The apologetic character of this first theological treatise of Calvin, which he expanded constantly till 1559, is evident throughout this and every other part of the Institutes. Since it was written primarily in defense of the reformed religion against the attacks and slanders of its enemies, the abuses and idolatries of the Roman Church are constantly before the mind of the author. Speaking of the Roman Church, Calvin says:
The Church must necessarily fall whenever that sum of religion which alone can sustain it has given away. Again, if the true Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), it is certain that there is no Church where lying and falsehood have usurped the ascendancy. Since this is the state of matters under the Papacy, we can understand how much of the Church there survives. There, instead of the ministry of the word, prevails a perverted government, compounded of lies, a government which partly extinguishes, partly suppresses, the pure light. In place of the Lord’s Supper, the foulest sacrilege has entered, the worship of God is deformed by a varied mass of intolerable superstitions; doctrine (without which Christianity exists not) is wholly buried and exploded, the public assemblies are schools of idolatry and impiety.“
Reading Calvin in His Letters a fun piece where John Calvin uses a cask of wine to try and lure a friend to join him in Geneva…
When he would induce his friend M. de Falais to come to Geneva and take up his abode there, he slyly adds that he has laid in a cask of good wine for his benefit. “I wish very much that it may please God to bring you hither to drink of the wine upon the spot and that soon. If the bearer had left this earlier in the morning, you might have had a flask of it. If there were any means of sending you the half of it, I should not have failed to do so, but when I inquired, I found that it could not be done.” Calvin, we see, had some very human traits.
Taken from Henry Henderson, Calvin in His Letters (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 27.
Deuteronomy 5:12-14: Keep the day of rest, to hallow it as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy business: but the seventh day is the rest of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work therein.
Now we must come to the second point which emphasizes that the sabbath day was a [type of] civil order for training the faithful in the service of God. For that day was ordained in order that people might assemble themselves to hear the doctrine of the law preached, to participate in the sacrifices, [and] to invoke the name of God. With respect to that, it applies as much to us as to the ancient people. For although the figurative aspect has been surpassed . . . what is said of this order still applies and has its usage. . . . [L]et us acknowledge that this order was not given solely to the Jews in order for them to have a certain day on which they might as- semble themselves, but at the same time it applies to us also.
Nevertheless, we have to note that there is more and that indeed it would be a meagre thing to have a rest regarding physical activity but not involving anything else. What is necessary then? That we should strive toward a higher end than this rest here; that we should desist from our works which are able to impede us from meditating on the works of God, from calling upon his name, and from our exercising his Word. If we turn Sunday into a day for living it up, for our sport and pleasure, indeed how will God be honored in that? Is it not a mockery and even a profanation of his name? But when shops are closed on Sunday, when people do not travel in the usual way, its purpose is to provide more leisure and liberty for attending to what God com- mands us that we might be taught by his Word, that we might convene together in order to con- fess our faith, to invoke his name, [and] to participate in the use of the sacraments. That is the end for which this order must serve us. . . .
Now from the foregoing we see in what attitude we hold all Christianity and the service of God. . . . [T]he majority hardly care about the usage of this day which has been instituted in order that we might withdraw from all earthly anxieties, from all business affairs, to the end that we might surrender everything to God.
Moreover, let us realize that it is not only for coming to the sermon that the day of Sun- day is instituted, but in order that we might devote all the rest of time to praising God. . . . [O]n other days, seeing that we are so occupied with our affairs, we are not as much open to serve God as on a day which is totally dedicated to this. Thus we ought to observe Sunday . . . in a way in which we are neither impeded by nor occupied with anything else, so that we might be able to extend all our senses to recognize the benefits and favors with which he has enlarged us. . . . Thus
* From John Calvin’s Sermons on the Ten Commandments. “The Fifth Sermon . . . Thursday, June 20, 1555, Deuteron- omy 5:12-14.” Edited and translated by Benjamin W. Farley. Forward by Ford Lewis Battles. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980, pp. 108, 109, 110, 112, 113.when people profane . . . the holy order which God has instituted to lead us to himself, why should they be astonished if all the rest of the week is degraded?
. . . But in order to apply ourselves to its correct and lawful usage, it is necessary to realize (as we have already said) that our Lord only asks that this day be spent in hearing his Word, in offering common prayers, in confessing our faith, and in observing the sacraments. . . . And when we have spent Sunday in praising and glorifying the name of God and in meditating on his works, then, throughout the rest of the week, we should show that we have benefited from it.
