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John Calvin on Special & Common Election

And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, “The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you. And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways (Acts 3.17-26; ESV).

It is you who are the sons [v. 25]. He signifies that the grace of the covenant was appointed principally for them, which covenant God made with their fathers. And so as he goaded them forward to obey the gospel, by terrifying them with the terror of punishment, so he allures them now again to receive the grace which is offered them in Christ; so that we see how that God omits nothing by which he may bring us to himself. And it is the duty of a wise minister so to goad forward the sluggish and slow bellies, that he lead those gently who are apt to be taught; we must also note diligently this course of teaching, where Peter shows that the gospel is assigned and appointed to the Jews. For it is not sufficient to have the mercy of God preached to us generally, unless we also know that the same is offered to us by the certain ordinance of God. For this cause is it that Paul stand so much upon the avowing of the calling of the Gentiles (Romans 15.18; Ephesians 3.3-4) because, if any man should think that the gospel came to him by chance, when as it was scattered here and there, faith should quail [“quaver,” “vacillate”]; yea, there should be a doubtful opinion instead of faith. Therefore, to the end we may steadfastly believe the promise of salvation, this application (that I may so term it) is necessary, that God does not cast forth uncertain voices, that they may hang in the air, but that he directs the same to us by his certain and determinate counsel. Peter tells the Jews, that Christ is promised to them after this sort, to the end they may more willingly embrace him. And how does he prove this? Because they are the children of the prophets and of the covenant. He calls them the children of the prophets, which were of the same nation, and therefore were heirs of the covenant, which belonged to the whole body of the people. For he argues thus: God made his covenant with our fathers; therefore we, who are their posterity, are comprehended in the covenant.

By this the doubting subtlety of the Anabaptists [“rebaptizers”] is refuted, who expound the children of Abraham only allegorically; as if God had had no respect to his stock, when he said, “I will be the God of your seed,” (Genesis 17.7). Certainly Peter does not speak in this place of the shadows of the law; but he affirms that this is of force under the kingdom of Christ: that God adopts the children together with the fathers; and so, consequently, the grace of salvation may be extended to those who are as yet unborn (Romans 9.7). I grant, indeed, that many who are the children of the faithful, according to the flesh, are counted bastards, and not legitimate, because they thrust themselves out of the holy progeny through their unbelief. But this in no way hinders the Lord from calling and admitting the seed of the godly into fellowship of grace. And so, although the common election is not effectual in all, yet may it set open a gate for the special elect.

Text silently modernized

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