Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 8
(... continued from part 7) 

Chapter 7. 
7. The law given, not to retain a people for itself, but to keep 
alive the hope of salvation in Christ until His advent. 
    The divisions of this chapter are, I. The Moral and Ceremonial 
Law a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, sec. 1, 2. II. This true 
of the Moral Law, especially its conditional promises. These given 
for the best reasons. In what respect the observance of the Moral 
Law is said to be impossible, sec. 3-5. III. Of the threefold office 
and use of the Moral Law, sec. 6-12. Antinomians refuted, sec. 13. 
IV. What the abrogation of the Law, Moral and Ceremonial, sec. 1~17. 
1. The whole system of religion delivered by the hand of Moses, in 
    many ways pointed to Christ. This exemplified in the case of 
    sacrifices, ablutions, and an endless series of ceremonies. 
    This proved, 1. By the declared purpose of God; 2. By the 
    nature of the ceremonies themselves; 3. From the nature of God; 
    4. From the grace offered to the Jews; 5. From the consecration 
    of the priests. 
2. Proof continued. 6. From a consideration of the kingdom erected 
    in the family of David. 7. From the end of the ceremonies. 8. 
    From the end of the Moral Law. 
3. A more ample exposition of the last proof. The Moral Law leads 
    believers to Christ. Showing the perfect righteousness required 
    by God, it convinces us of our inability to fulfil it. It thus 
    denies us life, adjudges us to death, and so urges us to seek 
    deliverance in Christ. 
4. The promises of the Law, though conditional, founded on the best 
    reason. This reason explained. 
5. No inconsistency in giving a law, the observance of which is 
    impossible. This proved from reason, and confirmed by 
    Scripture. Another confirmation from Augustine. 
6. A consideration of the office and use of the Moral Law shows that 
    it leads to Christ. The Law, while it describes the 
    righteousness which is acceptable to God, proves that every man 
    is unrighteous. 
7. The Law fitly compared to a mirror, which shows us our 
    wretchedness. This derogates not in any degree from its 
8. When the Law discloses our guilt, we should not despond, but flee 
    to the mercy of God. How this may be done. 
9. Confirmation of the first use of the Moral Law from various 
    passages in Augustine. 
10. A second use of the Law is to curb sinners. This most necessary 
    for the good of the community at large; and this in respect not 
    only of the reprobate, but also of the elect, previous to 
    regeneration. This confirmed by the authority of an Apostle. 
11. The Law showing our wretchedness, disposes us to admit the 
    remedy. It also tends to keep us in our duty. Confirmation from 
    general experience. 
12. The third and most appropriate use of the Law respects the 
    elect. 1. It instructs and teaches them to make daily progress 
    in doing the will of God. 2. Urges them by exhortation to 
    obedience. Testimony of David. How he is to be reconciled with 
    the Apostle. 
13. The profane heresy of the Antinomians must be exploded. Argument 
    founded on a passage in David, and another in Moses. 
14. Last part of the chapter treating of the abrogation of the Law. 
    In what respect any part of the Moral Law abrogated. 
15. The curse of the Law how abrogated. 
16. Of the abrogation of the Ceremonial Law in regard to the 
    observance only. 
17. The reason assigned by the Apostle applicable not to the Moral 
    Law, but to ceremonial observances only. These abrogated, not 
    only because they separated the Jews from the Gentiles, but 
    still more because they were a kind of formal instruments to 
    attest our guilt and impunity. Christ, by destroying these, is 
    justly said to have taken away the handwriting that was against 
    us, and nailed it to his cross. 
    1. From the whole course of the observations now made, we may 
infer, that the Law was not superadded about four hundred years 
after the death of Abraham in order that it might lead the chosen 
people away from Christ, but, on the contrary, to keep them in 
suspense until his advent; to inflame their desire, and confirm 
their expectation, that they might not become dispirited by the long 
delay. By the Law, I understand not only the Ten Commandments, which 
contain a complete rule of life, but the whole system of religion 
delivered by the hand of Moses. Moses was not appointed as a 
Lawgiver, to do away with the blessing promised to the race of 
Abraham; nay, we see that he is constantly reminding the Jews of the 
free covenant which had been made with their fathers, and of which 
they were heirs; as if he had been sent for the purpose of renewing 
it. This is most clearly manifested by the ceremonies. For what 
could be more vain or frivolous than for men to reconcile themselves 
to God, by offering him the foul odour produced by burning the fat 
of beasts? or to wipe away their own impurities by be sprinkling 
themselves with water or blood? In short, the whole legal worship 
(if considered by itself apart from the types and shadows of 
corresponding truth) is a mere mockery. Wherefore, both in Stephen's 
address, (Acts 7: 44,) and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, great 
weight is justly given to the passage in which God says to Moses, 
"Look that thou make them after the pattern which was showed thee in 
the mount," (Exod. 25: 40.) Had there not been some spiritual end to 
which they were directed, the Jews, in the observance of them, would 
have deluded themselves as much as the Gentiles in their vanities. 
