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John Calvin defends the doctrine of election in A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God and counters a detractor with the unfortunate name of Pighius:

Some of our adversaries have preposterously asked, How can men be certain of their salvation if it lies in the secret counsel of God? I have replied in these statements, which are the truth. Since the certainty of salvation is “set forth” unto us in Christ, it is useless, and not without dishonour to Christ Himself, to pass over this fountain of life, which is thrown open that men may draw out of it, and to labour and toil in vain to draw the water of eternal life out of the hidden abysses of the mind and counsel of God! Paul testifies, indeed, that we were “chosen before the foundation of the world,” but it was “in Christ.”

Let no one, then, seek confidence in his own election of God anywhere else than “in Christ,” unless, indeed, he would blot out, and do away with, the “book of life” in which his name is written. God’s adoption of us “in Christ” is for no other end than that we should be considered His children…

Hence Christ, when dwelling on the eternal election of His own in the counsel of the Father, points out, at the same time, the ground on which their confidence may safely rest; where He says, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word” (John xvii. 6). We see here that God begins with Himself, when He condescends to choose us and give us to Christ. But He will have us begin with Christ, if we would know that we are numbered among His “peculiar people”…

If your doctrine and argument be true, says Pighius, that all the elect are thus secure in the hand of Christ “unto the end,” the condition of salvation on which Christ Himself lays down is proposed in vain, where He says, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. x. 22). Here, everyone must confess, that my opponent prevaricates. He had undertaken to prove that our confidence of our salvation could not consistently stand with our election of God. But now, his reasoning draws us away from that point, and leads us to prove that the former necessarily stands on the latter.

I thus find myself so perpetually tossed to and fro by the billows of this man’s violent attacks, that scarcely a moment passes in which I am not in danger of being drowned. But, as God ever upholds His elect to prevent them from sinking, I feel quite confident that I shall stand against all my adversary’s incessant storms. When Pighius asks me how I know that I am elected, my answer is, “Christ is, to me, more than a thousand witnesses.” For when I find myself engrafted into His body, my salvation rests in a place so safe, secure and tranquil, that it is as if I already realised it in heaven. (Calvin’s Calvinism, 132-133, 137)

Beautiful truth that. We do not find security in the inner recesses of the divine decree, but in Christ to whom we are joined by the Spirit through faith. “Christ is, to me, more than a thousand witnesses.” That’ll preach.

And be good for your soul too.

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8 thoughts on “My Favorite Line from John Calvin”

  1. Curt Day says:

    I’m not sure if teaching about the assurance of salvation is what people who live in a culture that revolves around individualism need.

  2. a. says:

    thanks for the greatest holiday season gratitude reason reminder

    we should always give thanks to God, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen us from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called us through the gospel, that we may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen our hearts in every good work and word. 2 Thess 13-14;16-17

  3. Mom Hark says:

    This is exactly what a person needs who lives in a culture that revolves around individualism. We cannot earn salvation on our own, as much as we would like to think that we can living in our individualist culture. So to know that God sees me and upholds me through the blood of Jesus and that assurance is rock solid, is so comforting. Praise Him!

  4. Curt Day says:

    The reason why I wrote what I did is that American Christians spiritualize that individualism, rather than repent from it, and that provides an even greater obstacle to loving one’s neighbor.

  5. James says:

    Hey Curt,

    Is not the truth then what spiritual individualists need to hear? That God through Christ is the one who upholds them and sustains them. Although a greater obstacle, it is nonetheless the truth. The call from God in witnessing is to be faithful to those we witness not necessarily successful.

  6. Curt Day says:

    We could put what I first wrote in terms of emphasis. Do individualists need to focus on and emphasize assurance of one’s own salvation or do they need to hear more about the Good Samaritan parable and how to love one’s neighbor? I ask this because it is both my observation and dread that individualists focus on assurance to become more inward than they started.

  7. mom hark says:

    It has been my observation that just the opposition is true. When someone is assured of their own salvation and understands the cost of that grace given by God through Jesus, the heart overflows in gratitude and wants others to hear that good news. Service for others comes flowing!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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