John Calvin on God’s Love for Mankind

See also

John Calvin Quotes on Common Grace

John Calvin on the Fatherhood of God over all Men

John Calvin on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel


Sermons on Deuteronomy

Sermon #28, Deut. 4.36-38, p. 167, this quote was compiled by Andrew Myers.

It is true that Saint John says generally, that [God] loved the world.  And why? For Jesus Christ offers Himself generally to all men without exception to be their redeemer…  

Thus we see three degrees of the love that God has showed us in our Lord Jesus Christ.  The first is in respect of the redemption that was purchased in the person of Him that gave Himself to death for us, and became accursed to reconcile us to God his Father.  That is the first degree of love, which extends to all men, inasmuch as Jesus Christ reaches out his arms to call and allure all men both great and small, and to win them to Him.  

But there is a special love for those to whom the gospel is preached: which is that God testifies unto them that He will make them partakers of the benefit that was purchased for them by the death and passion of his Son.  And forasmuch as we be of that number, therefore we are double bound already to our God: here are two bonds which hold us as it were strait tied unto Him.  

Now let us come to the third bond, which depends upon the third love that God shows us: which is that He not only causes the gospel to be preached unto us, but also makes us to feel the power thereof, so as we know Him to be our Father and Savior, not doubting but that our sins are forgiven us for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, who brings us the gift of the Holy Ghost, to reform us after his own image.

Sermon #191, Deut. 33:1-3, p. 1188-9

The meaning of Moses is then easy enough, namely that albeit God loves all people, yet that his Saints are in his charge or protection, yea even those whom he has chosen. Unless a man will refer these words, “the People”, to the twelve tribes: but that were hard and constrained. Moses then does here compare all men and all the Nations of the earth with the lineage of Abraham which God had chosen: as if he should say, that God’s grace is spread out everywhere, as we ourselves see, and as the Scripture also witnesses in other places. And not only men are partakers of this goodness of God, and are fed and maintained by his liberality: but he does also show himself bountiful even to brute beasts. Even thither does his mercy extend according to this saying of the Psalm, Who makes the fields and mountains to bring forth grass for the feeding of cattle, but God who has a care of them?  Seeing that GOD vouchsafes to have so merciful regard of the beasts which he has created, as to given them food; it is more to be thought that he will be a foster father to men, whom he has made and shaped after his own image, which approaches nearer unto him, and which have a thing far excelling above all other creatures: God then does love all people. Yea, but yet not in comparison to his Church. And why? For all the children of Adam are enemies unto God by reason of the corruption that is in them. True it is that God loves them as his creatures: but yet he must needs hate them, because they be perverted and given to all evil. And that is the cause why the Scripture tells us that God repented him that ever he made man, considering that he is so marred. And in the same respect also is it said, that we be banished out of God’s kingdom, that we be his enemies, that he shakes us off and disclaims us, that he abhors us, that we be the children of wrath, and that we be so corrupted, as there remains nothing but utter confusion upon our heads. When the Scripture speaks so, it is to show us that although God for his part be favorable and merciful to us, for so much as we be his creatures: yet notwithstanding we deserve well to be disclaimed and hated at his hand, and that he should not vouchsafe to have a care of us. Now then, whereas God loves us, let us understand that he overcomes our naughtiness with his goodness, which is infinite. Albeit, as I have touched already is nothing in comparison to those whom he has chosen and whom he acknowledges for his children. Now then, does he love all people? Yet we are his hand: that is to say, he will show that we be far nearer to him, and that he has much more familiar acquaintance with us beyond all comparison, than he has with all the rest of the world. For he has called us unto his house, he dwells among us, he will be known to be our Father, he will have us to call upon him with full trust and liberty, so as we need not to doubt but that his power is spread out to defend us. Lo how Moses meant to magnify God’s goodness in this place, after the manner that he has made himself to be felt in his Church and to his Flock…


Sermons on Galatians

Sermon 2, 1:3-5

Now it is certain that nothing putteth us out of God’s favor, but our own sinfulness. For we see that his mercy extendeth itself even to the Sparrows that fly in the air, and unto the brute beasts. For when as God bringeth forth grass in the mountains, and maketh other fodder to grow for cattle: it is a token that he hath a care of them. And truly they be marks of his goodness, as it is said in the Psalms. (Psalm 104:14; Psalm 147:8) How then should he not love those whom he hath created after his own image, and which approach much nearer to him, and to his nature, that is to say, : God therefore in respect of his creating of us, receiveth and avoweth us for his own. But forsomuch as we be corrupted and our nature is become sinful, it causeth God to hate us and to take us for his enemies, so as there is as it were a deadly feud between him and us, till he have taken us again into his favor for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake.


