupted and alienated from God by their departure from their original state; just as, we know, man too fell away from his purity into his present misery.”
Opp. xlviii. 594: “As they have not always existed, so they are capable of reaching their end.” Cf. Opp. xxxiii. 365, and xxxviii. 152.
Opp. xxxiii. 206-207 (Sermon xvi. on Job iv.). Cf. Opp. xxxiii. 365, and liii. 92.
I. xiv. 10: the cult of angels in the Church of Rome led Calvin to be particularly insistent against their worship. Cf. Opp. vi. 83, vii. 653.
I. xiv. 10: in eis fulgor divini numinis refulgeat.
I. xiv. 12: si non ut eius manus a nobis considerantur, quae nullum ad opus nisi ipso dirigente se moveant.
I. xiv. 4: Dei ministri ad iussa eius exsequenda ordinati.
I. xiv. 9: quorum obsequio utitur Deus ad suorum protectionem, et per quos turn sua beneficia inter homines dispensat, tum reliqua etiam opera exsequitur.
I. xiv. 5: imperium suum in mundo.
I. xiv. 5, ad init.: ad exsequenda omnia quae decrevit. Cf. Heidegger’s threefold distribution of angelic functions: in praeconio laudum eius, necnon in regimine mundi, ecclesiae imprimis ministrant (as cited by Heppe: “Dogmat. d. ev.-ref. Kirche,” 1861, p. 146).
“It deserves remark,” says P. J. Muller (“De Godsleer van Zwingli en Calvijn,” 1883, p. 77), “that Calvin answers the question why God makes use of angels, after a fashion which more or less affects the immanence of God. He points to the multiplicity of our dangers, to our weakness, and to our liability to trepidatio and desperatio. Now God not merely promises us His care; but He even appoints an ‘innumerable multitude of protectors, whom He has commissioned to keep watch over us’; so that we may ‘feel ourselves without danger, no matter what evil threatens, so long as we are under this protection and care’ (I. xiv. 11), – a mode of conception to which he does not, however, hold, since he looks upon all things and man as well rather as immediately dependent on God Himself and on His care alone.” Muller quotes Zwingli (“Opera,” iib. p. 27) as complaining of Luther’s attribution of all evils to the devil as if there were no such thing as the providence of God. “How is it,” asks Zwingli, “that to you the poor devil must have done everything, as no man can do in my house? I thought the devil was already overcome and judged. If the devil is now a powerful lord in the world, as you have just said, how can it be that all things shall be worked out through God’s providence?” In both Zwingli’s and Muller’s cases the antithesis is not exact. All things can be worked out by God’s providence and yet the Devil be the author of all that is evil; because the Devil himself may be – and is – an instrument of God’s providence. God’s use of angels in His providence is no injury to His immanent working, because they are the instruments of His immanent working; and Calvin does not depart from the one notion while emphasizing the other, because they are not mutually exclusive notions but two sides of one idea.
Commentary on Jno. v. 4 (Opp. xlvii. 105-106).
I. xiv. 11: illud quidem unum satis superque esse deberet, quod Dominus asserit se nostrum esse protectorem.
Do.: perperam id quidem fieri a nobis fateor, quod post illam simplicem promissionem de unius Dei protectione, adhuc circumspectamus unde veniat nobis suxilium.
Do.: imbecilitas, mollities, fragilitas, vitium.
Do.: pro immensa sua clementia et facilitate.
Cf. Voetius, “Disput.,” i. 1648, p. 900, who remarks that most of the Reformed (including himself) deny the existence of guardian angels, adding: “We embrace the opinion of Calvin in Instit. I. xiv. 7, and Com. on Psalms (91) and on Matthew (18), and of the other Reformers, who reject this opinion as vain and curious, and we think that something in this matter has adhered to the ancient fathers from the Platonic theology and the mythological theology of the Gentiles.”
This last sentence is new to the latest edition of the “Institutes.” We may note in passing that Calvin both in the “Institutes” and in his commentary on the passage, understands Mat. xviii. 10 of “the angels of little children” (cf. “Institutes,” I. xiv. 7, 9), which seems certainly wrong. Cf. art. “Little Ones” in Hastings’ “Dict. of Christ and the Gospels.”
