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God Does Not Take Pleasure in the Death of the One Who Dies

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by John Calvin


"As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:11


But what necessity constrains him [Pighius, Calvin's Roman Catholic opponent] to make the dispensation of grace equal [for all]? It is on the pretext that God declares that he does not will the death of one who dies, but that he should return and live. But if we interpret this according to [Pighius's] view, then why does he die whom God wills not to die? For it is written: But God is in heaven, he has done whatever he willed (Ps 115:3). Here certainly is the Gordian Knot, if you take that saying of Ezekiel, that God does not will the death of him who dies, to refer to his secret plan. For that reason it must be understood in the way that Augustine also explained it in many places: God leaves nothing undone which would lead to people being led back into the way of salvation if only they were in a healthy condition. As for the fact that they do not return when they are called, it is only the disease of their own wickedness which stands in their way. So God wills [preceptively] that the dying should should live (so far as it is right for us to judge his will) in that he helps man by all [kinds of] support, lest he should be able to complain that anything other than his own guilt stood in his way. But meanwhile God's secret plan, by which he passes over one and chooses another, remains his own, and one should not inquire too curiously into it if one does not want to be overwhelmed by [God's] glory. If Pighius grasped this, he would not hold so tenaciously to that false axiom about the equal distribution of grace...


...the whole of Scripture assigns the goodness of both root and fruit entirely to God alone ... When it urges us to devotion, to the fear of God, and to holiness of life, it teaches us we can attain all those thing only if it has been granted to us by God...[We acknowledge that] the human mind sees, but [only] when it has been enlightened. [We acknowledge that] human judgment decides and chooses, but under the control of the Spirit's guidance. [We acknowledge that] the human heart is willing, but after it has been remade by the hand of God. [We acknowledge that] man himself endeavors and acts and applies his powers to obedience to God, but [does this] in accordance with the measure of the grace which he has received. It is in vain that [Pighius] struggles, in extolling the goodness of God, to tie it to the necessity of its being equally accessible to all. For God himself speaks otherwise, judging that the praise of his goodness and mercy shines better if he exhibits the proof of it only in some, while in others he displays an example of his wrath and judgment...[Pighius says this is] to limit it. But God does not want it to be extolled as generous in such a way that it ceases to be free. Moreover, its freedom resides in the fact that he bestows it on those on whom he wills.


...he who opens the eyes of the mind to make himself understood is the very one who also opens hearts so that he is obeyed...What is it then to open [our hearts]? To receive the warning in our hearts, and to obey the exhortations. Pighius imagines that this is placed in our control, but God claims it as his. I will circumcise your heart, he says, so that you will hear my voice (Deut 30). Moses identifies the cause of their blindness, dullness, and obstinacy as being the fact that the Lord had not given them eyes to see, or ears to hear, or a heart to understand (Deut 29:4).

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