The New extended the Old’s promises beyond the present life, and held out a sure hope of immortalityPosted: November 8, 2010
John Calvin writes,
“In the same way we infer that the Old Testament was both established by the free mercy of God and confirmed by the intercession of Christ. For the preaching of the Gospel declares nothing more than that sinners, without any merit of their own, are justified by the paternal indulgence of God. It is wholly summed up in Christ. Who, then, will presume to represent the Jews as destitute of Christ, when we know that they were parties to the Gospel covenant, which has its only foundation in Christ? Who will presume to make them aliens to the benefit of gratuitous salvation, when we know that they were instructed in the doctrine of justification by faith? And not to dwell on a point which is clear, we have the remarkable saying of our Lord, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad,” (John 8:56). What Christ here declares of Abraham, an apostle shows to be applicable to all believers, when he says that Jesus Christ is the “same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,” (Heb. 13:8). For he is not there speaking merely of the eternal divinity of Christ, but of his power, of which believers had always full proof. Hence both the blessed Virgin231 and Zachariah, in their hymns, say that the salvation revealed in Christ was a fulfilment of the mercy promised “to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever,” (Luke 1:55, 72). If, by manifesting Christ, the Lord fulfilled his ancient oath, it cannot be denied that the subject of that oath232 must ever have been Christ and eternal life.”
HT: From the Geneva Catechism (ca. 1560)
168. Let us come to the fourth commandment. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
169. Does he order us to labor on six days, that we may rest on the seventh? Not absolutely; but allowing man six days for labor, he excepts the seventh, that it may be devoted to rest.
170. Does he interdict us from all kind of labor? This commandment has a separate and peculiar reason. As the observance of rest is part of the old ceremonies, it was abolished by the advent of Christ.
171. Do you mean that this commandment properly refers to the Jews, and was therefore merely temporary? I do, in as far as it is ceremonial.
172. What then? Is there any thing under it beyond ceremony? It was given for three reasons.
173. State them to me. To figure spiritual rest; for the preservation of ecclesiastical polity; and for the relief of slaves.
174. What do you mean by spiritual rest? When we keep holiday from our own works, that God may perform his own works in us.
175. What, moreover, is the method of thus keeping holiday? By crucifying our flesh,-that is, renouncing our own inclination, that we may be governed by the Spirit of God.
176. Is it sufficient to do so on the seventh day? Nay, continually. After we have once begun, we must continue during the whole course of life.
177. Why, then, is a certain day appointed to figure it? There is no necessity that the reality should agree with the figure in every respect, provided it be suitable in so far as is required for the purpose of figuring.
178. But why is the seventh day prescribed rather than any other day? In Scripture the number seven implies perfection. It is, therefore, apt for denoting perpetuity. It, at the same time, indicates that this spiritual rest is only begun in this life, and will not be perfect until we depart from this world.
179. But what is meant when the Lord exhorts us to rest by his own example? Having finished the creation of the world in six days, he dedicated the seventh to the contemplation of his works. The more strongly to stimulate us to this, he set before us his own example. For nothing is more desirable than to be formed after his image.
180. But ought meditation on the works of God to be continual, or is it sufficient that one day out of seven be devoted to it? It becomes us to be daily exercised in it, but because of our weakness, one day is specially appointed. And this is the polity which I mentioned.
181. What order, then, is to be observed on that day? That the people meet to hear the doctrine of Christ, to engage in public prayer, and make profession of their faith.
182. Now explain what you meant by saying that the Lord intended by this commandment to provide also for the relief of slaves. That some relaxation might be given to those under the power of others. Nay, this, too, tends to maintain a common polity. For when one day is devoted to rest, every one accustoms himself to labor during the other days.
183. Let us now see how far this command has reference to us. In regard to the ceremony, I hold that it was abolished, as the reality existed in Christ. (Col. 2:17).
184. How? Because, by virtue of his death, our old man is crucified, and we are raised up to newness of life. (Rom. vi. 6).
185. What of the commandment then remains for us? Not to neglect the holy ordinances which contribute to the spiritual polity of the Church; especially to frequent sacred assemblies, to hear the word of God, to celebrate the sacraments, and engage in the regular prayers, as enjoined.