Profane men, who have never made religion their serious study, 
cannot bear without disgust to hear of such a multiplicity of rites. 
They not merely wonder why God fatigued his ancient people with such 
a mass of ceremonies, but they despise and ridicule them as childish 
toys. This they do, because they attend not to the end; from which, 
if the legal figures are separated, they cannot escape the charge of 
vanity. But the type shows that God did not enjoin sacrifice, in 
order that he might occupy his worshippers with earthly exercises, 
but rather that he might raise their minds to something higher. This 
is clear even from His own nature. Being a spirit, he is delighted 
only with spiritual worship. The same thing is testified by the many 
passages in which the Prophets accuse the Jews of stupidity, for 
imagining that mere sacrifices have any value in the sight of God. 
Did they by this mean to derogate in any respect from the Law? By no 
means; but as interpreters of its true meaning, they wished in this 
way to turn the attention of the people to the end which they ought 
to have had in view, but from which they generally wandered. From 
the grace offered to the Jews we may certainly infer, that the law 
was not a stranger to Christ. Moses declared the end of the adoption 
of the Israelites to be, that they should be "a kingdom of priests, 
and an holy nation," (Exod. 19: 6.) This they could not attain, 
without a greater and more excellent atonement than the blood of 
beasts. For what could be less in accordance with reason, than that 
the sons of Adams who, from hereditary taint, are all born the 
slaves of sin, should be raised to royal dignity, and in this way 
made partakers of the glory of God, if the noble distinction were 
not derived from some other source? How, moreover, could the 
priestly office exist in vigour among those whose vices rendered 
them abominable in the sight of God, if they were not consecrated in 
a holy head? Wherefore, Peter elegantly transposes the words of 
Moses, teaching that the fulness of grace, of which the Jews had a 
foretaste under the Law, is exhibited in Christ, "Ye are a chosen 
generation, a royal priesthood," (1 Pet. 2: 9.) The transposition of 
the words intimates that those to whom Christ has appeared in the 
Gospel, have obtained more than their fathers, inasmuch as they are 
all endued with priestly and royal honour, and can, therefore, 
trusting to their Mediator, appear with boldness in the presence of 
    2. And it is to be observed, by the way, that the kingdom, 
which was at length erected in the family of David, is part of the 
Law, and is comprehended under the dispensation of Moses; whence it 
follows, that, as well in the whole tribe of Levi as in the 
posterity of David, Christ was exhibited to the eyes of the 
Israelites as in a double mirror. For, as I lately observed, (sec. 
1,) in no other way could those who were the slaves of sin and 
death, and defiled with corruption, be either kings or priests. 
Hence appears the perfect truth of Paul's statement, "The law was 
our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ," "till the seed should 
come to whom the promise was made" (Gal. 3: 24, 19.) For Christ not 
yet having been made familiarly known to the Jews, they were like 
children whose weakness could not bear a full knowledge of heavenly 
things. How they were led to Christ by the ceremonial law has 
already been adverted to, and may be made more intelligible by 
several passages in the Prophets. Although they were required, in 
order to appease God, to approach him daily with new sacrifices, yet 
Isaiah promises, that all their sins would be expiated by one single 
sacrifice, and with this Daniel concurs, (Isa. 53: 5; Dan. 9: 26, 
27.) The priests appointed from the tribe of Levi entered the 
sanctuary, but it was once said of a single priest, "The Lord has 
sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, after the 
order of Melchizedek," (Ps. 110: 4.) The unction of oil was then 
visible, but Daniel in vision declares that there will be another 
unction. Not to dwell on this, the author of the Epistle to the 
Hebrews proves clearly, and at length, from the fourth to the 
eleventh chapter, that ceremonies were vain, and of no value, unless 
as bringing us to Christ. In regard to the Ten Commandments, we 
must, in like manner, attend to the statement of Paul, that "Christ 
is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that 
believeth," (Rom. 10: 4;) and, again, that ministers of the new 
testament were "not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter 
killeth, but the split giveth life," (2 Cor. 3: 6.) The former 
passage intimates, that it is in vain to teach righteousness by 
precept, until Christ bestow it by free imputation, and the 
regeneration of the Spirit. Hence he properly calls Christ the end 
or fulfilling of the Law, because it would avail us nothing to know 
what God demands did not Christ come to the succour of those who are 
labouring, and oppressed under an intolerable yoke and burden. In 
another place, he says that the Law "was added because of 
transgressions," (Gal. 3: 19,) that it might humble men under a 
sense of their condemnation. Moreover, inasmuch as this is the only 
true preparation for Christ, the statements, though made in 
different words, perfectly agree with each other. But because he had 
to dispute with perverse teachers, who pretended that men merited 
justification by the works of the Law, he was sometimes obliged, in 
refuting their error, to speak of the Law in a more restricted 
sense, merely as law, though, in other respects, the covenant of 
free adoption is comprehended under it. 
