Calvin, Institutes, Vol.3, Part 14
(... continued from part 13)
Chapter 13. 
13. Two things to be observed in gratuitous justification. 
    The divisions of this chapter are, - I. The glory of God, and 
peace of conscience, both secured by gratuitous justification. An 
insult to the glory of God to glory in ourselves and seek 
justification out of Christ, whose righteousness, apprehended by 
faith, is imputed to all the elect for reconciliation and eternal 
salvation, sec. 1, 2. II. Peace of conscience cannot be obtained in 
any other way than by gratuitous justification. This fully proved, 
sec. 3-5. 
1. The glory of God remains untarnished, when he alone is 
    acknowledged to be just. This proved from Scripture. 
2. Those who glory in themselves glory against God. Objection. 
    Answer, confirmed by the authority of Paul and Peter. 
3. Peace of conscience obtained by free justification only. 
    Testimony of Solomon, of conscience itself, and the Apostle 
    Paul, who contends that faith is made vain if righteousness 
    come by the law. 
4 The promise confirmed by faith in the mercy of Christ. This is 
    confirmed by Augustine and Bernard, is in accordance with what 
    has been above stated, and is illustrated by clear predictions 
    of the prophets. 
5. Farther demonstration by an Apostle. Refutation of a sophism. 
    1. Here two ends must be kept specially in view, namely, that 
the glory of God be maintained unimpaired, and that our consciences, 
in the view of his tribunal, be secured in peaceful rest and calm 
tranquillity. When the question relates to righteousness, we see how 
often and how anxiously Scripture exhorts us to give the whole 
praise of it to God. Accordingly, the Apostle testifies that the 
purpose of the Lord in conferring righteousness upon us in Christ, 
was to demonstrate his own righteousness. The nature of this 
demonstration he immediately subjoins, viz., "that he might be just, 
and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus," (Rom. 3: 25.) 
Observe, that the righteousness of God is not sufficiently 
displayed, unless He alone is held to be righteous, and freely 
communicates righteousness to the undeserving. For this reason it is 
his will, that "every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may 
become guilty before God," (Rom. 3: 19.) For so long as a man has 
any thing, however small, to say in his own defense, so long he 
deducts somewhat from the glory of God. Thus we are taught in 
Ezekiel how much we glorify his name by acknowledging our iniquity: 
"Then shall ye remember your ways and all your doings, wherein ye 
have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, 
for all your evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I 
am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not 
according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt 
doings," (Ezek. 20: 43, 44.) If part of the true knowledge of God 
consists in being oppressed by a consciousness of our own iniquity, 
and in recognizing him as doing good to those who are unworthy of 
it, why do we attempt, to our great injury, to steal from the Lord 
even one particle of the praise of unmerited kindness? In like 
manner, when Jeremiah exclaims, "Let not the wise man glory in his 
wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the 
rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory" in 
the Lord, (Jer. 9: 23, 24,) does he not intimate, that the glory of 
the Lord is infringed when man glories in himself? To this purpose, 
indeed, Paul accommodates the words when he says, that all the parts 
of our salvation are treasured up with Christ, that we may glory 
only in the Lord, (1 Cor. 1: 29.) For he intimates, that whosoever 
imagines he has any thing of his own, rebels against God, and 
obscures his glory. 
    2. Thus, indeed, it is: we never truly glory in him until we 
have utterly discarded our own glory. It must, therefore, be 
regarded as an universal proposition, that whoso glories in himself 
glories against God. Paul indeed considers, that the whole world is 
not made subject to God until every ground of glorying has been 
withdrawn from men, (Rom. 3: 19.) Accordingly, Isaiah, when he 
declares that "in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be 
justified" adds, "and shall glory (Isa. 45: 25 ,) as if he had said 
that the elect are justified by the Lord, in order that they may 
glory in him, and in none else. The way in which we are to glory in 
the Lord he had explained in the preceding verse, "Unto me every 
knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear;" "Surely, shall one say, 
in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, even to him shall men 
come." Observe, that the thing required is not simple confession, 
but confession confirmed by an oath, that it might not be imagined 
that any kind of fictitious humility might suffice. And let no man 
here allege that he does not glory, when without arrogance he 
recognizes his own righteousness; such a recognition cannot take 
place without generating confidence, nor such confidence without 
begetting boasting. Let us remember, therefore, that in the whole 
discussion concerning justification the great thing to be attended 
to is, that God's glory be maintained entire and unimpaired; since 
as the Apostle declares, it was in demonstration of his own 
righteousness that he shed his favor upon us; it was "that he might 
be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus," (Rom. 
