Friday, January 02, 2009

0 The Institutes: Precious Comments by Calvin in the Prefatory Address

In his prefatory address to King Francis, John Calvin makes several important points concerning doctrine, God and man. Just reading this little section, in fact, is greatly edifying to the soul. Take note of these little foretastes of the work that is to come in the Institutes proper:

The state of men before God and the world: Men are by nature lowly and entirely lacking of merit before God - and the humble who recognize this are despised by men. He who recognizes his own lowliness before God will in fact accept the low opinion of other men, for it reflects the true state of him before God.
And contempt for our lowliness ought not to dissuade you from this endeavor. Indeed, we are quite aware of what mean and lowly little men we are. Before God, of course, we are miserable sinners; in men's eyes most despised-if you will, the offscouring and refuse [cf. I Cor. 4:13] of the world, or anything viler that can be named. Thus, before God nothing remains for us to boast of, save his mercy [cf. II Cor. 10:17-18], whereby we have been received into hope of eternal salvation through no merit of our own [cf. Titus 3:5]; and before men nothing but our weakness [cf. II Cor. 11:30; 12:5, 9], which even to admit by a nod is to them the greatest dishonor. (p. 12, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
The Source of Truth: Our doctrine is not of our making, but of God's revealing, and the world will not recognize the fact since they know nothing of divine revelation.
But our doctrine must tower unvanquished above all the glory and above all the might of the world, for it is not of us, but of the living God and his Christ whom the Father has appointed King to "rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth" [Ps. 72:8; 72:7, Vg.].
...
Indeed, our adversaries cry out that we falsely make the Word of God our pretext, and wickedly corrupt it.4 By reading our confession you can judge according to your prudence not only how malicious a calumny but also what utter effrontery this is.
(p. 12, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
The Monergistic Work of God in Salvation: Salvation is of God's authoring and origination, his divine mercy and grace, ALONE. Salvation by faith implies clearly for Calvin that ALL righteousness is provided by God - that we contribute zip to the basis for our acceptance before Him. Dead we were. Alive we are. All because of His work and not ours.
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 illumined 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. I 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.6 For they cannot bear that the whole praise and glory of all goodness, virtue, righteousness, and wisdom should rest with God. (p. 13, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
The Apostasy of the Church of Calvin's Day: The corrupt zeal of the Roman church, a zeal for the power structures set up to perpetuate itself and not the gospel, to feed the "shepherds" rather than the flock:
They readily allow themselves and others to ignore, neglect, and despise the true religion, which has been handed down in the Scriptures, and which ought to have had a recognized place among all men. They think it of no concern what belief anyone holds or does not hold regarding God and Christ, if only he submit his mind with implicit faith (as they call it) to the judgment of the church. The sight of God's glory defiled with manifest blasphemies does not much trouble them, bprovided no one raises a finger against the primacy of the Apostolic See and against the authority of Holy Mother Church.Why, therefore, do they fight with such ferocity and bitterness for the Mass, purgatory, pilgrimages, and trifles of that sort, denying that there can be true godliness without a most explicit faith, so to speak, in such things, even though they prove nothing of them from God's Word? Why? unless for them "their God is the belly" [Phil. 3:19]; their kitchen their religion! If these are taken away, they believe that they will not be Christians, not even men! For, even though some glut themselves sumptuously while others gnaw upon meager crusts, still all live out of the same pot, a pot that without this fuel would not only grow cold but freeze through and through. Consequently, the one most concerned about his belly proves the sharpest contender for his faith. In fine, all men strive to one goal: to keep either their rule intact or their belly full. No one gives the slightest indication of sincere zeal. (p. 14, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
If you've read the Institutes, but never paid any attention to the prefatory address to King Francis, I'd urge you to consider reading it. There is much sound doctrine, albeit in a very brief, summary form, in it.

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