John Calvin

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All the blessings we enjoy are divine deposits which we have received on this condition that we distribute them to others.
Let this be our rule for goodwill and helpfulness, that whenever we are able to assist others we should behave as stewards who must someday give an account of ourselves.
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. Though we fall short, our labour is not lost if this day surpasses the preceding one.
The one condition for spiritual progress is that we remain sincere and humble. Let us keep our end in view, let us press forward to our goal. Let us not indulge in pride, nor give in to our sinful passions.
The vices of which we are full we carefully hide from others, and we flatter ourselves with the notion that they are small and trivial; we sometimes even embrace them as virtues.
Hatred grows into insolence when we desire to excel the rest of mankind and imagine we do not belong to the common lot.
We should never insult others on account of their faults, for it is our duty to show charity and respect to everyone.
Our heart is never seriously inclined to wish for and to mediate on the future life unless it has first thoroughly learned to forsake the vanities of the present world.
This life, though it is full of countless miseries, deserves to be reckoned among the divine blessings which should not be despised
Even if this earth is only a vestibule, we ought undoubtedly to make such a use of its blessing that we are assisted rather than delayed in our journey.
They who pay much attention to the body generally neglect the soul.
We must resist wandering thoughts in prayer. Raising our hands reminds us that we need to raise up our minds to God, setting aside all irrelevant thoughts.

John Calvin (10 July 150927 May 1564) 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.


  • A dog barks and stands at bay if he sees any one assault his master. I should be indeed remiss, if, seeing the truth of God thus attacked, I should remain dumb, without giving one note of warning.
    • Letter 130 (to the Queen of Navarre), 28 April, 1545.
  • Now among the other things proper to recreate man and give him pleasure, music is either the first or one of the principal;and we must think that it is a gift of God deputed for that purpose'.
    • Introduction, Geneva Psalter 1539.
  • 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?
  • I cannot think such language either right, or becoming, or suitable. ... To call the Virgin Mary the mother of God can only serve to confirm the ignorant in their superstitions.
  • 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, 28 November 1552.
  • Now let us consider how many relics of the true cross there are in the world. An account of those merely with which I am acquainted would fill a whole volume, for there is not a church, from a cathedral to the most miserable abbey or parish church, that does not contain a piece. Large splinters of it are preserved in various places, as for instance in the Holy Chapel at Paris, whilst at Rome they show a crucifix of considerable size made entirely, they say, from this wood. In short, if we were to collect all these pieces of the true cross exhibited in various parts, they would form a whole ship's cargo. The Gospel testifies that the cross could be borne by one single individual;..
  • Ainsi, ou nous arguerons l'histoire de mensonge, ou ce qu'on tient aujourd'hui de la vraie croix est une opinion vaine et frivole. Or, avisons d'autre part combien il y en a de pièces par tout le monde. Si je voulais réciter seulement ce que j'en pourrais dire, il y aurait un rôle pour remplir un livre entier. Il n'y a si petite ville où il n'y en ait, non seulement en l'église cathédrale, mais en quelques paroisses. Pareillement, il n'y a si méchante abbaye où on n'en montre. Et en quelques lieux, il y en a de bien gros éclats, comme à la Sainte-Chapelle de Paris, et à Poitiers et à Rome, où il y en a un crucifix assez grand qui en est fait, comme l'on dit. Bref, si on voulait ramasser tout ce qui s'en est trouvé, il y en aurait la charge d'un bon grand bateau. L'Évangile testifie que la croix pouvait être portée d'un homme.
    • Traité des reliques, 1543 (Traité des reliques by M. Iehan Calvin. Published 1921 by Éditions Bossard in Paris. P. 113).
  • Their [the Jews] rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.
    • A Response To Questions and Objections of a Certain Jew (Ad quaestiones et objecta Judaei cuiusdam responsio).
  • 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.
  • But, as sculpture and painting are gifts of God, what I insist on is, that both shall be used purely and lawfully, that gifts which the Lord has bestowed upon us, for His glory and our good, shall not be preposterously abused, nay, shall not be perverted to our destruction.
