That this distinction may be the more manifest, we must consider that the providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes.  By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, i.e., that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried.  If one falls among robbers or ravenous beasts, if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck, if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree, if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death – all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune.  But whoso has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Matthew 10.30) will look farther for the cause and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God.

With regard to inanimate objects, again, we must hold that, though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, yet all of them exert their force only insofar as directed by the immediate hand of God.  Hence, they are merely instruments into which God constantly infuses what energy He sees meet and turns and converts to any purpose at His pleasure.  No created object makes a more wonderful or glorious display than the sun.  For, besides illuminating the whole world with its brightness, how admirably does it foster and invigorate all animals by its heat and fertilize the earth by its rays, warming the seeds of grain in its lap and, thereby, calling forth the verdant blade!  This it supports, increases, and strengthens with additional nurture till it rises into the stalk, and still feeds it with perpetual moisture till it comes into flower and from flower to fruit, which it continues to ripen till it attains maturity.

In like manner, by its warmth trees and vines bud and put forth their first leaves, then their blossoms, then their fruit.  And the Lord, that He might claim the entire glory of these things as His own, was pleased that light should exist and that the earth should be replenished with all kinds of herbs and fruits before He made the sun.  No pious man, therefore, will make the sun either the necessary or principal cause of those things which existed before the creation of the sun, but only the instrument which God employs because He so pleases, though He can lay it aside and act equally well by Himself.  Again, when we read that, at the prayer of Joshua, the sun was stayed in its course (Joshua 10.13), that, as a favor to Hezekiah, its shadow receded ten degrees (2 Kings 20.11), by these miracles, God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its true course, that He may renew the remembrance of His paternal favor toward us.  Nothing is more natural than for spring, in its turn, to succeed winter, summer spring, and autumn summer, but, in this series, the variations are so great and so unequal as to make it very apparent that every single year, month, and day is regulated by a new and special providence of God. – John Calvin (1509-1564), from Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.16.2.


One thought on “On the Providence of God

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s