Thursday, July 15, 2010

Making sense of calamity by Calvin

Book I chapter 17.1

We must use modesty, not as it were compelling God to render an account, but so revering his hidden judgements as to account his will the best of all reasons. When the sky is overcast with dense clouds, and a violent tempest arises, the darkness which is presented to our eye, and the thunder which strikes our ears, and stupefies all our senses with terror, make us imagine that every thing is thrown into confusion, though in the firmament itself all continues quiet and serene. In the same way, when the tumultuous aspect of human affairs unfits us for judging, we should still hold, that God, in the pure light of his justice and wisdom, keeps all these commotions in due subordination, and conducts them to their proper end. And certainly in this matter many display monstrous infatuation, presuming to subject the works of God to their calculation, and discuss his secret counsels, as well as to pass a precipitate judgement on things unknown, and that with greater license than on the doings of mortal men. What can be more preposterous than to show modesty toward our equals, and choose rather to suspend our judgement than incur the blame of rashness, while we petulantly insult the hidden judgements of God, judgements which it becomes us to look up to and revere.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (trans. Henry Beveridge; Accordance electronic ed. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), n.p.

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