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The first chapters of Calvin's "Institutes" are taken up with a comprehensive exposition of the sources and guarantee of the knowledge of God and divine things (Book I. chs. i.-ix.). A systematic treatise on the knowledge of God must needs begin with such an exposition; and we require no account of the circumstance that Calvin's treatise begins with it, beyond the systematic character of his mind and the clearness and comprehensiveness of his view. This exposition therefore makes its appearance in the earliest edition of the "Institutes," which attempted "to give a summary of religion in all its parts," redacted in orderly sequence; that is to say, which was intended as a textbook in theology. This was the second edition, published in 1539, which was considered by Calvin to be the first which at all corresponded to its title. In this edition this exposition already stands practically complete. Large insertions were made into it subsequently, by which it was greatly enriched as a detailed exposition and validation of the sources of our knowledge of God; but no modifications were made in its fundamental teaching by these additions, and the ground plan of the exposition as laid down in 1539 was retained unaltered throughout the subsequent development of the treatise.
We may observe in the controversies in which Calvin had been engaged between 1536 and 1539 a certain preparation for writing this comprehensive and admirably balanced statement, with its equal repudiation of Romish and Anabaptist error and its high note of assurance in the face of the scepticism of the average man of the world. We may trace in it the fruits of his eager and exhaustive studies prosecuted in the interval, as pastor, professor, and Protestant statesman; and especially of his own ripening thought as he worked more and more into detail his systematic view of the body of truth. But we can attribute to nothing but his theological genius the feat by which he set a compressed apologetical treatise in the forefront of his little book - for the "Institutes" were still in 1539 a little book, although already expanded to more than double the size of their original form (edition of 1536). Thus he not only for the first time supplied the constructive basis for the Reformation movement, but even for the first time in the history of Christian theology drew in outline the plan of a complete structure of Christian Apologetics. For this is the significance in the history of thought of Calvin's exposition of the sources and guarantee of the knowledge of God, which forms the opening topic of his "Institutes." "Thus," says Julius Köstlin, after cursorily surveying the course of the exposition, "there already rises with him an edifice of Christian Apologetics, in its outlines complete (fertig). With it, he stands, already in 1539, unique (einzig) among the Reformers, and among Christian theologians in general up to his day. Only as isolated building-stones can appear in comparison with this, even what Melanchthon, for example, offered in the last elaboration of the Loci with reference to the proofs for the existence of God."2 In point of fact, in Augustine alone among his predecessors do we find anything like the same grasp of the elements of the problem as Calvin here exhibits; and nowhere among his predecessors do we find these elements brought together in a constructive statement of anything like the completeness and systematic balance which he gave to it.
At once on its publication, however, Calvin's apologetical construction became the property of universal Christian thought, and it has entered so vitally into Protestant, and especially Reformed, thinking as to appear now-a-days very much a matter of course. It is difficult for us to appreciate its novelty in him or to realize that it is not as native to every Christian mind as it now seems to us the inevitable adjustment of the elements of the problems raised by the Christian revelation. Familiar as it seems, therefore, it is important that we should apprehend it, at least in its outlines, as it lies in its primary statement in Calvin's pages. So only can we appreciate Calvin's genius or estimate what we owe to him. A very brief abstract will probably suffice, however, to bring before us in the first instance the elements of Calvin's thought. These include the postulation of an innate knowledge of God in man, quickened and developed by a very rich manifestation of God in nature and providence, which, however, fails of its proper effect because of man's corruption in sin; so that an objective revelation of God, embodied in the Scriptures, was rendered necessary, and, as well, a subjective operation of the Spirit of God on the heart enabling sinful man to receive this revelation - by which conjoint divine action, objective and subjective, a true knowledge of God is communicated to the human soul.
Drawn out a little more into detail, this teaching is as follows. The knowledge of God is given in the very same act by which we know self. For when we know self, we must know it as it is: and that means we must know it as dependent, derived, imperfect, and responsible being. To know self implies, therefore, the co-knowledge with self of that on which it is dependent, from which it derives, by the standard of which its imperfection is revealed, to which it is responsible. Of course, such a knowledge of self postulates a knowledge of God, in contrast with whom alone do we ever truly know self: but this only the more emphasises the fact that we know God in knowing self, and the relative priority of our knowledge of two objects of knowledge which we are conscious only of knowing together may for the moment be left undetermined. Meanwhile, it is clear than man has an instinctive and ineradicable knowledge of God, which, moreover, must produce appropriate reactions in his thought, feeling, and will, whence arises what we call religion. But these reactions are conditioned by the state of the soul which reacts. Although, then, man cannot avoid possessing a knowledge of God, and this innate knowledge of God is quickened and developed by the richest manifestations of God in nature and providence, which no man can escape either perceiving or so far apprehending, yet the actual knowledge of God which is framed in the human soul is affected by the subjective condition of the soul. The soul, being corrupted by sin, is dulled in its instinctive apprehension of God; and God's manifestation in nature and history is deflected in it. Accordingly the testimony of nature to God is insufficient that sinful man should know Him aright, and God has therefore supernaturally revealed Himself to His people and deposited this revelation of Himself in written Scriptures. In these Scriptures alone, therefore, do we possess an adequate revelation of God; and this revelation is attested as such by irresistible external evidence and attests itself as such by such marks of inherent divinity that no normal mind can resist them. But the sin-darkened minds to which it appeals are not normal minds, but disordered with the awful disease of sin. What is to give subjective effect in a sin-blinded mind to even a direct revelation from God? The revelation of God is its own credential. It needs no other light to be thrown upon it but that which emanates from itself: and no other light can produce the effect which its own splendor as a revelation of God should effect. But all fails when the receptivity is destroyed by sin. For sinners, therefore, there is requisite a repairing operation upon their souls before the light of the Word itself can accredit itself to them as light. This repairing operation on the souls of sinful men by which they are enabled to perceive light is called the testimony of the Holy Ghost: which is therefore just the subjective action of the Spirit of God on the heart, by virtue of which it is opened for the perception and reception of the objective revelation of God. The testimony of the Spirit cannot, then, take the place of the objective revelation of the Word: it is no revelation in this strict sense. It presupposes the objective revelation and only prepares the heart to respond to and embrace it. But the objective revelation can take no effect on the unprepared heart. What the operation of the Spirit on the heart does, then, is to implant, or rather to restore, a spiritual sense in the soul by which God is recognized in His Word. When this spiritual sense has been produced the necessity of external proofs that the Scriptures are the Word of God is superseded: the Word of God is as immediately perceived as such as light is perceived as light, sweetness as sweetness - as immediately and as inamissibly. The Christian's knowledge of God, therefore, rests no doubt on an instinctive perception of God native to man as man, developed in the light of a patefaction of God which pervades all nature and history; but particularly on an objective revelation of God deposited in Scriptures which bear in themselves their own evidence of their divine origin, to which every spiritual man responds with the same strength of conviction with which he recognizes light as light. This is the basis which Calvin in his " Institutes " places beneath his systematic exposition of the knowledge of God.
The elements of Calvin's thought here, it will readily be seen, reduce themselves to a few great fundamental principles. These embrace particularly the following doctrines: the doctrine of the innate knowledge of God; the doctrine of the general revelation of God in nature and history; the doctrine of the special revelation of God and its embodiment in Scriptures; the doctrine of the noetic effects of sin; the doctrine of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. That we may do justice to his thought we must look in some detail at his treatment of each of these doctrines and of the subordinate topics which are necessarily connected with them.
I. NATURAL REVELATION
That the knowledge of God is innate (I. iii. 3), naturally engraved on the hearts of men (I. iv. 4), and so a part of their very constitution as men (I. iii. 1), that it is a matter of instinct (I. iii. 1, I. iv. 2), and every man is self-taught it from his birth (I. iii. 3), Calvin is thoroughly assured. He lays it down as incontrovertible fact that "the human mind, by natural instinct itself, possesses some sense of a deity" (I. iii. 1, ad init. et ad fin.; 3 - sensus divinitatis or deitatis),3 and defends the corollaries which flow from this fact, that the knowledge of God is universal and indelible. All men know there is a God, who has made them, and to whom they are responsible. No savage is sunk so low as to have lost this sense of deity, which is wrought into his very constitution: and the degradation of men's worship is a proof of its ineradicableness - since even such dehumanization as this worship manifests has not obliterated it (I. iii. 1). It is the precondition of all religion, without which no religion would ever have arisen; and it forms the silent assumption of all attempts to expound the origin of religion in fraud or political artifice, as it does also of all corruptions of religion, which find their nerve in men's incurable religious propensities (I. iii. 1). The very atheists testify to its persistence in their ill-concealed dread of the deity they profess to despise (I. iv. 2); and the wicked, strive they ever so hard to banish from their consciousness the sense of an accusing deity, are not permitted by nature to forget it (I. iii. 3). Thus the cases alike of the savages, the atheists, and the wicked are made contributory to the establishment of the fact, and the discussion concludes with the declaration that it is by this innate knowledge of God that men are discriminated from the brutes, so that for men to lose it would be to fall away from the very law of their creation (I. iii. 3, ad fin.).4
If the knowledge of God enters thus into the very idea of humanity and constitutes a law of its being, it follows that it is given in the same act of knowledge by which we know ourselves. This position is developed at length in the opening chapter. The discussion begins with a remark which reminds us of Augustine's familiar contention that the proper concern of mankind is the knowledge of God and the soul; to which it is added at once that these two knowledges are so interrelated that it is impossible to assign the priority to either. The knowledge of self involves the knowledge of God and also profits by the knowledge of God: the better we know ourselves the better we shall know God, but also, we shall never know ourselves as we really are save in contrast with God, by whom is supplied the only standard for the formation of an accurate judgment upon ourselves (I. i. 2). In his analysis of the mode of the implication of the knowledge of God in the knowledge of self, Calvin lays the stress upon our nature as dependent, derived, imperfect, and responsible beings, which if known at all must be known as such, and to be known as such must be known as over against that Being on whom we are dependent, to whom we owe our being, over against whom our imperfection is manifest, and to whom we are responsible (I. i. 1). As we are not self-existent, we must recognize ourselves as "living and moving" in Another. We recognize ourselves as products, and in knowing the product know the cause; thus our very endowments, seeing that they distil to us by drops from heaven, form so many streams up which our minds must needs travel to their Fountainhead. The perception of our imperfections is at the same time the perception of His perfection; so that our very poverty displays to us His infinite fulness. Our sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves directs our eyes to Him whose righteous judgment we can but anticipate; and when in the presence of His majesty we realize our meanness and in the presence of His righteousness we realize our sin, our perception of God passes into consternation as we recognize in Him our just Judge.
The emphasis which Calvin places in this analysis upon the sense of sin and the part it plays in our knowledge of God, at once attracts attention. It is perhaps above everything the "miserable ruin" in which we find ourselves, which compels us, according to him, to raise our eyes towards heaven, spurred on not merely by a sense of lack but by a sense of dread: it is only, he declares, when we have begun to be displeased with ourselves that we energetically turn our thoughts Godward. This is already an indication of the engrossment of Calvin in this treatise with practical rather than merely theoretical problems. He is less concerned to show how man as man attains to a knowledge of God, than how man as he actually exists upon the earth attains to it. In the very act of declaring that this knowledge is instinctive and belongs to the very constitution of man as such, therefore, he so orders the exposition of the mode of its actual rise in the mind as to throw the emphasis on a quality which does not belong to man as such, but only to man as actually existing in the world - in that "miserable ruin into which we have been plunged by the defection of the first man" (I. i. 1). Man as unfallen, by the very necessity of his nature would have known God, the sphere of his being, the author of his existence, the standard of his excellences; but for man as fallen, Calvin seems to say, the strongest force compelling him to look upwards to the God above him, streams from his sense of sin, filling him with a fearful looking forward to judgment.
It is quite obvious that such a knowledge of God as Calvin here postulates as the unavoidable and ineradicable possession of man, is far from a mere empty conviction that such a being as God exists. The knowledge of God which is given in our knowledge of self is not a bare perception, it is a conception: it has content. "The knowledge of ourselves, therefore," says Calvin (I. i. 1, ad fin.), " is not only an incitement to seek after God, but becomes a considerable assistance towards finding God." The knowledge of God with which we are natively endowed is therefore more than a bare conviction that God is: it involves, more or less explicated, some understanding of what God is. Such a knowledge of God can never be otiose and inert; but must produce an effect in human souls, in the way of thinking, feeling, willing. In other words, our native endowment is not merely a sensus deitatis, but also a semen religionis (I. iii. 1, 2; iv. 1, 4; v. 1). For what we call religion is just the reaction of the human soul to what it perceives God to be. Calvin is, therefore, just as insistent that religion is universal as that the knowledge of God is universal. "The seeds of religion," he insists, "are sown in every heart " (I. iv. 1; cf. v. 1); men are propense to religion (I. iii. 2, med.); and always and everywhere frame to themselves a religion, consonant with their conceptions of God.
