Historic Reformed Quotes on Common Grace


Order of Contents

Collections of Quotes  (4)
A Summaries of the Reformation and Puritan Era  (2)
Order of Quotes
Quotes  (22)




Collections of Quotes  (4 collections, 70 quotes)

The Three-Fold Love of God, 11 quotes

Reformed Christianity has historically distinguished three aspects of the love of God.  He loves (1) all creation because it is his creation, (2) all people, because they are made in his image, and (3) the elect who He superlatively loves with a full complacency.  Quotes from: Turretin, Leigh, Collinges, a Brakel, Jenkyn, Ussher, Gill, Hodge and Berkhof, Rutherford and Pictet.


The Westminster Standards and Divines on Common Grace

The doctrine of Common Grace is documented throughout the Westminster Standards and quotes from 8 members of the Westminster Assembly are excerpted from: Rutherford, Gillespie, Harris, Gataker, Ley, Burgess, Reynolds, & Manton.


Quotes on the Common Operations of the Spirit, by reformers and puritans, including the Spirit’s resistible influences in drawing people to Christ (which is consistent with Irresistible Grace).  46+ historic reformed writers are quoted.


Historic Reformed Quotes on Non-Saving Redemptive Benefits for the Reprobate, 15 historic reformed writers are quoted

Christ bought and intended non-saving benefits in the Atonement to the reprobate, as all the quoted reformed theologians affirm.  This doctrine is consistent with Limited Atonement which asserts that Christ paid for only the sins of the elect (and not the reprobate) in the Atonement.  For the Biblical proof of this doctrine, see the second section of this article.  For the clearest exposition of this doctrine, see Cunningham and Dabney.




Summaries of the Reformation and Puritan Era  (2)

Erroll Hulse

“The Example of the English Puritans” (Reformation Today 153, Sept/Oct 1996)

As we see from the Westminster Confession and the 1689 Baptist Confession the Puritans believed in the doctrines of grace such as election and particular redemption (Rom 8:28-30). They followed Calvin in resisting false human rationalisations. For instance they resisted the idea that God only loves the elect and hates the non-elect.  This error is called hyper-Calvinism. It is a very serious error which is recurring today.  The Puritans were experts in their understanding of the concept of common grace although they did not use that term.¹  Their teaching accords fully with the way in which the doctrine of Common Grace is expounded by Prof John Murray (cf Works). They believed that the Holy Spirit is constantly active in restraining evil and promoting good throughout society. The Puritans believed in the universal love of God for all mankind (1 Tim 2:1-6; 2 Peter 3:9). They believed in the universal provision of God for all mankind according to the covenant made with Noah as representative of the whole world (Gen 8:20-22 and Ps 145).

¹ [Webmaster’s note: This particular claim is not true.  Following Calvin’s use of the term ‘general grace’, the puritans did use the term ‘common grace’, as is affirmed by Dr. Richard Muller below on p. 130, and as is instanced by James Durham (who has a whole section on ‘common grace’ in his Revelation commentary), Stephen Charnock (below), and John Bunyan (below).]



Richard Muller, is one of the world’s preeminent, contemporary, reformed, historians.  Here he summarizes the majority reformed view of the 1500’s and 1600’s. 

Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms

p. 130, under gratia communis, “common grace

“i.e., a nonsaving, universal grace according to which God in his goodness bestows his favor upon all creation in the general blessings of physical sustenance and moral influence for the good.  Thus, rain falls on the just and the unjust, and all men have the law engraved on their hearts.  Gratia communis is therefore contrasted by the Reformed with particular or special grace (gratia particularis sive specialis, q.v.).”


p. 130, under gratia Dei, “the grace of God

“viz., the goodness of God (bonitas Dei, q.v.) toward mankind manifest as undeserved favor and, specifically, the cleansing power of God which renews and regenerates sinners.”


p. 31-32, under amor Dei, “the love of God

“Considered as a divine attribute, the amor Dei can be defined as the propensity of the divine essence or nature for the good, both in the sense of God’s inward, intrinsic, benevolentia, or willing of the good, and in the sense of God’s external, extrinsicbeneficentia, or kindness, toward his creatures.