186. But does the figure give us nothing more? Yes, indeed, We must give heed to the thing meant by it; namely, that being engrafted into the body of Christ, and made his members, we cease from our own works, and so resign ourselves to the government of God.
On Thursday the 20th of June, 1555. The 34th sermon, which is the fifth on the fifth chapter.
After he had spoken of the pure worship and serving God, by glorifying his name without dishonoring it in oaths or in other ways, he now mentions service to God as it is required in his Law, and of the order which he has set down by which the faithful are to exercise themselves.
For example, the [Sabbath or] day of rest was, first, a figure partly to show that men cannot serve God properly unless they put to death all that is of their own nature and dedicate themselves fully to him so as to be separate from the world. Second, the day of rest was a ceremony to bring the people together so that they could hear the Law, call upon the name of God, and offer sacrifices and do all other things that concern the spiritual government. Thus we see the type of Sabbath day being spoke of yet it cannot be well understood without setting forth these two parts separately.
Therefore, we have to note that the Sabbath, or day of rest, was a shadow under the Law until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ so as to make men understand that God requires that they should utterly cease from their own works. This is what I meant when I said that we must put to death all that is of our own nature if we are to conform ourselves to our God. This is what Saint Paul declares, and we have many other instances in the NT. But it is sufficient to declare what is apparent, namely in Colossians (2.17) where it is said that we have in Jesus Christ the substance and the principal part of the things that were under the Law. Therefore it was necessary for the fathers of old to be trained in this hope, by the day of rest as well as by other ceremonies.
It can easily be said that the summary of the Christian Life is one that is in constant self-denial. To what exactly it takes for one to be consistent in this may be at hard times to see. Understanding that the christian is not of his own, but only to seek the glory of God obeying His will can at times get hard living in the fallen flesh. However self-denial is still commanded of the Lord’ people. He who neglects it, deceived either by pride or hypocrisy, rushes on destruction. John Calvin provides quite the wisdom dealing with this issue in his Institutes 3.7.2 saying,
Hence follows the other principle, that we are not to seek our own, but the Lord’s will, and act with a view to promote his glory. Great is our proficiency, when, almost forgetting ourselves, certainly postponing our own reason, we faithfully make it our study to obey God and his commandments. For when Scripture enjoins us to lay aside private regard to ourselves, it not only divests our minds of an excessive longing for wealth, or power, or human favour, but eradicates all ambition andthirst for worldly glory, and other more secret pests. The Christian ought, indeed, to be so trained and disposed as to consider, that during his whole life he has to do with God. For this reason, as he will bring all things to the disposal and estimate of God, so he will religiously direct his whole mind to him. For he who has learned to look to God in everything he does, is at the same time diverted from all vain thoughts. This is that self-denial which Christ so strongly enforces on his disciples from the very outset (Mt. 16:24), which, as soon as it takes hold of the mind, leaves no place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or, secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices which are engendered by self love. On the contrary, wherever it reigns not, the foulest vices are indulged in without shame; or, if there is some appearance of virtue, it is vitiated by a depraved longing for applause. Show me, if you can, an individual who, unless he has renounced himself in obedience to the Lord’s command, is disposed to do good for its own sake. Those who have not so renounced themselves have followed virtue at least for the sake of praise. The philosophers who have contended most strongly that virtue is to be desired on her own account, were so inflated with arrogance as to make it apparent that they sought virtue for no other reason than as a ground for indulging in pride. So far, therefore, is God from being delighted with these hunters after popular applause with their swollen breasts, that he declares they have received their reward in this world (Mt. 6:2), and that harlots and publicans are nearer the kingdom of heaven than they (Mt. 21:31). We have not yet sufficiently explained how great and numerous are the obstacles by which a man is impeded in the pursuit of rectitude, so long as he has not renounced himself. The old saying is true, There is a world of iniquity treasured up in the human soul. Nor can you find any other remedy for this than to deny yourself, renounce your own reason, and direct your whole mind to the pursuit of those things which the Lord requires of you, and which you are to seek only because they are pleasing to Him.
