Blog 69: 2.8.53 - 2.8.59

Paul Helm

Calvin's approach to the moral law is not moralistic but evangelical. Keeping the commands is to spring from the fear of God which the Gospel engenders.  For the Law and the Prophets give first place to faith. (Here Calvin is giving us a brief foretaste of what is to come in the next Chapters.)

In the remainder of this Chapter Calvin ties up some loose ends, though this does not mean that the ends are unimportant. The law has love for others, not the promotion of self-love, as its purpose. (We don't need any encouragement to promote ourselves.) Who are these others? Those near at hand, next to whom God has placed us.  But also 'the whole human race without exception'.

We cannot opt out of the law, nor do some people have a deeper obligation to keep the law than others, nor are some transgressions of the law less sinful than others, even though the social consequences of transgressing the law may differ. All sin is mortal, for all sin is a defiance of God whose law is transgressed.

In these loose ends there is a common thread: it is Calvin's reluctance to leave any opportunity for partial or discriminatory ethical attitudes to arise; by thinking of ourselves before others, or some group (members of some school, or club, or class, or race, or church) before others, or some laws before others. To exercise such discretion, picking and choosing between this person or that, or this law or that, is to put in jeopardy that simplicity and integrity which is characteristic of a true love for God and his law.