The amor Dei, then is directed inwardly and intrinsically toward God himself as the summum bonum, or highest good, and among the persons of the Trinity, toward one another.  

Externally or extrinsically, the amor Dei is directed toward all things, but according to a threefold distinction.  

[1] The amor Dei universalis encompasses all things and is manifest in the creation itself, in the conservation and governance of the world;

[2] the amor Dei communis is directed toward all human beings, both elect and reprobate, and is manifest in the blessings, or benefits (beneficia), of God;

[3] and the amor Dei proprius, or specialis, is directed toward the elect or believers only and is manifest in the gift of salvation.

The amor Dei universalis is frequently called by the scholastics complacentia, or general good-pleasure; the amor Dei communis is understood to be benevolentia in the strict sense of goodwill toward human beings; and amor Dei specialis, is termed amicitia, i.e. friendship or sympathy toward believers. 

In the discussion of the divine attributes, the amor Dei is considered both as an ultimate essential characteristic of God determinative of the other attributes and as one of the affections of the divine will.  In the former sense, resting on the scriptural predication, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8), the scholastics can subsume the grace (gratia), mercy (misericordia), long-suffering (long animitas), patience (patientia), and clemency or mildness (clementia) of God under the amor Dei.  In the latter sense, the amor Dei together with these related attributes is viewed as an aspect of the divine willing and is juxtaposed with the wrath (ira) and hate (odium) of God against sin.”


p. 332, under voluntas Dei, “the will of God”

“The Reformed [of the 1500’s and 1600’s], by contrast [from the Lutherans], argue a hidden will of God to bestow special saving grace irresistibly upon the elect, a voluntas decreti sive beneplaciti arcana [will of decree or hidden good-pleasure], more ultimate than the revealed will of God to offer salvation to all by means of a universal grace

The voluntas signi vel praecepti, the will of the sign or precept, is the voluntas revelata, or revealed will, of God and the voluntas moralis, or moral will, according to which God reveals in signs and precepts his plan for mankind both in the law and in the gospel.  Here, again, the Lutherans and Reformed differ insofar as the former [the Lutherans] deny [though the Reformed affirm] the contrast between a universally offered salvation revealed in the voluntas signi and a secret elective will in the voluntas beneplaciti.”


p. 133, under gratia universalis, “universal grace“.  Note that universal grace was widely affirmed by the reformed in a certain sense in the call of the gospel, per the quote above.

“i.e., that grace of God in the universal call of the gospel according to which salvation is offered to all.”


p. 329, under vocatio, “calling

“specifically, the call of God to be his children, which occurs by the grace of the Holy Spirit, both generally in the government of the world and the manifestation of divine benevolentia (q.v.) toward all creatures, and specially in and through the proclamation of the Word.  Both Lutheran and Reformed scholastics make this distinction between the vocatio generalis, or universalis, and the vocatio specialis, or evangelica.  General or universal calling is sometimes termed vocatio realis, or real calling, because it occurs in and through the things (res) of the world, whereas special, or evangelical, calling is sometimes termed a vocatio verbalis, since it comes only through the Word (Verbum).  The Lutherans, however, argue that the vocatio specialis of the Verbum Dei [Word of God] (q.v.) is sufficient and effective for salvation and is presented equally to all with the divine intention that all be saved.  Against the Reformed distinction between an effective (efficax) and ineffective (inefficax) vocatio, the Lutherans hold the sufficiency of Scripture and the efficacious character of God’s call in all cases.  Failure to heed the call indicates no fault in the Word but rather in the hearer.  The Reformed, by contrast, distinguish vocatio specialis in vocatio externa, which is the universal call of the gospel to all men without distinction, and vocatio interna, which is the inward calling of the Spirit that creates the communion between man and God necessary for the vocatio externa also to be vocatio efficax.  Only the elect are therefore effectively called…”

[Note that Muller says that the Reformed of the Reformation age taught that God calls men indiscriminately to be his children, the call is gracious, and it is a manifestation of God’s good-will (benevolentia) toward all his creatures.  He also says that this universal call is a “real calling” and an aspect of it is ineffectual.]