I. xiv. 14, end: “For just as the Church and the Society of the Saints have Christ as head, so the faction of the impious and impiety itself is depicted to us with its prince, who holds there supreme dominion.” Cf. Opp. xxxv. 35; liii. 339.
I. xiv. 15, beginning: Hoc quoque ad perpetuum cum diabolo certamen accendere nos debet, quod adversarius Dei et noster ubique dicitur. Cf. the whole paragraph and especially its closing words.
Cf. the definition given of demons by Voetius, “Disp.,” i. 1648, p. 911, summing up what is more broadly taught by Calvin in the brevity of a definition. A demon, says he, “is an angel, created in integrity, who, subjected on account of his own defection to endless evil and misery, serves, even though unwillingly, the providence and glory of God.”
I. xiv. 17: discordia et pugna cum Deo.
nisi volente et annuente Deo, nihil facere posse.
nisi impetrata facultate.
a Domino amandatus.
spiritus Domini malus.
per angelos malos.
opus Dei – operatio Satanae.
Opp. i. 61.
Opp. i, 351; ii. 225.
Opp. vii. 188-190.
Opp. vi. 17, 18; cf. vii. 188 sq.
Opp. xxxv. 152 (Sermon cxxx. on Job xxxiv.).
Opp. xxxiii. 60 (Sermon iv. on Job i.).
Cf. also Opp. xxx. 178; xxxvi. 338; xl. 309; xlv. 269; xlviii. 594, where it is the ascended Christ who is affirmed (as God of providence) to hold the devils in check so that they do nothing save by His will. Also the statement in the “Confession des Escholiers” of 1559 (Opp. ix. 723-724): “And although Satan and the reprobate endeavor to throw everything into confusion to such an extent that the faithful themselves doubt the right order of their sins, I recognize nevertheless that God; as the Supreme Prince and Lord of All, turns the evil into good, and governs all things by a certain secret curb, and moderates them in a wonderful way, which we ought with all submission of mind to adore, since we are not able to comprehend it.”
Few of them, however, have been able to say so much so well in such few words as Voetius, “Disp.,” i. 1648, p. 922: “Final causes of the devil as such ought not to be assigned, because evil has no end. But although the opus (as we say) in and of itself has no end, the opcrans Deus has – who has made everything for Himself (propter seipsum, Prov. xvi. 4). For to a fixed end He both created him in the state of integrity, and permitted his fall, and left him in his fallen state, and ordained his malice to multiplex good. His ultimate end is therefore the glory of God; the subordinate use of the devil is as an instrument of divine providence, in this life for plaguing men, the pious for their discipline only, the impious for their punishment and undoing; after this life, for torturing the impious. Thus God in both raises a trophy to the honor of His blameless glory.”
A brief statement of how Calvin habitually thought of devils may be found in his tract against the Libertines (xii.: Opp. vii. 181-182): “The Scriptures teach us that the devils are evil spirits who continually make war on us, to draw us to perdition. And as they are destined to eternal damnation, they continually strive to involve us in the same ruin. Likewise that they are instruments of the wrath of God, and executioners for the punishment of unbelievers and rebels, blinding them and tyrannizing over them, to incite them to evil (Job i. 6, 12; ii. 1, 7; Zech. iii. 1; Mat. iv. 1; Lk. viii. 29, xxii. 31; Acts vii. 51, xxvi. 18; II Cor. ii. 11; I Thes. ii. 18; Jno. viii. 44; xiii. 2; I Jno. iii. 8).”
I. xv. 1, ad init.: inter omnia Dei opera nobilissimum ac maxime speotabile est iustitiae eius, et sapientiae, et bonitatis specimen. Cf. Commentary on Gen. i. 26: “If you rightly weigh all circumstances man is among other creatures a certain preëminent specimen of divine wisdom, justice and goodness, so that he is deservedly called by the ancients mikro>kosmov, ‘a world in minature.”‘ Calvin seems to be speaking with regard only to the other visible creatures.
I. xv. 2, ad init.: porro hominem constare anima et corpore, extra controversiam esse debet. Cf. Opp. vii. 113-114 (1544): “We hold then, in conformity with the whole teaching of God that man is composed and consists of two parts: that is to say of body and soul.”
