Last Friday (
Calvin wrote many theological works and commentaries on most of the books of the Bible. These commentaries even today, almost 450 years later are still valuable for Bible study. If nothing else, Calvin was a "scholar first class" of the word of God. His books have been translated into many languages, and English versions of all his commentaries are available free online. One good site for these is http://www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_index.htm which features the complete Calvin Translation Society edition. There are other online sources as well. If you are studying a particular book of the Bible, don't overlook consulting Calvin. Over the years I have found him very helpful. Here are two samples of his work:
(Concerning the inscription in three languages that Pilate placed on the cross of Jesus Christ, not knowing he was fulfilling the divine purpose).
"The providence of God, which guided the pen of Pilate, had a higher object in view. It did not, indeed, occur to Pilate to celebrate Christ as the Author of salvation, and the Nazarene of God, and the King of a chosen people, but God dictated to him the commendation of the Gospel, though he knew not the meaning of what he wrote. It was the same secret guidance of the Spirit that caused the title to be published in three languages; for it is not probable that this was an ordinary practice, but the Lord showed, by this preparatory arrangement, that the time was now at hand, when the name of his Son should be made known throughout the whole earth...Pilate's firmness must be ascribed to the providence of God...Let us know, therefore, that he was held by a Divine hand, so that he remained unmoved...Pilate, though he was a reprobate man, and, in other respects, an instrument of Satan, was nevertheless, by a secret guidance, appointed to be a herald of the Gospel, that he might publish a short summary of it in three languages."
THE THEOLOGIAN'S DUTY
"The duty of a theologian is, not to please the ear with empty sounds, but to confirm the conscience by teaching things which are true, certain and profitable.”--
JOHN CALVIN’S CONVERSION
In his introduction to his commentary on the Psalms written in July, 1557, Calvin gives a brief account of his conversion. He begins the account by speaking of the psalmist David:
“But as he (David), was taken from the sheepfold, and elevated to the rank of supreme authority; so God having taken me from my originally obscure and humble condition, has reckoned me worthy of being invested with the honorable office of a preacher and minister of the gospel. When I was as yet a very little boy, my father had destined me for the study of theology. But afterwards when he considered that the legal profession commonly raised those who followed it to wealth this prospect induced him suddenly to change his purpose. Thus it came to pass, that I was withdrawn from the study of philosophy, and was put to the study of law. To this pursuit I endeavored faithfully to apply myself in obedience to the will of my father; but God, by the secret guidance of his providence, at length gave a different direction to my course.”
“And first, since I was too obstinately devoted to the superstitions of Popery to be easily extricated from so profound an abyss of mire, God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, I yet pursued them with less ardor. I was quite surprised to find that before a year had elapsed, all who had any desire after purer doctrine were continually coming to me to learn, although I myself was as yet but a mere novice and tyro. Being of a disposition somewhat unpolished and bashful, which led me always to love the shade and retirement, I then began to seek some secluded corner where I might be withdrawn from the public view; but so far from being able to accomplish the object of my be desire, all my retreats were like public schools. In short, whilst my one great object was to live in seclusion without being known, God so led me about through different turnings and changes, that he never permitted me to rest in any place, until, in spite of my natural disposition, he brought me forth to public notice.”
CALVIN MISUNDERSTOOD AND PERSECUTED
Once again in his introduction to the Psalms, Calvin relates some events as he left
“The trial of these five years was grievous and hard to bear; but I experienced not less excruciating pain from the malignity of those who ceased not to assail myself and my ministry with their envenomed calumnies. A great proportion of them, it is true, are so blinded by a passion for slander and detraction, that to their great disgrace they betray at once their impudence, while others, however crafty and cunning, cannot so cover or disguise themselves as to escape being shamefully convicted and disgraced; yet when a man has been a hundred times found innocent of a charge brought against him, and when the charge is again repeated without any cause or occasion, it is an indignity hard to bear. Because I affirm and maintain that the world is managed and governed by the secret providence of God, a multitude of presumptuous men rise lip against me, and allege that I represent God as the author of sin. This is so foolish a calumny, that it would of itself quickly come to nothing, did it not meet with persons who have tickled ears, and who take pleasure in feeding upon such discourse. But there are many whose minds are so filled with envy and spleen, or ingratitude, or malignity, that there is no falsehood, however preposterous, yea, even monstrous, which they do not receive, if it is spoken to them. Others endeavor to overthrow God’s eternal purpose of predestination, by which he distinguishes between the reprobate and the elect; others take upon them to defend free will; and forthwith many throw themselves into their ranks, not so much through ignorance as by a perversity of zeal which I know not how to characterise. If they were open and avowed enemies who brought these troubles upon me, the thing might in some way be borne. But that those who shroud themselves under the name of brethren, and not only eat Christ’s sacred bread, but also administer it to others, that those, in short, who loudly boast of being preachers of the gospel, should wage such nefarious war against me, how detestable is it? In this matter I may very justly complain with David,
“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread,
hath lifted up his heel against me,” (Psalm 41:9).
“For it was not an enemy that reproached me;
but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company,”
(Psalm 55:12, 13, 14).
CALVIN’S BIBLE EXPOSITION
“It would not be possible for me too earnestly to press upon you the importance of reading the expositions of that prince among men, JOHN CALVIN! I am afraid that scant purses may debar you from their purchase, but if it be possible procure them, and meanwhile, since they are in the College library, use them diligently. I have often felt inclined to cry out with Father Simon, a Roman Catholic, "Calvin possessed a sublime genius", and with Scaliger, "Oh! how well has Calvin reached the meaning of the prophets—no one better." You will find forty two or more goodly volumes worth their weight in gold. Of all commentators I believe
The edition of
Quaint Robert Robinson said of him, "There is no abridging this sententious commentator, and the more I read him, the more does he become a favourite expositor with me." Holy Baxter wrote, "I know no man since the apostles' days, whom I value and honour more than Calvin, and whose judgment in all things, one with another, I more esteem and come nearer to."
(Commenting and Commentaries by Charles Spurgeon; London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1876)
CALVIN ON SELF CONFIDENCE
"There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.”
Editor’s note: There is much more history online concerning this great reformer, so I won't tarry too much here. I will say that