Blog 67: 2.8.39 - 2.8.46

Paul Helm

The commands forbidding murder and adultery are, if anything, interpreted even more widely by Calvin. The command not to kill implies not merely a refraining form certain kinds of action, but carries the obligation to look out for a neighbour's welfare. The command is also intensive, for it extends acting and refraining to the heart. Expressions of anger and feelings of hatred are intentions to do harm to the one to whom the feelings are directed. Calvin says that this command is bound up with the fact of the image of God (though he does not refer explicitly to Gen. 9.6), and with obligations to our neighbour.

Similarly, the command forbidding of adultery also forbids all immodesty and impurity. Calvin has a positive view of marriage beyond the purpose of procreation. It is for the enjoyment of mutual help and companionship. Characteristically he advises that while the chastity of celibacy is a gift for some, it does not elevate such people to a class superior to those who marry. Celibacy is warranted only because it may provide greater opportunity for carrying out the Lord's work  The forbidding of fornication includes the forbidding of what may promote or provoke it 'with wanton dress and obscene gestures and foul speech'.

His remarks on the forbidding of stealing are similarly wide in scope, and they reveal Calvin's rather stratified, rigid view of society in which every man is where he is in society by the appointment of God. He is not an advocate of 'upward mobility', though he does not forbid gain, if it is honestly and lawfully obtained. In Christian ethics, integrity and simplicity are what count.