For the Christian Man today life can at times seem hard to draw the connection between living yet in a sinful body but being regenerated already. Yet John Calvin does an amazing job explaining this relationship – the Necessity of the doctrine concerning the Male Christian Life. The brevity of this treatise. The method of it. Plainness and unadorned simplicity of the Scripture system of morals for the man to live out today. He says,
We have said that the object of regeneration is to bring the life of believers into concord and harmony with the righteousness of God, and so confirm the adoption by which they have been received as sons. But although the law comprehends within it that new life by which the image of God is restored in us, yet, as our sluggishness stands greatly in need both of helps and incentives it will be useful to collect out of Scripture a true account of this reformations lest any who have a heartfelt desire of repentance should in their zeal go astray. Moreover, I am not unaware that, in undertaking to describe the life of the Christian, I am entering on a large and extensive subject, one which, when fully considered in all its parts, is sufficient to fill a large volume. We see the length to which the Fathers in treating of individual virtues extend their exhortations. This they do, not from mere loquaciousness; for whatever be the virtue which you undertake to recommend, your pen is spontaneously led by the copiousness of the matter so to amplify, that you seemnot to have discussed it properly if you have not done it at length. My intention, however, in the plan of life which I now propose to give, is not to extend it so far as to treat of each virtue specially, and expatiate in exhortation. This must be sought in the writings of others, and particularly in the Homilies of the Fathers. For me it will be sufficient to point out the method by which a pious man may be taught how to frame his life aright, and briefly lay down some universal rule by which he may not improperly regulate his conduct. I shall one day possibly find time for more ample discourse, [or leave others to perform an office for which I am not so fit. I have a natural love of brevity, and, perhaps, any attempt of mine at copiousness would not succeed. Even if I could gain the highest applause by being more prolix, I would scarcely be disposed to attempt it], while the nature of my present work requires me to glance at simple doctrine with as much brevity as possible. As philosophers have certain definitions of rectitude and honesty, from which they derive particular duties and the whole train of virtues; so in this respect Scripture is not without order, but presents a most beautiful arrangement, one too which is every way much more certain than that of philosophers. The only difference is, that they, under the influence of ambition, constantly affect an exquisite perspicuity of arrangement, which may serve to display their genius, whereas the Spirit of God, teaching without affectation, is not so perpetually observant of exact method, and yet by observing it at times sufficiently intimates that it is not to be neglected.
The need for Scripture is confirmed By ONE the depravity of our nature making it necessary in every one who would know God to have recourse to the word and by TWO From those passages of the Psalms in which God is introduced as reigning. Calvin writes in 1.6.3 of his Institutes,
For if we reflect how prone the human mind is to lapse into forgetfulness of God, how readily inclined to every kind of error, how bent every now and then on devising new and fictitious religions, it will be easy to understand how necessary it was to make such a depository of doctrine as would secure it from either perishing by the neglect, vanishing away amid the errors, or being corrupted by the presumptuous audacity of men. It being thus manifest that God, foreseeing the inefficiency of his image imprinted on the fair form of the universe, has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God;—we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved Judgment, but by the standard of eternal truth. If, as I lately said, we turn aside from it, how great soever the speed with which we move, we shall never reach the goal, because we are off the course. We should consider that the brightness of the Divine countenance, which even an apostle declares to be inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:16), is a kind of labyrinth,—a labyrinth to us inextricable, if the Word do not serve us as a thread to guide our path; and that it is better to limp in the way, than run with the greatest swiftness out of it. Hence the Psalmist, after repeatedly declaring (Psalm 93, 96, 97, 99, &c). that superstition should be banished from the world in order that pure religion may flourish, introduces God as reigning; meaning by the term, not the power which he possesses and which he exerts in the government of universal nature, but the doctrine by which he maintains his due supremacy: because error never can be eradicated from the heart of man until the true knowledge of God has been implanted in it.
The Scriptures act as a guide for the people of God, better yet they are the teacher bringing those that our the Lord’s elect to Him. How much greater is it for the believer of the gospel to know that they have been given the Scriptures, so that they might know Him and live in obedience for him. Calvin writes on this issue in his institutes 1.6.1. saying,
Therefore, though the effulgence which is presented to every eye, both in the heavens and on the earth, leaves the ingratitude of man without excuse, since God, in order to bring the whole human race under the same condemnation, holds forth to all, without exception, a mirror of his Deity in his works, another and better help must be given to guide us properly to God as a Creator. Not in vain, therefore, has he added the light of his Word in order that he might make himself known unto salvation, andbestowed the privilege on those whom he was pleased to bring into nearer and more familiar relation to himself. For, seeing how the minds of men were carried to and fro, and found no certain resting-place, he chose the Jews for a peculiar people, and then hedged them in that they might not, like others, go astray. And not in vain does he, by the same means, retain us in his knowledge, since but for this, even those who, in comparison of others, seem to stand strong, would quickly fall away. For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any books however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly. God therefore bestows a gift of singular value, when, for the instruction of the Church, he employs not dumb teachers merely, but opens his own sacred mouth; when he not only proclaims that some God must be worshipped, but at the same time declares that He is the God to whom worship is due; when he not only teaches his elect to have respect to God, but manifests himself as the God to whom this respect should be paid.
