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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 3: Harmony of the Law, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Deuteronomy 30

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

11. For this commandment, which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off:

11. Praeceptum hoc quod praecipio tibi hodie, non est absconditam a to, nec procul remotum.

12. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?

12. Non est in coelis ut dicas, Quis nobis ascendet in coelum, ut deferat illud ad nos, et annuntiet nobis, ut ipsum faciamus?

13. Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?

13. Nec est ultra mare, ut dicas, Quis nobis trajiciet mare ut deferat iliud ad nos, et annuntiet nobis, ut ipsum faciamus?

14. But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

14. Certe valde propinquns est tibi sermo in ore tuo, et in corde tuo, ut facias ipsum.

11. For this commandment, which I command thee. This declaration is like the preceding, and tends to the same end; for Moses commends in it the Law, on account of its easiness; because God does not propound to us obscure enigmas to keep our minds in suspense, and to torment us with difficulties, but teaches familiarly whatever is necessary, according to the capacity, and consequently the ignorance of the people. Therefore, in Isa 45:19 He reproves the Jews for having wandered in darkness through their own depravity and folly; because He had not spoken to them in secret, nor said in vain  275 to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me. But Moses here invites them to learn, because they had an easy and clear method of instruction set before their eyes, and would not lose their labor; for we know that it is very often made an excuse for idleness, if great labor without much profit is to be applied to deep and difficult studies. Moses, therefore, declares that the Law is not hard to be understood, so as to demand inordinate fatigue in its study; but that God there speaks distinctly and explicitly, and that nothing is required of them but diligent application. More-over, he thus takes away from them every pretext for ignorance, since, with so much light, they cannot err, except by wilfully blinding themselves, or shutting their eyes. Whence, also, we gather, how impious are the babblings of the Papists that the Scripture is beset by thick darkness, and how wicked is their driving away the people from approaching it, as if it were some labyrinth. Surely they thus must needs accuse the Holy Spirit of falsehood, who so abundantly asserts its comprehensibleness, (claritatem,) or else they malign itself by their blasphemous taunts. But if the ancient people were left without excuse, unless they kept in the right way, when they had the Law for their mistress and director, our stupidity must be worthy of double and triple condemnation, if we do not make progress in the Gospel, wherein God has opened all the treasures of His wisdom, as far as is sufficient for salvation. The Sophists  276 improperly and ignorantly wrest this passage to prove the freedom of the will. (They allege  277 ) that Moses here declares the precepts of the Law not to be above our reach. What? Does he state that the keeping of them is within the compass of our strength? Surely the words convey nothing of the sort; neither can this sense be elicited from them, if his intention be duly weighed. For he merely encourages the Jews, and commands them to be diligent disciples of the Law, because they will easily understand whatever is enjoined by God therein. But the power of performance is a very different thing from understanding. Besides, Paul, with very good reason, accommodates this passage to the Gospel, (Ro 10:8;) because it would profit nothing to comprehend the doctrine itself in the mind, unless reverence and a serious disposition to obey be superadded. But he takes it for granted, that to have a good will is so far from being in our own power, that we are not even competent to think aright. Hence it follows, that what is here stated falls to the ground as frivolous, and spoken to no purpose, if it be applied simply to the Law. Paul also considers another thing, viz., that because the Law requires a perfect righteousness, it cannot be received by any mortal fruitfully; for however any one may study to obey God, yet he will still be far from perfection; and, therefore, it is necessary to come to the Gospel, wherein that rigorous requirement is relaxed, because, through the interposition of pardon, the will to obey is pleasing to God instead of perfect obedience. For Paul insists on the latter verse, “The word is nigh in the mouth, and in the heart, that the people may do it.” Now, it is clear that men’s hearts are strongly and obstinately opposed to the Law; and that in the Law itself is contained only a dead and deadly letter; how then could the literal doctrine have a place in the heart? But if God, by the Spirit of regeneration, corrects the depravity of the heart and softens its hardness, this is not the property of the Law, but of the Gospel. Again, because in the children of God, even after they are regenerated, there always abide the remainders of carnal desires, no mortal will be found who can perform the Law. But in the Gospel God receives, with fatherly indulgence, what is not absolutely perfect. The word of God, therefore, does not begin to penetrate into the heart, and to produce its proper fruit in the lips, until Christ shines upon us with His Spirit and gratuitous pardon. Wherefore Paul most truly concludes that this is the word of faith which is preached in the Gospel; both because the Law does not efficaciously lead men to God, and because the keeping of it is impossible, on account of its extreme rigor. But this is the peculiar blessing of the new covenant, that the Law is written on men’s hearts, and engraven on their inward parts; whilst that severe requirement is relaxed, so that the vices under which believers still labor are no obstacle to their partial and imperfect obedience being pleasant to God.



In A. V., it will be remembered, the words, “in vain,” are connected with “Seek ye me.” “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.”


Les Theologiens de la Papaute. — Fr.


Added from the French.

Next: Leviticus 27:34; Deuteronomy 29:1