Blog 37: 1.17.8 - 1.17.11

For Calvin, the biblical doctrine of providence is not a matter for idle speculation. On the contrary, "ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it" (1.17.11).

In this section, Calvin develops three practical observations concerning the doctrine of providence. First, the doctrine helps us to face adversity properly. When we realize that the hostilities and setbacks we experience do not come ultimately from the hand of man but from the hand of God, we are able to check the "anger and impatience" that tempt us in those situations (1.17.8).

Second, the doctrine of providence teaches us how to use means. If somebody helps us, it is appropriate to express appreciation for that person, even as we recognize that that help has come through that person from God. If we hurt ourselves through "negligence or imprudence," we rightly accept blame for our carelessness, even as we recognize that the matter has come to pass because of the "Lord's will" (1.17.9). As we face an uncertain future, we take up all proper means with energy and zeal, even as we "entrust and submit" ourselves "to God's wisdom," and entrust the outcome to God's hand (ibid.).

Third, the doctrine of providence is the stay and support of the believer. Danger, disease, and death face every person every moment of the day. Neither unbeliever nor believer is exempt from the "innumerable evils that beset human life" (1.17.10). Should the believer respond to these uncertainties with anxiety, fear, and care, Calvin asks? No! "His solace, I say, is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it" (1.17.11). We not only affirm that "the Lord is everywhere at work," but we "trust that his work will be for [believers'] welfare" (ibid.). To have a fixed and settled knowledge of this truth is "highest blessedness" indeed.