Calvin's ideas of the origin and nature of religion are set forth, if succinctly, yet with eminent clearness, in his second chapter. Wherever any knowledge of God exists, he tells us, there religion exists. He is not speaking here of a competent knowledge of God such as redeemed sinners have in Christ. But much less is he speaking of that mere notion that there is such a being as God which is sometimes called a knowledge of God. It may be possible to speculate on "the essence" of God without being moved by it. But certainly it is impossible to form any vital conception of God without some movement of intellect, feeling, and will towards Him; and any real knowledge of God is inseparable from movements of piety towards Him. Piety means reverence and love to God; and the knowledge of God tends therefore to produce in us, first, sentiments of fear and reverence; and, secondly, an attitude of receptivity and praise to Him as the fountain of all blessing. If man were not a sinner, indeed, such would be the result: men, knowing God, would turn to Him in confidence and commit themselves without reserve to His care - not so much fearing His judgments, as making them in sympathetic loyalty their own (I. ii. 2). And herein we see what pure and genuine religion is: "it consists in faith, united with a serious fear of God, comprehending a voluntary reverence, and producing legitimate worship agreeable to the injunctions of the law " (I. ii. 2, ad fin.).5
The definition of religion to which Calvin thus attains is exceedingly interesting, and that not merely because of its vital relation to the fundamental thought of these opening chapters, but also because of its careful adjustment to the state of the controversy in which he was engaged as a leader of the Reformation. In the first of these aspects, as we have already pointed out, religion is with him the vital effect of the knowledge of God in the human soul; so that inevitably religions will differ as the conceptions of God determining our thought and feeling and directing our life differ. In the estate of purity, the knowledge of God produces reverence and trust: and the religion of sinless man will therefore exhibit no other traits but trust and love. In sinful man, the same knowledge of God must produce, rather, a reaction of fear and hate - until the grace of God intervenes with a message of mercy. Sinful man cannot be trusted, therefore, to form his own religion for himself, but must in all his religious functioning place himself unreservedly under the direction of God in His gracious revelation. In its second aspect, then, we perceive Calvin carefully framing his definition so as to exclude all "will-worship" and to prepare the way for the condemnation of the "formal worship" and "ostentation in ceremonies" which had become prevalent in the old Church. The position he takes up here is essentially that which has come down to us under the name of "the Puritan principle." Religion consists, of course, not in the externalities of worship, but in faith, united with a serious fear of God, and a willing reverence. But its external expression in worship is not therefore unimportant, but is to be strictly confined to what is prescribed by God: to "legitimate worship, agreeable to the injunctions of the law" (I. ii. 2, ad fin.). This declaration is returned to and expounded in a striking section of the fourth chapter (I. iv. 3; cf. I. v. 13), where Calvin insists that "the divine will is the perpetual rule to which true religion is to be conformed," and asserts of newly invented modes of worshipping God, that they are tantamount to idolatry. God cannot be pleased by showing contempt for what He commands and substituting other things which He condemns; and none would dare to trifle in such a manner with Him unless they had already transformed Him in their minds into another and different Being: and in that case it is of little importance whether you worship one god or many.6
From this digression for the sake of asserting the "Puritan," that is, the "Reformed," principle with reference to acceptable worship, it is already apparent that Calvin did not suppose that men have been left to the notitia Dei insita for the framing of their religion, although he is insistent that therefrom proceeds a propensity to religion which already secures that all men shall have a religion (I. ii. 2). On the contrary, he teaches that to the ineradicable revelation of Himself which He has imprinted on human nature, God has added an equally clear and abundant revelation of Himself externally to us. As we cannot know ourselves without knowing God, so neither can we look abroad on nature or contemplate the course of events without seeing Him in His works and deeds (I. v.). Calvin is exceedingly emphatic as to the clearness, universality, and convincingness of this natural revelation of God. The whole world is but a theatre for the display of the divine glory (I. v. 5); God manifests Himself in every part of it, and, turn our eyes whichever way we will, we cannot avoid seeing Him; for there is no atom of the world in which some sparks of His glory do not shine (I. v. 1). So pervasive is God in nature, indeed, that it may even be said by a pious mind that nature is God (I. v. 5) - though the expression is too readily misapprehended in a Pantheistic (I. v. 5) or Materialistic (I. v. 4) sense to justify its use. Accordingly, no man can escape this manifestation of God; we cannot open our eyes without seeing it, and the language in which it is delivered to us penetrates through even the densest stupidity and ignorance (I. v. 1). To every individual on earth, therefore, with the exclusion of none (I. v. 7), God abundantly manifests Himself (I. v. 2). Each of the works of God invites the whole human race to the knowledge of Him; while their contemplation in the mass offers an even more prevalent exhibition of Him (I. v. 10). And so clear are His footsteps in His providence, that even what are commonly called accidents are only so many proofs of His activity (I. v. 8).
In developing this statement of the external natural revelation of God, Calvin presents first His patefaction in creation (I. v. 1-6) and then His patefaction in providence (I. v. 7-9), and under each head lays the primary stress on the manifestations of the divine wisdom and power (I. v. 2-5, wisdom; 6, power; 8, wisdom and power). But the other attributes which enter into His glory are not neglected. Thus, under the former caption, he points out that the perception of the divine power in creation "leads us to the consideration of His eternity; because He from whom all things derive their origin must necessarily be eternal and self-existent," while we must postulate goodness and mercy as the motives of His creation and providence (I. v. 6). Under the second caption, he is particularly copious in drawing out the manifestations of the divine benignity and beneficence - of His clemency - though he does not scruple also to point to the signs of His severity (I. v. 7, cf. 10). From the particular contemplation of the divine clemency and severity in their peculiar distribution here, indeed, he pauses to draw an argument for a future life when apparent irregularities will be adjusted (I. v. 10).
The vigor and enthusiasm with which Calvin prosecutes his exposition of the patefaction of God in nature and history is worth emphasising further. He even turns aside (I. v. 9) to express his special confidence in it, in contrast to a priori reasoning, as the "right way and the best method of seeking God." A speculative inquiry into the essence of God, he suggests, merely fatigues the mind and flutters in the brain. If we would know God vitally, in our hearts, let us rather contemplate Him in His works. These, we shall find, as the Psalmist points out, declare His greatness and conduce to His praise. Once more, we may observe here the concreteness of Calvin's mind and method, and are reminded of the practical end he keeps continually in view.7 So far is he from losing himself in merely speculative elaborations or prosecuting his inquiries under the spur of "presumptuous curiosity," that the practical religious motive is always present, dominating his thought. His special interest in the theistic argument is, accordingly, due less to the consideration that it rounds out his systematic view of truth than to the fact that it helps us to the vital knowledge of God. And therefore he is no more anxious to set it forth in its full force than he is to point out the limitations which affect its practical value.8 In and of itself, indeed, it has no limitations; Calvin is fully assured of its validity and analyses its data with entire confidence; to him nothing is more certain than that in the mirror of His works God gives us clear manifestations both of Himself and of His everlasting dominion (I. v. 11). But Calvin cannot content himself with an intellectualistic contemplation of the objective validity of the theistic argument. So dominated is he by practical interests that he actually attaches to the chapter in which he argues this objective validity a series of sections in which he equally strongly argues the subjective inability of man to receive its testimony. Objectively valid as the theistic proofs are, they are ineffective to produce a just knowledge of God in the sinful heart. The insertion of these sections here is the more striking in that they almost seem unnecessary in view of the clear exposition of the noetic effects of sin which had been made in the preceding chapter (ch. iv.) - although, of course, there the immediate reference was to the notitia Dei insita, while here it is to the notitia Dei acquisita.
Thus, however, our attention is drawn very pointedly to Calvin's doctrine of the disabilities with reference to the knowledge of God which are induced in the human mind by sin. He has, as has just been noted, adverted formally to them twice in these opening chapters of his treatise - on the earlier occasion (ch. iv.) with especial reference to the revelation of God made in the constitution of human nature, and on the later occasion (ch. v. §§ 11-15) with especial reference to the revelation of God made in His works and deeds. Were man in his normal state, he could not under this double revelation, internal and external, fail to know God as God would wish to be known. If he actually comes short of an adequate knowledge of God, therefore, this cannot be attributed to any shortcomings in the revelation of God. Calvin is perfectly clear as to the objective adequacy of the general revelation of God. Men, however, do come short of an adequate knowledge of God; and that not merely some men, but all men: the failure of the general revelation of God to produce in men an adequate knowledge of Him is as universal as is the revelation itself. The explanation is to be found in the corruption of men's hearts by sin, by which not merely are they rendered incapable of reading off the revelation of God which is displayed in His works and deeds, but their very instinctive knowledge of God, embedded in their constitution as men, is dulled and almost obliterated. The energy with which Calvin asserts this is almost startling, and matches in its emphasis that which he had placed on the reality and objective validity of the revelation of God. Though the seeds of religion are sown by God in every heart, yet not one man in a hundred has preserved even these seeds sound, and in no one at all have they grown to their legitimate harvest. All have degenerated from the true knowledge of God, and genuine piety has perished from the earth (I. iv. 1). The light which God has kindled in the breasts of men has been smothered and all but extinguished by their iniquity (I. iv. 4). The manifestation which God has given of Himself in the structure and organization of the world is lost on our stupidity (I. v. 11). The rays of God's glory are diffused all around us, but do not illuminate the darkness of our mind (I. v. 14). So that in point of fact, "men who are taught only by nature, have no certain, sound or distinct knowledge, but are confined to confused principles; they worship accordingly an unknown God " (I. v. 12, fin.): "no man can have the least knowledge of true and sound doctrine without having been a disciple of the Scriptures" (I. vi. 2, ad fin.): "the human mind is through its imbecility unable to attain any knowledge of God without the assistance of the Sacred Word" (I. vi. 4, ad fin.).
Calvin therefore teaches with great emphasis the bankruptcy of the natural knowledge of God. We must keep fully in mind, however, that this is not due in his view to any inadequacy or ineffectiveness of natural revelation, considered objectively.9 He continues to insist that the seeds of religion are sown in every heart (I. v. l, ad init.) ; that through all man's corruption the instincts of nature still suggest the memory of God to his mind (I. v. 2); that it is impossible to eradicate that sense of the deity which is naturally engraved on all hearts (I. iv. 4, ad fin.); that the structure and organization of the world, and the things that daily happen out of the ordinary course of nature, that is under the providential government of God, bear a witness to God which the dullest ear cannot fail to hear (I. v. 1, 3, 7, esp. II. vi. 1); and that the light that shines from creation, while it may be smothered, cannot be so extinguished but that some rays of it find their way into the most darkened soul (I. v. 14). God has therefore never left Himself without a witness; but, "with various and most abundant benignity sweetly allures men to a knowledge of Him, though they persist in following their own ways, their pernicious and fatal errors" (I. v. 14). The sole cause of the failure of the natural revelation is to be found, therefore, in the corruption of the human heart. Two results flow from this fact. First, it is not a question of the extinction of the knowledge of God, but of the corruption of the knowledge of God. And secondly, men are without excuse for their corruption of the knowledge of God. On both points Calvin is insistent.
He does not teach that all religion has perished out of the earth, but only that no "genuine piety" remains (I. iv. 1, ad init.): he does not teach that men retain no knowledge of God, but no "certain, sound or distinct knowledge" (I. v. 12, ad fin.). The seed of religion remains their inalienable possession, "but it is so corrupted as to produce only the worst fruits" (I. iv. 4, ad fin.). Here we see Calvin's judgment on natural religion. Its reality he is quick to assert: but equally quickly its inadequacy - and that because not merely of a negative incompleteness but also of a positive corruption. Men have corrupted the knowledge of God; and perhaps Calvin might even subscribe the declaration of a modern writer that men's religions are their worst crimes.10 Certainly Calvin paints in dark colors the processes by which men form for themselves conceptions of God under the light of nature, or rather, in the darkness of their minds, from which the light of nature is as far as lies in their power excluded. "Their conceptions of God are formed, not according to the representations He gives of Himself, but by the invention of their own presumptuous imaginations" (I. iv. 1, med.). They set Him far off from themselves and make Him a mere idler in heaven (I. iv. 2); they invent all sorts of vague and confused notions concerning Him, until they involve themselves in such a vast accumulation of errors as almost to extinguish the light that is within them (I. iv. 4); they confuse Him with His works, until even a Plato loses himself in the round globe (I. v. 11); they even endeavor to deny His very existence (I. v. 12), and substitute demons in His place (I. v. 13). Certainly it is not surprising, then, that the Holy Spirit, speaking in Scripture, "condemns as false and lying whatever was formerly worshipped as divine among the Gentiles," nay, "rejects as false every form of worship which is of human contrivance," and "leaves no Deity but in Mount Zion" (I. v. 13). The religions of men differ, doubtless, among themselves: some are more, some less evil; but all are evil and the evil of none is trivial.
Are men to be excused for this, their corruption of the knowledge of God? Are we to listen with sympathy to the plea that light has been lacking? It is not a case of insufficient light, but of an evil heart. Excuses are vain, for this heart-darkness is criminal. If we speak of ignorance here, we must remember it is a guilty ignorance; an ignorance which rests on pride and vanity and contumacy (I. iv. 1), an ignorance which our own consciences will not excuse (I. v. 15). What! shall we plead that we lack ears to hear what even mute creatures proclaim? that we have no eyes to see what it needs no eyes to see? that we are mentally too weak to learn what mindless creatures teach? (I. v. 15). We are ignorant of what all things conspire to inform us of, only because we sinfully corrupt their message; their insufficiency has its roots in us, not in them; wherefore we are without excuse (I. iv. 1; v. 14-15). Our "folly is inexcusable, seeing that it originates not only in a vain curiosity, but in false confidence, and an immoderate desire to exceed the limits of human knowledge" (I. iv. 1, fin.). "Whatever deficiency of natural ability prevents us from attaining the pure and clear knowledge of God, yet, since that deficiency arises from our own fault, we are left without any excuse " (I. v. 15, ad init.).
The natural revelation of God failing thus to produce its legitimate effects of a sound knowledge of God, because of the corruption of men's hearts, we are thrown back for any adequate knowledge of God upon supernatural activities of God communicating His truth to men. It is accordingly in an assertion and validation of these supernatural revelatory operations of God that Calvin's discussion reaches its true center. To this extent his whole discussion of natural revelation - in its inception in the implantation in man of a sensus deitatis, in its culmination in the patefaction of God in His works and deeds, and in its failure through the sin-bred blindness of humanity - may be said to be merely introductory to and intended to prepare the way for his discussion of the supernatural operations of God by which He meets this otherwise hopeless condition of humanity sunk in its corrupt notions of God. These operations obviously must meet a twofold need. A clearer and fuller revelation of God must be brought to men than that which is afforded by nature. And the darkened minds of men must be illuminated for its reception. In other words, what is needed, is a special supernatural revelation on the one hand, and a special supernatural illumination on the other. It is to the validation of this twofold supernatural operation of God in communicating the knowledge of Himself that Calvin accordingly next addresses himself (chs. vi.-ix.).
One or two peculiarities of his treatment of them attract our notice at the outset, and seem to invite attention, before we enter into a detailed exposition of the doctrine he presents. It is noticeable that Calvin does not pretend that this supernatural provision of knowledge of God to meet men's sin-born ignorance is as universal in its reach as the natural revelation which it supplements and, so far as efficiency is concerned, supersedes. On the contrary, he draws it expressly into a narrower circle. That general revelation "presented itself to all eyes" and "is more than sufficient to deprive the ingratitude of men of every excuse, since," in it, "God, in order to involve all mankind in the same guilt, sets an exhibition of His majesty, delineated in the creatures, before them all without exception" (I. vi. 1, init.). But His supernatural revelation He grants only "to those whom He intends to unite in a more close and familiar connection with Himself" (ibid.); "to those to whom He has determined to make His instructions effectual" (I. vi. 3); in a word, to "the elect" (I. vi. 1; vii. 5 near end). In dealing with the supernatural revelation of God, therefore, Calvin is conscious of dealing with a special operation of the divine grace by means of which God is communicating to those He is choosing to be His people the saving knowledge of Himself. It is observable also that, in speaking of this supernatural revelation, he identifies it from the outset distinctly with the Scriptures (ch. vi.). This is in accordance with the practical end and engrossment which, as we have already had occasion to note, dominate his whole discussion. He was not unaware that the special revelation of God antedates the Scriptures: on occasion he speaks discriminatingly enough of this revelation in itself and the Scriptures in which it is embodied. But his mind is less on the abstract truth than on the concrete conditions which surrounded him in his work. Whatever may have been true ages gone, to-day the special revelation of God coalesces with the Scriptures, and he does not occupy himself formally with it except as it presents itself to the men of his own time. The task which he undertakes, therefore, is distinctly to show that men have in the Scriptures a special revelation of God supplementing and so far superseding the general revelation of God in nature; and that God so operates with this His special revelation of Himself as to overcome the sin-bred disabilities of man.
In this state of the case we may perhaps be justified in leaving at this point the logical development of his construction and expounding Calvin's teaching more formally under the heads of his doctrine of Holy Scripture and his doctrine of the Testimony of the Holy Spirit.
II. HOLY SCRIPTURE
First, then, what was Calvin's doctrine of Holy Scripture?
