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The Believer’s Solace in God’s Providence


[T]he Christian heart, since it has been thoroughly persuaded that all things happen by God’s plan, and that nothing takes place by chance, will ever look to him as the principal cause of things, yet will give attention to the secondary causes in their proper place. Then the heart will not doubt that God’s singular providence keeps watch to preserve it, and will not suffer anything to happen but what may turn out to its good and salvation. But since God’s dealings are first with man, then with the remaining creatures, the heart will have assurance that God’s providence rules over both. As far as men are concerned, whether they are good or evil, the heart of the Christian will know that their plans, wills, efforts, and abilities are under God’s hand; that it is within his choice to bend them whither he pleases and to constrain them whenever he pleases.

There are very many and very clear promises that testify that God’s singular providence watches over the welfare of believers: “Cast your care upon the Lord, and he will nourish you, and will never permit the righteous man to flounder” [Ps. 55:22 p.; cf. Ps. 54:28, Vg.]. For he takes care of us. [1 Pet. 5:7 p.] “He who dwells in the help of the Most High will abide in the protection of the God of heaven.” [Ps. 91:1; 90:1, Vg.] “He who touches you touches the pupil of mine eye.” [Zech. 2:8 p.] “I will be your shield” [Gen. 15:1 p.], “a brazen wall” [Jer. 1:18; 15:20]; “I will contend with those who contend with you” [Isa. 49:25]. “Even though a mother may forget her children, yet will I not forget you.” [Isa. 49:15 p.] Indeed, the principal purpose of Biblical history is to teach that the Lord watches over the ways of the saints with such great diligence that they do not even stumble over a stone [cf. Ps. 91:12].

Therefore, as we rightly rejected . . . the opinion of those who imagine a universal providence of God, which does not stoop to the especial care of any particular creature, yet first of all it is important that we recognize this special care toward us. Whence Christ, when he declared that not even a tiny sparrow of little worth falls to earth without the Father’s will [Matt. 10:29], immediately applies it in this way: that since we are of greater value than sparrows, we ought to realize that God watches over us with all the closer care [Matt. 10:31]; and he extends it so far that we may trust that the hairs of our head are numbered [Matt. 10:30]. What else can we wish for ourselves, if not even one hair can fall from our head without his will? I speak not only concerning mankind; but, because God has chosen the church to be his dwelling place, there is no doubt that he shows by singular proofs his fatherly care in ruling it.

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.6.

Posted 2018·03·01 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Institutes of the Christian Religion · John Calvin · Providence

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