Order of Quotes  (21)

Martin Bucer  †1551                                                                     John Collinges  †1691
John Calvin  †1564                                                               Wilhelmus A’Brakel  †1711
John Knox  †1572                                                             Abraham Hellenbroek  †1731
Amandus Polanus  †1610                                                              James Fisher  †1775
Hugh Binning  †1653                                                                    Charles Hodge  †1878
John Trapp  †1669                                                                             A.A. Hodge  †1886
Samuel Lee  1677                                                                      Geerhardus Vos  †1949
Matthew Poole  †1679                                                                     G.H. Kersten  †1948
Stephen Charnock  †1680                                                               Louis Berkhof  1951
Francis Turretin  †1687                                                                            R.A. Finlayson
John Bunyan  †1688                                                                     John Gerstner  †1996
                                                                                                                      D.A. Carson



Martin Bucer

Common Places of Martin Bucer, translated and edited by D.F. Wright (England: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1972), from the section on Election, 109-118.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter 

The words ‘in love’ [in Eph. 1:4] allow of two senses: either of our kindness and love towards our neighbor through which imitating God Himself as best we can through his Spirit dwelling within us, we eagerly do good to all men; or of the love of us in an objective sense, the love wherewith God has loved us–so that we have a further mention of the cause of our election, which is solely the boundless love of God with which he embraces us in his Son.



John Calvin

John Calvin Quotes on Common Grace

John Calvin Quotes on God’s Love for all Mankind



John Knox

from The Works of John Knox, Ed David Laing, (vol. 5, Wodrow Society, Edinburgh, 1856), On Predestination, p. 87.  Both quotes below were compiled by Tony Byrne

“After these common mercies, I say, whereof the reprobate are often partakers, he opens the treasure of his rich mercies, which are kept in Christ Jesus for his Elect.  Such as willingly delight not in blindness may clearly see that the Holy Ghost makes a plain difference betwixt the graces and mercies which are common to all, and that sovereign mercy which is immutably reserved to the chosen children.”


“On Predestination” in The Works of John Knox, ed. David Laing (Edinburgh: J. Thin, 1895), 5:150-151.

“Shortly after that the people of Israel, I mean the tribes of Juda, Benjamin, and Levi, were, by the miraculous work of God, after the bondage of seventy years, set at liberty and brought again to Jerusalem; in which they did re-edify the temple, repair the walls, and begin to multiply, and so to grow to some strength within the city and land; they fall to their old nature, I mean to be ungrate and unthankful unto God.  The people were slothful; and the priests, who should have provoked the people to the remembrance of those great benefits, were become even like to the rest.  The Lord therefore did raise up his Prophet Malachi (who was the last before Christ) sharply to rebuke, and plainly to convict this horrible ingratitude of that unthankful nation, who so shamefully had forgotten those so great benefits recently bestowed upon them.  And thus begins he his Prophecy: “I have loved you, sayeth the Lord,” in which words he speaks not of a common love, which in preserving and feeding all creatures is common to the reprobate, but of that love by the which he had sanctified and separated them from the rest of nations, to have his glory manifested.  But because they (as all ungrate persons do) did not consider wherein this his love towards them more then towards others did stand, he brings them to the fountain, demanding this question: “Was not Esau brother to Jacob? saith the Lord, and nevertheless Jacob have I loved, and Esau I have hated.”  And this he proves, not only by the diversity of the two countries which were given to their posterities, but also by that, that God continually showed himself loving to Jacob and to his posterity [which group of people included reprobates], reducing them again after long captivity; declaring himself, as it were, enemy to Edom, whose desolation he would never restore, but would destroy that which they should go about to build.”


