Works of Providence

Blogging the Institutes

Quotes taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God


For in ruling over mankind he so orders his providence that, although he is commonly and in every way kind and generous to all, he daily reveals his righteousness to the good whom he guides, and his judgment to the wicked. For the retribution which he metes out for sin is neither secret nor hidden.In the same way he appears as the sure protector and guardian of innocence, for through his blessing he gives prosperity to the good, assists them in time of need, relieves their suffering, remedies their misfortunes, and ever and always provides for their salvation.

Calvin answers a question I think many ask themselves at one time or another: Does God still judge sin? The response Calvin gives is an emphatic “yes!” We see it everyday when justice is served to those who have been caught in their crimes. We know it subconsciously when someone is struck down suddenly in their prime who has reveled in unrepentant immorality.We see his generosity every time we experience a joy of everyday life: the warm embrace of a loved one, the abundance of food on our table, the sturdy shelter over our heads. We feel his kindness when those who’ve been served with injustice are consoled, comforted and supported by those who’ve reached out in compassion for their plight. By providence we mean that God works His will through the everyday course of events and circumstances in the world. God is sovereign and works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11-12). If this were not so God would cease being God. He would not then be worthy of our worship.

Although for a time he may leave the wicked and wrongdoers unpunished, and may even suffer the good and innocent to endure many adversities and to face oppression from evil men, we should not lose sight of the fact that he always rules in righteousness. We should reason very differently, for when a particular sin clearly provokes God’s anger, we must recognize that sins of every kind are hateful to him; and because he leaves many sins unpunished, we must expect a later judgment, sins punishment being deferred. Likewise, what an opportunity we have to contemplate his leniency  when he does not fail to pursue wretched sinners with his mercy, bringing them back to him with more than fatherly kindness, until their obstinacy yields to his benevolence.

We’ve all known people, either personally, or in the media’s omnipresent spotlight who we believe deserves to ‘get theirs’ at some point for the evil they’ve perpetrated and gotten away with. We may even become perplexed at the show of arrogance to civil, moral and higher authority. We cry out that the world isn’t fair or they would get their comeuppance. The truth is, some sin receives its just punishment in the here and now. Sometimes it does not. If our faith is in the God of Scripture then by faith we can know beyond doubt that sin will be punished for those who persist in rebellion. Your sin will find you out (Num 32:23). Sin will be judged and the worker of iniquity will receive his just due on the day of judgment.

When evil deeds are punished in this life we may actually consider it a mercy of God’s providence. Those who are brought low by their punishment will have opportunity to consider their plight and humble themselves under God’s firm chastisement. On the flip side, those who escape justice or who are stricken dead suddenly, having little opportunity to find humility, will immediately find themselves in the hands of the living God – a dreadful fate for the soul unprepared for God’s tribunal (Heb 10:31).

God’s love is such that he doggedly hounds lost sinners until their clenched eyes open up to behold God’s radiant glory and abundant goodness in the person of Jesus Christ. He never fails to herd in his scattered sheep so that He might be the shepherd of their hearts forever (1 Pet 2:25).

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