Category Archives: John Calvin

“A sign and a token of His vast grace and goodness” by John Calvin

“‘And He stretched forth His hand, and touched him.’ (Matt. 8:3)

In the Law, the touch of the leper was contagious, but as there is such purity in Christ He absorbs all uncleanness and pollution, He does not contaminate Himself by touching the leper, nor does He transgress the Law.

For in assuming our flesh, He has granted us more than the touch of His hand. He has brought Himself into one and the same body with us in order that we should be the flesh of His flesh.

He does not only stretch out His arm to us, but He comes down from heaven, even to the very depths. Yet He catches no stain thereby, but stays whole, clears all our dirt away, and pours upon us His own holiness.

Now, while He could heal the leper by His word alone, He adds the contact of His hand to show His feeling of compassion: no wonder, since He willed to put on our flesh in order that He might cleanse us from all our sins.

So the reaching out of His hand was a sign and a token of His vast grace and goodness.

Here is a thing which we pass over without much impression at an idle reading, but must certainly ponder, with much awe, when we take it properly—that the Son of God, so far from abhorring contact with the leper, actually stretched out His hand to touch his uncleanness.”

–John Calvin, A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. 1; trans. A.W. Morrison, Ed. David Torrance and Thomas Torrance (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972/1994), 1: 244. Calvin is commenting on Matt. 8:3; Mark 1:41; and Luke 5:13.

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“Doctrine is rightly received when it takes possession of the entire soul and finds a dwelling place and shelter in the most intimate affections of the heart” by John Calvin

“Nominal Christians demonstrate their knowledge of Christ to be false and offensive no matter how eloquently and loudly they talk about the gospel. For true doctrine is not a matter of the tongue, but of life; neither is Christian doctrine grasped only by the intellect and memory, as truth is grasped in other fields of study.

Rather, doctrine is rightly received when it takes possession of the entire soul and finds a dwelling place and shelter in the most intimate affections of the heart. So let such people stop lying, or let them prove themselves worthy disciples of Christ, their teacher.

We have given priority to doctrine, which contains our religion, since it establishes our salvation. But in order for doctrine to be fruitful to us, it must overflow into our hearts, spread into our daily routines, and truly transform us within.

Even the philosophers rage against and reject those who profess an art that ought to govern one’s life, but who twist that art hypocritically into empty chatter. How much more then should we detest the foolish talk of those who give lip service to the gospel?

The gospel’s power ought to penetrate the innermost affections of the heart, sink down into the soul, and inspire the whole man a hundred times more than the lifeless teachings of the philosophers.

I’m not saying that the conduct of a Christian will breathe nothing but pure gospel, although this should be desired and pursued. I’m not, in other words, talking about gospel perfection, as if I were unwilling to acknowledge or recognize a man or a woman as a Christian who has not obtained perfection.

If that were the case, everyone would be excluded from the church, since we do not find any in it who are close to being perfect. Indeed, we find many in the church who have progressed little toward perfection, but who, nevertheless, it would be unjust to reject as Christians.

What I am saying is this: Let us fix our eyes on the goal and sole object of our pursuit. Let that goal, toward which we must strive and contend, be established from the beginning.

After all, it’s not right to barter with God regarding what we will and won’t undertake from those things He has prescribed for us in His Word. God always commends—as of utmost importance—integrity as the principal part of His worship.

And by the word integrity He means sincere simplicity of heart, free from pretense and deceit, which is the opposite of duplicity of heart. In other words, right living has a spiritual basis where the inner affection of the soul is sincerely devoted to God for the nurture of holiness and righteousness.”

–John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life, Trans. and Eds. Aaron C. Denlinger and Burk Parsons (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2017), 12-16.

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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.

All our controversies concerning doctrine relate either to the legitimate worship of God, or to the ground of salvation.

As to the former, unquestionably we do exhort men to worship God neither in a frigid nor a careless manner, and while we point out the mode, we neither lose sight of the end, nor omit any thing which is of importance.

We proclaim the glory of God in terms far loftier than it was wont to be proclaimed before, and we earnestly labour to make the perfections in which His glory shines better and better known.

His benefits towards ourselves we extol as eloquently as we can, while we call upon others to reverence His Majesty, render due homage to His greatness, feel due gratitude for His mercies, and unite in showing forth His praise.

In this way there is infused into their hearts that solid confidence which afterwards gives birth to prayer. And in this way, too, each one is trained to genuine self-denial, so that his will being brought into obedience to God, he bids farewell to his own desires.

In short, as God requires us to worship Him in a spiritual manner, so we most zealously urge men to all the sacrifices of spirit which He recommends.”

—John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, Trans. Henry Beveridge (London: W.H. Dalton, 1544/1843), 39-40, 43-44.

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“The whole sum and all parts of our salvation are contained in Jesus Christ” by John Calvin

“Now since we see that the whole sum and all parts of our salvation are contained in Jesus Christ, we must beware of ascribing the tiniest portion of it to anything else.

If we are looking for salvation, the name of Jesus alone tells us that salvation is in Him (Acts 4:12).

If we desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we will find them in His anointing.

If we seek strength, it is in His sovereign power.

If purity is our aim, it is set before us in His conception.

If we would find gentleness and kindness, it is in His birth, through which He was made like us, that He might learn compassion (Heb. 5:2).

If we ask for redemption, His passion provides it.

In His condemnation we have our absolution.

If we want pardon from sins curse, that gift lies in His cross.

Atonement we have in His sacrifice, and cleansing in His blood.