I. xv. 1, end: ex terra et luto sumptus fuit.
I. xv. 2: quae nobilior eius pars est.
I. xv. 1, end: fictoris sui.
I. xv. 6: qui plures volunt esse animas in homine, hoc est sensitivam et rationalem, . . . repudiandi nobis sunt.
From Ovid, “Metam.,” Lib. i.
I, xv. 3. Cf. Commentary on Genesis ii. 7 where he finds in the very way in which man was formed, gradually and not by a simple fiat, a mark of his excellence above the brutes. “Three stages,” he says, “are to be noted in the creation of man: that his dead body was formed out of the dust of the earth; that it was endued with a soul whence it should receive vital motion; and that on this soul God engraved His own image, to which immortality is annexed.”
In accordance with Augustine’s declaration (“De Trinitate,” xii. 7 [12]): Non secundum formam corporis homo factus est ad imaginem Dei, sed secundum rationalem mentem. (Cf. “De Gen. ad lit.,” vi. 27 (38): imaginem [Dei] in spiritu mentis impressam. . . .)
I. xv. 3: modo fixum illum maneat, imaginem Dei, quae in his externis notis conspicitur vel emicat, spiritualem esse.
“Institutes,” I. xv. 3. Cf. A. S. E. Talma, “De Anthropologie van Calvijn,” 1882, who thinks Calvin speaks somewhat waveringly about the body.
Promiscue tam ad corpus quam ad animam.
So he says in the “Psychopannychia” (Opp. v. 180) that in the body, mirabile opus Dei, prae caeteris corporibus creatis, apparet, nulla tamen eius imago (in eo) effulget, and reasons out the matter at length in Opp. vii. 112 (1544): “Now where will it be that we shall find this image of God, if there is no spiritual essence in man on which it may be impressed? For as to man’s body it is not there that the image of God resides. It is true that Moses afterwards adds (Gen. ii. 7) that man was made a living soul, – a thing said also of beasts. But to denote a special excellence, he says that God inspired the power of life into the body He had formed of dust. Thus, though the human soul has some qualities common to those of beasts, nevertheless as it bears the image and likeness of God it is certainly of a different kind. As it has an origin apart, it has also another preeminence and this is what Solomon means when he says that at death the body returns to the dust from which it is taken, and the soul returns to God who gave it (Eccl. xii. 7). For this reason it is said in the Book of Wisdom (ii. 23) that man is immortal, seeing that he was created in the image of God. This is not an authentic book of Holy Scripture but it is not improper to avail ourselves of its testimony as of an ancient teacher (Docteur ancien) – although the single reason ought to be enough for us that the image of God, as it has been placed in man, can reside only in an immortal soul, if we understand its contents as Paul expounds it, that is to say, that we are like God in righteousness and true holiness.”
Sermons on Daniel, Opp. xli. 459.
I, xv. 2: ubi soluta est a carnis ergastulo anima; nisi animae corporum ergastulis solutae manerent superstites. In his early tract (1534) against soul-sleeping, he rings the changes on this idea: ex hoc corporis ergastulo ; corpus animae est career; terrena habitatio compedes sunt; post dissolutam compagem corporis; exuta his vinculis, etc. (Opp. v. 195-196).
This is clearly the case in his early tract, “Psychopannychia,” 1534, Opp. v. 195-196, where the body is “a lump of clay,” “a weight of earth, which presses us down and so separates us as by a wall from God”: and it is only when the load of the body is put off that “the soul set free from impurities is truly spiritual (vere spiritualis) so as to consent to the will of God and no longer to yield to the tyranny of the flesh rebelling against Him.”
Opp. v. 195: tanta est vis animae, in massa terrae sustinenda, movenda, impellenda; the soul is on the contrary by nature agile (natura agilis).
Opp. v. 204: Is vero pulvis est, qui formatus est de limo terrae: ille in pulverem revertitur, non spiritus, quem aliunde quam e terra acceptum Deus homini dedit.
