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John Calvin – An Immense Flood of Idols

16 Oct

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12. The manifestation of God is choked by human superstition and the error of the philosophers

Hence arises that boundless filthy mire of error wherewith the whole earth was filled and covered. For each man’s mind is like a labyrinth, so that it is no wonder that individual nations were drawn aside into various falsehoods; and not only this—but individual men, almost, had their own gods. For as rashness and superficiality are joined to ignorance and darkness, scarcely a single person has ever been found who did not fashion for himself an idol or specter in place of God. Surely, just as waters boil up from a vast, full spring, so does an immense crowd of gods flow forth from the human mind, while each one, in wandering about with too much license, wrongly invents this or that about God himself.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.5.12. p. 64-65.

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A Fresh New Translation of Calvin’s Institutes

30 Sep

Calvin For Everyone
A Fresh, Readable New Translation from Banner of Truth

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The Institutes of the Christian Religion is Calvin’s single most important word, and one of the key texts to emerge from the Reformation of the sixteenth century. Yet, as many who have purchased an English translation of the final Latin edition of 1559 know only too well, the sheer size of the work and the proliferation of technical details and polemical themes do not make for easy reading. It has left many wishing for an edition that avoided such things but yet kept intact the very heart and soul of Calvin’s teaching.

Such an edition is now available, and it is not the work of an editor or an abridger, but of Calvin himself. The Reformer’s 1541 French edition of his Institutes really ought to be better known than it is because it offers the reader a clear yet comprehensive account of the teaching of the Bible—of the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in creation, revelation and redemption, in the life of the individual Christian and in the worship and witness of the church. Here is doctrine but here too is life–shaping application, for the practical use of Christian doctrine is always Calvin’s abiding concern. The author of the Institutes invites us both to know and to live the truth, and thus allow God’s Spirit to transform us.

Robert White’s new translation of the 1541 French edition of the Institutes makes Calvin live once again, and the reader will be truly amazed at both the power and the relevance of the Reformer’s doctrine and application for Christian living in the 21st century.

Currently, WTSBooks is offering both this new beautiful hardcover edition of Calvin’s Institutes as well as the mini-book “A Guide to Christian Living” for $35 total.

1541 Calvin’s Institutes + A Guide to Christian Living: $35.

1541 Calvin’s Institutes Only: $34.

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John Calvin – Prodigious Trifles

20 Aug

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But although the Lord represents both himself and his everlasting Kingdom in the mirror of his works with very great clarity, such is our stupidity that we grow increasingly dull toward so manifest testimonies, and they flow away without profiting us. For with regard to the most beautiful structure and order of the universe, how many of us are there who, when we lift up our eyes to heaven or cast them about through the various regions of earth, recall our minds to a remembrance of the Creator, and do not rather, disregarding their Author, sit idly in contemplation of his works? In fact, with regard to those events which daily take place outside the ordinary course of nature, how many of us do not reckon that men are whirled and twisted about by blindly indiscriminate fortune, rather than governed by God’s providence? Sometimes we are driven by the leading and direction of these things to contemplate God; this of necessity happens to all men. Yet after we rashly grasp a conception of some sort of divinity, straightway we fall back into the ravings or evil imaginings of our flesh, and corrupt by our vanity the pure truth of God. In one respect we are indeed unalike, because each one of us privately forges his own particular error; yet we are very much alike in that, one and all, we forsake the one true God for prodigious trifles. Not only the common folk and dull-witted men, but also the most excellent and those otherwise endowed with keen discernment, are infected with this disease.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.5.10. p. 63-64.

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John Calvin – The Painting of God’s Greatness

17 Jun

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We must therefore admit in God’s individual works—but especially in them as a whole—that God’s powers are actually represented as in a painting. Thereby the whole of mankind is invited and attracted to recognition of him, and from this to true and complete happiness. Now those powers appear most clearly in his works. Yet we comprehend their chief purpose, their value, and the reason why we should ponder them, only when we descend into ourselves and contemplate by what means the Lord shows in us his life, wisdom, and power; and exercises in our behalf his righteousness, goodness, and mercy. For even though David justly complains that unbelievers are foolish because they do not ponder the deep designs of God in the governance of mankind [Ps. 92:5–6], yet what he says elsewhere is very true: that God’s wonderful wisdom here abounds more than the hairs of our head [cf. Ps. 40:12].

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.5.9. p. 63.

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John Calvin – The Kind Of Knowledge We Are After

9 Jun

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We are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart. For the Lord manifests himself by his powers, the force of which we feel within ourselves and the benefits of which we enjoy. We must therefore be much more profoundly affected by this knowledge than if we were to imagine a God of whom no perception came through to us. Consequently, we know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself. The apostle was referring to this when he said that we need not seek him far away, seeing that he dwells by his very present power in each of us [Acts 17:27–28]. For this reason, David, having first confessed his unspeakable greatness [Ps. 145:3], afterward proceeds to mention his works and professes that he will declare his greatness [Ps. 145:5–6; cf. Ps. 40:5]. It is also fitting, therefore, for us to pursue this particular search for God, which may so hold our mental powers suspended in wonderment as at the same time to stir us deeply. And as Augustine teaches elsewhere, because, disheartened by his greatness, we cannot grasp him, we ought to gaze upon his works, that we may be restored by his goodness.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.5.9. p. 61-62.

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John Calvin – What Will Prove That God’s Word Is True?

28 May

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There are other reasons, neither few nor weak, for which the dignity and majesty of Scripture are not only affirmed in godly hearts, but brilliantly vindicated against the wiles of its disparagers; yet of themselves these are not strong enough to provide a firm faith, until our Heavenly Father, revealing his majesty there, lifts reverence for Scripture beyond the realm of controversy. Therefore Scripture will ultimately suffice for a saving knowledge of God only when its certainty is founded upon the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, these human testimonies which exist to confirm it will not be vain if, as secondary aids to our feebleness, they follow that chief and highest testimony. But those who wish to prove to unbelievers that Scripture is the Word of God are acting foolishly, for only by faith can this be known. Augustine therefore justly warns that godliness and peace of mind ought to come first if a man is to understand anything of such great matters.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.8.12. p. 92.

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John Calvin – The Unassailable Word of God

10 May

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Besides this, there are other very good reasons why the consent of the church should not be denied its due weight. Since the publication of Scripture, age after age agreed to obey it steadfastly and harmoniously. By countless wondrous means Satan with the whole world has tried either to oppress it or overturn it, to obscure and obliterate it utterly from the memory of men—yet, like the palm, it has risen ever higher and has remained unassailable. Indeed, there has scarcely ever been either a sophist or rhetorician of superior ability who did not try his power against it; yet all were unsuccessful. Such facts as these should be accounted of no slight importance. The whole power of earth has armed itself to destroy it, yet all these efforts have gone up in smoke. How could it, assailed so strongly from every side, have resisted if it had relied upon human protection alone? Rather, by this very fact it is proved to be from God, because, with all human efforts striving against it, still it has of its own power thus far prevailed. Besides this, it is not one state, not one people, that has agreed to receive and embrace it; but, as far and as wide as the earth extends, it has obtained its authority by the holy concord of divers peoples, who otherwise had nothing in common among themselves. Such agreement of minds, so disparate and otherwise disagreeing in everything among themselves, ought to move us greatly, since it is clear that this agreement is brought about by nothing else than the divine will.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.8.12. p. 91-92.

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John Calvin – The Changed Lives of the Apostles

6 May

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But this one fact raises their [the writers of the New Testament] doctrine more than enough above the world: Matthew, previously tied to the gain of his table, Peter and John going about in their boats—all of them rude, uneducated men—had learned nothing in the school of men that they could pass on to others. Paul, not only a sworn but fierce and murderous enemy, was converted into a new man; this sudden and unhoped-for change shows that he was compelled by heavenly authority to affirm a doctrine that he had assailed. Let these dogs deny that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles; or even let them discredit history. Yet the truth cries out openly that these men who, previously contemptible among common folk, suddenly began to discourse so gloriously of the heavenly mysteries must have been instructed by the Spirit.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.8.11. p. 91.

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John Calvin – The God-Breathed Scripture

21 Apr

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Of human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably [to Scripture]. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, and others of that tribe. They will, I admit, allure you, delight you, move you, enrapture you in wonderful measure. But betake yourself from them to this sacred reading. Then, in spite of yourself, so deeply will it affect you, so penetrate your heart, so fix itself in your very marrow, that, compared with its deep impression, such vigor as the orators and philosophers have will nearly vanish. Consequently, it is easy to see that the Sacred Scriptures, which so far surpass all gifts and graces of human endeavor, breathe something divine.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.8.1. p. 82.

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John Calvin – The Medicine Doesn’t Feed The Disease

16 Apr

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What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? – Romans 6:1-2

Paul proceeds carefully to disprove the propounded slander. He, however, first rejects it by an indignant negative, in order to impress it on the minds of his readers, that nothing can be more inconsistent than that the grace of Christ, the repairer of our righteousness, should nourish our vices.

Who have died to sin, &c. An argument derived from what is of an opposite character. “He who sins certainly lives to sin; we have died to sin through the grace of Christ; then it is false, that what abolishes sin gives vigour to it.” The state of the case is really this,—that the faithful are never reconciled to God without the gift of regeneration; nay, we are for this end justified,—that we may afterwards serve God in holiness of life. Christ indeed does not cleanse us by his blood, nor render God propitious to us by his expiation, in any other way than by making us partakers of his Spirit, who renews us to a holy life. It would then be a most strange inversion of the work of God were sin to gather strength on account of the grace which is offered to us in Christ; for medicine is not a feeder of the disease, which it destroys.

~John Calvin~






Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 218–219.

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