Under the designation of "Scripture" or "the Scriptures" Calvin understood that body of writings which have been transmitted to us as the divinely given rule of faith and life. In this body of writings, that is to say, in "the Canon of Scripture," he included all the books of the Old Covenant which were recognized by the Jewish Church as of divine gift, and as such handed down to the Christian Church; and all the books of the New Covenant which have been given the Church by the Apostles as its authoritative law-code. Calvin's attitude towards the canon was thus somewhat more conservative than, say, Luther's. He knew of no such distinction as that between Canonical and Deutero-Canonical Books, whether in the Old or the New Testament. The so-called "Apocryphal Books" of the Old Testament, included within the canon by the decrees of Trent, he rejected out of hand: the so-called "Antilegomena" of the New Testament he accepted without exception.11
The representations which are sometimes made, to the effect that he felt doubts of the canonicity of some of the canonical books or even was convinced of their uncanonicity,12 rest on a fundamental misconception of his attitude, and are wrecked on his express assertions. No doubt he has not left us commentaries on all the Biblical Books, and no doubt his omission to write or lecture on certain books is not to be explained merely by lack of time, but involves an act of selection on his part, which was not unaffected by his estimate of the relative importance of the several books or by his own spiritual sympathies.13 He has also occasionally employed a current expression, such as, for example, "the Canonical Epistle of John,"14 when speaking of I John, which, if strictly interpreted, might be thought to imply denial of the genuineness of certain books of the canon - such as II and III John - and not merely the momentary or habitual neglect of them; just as the common use of the term "the Apostle" of Paul might be said, if similarly strictly pressed, to imply that there was no other Apostle but he. It is also true that he expresses himself with moderation when adducing the evidence for the canonicity of this book or that, and in his modes of statement quite clearly betrays his recognition that the evidence is more copious or more weighty in some cases than in others. But he represents the evidence as sufficient in all cases and declares with confidence his conclusion in favor of the canonicity of the whole body of books which make up our Bible, and in all his writings and controversies acts firmly on this presupposition. How, for example, is it possible to contend that some grave reason connected with doubts on his part of their canonical authority underlies the failure of Calvin to comment on "the three books attributed to Solomon, particularly the Song of Songs,"15 in the face of the judgment of the ministers of Geneva with regard to Castellion, which is thus reported by Calvin himself over his signature.16 "We unanimously judged him one who might be appointed to the functions of the pastor, except for a single obstacle which opposed it. When we asked him, according to custom, whether he was in accord with us on all points of doctrine, he replied that there were two on which he could not share our views: one of them . . . being our inscribing the Song of Solomon in the number of sacred books. . . . We conjured him first of all, not to permit himself the levity of treating as of no account the constant witness of the universal Church; we reminded him that there is no book the authenticity of which is doubtful, about which some discussion has not been raised; that even those to which we now attach an undisputed authenticity were not admitted from the beginning without controversy; that precisely this one is one which has never been openly repudiated. We also exhorted him against trusting unreasonably in his own judgment, especially where nothing was toward which all the world had not been aware of before he was born. . . . All these arguments having no effect on him, we thought it necessary to consider among ourselves what we ought to do. Our unanimous opinion was that it would be dangerous and would set a bad precedent to admit him to the ministry in these circumstances. . . . We should thus condemn ourselves for the future to raise no objection to another, should one present himself and wish similarly to repudiate Ecclesiastes or Proverbs or any other book of the Bible, without being dragged into a debate as to what is and what is not worthy of the Holy Spirit."17 Not merely the firmness with which Calvin held to the canoncity of all the books of our Bible, but the importance he attached to the acceptance of the canonical Scriptures in their integrity, is made perfectly clear by such an incident; and indeed so also are the grounds on which he accepted these books as canonical.
These grounds, to speak briefly, were historico-critical. Calvin, we must bear in mind, was a Humanist before he was a Reformer,18 and was familiar with the whole process of determining the authenticity of ancient documents. If then he received the Scriptures from the hands of the Church, not indulging himself in the levity of treating the constant witness of the universal Church as of no account, he was nevertheless not disposed to take "tradition" uncritically at its face value. His acceptance of the canon of the Church was therefore not a blind but a critically mediated acceptance. Therefore he discarded the Aprocrypha: and if he accepted the Antilegomena it was because they commended themselves to his historico-critical judgment as holding of right a place in the canon. The organon of his critical investigation of the canon was in effect twofold. He inquired into the history of the books in question. He inquired into their internal characteristics. Have they come down to us from the Apostolic Church, commanding either unbrokenly or on the whole the suffrages of those best informed or best qualified to judge of their canonical claims? Are they in themselves conformable to the claims made for them of apostolic, which is as much as to say, divine origin? It was by the application of this twofold test that he excluded the Apocrypha of the Old Testament from the canon. They had in all ages been discriminated from the canonical books, and differ from them as the writing of an individual differs from an instrument which has passed under the eye of a notary and been sealed to be received of all.19 Some Fathers, it is true, deemed them canonical; even Augustine was of that way of thinking, although he had to allow that opinions differed widely upon the matter. Others, however, could admit them to no higher rank than that of "ecclesiastical books," which inight be useful to read but could not supply a foundation for doctrine; among such were Jerome and Rufinus.20 And, when we observe their contents, no sane mind will fail to pass judgment against them.21 Rome may, indeed, find her interest in defending them, for she may discover support in them for some of her false teachings. But this very fact is their condemnation. "I beg you to observe," he says of the closing words of II Maccabees, where the writer sets his hope in his own works: "I beg you to observe how far this confession falls away from the majesty of the Holy Spirit"22 - that is to say, from the constant teaching of Holy Scripture.
And it was by the application of the same two-fold test that he accredited the Antilegomena of the New Testament as integral parts of the canon. In the Preface which he has prefixed to II Peter, for example, he notes that Eusebius speaks of some who rejected it. "If it is a question," he adds, "of yielding to the simple authority of men, since he [Eusebius] does not name those who brought the matter into doubt, no necessity seems to be laid on us to credit these unknown people. And, moreover, he adds that afterwards it was generally received without contradiction. . . . It is a matter agreed upon by all, of common accord, that there is nothing in this Epistle unworthy of Saint Peter, but that, on the contrary, from one end of it to the other, there are apparent the force, vehemence and grace of the Spirit with which the Apostles were endowed. . . . Since, then, in all parts of the Epistle the majesty of the Spirit of Christ is clearly manifest, I cannot reject it entirely, although I do not recognize in it the true and natural phrase of Saint Peter."23 To meet the difficulty arising from the difference of the style from that of I Peter, he therefore supposed that the Epistle is indeed certainly Peter's, since otherwise it would be a forgery, a thing inconceivable in a book of its high character,24 but was dictated in his old age to some one of his disciples, to whom it owes its peculiarities of diction. Here we have an argument conducted on the two grounds of the external witness of the Church and the internal testimony of the contents of the book: and these are the two grounds on which he everywhere depends. Of the Epistle of Jude he says:25 "Because the reading of it is very useful, and it contains nothing that is not in accord with the purity of the Apostolic doctrine; because also it has long been held to be authentic by all the best men, for my part, I willingly place it in the number of the other epistles." In other cases the external evidence of the Church is not explicitly mentioned and the stress of the argument is laid on the Apostolic character of the writing as witnessed by its contents. He receives Hebrews among the Apostolic Epistles without difficulty, because nowhere else is the sacrifice of Christ more clearly or simply declared and other evangelical doctrines taught: surely it must have been due to the wiles of Satan that the Western Church so long doubted its canonicity.26 James seems to him to contain nothing unworthy of an Apostle of Christ, but to be on the contrary full of good teaching, valuable for all departments of Christian living.27 For the application of this argument he of course takes his start from the Homologoumena, which gave him the norm of Apostolic teaching which he used for testing the other books. It must not be supposed that he received even these books, however, without critico-historical inquiry: but only that the uniform witness of the Church to their authority weighed with him above all grounds of doubt. It was, in a word, on the ground of a purely scientific investigation that Calvin accredited to himself the canon. It had come down to him through the ages, accredited as such by the constant testimony of its proper witnesses: and it accredited itself to critical scrutiny by its contents.28
The same scientific spirit attended Calvin in his dealing with the text of Scripture. As a Humanist he was familiar with the processes employed in settling the texts of classical authors; and naturally he used the same methods in his determination of the text of the Biblical books. His practice here is marked by a combination of freedom and sobriety; and his decisions, though often wrong, as they could not but be in the state of the knowledge of the transmission of the New Testament text at the time, always manifest good sense, balance, and trained judgment. In his remarks on the pericope of the adulteress (John viii. 1-11), we meet the same circle of ideas with which we are familiar from his remarks on the Antilegomena: "because it has always been received by the Latin Churches and is found in many of the Greek copies and old writers, and contains nothing which would be unworthy of an apostolical spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to take our profit from it."29 He accepts the three-witness passage of I John v. 7. "Since the Greek codices do not agree with themselves," he says, "I scarcely dare reach a conclusion. Yet, as the context flows most smoothly if this clause is added, and I see that it stands in the best codices and those of the most approved credit, I also willingly adopt it."30 When puzzled by difficulties, he, quite like the Humanist dealing with a classical text, feels free to suggest that there may be a "mendum in voce." This he does, for example, in Mat. xxiii. 35, where he adduces this possibility among others; and still more instructively in Mat. xxvii. 9, where he just as simply assumes "Jeremiah" to be a corrupt reading31 as his own editors assume that the "Apius" which occurs in the French version of the "Institutes" in connection with Josephus is due to a slip of his translators, not of his own - remarking: "It is evident that it cannot be Calvin who translated this passage."32 His assurance that it cannot be the Biblical writer who stumbles leads him similarly to attribute what seems to him a manifest error to the copyists. It is only, however, in such passages as these that he engages formally in textual emendation. Ordinarily he simply follows the current text, although he is, of course, not without an intelligent ground for his confidence in it.33 As we cursorily read his commentaries we feel ourselves in the hands of one who is sanely and sagely scrutinizing the text with which he is dealing from the point of view of a scholar accustomed to deal with ancient texts, whose confidence in its general integrity represents the well-grounded conclusion of a trained judgment. His occasional remarks on the text, and his rare suggestion of a corruption, are indicia of the alertness of his general scrutiny of the text and serve to assure us that his acceptance of it as a whole as sound is not merely inert acquiescence in tradition, but represents the calm judgment of an instructed intelligence.
INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE
Now, these sixty-six books of canonical Scriptures handed down to us, in the singular providence of God,34 in a sound text which meets the test of critical scrutiny, Calvin held to be the very Word of God. This assertion he intended in its simplest and most literal sense. He was far from overlooking the fact that the Scriptures were written by human hands: he expressly declares that, though we have received them from God's own mouth, we have nevertheless received them "through the ministry of men."35 But he was equally far from conceiving that the relation of their human authors to their divine author resembled in any degree that of free intermediaries, who, after receiving the divine word, could do with it what they listed.36 On the contrary, he thought of them rather as notaries (IV. viii. 9), who set down in authentic registers (I. vi. 3) what was dictated to them (Argumentum in Ev. Joh.).37 They wrote, therefore, merely as the organs of the Holy Ghost, and did not speak ex suo sensu, not humano impulsu, not sponte sua, not arbitrio suo, but set out only quae coelitus mandata fuerant.38 The diversity of the human authors thus disappears for Calvin before the unity of the Spirit, the sole responsible author of Scripture, which is to him therefore not the verba Dei, but emphatically the verbum Dei.39 It is a Deo ("Institutes," I. vii. 5); it has "come down to us from the very mouth of God " (I. vii. 5);40 it has " come down from heaven as if the living words of God themselves were heard in it" (I. vii. 1);41 and "we owe it therefore the same reverence which we owe to God Himself, since it has proceeded from Him alone, and there is nothing human mixed with it" (Com. on II Tim. iii. 16).42 According to this declaration the Scriptures are altogether divine, and in them, as he puts it energetically in another place, "it is God who speaks with us and not mortal men " (Com. on II Pet. i. 20).43 Accordingly, he cites Scripture everywhere not as the word of man but as the pure word of God. His "holy word" is "the scepter of God"; every statement in which is "a heavenly oracle" which "cannot fail" (Dedicatory Epistle to the "Institutes," Opp. ii. 12): in it God "opens His own sacred mouth" to add His direct word to the voice of His mute creatures (I. vi. 1). To say "Scripture says" and to say "the Holy Ghost says" is all one. We contradict the Holy Spirit, says Calvin - meaning the Scriptures - when we deny to Christ the name of Jehovah or anything which belongs to the majesty of Jehovah (I. xiii. 23). "The Holy Spirit pronounces," says he, . . . "Paul declares . . . the Scripture condemns . . . wherefore it is not surprising if the Holy Spirit reject" - all in one running context, meaning ever the same thing (I. v. 13): just as in another context he uses interchangeably the "commandments of Christ" and the "authority of Scripture" of the same thing (Dedicatory Letter).
It may be that Calvin has nowhere given us a detailed discussion of the mode of the divine operation in giving the Scriptures. He is sure that they owe their origin to the divine gift (I. vi. 1, 2, 3) and that God has so given them that they are emphatically His word, as truly as if we were listening to His living voice speaking from heaven (I. vii. 1): and, as we have seen, he is somewhat addicted to the use of language which, strictly taken, would imply that the mode of their gift was "dictation." The Scriptures are "public records" (I. vi. 2), their human authors have acted as "notaries" (IV. viii. 9), who have set down nothing of their own, but only what has been dictated to them, so that there appears no admixture of what is human in their product (on II Tim. iii. 16).44 It is not unfair to urge, however, that this language is figurative; and that what Calvin has in mind is not to insist that the mode of inspiration was dictation, but that the result of inspiration is as if it were by dictation, viz., the production of a pure word of God free from all human admixtures. The term "dictation" was no doubt in current use at the time to express rather the effects than the mode of inspiration.45 This being allowed, it is all the more unfair to urge that, Calvin's language being in this sense figurative, he is not to be understood as teaching that the effect of inspiration was the production of a pure word of God, free from all admixture of human error. This, on the contrary, is precisely what Calvin does teach, and that with the greatest strenuousness. He everywhere asserts that the effects of inspiration are such that God alone is the responsible author of the inspired product, that we owe the same reverence to it as to Him Himself, and should esteem the words as purely His as if we heard them proclaimed with His living voice from heaven; and that there is nothing human mixed with them. And he everywhere deals with them on that assumption. It is true that men have sought to discover in Calvin, particularly in his "Harmony of the Gospels," acknowledgments of the presence of human errors in the fabric of Scripture.46 But these attempts rest on very crass misapprehensions of Calvin's efforts precisely to show that there are no such errors in the fabric of Scripture. When he explains, for example, that the purpose "of the Evangelists"- or "of the Holy Spirit," for he significantly uses these designations as synonyms - was not to write a chronologically exact record, but to present the general essence of things, this is not to allow that the Scriptures err humanly in their record of the sequences of time, but to assert that they intend to give no sequences of time and therefore cannot err in this regard. When again he suggests that an "error" has found its way into the text of Mat. xxvii. 9 or possibly into Mat. xxiii. 35, he is not speaking of the original, but of the transmitted text;47 and it would be hard if he were not permitted to make such excursions into the region of textual criticism without laying himself open to the charge of denying his most assured conviction that nothing human is mixed with Scripture. In point of fact, Calvin not only asserts the freedom of Scripture as given by God from all error, but never in his detailed dealing with Scripture allows that such errors exist in it.48
If we ask for the ground on which he asserts this high doctrine of inspiration, we do not see that any other reply can be given than that it was on the ground of the teaching of Scripture itself. The Scriptures were understood by Calvin to claim to be in this high sense the word of God; and a critical scrutiny of their contents brought to him nothing which seemed to him to negative this claim. There were other grounds on which he might and did base a firm confidence in the divine origin of the Scriptures and the trustworthiness of their teaching as a revelation from God. But there were no other grounds on which he could or did rest his conviction that these Scriptures are so from God that there is nothing human mixed with them, and their every affirmation is to be received with the deference which is due to the living voice of God speaking from heaven. On these other grounds Calvin was led to trust the teaching of the Scriptures as a divine revelation: and he therefore naturally trusted their teaching as to their own nature and inspiration.
