May 25, 2007

John Calvin (1509–1564) on Lamentations 3:33

Lam. 3:33. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
That such thoughts, then, might not tempt us to unbelief, the Prophet here puts a check on us, and declares that God does not afflict from his heart, that is, willingly, as though he delighted in the evils of men, as a judge, who, when he ascends his throne and condemns the guilty to death, does not do this from his heart, because he wishes all to be innocent, and thus to have a reason for acquitting them; but yet he willingly condemns the guilty, because this is his duty. So also God, when he adopts severity towards men, he indeed does so willingly, because he is the judge of the world; but he does not do so from the heart, because he wishes all to be innocent — for far away from him is all fierceness and cruelty; and as he regards men with paternal love, so also he would have them to be saved, were they not as it were by force to drive him to rigor.
Calvin, Lamentations 3:33.


Observe that:

1) Calvin does not hesitate to say that God "wishes" all of the "world" to be "innocent," i.e., to be "saved." There is a universal saving will of God. Within the "world" are some that he finally condemns, so the "world" includes the non-elect.

2) Calvin clearly affirms the universal love of God.

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