Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Calvin Attributes Art, Science and Other Skills to Corrupt Natural Abilities, Not "Common Grace"

Lest any one, however, should imagine a man to be very happy merely because, with reference to the elements of this world, he has been endued with great talents for the investigation of truth, we ought to add, that the whole power of intellect thus bestowed is, in the sight of God, fleeting and vain whenever it is not based on a solid foundation of truth. Augustine (supra, sec. 4 and 12), to whom, as we have observed, the Master of Sentences (lib. 2 Dist. 25), and the Schoolmen, are forced to subscribe, says most correctly that as the gratuitous gifts bestowed on man were withdrawn, so the natural gifts which remained were corrupted after the fall. Not that they can be polluted in themselves in so far as they proceed from God, but that they have ceased to be pure to polluted man, lest he should by their means obtain any praise.

17. The sum of the whole is this: From a general survey of the human race, it appears that one of the essential properties of our nature is reason, which distinguishes us from the lower animals, just as these by means of sense are distinguished from inanimate objects. For although some individuals are born without reason, that defect does not impair the general kindness of God, but rather serves to remind us, that whatever we retain ought justly to be ascribed to the Divine indulgence. Had God not so spared us, our revolt would have carried along with it the entire destruction of nature. In that some excel in acuteness, and some in judgment, while others have greater readiness in learning some peculiar art, God, by this variety commends his favour toward us, lest any one should presume to arrogate to himself that which flows from His mere liberality. For whence is it that one is more excellent than another, but that in a common nature the grace of God is specially displayed in passing by many and thus proclaiming that it is under obligation to none. We may add, that each individual is brought under particular influences according to his calling. Many examples of this occur in the Book of Judges, in which the Spirit of the Lord is said to have come upon those whom he called to govern his people (Judges 6:34). In short, in every distinguished act there is a special inspiration. Thus it is said of Saul, that “there went with him a band of men whose hearts the Lord had touched,” (1 Sam. 10:26). And when his inauguration to the kingdom is foretold, Samuel thus addresses him, “The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man,” (1 Sam. 10:6). This extends to the whole course of government, as it is afterwards said of David, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward,” (1 Sam. 16:13). The same thing is elsewhere said with reference to particular movements. Nay, even in Homer, men are said to excel in genius, not only according as Jupiter has distributed to each, but according as he leads them day by day, ὁιον ἐπ ἠ̂μαρ ἄγησι. And certainly experience shows when those who were most skilful and ingenious stand stupefied, that the minds of men are entirely under the control of God, who rules them every moment. Hence it is said, that “He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way,” (Ps. 107:40). Still, in this diversity we can trace some remains of the divine image distinguishing the whole human race from other creatures.D41

D41 Calvin again stresses the fact that there are “remains,” remnants, or rudiments of the image of God still discernible in the natural man. These “remains” not only distinguish man from the beasts, but also comprise the faculties by which man can attain to some knowledge, can do some relatively good deeds, and can be apprehended by the external word of the Law and the Gospel. But by these “rudiments” man can neither truly know God, nor do the real good, nor truly know (have a true understanding) of the Law or the Gospel.

Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1996). Institutes of the Christian religion (electronic ed.) (II, ii, 16). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.

I checked the same passage in the Ford Lewis Battles translation published by Westminster Press. The editors there read "common grace" into what Calvin had to say. However, the Beveridge translation clearly leans toward the image of God and natural abilities. Since the doctrine of common grace was not yet in vogue in Beveridge's time, I think Beveridge has the better understanding of the text. You will also note that Beveridge translates "common grace" as "general kindness." Seems to me that Battles has a biased translation.

Also, Battles has a footnote on page 276 of the Westminster edition:

#64. Neither common grace nor special grace here mentioned has any relation to the salvation of the possessor. Special grace endowment of capacity, virtue, or heroism by which a man is fitted to serve the divine purpose in this world, while he himself may remain in the common state of human depravity. Cf. II. iii. 4 where Calvin views in this light Camillus, Saul, and the Homeric heroes referred to by Plato.

Again, this passage in no way supports the doctrine of common grace unless one reads biased editors and late comers with an agenda. Calvin himself is plain enough in saying that these are natural abilities which are corrupted by the fall. He even mentions that Augustine says the "free" or "gratuitous" gifts were removed from man by God after the fall (II. ii. 16).

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