Such, then, are the Scriptures as conceived by Calvin: sixty-six sacred books, "dictated" by God to His "notaries" that they might, in this "public record," stand as a perpetual special revelation of Himself to His people, to supplement or to supersede in their case the general revelation which He gives of Himself in His works and deeds, but which is rendered ineffective by the sin-bred disabilities of the human soul. For this, according to Calvin, is the account to give of the origin of Scripture, and this the account to give of the function it serves in the world. It was because man in his sinful imbecility was unable to profit by the general revelation which God has spread before all eyes, so that they are all without excuse (I. vi. 1), that God in His goodness gave to "those whom He intended to unite in a more close and familiar connection with Himself," a special revelation in open speech (I. vi. 1). And it was because of the mutability of the human mind, prone to errors of all kinds, corrupting the truth, that He committed this His special revelation to writing, that it might never be inaccessible to "those to whom He determined to make His instructions effectual" (I. vi. 3). In Calvin's view, therefore, the Scriptures are a documentation of God's special revelation of Himself unto salvation (I. vi. 1, ad init.); but a documentation cared for by God Himself, so that they are, in fine, themselves the special revelation of God unto salvation in documentary form (I. vi. 2, 3). The necessity for the revelation documented in them arises from the blindness of men in their sin: the necessity for the documentation of this revelation arises from the instability of men, even when taught of God. We must conceive of special revelation, and of the Scriptures as just its documentation, therefore, as not precisely a cure, but rather an assistance to man dulled in his sight so as not to be able to perceive God in His general revelation. "For," says Calvin, "as persons who are old, or whose eyes have somehow become dim, if you show them the most beautiful book, though they perceive that something is written there, can scarcely read two words together, yet by the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly - so the Scripture . . ." etc. (I. vi. 1). The function of Scripture thus, as special revelation documented, is to serve as spiritual spectacles to enable those of dulled spiritual sight to see God.
Of course, the Scriptures do more than this. They not only reveal the God of Nature more brightly to the sin-darkened eye; they reveal also the God of Grace, who may not be found in nature. Calvin does not overlook this wider revelation embodied in them: he particularly adverts to it (I. vi. 1). But he turns from it for the moment as less directly germane to his present object, which is to show that without the "spectacles" of Scripture, sinful man would not be able to attain to a sound knowledge of even God the Creator. It is on this, therefore, that he now insists. It was only because God revealed Himself in this special, supernatural way to them, that our first fathers - "Adam, Noah, Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs" - were able to retain Him in their knowledge (I. vi. 1). It was only through this special revelation, whether renewed to them by God, or handed down in tradition, "by the ministry of men," that their posterity continued in the knowledge of God (I. vi. 2). "At length, that the truth might remain in the world in a continual course of instruction to all ages, God determined that the same oracles which He deposited with the patriarchs, should be committed to public records" - first the Law, then the Prophets, and then the books of the New Covenant (I. vi. 2). It is now, therefore, only through these Scriptures that man can attain to a true knowledge of God. The revelation of God in His works is not useless: it makes all men without excuse; it provides an additional though lower and less certain revelation of God to His people - to a consideration of which all should seriously apply themselves, though they should principally attend to the Word (I. vi. 2). But experience shows that without the Word the sinful human mind is too weak to reach a sound knowledge of God, and therefore without it men wander in vanity and error. Calvin seems to speak sometimes almost as if the Scriptures, that is special revelation, wholly superseded general revelation (I. v. 12, ad fin.; vi. 2, ad fin.; 4, ad fin.). More closely scrutinized, it becomes evident, however, that he means only that in the absence of Scripture, that is of special revelation, the general revelation of God is ineffective to preserve any sound knowledge of Him in the world: but in the presence of Scripture, general revelation is not set aside, but rather brought back to its proper validity. The real relation between general and special revelation, as the matter lay in Calvin's mind, thus proves to be, not that the one supersedes the other, but that special revelation supplements general revelation indeed, but in the first instance rather repeats and by repeating vivifies and vitalizes general revelation, and flows confluently in with it to the one end of both, the knowledge of God (I. vi. 2). What special revelation is, therefore - and the Scriptures as its documentation - is very precisely represented by the figure of the spectacles. It is aid to the dulled vision of sinful man, to enable it to see God.
The question forcibly presents itself, however, whether "spectacles" will serve the purpose here. Has not Calvin painted the sin-bred blindness of men too blackly to encourage us to think it can be corrected by such an aid to any remainders of natural vision which may be accredited to them? The answer must be in the affirmative. But this only opens the way to point out that Calvin does not present special revelation, or the Scriptures as special revelation documented, as the entire cure, but places by the side of it the testimonium Spiritus Sancti. Special revelation, or Scripture as its documented form, provides in point of fact, in the view of Calvin, only the objective side of the cure he finds has been provided by God. The subjective side is provided by the testimonium Spiritus Sancti. The spectacles are provided by the Scriptures: the eyes are opened that they may see even through these spectacles, only by the witness of the Spirit in the heart. We perceive, then, that in Calvin's view the figure of the spectacles is a perfectly just one. He means to intimate that special revelation alone will not produce a knowledge of God in the human soul: that something more than external aid is needed before it can see: and to leave the way open to proceed to point out what further is required that sinful man may see God. Sinful man, we say again: for the whole crux lies there. Had there been no sin, there would have been no need of even special revelation. In the light of the splendid revelation of Himself which God has displayed in the theatre of nature, man with his native endowment of instinctive knowledge of God would have bloomed out into a full and sound knowledge of Him. But with sinful man, the matter is wholly different. He needs more light and he needs something more than light - he needs the power of sight.49 That we may apprehend Calvin's thought, therefore, we must turn to the consideration of his doctrine of the Testimony of the Spirit.
III. THE TESTIMONY OF THE SPIRIT
What is Calvin's doctrine of the Testimony of the Spirit?
The particular question which Calvin addresses himself to when he turns to the consideration of what he calls the testimony of the Spirit concerns the accrediting of Scripture, not the assimilation of its revelatory contents. The reader cannot fail to experience some disappontment at this. The whole development of the discussion hitherto undoubtedly fosters the expectation, not, indeed, of an exclusive treatment of the assimilation of special revelation by sinful man - for both problems are raised by it and the two problems are at bottom one and their solution one - but certainly of some formal treatment of it, and indeed of such a treatment of the double problem that the stress should be laid on this. Calvin, however, is preoccupied with the problem of the accrediting of Scripture. This is due in part, doubtless, to its logical priority: as he himself remarks, we cannot be "established in the belief of the doctrine, till we are indubitably persuaded that God is its Author" (I. vii. 4, ad init.). But it was rendered almost inevitable by the state of the controversy with Rome, who intrenched herself in the position that the Protestant appeal to Scripture as over against the Church was inoperative, seeing that it is only by the Church that the Scriptures can be established in authority: for who but the Church can assure us that these Scriptures are from God, or indeed what books enter into the fabric of Scripture, or whether they have come down to us uncorrupted? As a practical man writing to practical men for a practical purpose, Calvin could not fail, perhaps, to give his primary attention to the aspect of the problem he had raised which was most immediately pressing. But this scarcely prepares us for the almost total neglect of its other aspect, with the effect that the construction of his general doctrine is left with a certain appearance of incompleteness. Not really incomplete; for the solution of the one problem is, as we have already suggested, the solution of the other also; and even the cursory reader - or perhaps we may say especially the cursory reader - may well be trusted to feel this as he is led on through the discussion, particularly as there are not lacking repeated suggestions of it, and the discussion closes with a direct reference to it and a formal postponement of the particular discussion of the other aspect of the double problem to a later portion of the treatise. "I pass over many things for the present," says Calvin, "because this subject will present itself for discussion in another place. Only, let it be known here that that alone is true faith which the Spirit of God seals in our hearts. And with this one reason every reader of docility and modesty will be satisfied" (I. vii. 5, near the end). That is as much as to say, This whole subject is only one application of the general doctrine of faith; and as the general doctrine of faith is fully discussed at another place in this treatise, we may content ourselves here with the somewhat incomplete remarks we have made upon this special application of that doctrine; we only need to remind the reader that there is no true faith except that which is begotten in the soul by the Holy Spirit.
We can scarcely wonder that Calvin contents himself with this simple reference of the topic now engaging his attention, as a specific case, to the generic doctrine of faith, when we pause to realize how nearly this simple reference of it, as a species to its genus, comes to a sufficient exposition of it. We shall stop now to signalize only two points which are involved in this reference, the noting of which will greatly facilitate our apprehension of Calvin's precise meaning in his doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit to the divinity of Scripture. This doctrine is no isolated doctrine with Calvin, standing out of relation with the other doctrines of his system: it is but one application of his general doctrine of faith; or to be more specific, one application of his general doctrine of the function of the Holy Spirit in the production of faith. Given Calvin's general doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit in applying salvation, and his specific doctrine of the testimonium Spiritus Sancti in the attestation of Scripture, and in the applying of its doctrine as well, was inevitable. It is but one application of the general doctrine that there is no true faith except that which the Spirit of God seals in our hearts. For Calvin in this doctrine - and this is the second point we wish to signalize - has in mind specifically "true faith." He is not asking here how the Scriptures may be proved to be from God. If that had been the question he was asking, he would not have hesitated to say that the testimony of the Church is conclusive of the fact. He does say so. "The universal judgment of the Church" (I. vii. 3, fin.) he represents as a very useful argument, "the consent of the Church" (I. viii. 12, init.) as a very important consideration, in establishing the divine origin of the Scriptures: although, of course, he does not conceive the Church as lending her authority to Scripture "when she receives and seals it with her suffrage," but rather as performing a duty of piety to herself in recognizing what is true apart from her authentication, and treating it with due veneration (I. vii. 2, ad fin.). For what is more her duty than "obediently to embrace what is from God as the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd"?50 Were it a matter of proving the Scriptures to be the Word of God, Calvin would, again, have been at no loss for rational arguments which he was ready to pronounce irresistible. He does adduce such arguments and he does pronounce them irresistible. He devotes a whole chapter "to the adduction of these arguments (ch. viii.) - such arguments as these: the dignity of the subject-matter of Scripture - the heavenliness of its doctrine and the consent of all its parts - (§ 1), the majesty of its style (§ 2), the antiquity of its teaching (§ 3), the sincerity of its narrative (§ 4), its miraculous accompaniment, circumstantially confirmed (§§ 5, 6), its predictive contents authenticated by fulfilment (§§ 7, 8), its continuous use through so many ages (§§9-12), its sealing by martyr blood (§ 13): and these arguments he is so far from considering weak and inconclusive (I. viii. 13, med.) that he represents them rather as capable of completely vindicating the Scriptures against all the subtleties of their calumniators (ibid.). Nay, he declares that the proofs of the divine origin of the Scriptures are so cogent, as "certainly to evince, if there is a God in heaven, that He is the author of the Law, and the Prophecies, and the Gospel" (I. vii. 4, near the beginning); as to extort with certainty from all who are not wholly lost to shame, the confession of the divine gift of the Scriptures (ibid.).51 "Though I am far from possessing any peculiar dexterity" in argument "or eloquence," he says, "yet were I to contend with the most subtle despisers of God, who are ambitious to display their wit and their skill in weakening the authority of Scripture, I trust I should be able without difficulty to silence their obstreperous clamor" (ibid.). But objective proofs - whether the conclusive testimony of witnesses, or the overwhelming evidence of rational considerations - be they never so cogent,52 he does not consider of themselves capable of producing "true faith." And it is "true faith," we repeat, that Calvin has in mind in his doctrine of the testimonium Spiritus Sancti. If it seemed to him a small matter that man should know that God is if he did not know what God is, it equally seemed to him a small matter that man should know what God is, in the paradigms of the intellect, if he did not really know this God in the intimacy of communion which that phrase imports. And equally it seemed to him utterly unimportant that a man should be convinced by stress of rational evidence that the Scriptures are the Word of God, unless he practically embraced these Scriptures as the Word of God and stayed his soul upon them. The knowledge of God which Calvin has in mind in this whole discussion is, thus, a vital and vitalizing knowledge of God, and the attestation of Scripture which he is seeking is not an attestation merely to the intelligence of men, compelling from them perhaps a reluctant judgment of the intellect alone (since those convinced against their will, as the proverb has it, are very apt to remain of the same opinion still), but such an attestation as takes hold of the whole man in the roots of his activities and controls all the movements of his soul.