Amandus Polanus

Syntagma Theologiae Christianae, 2.122, quoted by Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics: Set Out and Illustrated from the Sources, p. 95.  The large quote is from Heppe, the small quotes inside it are Polanus’.  This quote was compiled by R. Andrew Myers.

“‘The love of God is the essential property or essence of God, whereby delighting Himself in it, He wishes it the good which He approves.’  To be distinguished are ‘the general love of God’, the object of which is creation generally, so that ‘no one either of men or even of demons may say that he is not loved by God’;  God hates the sin in the godless, but loves the nature created by Him — and the ‘special love of God, by which He peculiarly pursues the separate elect.'”



Hugh Binning 

Christian Love, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2004), p. 6

God hath a general love to all the creatures



John Trapp 

Commentary on the Bible, 2 Peter 1:7

And to brotherly kindness, &c Love we must all men, but especially the family of faith; as our Saviour loved the young man, but not so as he did Lazarus, Mark 10:21; John 11:3.



Samuel Lee

Eliothriambos: Or the Triumph of Mercy in the Chariot of Praise (London: Printed for John Hancock, 1677), 1,2,11, as quoted in Day by Day with the English Puritans: Selected Readings for Daily Reflection, compiled and edited by Randall J. Pederson, Hendrickson Publishers, 2004, p. 202

The infinite goodness of God bestows more mercies upon us in the method of prevention, than of answer to particular prayers.  We enjoy most things before we ask, and often more excellent in kind and more abundant in measure than we ask… He makes his sun to rise every morning upon the unjust, and his moon to fill her orb with light upon the ungodly crescent [Muslims].  His paths in the clouds drops fatness upon the fields of bloody tyrants, and His ocean is open, and sweet western gales often swell the sails of rambling and roving pirates.  The earth is full of his goodness.  He spread and filled the tables of Heliogabalus with His hidden treasures.  There is no inhabitant but is laden with his benefits, however abused to their luxury, pride, and wantonness.  His mercies are over all his works; He makes the out-goings of the morning and evening to sing.  He preserves the goings out and the comings in of all the children of Adam.



Matthew Poole

On Psalm 105:25, “He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants.”

Not by putting this wicked hatred into them, which is not consistent either with the holiness of God’s nature, or with the truth of His word, and which was altogether unnecessary, because they had that and all other wickedness in them by nature; but partly by withdrawing the common gifts and operations of the his Spirit, and all the restraints and hindrances to it, and wholly leaving them to their own mistakes, and passions, and corrupt affections, which of their own accord were ready to take that course; and partly, by directing and governing that hatred, which was wholly in and from themselves, so as it should fall upon the Israelites rather than upon other people.



Stephen Charnock  †1680

Works, vol. 3, pp. 215-219



Francis Turretin

Institutes of Elenctic Theology

vol. 1, 17th Question, VII, p. 396-7

VII. (2) The question [at hand to be discussed] is not whether God is born by a general love and philanthropy (philanthropia) towards men as his creatures, and also bestows upon them various temporal benefits pertaining to the things of this life (ta biotika)We do not deny that God has never left Himself without witness (amartyron) with regard to this (Acts 14:17).  And we readily grant that there is no one who does not owe some gratitude to God and who, whatever he is or can do, is not bound to give thanks to his Creator.  But the question concerns the special and saving love which tends to spiritual benefits, and by which God willed to have mercy upon them to salvation.  We think this is particular to the elect alone, not universal and common to all.

On Providence.  This quote was compiled by Joseph Nally.

. . . we believe that all things without exception are under divine providence: whether heavenly or sublunary, great or small, necessary and natural or free and contingent.  Thus nothing in the nature of things can be granted or happen which does not depend on it.  The reasons are:

(1) God created all things, therefore He also takes care of all things.  For if it was glorious for God to create them, it ought not to be unbecoming in Him to take care of them.  Nay, as He created, He is bound to conserve and govern them continually, since He never deserts His own work, but ought to be perpetually present with it that it may not sink back into nothingness.


