John Calvin

Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments.

John Calvin (July 10 1509May 27 1564) was a major French Protestant theologian during the Protestant Reformation; he is renowned for his teaching and infamous for his role in the execution of Michael Servetus.

SourcedEdit

  • Now among the other things proper to recreate man and give him pleasure, music is either the first or one of the principal;and we must think that it is a gift of God deputed for that purpose'.
    • Introduction, Geneva Psalter 1539
  • Where there is so much division and separation as we now see, it is indeed no easy matter to still the troubled waters, and bring about composure... You will say he has a vehement disposition and ungovernable impetuosity; as if that very vehemence did not break forth with all the greater violence when all show themselves alike indulgent to him, and allow him to have his way unquestioned. If this specimen of overbearing tyranny has sprung forth already, as the early blossom in the springtide of a reviving Church, what must we expect in a short time, when affairs have fallen into a far worse condition?
  • Nor, in truth, is it of little importance to prevent the suspicion of any difference having arisen between us from being handed down in any way to our posterity; for it is worse than absurd that parties should be found disagreeing on the very principles, after we have been compelled to make our departure from the world.
    • Letter to Philip Melanchthon, 1552-11-28: See the following works.
  • Dr. Jules Bonnet, ed., Letters of John Calvin, 2 vols., (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable and Co.), vol.II, 1857, pp.361-362, letter No. CCCIV
  • Jules Bonnet, ed., Letters of John Calvin, 4 vols., (Lenox Hill), vol.II, 1973, ISBN 0-8337-4021-0 [1], pp. 376–377;[2]
  • Jules Bonnet and Henry Beveridge, eds., Selected works of John Calvin: tracts and letters (Baker Book House, 1983), ISBN 0-8010-2493-5 [3], pp. 375-381
  • In the mind perfect intelligence flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and moulded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order. But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed. For besides the deformity which everywhere appears unsightly, this evil also is added, that no part is free from the infection of sin.
  • There is no abbey so poor as not to have a specimen. In some places there are large fragments, as at the Holy Chapel in Paris, at Poitiers, and at Rome, where a good-sized crucifix is said to have been made of it. In brief, if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load. Yet the Gospel testifies that a single man was able to carry it.
    • Traité des reliques (1580)
  • And at this day, the blessedness brought to us by Christ cannot be the subject of our praise, without reminding us, at the same time, of the distinguished honor which God was pleased to bestow on Mary, in making her the mother of his Only Begotten Son.
    • Commentary on Luke 1:42
  • Their [the Jews] rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.
    • A Response To Questions and Objections of a Certain Jew (Ad quaestiones et objecta Judaei cuiusdam responsio)
  • Elisabeth, again, while she praises her, is so far from hiding the Divine glory, that she ascribes everything to God. And yet, though she acknowledges the superiority of Mary to herself and to others, she does not envy her the higher distinction, but modestly declares that she had obtained more than she deserved.
    • Commentary on Luke 1:43
  • If there had been any unbelief in Mary, that could not prevent God from accomplishing his work in any other way which he might choose. But she is called blessed, because she received by faith the blessing offered to her, and opened up the way to God for its accomplishment.
    • Commentary on Luke 1:45 [5]
  • All things being at God’s disposal, and the decision of salvation or death belonging to him, he orders all things by his counsel and decree in such a manner, that some men are born devoted from the womb to certain death, that his name may be glorified in their destruction.
  • There is not one little blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make men rejoice.
    • As quoted in The Value of Convenience: Genealogy of Technical Culture (1993) by Thomas F. Tierney, p. 128; variant translation: There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
  • It is no small honour that God for our sake has so magnificently adorned the world, in order that we may not only be spectators of this beauteous theatre, but also enjoy the multiplied abundance and variety of good things which are presented to us in it.
    • Works (1844) edited by the Calvin translation society, as quoted in Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers (1991) by Howard L. Rice, p. 59
  • Then let every one of us, being warned by this sentence of the angel, acknowledge that he as yet cleaves to first principles, or, at least, does not comprehend all those things which are necessary to be known; and that therefore progress is to be made to the very end of life: for this is our wisdom, to be learners to the end.
  • Que donc les nonnains demeurent en leurs convents et en leurs cloistres, et en leurs bourdeaux de Satan: ie di mesmes encores qu’elles ne fussent point putains comme elles sont, comme il y a encores pis de ces abominations de Sodome, faisans des choses si enormes et si abominables que c’est une horreur: encores, di-ie, que toutes ces vilenies-là n'y fussent point, si est-ce que toute la chasteté qu'elles pretendent, n'est rien envers Dieu, au prix de ce qu'il a ordonné, c'est asçavoir que combien que ce soyent choses contemptibles, et qui semblent estre de nulle valeur, qu'une femme ait peine d'adresser son mesnage, de nettoyer les ordures de ses enfans, de tuer les poux et autres choses semblables, que tout cela sera mesprisé, qu’on ne le daignera pas mesmes regarder, ce sont toutesfois sacrifices que Dieu reçoit et qu'il accepte, comme si c'estoyent choses precieuses et honorables.
    • Let the Nuns therefore tarry still in their convents and cloisters, and in their brothel houses of Satan: yea I put the case they were not whores as they are, yea and worse than that, vile and shameful Sodomites, committing such heinous and abominable acts, that it is horrible to think of, I put the case I say, there were none of all these villainies, yet all the chastity they pretend is nothing before God, in comparison of that that he hath appointed, that is to say, that albeit it seem but a vile thing, and a matter of none account, for a woman to take pains about housewifery, to make clean her children when they be arrayed, to kill fleas, and other such like, although this be a thing despised, yea and such, that many will not vouchsafe to look upon it, yet are they sacrifices which GOD accepteth & receiveth, as if they were things of great price and honourable.
    • A Sermon of Master John Caluine, vpon the first Epistle of Paul, to Timothie..., London: G. Bishop and T. Woodcoke, 1579 (ch. 2:13-15).
    • Sermons of M. John Calvin, on the Epistles of S. Paule to Timothie and Titus, Laurence Tomson, trans., Printed for G. Bishop and T. Woodcoke, 1579, p. 231. [6] (Facsimile reprint in Jean Calvin, Sermons on Timothy and Titus (16th-17th century facsimile editions), Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983. ISBN 0851513743 ISBN 9780851513744), p. 231. "Let the Nunnes therefore..."
    • Sermons Sur la Premiere Epitre a Timothee (Sermons on the First Epistle to Timothy), Sermon 19 ("Dixneuvieme Sermon") in the Corpus Reformatorum, 1895, vol. 81 (Opera 31) p. 228. [7] [8][9]
  • [W]e must know and be out of all doubt, that the Pope hath but a devilish Synagogue, and that all his Clergy is but filth & stench, all these varlets that have cast aside the Church of God, are but vermin. Although the Pope, who is Antichrist, be set in God’s sanctuary, (as we have seen before [2 Thes. 2.4]) yet notwithstanding, he is not worthy to be taken and accounted for a minister of the Church, nor all his mates.
  • We take nothing from the womb but pure filth [meras sordes]. The seething spring of sin is so deep and abundant that vices are always bubbling up form it to bespatter and stain what is otherwise pure.... We should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only but are buried in innumerable impurities.... all human works, if judged according to their own worth, are nothing but filth and defilement.... they are always spattered and befouled with many stains.... it is certain that there is no one who is not covered with infinite filth.

Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536; 1559)Edit

Institutio Christianae Religionis first published in 1536; final edition in 1559. English translation online
  • For what accords better and more aptly with faith than to acknowledge ourselves divested of all virtue that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be filled by him, the slaves of sin that he may give us freedom, blind that he may enlighten, lame that he may cure, and feeble that he may sustain us; to strip ourselves of all ground of glorying that he alone may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in him?
    • Prefatory Address as translated by Henry Beveridge
  • Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God
    Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.
    • Book I Ch. 1 "The Knowledge of God and of Ourselves Mutually Connected - Nature of this Connection" as translated by Henry Beveridge.
  • It having been said above that God bends all the reprobate, and even Satan himself, at his will, three objections are started. First, that this happens by the permission, not by the will of God. To this objection there is a twofold reply, the one, that angels and men, good and bad, do nothing but what is appointed by God; the second, that all movements are secretly directed to their end by the hidden inspiration of God...
    • Book I Ch. 18 "The Instrumentality of the Wicked employed by God, while He continues free from every taint" as translated by Henry Beveridge.
  • The whole life of Christians ought to be an exercise of piety, since they are called to sanctification. It is the office of the law to remind them of their duty and thereby to excite them to the pursuit of holiness and integrity. But when their consciences are solicitous how God may be propitiated, what answer they shall make, and on what they shall rest their confidence, if called to his tribunal, there must then be no consideration of the requisitions of the law, but Christ alone must be proposed for righteousness, who exceeds all the perfection of the law.
    • Book III Ch. 19 sect. 2
  • We must resist wandering thoughts in prayer. Raising our hands reminds us that we need to raise up our minds to God, setting aside all irrelevant thoughts.
    • Book III Ch. 20 First Rule, para. 1 and 2

