Category Archives: Calvin

When Fear Strikes: Some Very Helpful Thoughts from Calvin

True believers, although they dwell safely under the protection of God, are, notwithstanding, exposed to many dangers, or rather they are liable to all the afflictions which befall mankind in common, that they may the better feel how much they need the protection of God.

David, therefore, here expressly declares, that if any adversity should befall him, he would lean upon the providence of God. Thus he does not promise himself continual pleasures; but he fortifies himself by the help of God courageously to endure the various calamities with which he might be visited.

Pursuing his metaphor, he compares the care which God takes in governing true believers to a shepherd’s staff and crook, declaring that he is satisfied with this as all-sufficient for the protection of his life. As a sheep, when it wanders up and down through a dark valley, is preserved safe from the attacks of wild beasts and from harm in other ways, by the presence of the shepherd alone, so David now declares that as often as he shall be exposed to any danger, he will have sufficient defence and protection in being under the pastoral care of God.

We thus see how, in his prosperity, he never forgot that he was a man, but even then seasonably meditated on the adversities which afterwards might come upon him. And certainly, the reason why we are so terrified, when it pleases God to exercise us with the cross, is, because every man, that he may sleep soundly and undisturbed, wraps himself up in carnal security.

But there is a great difference between this sleep of stupidity and the repose which faith produces. Since God tries faith by adversity, it follows that no one truly confides in God, but he who is armed with invincible constancy for resisting all the fears with which he may be assailed.

Yet David did not mean to say that he was devoid of all fear, but only that he would surmount it so as to go without fear wherever his shepherd should lead him. This appears more clearly from the context. He says, in the first place, I will fear no evil; but immediately adding the reason of this, he openly acknowledges that he seeks a remedy against his fear in contemplating, and having his eyes fixed on, the staff of his shepherd: For thy staff and thy crook comfort me.

What need would he have had of that consolation, if he had not been disquieted and agitated with fear? It ought, therefore, to be kept in mind, that when David reflected on the adversities which might befall him, he became victorious over fear and temptations, in no other way than by casting himself on the protection of God.

This he had also stated before, although a little more obscurely, in these words, For thou art with me. This implies that he had been afflicted with fear. Had not this been the case, for what purpose could he desire the presence of God? Besides, it is not against the common and ordinary calamities of life only that he opposes the protection of God, but against those which distract and confound the minds of men with the darkness of death. For the Jewish grammarians think that צלמות, which we have translated the shadow of death, is a compound word, as if one should say deadly shade.

David here makes an allusion to the dark recesses or dens of wild beasts, to which when an individual approaches he is suddenly seized at his first entrance with an apprehension and fear of death. Now, since God, in the person of his only begotten Son, has exhibited himself to us as our shepherd, much more clearly than he did in old time to the fathers who lived under the Law, we do not render sufficient honour to his protecting care, if we do not lift our eyes to behold it, and keeping them fixed upon it, tread all fears and terrors under our feet.*

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*Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1, 394–396.

The Four Theologians Who Have Influenced Me Most

You Can’t Read Romance Novels in Geneva

Or at least you couldn’t in 1559…

We learn from the state-register of March 13, 1559, that romance-reading was altogether prohibited in Geneva. It is said:—“Inasmuch as many persons are in the habit of reading Amadis de Gaule, which contains much that is licentious and wicked, let them be gravely admonished, and let the said book be abolished and destroyed.” Shortly after Calvin’s time, Henry Stephens was excommunicated and imprisoned, because he had written a dissolute book. In conclusion, we refer to a little work entitled ‘The Life of the Christian, and a View of Eternal Life,’ as affording a further proof of Calvin’s spiritual feelings, and care for souls. – Paul Henry

Indeed, those romance novels are nasty.  And gross.  Some books need to be banned.  Not Brunner’s or Bultmann’s by any means, but we can all agree that NT Wright’s definitely need to be.

Calvin Reviews the Latest Book By A High Profile Theologian

There has come to my notice the foolish writing of a worthless individual, who nevertheless presents himself as a defender and vindicator of the glory of God, because he contests the principle that God rules the world so that nothing happens but by his secret counsel. This wretched fellow does not see that, by snatching at false pretexts for excusing the justice of God, he thereby subverts his power. This is just as if he were to try to rend God himself in pieces.  — Calvin: Theological Treatises, 333.

