In this chapter, Kuyper takes upon the scope of the Noah covenant: was it with the “church” alone, or was it common to all? First, Kuyer relies heavily upon Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 9, wherein Calvin writes that it was a broad, common covenant with human beings and animals:
Moreover, there is no doubt that it was the design of God to provide for all his posterity. It was not therefore a private covenant confirmed with one family only, but one which is common to all people, and which shall flourish in all ages to the end of the world. And truly, since at the present time, impiety overflows not less than in the age of Noah, it is especially necessary that the waters should be restrained by this word of God, as by a thousand bolts and bars lest they should break forth to destroy us. Wherefore, relying on this promise, let us look forward to the last day, in which the consuming fire shall purify heaven and earth.
10. And with every living creature. Although the favor which the Lord promises extends also to animals, yet it is not in vain that he addresses himself only to men, who, by the sense of faith, are able to perceive this benefit. We enjoy the heaven and the air in common with the beasts, and draw the same vital breath; but it is no common privilege, that God directs his word to us; whence we may learn with what paternal love he pursues us. And here three distinct steps are to be traced. First, God, as in a matter of present concern, makes a covenant with Noah and his family, lest they should be afraid of a deluge for themselves. Secondly, he transmits his covenant to posterity, not only that, as by continual succession, the effect may reach to other ages; but that they who should afterwards be born might also apprehend this testimony by faith, and might conclude that the same thing which had been promised to the sons of Noah, was promised unto them. Thirdly, he declares that he will be propitious also to brute animals, so that the effect of the covenant towards them, might be the preservation of their lives only, without imparting to them sense and intelligence.
John Calvin, Genesis, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries, 1998, Ge 9:8–10. He then makes the observation that God would not again destroy the world by flood.
This raises the question: Why was the world destroyed by flood? Because human beings had become insufferably wicked and destructive that there would be no place for God’s redemptive work. Therefore, God rescues Noah and begins anew. But this time, rather than provide a “redemption” by flood, God will preserve a place for his redemptive work by means of restraint of sin:
that the restraining power proceeding from common grace against sin, has become increased from God’s side after the flood. The beast within man remains just as evil and wild, but the bars around its cage were fortified, so that it cannot again escape like it used to.
Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section, ed. Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grabill, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas, vol. 1, Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), 26.
The basic structure and purpose of “common grace” is not and never was to redeem human beings from, but to restrain the outbursts of sin to preserve a humanity for God’s redemptive work. Common grace is a fence which limits the ravages of the curse and sin.