The course which God followed towards his Church from the very first, was to supplement these common proofs by the addition of his Word, as a surer and more direct means of discovering himself. And there can be no doubt that it was by this help, Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs, attained to that familiar knowledge which, in a manner, distinguished them from unbelievers. I am not now speaking of the peculiar doctrines of faith by which they were elevated to the hope of eternal blessedness. It was necessary, in passing from death unto life, that they should know God, not only as a Creator, but as a Redeemer also; and both kinds of knowledge they certainly did obtain from the Word. In point of order, however, the knowledge first given was that which made them acquainted with the God by whom the world was made and is governed. To this first knowledge was afterwards added the more intimate knowledge which alone quickens dead souls, and by which God is known not only as the Creator of the worlds and the sole author and disposer of all events, but also as a Redeemer, in the person of the Mediator. But as the fall and the corruption of nature have not yet been considered, I now postpone the consideration of the remedy (for which, see Book 2 c. 6 &c). Let the reader then remember, that I am not now treating of the covenant by which God adopted the children of Abraham, or of that branch of doctrine by which, as founded in Christ, believers have, properly speaking, been in all ages separated from the profane heathen. I am only showing that it is necessary to apply to Scripture, in order to learn the sure marks which distinguish God, as the Creator of the world, from the whole herd of fictitious gods.D14 We shall afterward, in due course, consider the work of Redemption. In the meantime, though we shall adduce many passages from the New Testament, and some also from the Law and the Prophets, in which express mention is made of Christ, the only object will be to show that God, the Maker of the world, is manifested to us in Scripture, and his true character expounded, so as to save us from wandering up and down, as in a labyrinth, in search of some doubtful deity.
The necessary rules to be observed in considering the state of man before the fall being laid down, the point first considered is the creation of the body, and the lesson taught by its being formed out of the earth, and made alive. Institutes 1.15.1. states,
We have now to speak of the creation of man, not only because of all the works of God it is the noblest, and most admirable specimen of his justice, wisdom, and goodness, but, as we observed at the outset, we cannot clearly and properly know God unless the knowledge of ourselves be added. This knowledge is twofold,—relating, first, to the condition in which we were at first created; and, secondly to our condition such as it began to be immediately afterAdam’s fall. For it would little avail us to know how we were created if we remained ignorant of the corruption and degradation of our nature in consequence of the fall. At present, however, we confine ourselves to a consideration of our nature in its original integrity. And, certainly, before we descend to the miserable condition into which man has fallen, it is of importance to consider what he was at first. For there is need of caution, lest we attend only to the natural ills of man, and thereby seem to ascribe them to the Author of nature; impiety deeming it a sufficient defence if it can pretend that everything vicious in it proceeded in some sense from God, and not hesitating, when accused, to plead against God, and throw the blame of its guilt upon Him. Those who would be thought to speak more reverently of the Deity catch at an excuse for their depravity from nature, not considering that they also, though more obscurely, bring a charge against God, on whom the dishonour would fall if anything vicious were proved to exist in nature. Seeing, therefore, that the flesh is continually on the alert for subterfuges, by which it imagines it can remove the blame of its own wickedness from itself to some other quarter, we must diligently guard against this depraved procedure, and accordingly treat of the calamity of the human race in such a way as may cut off every evasion, and vindicate the justice of God against all who would impugn it. We shall afterwards see, in its own place (Book 2 chap. 1 sec. 3), how far mankind now are from the purity originally conferred on Adam. And, first, it is to be observed, that when he was formed out of the dust of the ground a curb was laid on his pride—nothing being more absurd than that those should glory in their excellence who not only dwell in tabernacles of clay, but are themselves in part dust and ashes. But God having not only deigned to animate a vessel of clay, but to make it the habitation of an immortal spirit, Adam might well glory in the great liberality of his Maker.