Calvin on the Divine Attributes

Not to collect a great number of passages, it may suffice at present to refer to one Psalm (145) in which a summary of the divine perfections is so carefully given that not one seems to have been omitted. Still, however, every perfection there set down may be contemplated in creation; and, hence, such as we feel him to be when experience is our guide, such he declares himself to be by his word. — Calvin, Institutes.

The 2022 Calvin Conference

Via the Meeter Center-

As you may know, the International Congress on Calvin Research meets every four years, gathering most recently in Philadelphia at Westminster Theological Seminary. Karin Maag took on the role of president of the congress in late August 2018, succeeding Herman Selderhuis. The next conference is planned for Sao Paulo, Brazil, from Monday August 22 to Thursday August 25, 2022. The host institution is Mackenzie Presbyterian University, with much of the organizing and logistics done by colleagues at the Andrew Jumper Presbyterian Graduate Center at Mackenzie University. There is now a website set up to provide initial information about the conference and the plenary speakers, including a form to complete if you are interested in attending/presenting a short paper at this conference. Please go to https://internationalcongressoncalvinresearch.com/ to find out more, and feel free to circulate the link to interested colleagues and students.

Exciting times ahead!

Another Portrait of Calvin I’ve Never Seen Before

From the newly published volume by Brill.  This is a very interesting portrait in that not many of Calvin as a very young man seem to exist.

That One Time Calvin Told Farel that the Latter’s Nephew Had Died, of the Plague…

Last Sabbath-day your nephew was seized with the plague.1 His companion and the goldsmith who bore testimony to the Gospel at Lyons brought me word immediately. As I had taken some pills to relieve the complaint in my head, I could not go to him myself. Every thing, however, which was required for the preservation of his life was both faithfully and carefully attended to.

A woman, acquainted with both languages, was engaged to sit up with him, and in some degree accustomed to the care of persons suffering under such maladies. Not being able to undergo the fatigue of constant attendance herself, she got her son-in-law to assist her. Grynée visited him frequently; I did so too as soon as my health allowed it. When our friend Du Tailly saw that I did not fear the danger, he insisted on sharing it with me: we were with him for a long while yesterday, and as the signs of approaching death were now evident, I imparted spiritual rather than bodily comfort.

He wandered a little in his mind, yet had so much consciousness of his state as to call me back to his chamber that he might entreat me earnestly to pray for him; for he had heard me discoursing of the benefit of prayer. This morning, at about five o’clock, he departed to the Lord. — John Calvin (in a letter to William Farel)

Why Are So Many Politicians Destined for Destruction?

I say that all the reprobate will be convicted of guilt by their own consciences, and that thus their condemnation is righteous, and that they err in neglecting what is quite evident, to enter instead into the secret counsels of God, which to us are inaccessible. The Scripture, however, shews us clearly, that God has predestined men to such ends as he chose them to reach. But as to why or how this is done, we must remain ignorant, because it has not been revealed to us. – John Calvin

Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin was No Coward

[Calvin] himself in 1547 confronted the Council of Two Hundred. Feeling had then been running high about the laws for the enforcement of public morals. The Council itself was sharply divided. Calvin, of course, was fiercely abused by those who were opposed to his policy. The Council met on December 16. Word was brought to him that sharp contention had arisen at the meeting, and that threats of violence had been uttered. The streets were filled with excited throngs. He said that he would himself attend the Council. His friends remonstrated, but in vain. He passed through the streets to the council chamber, at the doors of which, as he tells us in his letter to Viret, a tumultuous assembly was gathered.

‘Fearful,’ he says, ‘was the sight. I cast myself into the thickest of the crowd. I was pulled to and fro by those who wished to save me from harm. I called God to witness that I was come to offer myself to their swords, if they thirsted for blood.’