This is so important a consideration for the exact apprehension of Calvin's doctrine that it may become us to pause and assure ourselves of the simple matter of fact from the language which Calvin employs of it in the course of the discussion. We shall recall that from the introduction of the topic of special revelation he has in mind and keeps before his readers' mind its destination for the people of God alone. The provisions for producing a knowledge of God, consequent on the inefficiency of natural revelation, Calvin is careful to explain, are not for all men, but for "the elect" (I. vi. 1), or, as they are more fully described, "those whom God intends to unite in a more close and familiar connection with Himself" (ibid.), "those to whom He determines to make His instructions effectual" (I. vi. 3). From the first provisions of His supernatural dealings, therefore, He "intends to make His instructions effectual." More pointedly still he speaks of the testimonium Spiritus Sancti as an act in which "God deigns to confer a singular power on His elect, whom He distinguishes from the rest of mankind" (I. vii. 5).53 This singular power, now, is nothing else but "saving faith," and Calvin speaks of it in all the synonymy of "saving faith." He calls it "true faith" (I. vii. 5), "sound faith" (I. vii. 4), "firm faith" (I. viii. 13), "the faith of the pious" (I. vii. 3), "the certainty of the pious" (I. vii. 3), "that assurance which is essential to true piety" (I. vii. 4), "saving knowledge" (I. viii. 13), "a solid assurance of eternal life" (I. vii. 1). It is the thing which is naturally described by this synonymy which Calvin declares is not produced in the soul except by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. This obviously is nothing more than to declare that that faith which lays hold of Christ unto eternal life is the product of the Holy Spirit in the heart, and that it is one of the exercises of this faith to lay hold of the revelation of this Christ in the Scriptures with assured confidence, so that it is only he who is led by the Spirit who embraces these Scriptures with "sound faith," that is, "with that assurance which is essential to true piety" (I. vii. 4). What Calvin has in mind, in a word, is simply an extended comment on Paul's words: "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God . . . but he that is spiritual judgeth all things" (I Cor. ii. 14, 15).54
Calvin does not leave us, however, to gather from general remarks referring it to its class or to infer from its general effects, what he means by the testimony of the Spirit of God to the divinity of Scripture, but describes for us its nature and indicates the mode of its operation and specific effects with great exactitude.55 He tells us that it is a "secret" (I. vii. 4), "internal" (I. vii. 4; viii. 13), "inward" (I. vii. 5) action of the Holy Spirit on the soul, by which the soul is "illuminated" (I. vii. 3, 4, 5), so as to perceive their true quality in the Scriptures as a divine book. We may call this "an inward teaching" of the Spirit which produces "entire acquiescence in the Scriptures," so that they are self-authenticating to the mind and heart (I. vii. 5); or we may call it a "secret testimony of the Spirit," by which our minds and hearts are convinced with a firmness superior to all reason that the Scriptures are from God (I. vii. 4). In both instances we are using figurative language. Precisely what is produced by the hidden internal operation of the Spirit on the soul is a new spiritual sense (sensus, I. vii. 5, med.), by which the divinity of Scripture is perceived as by an intuitive perception. "For the Scripture exhibits as clear evidence of its truth, as white and black things do of their color, and sweet and bitter things of their taste" (I. vii. 2, end) ; and we need only a sense to discern its divine quality to be convinced of it with the same immediacy and finality as we are convinced by their mere perception of light or darkness, of whiteness or blackness, of sweetness or bitterness (ibid.). No conclusions based on "reasoning" or "proofs" or founded on human judgment can compare in clearness or force with such a conviction, which is instinctive and immediate, and finds its ultimate ground and sanction in the Holy Spirit who has wrought in the heart this spiritual sense which so functions in recognizing the divine quality of Scripture. Illuminated by the Spirit of God, we believe, therefore, not on the ground of our own judgment, or on the ground of the judgment of others, but with a certainty above all human judgment, by a spiritual intuition.56 With the utmost explicitness Calvin so describes this instinctive conviction in a passage of great vigor: "It is, therefore," says he, "such a persuasion as requires no reasons; such a knowledge as is supported by the highest reason and in which the mind rests with greater security and constancy than in any reasons; in fine, such a sense as cannot be produced but by a revelation from heaven" (I. vii. 5).57 Here we are told that it is a persuasio, or rather a notitia, or rather a sensus. It is a persuasion which does not require reasons - that is to say, it is a state of conviction not induced by arguments, but by direct perception: it is, that is to say, a knowledge, a direct perception in accord with the highest reason, in which the mind rests, with an assurance not attainable by reasoning; or to be more explicit still, it is a sense which comes only from divine gift. As we have implanted in us by nature a sense which distinguishes between light and darkness, a sense which distinguishes between sweet and bitter, and the verdict of these senses is immediate and final; so we have planted in us by the creative action of the Holy Spirit a sense for the divine, and its verdict, too, is immediate and final: the spiritual man discerneth all things. Such, in briefest outline, is Calvin's famous doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit.
MODE OF THIS TESTIMONY
Certain further elucidations of its real meaning and bearing appear, however, to be necessary, to guard against misapprehension of it. When we speak of an internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, it is evident that we must conceive it as presenting itself in one of three ways. It may be conceived as of the nature of an immediate revelation to each man to whom it is given. It may be conceived as of the nature of a blind conviction produced in the minds of its recipients. It may be conceived as of the nature of a grounded conviction, formed in their minds by the Spirit, by an act which rather terminates immediately on the faculties, enabling and effectively persuading them to reach a conviction on grounds presented to them, than produces the conviction itself, apart from or without grounds. In which of these ways did Calvin conceive the testimony of the Spirit as presenting itself? As revelation, or as ungrounded faith, or as grounded faith?
Certainly not the first. The testimony of the Spirit was not to Calvin of the nature of a propositional "revelation" to its recipients. Of this he speaks perfectly explicitly, and indeed in his polemic against Anabaptist mysticism insistently. He does indeed connect the term "revelation" with the testimony of the Spirit, declaring it, for example, such a sense (sensus) as can be produced by nothing short of "a revelation from heaven" (I. vii. 5, med.). But his purpose in the employment of this language is not to describe it according to its nature, but to claim for it with emphasis a heavenly source: he means merely to assert that it is not earth-born, but God-wrought, while at the same time he intimates that in its nature it is not a propositional revelation, but an instinctive "sense." That he did not conceive of it as a propositional revelation is made perfectly clear by his explicit assertions at the opening of the discussion (I. vii. 1, init.), that we "are not favored with daily oracles from heaven," and that the Scriptures constitute the sole body of extant revelations from God. It is not to supersede nor yet to supplement these recorded revelations that the testimony of the Spirit is given us, he insists, but to confirm them (I. ix. 3): or, as he puts it in his polemic against the Anabaptists, "The office of the Spirit which is promised us is not to feign new and unheard-of revelations, or to coin a new system of doctrine, which would seduce us from the received doctrine of the Gospel, but to seal to our minds the same doctrine which the Gospel delivers" (I. ix. 1, fin.).
In this polemic against the Anabaptists (ch. ix.) he gives us an especially well-balanced account of the relations which in his view obtain between the revelation of God and the witness of the Spirit. If he holds that the revelation of God is ineffective without the testimony of the Spirit, he holds equally that the testimony of the Spirit is inconceivable without the revelation of God embodied in the Word. He even declares that the Spirit is no more the agent by which the Word is impressed on the heart than the Word is the means by which the illumination of the Spirit takes effect. "If apart from the Spirit of God" we "are utterly destitute of the light of truth," he says (I. ix. 3, ad fin.), equally "the Word is the instrument by which the Lord dispenses to believers the illumination of the Spirit." So far as the knowledge of the truth is concerned, we are as helpless, then, without the Word as we are without the Spirit, for the whole function of the Spirit with respect to the truth is, not to reveal to us the truth anew, much less to reveal to us new truth, but efficaciously to confirm the Word, revealed in the Scriptures, to us, and efficaciously to impress it on our hearts (I. ix. 3). This Calvin makes superabundantly plain by an illustration and a didactic statement of great clearness. The illustration (I. ix. 3) is drawn from our Lord's dealings with His two disciples with whom after His rising He walked to Emmaus. "He opened their understandings," Calvin explains, "not that rejecting the Scriptures they might be wise of themselves, but that they might understand the Scriptures." Such also, he says, is the testimony of the Spirit to-day: for what is it - and this is the didactic statement to which we have referred - but an enabling of us by the light of the Spirit to behold the divine countenance in the Scriptures that so our minds may be filled with a solid reverence for the Word (I. ix. 3)? Here we have the nature of the testimony of the Spirit, and its manner of working and its effects, announced to us in a single clause. It is an illumination of our minds, by which we are enabled to see God in the Scriptures, so that we may reverence them as from Him.
Other effect than this Calvin explicitly denies to the testimony of the Spirit, and he defends his denial from the charge of inconsistency with the stress he has previously laid upon the necessity of this testimony (I. ix. 3). It is not to deny the necessity of this work of the Spirit, he argues, to confine it to the express confirmation of the Word and of the revelation contained therein. Nor is it derogatory to the Spirit to confine His operations now to the confirmation of the revealed Word. While on the other hand to attribute to Him repeated or new revelations to each of the children of God, as the mystics do, is derogatory to the Word, which is His inspired product. To lay claim to the possession of such a Spirit as this, he declares, is to lay claim to the possession of a different Spirit from that which dwelt in Christ and the Apostles - for their Spirit honored the Word - and a different Spirit from that which was promised by Christ to His disciples - for this Spirit was "not to speak of Himself." It is to lay claim to a Spirit for whose divine mission and character, moreover, we lack all criterion - for how can we know that the Spirit that speaks in us is from God, save as He honors the Word of God (I. ix. 1 and 2)? From all which it is perfectly plain not only that Calvin did not conceive the testimony of the Spirit as taking effect in the form of propositional revelations, but that he did conceive it as an operation of God the Holy Spirit in the heart of man which is so connected with the revelation of God in His Word, that it manifests itself only in conjunction with that revelation.
Calvin's formula here is, The Word and Spirit.58 Only in the conjunction of the two can an effective revelation be made to the sin-darkened mind of man.59 The Word supplies the objective factor; the Spirit the subjective factor; and only in the union of the objective and subjective factors is the result accomplished. The whole objective revelation of God lies, thus, in the Word. But the whole subjective capacitating for the reception of this revelation lies in the will of the Spirit. Either, by itself, is wholly ineffective to the result aimed at - the production of knowledge in the human mind. But when they unite, knowledge is not only rendered possible to man: it is rendered certain. And therefore it is that Calvin represents the provision for the knowledge of God both in the objective revelation in the Word and in the subjective testimony of the Spirit as destined by God not for men at large, but specifically for His people, His elect, those "to whom He determined to make His instructions effectual" (I. vi. 3). The Calvinism of Calvin's doctrine of religious knowledge comes to clear manifestation here; and that not merely because of its implication of the doctrine of election, but also because of its implication of Calvin's specific doctrine of the means of grace. Already in his doctrine of religious knowledge, we find Calvin teaching that God is known not by those who choose to know Him, but by those by whom He chooses to be known: and this simply because the knowledge of God is God-given, and is therefore given to whom He will. Men do not wring the knowledge of God from a Deity reluctant to be known: God imparts the knowledge of Himself to men reluctant to know Him: and therefore none know Him save those to whom He efficaciously imparts, by His Word and Spirit, the knowledge of Himself. "By His Word and Spirit " - therein is expressed already the fundamental formula of the Calvinistic doctrine of the "means of grace." In that doctrine the Spirit is not, with the Lutherans, conceived as in the Word, conveyed and applied where-ever the Word goes: nor is the Word, with the mystics, conceived as in the Spirit always essentially present wherever He is present in His power as a Spirit of revelation and truth. The two are severally contemplated, as separable factors, in the one work of God in producing the knowledge of Himself which is eternal life in the souls of His people; separable factors which must both, however, be present if this knowledge of God is to be produced. For it is the function of the Word to set before the soul the object to be believed; and it is the function of the Spirit to quicken in the soul belief in this object: and neither performs the work of the other or its own work apart from the other.
It still remains, however, to inquire precisely how Calvin conceived the Spirit to operate in bringing the soul to a hearty faith in the Word as a revelation from God. Are we to understand him as teaching that the Holy Spirit by His almighty power creates, in the souls of those whom God has set upon to bring to a knowledge of Him, an entirely ungrounded faith in the divinity of the Scriptures and the truth of their contents, so that the soul embraces them and their contents with firm confidence as a revelation from God wholly apart from and in the absence of all indicia of their divinity or of the truth of their contents? So it has come to be very widely believed; and indeed it may even be said that it has become the prevalent representation that Calvin taught that believers have within themselves a witness of the Spirit by which they are assured of the divinity of Scripture and the truth of its contents quite apart from all other evidence. The very term, "the testimony of the Spirit," is adduced in support of this representation, as setting a divine witness to the divinity of Scripture over against other sources of evidence, and of course superseding them: and appeal is made along with this to Calvin's strong assertions of the uselessness and even folly of plying men with "the proofs" of the divine origin of Scripture, seeing that, it is said, in the absence of the testimony of the Spirit such "proofs" must needs be ineffective, and in the presence of that effective testimony they cannot but be adjudged unnecessary. What can he mean, then, it is asked, but that the testimony of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to assure us of the divinity of Scripture apart from all indicia, and does its work entirely independently of them?
The sufficient answer to this question is that he can mean - and in point of fact does mean - that the indicia are wholly insufficient to assure us of the divinity of Scripture apart from the testimony of the Spirit; and effect no result independently of it. This is quite a different proposition and gives rise to quite a different series of corollaries. Calvin's dealing with the indicia of the divinity of Scripture has already attracted our attention in one of its aspects, and it is quite worthy of renewed scrutiny. We have seen that he devotes a whole chapter to their exposition (chap. viii.) and strongly asserts their objective conclusiveness to the fact of the divine origin of Scripture (I. vii. 4). Nor does he doubt their usefulness whether to the believer or the unbeliever. The fulness and force of his exposition of them is the index to his sense of their value to the believer: for he adduces them distinctly as confirmations of believers in their faith in the Scriptures (I. viii. 1, 13), and betrays in every line of their treatment the high significance he attaches to them as such. And he explicitly declares that they not only maintain in the minds of the pious the native dignity and authority of Scripture, but completely vindicate it against all the subtleties of calumniators (I. viii. 13). No man of sound mind can fail to confess on their basis that it is God who speaks in Scripture and that its doctrine is divine (I. vii. 4). It is a complete misapprehension of Calvin's meaning, then, when it is suggested that he represents the indicia of the divinity of Scripture as inconclusive or even as ineffective.60 Their conclusiveness could not be asserted with more energy than he asserts it: nor indeed could their effectiveness - their effectiveness in extorting from the unbeliever the confession of the divinity of Scripture and in rendering him without excuse in refusing the homage of his mind and heart to it - in a word, will he, nill he, convincing his intellect of its divinity; their effectiveness also in confirming the believer in his faith and maintaining his confidence intact. This prevalent misapprehension of Calvin's meaning is due to neglect to observe the precise thing for which he affirms the indicia to be ineffective and the precise reason he assigns for this ineffectiveness. There is only one thing which he says they cannot do: that is to produce "sound faith" (I. vii. 4), "firm faith" (I. viii. 13) - that assurance which is essential to "true piety" (I. vii. 4). And their failure to produce "sound faith" is due solely to the subjective condition of man, which is such that a creative operation of the Holy Spirit on the soul is requisite before he can exercise "sound faith " (I. vii. 4; I. viii. 13). It is the attempt to produce this "sound faith" in the heart of man, not renewed for believing by the creative operation of the Holy Spirit, which Calvin pronounces preposterous and foolish. "It is acting a preposterous part," he says, "to endeavor to produce sound faith in the Scriptures by disputations": objections may be silenced by such disputations, "but this will not fix in men's hearts that assurance which is essential to true piety"; for religion is not a matter of mere opinion, but a fundamental change of attitude towards God (I. vii. 4). It betrays, therefore, great folly to wish to demonstrate to infidels that the Scriptures are the Word of God, he repeats in another place, obviously with no other meaning, "since this cannot be known without faith," that is, as the context shows, without the internal working of the Spirit of God (I. viii. 13, end).