Golden Booklet of the True Christian LifeEdit

John Calvin's "Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life" (ISBN-10: 0801065283) was published December 1, 2004 by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michingan, United States. Source: Google Books
Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments. Though we shall short, our labour is not lost if this day surpasses the preceding one.
The one condition for spiritual progress is that we remain sincere and humble. Let us keep our end in view, let us press forward to our goal. Let us not indulge in pride, nor give in to our sinful passions.
The vices of which we are full we carefully hide from others, and we flatter ourselves with the notion that they are small and trivial; we sometimes even embrace them as virtues.
Hatred grows into insolence when we desire to excel the rest of mankind and imagine we do not belong to the common lot.
We should never insult others on account of their faults, for it is our duty to show charity and respect to everyone.
All the blessings we enjoy are divine deposits which we have received on this condition that we distribute them to others.
Let this be our rule for goodwill and helpfulness, that whenever we are able to assist others we should behave as stewards who must someday give an account of ourselves.
Our heart is never seriously inclined to wish for and to mediate on the future life unless it has first thoroughly learned to forsake the vanities of the present world.
This life, though it is full of countless miseries, deserves to be reckoned among the divine blessings which should not be despised
Even if this earth is only a vestibule, we ought undoubtedly to make such a use of its blessing that we are assisted rather than delayed in our journey.
They who pay much attention to the body generally neglect the soul.
  • When we hear any mention of our mystical union with Christ, we should remember that holiness is the channel to do it.
    • Page 17
  • Holiness is not a merit by which we can attain communion with God, but a gift of Christ, which enables us to cling to him, and to follow him.
    • Page 17
  • Unless we ardently and prayerfully devote ourselves to Christ’s righteousness we do not only faithlessly revolt from our Creator, but we also abjure him as our Savior.
    • Page 19
  • …since God has revealed himself as a Father, we would be guilty of the basest ingratitude if we did not behave as his children.
    • Page 19
  • The apostle denies that anyone actually knows Christ, who has not learned to put off the old man, corrupt with deceitful lusts, and to put on Christ.
    • Page 20
  • We should not insist on absolute perfection of the gospel in our fellow Christians, however we may strive for it ourselves.
    • Page 21
  • It is not lawful for you to make a compromise with God: to try to fulfill part of your duties and to omit others at your own pleasure.
    • Page 22
  • No one in this earthly prison of the body has sufficient strength of his own to press forward with a due degree of watchfulness, and the great majority [of Christians] are kept down with such great weakness that they stagger and halt and even creep on the ground, and so make very slight advances.
    • Page 22
  • Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments. Though we shall short, our labour is not lost if this day surpasses the preceding one.
    • Page 23
  • The one condition for spiritual progress is that we remain sincere and humble. Let us keep our end in view, let us press forward to our goal. Let us not indulge in pride, nor give in to our sinful passions. Let us steadily exert ourselves to reach a higher degree of holiness till we shall finally arrive at a perfection of goodness which we seek and pursue as long as we live, but which we shall attain then only, when, freed from all earthly infirmity, we shall be admitted by God into his full communion.
    • Page 23
  • It is a very important consideration that we are consecrated and dedicated to God; it means that we may think, speak, meditate, or do anything only with a view to his glory.
    • Page 26
  • Pagan philosophers set up reason as the sole guide of life, of wisdom and conduct; but Christian philosophy demands of us that we surrender our reason to the Holy Spirit; and this means that we no longer live for ourselves, but that Christ lives and reigns within us (Rom 12:1; Eph 4:23; Gal 2:20).
    • Page 27
  • Pagan philosophers set up reason as the sole guide of life, of wisdom and conduct; but Christian philosophy demands of us that we surrender our reason to the Holy Spirit; and this means that we no longer live for ourselves, but that Christ lives and reigns within us (Rom 12:1; Eph 4:23; Gal 2:20).
    • Page 27
  • Indeed, a Christian ought to be disposed and prepared to keep in mind that he has to reckon with God every moment of his life.
    • Page 28
  • The denial of ourselves which Christ has so diligently commanded his disciples from the beginning will at last dominate all the desires of our heart.
    • Page 28
  • There is deliverance in store only for the man who gives up his selfishness, and whose sole aim is to please the Lord and to do what is right in his sight.
