Category Archives: John Calvin

“The treasures of Paradise have been opened to you in the gospel” by John Calvin

“When you hear that the gospel presents you Jesus Christ in whom all the promises and gifts of God have been accomplished, and when it declares that He was sent by the Father, and has descended to the earth and spoken among men perfectly all that concerns our salvation, as it was foretold in the Law and to the Prophets — it ought to be most certain and obvious to you that the treasures of Paradise have been opened to you in the gospel and that the riches of God have been exhibited and eternal life itself revealed.

For, this is eternal life; to know one, only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom He has established as the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation.

Christ is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death.

He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which He guards.

He is the good and compassionate brother Joseph, who in His glory was not ashamed to acknowledge His brothers, however lowly and abject their condition.

He is the great sacrificer and bishop Melchizedek, who has offered an eternal sacrifice once for all.

He is the sovereign lawgiver Moses, writing His law on the tables of our hearts by His Spirit.

He is the faithful captain and guide Joshua, to lead us to the Promised Land.

He is the victorious and noble king David, bringing by His hand all rebellious power to subjection.

He is the magnificent and triumphant king Solomon, governing His kingdom in peace and prosperity.

He is the strong and powerful Samson, who by His death has overwhelmed all His enemies.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, He was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; He was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; He died for Our life; so that by Him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal.

In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, ‘O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’ it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us.

And we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it. But we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation, abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in Him and are offered to us by Him from God the Father.

If one were to sift thoroughly the Law and the Prophets, he would not find a single word which would not draw and bring us to Him. And for a fact, since all the treasures of wisdom and understanding are hidden in Him, there is not the least question of having, or turning toward, another goal.”

–John Calvin, “Preface to Olivetan’s New Testament” in Calvin: Commentaries (Library of Christian Classics, Vol. XXIII), Ed. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 68-70.

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“Then Luther arose” by John Calvin

“At the time when divine truth lay buried under this vast and dense cloud of darkness;

when religion was sullied by so many impious superstitions;

when by horrid blasphemies the worship of God was corrupted, and His glory laid prostrate;

when by a multitude of perverse opinions, the benefit of redemption was frustrated, and men, intoxicated with a fatal confidence in works, sought salvation anywhere rather than in Christ;

when the administration of the sacraments was partly maimed and torn asunder, partly adulterated by the admixture of numerous fictions, and partly profaned by traffickings for gain;

when the government of the church had degenerated into mere confusion and devastation;

when those who sat in the seat of pastors first did most vital injury to the church by the dissoluteness of their lives, and, secondly, exercised a cruel and most noxious tyranny over souls, by every kind of error, leading men like sheep to the slaughter;

then Luther arose, and after him others, who with united counsels sought out means and methods by which religion might be purged from all these defilements, the doctrine of godliness restored to its integrity, and the church raised out of its calamitous into somewhat of a tolerable condition.

The same course we are still pursuing in the present day.”

—John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, Trans. Henry Beveridge (London: W.H. Dalton, 1544/1843), 39-40.

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“God’s excellent gifts” by John Calvin

“Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts.

If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God.

For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we contemn and reproach the Spirit himself. What then? Shall we deny that the truth shone upon the ancient jurists who established civic order and discipline with such great equity?

Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those men were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably?

Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen?

No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how pre-eminent they are. But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God?

Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts.

Those men whom Scripture calls ‘natural men’ (1 Cor. 2:14) were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things.

Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good.”

–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; vol. 1; The Library of Christian Classics; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 2.2.15: pp. 273–275.

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“The ministry of writing books” by Scott Manetsch

“Calvin’s literary corpus is well known, with around one hundred volumes published from the time he arrived in Geneva in 1536 until his death twenty-eight years later.

During the 1550s, Calvin’s literary output ranged from 100,00 to a remarkable 250,000 published words per year.

Late nights spent writing at his desk by candlelight or long days spent dictating from bed inevitably took a toll on his health and spirits:

‘I get so tired from that endless writing that at times I have a loathing for it, and actually hate writing,’ Calvin complained to Bullinger in 1551.

But true religion needed to be defended in print as well as from the pulpit.

‘I would be a real coward if I saw God’s truth being attacked and remained quiet without a sound.’

Theodore Beza also recognized the strategic value of defending reformed Christianity through print media and he encouraged colleagues such as Chandieu, Daneau, and Goulart to join him in this important endeavor.

To a minister friend in Zurich, he wrote in 1575:

‘I rejoice that my colleagues Daneau and Goulart are friends of yours, and I beg that you also exhort them to write [books]. For you see how few men we have today who are able to write with precision and substance– which is the very thing that we need.’

From Beza’s perspective, the ministry of writing books that defended the truth and edified the people of God was of vital importance for the well-being of the church.”

–Scott M. Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 225-226.

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“The whole God is found in Him” by John Calvin

“When Paul says that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he means simply that the whole God is found in Him, so that he who is not satisfied with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God. The sum is that God has manifested Himself to us fully and perfectly in Christ.”

–John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, trans. T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 330. Calvin is commenting on Colossians 2:9.

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“Dearer to Him than His own life” by John Calvin

“But as He was made man on our account, and as the Father delighted in Him, in order that He might reconcile us to Himself, we need not wonder if He declares it to be the reason why the Father loveth Him, that our salvation is dearer to Him than His own life.

This is a wonderful commendation of the goodness of God to us, and ought justly to arouse our whole souls into rapturous admiration, that not only does God extend to us the love which is due to the only-begotten Son, but He refers it to us as the final cause.

And indeed there was no necessity that Christ should take upon Him our flesh, in which He was beloved, but that it might be the pledge of the mercy of His Father in redeeming us.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, Volume XVII in Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 409. Calvin is commenting on John 10:17.

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“Calvin in his commentaries” by Marilynne Robinson

“I have a collection of Calvin’s writings, nowhere near complete but daunting all the same, dozens of volumes of disciplined and elegant explication from the hand of a man whose health was never good, who shouldered for decades the practical and diplomatic problems of Geneva, a city under siege, and whose writings inspired and also endangered the individuals and populations across Europe who read them, whether or not they were persuaded by them. To say these things are humbling would be to understate the matter wildly.

I do happen to know what goes into the writing of a book– granted, not a book that requires a mastery of ancient languages, or that addresses the endless difficulties of translation– nor one that sets out to make literary use of a disparaged language or that attempts to render or to interpret a sacred text. I have no idea what it would be like to write in prison or in hiding or in a city full of refugees. I have no idea what it would be like to live with the threat of death while trying to write something good enough to justify the mortal peril others accepted in simply reading it.

I have just enough relevant experience to inform my awe. I find these achievements unimaginable. When I see Calvin in his commentaries pausing once again over the nuances and ambiguities of a Hebrew word as if his time and his patience and his strength were all inexhaustible, I am touched by how respectful he is, phrase by phrase and verse and by verse, of the text of Scripture, and therefore how respectful he is of any pastor and of all those to whom that pastor will preach.”

–Marilynne Robinson, “Reformation,” in The Givenness of Things (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2015), 25-26.

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