In his farewell words to the ministers of Geneva, just before his death, he refers to this incident, and says that when he entered the Council they said to him, ‘Sir, withdraw, it is not with you we have to do;’ and that he answered, ‘No, I shall not! Go on, rascals, kill me, and my blood will witness against you, and even these benches shall require it.’ He indeed could truly say, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’*

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*C. H. Irwin, John Calvin: The Man and His Work (Bellingham, WA: The Religious Tract Society, 1909), 114–116.

When You Feel About Your Work Like Calvin Felt About His…

You express it this way-

IF the reading of these my COMMENTARIES confer as much benefit on the Church of God as I myself have reaped advantage from the composition of them, I shall have no reason to regret that I have undertaken this work. — John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1, xxxv.

Amen.  And speaking of commentaries

It’s True

Calvin’s Right About Baptism as Practiced in the Early Church

The mode of baptism “ought to be optional to churches according to the diversity of countries. Yet the word ‘baptize’ means to immerse, and it is clear that the rite of immersion was observed in the ancient church.” -John Calvin

Danger all Around- But Providence Intervenes

For what else can you say of it, when neither cold nor heat in any considerable degree can be endured without danger? Now whithersoever you turn, all the objects around you are not only unworthy of your confidence, but almost openly menace you, and seem to threaten immediate death. Embark in a ship; there is but a single step between you and death. Mount a horse; the slipping of one foot endangers your life. Walk through the streets of a city; you are liable to as many dangers as there are tiles on the roofs. If there be a sharp weapon in your hand, or that of your friend, the mischief is manifest. All the ferocious animals you see are armed for your destruction. If you endeavour to shut yourself in a garden surrounded with a good fence, and exhibiting nothing but what is delightful, even there sometimes lurks a serpent.

Your house perpetually liable to fire, menaces you by day with poverty, and by night with falling on your head. Your land, exposed to hail, frost, drought, and various tempests, threatens you with sterility, and with its attendant, famine. I omit poison, treachery, robbery, and open violence, which partly beset us at home, and partly pursue us abroad.

Amidst these difficulties, must not man be most miserable, who is half dead while he lives, and is dispirited and alarmed as though he had a sword perpetually applied to his neck? You will say that these things happen seldom, or certainly not always, nor to every man, but never all at once. I grant it: but as we are admonished by the examples of others, that it is possible for them to happen also to us, and that we have no more claim to exemption from them than others, we must unavoidably dread them as events that we may expect.

What can you imagine more calamitous than such a dread? Besides it is an insult to God to say that he hath exposed man, the noblest of his creatures, to the blindness and temerity of fortune. But here I intend to speak only of the misery which man must feel, if he be subject to the dominion of fortune. —  John Calvin

Church Discipline in Calvin’s Geneva

If you missed the zoom session yesterday you can watch it here.

A Wonderful Session on Calvin and Church Discipline in Geneva

Zoom comes through again.  One thing that has come out of the pandemic that I hope remains is the ability to meet and sit in on conferences remotely.

In person is better, of course.  But if you can’t attend- Zoom is the next best thing.

This Week’s Meeter Center Conversation Features an Author Whose Book I’ve Reviewed

You can read my review of this volume here. It’s great to hear the author talk about the book herself.

This Week’s ‘Folios’

Save the Date: Calvin Congress 2022

This email arrived one year ago today:

Dear colleagues,

It is still a little early, but we want to make sure that you start planning to attend the next Calvin congress, so we would like to draw your attention to the place and time of the event: August, 22–25, 2022 at MacKenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo, Brazil. We are delighted that MacKenzie, through the Andrew Jumper graduate school of theology, is willing to host the Calvin Congress. We are still working on the program, but please note the dates. We hope to have the website up to date soon, and we will publish new information as soon as possible.

Please forward this message to all colleagues who might be interested.

Kind regards,
Karin Maag
Arnold Huijgen

I’ve never been to South America.  This should be brilliant!

It’s Almost As Though Calvin is Watching CNN

“Today, those who occupy seats of judgment wish to be exempt from all reproof & would claim for themselves a free liberty in sinning such that they think they do not belong to the common class of people and imagine themselves exempt from all reprehension.” – Calvin on Amos 5: 10

“For today nearly all rulers are gross and stupid; they are like horses and brute beasts.” – Calvin on Daniel 6: 3-5

Via Jon *The Calvinator* Balserak