1:381, this quote was compiled by David Ponter

VI. The negative act includes two: both preterition, by which in the election of some to glory as well as to grace, he neglected and slighted others (which is evident from the event of election); and negative desertion, by which he left them in the corrupt mass and in their misery. However this is so to be understood: (that the are not excepted from the laws of common providence, but remain subject to them; nor are they immediately deprived of all God’s favor [Latin: gratia, or grace], but only of the saving and a vivifying (which is the fruit of election)



John Bunyan

Light for Them That Sit in Darkness, in The Works of John Bunyan (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), 1:432.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.
Mercy and love are seen, in that God gives us rain and fruitful seasons, and in that he fills our hearts with food and gladness; from that bounty which he bestows upon us as men, as his creatures.”

Reprobation Asserted, Chapter 4, Of the Causes of Reprobation

Thirdly, another cause of eternal reprobation is the act and working of distinguishing love, and everlasting grace: God has universal love, and particular love; general love, and distinguishing love; and so accordingly does decree, purpose, and determine: from general love, the extension of general grace and mercy; but from that love that is distinguishing, peculiar grace and mercyWas not Esau Jacob’s Brother?  Yet I loved Jacob, says the Lord, that is, with a better love, or a love that is more distinguishing: As he further makes appear in his answer to our Father Abraham, when he prayed to God for Ishmael: As for Ishmael, says He, I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and will also make him fruitful: but my Covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee.  Touching which words, there are these things observable: Mal. 1:2; Gen. 17:18,19, etc.

1.  That God had better Love for Isaac, than he had for his Brother Ishmael.  Yet,

2.  Not because Isaac had done more worthy and goodly deeds, for Isaac was yet unborn.

3.  This choice Blessing could not be denied to Ishmael because he had disinherited himself by sin; for this Blessing was entailed to Isaac, before Ishmael had a being also.  Rom. 4:16-19; Gen. 15:4-5; Gen. 16.

4.  These things therefore must needs fall out through the working of distinguishing love and mercy, which had so cast the business, that the purpose of God according to Election might stand.

Further, Should not God decree to show distinguishing love and mercy, as well as that which is general and common, He must not discover his best love at all to the sons of men.  Again, if He should reveal and extend his best love to all the World in general, then there would not be such a thing as Love that does distinguish; for distinguishing love appears in separating between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, the many called, and the few chosen.  Thus by virtue of distinguishing love, some must be reprobate: For distinguishing love must leave some, both of the angels in Heaven, and the inhabitants of the Earth; wherefore the decree also that does establish it, must needs leave some.


Works, Volume 3:449.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne.

“Now the book of life in this place must not be so strictly taken as if it included those only that were elect of God to eternal life, but must be understood of that book wherein are recorded the rules and bounds of visible church-communion; and so all those that, through the gifts and operations of special or common grace, do fall within the compass of those rules and bounds.  Thus it was in the type at the return out of captivity, none were to be admitted entrance into the church but those that could show their privileges by genealogy and the records of the church; and to others it was said that they had neither portion, nor lot, nor memorial, in Jerusalem (Ezr. 2:62,63; Neh. 7:64,652:20).”



John Collinges

From Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible. The quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

As your heavenly Father has a common love, which he extends to all mankind, in supplying their necessities, with the light and warmth of the sun, and with the rain; as well as a special love and favor, which He exercises only toward those that are good, and members of Christ; so ought you to have: though you are not obliged to take your enemies into your bosom, yet you ought to love them in their order.  And as your heavenly Father, though he will one day have a satisfaction from sinners, for the wrong done to his majesty, unless they repent; yet, to heap coals of fire on their heads, gives them good things of common providence, that he might not leave them without witness, yea, and affords them the outward means of grace for their souls: so, although you are bound to seek some satisfaction for God’s honor and glory from flagitious sinners, and though you may in an orderly course seek a moderate satisfaction for the wrong done to yourselves, yet you ought to love them with a love consistent with these things; that so you may imitate your heavenly Father, and approve yourselves to be his children.”



