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Comfort From Calvin

Calvin wrote this letter to a woman who was having some minor life difficulties-

calvins_grave“Although I am not so devoid of pity as not to feel deeply moved at seeing you in still closer confinement, yet I cannot cease to exhort you to arm yourself so much the more with constancy, as the trial becomes more terrible; since when Satan and the enemies of the faith press us most without, then is the time for us to use the grace of God. St. Paul glories that, though he was in prison and in chains the doctrine which he preached was not bound, but free and operative.

And indeed as the truth of God, far exalted above the world, reaches even up to heaven, it cannot be subjected to the pleasure and tyranny of men. However then the devil may labor to oppress us with troubles, let our hearts expand so much the more through faith, that we may the better repel his attacks. Our Lord has lately afforded us many examples, and still gives us them daily in various places. They ought to shame us; for if we faint at the stroke of the rod, while others tremble not at death, how shall we be able to excuse our slothfulness? You have thought it impossible to sustain such severe struggles in your house; but you know that the Son of God has given us warnings, in order that nothing of this kind, we being thus prepared, may shake our resolution.

And reflect still further, that this is not the end, but that God is now only gently trying you, He himself bearing your weakness, and being ready so to do till you have become sufficiently strong to endure his inflictions. But, whatever may happen, allow not yourself to be depressed either through negligence or despair. Many are conquered because, while flattering themselves, they suffer their zeal to grow cold; others, on the contrary, are so terrified not to find in themselves the strength which they hoped to possess, that they sink and give up all for lost.

What should we do then? Let us animate ourselves by the consideration of God’s promises, which will serve us as a guide and raise our thoughts to heaven, that we may learn to despise this vain and transitory life; and let us again meditate on his threatenings, that they may inspire us with dread of his judgments. If you feel not your heart moved as it ought to be, seek help from him, without whom we can do nothing; strive to overcome your coldness and weakness, till you discover traces of improvement.

“Much foresight is necessary in this labor. On the one side, you ought unceasingly to sigh, and to cherish such sorrow of heart for your condition, and such anguish for your wretchedness, as to leave you no rest; and, on the other, you should not doubt but that God, however little appearance there may now be of it, will give you strength in due time. It must not discourage you to behold the poor church of God so suffering, and the pride of its enemies increasing with their cruelty. Rather wonder that this is so new to you; for the thought should never have been absent from your heart, that we ought to become more and more like the image of the Son of God, and to bear patiently the reproach of his cross till the day of our triumph come. Neglect not this, but let it serve for your encouragement in the fulfilment of your course, for you will have still further trials to endure.

If I hear that you are deprived of the little freedom left you, but do not cease to preserve a right disposition, nor prove unfaithful to Him, who so well deserves that his honor should be worth more to us than all besides, then will my joy be more complete. But even now do I rejoice in the good confidence which I have in you. Do not therefore distress me by deceiving this hope, still looking as you should ever do to our good God, and our Lord Jesus, who has shown how dear we are to Him, by offering up himself for our redemption. So bear yourself therefore as to shame Satan and his ministers, who have hoped to trample your faith in the dust.

But since such a victory requires a greater strength than you possess, flee to our good Lord Jesus, who is made to us of God for righteousness, that in him we may be able to do all things. I on my part will pray God that it may please Him so to pour the grace of his spirit into your soul, that you may experience what it is to be strengthened by God and to glorify him. I will beseech him to take you into his holy keeping, and to defend you against the rage of the wolf and the cunning of the fox; wherefore I commend myself in humility to your benevolence and your prayers.”

That’s a lot of words just to say ‘toughen up, princess’.

 
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Posted by on 07/06/2016 in Calvin, Modern Culture

 

Calvin’s Last Days

calvin30“The day,” continues Beza, “on which he died, namely May 27th, he seemed to suffer less, and even to speak with greater ease; but this was the last effort of nature. In the evening, about eight o’clock, the sure signs of death became suddenly apparent. As soon as this was made known to me, and to one of the brethren, by the servants, I hastened to the bedside, and found him just as he quietly expired: neither feet nor hands were convulsed; he had not even breathed hard. He had retained his consciousness and reason to the end. Even his voice was preserved till his last breath, and he looked rather like one sleeping than one dead. Thus on this day, with the setting sun, the brightest light in the world, and he who had been the strength of the church, was taken back to heaven.

“During the night, and on the following day, great was the mourning throughout the city. The entire state wept for the prophet of the Lord; the church lamented the departure of its faithful pastor; the academy the loss of so great a teacher: all exclaimed in their grief, that they had lost a father, who, after God, was their truest friend and comforter. Many inhabitants of the city desired to see him after he was dead, and could hardly be induced to leave his remains.

“Some of those also, who had come from distant places to make his acquaintance and to hear him, among whom was a very distinguished man, the ambassador of the queen of England to France, were particularly anxious to behold his countenance, even in death. At first, all who wished were admitted; but as they were merely influenced by curiosity, it seemed advisable to his friends, in order to prevent the misrepresentations of adversaries, to put him early the next day, which was Sunday, in a shroud, and then inclose him as usual in a wooden coffin. At two o’clock in the afternoon, he was carried to the city church-yard, called the Plain-Palais. All the patricians of the city followed; they were accompanied by the clergy, the professors of the high-school, and by almost the whole city; not without many tears.”

