[K:JNWTS 28/2 (September 2013): 27]

Calvin on Canaan and Merit

Now Moses comes to the second matter which we have touched, which ought to be well marked: namely, that when God has helped and succored us and done more for us than we looked for, or than our wit could conceive, we must yield him his deserved glory; so as we are not besotted with pride and overweening to challenge that to ourselves which belongs only unto God—let us beware of such unthankfulness. Again, let us not imagine that God serves his turn by us in respect of any worthiness of ours, but let us understand that his choosing of us is only in respect of his own good will. We shall not find any deserving at all in ourselves in this behalf, but it is of his free mercy only which he will have us to magnify above all things.

True it is, that Moses speaks here of the land of Canaan. But if men cannot deserve [meriter, “merit” French text] anything [ne . . . rien, “nothing” French text] in this world in respect of transitory things, how shall they deserve [meriteront-ils, “they merit” French text] everlasting life? If I cannot win a little piece of ground, how shall I win a whole realm? So then, let us mark that of the things that are said here, we must gather a general doctrine which is, that if the children of Israel were put in possession of the land that had been promised them, not for their own righteousness sake, but through God’s free goodness, it is much more reason that when we speak of the heavenly life and of the inheritance of the heavenly glory, we should not dream upon any power of our own, but acknowledge that God has uttered his righteousness and showed his goodness in his vouchsafing to choose us (John Calvin, “The Lxii Sermon of Iohn Calvin” [on Dt. 9:1-6], in The Sermons of M. Iohn Calvin vpon the Fifth Booke of Moses called Deuteronomie (1583/1987) 375-76; slight modernizing changes in spelling and punctuation have been made by the editor).