    • As quoted in The Visual Theology of the Huguenots: Towards an Architectural Iconology of ...y Randal Carter Working Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.11.12 p.101
  • For just as soon as a visible form has been fashioned for God, his power is also bound to it. Men are so stupid that they fasten God wherever they fashion him; and hence they cannot but adore. And there is no difference whether they simply worship an idol, or God in the idol. It is always idolatry when divine honors are bestowed on an idol, under whatever pretext this is done. And because it does not please God to be worshiped superstitiously, whatever is conferred upon the idol is snatched from him.
    • Institutes 1.11.9 as quoted in War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin by Carlos, M. N. Eire p.217
  • Just as a maistre Fifi mocks those who hold their noses [in his presence]. because he has handled filth for so long that he can no longer smell his own foulness; so likewise do idolaters make light of those who are offended by a stench they cannot themselves recognize. Hardened by habit, they sit in their own excrement, and yet believe they are surrounded by roses.
    • Excuse, CR 6.595. as quoted in ibid, p.220
  • We may also fitly remember that Satan has his miracles, which, though they are deceitful tricks rather than true powers, are such a sort as to mislead the simple-minded and untutored [2 Thes, 2:9-10] ... Idolatry has been nourished by wonderful miracles, yet these are not sufficient to sanction the superstition either of magicians or of idolators.
    • Prefatory Address, McNeill (ed.), Institutes, p. 17; as quoted in ibid, p.222
  • The papists abuse this text, not only to the end they may commend feigned miracles, which they say are done at the graves of martyrs, but also that they may try and sell us their relics. Why, say thy, shall not the grave, or garment, or the touching of the bones of Peter have as much power to heal, as his shadow had?
    • Commentary on Acts CR 48 104; as quoted in War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin by Carlos M. N. Eire p.222
  • No religion is genuine unless it be joined with truth.
    • Institutes 1.4.3, as quoted in ibid, p.213
  • We condemn those who affirm that a man once justified cannot sin. ... As to the special privilege of the Virgin Mary, when they produce the celestial diploma we shall believe what they say.
    • John Calvin, Antidote to the Canons of the Council of Trent, Canon 23. (1547)
  • 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.
  • Que donc les nonnains demeurent en leurs convents et en leurs cloistres, et en leurs bourdeaux de Satan: ie di mesmes encores qu’elles ne fussent point putains comme elles sont, comme il y a encores pis de ces abominations de Sodome, faisans des choses si enormes et si abominables que c’est une horreur: encores, di-ie, que toutes ces vilenies-là n'y fussent point, si est-ce que toute la chasteté qu'elles pretendent, n'est rien envers Dieu, au prix de ce qu'il a ordonné, c'est asçavoir que combien que ce soyent choses contemptibles, et qui semblent estre de nulle valeur, qu'une femme ait peine d'adresser son mesnage, de nettoyer les ordures de ses enfans, de tuer les poux et autres choses semblables, que tout cela sera mesprisé, qu’on ne le daignera pas mesmes regarder, ce sont toutesfois sacrifices que Dieu reçoit et qu'il accepte, comme si c'estoyent choses precieuses et honorables.
    • Let the Nuns therefore tarry still in their convents and cloisters, and in their brothel houses of Satan: yea I put the case they were not whores as they are, yea and worse than that, vile and shameful Sodomites, committing such heinous and abominable acts, that it is horrible to think of, I put the case I say, there were none of all these villainies, yet all the chastity they pretend is nothing before God, in comparison of that that he hath appointed, that is to say, that albeit it seem but a vile thing, and a matter of none account, for a woman to take pains about housewifery, to make clean her children when they be arrayed, to kill fleas, and other such like, although this be a thing despised, yea and such, that many will not vouchsafe to look upon it, yet are they sacrifices which GOD accepteth & receiveth, as if they were things of great price and honourable.
    • A Sermon of Master John Caluine, vpon the first Epistle of Paul, to Timothie..., London: G. Bishop and T. Woodcoke, 1579 (ch. 2:13-15).
    • Sermons of M. John Calvin, on the Epistles of S. Paule to Timothie and Titus, Laurence Tomson, trans., Printed for G. Bishop and T. Woodcoke, 1579, p. 231. [1] (Facsimile reprint in Jean Calvin, Sermons on Timothy and Titus (16th-17th century facsimile editions), Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983. ISBN 0851513743 ISBN 9780851513744, p. 231. "Let the Nunnes therefore..."