Commentary on Gen. ii. 17: “He was wholly free from death; his earthly life no doubt would have been only for a time; yet he would have passed into heaven without death.” On Gen. iii. 19: “When he had been raised to so great a dignity that the glory of the divine image shone in him, the earthly origin of the body was almost obliterated. Now however, despoiled of his divine and heavenly excellence, what remains but that by his very departure out of life, he should recognize himself to be earth? Hence it is that we dread death, because dissolution, which is contrary to nature, cannot naturally be desired. The first man, to be sure, would have passed to a better life had he remained upright; but there would have been no separation of the soul from the body, no corruption, no kind of destruction, in short, no violent change.”
Sermons on Deuteronomy, Opp. xxvii. 19, 20.
Sermons on Deut., Opp. xxviii. 101; Sermons on I Tim., Opp. liii. 533-536. Cf. in general on Calvin’s doctrine of the body, E. Doumergue, Princeton Theological Review, Jan., 1909 (vii. 1), pp. 93-96, where he brings out the salient points in opposition to the representations of Martin Schulze’s “Meditatio Futurae Vitae, ihr Begriff und ihre herrschende Stellung im System Calvins,” 1901, pp. 7 sq. In his address on “Calvin le prédicateur de Genève,” delivered at the celebration at Geneva of the 400th anniversary of Calvin’s birth (July 2, 1909), Doumergue briefly sums up his contentions here: “Oh! no doubt the body is a tent, a prison and worse still in the vehement language of our preacher. But at the same time, ‘there is no part of the body in which some sparkle of the divine image is not to be found shining.’ It is the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit,’ ‘the altar’ on which God would be adored…. And it is in a sort of canticle that Calvin celebrates its resurrection…. ‘What madness it would be to reduce this body to dust without hope. No, the body of St. Paul, which has borne the marks of Jesus Christ, which has magnificently glorified Him, will not be deprived of the reward of the crown.’ – Accordingly what care we should take of this body! Care for the health is a religious duty: ‘God does not wish that men should kill themselves,’ and to abstain from the remedies which are offered is a ‘diabolical pride.’ – Health and cleanliness: here is the whole of modern hygiene, which is to be nowhere more scrupulous or splendid than with the peoples which have been most strictly taught in the school of the preacher of Geneva, – the Scotch and Dutch ” (p. 21).
terrena quidem vita illi fuisset tempoialis; but, in coelum tamen sine interitu et illaesus migrasset.
Nunc mors ideo horrori nobis est: primum quia quaedam est exinanitio, quoad corpus: deinde quia Dei maledictionem sentit anima.
On Rom. v. 12.
Cf. Talma, as cited, pp. 37-40.
I. xv. 2: nobilior pars: praecipua pars.
Anima … interdum spiritus vocatur (I. xv. 2, ad init.). He repeatedly investigates in his occasional works the Biblical usage of the terms “soul” and “spirit.” E.g. in his early work, “Psychopannychia,” ad init. (Opp. v. 178 sq.), and towards the end of the tract against the Anabaptists (Opp. vii. 111). Cf. Talma, as cited, p. 34.
“Psychopannychia,” Opp. v. 184: “If any confess that the soul lives, and deprive it at the same time of all sensation (sensu), they just imagine a soul with nothing of soul about it; or they tear away the soul from itself; quum eius natura, sine qua consistere ullo modo nequit, sit moveri, sentire, vigere, intelligere; and (as Tertullian says) animae anima, sensus sit.”
I. xv. 2, ad init.: animae nomine essentiam immortalem, creatam tamen intelligo, quae nobilior eius pars est.
I. xv. 2.
I. xv. 6.
Cf. “Psychopannychia,” Opp. v. 180: essentiam immortalem, quae in homine vitae causa est.
I. xv. 2: et res ipsa et tota scriptura ostendit.
I. xv. 2: clare demonstrat latere in homine aliquid a corpore separatum.
I. xv. 2: motus sine essentia – the expression is just in view of modern phenomenalistic psychology.
Opp. v. 177.
Opp. vii. 111-112: que les ames ont une essense propre.
Opp. vii. 112: l’ame humaine a une essense propre qui luy soit donnée de Dieu.
Opp. v. 184.
