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John Calvin: God gives men time to repent

September 16, 2007

Calvin:

1]

Moreover, the Lord here commends his own longsuffering. Even then the Amorites had become unworthy to occupy the land, yet the Lord not only bore with them for a short time, but granted them four centuries for repentance. And hence it appears, that he does not, without reason, so frequently declare how slow he is to anger. But the more graciously he waits for men, if, at length, instead of repenting they remain obstinate, the more severely does he avenge such great ingratitude. Therefore Paul says, that they who indulge themselves in sin, while the goodness and clemency of God invite them to repentance, heap up for themselves a treasure of wrath, (Romans 2:4) and thus they reap no advantage from delay, seeing that the severity of the punishment is doubled; just as it happened to the Amorites, whom, at length, the Lord commanded to be so entirely cut off, that not even infants were spared. Therefore when we hear that God out of heaven is silently waiting until iniquities shall fill up their measure; let us know, that this is no time for torpor, but rather let every one of us stir himself up, that we may be beforehand with the celestial judgment. It was formerly said by a heathen, that the anger of God proceeds with a slow step to avenge itself, but that it compensates for its tardiness by the severity of its punishment. Hence there is no reason why reprobates should flatter themselves, when he seems to let them pass unobserved, since he does not so repose in heaven, as to cease to be the Judge of the world; nor will he be unmindful of the execution of his office, in due time. We infer, however, from the words of Moses, that though space for repentance is given to the reprobate, they are still devoted to destruction. Some take the word (ayon) for punishment, as if it had been said that punishment was not yet matured for them. But the former exposition is more suitable; namely, that they will set no bound to their wickedness, until they bring upon themselves final destruction.

Calvin, Commentary, Gen 15:16.

2]

And if ye will not yet for all this hearken. The gradation of punishments, which is here mentioned, shews that they are so tempered by God’s kindness, that He only lightly chastises those whose stupidity or hardness of heart he has not yet proved; but when obstinacy in sin is superadded, the severity of the punishments is likewise increased; and justly so, because those who, being admonished, care not to repent, wage open war with God. Hence the more moderately He deals with us, the more attentive we ought to be to His corrections, in order that even the gentle strokes, which He in His kindness softens and tempers, may be enough. Paul says that hypocrites heap up to themselves a treasure of greater vengeance, if they take occasion from His forbearance to continue unmoved, (Romans 2:4, 5;) for those who do not repent, when admonished by light chastisements, are the less excusable. Wherefore let us give heed to that exhortation of David, that we “be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle;” because “many sorrows shall be to the wicked.”

Calvin, Commentary, Lev 26:18.

3]

Seven years, then, shall pass away, says he, until thou shalt know that there is a lofty ruler in the kingdoms of men. This is the end of the punishment, as we have previously said, for I need not repeat my former remarks. But we must remember this — God mitigates the bitterness of the penalty by making it temporary. Then he proposed this end to induce Nebuchadnezzar to repent, as he required many blows for this purpose, according to the old proverb about the fool who can never be recalled to a sound mind without suffering calamity.

Calvin, Commentary, Dan 4:28:32.

4]

Now let us see what is the application of this doctrine as to both people. When the Israelites and the Jews lived in exile, it was of great benefit for them to have this testified, that God was hiding his face for a time, that he might afford them time to repent; this is one thing.

Calvin Commentary, Hos. 5:15.

5]

He means that the vengeance of God would be such as would consume the whole people: for God has in various ways begun to chastise the people, but, as we have seen, without any advantage. The Prophet then says here that the last stroke remained, and that the Lord would wholly destroy men so refractory, and whom he could not hitherto restore to a sound mind by moderate punishments. For he had in a measure spared them, though he had treated them sharply and severely, and given them time to repent. Hence, when the Prophet saw that they were wholly irreclaimable, he says, that it now only remained that the Lord should at once utterly consume them.

Calvin, Commentary, Joel, 2:1-11.

6]

And as to the duration of the whole world, we must think exactly the same as of the life of every individual; for God by prolonging time to each, sustains him that he may repent. In the like manner he does not hasten the end of the world, in order to give to all time to repent.

Calvin, Commentary, 2 Peter 3:9.

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