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Calvin on Christ suffering the threat of the law due to all sinners

December 21, 2007

The other day I posted Andrew Willet on Calvin. Willet specifically interacts with one section of Calvin’s Institutes. I’ve been reading that section again and can see why Willet and his opponent took that reading. Even before that, though, when I read Willet I was reminded of this earlier secetion from Calvin:

For example, suppose someone is told: “If God hated you while you were still a sinner, and cast you off, as you deserved, a terrible destruction would have awaited you. But because he kept you in grace voluntarily, and of his own free favor, and did not allow you to be estranged from him, he thus delivered you from that peril.” This man then will surely experience and feel something of what he owes to God’s mercy. On the other hand, suppose he learns, as Scripture teaches, that he was estranged from God through sin, is an heir of wrath, subject to the curse of eternal death, excluded from all hope of salvation, beyond every blessing of God, the slave of Satan, captive under the yoke of sin, destined finally for a dreadful destruction and already involved in it; and that at this point Christ interceded as his advocate, took upon himself and suffered the punishment that, from God’s righteous judgment, threatened all sinners;10 that he purged with his blood those evils which had rendered sinners hateful to God; that by this expiation he made satisfaction and sacrifice duly to God the Father; that as intercessor he has appeased God’s wrath; that on this foundation rests the peace of God with men; that by this bond his benevolence is maintained toward them. Will the man not then be even more moved by all these things which so vividly portray the greatness of the calamity from which he has been rescued?   Calvin, Institutes, 2.16.2.


            10There is no evidence in the Institutes (or anywhere else) that for Calvin, “all sinners” ever meant ‘all kinds of sinners,’ ‘some of all kinds of sinners,’or ‘the elect’ or ‘the church’–see 2.2.27; 2.8.21; 3.11.2; and 3.24.16;

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