    3. But in order that a sense of guilt may urge us to seek for 
pardon, it is of importance to know how our being instructed in the 
Moral Law renders us more inexcusable. If it is true, that a perfect 
righteousness is set before us in the Law, it follows, that the 
complete observance of it is perfect righteousness in the sight of 
God; that is, a righteousness by which a man may be deemed and 
pronounced righteous at the divine tribunal. Wherefore Moses, after 
promulgating the Law, hesitates not to call heaven and earth to 
witness, that he had set life and death, good and evil, before the 
people. Nor can it be denied, that the reward of eternal salvation, 
as promised by the Lord, awaits the perfect obedience of the Law, 
(Deut. 30: 19.) Again, however, it is of importance to understand in 
what way we perform that obedience for which we justly entertain the 
hope of that reward. For of what use is it to see that the reward of 
eternal life depends on the observance of the Law, unless it 
moreover appears whether it be in our power in that way to attain to 
eternal life? Herein, then, the weakness of the Law is manifested; 
for, in none of us is that righteousness of the Law manifested, and, 
therefore, being excluded from the promises of life, we again fall 
under the curse. I state not only what happens, but what must 
necessarily happen. The doctrine of the Law transcending our 
capacity, a man may indeed look from a distance at the promises held 
forth, but he cannot derive any benefit from them. The only thing, 
therefore, remaining for him is, from their excellence to form a 
better estimate of his own misery, while he considers that the hope 
of salvation is cut off, and he is threatened with certain death. On 
the other hand, those fearful denunciations which strike not at a 
few individuals, but at every individual without exceptions rise up; 
rise up, I says and, with inexorable severity, pursue us; so that 
nothing but instant death is presented by the Law. 
    4. Therefore, if we look merely to the Law, the result must be 
despondency, confusion, and despair, seeing that by it we are all 
cursed and condemned, while we are kept far away from the 
blessedness which it holds forth to its observers. Is the Lord, 
then, you will ask, only sporting with us? Is it not the next thing 
to mockery, to hold out the hope of happiness, to invite and exhort 
us to it, to declare that it is set before us, while all the while 
the entrance to it is precluded and quite shut up? I answer, 
Although the promises, in so far as they are conditional, depend on 
a perfect obedience of the Law, which is nowhere to be found, they 
have not, however, been given in vain. For when we have learned, 
that the promises would be fruitless and unavailing, did not God 
accept us of his free goodness, without any view to our works, and 
when, having so learned, we, by faith, embrace the goodness thus 
offered in the gospel, the promises, with all their annexed 
conditions, are fully accomplished. For God, while bestowing all 
things upon us freely, crowns his goodness by not disdaining our 
imperfect obedience; forgiving its deficiencies, accepting it as if 
it were complete, and so bestowing upon us the full amount of what 
the Law has promised. But as this point will be more fully discussed 
in treating of justification by faith, we shall not follow it 
further at present. 
    5. What has been said as to the impossible observance of the 
Law, it will be proper briefly to explain and confirm, the general 
opinion being, that nothing can be more absurd. Hence Jerome has not 
hesitated to denounce anathema against it. What Jerome thought, I 
care not; let us inquire what is the truth. I will not here enter 
into a long and intricate discussion on the various kinds of 
possibility. By impossible, I mean, that which never was, and, being 
prevented by the ordination and decree of God, never will be. I say, 
that if we go back to the remotest period, we shall not find a 
single saint who, clothed with a mortal body, ever attained to such 
perfection as to love the Lord with all his heart, and soul, and 
mind, and strength; and, on the other hand, not one who has not felt 
the power of concupiscence. Who can deny this? I am aware, indeed of 
a kind of saints whom a foolish superstition imagines, and whose 
purity the angels of heaven scarcely equal. This, however, is 
repugnant both to Scripture and experience. But I say further, that 
no saint ever will attain to perfection, so long as he is in the 
body. Scripture bears clear testimony to this effect: "There is no 
man that sinneth not," saith Solomon (1 Kings 8: 46.) David says, 
"In thy sight shall no man living be justified," (Psalm 143: 2.) Job 
also, in numerous passages, affirms the same thing. But the clearest 
of all is Paul, who declares that "the flesh lusteth against the 
Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," (Gal. 5: 17.) And he 
proves, that "as many as are of the works of the law are under the 
curse," for the simple reason, that it is written, "Cursed is every 
one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book 
of the law to do them," (Gal. 3: 10; Deut. 27: 26;) intimating, or 
rather assuming it as confessed, that none can so continue. But 
whatever has been declared by Scripture must be regarded as 
perpetual, and hence necessary. The Pelagians annoyed Augustine with 
the sophism, that it was insulting to God to hold, that he orders 
more than believers are able, by his grace, to perform; and he, in 
order to evade it, acknowledged that the Lord was able, if he chose, 
to raise a mortal man to angelic purity; but that he had never done, 
and never would do it, because so the Scripture had declared, 
(Augustine, lib. de Nat. et Grat.) This I deny not: but I add, that 
there is no use in absurdly disputing concerning the power of God in 
opposition to his truth; and therefore there is no ground for 
cavilling, when it is said that that thing cannot be, which the 
Scriptures declare will never be. But if it is the word that is 
objected to, I refer to the answer which our Saviour gave to his 
disciples when they asked, "Who then can be saved?" "With men," said 
he, "this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" 
(Matth. 19: 25.) Augustine argues in the most convincing manner, 
that while in the flesh, we never can give God the love which we owe 
him. "Love so follows knowledge, that no man can perfectly love God 
who has not previously a full comprehension of his goodness," 
(Augustin. de Spiritu et Litera, towards the end, and elsewhere.) So 
long as we are pilgrims in the world, we see through a glass darkly, 
and therefore our love is imperfect. Let it therefore be held 
incontrovertible, that, in consequence of the feebleness of our 
nature, it is impossible for us, so long as we are in the flesh, to 
fulfil the law. This will also be proved elsewhere from the writings 
of Paul, (Rom. 8: 3.) 
