Ken, consider the sentence before:
He is speaking of what can be known of God by nature, and the lack of ability of this knowledge with respect to redemption post lapsum. It has to do with the duplex cognitio dei (the twofold knowledge of God) in Calvin: he is known first as Creator, Judge, governor, etc., and subsequently as redeemer, saviour, Father in Christ.
Since our fall from life unto death, all that knowledge of God the Creator, of which we have discoursed, would be useless, were it not followed up by faith, holding forth God to us as a Father in Christ.
In the natural, created order of things, man through nature would have had knowledge of God as loving and sustaining lord; the rewarder of them that do good, and the judge of them that do evil; and by use of this knowledge, he would have passed into eternal life and perfect felicity; but, after and on account of the fall, the knowledge of God which can be learned through nature must show his judgment and curse upon man as transgressor. Thus, the only consolation which we might have must be obtained by that faith which apprehends God as our reconciled father in Christ.
(By the way, if anyone is looking for that reference, it is 2.6.1 in the Beveridge edition)
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