3: 26.) Hence, in another passage, having said that the Lord 
conferred salvation upon us, in order that he might show forth the 
glory of his name, (Eph. 1: 6,) he afterwards, as if repeating the 
same thing, adds, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not 
of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man 
should boast," (Eph. 2: 8.) And Peter, when he reminds us that we 
are called to the hope of salvation, "that ye should show forth the 
praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous 
light," (1 Pet. 2: 9,) doubtless intends thus to proclaim in the 
ears of believers only the praises of God, that they may bury in 
profound silence all arrogance of the flesh. The sum is, that man 
cannot claim a single particle of righteousness to himself, without 
at the same time detracting from the glory of the divine 
    3. If we now inquire in what way the conscience can be quieted 
as in the view of God, we shall find that the only way is by having 
righteousness bestowed upon us freely by the gift of God. Let us 
always remember the words of Solomon, "Who can say I have made my 
heart clean, I am free from my sin?' (Prov. 20: 9.) Undoubtedly 
there is not one man who is not covered with infinite pollutions. 
Let the most perfect man descend into his own conscience, and bring 
his actions to account, and what will the result be? Will he feel 
calm and quiescent, as if all matters were well arranged between 
himself and God; or will he not rather be stung with dire torment, 
when he sees that the ground of condemnation is within him if he be 
estimated by his works? Conscience, when it beholds God, must either 
have sure peace with his justice, or be beset by the terrors of 
hell. We gain nothing, therefore, by discoursing of righteousness, 
unless we hold it to be a righteousness stable enough to support our 
souls before the tribunal of God. When the soul is able to appear 
intrepidly in the presence of God, and receive his sentence without 
dismay, then only let us know that we have found a righteousness 
that is not fictitious. It is not, therefore, without cause, that 
the Apostle insists on this matter. I prefer giving it in his words 
rather than my own: "If they which are of the law be heirs, faith is 
made void, and the promise made of no effect," (Rom. 4: 14.) He 
first infers that faith is made void if the promise of righteousness 
has respect to the merit of our works, or depends on the observance 
of the law. Never could any one rest securely in it, for never could 
he feel fully assured that he had fully satisfied the law; and it is 
certain that no man ever fully satisfied it by works. Not to go far 
for proof of this, every one who will use his eyes aright may be his 
own witness. Hence it appears how deep and dark the abyss is into 
which hypocrisy plunges the minds of men, when they indulge so 
securely as, without hesitations to oppose their flattery to the 
judgment of God, as if they were relieving him from his office as 
judge. Very different is the anxiety which fills the breasts of 
believers, who sincerely examine themselves. Every mind, therefore, 
would first begin to hesitate, and at length to despair, while each 
determined for itself with how great a load of debt it was still 
oppressed, and how far it was from coming up to the enjoined 
condition. Thus, then, faith would be oppressed and extinguished. To 
have faith is not to fluctuate, to vary, to be carried up and down, 
to hesitate, remain in suspense, vacillate, in fine, to despair; it 
is to possess sure certainty and complete security of mind, to have 
whereon to rest and fix your foot. 
    4. Paul, moreover, adds, that the promise itself would be 
rendered null and void. For if its fulfillment depends on our merits 
when pray, will we be able to come the length of meriting the favor 
of God? Nay, the second clause is a consequence of the former, since 
the promise will not be fulfilled unless to those who put faith in 
it. Faith therefore failing, no power will remain in the promise. 
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the 
promise might be sure to all the seed," (Rom. 4: 16.) It was 
abundantly confirmed when made to rest on the mercy of God alone, 
for mercy and truth are united by an indissoluble tie; that is, 
whatever God has mercifully promised he faithfully performs. Thus 
David, before he asks salvation according to the word of God, first 
places the source of it in his mercy. "Let, I pray thee, thy 
merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy 
servant," (Ps. 119: 76.) And justly, for nothing but mere mercy 
induces God to promise. Here, then, we must place, and, as it were, 
firmly fix our whole hope, paying no respect to our works, and 
asking no assistance from them. And lest you should suppose that 
there is any thing novel in what I say, Augustine also enjoins us so 
to act. "Christ," says he, "will reign forever among his servants. 