Wilhelmus A’Brakel

The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans., by Bartel Elshout, (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publ., 1992) 1:122-123.  This quote was compiled by David Ponter.

Goodness is the very opposite of harshness, cruelty, gruffness, severity, mercilessness–all of which are far removed from God.  How unbecoming it is to have such thoughts about God!  Such sinful emotions are found in man.  The goodness of God, on the contrary, is the loveliness, benign character, sweetness, friendliness, kindness, and generosity of God.  Goodness is the very essence of God’s being, even if there were no creature to whom this could be manifested. “The good LORD pardon every one” (2 Chr.30:18); “Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will He teach sinners in the way” (Psa. 25:B); “There is none good but one, that is, God” (Mat. 19:17).

From this goodness issues forth lovingkindness and an inclination to bless His creatures.  This is to the astonishment of all who take note of this, which explains why David exclaims twenty-six times in Ps. 136, “For His Mercy endureth for ever.”  In the following texts we read likewise. “Also unto Thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy” (Psa. 62:12); “All the paths of the LORD are mercy” (Psa. 25:10).  From goodness and benevolence issues forth the doing of that which is good.  “Thou art good, and doest good” (Psa. 119:68); “Rejoice the soul of Thy servant: and attend unto the voice of my supplications.  For Thou Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee” (Psa. 86:4, 6, 5).

This goodness is of a general nature in reference to all God’s creatures, since they are His creatures.  “The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all is works” (Psa. 145:9); “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Psa. 33:5); “For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat. 5:45).  The goodness which is of a special or particular nature as it relates to God’s children is thus expressed: ‘Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as arc of a clean heart” (Psa. 73:1); “The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him” (Lam. 3:25).  This goodness of God is the reason why a believer, even after many backslidings, is motivated by renewal to return unto the Lord. “The children of Israel shall return… and shall fear the LORD and His goodness” (Hosea 3:5); “But I have trusted in Thy mercy” (Psa. 13:5).  This is why they call the Lord “the God of my mercy” (Psa. 59:10, 17) . In this goodness they rejoice and this goodness they magnify.  “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever” (Psa. 89:1); “Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever” (Psa. 106:1).



Abraham Hellenbroek (1658-1731)

A Specimen of Divine Truths, This quote was compiled by R. Andrew Myers.

“Q. 35. How many kinds of grace are there?

A. It is common, in regard to all men, (Matt. 5:45), or particular and saving in regard to the elect only, (Rom. 3:24).”



James Fisher and Ebenezer Erskine,

Fisher’s Catechism, This quote was compiled by Andrew Myers

Q. 138.  How is the goodness of God manifested in his providence?

A. In preserving his creatures, and making bountiful provision for them, Psalm 145:9,15,16.

Q. 139.  How is this goodness distinguished?

A. Into common and special goodness.

Q. 140.  What is his common goodness?

A. His dispensing the good things of this life, promiscuously among his creatures, Matt. 5:45 — “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Q. 141.  Is God good even to the wicked who are his enemies?

A. Yes; for he not only provides for them, “filling their hearts with food and
gladness,” Acts 14:17; but exercises long-suffering patience towards them, Neh. 9:17; and affords such of them as are within the visible church, the means of salvation, Acts 13:26.

Q. 142.  What is the special goodness of God?

A. It is his distinguishing love to a certain number of mankind lost, manifested in their redemption through Christ, Rev. 5:9.



Charles Hodge

Systematic Theology (vol. 2, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997, pp 654-675.  This quote was compiled by Joesph Nally.