    • Sermons Sur la Premiere Epitre a Timothee (Sermons on the First Epistle to Timothy), Sermon 19 ("Dixneuvieme Sermon") in the Corpus Reformatorum, 1895, vol. 81 (Opera 31) p. 228. [2] [3][4].
  • We must know and be out of all doubt, that the Pope hath but a devilish Synagogue, and that all his Clergy is but filth & stench, all these varlets that have cast aside the Church of God, are but vermin. Although the Pope, who is Antichrist, be set in God’s sanctuary, (as we have seen before [2 Thes. 2.4]) yet notwithstanding, he is not worthy to be taken and accounted for a minister of the Church, nor all his mates.
  • It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor.
    • Calvini Opera, Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, Volume 45, 348, (1877-78)
  • Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ.
    • Bernard Leeming, "Protestants and Our Lady", Marian Library Studies, January 1967, p.9.
  • We take nothing from the womb but pure filth [meras sordes]. The seething spring of sin is so deep and abundant that vices are always bubbling up form it to bespatter and stain what is otherwise pure.... We should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only but are buried in innumerable impurities.... all human works, if judged according to their own worth, are nothing but filth and defilement.... they are always spattered and befouled with many stains.... it is certain that there is no one who is not covered with infinite filth.
  • Et ne soyons pas semblables à ces fantastiques, qui ont un esprit d'amertume et de contradiction, pour trouver à redire par tout, et pour pervertir l'ordre de nature. Nous en verrons d'aucuns si frénétiques, non pas seulement en la religion, mais pour monstrer par tout qu'ils ont une nature monstrueuse, qu'ils diront que le soleil ne se bouge, et que c'est la terre qui se remue et qu'elle tourne. Quand nous voyons de tels esprits, il faut bien dire que le diable les ait possédez, et que Dieu nous les propose comme des miroirs, pour nous faire demeurer en sa crainte.
    • And let us not be similar to those dreamers, who have a spirit of bitterness and contradiction, who reprove everything and pervert the order of nature. We will see some so deranged, not only in religion, but who demonstrate in all things that they have a monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is earth that moves and turns. When we see such minds, it must be said that the devil possess them, and may God set them before us as mirrors, to make us remain in his fear.
    • Sermon 8 on 1 Corinthians 10:19—24, Joannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia, Volume 49, page 677
Human affairs have scarcely ever been so happily constituted as that the better course pleased the greater number. Hence the private vices of the multitude have generally resulted in public error.
Our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us ... that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.
Institutio Christianae Religionis first published in 1536; final edition in 1559. English translation online
  • For what accords better and more aptly with faith than to acknowledge ourselves divested of all virtue that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be filled by him, the slaves of sin that he may give us freedom, blind that he may enlighten, lame that he may cure, and feeble that he may sustain us; to strip ourselves of all ground of glorying that he alone may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in him?
    • Prefatory Address to King Francis as translated by Henry Beveridge, p. 16.
  • The proper course, therefore, is, in the first instance, to ascertain and examine the doctrine which is said by the Evangelist to precede; then after it has been proved, but not till then, it may receive confirmation from miracles. But the mark of sound doctrine given by our Saviour himself is its tendency to promote the glory not of men, but of God (John 7:18; 8:50). Our Saviour having declared this to be test of doctrine, we are in error if we regard as miraculous, works which are used for any other purpose than to magnify the name of God.
    • Prefatory Address, p. 18
  • All the Fathers with one heart execrated, and with one mouth protested against, contaminating the word of God with the subtleties of sophists, and involving it in the brawls of dialecticians. Do they keep within these limits when the sole occupation of their lives is to entwine and entangle the simplicity of Scripture with endless disputes, and worse than sophistical jargon? So much so, that were the Fathers to rise from their graves, and listen to the brawling art which bears the name of speculative theology, there is nothing they would suppose it less to be than a discussion of a religious nature.
    • Prefatory Address, p. 22
  • To make everything yield to custom would be to do the greatest injustice. Were the judgments of mankind correct, custom would be regulated by the good. But it is often far otherwise in point of fact; for, whatever the many are seen to do, forthwith obtains the force of custom. But human affairs have scarcely ever been so happily constituted as that the better course pleased the greater number. Hence the private vices of the multitude have generally resulted in public error.
    • Prefatory Address, p. 23
  • We must not only resist, but boldly attack prevailing evils.
