A Warning Against Undue Speculation
Just at this point we shall give a few words of warning against undue speculation and curiosity in dealing with this lofty doctrine of Predestination. Perhaps we can do no better than to quote the words of Calvin himself which are found in the first section of his treatment of this subject: 'The discussion of Predestination — a subject of itself rather intricate — is made very perplexed, and therefore dangerous, by human curiosity, which no barriers can restrain from wandering into forbidden labyrinths, and from soaring beyond its sphere, as if determined to leave none of the Divine secrets unscrutinized or unexplored . . First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into Predestination, they penetrate into the inmost recesses of divine wisdom, where the careless and confident intruder will obtain no satisfaction to his curiosity . . For we know that when we have exceeded the limits of the word, we shall get into a devious and irksome course, in which errors, slips, and falls will be inevitable. Let us then, in the first place bear in mind, that to desire any more knowledge of Predestination than that which is unfolded in the Word of God, indicates as great folly as to wish to walk through impassible roads, or to see in the dark. Nor let us be ashamed to be ignorant of some things relative to a subject in which there is a kind of learned ignorance." 1
We are not under obligation to "explain" these truths; we are only under obligation to state what God has revealed in His word, and to vindicate these statements as far as possible from misconception and objections. In the nature of the case all that we can know concerning such profound truths is what the Spirit has seen fit to reveal concerning them, being confident that whatever God has revealed is undoubtedly true and is to be believed although we may not be able to sound its depths with the line of our reason. In our ignorance of His inter-related purposes, we are not fitted to be His counselors. "Thy judgments are a great deep," said the psalmist. As well might man attempt to swim the ocean as to fathom the judgments of God. Man knows far too little to justify him in attempting to explain the mysteries of God's rule.
The importance of the subject discussed should lead us to proceed only with profoundest reverence and caution. While it is true that mysteries are to be handled with care, and while unwarranted and presumptuous speculations concerning divine things are to be avoided, yet if we would declare the Gospel in its purity and fullness we must be careful not to withhold from believers what is declared in the Scriptures concerning Predestination. That some of these truths will be perverted and abused by the ungodly is to be expected. No matter how plainly it is taught in Scripture, the unenlightened mind considers it as absurd, for instance, that one God should exist in three persons, or that God should foreknow the entire course of world events, as that His plan should include the destiny of every person. And while we can know only as much about Predestination as God has seen fit to reveal, it is important that we shall know that much; otherwise it would not have been revealed. Where Scripture leads we may safely follow.
Institutes, Ch. XXI, sect. I, II.