That Calvin should thus teach that the indicia are incapable of producing "firm faith" in the human heart, disabled by sin, is a matter of course: and therefore it is a matter of course that he should teach that the indicia are ineffective for the production of "sound faith" apart from the internal operation of the Spirit correcting the sin-bred disabilities of man, that is to say, apart from the testimony of the Spirit. But what about the indicia in conjunction with the testimony of the Spirit? It would seem to be evident that, on Calvin's ground, they would have their full part to play here, and that we must say that, when the soul is renewed by the Holy Spirit to a sense for the divinity of Scripture, it is through the indicia of that divinity that it is brought into its proper confidence in the divinity of Scripture. In treating of the indicia, Calvin does not, however, declare this in so many words. He sometimes even appears to speak of them rather as if they lay side by side with the testimony of the Spirit than acted along with it as co-factors in the production of the supreme effect. He speaks of their ineffectiveness in producing sound faith in the unbeliever: and of their value as corroboratives to the believer: and his language would sometimes seem to suggest that therefore it were just as well not to employ them until after faith had formed itself under the testimony of the Spirit (I. viii. 1, 13). Of their part in forming faith under the operation of the testimony of the Spirit he does not appear explicitly to speak.61
Nevertheless, there are not lacking convincing hints that there was lying in his mind all the time the implicit understanding that it is through these indicia of the divinity of Scripture that the soul, under the operation of the testimony of the Spirit, reaches its sound faith in Scripture, and that he has been withheld from more explicitly stating this only by the warmth of his zeal for the necessity of the testimony of the Spirit which has led him to a constant contrasting of this divine with those human "testimonies." Thus we find him repeatedly affirming that these indicia will produce no fruit until they be confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit (I. vii. 4, 5; viii. 1, 13): "Our reverence may be conciliated by its internal majesty [the Scripture's], but it never seriously affects us, till it is confirmed by the Spirit in our hearts" (I. vii. 5). "Without this certainty, . . . in vain will the authority of Scripture be either defended by arguments or established by the consent of the Church, or of any other supports: since, unless the foundation be laid, it remains in perpetual suspense" (I. viii. 1). The indicia "are alone not sufficient to produce firm faith in it [the Scriptures], till the heavenly Father, discovering His own power therein, places its authority above all controversy " (I. viii. 13). It is, however, in his general teaching as to the formation of sound faith in the divinity of Scripture that we find the surest indication that he thought of the indicia as co-working with the testimony of the Spirit to this result. This is already given, indeed, in his strenuous insistence that the work of the Spirit is not of the nature of a revelation, but of a confirmation of the revelation deposited in the Scriptures, especially when this is taken in connection with his teaching that Scripture is self-authenticating. What the Spirit of God imparts to us, he says, is a sense of divinity: such a sense discovers divinity only where divinity is and only by a perception of it - a perception which of course rests on its proper indicia. It is because Scripture "exhibits the plainest evidence that it is God who speaks in it" that the newly awakened sense of divinity, quickened in the soul, recognizes it as divine (I. vii. 4). The senses do not distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter - to use Calvin's own illustration (I. vii. 2) - save by the mediation of those indicia of light and darkness, whiteness and blackness, sweetness and bitterness, by which these qualities manifest themselves to the natural senses; and by parity of reasoning we must accredit Calvin as thinking of the newly implanted spiritual sense discerning the divinity of Scripture only through the mediation of the indicia of divinity manifested in Scripture. To taste and see that the Scriptures are divine is to recognize a divinity actually present in Scripture; and of course recognition implies perception of indicia, not attribution of a divinity not recognized as inherent. Meanwhile it must be admitted that Calvin has not at this point developed this side of his subject with the fulness which might be wished, but has left it to the general implications of the argument.
OBJECT TESTIFIED TO
Closely connected with the question of the mode in which Calvin conceived the testimony of the Spirit to be delivered, is the further question of the matters for which he conceived that testimony to be available. On the face of it it would seem that he conceived it directly available solely for the divinity of the Scriptures and therefore for the revelatory character of their contents. So he seems to imply throughout the discussion, and, indeed, to assert repeatedly. Nevertheless, there is a widespread impression abroad that he appealed to it to determine the canon of Scripture too,62 and indeed also to establish the integrity of its text. This impression is generally, though not always, connected with the view that Calvin conceived the mode of delivery of the testimony of the Spirit to be the creation in the soul of a blind faith, unmotived by reasons and without rooting in grounds; and it has been much exploited of late years in the interests of a so-called "free" attitude towards Scripture, which announces itself as following Calvin when it refuses to acknowledge as authoritative Scripture any portion of or element in the traditionally transmitted Scriptures which does not spontaneously commend itself to the immediate religious judgment as divine. Undoubtedly this is to reverse the attitude of Calvin towards the traditionally transmitted Scriptures, and it is difficult to believe that two such diametrically contradictory attitudes towards the Scriptures can be outgrowths of the same principal root. In point of fact, moreover, as we have already seen, not only does Calvin not conceive the mode of the delivery of the testimony of the Spirit to be by the creation of a blind and unmotived faith, but, to come at once to the matter more particularly in hand, he does not depend on the testimony of the Spirit for the determination of canonicity or for the establishment of the integrity of the text of Scripture. So far from discarding the via rationalis here, he determines the limits of the canon and establishes the integrity of the transmission of Scripture distinctly on scientific, that is to say, historico-critical grounds. In no case of his frequent discussion of such subjects does he appeal to the testimony of the Spirit and set aside the employment of rational and historical argumentation as invalid or inconclusive; always, on the contrary, he adduces the evidence of valid tradition and apostolicity of contents as conclusive of the fact. It is hard to believe that such a consequent mind could have lived unconsciously in such an inconsistent attitude towards a question so vital to him and his cause.63
So far as support for the impression that Calvin looked to the testimony of the Spirit to determine for him the canon of Scripture and to assure him of its integrity is derived from his writings, it rests on a manifest misapprehension of a single passage in the "Institutes," and what seems to be a misassignment to him of a passage in the old French Confession of Faith.
The passage in the "Institutes" is a portion of the paragraphs which are devoted to repelling the Romish contention that "the Scriptures have only so much weight as is conceded to them by the suffrages of the Church; as though the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended on the arbitrary will of men" (I. vii. 1). "For thus," Calvin says - and this is the passage which is appealed to - "For thus, dealing with the Holy Spirit as a mere laughing stock (ludibrio), they ask, Who shall give us confidence that these [Scriptures] have come from God, - who assure us that they have reached our time safe and intact, - who persuade us that one book should be received reverently, another expunged from the number (numero) - if the Church should not prescribe a certain rule for all these things? It depends, therefore, they say, on the Church, both what reverence is due to Scripture, and what books should be inscribed (censendi sint) in its catalogue (in eius catalogo)" (I. vii. 1). This passage certainly shows that the Romish controversialists in endeavoring to prove that the authority of Scripture is dependent on the Church's suffrage, argued that it is only by the Church that we can be assured even of the contents of Scripture and of its integrity - that its very canon and text rest on the Church's determination. But how can it be inferred that Calvin's response to this argument would take the form: No, of these things we can be assured by the immediate testimony of the Spirit? In point of fact, he says nothing of the kind, and the inference does not lie in the argument. What he says is that the Romish method of arguing is as absurd as it is blasphemous, a mere cavil (I. vii. 2), as well as derogatory to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, he says, assures us that in the Scriptures God speaks to us. To bid us pause on the ground that it is only the Church who can assure us that this or that book belongs to the body of the Scriptures, that the text has been preserved to us intact and the like, is to interpose frivolous objections, and can have no other end than to glorify the Church at the expense of souls. Accordingly, he remarks that these objectors are without concern what logical difficulties they may cast themselves into: they wish only to prevent men taking their comfort out of the direct assurance by the Spirit of the divinity of the Scriptures. He repudiates, in a word, the entire Romish argument: but we can scarcely infer from this, that his response to it would be that the immediate witness of the Spirit provides us with direct answers to their carping questions. It is at least equally likely from the mere fact that he speaks of these objections as cavils (I. vii. 2) and girds at the logic of the Romish controversialists as absurd, that his response would be that the testimony of the Spirit for which he was contending had no direct concernment with questions of canon and text.
The passage in the Confession of La Rochelle, on the other hand, does certainly attribute the discrimination of the canonical books in some sense - in what sense may admit of debate - to the testimony of the Spirit. In the third article of this Confession there is given a list of the canonical books.64 The fourth article, then, runs as follows: "We recognize these books to be canonical and the very certain rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the inward witness and persuasion of the Holy Spirit, who makes us distinguish them from the other ecclesiastical books, upon which, though they may be useful, no article of faith can be founded." This article, however, was not the composition of Calvin, but was among those added by the Synod of Paris to the draft submitted by Calvin.65 Calvin's own article "On the Books of Holy Scripture," which was expanded by the Synod into several, reads only: "This doctrine does not derive its authority from men, nor from angels, but from God alone; we believe, too (seeing that it is a thing surpassing all human sense to discern that it is God who speaks), that He Himself gives the certitude of it to His elect, and seals it in their hearts by His Spirit."66 In this fine statement we find the very essence of the teaching of the "Institutes" on this subject; the ideas and even the phraseology of which are reproduced.
We may learn, therefore, at most, from the Confession of La Rochelle, not that Calvin, but that some of his immediate followers attributed in some sense the discrimination of the canonical books to the witness of the Spirit. Other evidences of this fact are not lacking. The Belgian Confession, for example, much like that of La Rochelle, declares of the Scriptural books, just enumerated (Art. v.): "We receive all these books alone, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation and establishment of our faith, and we fully believe all that they contain, not so much because the Church receives and approves them, but principally because the Spirit gives witness to them in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they are approved by themselves; for the very blind can perceive that the things come to pass which they predict." Perhaps, however, we may find a more instructive instance still in the words of one of the Protestant disputants in a conference held at Paris in 1566 between two Protestant ministers and two doctors of the Sorbonne.67 To the inquiry, How do you know that some books are canonical and others Apocryphal, the Protestant disputant (M. Lespine) answers: "By the Spirit of God which is a Spirit of discrimination, by whom all those to whom He is communicated are illuminated, so as to be made capable of judging and discerning spiritual things and of recognizing (cognoistre) and apprehending the truth (when it is proposed to them), by the witness and assurance which He gives to them in their hearts. And as we discriminate light and darkness by the faculty of sight which is in the eye; so, we can easily separate and recognize (recognoistre) truth from falsehood, and from all things in general which can be false, absurd, doubtful or indifferent, when we are invested with the Spirit of God and guided by the light which He lights in our hearts." M. Lespine had evidently read his Calvin; though there is a certain lack of crisp exactness in his language which may raise doubt whether he has necessarily reproduced him with precision. Clearly his idea is that the Spirit of God in His creative operation on the hearts of Christ's people has implanted in them - or quickened in them - a spiritual sense, which recognizes the stamp of divinity upon the books which God has given to the Church, and so separates them out from all others and thus constitutes the canon. This is to attribute the discrimination of the canonical books to the witness of the Spirit not directly but indirectly, namely, through the intermediation of the determination of the books which are of divine origin, which, then, being gathered together, constitute the canon, or divinely given rule of our faith and life. This conception of the movement of the mind in this matter became very common, and was given very clear expression, for example, by Jurieu, in a context which bears as evident marks of reminiscences of Calvin as do M. Lespine's remarks. "That grace which produces faith in a soul," says he,68 "does not begin . . . by persuading it that a given book is canonical. This persuasion comes only afterwards and as a consequence. It gives to the consciousness a taste for the truth: it applies this truth to the mind and heart; it proceeds from this subsequently that the believer believes that a given book is canonical, because the truths which 'find' him are found in it. In a word, we do not believe that which is contained in a book to be divine because this book is canonical. But we believe that a given book is canonical because we have perceived that what it contains is divine. And we have perceived this as we perceive the light when we look on the fire, sweetness and bitterness when we eat." Whether we are to attribute this movement of thought, however, to Calvin, is another question.69 There is no hint of it in his writings.
It is not even obvious that this precise movement of thought is the conception which lay in the mind of the authors of the additional articles in the Confession of La Rochelle and of the similar statement in the Belgian Confession. The interpretation of these articles is particularly interesting, as they both undoubtedly came under the eye of Calvin and their doctrine was never disavowed by him. It is not, however, altogether easy, because of a certain ambiguity in the use of the term "canonical." It is on account of the ambiguity which attends the use of this term that in speaking of their teaching we have guardedly said that they appear to suspend the canonicity of the Scriptural books in some sense directly on the testimony of the Spirit. This ambiguity may be brought sharply before us by placing in juxtaposition two sentences from Quenstedt in which the term "canonical" is employed, obviously, in two differing senses. "We deny," says he, "that the catalogue of canonical books is an article of faith, superadded to the others [articles of faith] contained in Scripture. Many have faith and may attain salvation who do not hold the number of canonical books. If the word 'canon' be understood of the number of the books, we concede that such a catalogue is not contained in Scripture." "These are two different questions," says he again, "whether the Gospel of Matthew is canonical, and whether it was written by Matthew. The former belongs to saving faith; the latter to historical knowledge. For if the Gospel which has come down to us under the name of Matthew had been written by Philip or Bartholomew, it would make no difference to saving faith." In the former extract the question of canonicity is removed from the category of articles of faith; in the latter it is made an integral element of saving faith. The contradiction is glaring - unless there be an undistributed middle. And this is what there really is. In the former passage, where Quenstedt is engaged in repelling the contention that there are articles of faith that must be accepted by all, which are not contained in Scripture - in defending, in a word, the Protestant doctrine of the sufficiency or perfection of Scripture - he uses the terms "canon," "canonical" in the purely technical sense of the extent of Scripture. In the latter passage, where he is insisting that the authority of Scripture as the Word of God hangs on its divine, not on its human, author, he uses the term "canonical" in the sense of "divinely given." The term "canonical" was current, then, in the two senses of "belonging to the list of authoritative Scriptures," "entering into the body of the Scriptures," and "God-given," "divine." In which of these two senses is it used in the Gallican and Belgian Confessions? If in the former, then these Confessions teach that the testimony of the Spirit is available directly for the determination of the canon: if in the latter, then they teach no such thing, but only that it is on the testimony of the Spirit that we are assured of the divine origin and character of these books.
That the Gallican Confession employs the term in the latter of these senses, seems at least possible when once attention is called to it, although regard for the last clause of the statement, "who makes us distinguish them from the other ecclesiastical books," etc., prevents the representation of this interpretation as certain. Its declaration, succeeding the catalogue of the books given in the third section, is obviously intended to affirm something that is true of them already as a definite body of books before the mind. "We recognize these books," it says, "to be canonical and the very certain rule of our faith." That is to say, to this body of books we ascribe the quality of canonicity and recognize their regulative character. What would seem, then, to be in question is a quality belonging to a list of books already determined and in the mind of the framer of the statement as a whole. The same may be said of the Belgian Confession. It, too, has already given a list of the canonical books, and now proceeds to affirm something that is true of "all of these books and them only." The thing affirmed is that they are "holy and canonical," where the collocation suggests that "canonical" expresses a quality which ranges with "holy." We cannot help, suspecting, then, that these early confessions use the term "canonical" not quantitatively but qualitatively, not extensively but intensively; and in that sense it is the equivalent of "divine."70 Even the inference back from them to Calvin that he may have supposed that the testimony of the Spirit is available to determine the canon becomes therefore doubtful: and no other reason exists why we should attribute this view to him. We cannot affirm that the movement of his thought was never from the divinity of Scripture, assured to us by the testimony of the Spirit, to the determination of the limits of the canon: but we have no reason to ascribe this movement of thought to him except that it was adopted by some of his successors.
