18 September 2002

An excerpt from Calvin's Sermons on Deuteronomy (Sermon 53, Saturday, 3 August 1555), regarding election from the perspective of the covenant:Now then it is of God's free election that we have his Word purely preached unto us and that we have his Gospel and Sacraments. And therein we have reason to confess that he has shown himself generous to us.

For by what title is the Gospel given to us, rather than to others who make greater account of themselves than we do and who are not inferior to us in the eyes of the world? Why does God pass over great kingdoms and principalities and nations of renown and choose a little nook and a small number of people so that his Word will be preached there? When it rains upon us and all the rest of the world remains still in drought, is it not to be concluded that God has the liberty to do good to whom he wishes?

And is this not of his love, to which we are then beholden? Yes.

So then, when the Gospel is preached in a place and it has the warrants that God gives men salvation--as when we have Baptism and the Lord's Holy Supper ministered uncorruptly--we may say it is an election of God.

But yet for all that, in the meantime he holds to himself those he so wishes in order that people should not trust the outward signs except by faith and obedience, knowing that although we have been chosen to be of the Body of the Church, yet if we do not make that election to our profit, God can well enough cut us off again and reserve a final number to himself.

And though there may be a great multitude of us who confess all with one mouth that God has chosen us, yet we cannot therefore say that he confirms us as his children unless we live in pureness of faith and have thus ratified that covenant God has made with us.

And so let us understand that God's generosity shows itself in all kinds of ways to us, and that therefore we have all the more reason to love him more and more and to yield to him all praise.

Do we have his Word? It is free grace to us, where he has bound us to himself. Do we have his sacraments? They are the badges of his fatherly election. We have not deserved these things...