Sermons on Galatians

Sermon 2, 1:3-5, p. 18  [Childress translation]

Although God demonstrates tokens of his love toward all mankind in general, the whole of Adam’s lineage has been cut off from him, until they are reunited through Jesus Christ. Thus, although the love of God is shown to all men by virtue of the fact that we were created in his own image, and although he causes his the sun to shine upon all, provides food for all, and watches over all, yet there is nothing compared to that special love which he reserves for his elect, his flock. This is not due to any merit to be found in them, but rather because it has pleased him to make them his own. 


Sermons on Galatians

Sermon 2, 1:1-5

But yet notwithstanding, herewithal Saint Paul bringeth us always back to the will of God, to show that when our Lord Jesus Christ did in that wise perform all that belonged to our salvation, it was no lett but that God in the meanwhile uttered his mercy in the same, according as it is said in another text, (John 3:16), that he spared not his only son, but delivered him to death for us. To the intent therefore that we should not think that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to pacify God his father, was after such a sort that he persuaded him to alter his purpose, (as men are inclined to such gross and earthly imaginations:) Saint Paul (to show us that God was not reconciled unto us after the manner of men) tells us expressly that the cause why Jesus Christ was delivered for our sins, was for that God had so ordained it. For if a man be angry with his child, some other man may step in, to appease his wrath, and such a one shall supply the room of a third party. But the case stood not so with our Lord Jesus Christ when he offered himself in Sacrifice to do away all our sins, and to make us way unto God from whom we were shut out before. He came not as one that stepped in of his own head, and as though God had not meddled with the matter. How then? God (as hath been touched not long since) 

did both hate us and love us before the reconciliation [was made.] And why loved he us? Because we be his creatures. And again, although he saw we were so wretched, and utterly forlorn and damned folk by reason of sin: yet notwithstanding he had pity upon us, and would not have mankind to perish utterly. Thus ye see how God loved us, notwithstanding that in the person of Adam we were fallen away from him and utterly corrupted. Therewithal he did also hate us, even because he is the wellspring of all righteousness. Therefore he abhorred the naughtiness that was in us by reason whereof there needed an atonement to be made in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the sacrifice which he offered. But yet must not that benefit be fathered upon any other than God. Ye see then how it was God’s doing to send his only son, and to give hiim over unto death for us. And why? To the end that all hatred between him and us should be done away.


Commentary on Deut. 33:3

“Yea, he loved the people.” If it be preferred to apply this to the Gentiles, the sentence must be thus resolved, “Although He loves all human beings, still His saints are honored with His peculiar favor, in that He watches over their safety;” but it is more correct to expound it as referring only to the children of Abraham, whom He calls “peoples,” because, on account of the multitude into which they had grown, in their several tribes, they might be reckoned as so many nations. And since the particle ‘asp” signifies prolongation of time, like adhuc in Latin, the following sense will be very satisfactory, that, Although the descendants of Abraham were divided into various races, and might therefore seem to be no longer a single family, nevertheless God still continued to regard them all with affection, and their numbers and divisions did not prevent Him from accounting them to be a single body. The sum is, that God’s favor towards them was not extinguished, either by the progress of time, or the increase of the people; but that it was constantly extended to the race of Abraham, however far or widely it might be spread. 


Commentary on Malachi 1:2

Hence he says, I loved you. God might indeed have made an appeal to the Jews on another ground; for had he not manifested his love to them, they were yet bound to submit to his authority. He does not indeed speak here of God’s love generally, such as he shows to the whole human race; but he condemns the Jews, inasmuch as having been freely adopted by God as his holy and peculiar people, they yet forgot this honor, and despised the Giver, and regarded what he taught them as nothing. When therefore God says that he loved the Jews, we see that his object was to convict them of ingratitude for having despised the singular favor bestowed on them alone, rather than to press that authority which he possesses over all mankind in common.

Commentary on John 3:35

The Father loveth the Son.  But what is the meaning of this reason? Does he regard all others with hatred?  The answer is easy, that he does not speak of the common love with which God regards men whom he has created, or his other works, but of that peculiar love which, beginning with the Son, flows from him to all the creatures. For that love with which, embracing the Son, he embraces us also in him, leads him to communicate all his benefits to us by his hand.


The Secret Providence of God

found in Calvin’s Calvinism, p. 268

But I will content myself with dwelling on one point only, and let that suffice. Proofs of the love of God towards the whole human race exists innumerable, all of which demonstrate the ingratitude of those who perish or come “to perdition.” This fact, however, forms no reason whatever why God should not confine his especial or peculiar love to a few, whom he has, in infinite condescension, been pleased to choose out of the rest.


