by John Calvin
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. Two subjects are here brought under our consideration. The first is, that since the heavens themselves are in the sight of God almost as evanescent as smoke, the frailty of the whole human race is such as may well excite his compassion; and the second is, that although there is no stability in the heavens and the earth, yet the Church shall continue stedfast for ever, because she is upheld by the eternal truth of God. By the first of these positions, true believers are taught to consider with all humility, when they come into the divine presence, how frail and transitory their condition is, that they may bring nothing with them but their own emptiness. Such self-abasement is the first step to our obtaining favour in the sight of God, even as he also affirms that he is moved by the sight of our miseries to be merciful to us. The comparison taken from the heavens is a very happy illustration; for how long have they continued to exist, when contrasted with the brief span of human life, which passes or rather flies away so swiftly? How many generations of men have passed away since the creation, while the heavens still continue as they were amidst this continual fluctuation? Again, so beautiful is their arrangement, and so excellent their frame-work, that the whole fabric proclaims itself to be the product of God’s hands. And yet neither the long period during which the heavens have existed, nor their fair embellishment, will exempt them from perishing. What then shall become of us poor mortals, who die when we are as yet scarcely born? for there is no part of our life which does not rapidly hasten to death.
The heavens will perish,* but you remain. Two things are to be here attended to; first, that the heavens are actually subject to corruption in consequence of the fall of man; and, secondly, that they shall be so renewed as to warrant the prophet to say that they shall perish; for this renovation will be so complete that they shall not be the same heavens but other heavens. The amount is, that to whatever quarter we turn our eyes, we will see everywhere nothing but ground for despair till we come to God. What is there in us but rottenness and corruption? and what else are we but a mirror of death? Again, what are the changes which the whole world undergoes but a kind of presage, yes a prelude of destruction? If the whole frame-work of the world is hastening to its end, what will become of the human race? If all nations are doomed to perish, what stability will there be in men individually considered? We ought therefore to seek stability nowhere else but in God.
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John Calvin, A Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, is copyright © 1999 by P & R Publishing Company, all rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—except for brief quotations for the purpose of review or comment, without the prior permission of the publisher, P & R Publishing Company, P.O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, New Jersey 08865-0817.
Unless marked by an asterisk, italic Scripture excerpts preceding Calvin's exposition are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House, all rights reserved. Phrases of Scripture within Calvin's exposition are based on an unidentified older translation, or in rare instances modified to conform to the NIV excerpts preceding Calvin's exposition.
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