| The Institution of Christian Religion Book 3, Chapter 21: Of the eternal election, whereby God hath predestinate some to salvation, and other some to destruction|
by John Calvin
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But now whereas the covenant of life is not equally preached to all men, and with them to whom it is preached it doth not either equally or continually find like place, in this diversity the wondrous depth of the judgment of God appeareth. For neither is it any doubt but that this diversity also serveth the free choice of God's eternal election. If it be evident that it is wrought by the will of God that salvation is freely offered to some, and other some are debarred from coming to it, here by and by arise great and hard questions which cannot otherwise be discussed than if the godly minds have that certainly stablished which they ought to hold concerning election and predestination. This is (as many think) a cumbersome question: because they think nothing to be less reasonable than of the common multitude of men some to be foreordained to salvation, other some to destruction. But how they wrongfully encumber themselves shall afterward be evident by the framing of the matter together. Beside that in the very same darkness which maketh men afraid, not only the profitableness of this doctrine but also the most sweet fruit showeth forth itself. We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation floweth out of the fountain of the free mercy of God, till his eternal election be known to us, which by this comparison brightly setteth forth the grace of God, that he doth no without difference adopt all into the hope of salvation, but giveth to some that which he denieth to other. How much the ignorance of this principle diminisheth of the glory of God, how much it withdraweth form true humility, it is plain to see.
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They which shut the gates, that none may be bold to come to the tasting of this doctrine, do no less wrong to men than to God: because neither shall any other thing suffice to humble us as we ought to be, neither shall we otherwise feel from our heart how much we are bound to God. Neither yet is there any otherwhere the upholding stay of sound affiance, as Christ himself teacheth, which to deliver us from all fear, and to make us unvanquishable among so many dangers, ambushes, and deadly battles, promiseth that whatsoever he hath received of his Father to keep shall be safe. Whereof we gather that they shall with continual trembling be miserable, whosoever they be that know not themselves to be the proper possession of God; and therefore that they do very ill provide both for themselves and for all the faithful, which, in being blind at these three profits which we have touched, would wish the whole foundation of our salvation to be quite taken from among us. Moreover, hereby the Church appeareth unto us, which otherwise (as Bernard rightly teacheth) were not possible to be found nor to be known among creatures because both ways in marvelous wise it lieth hidden: wihtin the bosom of blessed predestination, and within the mass of miserable damnation. But ere I enter into the matter itself, I must beforehand in two sorts speak to two sorts of men. That the entreating of predestination, whereas of itself it is somewhat cumbersome, is made very doubtful, yea, and dangerous, the curiousness of men is the cause: which can by no stops be refrained form wandering into forbidden compasses, and climbing up on high; which, if it may, will leave to God no secret which it will not search and turn over. Into this boldness and importunacy forasmuch as we commonly see many to run headlong, and among those some that are otherwise not evil men, her is fit occasion to warn them what is in this behalf the due measure of their duty. First, therefore, let them remember that when they inquire upon predestination, they pierce into the secret closets of the wisdom of God: whereinto if any man too carelessly and boldly break in, he shall both not attain wherewith to satisfy his curiousness, and he shall enter into a maze whereof he shall find no way to get out again. For neither is it meet that man should freely search those things which God hath wiled to be hidden in himself, and to turn over from very eternity the height of wisdom, which he willed to be honored and not to be conceived, that by it also he mought be marvelous unto us. Those secrets of his will which he hath determined to be opened unto us, he hath disclosed in his Word: and he hath determined, so far as he forsaw to pertain to us and to be profitable for us.
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There be other which, when they have a will to remedy this evil, do command all mention of predestination to be in a manner buried: at the least they teach men to flee from every manner of questioning thereof as from a rock.