That there is a divine influence of the Spirit granted to all men, is plain both from Scripture and from experienceTo the general influence of the Spirit (or to common grace) we owe: 1. All the decorum, order, refinement, and virtue existing among men…  2. To the same divine agent is due specially that general fear of God, and the religious feeling which prevail among men…,  3. The Scriptures refer to this general influence of the Spirit those religious experiences, varied in character and degree, which so often occur where genuine conversion, or regeneration does not attend or follow.”



A.A. Hodge

Outlines of Theology, 1879, pp. 451-452.

“20.  In what sense is grace irresistible?
It must be remembered that the true Christian is the subject at the same time of those moral and mediate influences of grace upon the will, common to him and to the unconverted, and also of those special influences of grace within the will, which are certainly efficacious. The first class of influences Christians may, and constantly do resist, through the law of sin remaining in their members.  The second class of influences are certainly efficacious, but are neither resistible nor irresistible, because they act from within and carry the will spontaneously with them. It is to be lamented that the term irresistible grace has ever been used, since it suggests the idea of a mechanical and coercive influence upon an unwilling subject, while, in truth, it is the transcendent act of the infinite Creator, making the creature spontaneously willing.”



Geerhardus Vos

The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God, from The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 13:1-37, 1902, p. 11

In point of fact, the Old Testament has a great deal to teach on the benevolent side of God’s self-revelation to the world at large.  The strongest of terms are used on occasion to emphasize this truth.  Even the covenant conception is not deemed too sacred to be employed for the purpose of describing the solemn manner in which God pledged to the whole of creation, in the day of Noah, His abundant, ever-flowing kindness in the sphere of natural life, His longsuffering in the view of universal sin, His common grace working for the restraint of sin.  It is attributed to His righteousness, universally revealed, that He keeps this covenant and preserves man and beast.  As Jonah took pity on his gourd, so He pities and spares the Ninevites and their cattle. His mercy is wider and deeper than the ocean of human misery.

p. 17

As a positive fact, on the other hand, Paul distinctly recognizes the universal character which the manifestation of the divine love in its various aspects has assumed.  The benevolence pertaining to the sphere of common grace has received its classical description in the words that God has not left Himself without witness, in that He does good and gives from heaven rain and fruitful seasons, filling the hearts of all men with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). There is a general goodness of God adapted to lead men to repentance. [Rom. 2:4]



G.H. Kersten

Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, pp. 72-73, These two quotes were compiled by Andrew Myers.

Common Grace

Although, as we stated, special grace receives the prime emphasis, nevertheless we can speak of grace in a broader sense, hence of common grace.  The Word of God gives us liberty to do so, when it speaks of grace being bestowed upon the ungodly, which does not lead to salvation. “Let favor (Dutch: genade, which is grace) be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness”. (Isa. 26:10)  “Turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.” (Jude: 4)

The confessions also speak of common grace, although they do not use that name.  Thus in Article 14 of the Belgic Confession of Faith, the innate knowledge of God is called a few remains of the image of God in which man was created.  These few remains are left in all men after the fall.  Common grace is also indicated in Article 35, where we read, “Now those, who are regenerated, have in them a twofold life, the one corporal and temporal, which they have from their first birth and is common to all men.”  Also the Canons of Dort speak of common grace under the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine, Art. 4.  Calvin was the first in this, and was followed by a long line of orthodox theologians, with which God has richly blessed the Church of the Netherlands.  Also the Walcheren Articles deal with common grace in the first chapter.  There is therefore no objection to speaking of common grace, provided that we insist against all those that hold the universal doctrine of redemption, that the blood of Christ was shed only for the elect, and the application of it was given only to the elect.


Vol. 2, p. 369

The Word must be preached to all without exception; the Gospel must be offered to converted and unconverted.  Some object to this as if it would make the offer of grace too general.  But the Lord Jesus has commanded it. ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’ (Matt. 22:14; 20:16)  ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ (Matt. 28:19)  ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.’ (Mark 16:15)

Indeed, God not only calls to all who hear His Word, but He also communicates various gifts to them.  Speaking of persons who do not come to conversion, the apostle says that they were once enlightened, have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. (Heb. 6:4,5)  God sometimes grants to reprobates special gifts, also relating to His Word, giving a certain pleasure in it, which nevertheless does not lead to salvation.