Richard Gaffin is Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Calvin Collge, Grand Rapids, and he holds his Th.M. and Th.D. degrees from Westminster. He also is the author of Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology, and Perspectives on Pentecost.
Calvin’s views on the Sabbath are the subject of claim and counterclaim. This book brings together two controversial themes. Calvin’s ideas on Church/state relationships and on the sabbath. Richard Gaffin traces the development of the beliefs of Calvin through his comments and writings also helps us to understand the relationship between the ten commandments and the New Testament. Calvin’s conclusions have a much wider implication than just what you do on Sunday! You might also be surprised by Griffin’s analysis.
The title of the article, Calvin’s Legacy: Dour Autocrat or Democracy’s Hero?
David Skeel writes,
‘Jean Cauvin, nous sommes ici!”—John Calvin, we are here—a preacher proclaimed at the “Calvin 500” festival that brought dozens of pastors and scholars to Geneva earlier this month. Geneva itself seemed less enthusiastic. The city’s own celebration of the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth on July 10, 1509, featured an outdoor play that concluded with the Calvin character lifting a shroud from statues of Calvin and three other Protestant reformers, then turning to the stone Calvin and berating him for his repressive rule. What “stood out,” according to one American pastor who emailed me, was “Geneva’s antipathy to Calvin—not ambivalence, antipathy.” Another concluded: “A prophet is not without honor save in his own country.”
Thus it has always been for the complicated religious leader who fled from his native France in 1536; he had planned to spend only a night in Geneva, but his fellow reformer William Farel begged him to stay and help with his efforts there. Calvin’s early tenure in Geneva was shaky; the city council banished him in 1538, only allowing him to return in 1541. As he solidified his power, Calvin maintained the separation between the church and the city council, but the church’s ruling body, the Consistory, wielded formidable social influence through its discipline of wayward parishioners.
To his defenders, Calvin recovered essential, long-buried Christian principles, such as the sovereignty of God and the authority of Scripture, by holding the doctrines of the Catholic Church up to the light of biblical teaching. His insistence on the freedom of individual believers, and recognition that magistrates are sinful like everyone else, contributed to representative democracy and the separation of church and state. To detractors, he was a dour autocrat who was obsessed with sin, taught that many men and women were predestined to hell, and saddled Geneva with a welter of moral rules and prohibitions.
The speakers and hundreds of Calvin enthusiasts who flocked to Geneva for “Calvin 500” earlier this month were Reformed theology stalwarts, most hailing from the theologically conservative Presbyterian denominations that identify themselves with Calvin. The Geneva event was remarkably similar to the leading festivities of the last major Calvin anniversary, which were held in Savannah, Ga., a century ago. In 1909, renowned Princeton scholar B.B. Warfield worried about Americans’ discomfort with Calvin’s emphasis on predestination and human sinfulness, and defended Calvinism as “the casting of the soul wholly on the free grace of God alone, to whom alone belongs salvation.” In 2009, in Geneva, Covenant Seminary President Bryan Chapell preached on the comforts of these difficult doctrines. And legal scholar John Witte’s address on Calvin’s influence on Western law and politics, among others, also echoed the earlier celebration.
John Calvin is generally thought of as the greatest theologian of the Protestant Reformation or as a gifted Bible commentator whose insights into the text of Scripture are still highly valued today. Yet it is not widely known that the greatest obligation Calvin felt was not to his fellow scholars, nor even to his students, but to the ordinary people – citizens of Geneva and persecuted refugees, shopkeepers and merchants, the young and the old – who crowded St. Peter’s Church no less than ten times a fortnight to listen to his sermons in French.
Calvin’s sermons have lain for too long in the shadow of his commentaries. In seeking to correct this imbalance, it should be remembered that a sermon serves a very different purpose from a commentary. While explanation and interpretation are enough for students, they are never enough for a congregation of sinners. That is why Calvin’s sermons always combine the essential elements of all true preaching – exposition, exhortation and practical application. So let the reader be warned: this volume contains lively preaching! Calvin aims to awaken the conscience and also demands life-changing action. Is it any wonder that such preaching was used by God to bring spiritual renewal on an unprecedented scale to the people and nations of sixteenth-century Europe?
