John Calvin

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Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments.

John Calvin (1509-07-101564-05-27) was a major French Protestant theologian during the Protestant Reformation; he is renowned for his teaching and infamous for his role in the execution of Michael Servetus.

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Where there is so much division and separation as we now see, it is indeed no easy matter to still the troubled waters, and bring about composure...
  • Where there is so much division and separation as we now see, it is indeed no easy matter to still the troubled waters, and bring about composure... You will say he has a vehement disposition and ungovernable impetuosity; as if that very vehemence did not break forth with all the greater violence when all show themselves alike indulgent to him, and allow him to have his way unquestioned. If this specimen of overbearing tyranny has sprung forth already, as the early blossom in the springtide of a reviving Church, what must we expect in a short time, when affairs have fallen into a far worse condition?
  • Nor, in truth, is it of little importance to prevent the suspicion of any difference having arisen between us from being handed down in any way to our posterity; for it is worse than absurd that parties should be found disagreeing on the very principles, after we have been compelled to make our departure from the world.
    • Letter to Philip Melanchthon, 1552-11-28: See the following works.
  • Dr. Jules Bonnet, ed., Letters of John Calvin, 2 vols., (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable and Co.), vol.II, 1857, pp.361-362, letter No. CCCIV
  • Jules Bonnet, ed., Letters of John Calvin, 4 vols., (Lenox Hill), vol.II, 1973, ISBN 0-8337-4021-0 [1], pp. 376–377;[2]
  • Jules Bonnet and Henry Beveridge, eds., Selected works of John Calvin: tracts and letters (Baker Book House, 1983), ISBN 0-8010-2493-5 [3], pp. 375-381
  • In the mind perfect intelligence flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and moulded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order. But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed. For besides the deformity which everywhere appears unsightly, this evil also is added, that no part is free from the infection of sin.
There is not one little blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make men rejoice.
  • And at this day, the blessedness brought to us by Christ cannot be the subject of our praise, without reminding us, at the same time, of the distinguished honor which God was pleased to bestow on Mary, in making her the mother of his Only Begotten Son.
    • Commentary on Luke 1:42
  • Elisabeth, again, while she praises her, is so far from hiding the Divine glory, that she ascribes everything to God. And yet, though she acknowledges the superiority of Mary to herself and to others, she does not envy her the higher distinction, but modestly declares that she had obtained more than she deserved.
    • Commentary on Luke 1:43
  • If there had been any unbelief in Mary, that could not prevent God from accomplishing his work in any other way which he might choose. But she is called blessed, because she received by faith the blessing offered to her, and opened up the way to God for its accomplishment.
    • Commentary on Luke 1:45 [5]
  • All things being at God’s disposal, and the decision of salvation or death belonging to him, he orders all things by his counsel and decree in such a manner, that some men are born devoted from the womb to certain death, that his name may be glorified in their destruction.
It is no small honour that God for our sake has so magnificently adorned the world...
  • There is not one little blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make men rejoice.
    • As quoted in The Value of Convenience: Genealogy of Technical Culture (1993) by Thomas F. Tierney, p. 128; variant translation: There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
  • It is no small honour that God for our sake has so magnificently adorned the world, in order that we may not only be spectators of this beauteous theatre, but also enjoy the multiplied abundance and variety of good things which are presented to us in it.
    • Works (1844) edited by the Calvin translation society, as quoted in Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers (1991) by Howard L. Rice, p. 59

Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536; 1559)

Institutio Christianae Religionis first published in 1536; final edition in 1559. English translation online
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Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God...
  • Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God
    Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.
    • Book I Ch. 1 "The Knowledge of God and of Ourselves Mutually Connected - Nature of this Connection" as translated by Henry Beveridge.
  • It having been said above that God bends all the reprobate, and even Satan himself, at his will, three objections are started. First, that this happens by the permission, not by the will of God. To this objection there is a twofold reply, the one, that angels and men, good and bad, do nothing but what is appointed by God; the second, that all movements are secretly directed to their end by the hidden inspiration of God...
    • Book I Ch. 18 "The Instrumentality of the Wicked employed by God, while He continues free from every taint" as translated by Henry Beveridge.
  • The whole life of Christians ought to be an exercise of piety, since they are called to sanctification. It is the office of the law to remind them of their duty and thereby to excite them to the pursuit of holiness and integrity. But when their consciences are solicitous how God may be propitiated, what answer they shall make, and on what they shall rest their confidence, if called to his tribunal, there must then be no consideration of the requisitions of the law, but Christ alone must be proposed for righteousness, who exceeds all the perfection of the law.
    • Book III Ch. 19 sect. 2

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  • Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments.
  • For we affirm His divinity so joined and united with His humanity that each retains its distinctive nature unimpaired, and yet those two natures constitute one Christ.
  • The will is not destroyed but rather repaired by grace.
  • Let us remember therefore this lesson: That to worship our God sincerely we must evermore begin by hearkening to His voice, and by giving ear to what He commands us. For if every man goes after his own way, we shall wander. We may well run, but we shall never be a whit nearer to the right way, but rather farther away from it.
  • A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's Truth was attacked and yet would remain silent.
  • For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any books however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.
  • We have short memories in magnifying God's grace. Every blessing that God confers upon us perishes through our carelessness, if we are not prompt and active in giving thanks.

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