After being pressed by many online recommendations to read Calvin’s Institutes I have undertaken the task. My expectations were that this was going to be like paddling a canoe through mud. I was determined that I would exercise discipline and make it through. I was certain that I would learn, but I was expecting that it wasn’t going to be pleasurable. Though I’m just getting underway, I must say I am find the “unpleasurable” part to not to be the case. Battle’s translation of Calvin’s writing is beautiful. Listen to this:
In the first place, no one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom he “lives and moves” [Acts 17:28]. For, quite clearly, the mighty gifts with which we are endowed are hardly from ourselves; indeed, our very being is nothing but subsistence in the one God. Then, by these benefits shed like dew from heaven upon us, we are led as by rivulets to the spring itself. Indeed, our very poverty better discloses the infinitude of benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, especially compels us to look upward. Thus, not only will we, in fasting and hungering, seek thence what we lack; but, in being aroused by fear, we shall learn humility. For, as a veritable world of miseries is to be found in mankind, and we are thereby despoiled of divine raiment, our shameful nakedness exposes a teeming horde of infamies. Each of us must, then, be so stung by some knowledge of God.
He is conveying solid theological truth, but doing so in a devotional, and beautiful way. To this point, early in the project, I look forward to my time each morning.
Happy New Year!!
The following quotation is from a preface to Calvin’s Institutes from a section in which he addresses the work to the French King. Calvin attempts to establish the basis for his argument and reveals the basis for his opponents attacks. He appeals to absolute truth, God’s Word, and indicates that his detractors appeal to “blind light of nature” and “free will”. Interestingly I’ve heard this same argument regarding contemporary arguments even in the past few weeks.
When Paul wished all prophecy to be made to accord with the analogy of faith [Rom 12:6], he set forth a very clear rule to test all interpretation of Scripture. Now, if our interpretation be measured by this rule of faith, victory is in our hands. For what is more consonant with faith than to recognize that we are naked of all virtue, in order to be clothed by God? That we are empty of all good, to be filled by him? That we are slaves of sin, to be freed by him? Blind, to be illuminated by him? Lame, to be made straight by him? Weak, to be sustained by him? To take away from us all occasion for glorying, that he alone may stand forth gloriously and we glory in him [cf. 1 Cor 1:31; II Cor 10:17]? When we say these and like things our adversaries interrupt and complain that in this way we shall subvert some blind light of nature, imaginary preparations, free will, and works that merit eternal salvation, even with their supererogations. For they cannot bear that the whole praise and glory of all goodness, virtue, and righteousness, and wisdom should rest with God. p 13
supererogations – the performance of more work than duty requires
This is a quotation from The Institutes by John Calvin, translated by Ford Battles.
Originally written in Latin in 1536, translated to French in 1541. Translated by Battles into English in 1960.