    6. That the whole matter may be made clearer, let us take a 
succinct view of the office and use of the Moral Law. Now this 
office and use seems to me to consist of three parts. First, by 
exhibiting the righteousness of God, - in other words, the 
righteousness which alone is acceptable to God, - it admonishes 
every one of his own unrighteousness, certiorates, convicts, and 
finally condemns him. This is necessary, in order that man, who is 
blind and intoxicated with self-love, may be brought at once to know 
and to confess his weakness and impurity. For until his vanity is 
made perfectly manifest, he is puffed up with infatuated confidence 
in his own powers, and never can be brought to feel their feebleness 
so long as he measures them by a standard of his own choice. So 
soon, however, as he begins to compare them with the requirements of 
the Law, he has something to tame his presumption. How high soever 
his opinion of his own powers may be, he immediately feels that they 
pant under the heavy load, then totter and stumble, and finally fall 
and give way. He, then, who is schooled by the Law, lays aside the 
arrogance which formerly blinded him. In like manner must he be 
cured of pride, the other disease under which we have said that he 
labours. So long as he is permitted to appeal to his own judgement, 
he substitutes a hypocritical for a real righteousness, and, 
contented with this, sets up certain factitious observances in 
opposition to the grace of God. But after he is forced to weigh his 
conduct in the balance of the Law, renouncing all dependence on this 
fancied righteousness, he sees that he is at an infinite distance 
from holiness, and, on the other hand, that he teems with 
innumerable vices of which he formerly seemed free. The recesses in 
which concupiscence lies hid are so deep and tortuous that they 
easily elude our view; and hence the Apostle had good reason for 
saying, "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt 
not covet." For, if it be not brought forth from its lurkingplaces, 
it miserably destroys in secret before its fatal sting is discerned. 
    7. Thus the Law is a kind of mirror. As in a mirror we discover 
any stains upon our face, so in the Law we behold, first, our 
impotence; then, in consequence of it, our iniquity; and, finally, 
the curse, as the consequence of both. He who has no power of 
following righteousness is necessarily plunged in the mire of 
iniquity, and this iniquity is immediately followed by the curse. 
Accordingly, the greater the transgression of which the Law convicts 
us, the severer the judgement to which we are exposed. To this 
effect is the Apostle's declaration, that "by the law is the 
knowledge of sin," (Rom. 3: 20.) By these words, he only points out 
the first office of the Law as experienced by sinners not yet 
regenerated. In conformity to this, it is said, "the law entered 
that the offence might abound;" and, accordingly, that it is "the 
ministration of death;" that it "worketh wrath" and kills, (Rom. 5: 
20; 2 Cor. 3: 7; Rom. 4: 15.) For there cannot be a doubt that the 
clearer the consciousness of guilt, the greater the increase of sin; 
because then to transgression a rebellious feeling against the 
Lawgiver is added. All that remains for the Law, is to arm the wrath 
of God for the destruction of the sinner; for by itself it can do 
nothing but accuse, condemn, and destroy him. Thus Augustine says, 
"If the Spirit of grace be absent, the law is present only to 
convict and slay us." But to say this neither insults the law, nor 
derogates in any degree from its excellence. Assuredly, if our whole 
will were formed and disposed to obedience, the mere knowledge of 
the law would be sufficient for salvation; but since our carnal and 
corrupt nature is at enmity with the Divine law, and is in no degree 
amended by its discipline, the consequence is, that the law which, 
if it had been properly attended to, would have given life, becomes 
the occasion of sin and death. When all are convicted of 
transgression, the more it declares the righteousness of God, the 
more, on the other hand, it discloses our iniquity; the more 
certainly it assures us that life and salvation are treasured up as 
the reward of righteousness, the more certainly it assures us that 
the unrighteous will perish. So far, however are these qualities 
from throwing disgrace on the Law, that their chief tendency is to 
give a brighter display of the divine goodness. For they show that 
it is only our weakness and depravity that prevents us from enjoying 
the blessedness which the law openly sets before us. Hence 
additional sweetness is given to divine grace, which comes to our 
aid without the law, and additional loveliness to the mercy which 
confers it, because they proclaim that God is never weary in doing 
good, and in loading us with new gifts. 