Our reconciliation was effected by His descent into hell: the mortification of our flesh is in His burial, and newness of life in His resurrection, through which we also have the hope of immortality.

If we look for the heavenly inheritance, it is attested for us by His ascension.

If we seek help and comfort and abundance of all good things, we have them in His kingdom.

If we would safely await the judgment, we have that blessing since He is our Judge.

In sum, since the rich store of all that is good resides in Him, we must draw it from Him and from no other source.

For there are those who, not content with Him, shift restlessly from one hope to another; and though they continue perhaps to look mostly to Him, they fail to follow the proper path because they direct some of their thoughts elsewhere.

Even so, our minds can never entertain such feelings of distrust once we have truly experienced Christ’s riches.”

–John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (trans. Robert White; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1541/2014), 256-257.

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“We also pray to You, true Father and Savior, for all the pastors” by John Calvin

“We also pray to You, true Father and Savior, for all those whom you have ordained as pastors for the faithful, and to whom You have entrusted the charge of souls and the dispensation of Your holy gospel.

We pray that You would guide them by Your Holy Spirit, that they may be found to be faithful and loyal ministers of Your glory, always having this aim, that all the poor, lost sheep would be gathered and brought back to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd and Prince of the overseers, so that they would benefit from, and grow in Him, day by day, in all righteousness and holiness.

Moreover, be pleased to deliver all churches from the mouths of ravenous wolves and from all the hired hands who seek their own ambition or profit and not the exaltation of Your holy name alone and the salvation of Your flock.

We also pray to You, most kind God and merciful Father, for all people generally, since You desire to be known as Savior of the whole world, through the redemption accomplished by Your Son Jesus Christ.

We pray that those who are still estranged from the knowledge of Him, in darkness and the captivity of error and ignorance, would be brought back to the straight way of salvation, which is to know the only true God and Him whom You sent, Jesus Christ, through the illumination of Your Holy Spirit and the preaching of Your gospel.

May those whom You have already visited in Your grace and illumined with the knowledge of Your Word grow daily in goodness, being enriched with Your spiritual blessings, that we may adore You altogether with one heart and one mouth and give honor and homage to Your Christ, our Master, King, and Lawgiver.”

–John Calvin, “Form of Ecclesiastical Prayers (Geneva 1542),Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present, Eds. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2018), 322-323.

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“Having God’s Son, we have all we can ever wish for” by John Calvin

“We may always come boldly to God’s throne, assuring ourselves that His majesty will no more be terrifying to us, seeing He shows Himself a Father towards us in the person of His only Son. We see then that St. Paul’s intention is to keep us close to Jesus Christ.

And therein we also see what our perversity is. For it is certain that the care and zeal which St. Paul had, to make us cleave steadfastly to the Son of God, came through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who knew our frailty and inconstancy. If we had (in a manner of speaking) one drop of sound sense, it would be enough to make us understand that by the gospel we may possess God’s Son who gives Himself to us, and that by having Him, we have all we can ever wish for.

It would have been enough to have spoken this in one word, as St. Paul has shown already, (Rom. 8:32) but we see how he repeats and confirms his saying, as though it were hard to believe. And indeed it is hard, because we are too much given to distrust and unbelief. Again, to believe for one day is not all that we have to do.

It is necessary for us to persevere, which is found as a very rare thing in this world, because we are always fluttering about, by reason of which men, as it were, willfully deprive themselves of what was given them. Furthermore, since all the world is in this case, and we cannot be won or persuaded without great pains to come to our Lord Jesus Christ and to rest on Him, let us use the remedy St. Paul proposes here.

And first of all we must carefully observe that Jesus Christ is the door to open heaven to us, (John 10:9) for we know that at His death the veil of the Temple was rent in two, (Matt. 27:51) and that in such a way, that we may now enter without inhibition into the sanctuary of God—not of such a material temple as was then— so that we may approach into the presence of our God and come to Him for refuge, just as a child throws himself into the lap of his father or mother, for it is certain that God surpasses all the fathers and mothers of the world in all kindness and favour.

Seeing then that we know that, what more do we think would be to our benefit? What better or more excellent thing would we have rather than God? Then we must go and search for it in the bottom of hell. For when we have engaged in wanderings to our heart’s content we shall invariably find that there is nothing in any of all the creatures high or low that is worth a straw in comparison with God, as the prophet Isaiah says. (Isaiah 45:6)

So then, seeing that God has given Himself to us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the whole fulness of the Godhead dwells in that great sanctuary which was typified by the visible sanctuary of the law, (Hebrews 9:9) ought we not to be fully satisfied when we have that, and to rest ourselves wholly there?

And although our minds and our affections are fickle, yet they ought to be held in check like prisoners, so that we may say, ‘Let us cleave, let us cleave to our God,’ according to that saying of David, ‘Behold, all my happiness and all my joy is joined to my God! (Psalm 73:28) He is the fountain of light and life. (Psalm 36:9) He is my portion, I cannot have a better lot, I must take all my delight in Him.’ (Psalm 16:5)”

–John Calvin, “Sermon on Ephesians 3:9-12,” Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians (trans. Arthur Golding; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1562/1973), 266-268.

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“His only purpose in speaking to Moses was so that He might call everyone to Christ” by John Calvin

“God did not speak through Moses and the Prophets for nothing.

His only purpose in speaking to Moses was so that He might call everyone to Christ.

Therefore, it is clear that those who repudiate Christ are no disciples of Moses.”

–John Calvin, Calvin: Commentaries, Ed. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 104. Commenting on John 5:38.

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