    • Page 29
  • If God has bestowed on us any excellent gift, we imagine it to be our own achievement; and we swell and even burst with pride.
    • Page 32
  • The vices of which we are full we carefully hide from others, and we flatter ourselves with the notion that they are small and trivial; we sometimes even embrace them as virtues.
    • Page 32
  • Hatred grows into insolence when we desire to excel the rest of mankind and imagine we do not belong to the common lot; we even severely and haughtily despise others as our inferiors.
    • Page 32
  • The poor yield to the rich, the common people to the upper ten, the servants to their masters, the ignorant to the scholars; but there is nobody who does not imagine that he is really better than others.
    • Page 32
  • Everyone flatters himself and carries a kingdom in his breast.
    • Page 32
  • We should never insult others on account of their faults, for it is our duty to show charity and respect to everyone.
    • Page 33
  • Scripture urges and warns us that whatever favors we may have obtained from the Lord, we have received them as a trust on condition that they should be applied to the common benefit of the church.
    • Page 35
  • You cannot imagine a more certain rule or a more powerful suggestion than this, that all the blessings we enjoy are divine deposits which we have received on this condition that we distribute them to others.
    • Page 35
  • Let this be our rule for goodwill and helpfulness, that whenever we are able to assist others we should behave as stewards who must someday give an account of ourselves.
    • Page 35
  • The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception, though the majority are very undeserving when judged according to their own merits. But scripture here helps us out with an excellent argument when it teaches us that we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love.
    • Page 37
  • If he has deserved no kindness, but just the opposite, because he has maddened you with his injuries and insults, even this is no reason why you should not surround him with your affection and show him all sorts of favors.
    • Page 38
  • We should forever keep in mind that we must not brood on the wickedness of man, but realize that he is God’s image bearer.
    • Page 38
  • If we cover and obliterate man’s faults and consider the beauty and dignity of God’s image in him, then we shall be induced to love and embrace him (Heb 12:16; Gal 6:10; Isa 58:7; Matt 5:44; Luke 17:3-4)
    • Page 38
  • There are people who are known to be very liberal, yet they never give without scolding or pride or even insolence.
    • Page 39
  • First of all, Scripture draws our attention to this, that if we want ease and tranquility in our lives, we should resign ourselves and all that we have to the will of God, and at the same time we should surrender our affections to him as our Conqueror and Overlord.
    • Page 40
  • To crave wealth and honor, to demand power, to pile up riches, to gather all those vanities which seem to make for pomp and empty display, that is our furious passion and our unbounded desire.
    On the other hand, we fear and abhor poverty, obscurity, and humility, and we seek to avoid them by all possible means.
    • Page 41
  • …it must be plain also that we should not anxiously strive for riches and honors by relying on our own diligence or cleverness or by depending on the favor of men or by trusting in the notion of good luck, but that we should always expect the Lord to direct us to the lot he has provided for us.
    • Page 42
  • Moreover, a true Christian will not ascribe any prosperity to his own diligence, industry, or good fortune, but he will acknowledge that God is the author of it.
    • Page 43
  • No one has rightly denied himself unless he has wholly resigned himself to the Lord and is willing to leave every detail to his good pleasure. If we put ourselves in such a frame of mind, then, whatever may happen to us, we shall never feel miserable or accuse God falsely because of our lot.
    • Page 44
  • But a faithful believer will in all circumstances mediate on the mercy and fatherly goodness of God.
    • Page 45
  • In short, knowing that whatever may happen is ordained by the Lord, he will receive it with a peaceful and thankful heart, that he may not be guilty of proudly resisting the rule of him to whom he has once committed himself and all his belongings.
    • Page 46
  • For all whom the Lord has chosen and received into the society of his saints ought to prepare themselves for a life that is hard, difficult, laborious, and full of countless griefs. It is the will of their heavenly Father to try them in this manner that he may test them.
    • Page 48
  • For though Christ was his most beloved Son, in whom the Father was always well pleased, yet we see that he was not treated with indulgence and tenderness, so that it may be truly said that he was not only continuously afflicted, but that his whole life was a perpetual cross.
    • Page 48
  • …being humbled, we learn to call upon his strength which alone makes us stand up under such a load of afflictions.