    8. But while the unrighteousness and condemnation of all are 
attested by the law, it does not follow (if we make the proper use 
of it) that we are immediately to give up all hope and rush headlong 
on despair. No doubt, it has some such effect upon the reprobate, 
but this is owing to their obstinacy. With the children of God the 
effect is different. The Apostle testifies that the law pronounces 
its sentence of condemnation in order "that every mouth may be 
stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God," (Rom. 3: 
19.) In another place, however, the same Apostle declares, that "God 
has concluded them all in unbelief;" not that he might destroy all, 
or allow all to perish, but that "he might have mercy upon all," 
(Rom. 11: 32:) in other words, that divesting themselves of an 
absurd opinion of their own virtue, they may perceive how they are 
wholly dependent on the hand of God; that feeling how naked and 
destitute they are, they may take refuge in his mercy, rely upon it, 
and cover themselves up entirely with it; renouncing all 
righteousness and merit, and clinging to mercy alone, as offered in 
Christ to all who long and look for it in true faith. In the 
precepts of the law, God is seen as the rewarder only of perfect 
righteousness, (a righteousness of which all are destitute,) and, on 
the other hand, as the stern avenger of wickedness. But in Christ 
his countenance beams forth full of grace and gentleness towards 
poor unworthy sinners. 
    9. There are many passages in Augustine, as to the utility of 
the law in leading us to implore Divine assistance. Thus he writes 
to Hilary, "The law orders, that we, after attempting to do what is 
ordered and so feeling our weakness under the law, may learn to 
implore the help of grace." In like manner, he writes to Asellius, 
"The utility of the law is, that it convinces man of his weakness, 
and compels him to apply for the medicine of grace, which is in 
Christ." In like manner, he says to Innocentius Romanus, "The law 
orders; grace supplies the power of acting." Again, to Valentinus, 
"God enjoins what we cannot do, in order that we may know what we 
have to ask of him." Again, "The law was given, that it might make 
you guilty - being made guilty might fear; fearing, might ask 
indulgence, not presume on your own strength." Again, "The law was 
given, in order to convert a great into a little man - to show that 
you have no power of your own for righteousness; and might thus, 
poor, needy, and destitute, flee to grace." He afterwards thus 
addresses the Almighty, "So do, O Lord, so do, O merciful Lord; 
command what cannot be fulfilled; nay, command what cannot be 
fulfilled, unless by thy own grace: so that when men feel they have 
no strength in themselves to fulfil it, every mouth may be stopped, 
and no man seem great in his own eyes. Let all be little ones; let 
the whole world become guilty before God." But I am forgetting 
myself in producing so many passages, since this holy man wrote a 
distinct treatise, which he entitled De Spiritu et Litera. The other 
branch of this first use he does not describe so distinctly, either 
because he knew that it depended on the former, or because he was 
not so well aware of it, or because he wanted words in which he 
might distinctly and clearly explain its proper meaning. But even in 
the reprobate themselves, this first office of the law is not 
altogether wanting. They do not, indeed, proceed so far with the 
children of God as, after the flesh is cast down, to be renewed in 
the inner man, and revive again, but stunned by the first terror, 
give way to despair. Still it tends to manifest the equity of the 
Divine judgement, when their consciences are thus heaved upon the 
waves. They would always willingly carp at the judgement of God; but 
now, though that judgement is not manifested, still the alarm 
produced by the testimony of the law and of their conscience 
bespeaks their deserts. 
    10. The second office of the Law is, by means of its fearful 
denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those 
who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice. Such 
persons are curbed not because their mind is inwardly moved and 
affected, but because, as if a bridle were laid upon them, they 
refrain their hands from external acts, and internally check the 
depravity which would otherwise petulantly burst forth. It is true, 
they are not on this account either better or more righteous in the 
sight of God. For although restrained by terror or shame, they dare 
not proceed to what their mind has conceived, nor give full license 
to their raging lust, their heart is by no means trained to fear and 
obedience. Nay, the more they restrain themselves, the more they are 
inflamed, the more they rage and boil, prepared for any act or 
outbreak whatsoever were it not for the terror of the law. And not 
only so, but they thoroughly detest the law itself, and execrate the 
Lawgiver; so that if they could, they would most willingly 
annihilate him, because they cannot bear either his ordering what is 
right, or his avenging the despisers of his Majesty. The feeling of 
all who are not yet regenerate, though in some more, in others less 
lively, is, that in regard to the observance of the law, they are 
not led by voluntary submission, but dragged by the force of fear. 