He was buried without the slightest pomp: this was according to his own expressed desire. Beza however wrote an epitaph on him. He had lived fifty-four years, ten months, seventeen days; and the half of this time he had consecrated to the service of the Gospel. Respecting his last will, the Genevese neither raised a monument to his memory, nor marked his grave with a stone. Thus, in the church-yard which is so decorated with the tombs of others, the grave of Calvin is unmarked and unknown. It will be shown at the last day. A beautiful brass medal has been lately cast in honor of his name. But his writings, and the example of his firm faith, have a durability greater than that of marble and brass; and certain it is, that wherever a church is praying, or a martyr is struggling for the faith, there Calvin is also present with his power of faith and prayer. – Stebbing

 
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Posted by on 26/05/2016 in Calvin, Church History, Modern Culture

 

‘The Word ‘Trinity’ Isn’t Found in Scripture.’ So What?

Now, then, though heretics may snarl and the excessively fastidious carp at the word Person as inadmissible, in consequence of its human origin, since they cannot displace us from our position that three are named, each of whom is perfect God, and yet that there is no plurality of gods, it is most uncandid to attack the terms which do nothing more than explain what the Scriptures declare and sanction. “It were better,” they say, “to confine not only our meanings but our words within the bounds of Scripture, and not scatter about foreign terms to become the future seed-beds of brawls and dissensions. In this way, men grow tired of quarrels about words; the truth is lost in altercation, and charity melts away amid hateful strife.”

If they call it a foreign term, because it cannot be pointed out in Scripture in so many syllables, they certainly impose an unjust law—a law which would condemn every interpretation of Scripture that is not composed of other words of Scripture. But if by foreign they mean that which, after being idly devised, is superstitiously defended,—which tends more to strife than edification,—which is used either out of place, or with no benefit which offends pious ears by its harshness, and leads them away from the simplicity of God’s Word, I embrace their soberness with all my heart. For I think we are bound to speak of God as reverently as we are bound to think of him.

As our own thoughts respecting him are foolish, so our own language respecting him is absurd. Still, however, some medium must be observed. The unerring standard both of thinking and speaking must be derived from the Scriptures: by it all the thoughts of our minds, and the words of our mouths, should be tested. But in regard to those parts of Scripture which, to our capacities, are dark and intricate, what forbids us to explain them in clearer terms—terms, however, kept in reverent and faithful subordination to Scripture truth, used sparingly and modestly, and not without occasion?

Of this we are not without many examples. When it has been proved that the Church was impelled, by the strongest necessity, to use the words Trinity and Person, will not he who still inveighs against novelty of terms be deservedly suspected of taking offence at the light of truth, and of having no other ground for his invective, than that the truth is made plain and transparent?

John Calvin

 
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Posted by on 22/05/2016 in Calvin, Theology

 

The Conditions Under Which Imprecations May Be Uttered

We are not to pronounce an imprecation on our enemies, except, first, they are God’s enemies; and, secondly, except we disregard ourselves, and plead not our own cause, but, on the contrary, undertake the cause of public safety, having laid aside all turbulent feelings; and especially, except our fervour arises from a desire to glorify God. With these qualifications, then, we may adopt the form of prayer [of imprecation] given us here [in Lamentations]. — John Calvin

Good news indeed!  Let the imprecatory prayers commence.

 
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Posted by on 16/05/2016 in Calvin, Modern Culture

 

The Meaning of Life

All are born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God, and if the knowledge of God, in so far as it fails to produce this effect, is fleeting and vain, it is clear that all those who do not direct the whole thoughts and actions of their lives to this end fail to fulfil the law of their being. …  [Hence], if once religion is banished from the lives of men, they not only in no respect excel, but are, in many respects, much more wretched than the brutes, since, being exposed to so many forms of evil, they continually drag on a troubled and restless existence: that the only thing, therefore, which makes them superior is the worship of God…  – Calvin

 
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Posted by on 15/05/2016 in Calvin, Modern Culture

 

Quote of the Day: Stand Fast and Don’t Waver from the Truth

There now remains the conflict, to which the Spirit of God not only exhorts us to go, but even to run. It is indeed a hard and grievous trial, to see the pride of the enemies of truth so enormous, without its getting any check from on high; their rage so unbridled, without God’s interfering for the relief of His people. But if we remember that, when it is said that our life is hid, and that we must resemble the dead, this is not a doctrine for any particular time, but for all times, we shall not think it strange that afflictions should continue. While it pleases God to give His enemies the rein, our duty is to be patient, although the time of our redemption tarries. — John Calvin

 
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Posted by on 15/05/2016 in Calvin, Modern Culture

 

The Savaging of Christians by Savages

You see that the truth of God, wherever it is found, is the object of their hatred; and it is not less detested by them, in men than in women, in the learned than in the ignorant, in the rich than in the poor, in the great than in the little. — John Calvin

 
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Posted by on 12/05/2016 in Calvin, Modern Culture

 
 
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