This God has promised, God has spoken; if this is not enough, God 
has sworn. Therefore, as the promise stands firm, not in respect of 
our merits, but in respect of his mercy, no one ought to tremble in 
announcing that of which he cannot doubt," (August. in Ps. 88, 
Tract. 50.) Thus Bernard also, "Who can be saved? ask the disciples 
of Christ. He replies, With men it is impossible, but not with God. 
This is our whole confidence, this our only consolation; this the 
whole ground of our hope: but being assured of the possibility, what 
are we to say as to his willingness? Who knows whether he is 
deserving of love or hatred? (Eccles. 9: 1.) 'Who has known the mind 
of the Lord that he may instruct him?' (1 Cor. 2: 16.) Here it is 
plain, faith must come to our aid: here we must have the assistance 
of truth, in order that the secret purpose of the Father respecting 
us may be revealed by the Spirit, and the Spirit testifying may 
persuade our hearts that we are the sons of God. But let him 
persuade by calling and justifying freely by faith: in these there 
is a kind of transition from eternal predestination to future 
glory," (Bert. in Dedica. Templi, Serm. 5.) Let us thus briefly 
conclude: Scripture indicates that the promises of God are not surer 
unless they are apprehended with full assurance of conscience; it 
declares that wherever there is doubt or uncertainty, the promises 
are made void; on the other hand, that they can only waver and 
fluctuate if they depend on our works. Therefore, either our 
righteousness must perish, or without any consideration of our 
works, place must be given to faith alone, whose nature it is to 
prick up the ear, and shut the eye; that is, to be intent on the 
promise only, to give up all idea of any dignity or merit in man. 
Thus is fulfilled the celebrated prophecy of Zechariah: "I will 
remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the 
Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine, 
and under the fig-tree," (Zech. 3: 9, 10.) Here the prophet 
intimates that the only way in which believers can enjoy true peace, 
is by obtaining the remission of their sins. For we must attend to 
this peculiarity in the prophets, that when they discourse of the 
kingdom of Christ, they set forth the external mercies of God as 
types of spiritual blessings. Hence Christ is called the Prince of 
Peace, and our peace, Isaiah 9: 6; Eph. 2: 14,) because he calms all 
the agitations of conscience. If the method is asked, we must come 
to the sacrifice by which God was appeased, for no man will ever 
cease to tremble, until he hold that God is propitiated solely by 
that expiation in which Christ endured his anger. In short, peace 
must be sought nowhere but in the agonies of Christ our Redeemer. 
    5. But why employ a more obscure testimony? Paul uniformly 
declares that the conscience can have no peace or quiet joy until it 
is held for certain that we are justified by faith. And he at the 
same time declares whence this certainty is derived, viz., when "the 
love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost," (Rom. 
5: 5;) as if he had said that our Souls cannot have peace until we 
are fully assured that we are pleasing to God. Hence he elsewhere 
exclaims in the person of believers in general, "Who shall separate 
us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8: 35.) Until we have reached 
that haven, the slightest breeze will make us tremble, but so long 
as the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall walk without fear in the 
valley of the shadow of death, (Ps. 23.) Thus those who pretend that 
justification by faith consists in being regenerated and made just, 
by living spiritually, have never tasted the sweetness of grace in 
trusting that God will be propitious. Hence also, they know no more 
of praying aright than do the Turks or any other heathen people. 
For, as Paul declares, faith is not true, unless it suggest and 
dictate the delightful name of Father; nay, unless it open our 
mouths and enable us freely to cry, Abba, Father. This he expresses 
more clearly in another passage, "In whom we have boldness and 
access with confidence by the faith of him," (Eph. 3: 12.) This, 
certainly, is not obtained by the gift of regeneration, which, as it 
is always defective in the present state, contains within it many 
grounds of doubt. Wherefore, we must have recourse to this remedy; 
we must hold that the only hope which believers have of the heavenly 
inheritance is, that being in grafted into the body of Christ, they 
are justified freely. For, in regard to justification, faith is 
merely passives bringing nothing of our own to procure the favor of 
God, but receiving from Christ every thing that we want. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, Part 

(continued in part 15...)

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