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Book 1, Chapter 5: The Knowledge of God Conspicuous in the Creation, and Continual Government of the World

This chapter consists of two parts: 1. The former, which occupies the first ten sections, divides all the works of God into two great classes, and elucidates the knowledge of God as displayed in each class. The one class is treated of in the first six, and the other in the four following sections: 2. The latter part of the chapter shows, that, in consequence of the extreme stupidity of men, those manifestations of God, however perspicuous, lead to no useful result. This latter part, which commences at the eleventh section, is continued to the end of the chapter.

Sections.

  1. The invisible and incomprehensible essence of God, to a certain extent, made visible in his works.
  2. This declared by the first class of works—viz. the admirable motions of the heavens and the earth, the symmetry of the human body, and the connection of its parts; in short, the various objects which are presented to every eye.
  3. This more especially manifested in the structure of the human body.
  4. The shameful ingratitude of disregarding God, who, in such a variety of ways, is manifested within us. The still more shameful ingratitude of contemplating the endowments of the soul, without ascending to Him who gave them. No objection can be founded on any supposed organism in the soul.
  5. The powers and actions of the soul, a proof of its separate existence from the body. Proofs of the soul’s immortality. Objection that the whole world is quickened by one soul. Reply to the objection. Its impiety.
  6. Conclusion from what has been said—viz. that the omnipotence, eternity, and goodness of God, may be learned from the first class of works, i.e., those which are in accordance with the ordinary course of nature.
  7. The second class of works—viz. those above the ordinary course of nature, afford clear evidence of the perfections of God, especially his goodness, justice, and mercy.
  8. Also his providence, power, and wisdom.
  9. Proofs and illustrations of the divine Majesty. The use of them—viz. the acquisition of divine knowledge in combination with true piety.
  10. The tendency of the knowledge of God to inspire the righteous with the hope of future life, and remind the wicked of the punishments reserved for them. Its tendency, moreover, to keep alive in the hearts of the righteous a sense of the divine goodness.
  11. The second part of the chapter, which describes the stupidity both of learned and unlearned, in ascribing the whole order of things, and the admirable arrangements of divine Providence, to fortune.
  12. Hence Polytheism, with all its abominations, and the endless and irreconcilable opinions of the philosophers concerning God.
  13. All guilty of revolt from God, corrupting pure religion, either by following general custom, or the impious consent of antiquity.
  14. Though irradiated by the wondrous glories of creation, we cease not to follow our own ways.
  15. Our conduct altogether inexcusable, the dullness of perception being attributable to ourselves, while we are fully reminded of the true path, both by the structure and the government of the world.

Participants:


Reformed Classics is a program delivering audio productions of classic reformed works. Currently, Reformed Classics is working through the Henry Beveridge translation of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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