    • Prefatory Address, p. 23
  • Be it so that public error must have a place in human society, still, in the kingdom of God, we must look and listen only to his eternal truth, against which no series of years, no custom, no conspiracy, can plead prescription. Thus Isaiah formerly taught the people of God, “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;” i.e. do not unite with the people in an impious consent.
    • Prefatory Address, p. 23
  • Depraved custom is just a kind of general pestilence in which men perish not the less that they fall in a crowd.
    • Prefatory Address, p. 23
  • The hinges on which the controversy turns are these: first, in their contending that the form of the Church is always visible and apparent; and, secondly, in their placing this form in the see of the Church of Rome and its hierarchy. We, on the contrary, maintain, both that the Church may exist without any apparent form, and, moreover, that the form is not ascertained by that external splendour which they foolishly admire, but by a very different mark, namely, by the pure preaching of the word of God, and the due administration of the sacraments.
    • Prefatory Address, p. 24
  • 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 1 Chapter 1, p. 44
  • Our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us ... that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.
    • Book 1, Chapter 1, p. 44
  • Since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself.
    • Book 1, Chapter 1, p. 45
  • If all are born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God, and if the knowledge of God, in so far as it fails to produce this effect, is fleeting and vain, it is clear that all those who do not direct the whole thoughts and actions of their lives to this end fail to fulfil the law of their being.
    • Book 1, Chapter 3, p. 52
  • It is easy to see how superstition, with its false glosses, mocks God, while it tries to please him.
    • Book 1, Chapter 4, p. 54
  • Those whose inclinations are at variance with the justice of God, knowing that his tribunal has been erected for the punishment of transgression, earnestly wish that that tribunal were overthrown. Under the influence of this feeling they are actually warring against God.
    • Book 1, Chapter 4, p. 55
  • 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.
    • Book 1, Chapter 6, p. 70
  • It is better to limp in the way, than run with the greatest swiftness out of it.
    • Book 1, Chapter 6, p. 72
  • We expect salvation from him—not because he stands aloof from us, but because ingrafting us into his body he not only makes us partakers of all his benefits, but also of himself. ... Since Christ has been communicated to you with all his benefits, so that all which is his is made yours, you become a member of him, and hence one with him. His righteousness covers your sins—his salvation extinguishes your condemnation; he interposes with his worthiness, and so prevents your unworthiness from coming into the view of God. Thus it truly is. It will never do to separate Christ from us, nor us from him; but we must, with both hands, keep firm hold of that alliance by which he has riveted us to himself.
    • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 24, p. 477
  • Man doubtless has been made subject to vanity—man here been reduced to nothing—man is nothing. And yet how is he whom God exalts utterly nothing? How is he nothing to whom a divine heart has been given? Let us breathe again, brethren. Although we are nothing in our hearts, perhaps something of us may lurk in the heart of God.
    • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 25, p. 479
  • All nations before thee are as nothing. Observe, before thee; not within thee. Such are they in the judgment of thy truth, but not such in regard to thy affection.
    • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 25, p. 479
  • The wicked do not fear God from any unwillingness to offend him, provided they could do so with impunity. ... But believers, as has been said, dread the offense even more than the punishment.
    • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 27, p. 480
  • Becoming more callous and hardened when God thunders verbally from heaven, they obstinately persist in their rebellion. It is only when actually smitten by his hand that they are forced, whether they will or not, to fear. This fear the sacred writers term servile, and oppose to the free and voluntary fear which becomes sons.
    • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 27, p. 480
  • Faith has no less need of the word than the fruit of a tree has of a living root; because, as David testifies, none can hope in God but those who know his name [Psalm 9:10].
    • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 31, p. 482
  • The large benefits which the divine liberality is constantly bestowing on the wicked are preparing them for heavier judgment. As they neither think that these proceed from the hand of the Lord, nor acknowledge them as his, or if they do so acknowledge them, never regard them as proofs of his favor, they are in no respect more instructed thereby in his mercy than brute beasts, which, according to their condition, enjoy the same liberality, and yet never look beyond it.
    • Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 32, p. 484
  • It is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance.
    • Book 3, Chapter 3, Section 1, p. 497
  • He who is off the course, the more swiftly he runs is the more distant from the goal and, therefore, the more unhappy. It is better to limp in the way than run out of the way.