Commentary on Psalm 92:9

When staggered in our own faith at any time by the prosperity of the wicked, we should learn by his example to rise in our contemplations to a God in heaven, and the conviction will immediately follow in our minds that his enemies cannot long continue to triumph. The Psalmist tells us who they are that are God’s enemies. God hates none without a cause; nay, so far as men are the workmanship of his hand, he embraces them in his fatherly love. But as nothing is more opposed to his nature than sin, he proclaims irreconcilable war with the wicked. It contributes in no small degree to the comfort of the Lord’s people, to know that the reason why the wicked are destroyed is, their being necessarily the objects of God’s hatred, so that he can no more fail to punish them than deny himself.


Commentary on Ezekiel 18:1-4

We now see why an oath is interposed, while he pronounces that he will take care that the Jews should not ridicule any longer. Behold, says he, all souls are mine; as the sole of the son so the soul of the father, all souls are mine; the soul, therefore, which has sinned it shall die. Some interpreters explain the beginning of the verse thus: that men vainly and rashly complain when God seems to treat them too severely, since the clay does not rise against the potter. Since God is the maker of the whole world, we are his workmanship: what madness, then, to rise up against him when he does not satisfy us: and we saw this simile used by Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 18:6)  The sentiment, then, is true in itself, that all souls are under God’s sovereignty by the right of creation, and therefore he can arbitrarily determine for each whatever he wishes; and all who clamor against him reap no profit: and this teaching it is advantageous to notice. But this passage ought to be understood otherwise; namely, that nothing is more unworthy than that God should be accused of tyrannizing over men, when he rather defends them, as being his own workmanship. When, therefore, God pronounces that all souls are his own, he does not merely claim sovereignty and power, but he rather shows that he is affected with fatherly love towards the whole human race since he created and formed it; for, if a workman loves his work because he recognizes in it the fruits of his industry, so, when God has manifested his power and goodness in the formation of men, he must certainly embrace them with affection. True, indeed, we are abominable in God’s sight, through being corrupted by original sin, as it is elsewhere said, (Psalm 14:1, 2;) but inasmuch as we are men, we must be dear to God, and our salvation must be precious in his sight. We now see what kind of refutation this is: all souls are mine, says he: I have formed all, and am the creator of all, and so I am affected with fatherly love towards all, and they shall rather feel my clemency, from the least to the greatest, than experience too much rigor and severity.


Commentary on Habakkuk 1:14

We now see what the Prophet means that God would, as it were, close his eyes, while the Assyrians wantonly laid waste the whole world: and when this tyranny should reach the holy land, what else could the faithful think but that they were forsaken by God? And there is nothing, as I have already said, more monstrous, than that iniquitous tyranny should thus prevail among men; for they have all, from the least to the greatest, been created after God’s imageGod then ought to exercise peculiar care in preserving mankind; his paternal love and solicitude ought in this respect to appear evident: but when men are thus destroyed with impunity, and one oppresses almost all the rest, there seems indeed to be no divine providence. For how will it be that he will care for either birds, or oxen, or asses, or trees, or plants, when he will thus forsake men, and bring no aid in so confused a state? We now understand the drift of what the Prophet says.


Sermons on Psalm 119

Sermon 7, 119:57-64

And therefore we ought the better to note the reason, which David setteth first down, For the earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy. As if he should have said, thou O Lord spreadest abroad thy fatherly goodness over all creatures: we see how of thy mercy thou feedest the beasts of the field, we see the trees flourish, the earth bring forth her increase, thy goodness spreadeth through heaven and earth, and how is it then possible, that thou shouldest not do good unto thy children? I am one of that number which call on thee, and that put their trust in thee. Seeing thou art so loving and merciful to all creatures, thou shalt not forsake me.


Commentary on Psalm 144:3

O Jehovah! what is man, etc. He amplifies the goodness shown by God by instituting a comparison. Having declared how singularly he had been dealt with, he turns his eyes inward, and asks, “Who am I, that God should show me such condescension? ” He speaks of man in general; only the circumstance is noticeable that he commends the mercy of God, by considering his lowly and abject condition. In other places he mentions grounds of humiliation of a more personal or private nature, here he confines himself to what has reference to our common nature; and though even in discussing the nature of man there are other reasons he might have specified why he is unworthy of the regard and love of God, he briefly adverts to his being like the smoke, and as a shadow. We are left to infer that the riches of the divine goodness are extended to objects altogether unworthy in themselves. We are warned, when apt at any time to forget ourselves, and think we are something when we are nothing, that the simple fact of the shortness of our life should put down all arrogance and pride. The Scriptures, in speaking of the frailty of man, comprehend whatever is necessarily connected with it. And, indeed, if our life vanish in a moment, what is there stable about us? We taught this truth also that we cannot properly estimate the divine goodness, unless we take into consideration what we are as to our condition, as we can only ascribe to God what is due unto him, by acknowledging that his goodness is bestowed upon undeserving creatures. The reader may seek for further information upon this point in the eighth Psalm, where nearly the same truth is insisted upon.