Louis Berkhof 

Systematic Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968, pp. 432-446.  This quote was compiled by Joseph Nally.

The origin of the doctrine of common grace was occasioned by the fact that there is in the world, alongside of the course of the Christian life with all its blessings, a natural course of life, which is not redemptive and yet exhibits many traces of the true, the good, and the beautiful.  The question arose, How can we explain the comparatively orderly life in the world, seeing that the whole world lies under the curse of sin?  How is it that the earth yields precious fruit in rich abundance and does not simply bring forth thorns and thistles?  How we can we account for it that sinful man still retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior?  What explanation can be given for the special gifts and talents that with which the natural man is endowed, and of the development of science and art by those who are entirely devoid of the new life that is in Christ Jesus?  How can we explain the religious aspirations of men everywhere, even of those who did not come in touch with the Christian religion?  How can the unregenerate still speak truth, do good to others, and lead outwardly virtuous lives?


See also Berkhof’s The Three Points [of Common Grace] in all Part Reformed and the chapter in his Systematic Theology entitled Common Grace.



R.A. Finlayson  was a professor in the Free Church of Scotland in the 1900’s

Reformed Theological Writings of R.A. Finlayson, 1996, Christian Focus Publications, p. 253

Chapter 5, The Benefits of the Covenant – Efficacious Grace in the Westminster Confession of Faith

1. What is meant by Efficacious Grace?

The [Westminster] Confession makes a distinction between ‘common grace’ and ‘efficacious grace’.  We are not justified, however, in making this a distinction in kind as if common grace was different in quality from saving grace.  Both are the free unmerited favor of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Any distinction that we know of is the result of its operations.  The ministry of the Spirit of God in common grace is often ineffective and fruitless insofar as actual salvation is concerned, whereas effectual grace is an operation of the Spirit which invariably without fail results in salvation.



John Gerstner

“Singing the Words God Has Put in Our Mouths” (originally published in The Hymn, January 1953), in John H. Gerstner: The Early Writings, Vol. 1, pp. 204-205.  This quote was compiled by Andrew Myers

The third theological foundation of the Genevan Psalter was the doctrine of common grace. By this it was recognized that there are two types of divine gifts — supernatural and natural. The former are the virtues wrought in the soul by a special work of grace; the latter are those which pertain to secular matters and are distributed to all, not to saints only; as a matter of fact, often to sinners. But, wherever they were, Calvin recognized these and used them for his purposes. Skill in music is a natural rather than a supernatural skill, but Calvin was ever on the alert to capture this for the worship of God. Thus, at his Academy in Geneva, he made music required four hours each week. The choir thereby trained in this skill was to lead the people so they could, under its leadership, cultivate the same skill. Acting on this same principle, Calvin was quick to appreciate the able — though not excessively orthodox — Marot, and to stand by the gifted composer, Bourgeois, who was thrown into prison for breaking some of the rigid disciplines of Geneva of which Calvin was himself the main author. Abraham Kuyper, in his admirable Lectures on Calvinism, so aptly remarks, “Music…would flourish, henceforth, not within the narrow limitation of particular grace, but in the wide and fertile fields of common grace.””



D.A. Carson on Common Grace

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), p. 23,75, as quoted by Ian Murray, The Cross: the Pulpit of God’s Love, n.d., p. 20

We must not view these ways of talking about the love of God as independent, compartmentalized, loves of God… as if each were hermetically sealed off from the other… If you absolutize any one of these ways in which the Bible speaks of the love of God, you will generate a false system that squeezes out other important things the Bible says, thus finally distorting your vision of God.





Related Pages

Common Grace

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

John Calvin Quotes on the Fatherhood of God over all Men