    • Page 50
  • For he [David] confesses that prosperity had so stupefied and benumbed his senses that he disregarded the grace of God on which he should have depended, relied on himself instead, and imagined that he could not fall.
    • Page 50
  • Warned by such evidences of their spiritual illness, believers profit by their humiliations. Robbed of their foolish confidence in the flesh, they take refuge in the grace of God. And when they have done so, they experience the nearness of the divine protection which is to them a strong fortress (Ps 30:6-7).
    • Page 51
  • If everything proceeded according to their wishes, they would not understand what it means to follow God.
    • Page 53
  • For we are not all equally afflicted with the same disease or all in need of the same severe cure. This is the reason why we see different persons disciplined with different crosses. The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients; he gives some a milder medicine and purifies others by more shocking treatments, but he omits no one; for the whole world, without exception, is ill (Deut 32:15).
    • Page 55
  • When we recognize the rod of a father, should we not show ourselves docile children rather than rebelliously desperate men who have been hardened in their evil doings?
    • Page 56
  • Scripture points out this difference between believers and unbelievers; the latter, as old slaves of their incurable perversity, cannot endure the rod; but the former, like children of noble birth, profit by repentance and correction.
    • Page 57
  • …the more we are oppressed by the cross, the fuller will be our spiritual joy.
    • Page 66
  • That they may not become too complacent or delighted in married life, he makes them distressed by the shortcomings of their partners, or humbles them through willful offspring, or afflicts them with the want or loss of children. But, if in all these matters he is more merciful to them, he shows them by diseases and dangers how unstable and passing all mortal blessings are, that they may not be puffed up with vain glory.
    • Page 69
  • But it must be admitted that our heart is never seriously inclined to wish for and to mediate on the future life unless it has first thoroughly learned to forsake the vanities of the present world.
    • Page 69
  • There is no golden mean between these two extremes; either this early life must become low in our estimation, or it will have our inordinate love.
    • Page 70
  • Nevertheless, our constant efforts to lower our estimate of the present world should not lead us to hate life or to be ungrateful toward God. For this life, though it is full of countless miseries, deserves to be reckoned among the divine blessings which should not be despised. Therefore, if we discover nothing of God’s goodness in it, we are already guilty of no small ingratitude toward him.
    • Page 72
  • When we come to a comparison of heaven and earth, then we may indeed not only forget all about the present life, but even despise and scorn it.
    • Page 74
  • But the present life should never be hated, except insofar as it subjects us to sin, although even that hatred should not properly be applied to life itself.
    • Page 75
  • But this we may positively state, that nobody has made any progress in the school of Christ unless he cheerfully looks forward to the day of his death and to the day of the final resurrection.
    • Page 78
  • Even if this earth is only a vestibule, we ought undoubtedly to make such a use of its blessing that we are assisted rather than delayed in our journey.
    • Page 84
  • For there have been some people, otherwise good and holy, who saw that intemperance and luxury time and again drive man to throw off all restraints unless he is curbed by the utmost severity. And in their desire to correct such a pernicious evil they have adopted the only method which they saw fit, namely to permit earthly blessings only insofar as they were an absolute necessity. This advice showed the best of intentions but was far too rigid. For they committed the very dangerous error of imposing on the consequence of others stricter rules than those laid down in the Word of the Lord. By restricting people within the demands of necessity, they meant abstinence from everything possible. On the other hand, there are many nowadays who seek a pretext to excuse intemperance in the use of the external things, and who desire to indulge the lusts of the flesh. Such people take for granted that liberty should not be restricted by any limitations at all; but to this we can never agree. We must grant, indeed, that it is not right or possible to bind the consciences of others with hard and fast rules.
    • Page 85
  • Where is our acknowledgement of God if our thoughts are fixed on the glamour of our garments?
    • Page 85
  • There is also an old proverb, that they who pay much attention to the body generally neglect the soul.
    • Page 90
  • If we follow our divine calling, we shall receive this unique consolation that there is no work so mean and so sordid that does not look truly respectable and highly important in the sight of God (Coram Deo!) (Gen 1:28; Col 1:1ff)
    • Page 94

