Monday, January 12, 2009

I0112-Institutes - The Prefaces

Random Reflections and Observations from reading the Prefaces:
Preface to the Hendrickson Edition:
P. XII Calvin's "sudden conversion" something I didn't know.
P XIV Calvin encouraged vigorous congregational singing of the psalms.
P XV. Calvin's commentaries cover every biblical book except Song of Solomon and Revelations. Beginning in 2008 whenever I read a Puritan Paperback I create two tables in the back of the book one to log references to Song of Solomon and other logging references to Revelation.

P XVI - Two KEY Phrases which Calvin used to describe the Christian life:
1) Faith is the principal work of the Holy Spirit
2) prayer is the principal exercise of faith..

Introduction to the Original Edition of the Henry Beveridge Translation (1845)
by John Murray

Murray expresses a hope that may have bearing on us as we participate in this-wide-spread reading the Institutes project sponsored by the Ref21 guys. (Princeton is also sponsoring a read thru the Institutes in a year project.) "For what would be a better harbinger of another Reformation than widespread recourse to the earnest and sober study of the Word of God which would be evinced by the readiness carefully to peruse the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Murray gives an excellent quote regarding the need to: with Godly fear handle the word of God faithfully. Isa 66.2

Also, Murray cites we owe an incalculable debt to Calvin for establishing sound canons of interpretation.

Calvin in his exegetical work has a concern for the analogy of Scripture..."and not therefore afflicted with the vice of expounding particular passages without respect to the teaching of Scripture elsewhere and without respect to the system of truth set for in the Word of God."

"Calvin was far above the weaknesses of aiming at the invention of novelties in theology, or of wishing to be regarded as the discoverer of new opinions."

Calvin was able to: "pack a great plenty of matter in a small room of words."

"there is none to be compared to this work of Calvin, both for his substantial sufficiency of doctrine, the sound declaration of truth in articles of our religion, the large and learned confirmation of the same, and the most deep and strong confutation of all old and new heresies; so that (the Holy Scriptures excepted) this is one of the most profitable books for all students of Christian divinity.


As I read this, I pondered to myself, what kind of King wouuld be persuaded by such an address. From even Calvin's own words in this letter, this King was already violently and cruelly persecuting the church (not Roman). I thought how appropriate to include such a preface, but also, how men in POWER might receive such a notice with great indignation. Kind of a "How Dare this worm speak to me?" or "Who does he think he is?" It is with sadness as I read this thinking how such a great address and appeal made to the King ought to succeed and ought to mollify the vindictiveness against the weaker party. A King should rule justly and in Truth. Not petty and self-seeking, but majestically and honorably.

ANALOGY OF FAITH: I was intrigued by this statement: "When Paul declared that all prophecy ought to be according to the analogy of faiths (Rom 12.6), he laid down th esurest rule for determining the meaning of Scripture. Let our doctrine be tested by this rule an dour victory is secure."
Rom 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

John Gill Comments on this:
"or by "the proportion", or "analogy of faith", may be meant a scheme of Gospel truths, a form of sound words, a set of principles upon the plan of the Scriptures, deduced from them, and agreeably to them; and which are all of a piece, and consistent with themselves, from which the prophesier or preacher should never swerve: or the Scriptures themselves, the sure word of prophecy, the rule and standard of faith and practice: the scope of the text is to be attended to, its connection with the preceding or following verses, or both; and it is to be compared with other passages of Scripture, and accordingly to be explained: and this is to follow the rule directed to."

Which conclusion I'm not sure I would have ever arrived at from this verse though the practice I agree wholeheartedly.

John Calvin also comments on this verse:

"Whether prophecy, etc. By now bringing forward some examples, he shows how every one in his place, or as it were in occupying his station, ought to be engaged. For all gifts have their own defined limits, and to depart from them is to mar the gifts themselves. But the passage appears somewhat confused; we may yet arrange it in this manner, “Let him who has prophecy, test it by the analogy of faith; let him in the ministry discharge it in teaching,” 386386 The ellipsis to be supplied here is commonly done as in our version, adopted from Beza. The supplement proposed by Pareus is perhaps more in unison with the passage; he repeats after “prophecy” the words in verse 3, changing the person, “let us think soberly,” or “let us be modestly wise.” — Ed. etc. They who will keep this end in view, will rightly preserve themselves within their own limits.

But this passage is variously understood. There are those who consider that by prophecy is meant the gift of predicting, which prevailed at the commencement of the gospel in the Church; as the Lord then designed in every way to commend the dignity and excellency of his Church; and they think that what is added, according to the analogy of faith, is to be applied to all the clauses. But I prefer to follow those who extend this word wider, even to the peculiar gift of revelation, by which any one skillfully and wisely performed the office of an interpreter in explaining the will of God. Hence prophecy at this day in the Christian Church is hardly anything else than the right understanding of the Scripture, and the peculiar faculty of explaining it, inasmuch as all the ancient prophecies and all the oracles of God have been completed in Christ and in his gospel. For in this sense it is taken by Paul when he says,

“I wish that you spoke in tongues, but rather that ye prophesy,”

I truly loved the seven points. Maybe especially #4 where Calvin defends against the Roman charge of being opposed to the Fathers. There is an idea that some brand new type of christianity began with the reformation. This is the charge Calvin defends against here breifly but ably.

He cites rather the new inventions of his enemies:
  • celibacy imposed upon priests
  • laws on fasting
  • traditions exalted over scripture
  • speculative theology
  • anxiety over the dead/purgatory
  • transubstantiation
  • images
  • monks living off the substance of others
  • adorning with gold and riches.
And with each provides a quote from some Father contradicting clearly.

Andso in #1 this gospel, "it ought to resume its antiquity just as the returning citizens resumes his rights."

Epistle to the Reader (Calvin 1559)

"...that my object in this work has been, so to prepare and train candidates for the sacred office, for the study of the sacred volume, that they may both have an easy introduction to it, and be able to prosecute it with unfaltering step; for, if I mistake not, I have given a summary of religion in all its parts, and digested it in an order which will make it easy for any one, who rightly comprehends it, to ascertain both what he ought chiefly to look for in Scripture, and also to what head he ought to refer whatever is contained in it. Having thus, as it were, paved the way, as it will be unnecessary, in any Commentaries on Scripture which I may afterwards publish, to enter into long discussions of doctrinal points, and enlarge on commonplaces, I will compress them into narrow compass. In this way much trouble and fatigue will be spared to the pious reader, provided he comes prepared with a knowledge of the present work as an indispensable prerequisite."

1) Knowledge of God
2) Knowledge of ourselves

Institutes divided into four parts corresponding to the Apostles Creed

1) Father

2) Son

3) Spirit

4) Church


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell. [See Calvin]

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.


No comments: