Tag Archives: John Calvin

“The church is the orchestra” by John Calvin

“The whole world is a theatre for the display of God’s goodness, wisdom, justice and power, but the church is the orchestra.”

–John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009),619. Calvin is commenting on Psalm 135:13-14.

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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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