Commentary on Psalm 144:15 

“Happy the people, etc.” He thus concludes that the divine favor had been sufficiently shown and manifested to his people. Should any object that it breathed altogether a gross and worldly spirit to estimate man’s happiness by benefits of a transitory description, I would say in reply that we must read the two things in connection, that those are happy who recognize the favor of God in the abundance they enjoy, and have such a sense of it from these transitory blessings as leads them through a persuasion of his fatherly love to aspire after the true inheritance. There is no impropriety in calling those happy whom God blesses in this world, provided they do not show themselves blinded in the improvement and use which they make of their mercies, or foolishly and supinely overlook the author of them. The kind providence of God in not suffering us to want any of the means of life is surely a striking illustration of his wonderful love. What more desirable than to be the objects of God’s care, especially if we have sufficient understanding to conclude from the liberality with which he supports us he is our Father?


Commentary on Matt 26:52

Put thy sword again into its place. By these words, Christ confirms the precept of the Law, which forbids private individuals to use the sword. And above all, we ought to attend to the threatening of punishment which is immediately added; for men did not, at their own pleasure, appoint this punishment for avenging their own blood; but God himself, by severely prohibiting murder, has declared how dearly he loves mankind. First, then, he does not choose to be defended by force and violence, because God in the Law forbade men to strike. This is a general reason; and he immediately descends to a special reason.


Commentary on Mark 7:33

And when he had taken him aside from the multitude. This was done, partly to afford to those who were ignorant, and not yet sufficiently qualified for becoming witnesses, an opportunity of perceiving at a distance the glory of his Divine nature, and partly that he might have a better opportunity of pouring out earnest prayer. When he looked up to heaven and sighed, it was an expression of strong feeling; and this enables us to perceive the vehemence of his love towards men, for whose miseries he feels so much compassion. Nor can it be doubted, that by conveying the spittle from his own mouth to the mouth of another, and by putting his fingers into his ears, he intended to manifest and express the same feeling of kindness.


Commentary on John 13:32

If God be glorified. Christ concludes that he will obtain a glorious triumph by his death; because his sole design in it is, to glorify his Father; for the Father did not seek his glory from the death of his Son in such a manner as not to make the Son a partaker of that glory. He promises, therefore, that when the ignominy which he shall endure for a short time has been effaced, illustrious honor will be displayed in his death. And this too was accomplished; for the death of the cross, which Christ suffered, is so far from obscuring his high rank, that in that death his high rank is chiefly displayed, since there his amazing love to mankind, his infinite righteousness in atoning for sin and appeasing the wrath of God, his wonderful power in conquering death, subduing Satan, and, at length, opening heaven, blazed with full brightness. This doctrine is now extended also to all of us; for though the whole world should conspire to cover us with infamy, yet if we sincerely and honestly endeavor to promote the glory of God, we ought not to doubt that God will also glorify us.


Commentary on Acts 2:19

But this serveth greatly to the setting forth of grace, that whereas all things do threaten destruction, yet whosoever doth call upon the name of the Lord is sure to be saved. By the darkness of the sun, by the bloody streaming of the moon, by the black vapor of smoke, the prophet meant to declare, that whithersoever men turn their eyes, there shall many things appear, both upward and downward, which may make them amazed and afraid, as he hath already said. Therefore, this is as much as if he should have said, that the world was never in a more miserable case, that there were never so many and such cruel tokens of God’s wrath. Hence may we gather how inestimable the goodness of God is, who offereth a present remedy for so great evils; and again, how unthankful they are towards God, and how froward, which do not flee unto the sanctuary of salvation, which is nigh unto them, and doth meet them. Again, it is out of all doubt, that God meaneth by this so doleful a description, to stir up all godly men, that they may with a more fervent desire seek for salvation. And Peter citeth it to the same end, that the Jews may know that they shall be more miserable unless they receive that grace of the Spirit which is offered unto them. Yet here may a question be asked, how this can hang together, that when Christ is revealed, there should such a sea of miseries overflow and break out therewithal? For it may seem to be a thing very inconvenient, that he should be the only pledge of God’s love toward mankind, in whom the heavenly Father doth lay open all the treasure of his goodness, yea, he poureth out the bowels of his mercy upon us, and that yet, by the coming of the same, his Son, his wrath should be more hot than it was wont, so that it should, as it were, quite consume both heaven and earth at once.


These quotes (except those contra-indicated) were gratefully excerpted from Calvin and Calvinism




Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Common Grace