Calvin's CommentariesEdit

Harmony of Matthew, Mark, LukeEdit

  • The supreme and only Judge of the universe stands before the tribunal of an earthly judge.
    • Re Matthew 27:24 (Torrance 1972 edition).

Epistles to the CorinthiansEdit

  • The name of Christ is used here instead of the Church, because the similitude was intended to apply—not to God's only-begotten Son, but to us. It is a passage that is full of choice consolation, inasmuch as he calls the Church Christ; for Christ confers upon us this honour —that he is willing to be esteemed and recognised, not in himself merely, but also in his members. Hence the same Apostle says elsewhere, (Eph. i. 23,) that the Church is his completion, as though he would, if separated from his members, be incomplete.
    • Commentary on 1 Corinthians, 12:12
    • Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 1848, Rev. William Pringle, tr., Edinburgh, Volume 1, p. 405. [11]

Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and EphesiansEdit

  • This is the highest honour of the Church, that, until He is united to us, the Son of God reckons himself in some measure imperfect. What consolation is it for us to learn, that, not until we are along with him, does he possess all his parts, or wish to be regarded as complete! Hence, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, when the apostle discusses largely the metaphor of a human body, he includes under the single name of Christ the whole Church.
    • Commentary on Ephesians 1:23.
    • Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, 1854, Rev. William Pringle, tr., Edinburgh, p. 218. [12]

Quotes about CalvinEdit

  • Calvin’s theocentric irrationalism eventually revealed itself as the cunning to technocratic reason which had to shape its human material. Misery and the poor laws did not suffice to drive men into the workshops of the early capitalistic era. The new spirit helped to supplement external pressures.
    • Max Horkheimer, “The End of Reason,” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (1982), p. 34

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Last modified on 15 April 2014, at 12:39