Tuesday, July 07, 2009

the personal reality of providence: faith penetrating more deeply

"God's will is the highest and first cause of all things, for nothing can happen apart from God's command or permission" (16:8). "What God has determined must necessarily take place" (16.9). 
"anyone who has been taught by Christ's lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered [Matthew 10:30] will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God's secret plan. And concerning inanimate objects we ought to hold that, although each one has by nature been endowed with its own property, yet it does not exercise its own power except in so far as it is directed by God's ever-present hand. These are, thus, nothing but instruments to which God continually imparts as much effectiveness as he wills, and according to his own purpose bends and turns them to either one action or another". (I.16.2)
For someone who wrote three chapters on the doctrine of providence in the Institutes (chapters 16-18 of book one) and a book on the Secret Providence of God, Calvin had a very person application of it. One "must consider that his business is with his Maker and the framer of the universe, submitting humbly in fear and reverence (18.4). "Faith" he wrote "ought to penetrate more deeply, namely, having found Him Creator of all, forthwith to conclude that He is also everlasting Governor and Preserver" (16:1). "There are very many and very clear promises that testify that God's singular Providence watches over the welfare of believers" (17:7). Looking back Calvin saw this in his life, in his youth he was destined for the priesthood and completely bogged down in the superstitition of Romanism. "God," he wrote much later, "at last turned my course in another direction by the secret rein of his providence." On one occasion later in life, he wrote of his endeavours in a letter to Philip Melanchthon, 5 March, 1555:  "You know however that our duties by no means depend on our hopes of success, but that it behooves us to accomplish what God requires of us, even when we are in the greatest despair respecting the results." When we reflect on Calvin's life and influence we should be thankful for his faith in providence so that he did what God required of him irrespective of how difficult it seemed to be that it would succeed. Did he think that that influence would reach China?