Many who know me, know I love focusing my studies on Central-Gospel themes, doctrines, and issues of today that deal with the Gospel its’ self. I have wanted to spend sometime in my Masters of Arts writing on Calvin’s view of the Gospel truths in adoption and what it detailed. My last semester I was able to do so, and work with a fellow brother at seminary who helped me. Here is the paper Maarten Kuivenhoven and I worked on together this past month.
God has a fatherly care over us.
“Now if we are so much bound to a mortal man as to maintain his honour when we are kept at his expense, what ought we to do for our God? Are we not in his house as long as we live in this world? Have we so much as one drop of water except by his goodness and generosity? Behold, God has a fatherly care over us, and yet we allow his name to be blasphemed, his majesty to be robbed and spoiled of all reverence, his Word to be torn in pieces, all order (that he has commanded) to be broken, the church (which is his wife) to be corrupted and misused, and his children to be debauched, and in the meanwhile we keep our mouths closed. I ask you, whether such silence does not sufficiently show that we are not worthy to eat one more morsel of bread, nor to be counted in the number of earthworm, lice, bugs, and all the vilest and filthiest things of the world?
Therefore let us think well upon it, that we shall be found guilty of the despising of God’s majesty (as we see) because we do not rebuke men’s vices. That is a reason why the wicked and profane become bolder and imagine they have won all to their side, and triumph in their despising of God in that way. It comes partly as a result of our silence.”
John Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, p. 525
John Calvin is of course one of the most significant theologians of the reformation, who was based in Geneva and whose name is known throughout the world. Therefore seven Protestant Churches of London are taking the opportunity to celebrate his anniversary together.
Several events will take place around this jubilee:
18.03.09 Introduction of the Calvin events doors open 6.30pm – event starts 7pm
Host: Hungarian Church
29.04.09 Calvin’s understanding of Communion doors open 7pm – event starts 7.30pm
Speaker: Rev Allan Smith; Host: Lumen United Reformed Church
08.05.09 Protestantism et Europe (French) doors open 7.30pm – event starts 8pm
Speaker: Patrick Cabanel; Host: French Institute
14.05.09 Organ concert doors open 6.30pm – event starts 7pm
Organists: Anne Page and David Titterington; Host: Dutch Church
11.06.09 Calvin and Capitalism doors open 6pm – event starts 6.30pm
Speaker: Rev Dr Frank Jehle; Host: Swiss Embassy, SCL, BSCC
27.09.09 Calvin on creation and redemption (Dutch) event starts 12.45pm following Sunday Service
Speaker: Dr Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer; Host: Dutch Church
28.09.09 Light and shadow of the reformation doors open 6.30pm – event starts 7pm
Speaker: Dr Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer; Host: Dutch Church
06.10.09 Calvin’s significance for today doors open 7pm – event starts 8pm
Speaker: Prof David Fergusson; Host: Crown Court Church
08.10.09 Modernity of Calvin (French) doors open 6.30pm – event starts 7pm
Speakers: Max Engammare and Jean-Paul Willaime; Host: French Institute
31.10.09 Theatrical Portrait doors open 7pm – event starts 7.30pm
Directed by Joy Leslie Gibson; Host: Swiss Church
28.11.09 Jubilee Celebration doors open 4pm – event starts 4.30pm
With Bishop Bolcski Gusztàv Bölzcskei; Host: Swiss Church
From DG Ministry: “John Piper focuses on the supremacy of God by unfolding Calvin’s zeal for the glory of God. God rests lightly on the church’s mind in our time. We are obsessed with ourselves and God takes second place, if that. The experience of his majesty sometimes seems to have disappeared from the modern evangelical world. John Calvin saw a similar thing in his day. His aim was to “set before [man], as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God”—a fitting banner over all of his life and work. “The essential meaning of Calvin’s life and preaching,” writes John Piper, “is that he recovered and embodied a passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God. Such is the aim and burden of this book as well.”