Nevertheless, this forced and extorted righteousness is necessary 
for the good of society, its peace being secured by a provision but 
for which all things would be thrown into tumult and confusion. Nay, 
this tuition is not without its use, even to the children of God, 
who, previous to their effectual calling, being destitute of the 
Spirit of holiness, freely indulge the lusts of the flesh. When, by 
the fear of Divine vengeance, they are deterred from open 
outbreakings, though, from not being subdued in mind, they profit 
little at present, still they are in some measure trained to bear 
the yoke of righteousness, so that when they are called, they are 
not like mere novices, studying a discipline of which previously 
they had no knowledge. This office seems to be especially in the 
view of the Apostle, when he says, "That the law is not made for a 
righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly 
and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers 
and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them 
that defile themselves with mankind, for men-stealers, for liars, 
for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is 
contrary to sound doctrine," (1 Tim. 1: 9, 10.) He thus indicates 
that it is a restraint on unruly lusts that would otherwise burst 
all bonds. 
    11. To both may be applied the declaration of the Apostle in 
another place, that "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto 
Christ," (Gal. 3: 24;) since there are two classes of persons, whom 
by its training it leads to Christ. Some (of whom we spoke in the 
first place,) from excessive confidence in their own virtue or 
righteousness, are unfit to receive the grace of Christ, until they 
are completely humbled. This the law does by making them sensible of 
their misery, and so disposing them to long for what they previously 
imagined they did not want. Others have need of a bridle to restrain 
them from giving full scope to their passions, and thereby utterly 
losing all desire after righteousness. For where the Spirit of God 
rules not, the lusts sometimes so burst forth, as to threaten to 
drown the soul subjected to them in forgetfulness and contempt of 
God; and so they would, did not God interpose with this remedy. 
Those, therefore, whom he has destined to the inheritance of his 
kingdom, if he does not immediately regenerate, he, through the 
works of the law, preserves in fear, against the time of his 
visitation, not, indeed, that pure and chaste fear which his 
children ought to have, but a fear useful to the extent of 
instructing them in true piety according to their capacity. Of this 
we have so many proofs, that there is not the least need of an 
example. For all who have remained for some time in ignorance of God 
will confess, as the result of their own experience, that the law 
had the effect of keeping them in some degree in the fear and 
reverence of God, till, being regenerated by his Spirit, they began 
to love him from the heart. 
    12. The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and 
more closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers 
in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. For 
although the Law is written and engraven on their hearts by the 
finger of God, that is, although they are so influenced and actuated 
by the Spirit, that they desire to obey God, there are two ways in 
which they still profit in the Law. For it is the best instrument 
for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty 
what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to 
confirm them in this knowledge; just as a servant who desires with 
all his soul to approve himself to his master, must still observe, 
and be careful to ascertain his master's dispositions, that he may 
comport himself in accommodation to them. Let none of us deem 
ourselves exempt from this necessity, for none have as yet attained 
to such a degree of wisdom, as that they may not, by the daily 
instruction of the Law, advance to a purer knowledge of the Divine 
will. Then, because we need not doctrine merely, but exhortation 
also, the servant of God will derive this further advantage from the 
Law: by frequently meditating upon it, he will be excited to 
obedience, and confirmed in it, and so drawn away from the slippery 
paths of sin. In this way must the saints press onward, since, 
however great the alacrity with which, under the Spirit, they hasten 
toward righteousness, they are retarded by the sluggishness of the 
flesh, and make less progress than they ought. The Law acts like a 
whip to the flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even 
in the case of a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened 
with the weight of the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, 
pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth. David had this 
use in view when he pronounced this high eulogium on the Law, "The 
law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of 
the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord 
are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, 
enlightening the eyes," (Ps. 19: 7, 8.) Again, "Thy word is a lamp 
unto my feet, and a light unto my path," (Ps. 119: 105.) The whole 
psalm abounds in passages to the same effect. Such passages are not 
inconsistent with those of Paul, which show not the utility of the 
law to the regenerate, but what it is able of itself to bestow. The 
object of the Psalmist is to celebrate the advantages which the 
Lord, by means of his law, bestows on those whom he inwardly 
inspires with a love of obedience. And he adverts not to the mere 
precepts, but also to the promise annexed to them, which alone makes 
that sweet which in itself is bitter. For what is less attractive 
than the law, when, by its demands and threatening, it overawes the 
soul, and fills it with terror? David specially shows that in the 
law he saw the Mediator, without whom it gives no pleasure or 
    13. Some unskilful persons, from not attending to this, boldly 
discard the whole law of Moses, and do away with both its Tables, 
imagining it unchristian to adhere to a doctrine which contains the 
ministration of death. Far from our thoughts be this profane notion. 
