Calvin on the Consolation of God’s Judgment

Here is an extraordinary statement from Calvin—from his preface to Pierre Olivetan’s New Testament published in 1734. It gives a vivid sense of the tradition that Edwards was self-consciously aligned with throughout his life.

And we have a still greater and a more sure consolation, when we turn our eyes away from this whole world and set aside all that we can see before us, to wait with patience for the great judgment of God, by which in one moment all the machinations of men against him shall be struck down, brought to nought, and overturned. This shall be when the Kingdom of God, which we now see in hope, shall become manifest; when Jesus Christ shall appear in majesty with his angels. It shall then be that the good and the evil shall be present before the judgment seat of this great King. Those who have remained firm in this testament, who have followed and kept the will of this good Father, shall be at his right hand as his true children, and shall be blessed with the fulfillment of their faith, which shall be eternal salvation. And since they were not ashamed to own and confess Jesus Christ, when he was despised and condemned before men, they shall also share in his glory, and shall be crowned with him in eternity. But the perverse, rebellious, and condemned, who have despised and rejected this holy gospel, and similarly those who for the sake of holding on to their honor, riches, and high estate have been unwilling to be humbled and made low with Jesus Christ; who for fear of men have cast aside the fear of God and like bastard [sons] disobeyed this Father—these shall be on the left hand; they shall be executed and cast out; for the reward of their unfaithfulness, they shall receive eternal death.

Therefore, when you hear that the gospel presents you Jesus Christ in whom all the promises and gifts of God have been accomplished; and when it declares that he was sent by the Father, has descended to the earth and spoken among men perfectly all that concerns our salvation, as it was foretold in the Law and to the Prophets—it ought to be most certain and obvious to you that the treasures of Paradise have been opened to you in the gospel; that the riches of God have been exhibited and eternal life itself revealed. For, this is eternal life; to know one, only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom he has established as the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation. He [Christ] is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death. He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which he guards. He is the good and compassionate brother Joseph, who in his glory was not ashamed to acknowledge his brothers, however lowly and abject their condition. He is the great sacrificer and bishop Melchizedek, who has offered an eternal sacrifice once for all. He is the sovereign lawgiver Moses, writing his law on the tables of our hearts by his Spirit. He is the faithful captain and guide Joshua, to lead us to the Promised Land. He is the victorious and noble king David, bringing by his hand all rebellious power to subjection. He is the magnificent and triumphant king Solomon, governing his kingdom in peace and prosperity. He is the strong and powerful Samson, who by his death has overwhelmed all his enemies.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for Our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation, abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death.

Michael McClenahan is executive director of the BibleMesh Institute. This post first appeared on the blog of The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.