From Me: This small, short little note that John Piper does here in near 60 pages would be a great gift for the great number of people in today’s world, namely America who has no idea of the beauty that is in John Calvin’s example for us in our faith, living for the glory of God. Having a passion for the glory of God in today postmodern culture I personally believe starts by having a passion for the Word of God. Today in the often times of America’s cesspool of sin, they see the Scriptures as a list of guidelines, or a manuel to having a successful life. I so often hear form my old friends, and unbelievers, “Yes! I believe in God” and “Yes, I believe in the Bible!” But as an absolute authority over their life, their life-style, their morals, their families, etc. NO! The importance of Piper’s book on Calvin for 2009, is seeing the majesty of God in the Word of God and how Calvin saw this as an importance over all the Christian life. If you want to tell someone about Calvin, and Calvinism that is short and to the point, then buy one to read, and a few to pass-out to your friends.
For the 500th post on this blog, I thought I’d give you a little taste of the new title that Dr. Joel Beeke has done on John Calvin. Over the next year, Dr. Joel R. Beeke will have a number of titles (I know of 4 right now) coming out for Calvin’s 500th birthday. For next year (2009) this is one title you may want to use for a devotion throughout the 500th year of the birth of John Calvin. As the year 2009 is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, 365 Days with Calvin invites readers to celebrate this memorable occasion by prayerfully reading these daily portions culled from Calvin’s writings. A biographical sketch co-authored by Joel R. Beeke and Michael A. G. Haykin is provided at the beginning of the book, which will make readers more aware of Calvin’s contribute to the Reformed tradition. Each day’s selection contains four parts: a biblical text, suggested further reading, Calvin’s comments on the main text, and a meditation on those comments designed to stimulate further reflection, examination, and action. Pick up your copy of 365 Days with Calvin and make this coming year a memorable one. It is our prayer that the spirit of genuine piety that so enveloped Calvin may also penetrate you as you read this book. May your 365 days with Calvin be a year of rich growth.
When you all have the time, check out Together for Adoption! And, if you don’t have the time, then take it.
“[Christ’s] task was so to restore us to God’s grace as to make of the children of men, children of God; of the heirs of Gehenna, heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom. Who could have done this had not the self-same Son of God become the Son of man, and had not so taken what was ours as to impart what was his to us, and to make what was his by nature ours by grace? Therefore, relying on this pledge, we trust that we are sons of God, for God’s natural Son fashioned for himself a body from our body, flesh from our flesh, bones from our bones, that he might be one with us. Ungrudgingly he took our nature upon himself to impart to us what was his, and to become both Son of God and Son of man in common with us. Hence that holy brotherhood which he commends with his own lips when he says: ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ [John 20:17]. In this way we are assured of the inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom; for the only Son of God, to whom it wholly belongs, has adopted us as his brothers” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.12.2).
“[The Holy Spirit] is called the ’spirit of adoption‘ because he is the witness to us of the free benevolence of God with which God the Father has embraced us in his beloved only-begotten Son to become a Father to us; and he encourages us to have trust in prayer. In fact, he supplies the very words so that we may fearlessly cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.3).
“We have been adopted for this reason: to reverence [God] as our Father” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.17.6).
“Let us be heartily convinced that the Kingdom of Heaven is not servants’ wages but sons’ inheritance [Eph. 1:18], which only they who have been adopted as sons by the Lord shall enjoy [cf. Gal. 4:7], and that for no other reason than this adoption [cf. Eph. 1:5-6]“ (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.18.2).
“We ought to offer all prayer to God only in Christ’s name, as it cannot be agreeable to him in any other name. For in calling God ‘Father,’ we put forward the name ‘Christ.’ With what confidence would anyone address God as ‘Father’? Who would break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honor of a son of God unless we had been adopted as children of grace in Christ? He, while he is the true Son, has of himself been given us as a brother that what he has of his own nature may become ours by benefit of adoption if we embrace this great blessing with sure faith. Accordingly, John says that power has been given to those who believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God, that they too may become children of God [John 1:12]“ (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.20.36).
“But because the narrowness of our hearts cannot comprehend God’s boundless favor, not only is Christ the pledge and guarantee of our adoption, but he gives the Spirit as witness to us of the same adoption, through whom with free and full voice we may cry, ‘Abba, Father’ [Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15]. Therefore, whenever any hesitation shall hinder us, let us remember to ask him to correct our fearfulness, and to set before us that Spirit that he may guide us to pray boldly” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.22.37).
Information: Capturing both the best of elite scholarship, as well as exhibiting a firm understanding of and passion for Calvin’s own work, these essays by 20 elite Calvin scholars who appreciate the abiding value of Calvin’s Institutes provide definitive and section-by-section commentary on Calvin’s magnum opus. Buy here.