On the other hand, Calvin constantly speaks as if the only thing which the testimony of the Spirit assures us of in the case of the Scriptures is the divinity of their origin and contents: and he always treats Scripture when so speaking of it as a definite entity, held before his mind as a whole.71 In these circumstances his own practice in dealing with the question of canonicity and text, makes it sufficiently clear that he held their settlement to depend on scientific investigation, and appealed to the testimony of the Spirit only to accredit the divine origin of the concrete volume thus put into his hands. The movement of his thought was therefore along this course: first, the ascertainment, on scientific grounds, of the body of books handed down from the Apostles as the rule of faith and practice; secondly, the vindication, on the same class of grounds, of the integrity of their transmission; thirdly, the accrediting of them as divine on the testimony of the Spirit. It is not involved in this that he is to be considered to have supposed that a man must be a scholar before he can be a Christian. He supposed we become Christians not by scholarship but by the testimony of the Spirit in the heart, and he had no inclination to demand scholarship as the basis of our Christianity. It is only involved in the position we ascribe to him that he must be credited with recognizing that questions of scholarship are for scholars and questions of religion only for Christians as such. He would have said - he does say - that he in whose heart the Spirit bears His testimony will recognize the Scriptures whenever presented to his contemplation as divine, will depend on them with sound trust and will embrace with true faith all that they propound to him. He would doubtless have said that this act of faith logically implicates the determination of the "canon." But he would also have said - he does in effect say - that this determination of the canon is a separable act and is to be prosecuted on its own appropriate grounds of scientific evidence. It involves indeed a fundamental misapprehension of Calvin's whole attitude to attribute to him the view that the testimony of the Spirit determines immediately such scientific questions as those of the canon and text of Scripture. The testimony of the Spirit was to him emphatically an operation of the Spirit of God on the heart, which produced distinctively a spiritual effect: it was directed to making men Christians,72 not to making them theologians. The testimony of the Spirit was, in effect, in his view, just what we in modern times have learned to call "regeneration" considered in its noetic effects. That "regeneration" has noetic effects he is explicit and iterative in affirming: but that these noetic effects of "regeneration" could supersede the necessity of scientific investigation in questions which rest for their determination on matters of fact - Calvin would be the last to imagine. He who recognized that the conviction of the divinity of Scripture wrought by the testimony of the Spirit rests as its ground on the indicia of the divinity of Scripture spiritually discerned in their true weight, could not imagine that the determination of the canon of Scripture or the establishment of its text could be wholly separated from their proper basis in evidence and grounded solely in a blind testimony of the Spirit alone: which indeed in that case would be fundamentally indistinguishable from that "revelation" which he rebuked the Anabaptists for claiming to be the recipients of.
THE TESTIMONY AND THE RELIGIOUS LIFE
When we clearly apprehend the essence of Calvin's doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit to the divinity of Scripture to be the noetic effects of "regeneration" we shall know what estimate to place upon the criticism which is sometimes passed upon him that he has insufficiently correlated his doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit with the inner73 religious life of the Christian, has given too separate a place to the Spirit's witness to Scripture, and thus has overestimated the formal principle of Protestantism in comparison with the material principle,74 with the effect of giving a hard, dry, and legalistic aspect to Christianity as expounded by him. With Luther, it is said, everything is made of Justification and the liberty of the Christian man fills the horizon of thought; and this is because his mind is set on the "faith" out of which all good things flow and by which everything - Scripture itself - is dominated. With Calvin, on the other hand, with his primary emphasis on the authority of Scripture, accredited to us by a distinct act of the Holy Spirit, the watchword becomes obedience; and the horizon of thought is filled with a sense of obligation and legalistic anxiety as to conduct.
How Calvin could have failed to correlate sufficiently closely the testimony of the Spirit with the inner Christian life, or could have emphasized the formal principle of Protestantism at the expense of the material, when he conceived of the witness of the Spirit as just one of the effects of "regeneration," it is difficult to see. So to conceive the testimony of the Spirit is on the contrary to make the formal principle of Protestantism just an outgrowth of the material. It is only because our spirits have been renewed by the Holy Spirit that we see with convincing clearness the indicia of God in Scripture, that is, have the Scriptures sealed to us by the Spirit as divine. It is quite possible that Calvin may have particularly emphasized the obligations which grow out of our renewal by the Holy Spirit and the implantation in us of the Spirit of Adoption whereby we become the sons of God - obligations to comport ourselves as the sons of God and to govern ourselves by the law of God's house as given us in His Word; while Luther may have emphasized more the liberty of the Christian man who is emancipated from the law as a condition of salvation and is ushered into the freedom of life which belongs to the children of God. And it is quite possible that in this difference we may find a fundamental distinction between the two types of Protestantism - Lutheran and Reformed - by virtue of which the Reformed have always been characterized by a strong ethical tendency - in thought and in practice. But it is misleading to represent this as due to an insufficient correlation on Calvin's part of the testimony of the Spirit to the divinity of Scripture with the inner Christian life. It would be more exact to say that Calvin in this correlation thinks especially of what in our modern nomenclature we call "regeneration," while the mind of his Lutheran critics is set more upon justification and that "faith" which is connected with justification. With Calvin, at all events, the recognition of the Scriptures as divine and the hearty adoption of them as the divine rule of our faith and life is just one of the effects of the gracious operation of the Spirit of God on the heart, renewing it into spiritual life, or, what comes to the same thing, one of the gracious activities into which the newly implanted spiritual life effloresces.
Whether we should say also that it was with him the first effect of the creative operation of the Spirit on the heart, the first act of the newly renewed soul, requires some discrimination. If we mean logically first, there is a sense in which we should probably answer this question also in the affirmative. Calvin would doubtless have said that it is in the Scriptures that Christ is proposed to our faith, or, to put it more broadly, that Christ is the very substance of the special revelation documented in the Scriptures, and that the laying hold of Christ by faith presupposes therefore confidence in the revelation the substance of which He is - which is as much as to say the embracing of the Scriptures in firm faith as a revelation from God. If the Word is the vehicle through which the knowledge of Christ is brought to the soul, it follows of itself that it is only when our minds are filled with a solid reverence for the Word, when by the light of the Spirit we are enabled and prevalently led to see Christ therein, that we can embrace Christ with a sound faith: so that it may truly be said that no man can have the least true and sound knowledge of Christ without learning from Scripture (cf. I. ix. 3; I. vi. 2). In this sense Calvin would certainly have said that our faith in Christ presupposes faith in the Scriptures, rather than that we believe in the Scriptures for Christ's sake. But if our minds are set on chronological sequences, the response to the question which is raised is more doubtful. Faith in the revelation the substance of which is Christ and faith in Christ the substance of this revelation are logical implicates which involve one another: and we should probably be nearest to Calvin's thought if, without raising questions of chronological succession, we should recognize them as arising together in the soul. The real difference between Calvin's and the ordinary Lutheran conception at this point lies in the greater profundity of Calvin's insight and the greater exactness of his analysis. The Lutheran is prone to begin with faith, which is naturally conceived at its apex, as faith in Jesus Christ our Redeemer; and to make everything else flow from this faith as its ultimate root. For what comes before faith, out of which faith itself flows, he has little impulse accurately to inquire. Calvin penetrates behind faith to the creative action of the Holy Spirit on the heart and the new creature which results therefrom, whose act faith is; and is therefore compelled by an impulse derived from the matter itself to consider the relations in which the several activities of this new creature stand to one another and to analyse the faith itself which holds the primacy among them (for trust is the essence of religion, chap. ii.), into its several movements. The effect of this is that "efficacious grace" - what we call in modern speech "regeneration" - takes the place of fundamental principle in Calvin's soteriology and he becomes preeminently the theologian of the Holy Spirit. In point of fact it is from him accordingly that the effective study of the work of the Holy Spirit takes its rise, and it is only in the channels cut by him and at the hands of thinkers taught by him that the theology of the Holy Spirit has been richly developed.75
It is his profound sense of the supernatural origin of all that is good in the manifestations of human life which constitutes the characteristic mark of Calvin's thinking: and it is this which lies at the bottom of and determines his doctrine of the witness of the Holy Spirit. He did not doubt that the act of faith by which the child of God embraces the Scriptures as a revelation of God is his own act and the expression of his innermost consciousness. But neither did he doubt that this consciousness is itself the expression of a creative act of the Spirit of God. And it was on this account that he represented to himself the act of faith performed as resting ultimately on "the testimony of the Spirit." Its supernatural origin was to him the most certain thing about it. That language very much resembling his own might be employed in a naturalistic sense was, no doubt, made startlingly plain in his own day by the teaching of Castellion. Out of his pantheising rationalism Castellion found it possible to speak almost in Calvin's words. "It is evident," says he, "that the intention and secret counsels of God, hidden in the Scriptures, are revealed only to believers, the humble, the pious, who fear God and have the Spirit of God." If the wicked have sometimes spoken like prophets, they have nevertheless not really understood what they said, but are like magpies in a cage going through the forms of speech without inner apprehension of its meaning.76 But Castellion meant by this nothing more than that sympathy is requisite to understanding. Since his day multitudes more have employed Calvin's language to express little more than this; and have even represented Calvin's own meaning as nothing more than that the human consciousness acquires by association with God in Christ the power of discriminating the truth of God from falsehood. Nothing could more fundamentally subvert Calvin's whole teaching. The very nerve of his thought is, that the confidence of the Christian in the divine origin and authority of Scripture and the revelatory nature of its contents is of distinctively supernatural origin, is God-wrought. The testimony of the Spirit may be delivered through the forms of our consciousness, but it remains distinctively the testimony of God the Holy Spirit and is not to be confused with the testimony of our consciousness.77 Resting on the language of Rom. viii. 16, from which the term "testimony of the Spirit" was derived, he conceived it as a co-witness along with the witness of our spirit indeed, but on that very account distinguishable from the witness of our spirit. This particular point is nowhere discussed by him at large, but Calvin's general sense is perfectly plain. That there is a double testimony he is entirely sure - the testimony of our own spirit and that of the Holy Spirit: that these are though distinguishable yet inseparable, he is equally clear: his conception is therefore that this double testimony runs confluently together into one. This is only as much as to say afresh that the testimony of the Holy Spirit is not delivered to us in a propositional revelation, nor by the creating in us of a blind conviction, but along the lines of our own consciousness. In its essence, the act of the Spirit in delivering His testimony, terminates on our nature, or faculties, quickening them so that we feel, judge, and act differently from what we otherwise should. In this sense, the testimony of the Spirit coalesces with our consciousness. We cannot separate it out as a factor in our conclusions, judgments; feelings, actions, consciously experienced as coming from without. But we function differently from before: we recognize God where before we did not perceive Him; we trust and love Him where before we feared and hated Him; we firmly embrace Him in His Word where before we turned indifferently away. This change needs accounting for. We account for it by the action of the Holy Spirit on our hearts; and we call this His "testimony." But we cannot separate His action from our recognition of God, our turning in trust and love to Him and the like. For this is the very form in which the testimony of the Spirit takes effect, into which it flows, by which it is recognized. We are profoundly conscious that of ourselves we never would have seen thus, and that our seeing thus can never find its account in anything in us by nature. We are sure, therefore, that there has come upon us a revolutionary influence from without; and we are sure that this is the act of God. Calvin would certainly have cried as one of his most eloquent disciples cries to-day: "The Holy Spirit is God, and not we ourselves. What we are speaking of is a Spirit which illuminates our spirit, which purifies our spirit, which strives against our spirit, which triumphs over our spirit. And you say this Spirit is nothing but our spirit? By no means. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God - this is God coming into us, not coming from us."78 It is with equal energy that Calvin declares the supernaturalness of the testimony of the Spirit and repels every attempt to confound it with the human consciousness through which it works. To him this testimony is just God Himself in His intimate working in the human heart, opening it to the light of the truth, that by this illumination it may see things as they really are and so recognize God in the Scriptures with the same directness and surety as men recognize sweetness in what is sweet and brightness in what is bright. Here indeed lies the very hinge of his doctrine.79
It has seemed desirable to enter into some detail with respect to Calvin's doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit, not only because of its intrinsic interest, but also because of its importance for understanding Calvin's doctrine of the knowledge of God and indeed his whole system of truth, and for a proper estimate of his place in the history of thought. His doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit is the keystone of his doctrine of the knowledge of God. Men endowed by nature with an ineradicable sensus deitatis, which is quickened into action and informed by a rich revelation of God spread upon His works and embodied in His deeds, are yet held back from attaining a sound knowledge of God by the corruption of their hearts, which dulls their instinctive sense of God and blinds them to His revelation in works and deeds. That His people may know Him, therefore, God lovingly intervenes by an objective revelation of Himself in His Word, and a subjective correction of their sin-bred dullness of apprehension of Him through the operation of His Spirit in their hearts, which Calvin calls the Testimony of the Holy Spirit. Obviously it is only through this testimony of the Holy Spirit that the revelation of God, whether in works or Word, is given efficacy: it is God, then, who, through His Spirit, reveals Himself to His people, and they know Him only as taught by Himself. But also on this very account the knowledge they have of Him is trustworthy in its character and complete for its purpose; being God-given, it is safeguarded to us by the dreadful sanction of deity itself. This being made clear, Calvin has laid a foundation for the theological structure - the scientific statement and elaboration of the knowledge of God - than which nothing could be conceived more firm. There remained nothing more for him to do before proceeding at once to draw out the elements of the knowledge of God as they lie in the revelation so assured to us, except to elucidate the indicia by which the Christian under the influence of the testimony of the Spirit is strengthened in his confidence that the Scriptures are the very Word of God, and to repudiate the tendency to neglect these Scriptures so authenticated to us in favor of fancied continuous revelations of the Spirit. The former he does in a chapter (chap. viii.) of considerable length and great eloquence, which constitutes one of the fullest and most powerful expositions of the evidence for the divine origin of the Scriptures which have come down to us from the Reformation age. The latter he does in a briefer chapter (chap. ix.), of crisp polemic quality, the upshot of which is to leave it strongly impressed on the reader's mind that the whole knowledge of God available to us, as the whole knowledge of God needful for us, lies objectively displayed in the pages of Scripture, which, therefore, becomes the sole source of a sound exposition of the knowledge of God.
This strong statement is not intended, however, to imply that the Spirit-led man can learn nothing from the more general revelation of God in His works and deeds. Calvin is so far from denying the possibility of a "Natural Theology," in this sense of the word, that he devotes a whole chapter (chap. v.) to vindicating the rich revelation of God made in His works and deeds: though, of course, he does deny that any theology worthy of the name can be derived from this natural revelation by the "natural man," that is, by the man the eyes of whose mind and heart are not opened by the Spirit of God - who is not under the influence of the testimony of the Spirit; and in this sense he denies the possibility of a "Natural Theology." What the strong statement in question is intended to convey is that there is nothing to be derived from natural revelation which is not also to be found in Scripture, whether as necessary presupposition, involved implication or clear statement; and that beside that documented in Scripture there is no supernatural revelation accessible to men. The work of the Spirit of God is not to supplement the revelation made in Scripture, far less to supersede it, but distinctively to authenticate it. It remains true, then, that the whole matter of a sound theology lies objectively revealed to us in the pages of Scripture; and this is the main result to which his whole discussion tends. But side by side with it requires to be placed as a result of his discussion secondary only to this, this further conclusion, directly given in his doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit - that only a Christian man can profitably theologize. It is in the union of these two great principles that we find Calvin's view of the bases of a true theology. This he conceives as the product of the systematic investigation and logical elaboration of the contents of Scripture by a mind quickened to the apprehension of these contents through the inward operations of the Spirit of God. It is on this basis and in this spirit that Calvin undertakes his task as a theologian; and what he professes to give us in his "Institutes" is thus, to put it simply, just a Christian man's reading of the Scriptures of God.
