Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): What God says of the prophet Jeremiah is true of all: “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee.”
JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The forming of the human fetus is God’s act, and a curious piece of workmanship it is; see Psalm 139:14,15, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret.”
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time; for in the first germ there is no arrangement of parts, or proportion of members, but it is developed, and takes its peculiar form progressively.*
MATTHEW HENRY: It is possible that infants may be wrought upon by the Holy Ghost, even from their mother’s womb; for John Baptist even then was “filled with the Holy Ghost,” who took possession of his heart betimes; and an early specimen was given of it, when he “leaped in his mother’s womb for joy,” at the approach of the Saviour.
JOHN CALVIN: The power of the Spirit, I acknowledge, did operate in John, while he was yet in his mother’s womb.
JOHN GILL: “And it came to pass that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb,” Luke 1:41. Whilst John the Baptist was in the womb, he “leaped for joy” at the salutation of Mary―which motion was not natural, but supernatural, being made at hearing* the voice of Mary who had now conceived the Messiah.
TERTULLIAN (160-240): John and Jesus were both alive while still in the womb. Elizabeth rejoiced as the infant leaped in her womb; Mary glorifies the Lord because Christ within inspired her, Luke 1:26-55…For us, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the woman’s body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed.*
JOHN CALVIN: The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.
JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): There is nothing that is more deeply inlaid in the principles of the natures of all living creatures, and so of man himself, than a love unto and a care for the preservation and nourishing of their young. Many brute creatures will die for them; some feed them with their own flesh and blood; all deprive themselves and act in their behalf to the utmost of their power. Now, such is the efficacy, power, and force of indwelling sin in man—an infection that the nature of other creatures knows nothing of—that in many it prevails to stop this fountain, to beat back the stream of natural affections, to root up the principles of the law of nature, and to drive them unto a neglect, a destruction of the fruit of their own loins.
Paul tells us the old Gentiles were “without natural affection,” Romans 1:31. That which he aims at is that barbarous custom among the Romans, who ofttimes, to spare the trouble in the education of their children, and to be at liberty to satisfy their lusts, destroyed their own children from the womb; so far did the strength of sin prevail to obliterate the law of nature, and to repel the force and power of it. Examples of this nature are common in all nations; and amongst ourselves, of women murdering their own children, through the deceitful reasoning of sin.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): How great, therefore, the wickedness of human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception, and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God!
JEROME (340-420): They drink potions to ensure sterility and are guilty of murdering a human being not yet conceived. Some, when they learn that they are with child through sin, practice abortion by the use of drugs.
JOHN CALVIN: When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime.**
BASIL (329-379): Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion are deliberate murderers themselves, as well as those receiving the poison which kills the fetus―whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not.
D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): We talk of our American civilization. We forget the alarming increase of crime in our midst. It is said that there is no civilized country on the globe where murder is so frequently committed and so seldom punished.
JOHN CALVIN: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward,” Psalm 127:3. The Hebrew word שכר translated “reward,” signifies whatever benefits God bestows upon men.
JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (347-407): Why then do you abuse the gift of God and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse, as if a blessing, and make the place of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?
THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): “Thou shalt not kill,” Exodus 20:13. In this commandment is a sin forbidden, which is murder, and a duty implied, which is, to preserve our own life, and the life of others.
*Editor’s Note: The human fetus begins to form ears in the 9th week of pregnancy, and, by the 18th week, is able to hear sounds in the womb. This capability increases as the baby continues to grow in the womb. By the 25th week (6 months), the fetus hears sounds outside the womb. When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth was six months pregnant with the baby John the Baptist, (Luke 1:36-44), and thus capable of hearing Mary’s voice. It is scientific fact that this development of the fetus in forming human body parts is a process of growth, for which human life is necessary; because without life, growth is impossible. Therefore, by inherent definition, abortion must be the ending of a human life.
**Editor’s Note: By the phrase “unforgivable crime,” Calvin does not mean an “unforgivable” sin in terms of salvation, that, upon repentance, God cannot forgive this sin. Scripture elsewhere makes it clear that murderers can, and have been forgiven. He means that this sin is unforgivable in that, as it is murder, it ought to be punished.