The Institutes (28)

Book 1 Chapter 14 Sections 20-22

… let us not be ashamed to take pious delight in the works of God open and manifest in this most beautiful theater. For… although it is not the chief evidence for faith, yet it is the first evidence in the order of nature, to be mindful that wherever we cast our eyes, all things they meet are works of God, and at the same time to ponder with pious meditation to what end God created them.

What did the first moment of existence look like? Was it an amalgamation of particles and matter that resulted a huge bang? Was their an intelligence behind that? Was it random? Will we never know? Or does something lie behind the beginning that too wonderful for us to imagine, as Richard Dawkins has theorized? Or is the most wonderful thing imaginable… God’s words splitting through the dark, creating light?

For Calvin, the thought of God as Creator is the most thankworthy thing in the universe. That God would choose to create men at all is the first in a long list of natural graces given to us. The only thing that supersedes this in time is God’s choice to save us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). So why, when Calvin has already gone through the nature of general revelation and creation, is he rehashing it? Here he’s not talking about the content of the revelation, but the spiritual benefits of meditating on and believing the doctrine of creation.

Calvin sees two chief steps in doing this: approaching the doctrine orthodoxically and orthopathically. In other words, thinking the right thoughts about these things, and then applying them to our own hearts.

The first part of the rule is exemplified when we reflect upon the greatness of the Artifacer who stationed, arranged, and fitted together the starry host of heaven in such wonderful order that nothing more beautiful in appearance can be imagined; who so set and fixed some in their stations that they cannot move; who granted to others a freer course, but so as not to wander outside their appointed course…

All of this is used to frame how much love is displayed in our salvation, which is the second step in this process. That God would start this grand master symphony with salvation already in mind and all the benefits thereof for us already in place… well, a picture doesn’t begin without a canvass. In this way God is good. God is good to make known His power and strength through creation, and his power and strength in our salvation.

… he willed to commend his providence and fatherly solicitude toward us in that, before he fashioned man, he prepared everything he foresaw would be useful and salutary for him. How great ingratitude would it be now to doubt whether this most gracious Father has us in his care, who we see was concerned for us even before we were born! How impious would it be to tremble for fear that his kindness might at any time fail us in our need, when we see that it was shown, with the greatest abundance of every good thing, when we were yet unborn!

Creation is intricately wrapped up in the story of redemption. God didn’t conceive creation apart from the fall and redemption. This realization, that creation would take place even though God foresaw the fall should bring us to worship Him all the more. Praise God!

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