The Protestantism of this conception of the task of the theologian is apparent on the face of it. It is probably, however, still worth while to point out that its Protestantism does not lie solely or chiefly in the postulate that the Scriptures are the sole authoritative source of the knowledge of God - "formal principle" of the Reformation though that postulate be, and true, therefore, as Chillingworth's famous declaration that "the Bible and the Bible only is the religion of Protestants" would be, if only Chillingworth had kept it to this sense. It lies more fundamentally still in the postulate that these Scriptures are accredited to us as the revelation of God solely by the testimony of the Holy Spirit - that without this testimony they lie before us inert and without effect on our hearts and minds, while with it they become not merely the power of God unto salvation, but also the vitalizing source of all our knowledge of God. There is embodied in this the true Protestant principle, superior to both the so-called formal and the so-called material principles - both of which are in point of fact but corollaries of it. For it takes the soul completely and forcibly out of the hands of the Church and from under its domination, and casts it wholly upon the grace of God. In its formulation Calvin gave to Protestantism for the first time, accordingly, logical stability and an inward sense of security. Men were no more puzzled by the polemics of Rome when they were asked, You rest on Scripture alone, you say: but on what does your Scripture rest? Calvin's development of the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit provided them with their sufficient answer: "On the testimony of the Spirit of God in the heart." Here we see the historical importance of Calvin's formulation of this doctrine. And here we see the explanation of the two great facts which reveal its historical importance, the facts, to wit, that Calvin had no predecessors in the formulation of the doctrine, and that at once upon his formulation of it it became the common doctrine of universal Protestantism.
IV. HISTORICAL RELATIONS
The search for anticipations of the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit among the Fathers and Scholastics80 reveals only such sporadic assertions of the dependence of man on the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit for the knowledge or the saving knowledge of God as could not fail in the speech of a series of Christian men who had read their Bibles. A sentence of this kind from Justin Martyr,81 another from Chrysostom,82 two or three from Hilary of Poitiers,83 almost exhaust what the first age yields. It is different with Augustine. With his profound sense of dependence on God and his vital conviction of the necessity of grace for all that is good in man, in the whole circle of his activities, he could not fail to work out a general doctrine of the knowledge of God in all essentials the same as Calvin's. In point of fact, as we have already pointed out, he did so. There remain, however, some very interesting and some very significant differences between the two.84 It is interesting to note, for instance, that where Calvin speaks of an innate sensus deitatis in man, as lying at the root of all his knowledge of God, Augustine, with a more profound ontology of this knowledge, as at least made explicit in the statement, speaks of a continuous reflection of a knowledge of Himself by God in the human mind.85 There is here, however, probably only a difference in fulness of statement, or at most only of emphasized aspect. On the other hand, it is highly significant that, instead of Calvin's doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit, Augustine, in conformity with the stress he laid upon the "Church" and the "means of grace" in the conference of grace, speaks of the knowledge of God as attainable only "in the Church."86 Accordingly, in him also and his successors there are to be found only such anticipations specifically of the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit as are afforded by the increased frequency of their references to the dependence of man for all knowledge of God and divine things on grace and the inward teaching of the heavenly Instructor. The voice of men may assail our ears, says Augustine, for instance, but those remain untaught "to whom that inward unction does not speak, whom the Holy Spirit does not inwardly teach": for "He who teaches the heart has His seat in heaven."87 Moses himself, yea, even if he spoke to us not in Hebrew but in our own tongue, could convey to us only the knowledge of what he said: of the truth of what he said, only the Truth Himself, speaking within us, in the secret chamber of our thought, can assure us though He speaks neither in Hebrew nor in Greek nor in Latin, nor yet in any tongue of the barbarians, but without organs of voice or tongue and with no least syllabic sound.88 Further than this men did not get before the Reformation:89 nor did the first Reformers themselves get further. No doubt they discerned the voice of the Spirit in the Scriptures, as the Fathers did before them; and in a single sentence, written, however, after the "Institutes" of 1539 (viz., in 1555), Melanchthon notes with the Fathers that the mind is "aided in giving its assent" to divine things "by the Holy Spirit."90 Zwingli here stands on the same plane with his brethren. He strongly repels the Romish establishment of confidence in the Scriptures on the ipse dixit of the Church, indeed: and asserts that those who sincerely search the Scriptures are taught by God, and even that none acquire faith in the Word except as drawn by the Father, admonished by the Spirit, taught by the unction - as, says he, all pious men have found.91 But such occasional remarks as this could not fail wherever the Augustinian conception of grace was vitally felt; and show only that the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit was always implicit in that doctrine.92
The same remark applies to the first edition of Calvin's "Institutes" (1536) also, though with a difference. This difference - that, if we cannot say that the doctrine of the internal testimony of the Spirit to the divinity of the Scriptures is found there already in germ93 any more than we can say the same of the Augustinian Fathers, and the criticism passed94 on the adduction of Melanchthon's single sentence in this reference to the effect that he speaks rather "of the action of the Holy Spirit with reference to the object of faith, that is to say, to the contents of the Word of God" than "with reference to the divinity of the Scriptures themselves," is valid also for Calvin's first edition; yet it is certainly true that the general doctrine of the internal testimony of the Spirit comes much more prominently forward in even the first edition of the "Institutes" than in any preceding treatise of the sort - that much more is made in it than in any of its predecessors of the poverty of the human spirit and the need and actuality of the prevalent influence of the Spirit of God that man may have - whether in knowledge or act - any good thing. We shall have to go back to Augustine to find anything comparable to the conviction and insight with which even in this his earliest work Calvin urges these things. Calvin's whole thought is already dominated by the conception of the powerlessness of the human soul in its sin in all that belongs to the knowledge of God which is salvation, and its entire dependence on the sovereign operations of the Holy Spirit: and in this sense it may be said that the chapters in the new "Institutes" of 1539 in which he develops this doctrine of the noetic effects of sin and their cure by objective revelation, documented in Scripture, and subjective illumination wrought by the Holy Spirit, lay implicitly in his doctrine of man's need and its cure by the indwelling Spirit which pervades the "Institutes" of 1536. There he already teaches that the written law was required by the decay of our consciousness of the law written on the heart; that to know God and His will we have need to surpass ourselves; that it is the Spirit dwelling in us that is the source of all our right knowledge of God; and that it is due to the power of the Spirit alone" that we hear the word of the Holy Gospel, that we accept it by faith, and that we abide in this faith " (p. 137, or Opp. i. 72). With eminent directness and simplicity he already there tells us that "our Lord first teaches and instructs us by His Word; secondarily confirms us by His Sacraments; and thirdly by the light of His Holy Spirit illuminates our understandings and gives entrance into our hearts both to the Word and to the Sacraments, which otherwise would only beat upon our ears and stand before our eyes, without penetrating or operating beneath them" (p. 206, or Opp. i. 104). There is, in other words, very rich teaching in the "Institutes" of 1536 of the entire dependence of sinful man on the Spirit of God for every sound religious movement of the soul: but there is no development of the precise doctrine of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the divinity of the Scriptures. It is not merely that the term testimonium Spiritus Sancti does not occur in this early draft, or occurs only once, and then not in this sense:95 it is that the thing is not explicated and is present only as implicated in the general doctrine of grace, which is very purely conceived.
It was left, then, to the edition of 1539 to create the whole doctrine at, as it were, a single stroke.96 For, as we have already had occasion to note, Calvin's whole exposition of the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit to the divinity of Scripture appears all at once in its completeness in the second edition of the "Institutes," the first edition which he issued as a textbook on theology, that of 1539. This exposition was reproduced without curtailment or alteration in all subsequent editions, and is thereby given the great endorsement of Calvin's permanent approval: while the additions which are made to it in the progressive expansion of the treatise, while large in amount, are devoted to guarding it from the misapprehension that the necessity it asserted for the testimony of the Spirit in any way detracted from the objective value of the indicia of the divinity of Scripture, rather than to modifying the positive doctrine expounded. The additions within the limits of chapter vii. consist essentially of the insertion of the discussion of Augustine's doctrine in § 3 and of the caveat with reference to the underestimation of the indicia in § 4, while practically the whole of chapter viii. - all except the opening sentence - is of later origin. If we will omit the first sentence of chapter vii., the whole of §§ 3 and 4, with the exception of the sentence near the beginning of the latter, which begins: "Now if we wish to consult the true intent of our conscience" - and the beginning and end of § 5, retaining only the central passage beginning: "For though it conciliate our reverence . . ." down to the words: "Superior to the power of any human will or knowledge," and also the two striking sentences, beginning with: "It is such a persuasion" and ending with "a just explication of the subject" - we shall have substantially the text of the edition of 1539, needing only to add the two opening sentences of chapter viii. and the major part of chapter ix. It will at once be seen that the edition of 1539 contains the entire positive exposition of the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit as retained by Calvin to the end.
The formulation of this principle of the testimony of the Spirit by Calvin in 1539 had an extraordinary effect both immediate and permanent.97 Universal Protestantism perceived in it at sight the pure expression of the Protestant principle and the sheet-anchor of its position. The Lutherans as well as the Reformed adopted it at once and made it the basis not only of their reasoned defence of Protestantism, but also of their structure of Christian doctrine and of their confidence in Christian living.98 To it they both continued to cling so long and so far as they continued faithful to the Protestant principle itself. It has given way only as the structure of Protestantism has itself given way in reaction to the Romish position, or, more widely, as the structure of Christian thought has given way in rationalizing disintegration. No doubt it has undergone at the hands of its various expounders, from time to time, more or less modification, and in its journeyings to the ends of the earth, has suffered now and again some sea-change - sometimes through sheer misapprehension, sometimes through sheer misrepresentation, sometimes through more or less admixture of both. A spurious revival of the doctrine was, for example, set on foot by Schleiermacher in his strong revulsion from the cold rationalism which had so long reigned in Germany to a more vital religious faith; and sentences may be quoted from his writings which, when removed out of the context of his system of thought, almost give expression to it.99 But after all, his revival of it was rather the revival of subjectivity in religion than of the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit as the basis of all faith: and it has borne bitter fruit in a widespread subjectivism, the mark of which is that it discards (as "external") the authority of those very Scriptures to which the testimony of the Spirit is borne. Not in such circles is the continued influence of the doctrine of the testimony of the Spirit to be sought or its continued advocacy to be found. If we would see it in its purity in the modern Church we must look for it in the hands of true successors of Calvin - in the writings, to name only men of our own time, of William Cunningham100 and Charles Hodge101 and Abraham Kuyper102 and Herman Bavinck.103
As we have already had occasion to note, the principle of the testimony of the Spirit as the true basis of our confidence in the Scriptures as the Word of God was almost from the hands of Calvin himself incorporated into the Reformed Creeds. We have already pointed out the sharpness and strength of its expression in the Gallican (1557-1571) and Belgian (1501-1571) Confessions, and it finds at least the expression of suggestion in the Second Helvetic Confession (1562). It was not, however, merely into the Confessions of the Reformation age that it was incorporated. It is given an expression as clear as it is prudent, as decided as it is comprehensive, in that confession of their faith which the persecuted Waldenses issued after the massacres of 1655;104 and it is incorporated into the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) in perhaps the best and most balanced statement it has ever received - the phraseology of which is obviously derived in large part from Calvin, either directly or through the intermediation of George Gillespie,105 but the substance of which was but the expression of the firmly held faith of the whole body of the framers of that culminating Confession of the Reformed Churches.
"We recognize the divinity of these sacred books," says the Waldensian Confession (chap. iv.), "not only through the testimony of the Church, but principally through the eternal and indubitable truth of the doctrine which is contained in them, through the excellence, sublimity, and majesty of the pure divinity (du tout divine) which are apparent in them, and through the operation of the Holy Spirit which makes us receive with deference the testimony which the Church gives to them, which opens our eyes to receive the rays of the celestial light which shines in the Scriptures, and so corrects our taste that we discern this food by the divine savor which it possesses." The dependence of this fine statement on Calvin's exposition is evident; but what is most striking about it is the clarity with which it conceives and the fulness with which it expounds the exact mode of working of the testimony of the Spirit and its relation to the indicia of divinity in Scripture, through which, and not apart from or in opposition to which, it performs its work. So far from supposing that the witness of the Spirit is of the nature of a new and independent revelation from heaven or works only a blind faith in us, setting thus aside all evidences of the divinity of Scripture, external and internal alike, this careful statement particularly explains that our faith in the divinity of Scripture rests, under the testimony of the Spirit, on these evidences as its ground, but not on these evidences by themselves, but on them as apprehended by a Spirit-led mind and heart - the work of the Spirit consisting in so dealing with our spirit that these evidences are, under His influence, perceived and felt in their real bearing and full strength.
An even more notable statement of the whole doctrine is that incorporated into the Westminster Confession (i. 4, 5), and in a more compressed form into the Larger Catechism (Q. 4). "The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed," says the Confession, "dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our heart." In the Larger Catechism this is reduced to the form: "The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation; but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very Word of God." The fundamental excellence of this remarkable statement (for the full understanding of which what is said of "faith" in chapter xiv. of the Confession and Question 72 of the Catechism should be compared with it - just as Calvin referred his readers to his later discussion of "faith" for further information on the topic of the testimony of the Spirit) is the care with which the several grounds on which we recognize the Scriptures to be from God are noted and their value appraised, and that yet the supreme importance of the witness of the Spirit is safe-guarded.106 The external testimony of the Church is noted and its value pointed out: it moves and induces us to a high and reverent esteem for Scripture. The internal testimony of the characteristics of the Scriptures themselves is noted and its higher value pointed out: they "abundantly evidence" or "manifest" the Scriptures "to be the Word of God." The need and place of the testimony of the Spirit is then pointed out in the presence of this "abundant evidencing" or "manifesting": it is not to add new evidence - which is not needed - but to secure deeper conviction - which is needed; and not independently of the Word with its evidencing characteristics, but "by and with the Word" or "the Scriptures." What this evidence of the Spirit does is "fully to persuade us" that "the Scriptures are the very Word of God," - to work in us "full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority" of the Word of God. It is a matter of completeness of conviction, not of grounds of conviction; and the testimony of the Spirit works, therefore, not by adding additional grounds of conviction, but by an inward work on the heart, enabling it to react upon the already "abundant evidence" with a really "full persuasion and assurance." Here we have the very essence of Calvin's doctrine, almost in his own words, and with even more than his own eloquence and precision of statement.
What Calvin has given to the Reformed Churches, therefore, in his formulation of the doctrine of the Testimony of the Spirit is a fundamental doctrine, which has been as such expounded by the whole body of their theologians, and incorporated into the fabric of their public Confessions, so that it has been made and continues to be until to-day the officially declared faith of the Reformed Churches in France and Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Scotland, and America, wherever the fundamental Reformed Creeds are still professed.