Moses has admirably shown that the Law, which can produce nothing 
but death in sinners, ought to have a better and more excellent 
effect upon the righteous. When about to die, he thus addressed the 
people, "Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among 
you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, 
all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; 
because it is your life," (Deut. 32: 46, 47.) If it cannot be denied 
that it contains a perfect pattern of righteousness, then, unless we 
ought not to have any proper rule of life, it must be impious to 
discard it. There are not various rules of life, but one perpetual 
and inflexible rule; and, therefore, when David describes the 
righteous as spending their whole lives in meditating on the Law, 
(Psalm 1: 2,) we must not confine to a single age, an employment 
which is most appropriate to all ages, even to the end of the world. 
Nor are we to be deterred or to shun its instructions, because the 
holiness which it prescribes is stricter than we are able to render, 
so long as we bear about the prison of the body. It does not now 
perform toward us the part of a hard taskmaster, who will not be 
satisfied without full payment; but, in the perfection to which it 
exhorts us, points out the goal at which, during the whole course of 
our lives, it is not less our interest than our duty to aim. It is 
well if we thus press onward. Our whole life is a race, and after we 
have finished our course, the Lord will enable us to reach that goal 
to which, at present, we can only aspire in wish. 
    14. Since, in regard to believers, the law has the force of 
exhortation, not to bind their consciences with a curse, but by 
urging them, from time to time, to shake off sluggishness and 
chastise imperfection, - many, when they would express this 
exemption from the curse, say, that in regard to believers the Law 
(I still mean the Moral Law) is abrogated: not that the things which 
it enjoins are no longer right to be observed, but only that it is 
not to believers what it formerly was; in other words, that it does 
not, by terrifying and confounding their consciences, condemn and 
destroy. It is certainly true that Paul shows, in clear terms, that 
there is such an abrogation of the Law. And that the same was 
preached by our Lord appears from this, that he would not have 
refuted the opinion of his destroying the Law, if it had not been 
prevalent among the Jews. Since such an opinion could not have 
arisen at random without some pretext, there is reason to presume 
that it originated in a false interpretation of his doctrine, in the 
same way in which all errors generally arise from a perversion of 
the truth. But lest we should stumble against the same stone, let us 
distinguish accurately between what has been abrogated in the Law, 
and what still remains in force. When the Lord declares, that he 
came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil, (Matth. 5: 17;) that 
until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or little shall remain 
unfulfilled; he shows that his advent was not to derogate, in any 
degree, from the observance of the Law. And justly, since the very 
end of his coming was to remedy the transgression of the Law. 
Therefore, the doctrine of the Law has not been infringed by Christ, 
but remains, that, by teaching, admonishing, rebuking, and 
correcting, it may fit and prepare us for every good work. 
    15. What Paul says, as to the abrogation of the Law, evidently 
applies not to the Law itself, but merely to its power of 
constraining the conscience. For the Law not only teaches, but also 
imperiously demands. If obedience is not yielded, nay, if it is 
omitted in any degree, it thunders forth its curse. For this reason, 
the Apostle says, that "as many as are of the works of the law are 
under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that 
continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the 
law to do them," (Gal. 3: 10; Deut. 27: 26.) Those he describes as 
under the works of the Law, who do not place righteousness in that 
forgiveness of sins by which we are freed from the rigour of the 
Law. He therefore shows, that we must be freed from the fetters of 
the Law, if we would not perish miserably under them. But what 
fetters? Those of rigid and austere exaction, which remits not one 
iota of the demand, and leaves no transgression unpunished. To 
redeem us from this curse, Christ was made a curse for us: for it is 
written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree, (Deut. 21: 23, 
compared with Gal. 3: 13, 4: 4.) In the following chapter, indeed, 
he says, that "Christ was made under the law, in order that he might 
redeem those who are under the law;" but the meaning is the same. 
For he immediately adds, "That we might receive the adoption of 
sons." What does this mean? That we might not be, all our lifetime, 
subject to bondage, having our consciences oppressed with the fear 
of death. Meanwhile, it must ever remain an indubitable truth, that 
the Law has lost none of its authority, but must always receive from 
us the same respect and obedience. 
