November 23, 2014

Highlighting Richard Muller's Citations of Calvin on God's Slowness to Anger and Willingness to Save

Muller writes:
God's temporal anger stands over against the sins both of the wicked and the godly and is revealed in the earthly punishments meted out to sinners. Here, frequently, God defers punishment and "suspends" his anger against the ungodly in order to demonstrate his willingness to pardon sin--but neither does he tolerate the abuse of his patience.579
579. Calvin, Commentaries on Nahum, 1:3 in loc. (CTS Minor Prophets, III, p. 422).
Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 3:583.

Calvin comments on Nahum 1:3:
We now then see the design of the Prophet: for this declaration — that God hastens not suddenly to wrath, but patiently defers and suspends the punishment which the ungodly deserve. This declaration would not have harmonized with the present argument, had not the Prophet introduced it by way of concession; as though he said, — “I see that the world everywhere trifle with God, and that the ungodly delude themselves with such Sophistries, that they reject all threatening. I indeed allow that God is ready to pardon, and that he descends not to wrath, except when he is constrained by extreme necessity: all this is indeed true; but yet know, that God is armed with his own power: escape then shall none of those who allow themselves the liberty of abusing his patience, notwithstanding the insolence they manifest towards him.”
...Scripture consistently teaches that God is slow to anger. The psalmist and the prophets often "borrow" this language from the declarations of Moses in Exodus 34.583 Nonetheless, God's anger is heavy and grievous when it is exercised. Scripture also testifies to the power of God's judgment on the reprobate--God himself speaks of his wrath as fire.584 Yet, the temporal anger of God may be appeased by the "amendment of life" and by contrition, given that God's natural or essential goodness consistently leads him to mitigate his anger.585 God cannot "divest himself of his mercy, for he remains ever the same." Indeed, God works toward the salvation of the human race at the very same time that he is angry at sin: the ground of our hope of mercy and pardon is, therefore, the "infinite and inexhaustible" goodness of God, who does not respond in anger to the constant provocation of sinful humanity.586
583. Musculus, Loci communes, liv (Commonplaces, p. 1040, col. 2), citing Exodus 34, passim; Num. 14:18-21, 27-31, et passim; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:5; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3; Calvin, Commentaries on Joel, 2:12-13, in loc.; cf. idem, Commentaries on Nahum, 1:3, in loc. (CTS Minor Prophets, II, p. 60; III, p. 421). Here Musculus' loci communes are clearly topical sections based on Musculus' commentaries: each text is developed at some length.
584. Musculus, Loci communes, Iiv, (Commonplaces, p. 1043, col. 2, p. 1044, col. 2), citing Deut. 32:22ff.
585. Musculus, Loci communes, Iiv (Commonplaces, p. 1051, col. 2).
586. Calvin, Commentaries on Jonah, Jonah 4:2, in loc. (CTS Minor Prophets, III, pp. 123, 125).
Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 3:583-584.

Calvin's Comments on Joel 2:13:
The Prophet, having proclaimed the dreadful judgment which we have noticed, now shows that he did not intend to terrify the people without reason, but, on the contrary, to encourage them to repentance; which he could not do without offering to them the hope of pardon; for as we have said before, and as it may be collected from the whole of Scripture, men cannot be restored to the right ways except they entertain a hope of God’s mercy inasmuch as he who has been ungodly, when he despairs, wholly disregards himself, observing no restraint. Hence the Prophet now represents God as propitious and merciful, that he might thus kindly allure the people to repentance.

He says first, And even now the Lord says, Turn ye to me. The Prophet exhorts the people, not in his own name, but speaks in the person of God himself. He might indeed have borne witness to the favor which he proclaimed; but the discourse becomes more striking by introducing God as the speaker. And there is a great importance in the words, even now; for when one considers what we have noticed in the beginning of the chapter, a prospect of relief could hardly have been deemed possible. God had, indeed, in various ways, tried to restore the people to the right way; but, as we have seen, the greater part had become so void of feeling, that the scourges of God were wholly ineffectual; there remained, then, nothing but the utter destruction which the Prophet threatened them with at the beginning of the second chapter. Yet, in this state of despair, he still sets forth some hope of mercy, provided they turned to him; even now, he says. The particles וגם, ugam are full of emphasis, “even now” that is, “Though ye have too long abused God’s forbearance, and with regard to you, the opportunity is past, for ye have closed the door against yourselves; yet even now, — which no one could have expected, and indeed what ought to be thought incredible by yourselves, — even now God waits for you, and invites you to entertain hope of salvation.” But it was necessary that these two particles, even now, should be added; for it is not in the power of men to fix for themselves, as they please, the season for mercy. God here shows the acceptable time, as Isaiah says (Isaiah 49:8) to be, when he has not yet rejected men, but when he offers to be propitious. We must then remember that the Prophet gives not here liberty to men to delay the time, as the profane and scorners are wont to do, who trifle with God from day to day; but the Prophet here shows that we must obey the voice of God, when he invites us, as also Isaiah says, ‘Behold now the time accepted, behold the day of salvation: seek God now, for he is near; call on him while he may be found.’ So then, as I have reminded you, these two particles, even now, are added, that men may be made attentive to the voice of God when he invites them, that they may not delay till tomorrow, for the Lord may then close the door, and repentance may be too late. We at the same time see how indulgently God bears with men, since he left a hope of pardon to a people so obstinate and almost past recovery.

Calvin's comments on Jonah 4:2:
Jonah would not have shrunk from God’s command, had he been sent to the Ninevites to teach what he had been ordered to do among the chosen people. Had then a message been committed to Jonah, to set forth a gracious and merciful God to the Ninevites, he would not have hesitated a moment to offer his service. But as this express threatening, Nineveh shall be destroyed, was given him in charge, he became confounded, and sought at length to flee away rather than to execute such a command. Why so? Because he thus reasoned with himself, “I am to denounce a near ruin on the Ninevites; why does God command me to do this, except to invite these wretched men to repentance? Now if they repent, will not God be instantly ready to forgive them? He would otherwise deny his own nature: God cannot be unlike himself, he cannot put off that disposition of which he has once testified to Moses. Since God, then, is reconcilable, if the Ninevites will return to the right way and flee to him, he will instantly embrace them: thus I shall be found to be false in my preaching.”

 Calvin continues on Jonah 4:2:
And it is also added, that he is slow to wrath. This slowness to wrath proves that God provides for the salvation of mankind, even when he is provoked by their sins. Though miserable men provoke God daily against themselves, he yet continues to have a regard for their salvation. He is therefore slow to wrath, which means, that the Lord does not immediately execute such punishment as they deserve who thus provoke him.
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, trans. John Owen, vol. 14 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 3:125.

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