Accordingly Calvin in his “Psychopannychia” (Opp. v. 222) says plainly: “when we say that the spirit of man is immortal we do not affirm that it is able to stand against the hand of God or to subsist apart from His power.” In his Commentary on I Tim. vi. 16 he explains the declaration that God alone has immortality to refer not to His having immortality a seipso but to His having it in potestate: accordingly, he says, immortality does not belong to creatures save as it is planted in them by the inspiration of God: nam si vim Dei quae indita est hominis animae tollas, statim evanescet: naturae immortalitas does not belong to souls or angels. Similarly in his “Responsio contra Pighium de Libero Arbitrio” (Opp. vi. 361) he denies that the soul of man is in this sense per se immortal: nam et eo modo neque animam per se immortalem esse concedimus. The exception however proves the rule, and the use of this as an argument against Pighius ex concessu, suggests that there is a sense in which otherwise than eo modo, the soul is per se immortal. Pighius had asserted that “mortality and corruption are ex conditione, non vitio naturae.” “What is his proof?” asks Calvin, and supplies it thus: “Since the body is thus from its principia out of which it is compounded and from the nature of composition.” “But by that argument,” rejoins Calvin, “it might be proved that the body would be obnoxious to death even after the resurrection; and that the soul is now mortal. For from what principium has the soul sprung except nothing?” “No doubt,” he adds, “if we should say that that perfection which God conferred on man from the beginning did not so belong to nature that he had it per se and ex se, I would freely accept this opinion. For not even do we concede that the soul is after that fashion per se immortal. And this is what Paul teaches when he attributes immortality to God alone (I Tim. vi. 16). Nevertheless we do not on that account confess the soul to be mortal: for we do not estimate its nature from the first power (virtute) of the essence, but from the perpetual condition which God has imparted to His creatures.” Cf. the tract against the Libertines (Opp. vii. 180): “St. Paul, they say, calls God alone immortal (I Tim. vi. 16). I fully agree with St. Paul. But he means that God alone has this privilege of Himself and of His own nature, so that He is the source of immortality. But what He has of Himself He communicated to our souls by His grace, when He formed them in His image.”
Cf. the remarks of Talma, as cited, p. 35: “But still all men, according to Calvin too, have a certain sense of their immortality. By their alienation from the Father of lights, the light in men is not so wholly extinguished that they are incapable of this sense. . . ” Talma sums up: “It is very certain that Calvin has not fully and finally proved the existence and immortality of the human soul. But this is not his purpose. His object was not so much to refute the error of those who denied these two things, as to strengthen his believing readers in their faith. And for this end the popular presentation of the grounds on which the two things rest was sufficient.” On the difference between the human soul and the souls of animals according to Calvin, see Talma, p. 36.
Cf. e.g. Commentary on Mal. i. 2-6 (Opp. xliv. 401): “Moses understands that man’s soul was created from nothing. We are born by generation, and yet our origin is clay, and the chief thing in us, the soul, is created from nothing.”
Opp. vii. 180.
On Heb. xii. 9.
On Gen. iii. 6 (Opp. xxiii. 62).
Sermon on Job xiv. 4 (Opp. xxxiii. 660).
II, i. 7. Two subordinate points in Calvin’s doctrine of creation may be worth noting here. He remarks in passing while commenting on Numbers xvi. 22 (Opp. xxv. 222) that it may be collected from that passage that each man has his separate soul: and that by this “is refuted the prodigious delusion of the Manichaeans that all souls are so infused ex traduce by the Spirit of God that there should still be one spirit.” He returns often to this. Commenting on Job iii. 16 (Opp. xxxiii. 162) he teaches that God breathes the soul into the creature at the moment when it is conceived in its mother’s womb.
Opp. v, 184: sensus.
“Responsio contra Pighium de Libero Arbitrio” (Opp. vi. 285): “It is sufficiently clear that [in Basil’s remarks here under consideration] the nature of the soul is considered in its integrity; as it is accustomed to be in giving definitions.”
Talma, as cited, p. 43, remarks: “The whole manner in which Calvin deals here (Inst., I. xv. 6) with the … faculties of the soul is remarkable. The style loses the liveliness, the progress of thought its regularity; and the whole makes the impression that Calvin did not feel fully at home in this field. . . .” Talma notes that the discussion of the faculties of the soul is not found in the “Institutes” of 1536, but is already very full in the edition of 1539. (Cf. Doumergue, “Jean Calvin,” iv. 1910, p. 109, for Calvin’s psychology.)


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