    16. The case of ceremonies is different, these having been 
abrogated not in effect but in use only. Though Christ by his advent 
put an end to their use, so far is this from derogating from their 
sacredness, that it rather commends and illustrates it. For as these 
ceremonies would have given nothing to God's ancient people but 
empty show, if the power of Christ's death and resurrection had not 
been prefigured by them, - so, if the use of them had not ceased, it 
would, in the present day, be impossible to understand for what 
purpose they were instituted. Accordingly, Paul, in order to prove 
that the observance of them was not only superfluous, but pernicious 
also, says that they "are a shadow of things to come; but the body 
is of Christ," (Col. 2: 17.) We see, therefore, that the truth is 
made clearer by their abolition than if Christ, who has been openly 
manifested, were still figured by them as at a distance, and as 
under a veil. By the death of Christ, the veil of the temple was 
rent in vain, the living and express image of heavenly things, which 
had begun to be dimly shadowed forth, being now brought fully into 
view, as is described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 
(Heb. 10: 1.) To the same effect, our Saviour declares, that "the 
law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of 
God is preached, and every man presseth into it," (Luke 16: 16;) not 
that the holy fathers were left without the preaching of the hope of 
salvation and eternal life, but because they only saw at a distance, 
and under a shadow, what we now behold in full light. Why it behaved 
the Church to ascend higher than these elements, is explained by 
John the Baptist, when he says, "The law was given by Moses, but 
grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," (John 1: 17.) For though it 
is true that expiation was promised in the ancient sacrifices, and 
the ark of the covenant was a sure pledge of the paternal favour of 
God, the whole would have been delusory had it not been founded on 
the grace of Christ, wherein true and eternal stability is found. It 
must be held as a fixed point, that though legal rites ceased to be 
observed, their end serves to show more clearly how great their 
utility was before the advent of Christ, who, while he abolished the 
use, sealed their force and effect by his death. 
    17. There is a little more difficulty in the following passage 
of Paul: "You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of 
your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you 
all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was 
against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, 
nailing it to his cross," &c., (Col. 2: 13, 14.) He seems to extend 
the abolition of the Law considerably farther, as if we had nothing 
to do with its injunctions. Some err in interpreting this simply of 
the Moral Law, as implying the abolition not of its injunctions, but 
of its inexorable rigour. Others examining Paul's words more 
carefully, see that they properly apply to the Ceremonial Law, and 
show that Paul repeatedly uses the term ordinance in this sense. He 
thus writes to the Ephesians: "He is our peace, who has made both 
one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 
having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of 
commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of 
twain one new man," (Eph. 2: 14.) There can be no doubt that he is 
there treating of ceremonies, as he speaks of "the middle wall of 
partition" which separated Jews and Gentiles. I therefore hold that 
the former view is erroneous; but, at the same time, it does not 
appear to me that the latter comes fully up to the Apostle's 
meaning. For I cannot admit that the two passages are perfectly 
parallel. As his object was to assure the Ephesians that they were 
admitted to fellowship with the Jews, he tells them that the 
obstacle which formerly stood in the way was removed. This obstacle 
was in the ceremonies. For the rites of ablution and sacrifice, by 
which the Jews were consecrated to the Lord, separated them from the 
Gentiles. But who sees not that, in the Epistle to the Colossians, a 
sublimer mystery is adverted to? No doubt, a question is raised 
there as to the Mosaic observances, to which false apostles were 
endeavouring to bind the Christian people. But as in the Epistle to 
the Galatians he takes a higher view of this controversy, and in a 
manner traces it to its fountain, so he does in this passage also. 
For if the only thing considered in rites is the necessity of 
observing them, of what use was it to call it a handwriting which 
was contrary to us? Besides, how could the bringing in of it be set 
down as almost the whole sum of redemption? Wherefore, the very 
nature of the case clearly shows that reference is here made to 
something more internal. I cannot doubt that I have ascertained the 
genuine interpretation, provided I am permitted to assume what 
Augustine has somewhere most truly affirmed, nay, derived from the 
very words of the Apostle, viz., that in the Jewish ceremonies there 
was more a confession than an expiation of sins. For what more was 
done in sacrifice by those who substituted purifications instead of 
themselves, than to confess that they were conscious of deserving 
death? What did these purifications testify but that they themselves 
were impure? By these means, therefore, the handwriting both of 
their guilt and impurity was ever and anon renewed. But the 
attestation of these things was not the removal of them. Wherefore, 
the Apostle says that Christ is "the mediator of the new testament, 
- by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that 
were under the first testament," (Heb. 9:15.) Justly, therefore, 
does the Apostle describe these handwritings as against the 
worshipers, and contrary to them, since by means of them their 
impurity and condemnation were openly sealed. There is nothing 
contrary to this in the fact that they were partakers of the same 
grace with ourselves. This they obtained through Christ, and not 
through the ceremonies which the Apostle there contrasts with 
Christ, showing that by the continued use of them the glory of 
Christ was obscured. We perceive how ceremonies, considered in 
themselves, are elegantly and appositely termed handwritings, and 
contrary to the salvation of man, in as much as they were a kind of 
formal instruments which attested his liability. On the other hand, 
when false apostles wished to bind them on the Christian Church, 
Paul, entering more deeply into their signification, with good 
reason warned the Colossians how seriously they would relapse if 
they allowed a yoke to be in that way imposed upon them. By so 
doing, they, at the same time, deprived themselves of all benefit 
from Christ, who, by his eternal sacrifice once offered, had 
abolished those daily sacrifices, which were indeed powerful to 
attest sin, but could do nothing to destroy it. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 8
(continued in part 9...)

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