by John Calvin
Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Children are not the fruit of chance, but God, as it seems good to him, distributes to every man his share of them. Moreover, as the prophet repeats the same thing twice, heritage and reward are to be understood as equivalent; for both these terms are set in opposition to fortune, or the strength of men. The stronger a man is he seems so much the better fit for procreation. Solomon declares on the contrary, that those become fathers to whom God vouchsafes that honour.
As the majority of children are not always a source of joy to their parents, a second favour of God is added, which is his forming the minds of children, and adorning them with an excellent disposition, and all kinds of virtues. The similitude introduced for this purpose is, that as an archer is armed with a well-furnished bow, so men are defended by their children, as it were with a bow and an arrow. Those who are without children are in a manner unarmed; for what else is it to be childless but to be solitary? It is no small gift of God for a man to be renewed in his posterity; for God then gives him new strength, that he who otherwise would straightaway decay, may begin as it were to live a second time.
The knowledge of this doctrine is highly useful. The fruitfulness even of the lower animals is expressly ascribed to God alone; and if he would have it to be accounted his benefit that kine, and sheep, and mares conceive, how inexcusable will be the impiety of men, if when he adorns them with the honourable title of fathers, they account this favour as nothing. It is also to be added, that unless men regard their children as the gift of God, they are careless and reluctant in providing for their support, just as on the other hand this knowledge contributes in a very eminent degree to encourage them in bringing up their offspring. Further, he who thus reflects upon the goodness of God in giving him children, will readily and with a settled mind look for the continuance of God's grace; and although he may have but a small inheritance to leave them, he will not be unduly careful on that account.
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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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