    • Book 3, Chapter 14, p. 643
  • Some one will say, Does he not know without a monitor both what our difficulties are, and what is meet for our interest, so that it seems in some measure superfluous to solicit him by our prayers, as if he were winking, or even sleeping, until aroused by the sound of our voice? Those who argue thus attend not to the end for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for his sake as for ours. ... It is very much for our interest to be constantly supplicating him; first, that our heart may always be inflamed with a serious and ardent desire of seeking, loving and serving him, while we accustom ourselves to have recourse to him as a sacred anchor in every necessity; secondly, that no desires, no longing whatever, of which we are ashamed to make him the witness, may enter our minds, while we learn to place all our wishes in his sight, and thus pour out our heart before him; and, lastly, that we may be prepared to receive all his benefits with true gratitude and thanksgiving, while our prayers remind us that they proceed from his hand.
    • Book 3, Chapter 20, Section 3
  • Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God. This we shall accomplish in regard to the mind, if, laying aside carnal thoughts and cares which might interfere with the direct and pure contemplation of God, it not only be wholly intent on prayer, but also, as far as possible, be borne and raised above itself. ... When I say it must be raised above itself, I mean that it must not bring into the presence of God any of those things which our blind and stupid reason is wont to devise, nor keep itself confined within the little measure of its own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God.
    • Book 3, Chapter 20, Section 4
  • The ceremony of lifting up our hands in prayer is designed to remind us that we are far removed from God, unless our thoughts rise upward.
    • Book 3, Chapter 20, Section 5
  • Can we suppose anything more hateful or even more execrable to God than this fiction of asking the pardon of sins, while he who asks at the very time either thinks that he is not a sinner, or, at least, is not thinking that he is a sinner; in other words, a fiction by which God is plainly held in derision?
    • Book 3, Chapter 20, Section 6
  • He who comes into the presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth; in short, discard all self- confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by arrogating any thing, however little, to himself, vain pride cause him to turn away his face.
    • Book 3, Chapter 20, Section 8
  • Moreover, in order that we may be aroused and exhorted all the more to carry this out, Scripture makes known that there are not one, not two, nor a few foes, but great armies, which wage war against us. For Mary Magdalene is said to have been freed from seven demons by which she was possessed [Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2], and Christ bears witness that usually after a demon has once been cast out, if you make room for him again, he will take with him seven spirits more wicked than he and return to his empty possession [Matt. 12:43-45]. Indeed, a whole legion is said to have assailed one man [Luke 8:30]. We are therefore taught by these examples that we have to wage war against an infinite number of enemies, lest, despising their fewness, we should be too remiss to give battle, or, thinking that we are sometimes afforded some respite, we should yield to idleness.
    But the frequent mention of Satan or the devil in the singular denotes the empire of wickness opposed to the Kingdom of Righteousness. For as the church and fellowship of the saints has Christ as Head, so the faction of the impious and impiety itself are depicted for us together with their prince who holds supreme sway over them. For this reason, it was said: "Depart, cursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41].
  • 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.
  • If we are minded to affirm Christ's Kingdom as we ought, we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its ruin.
    • Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill p. 174
  • Lastly, let each of us consider how far he is bound in duty to others, and in good faith pay what we owe. In the same way, let the people pay all due honour to their rulers, submit patiently to their authority, obey their laws and orders, and decline nothing which they can bear without sacrificing the favour of God. Let rulers, again, take due charge of their people, preserve the public peace, protect the good, curb the bad, and conduct themselves throughout as those who must render an account of their office to God, the Judge of all… Let the aged also, by their prudence and their experience, (in which they are far superior,) guide the feebleness of youth, not assailing them with harsh and clamorous invectives but tempering strictness with ease and affability. Let servants show themselves diligent and respectful in obeying their masters, and this not with eye-service, but from the heart, as the servants of God. Let masters also not be stern and disobliging to their servants, nor harass them with excessive asperity, nor treat them with insult, but rather let them acknowledge them as brethren and fellow-servants of our heavenly Master, whom, therefore, they are bound to treat with mutual love and kindness. Let every one, I say, thus consider what in his own place and order he owes to his neighbours, and pay what he owes. Moreover, we must always have a reference to the Lawgiver, and so remember that the law requiring us to promote and defend the interest and convenience of our fellow-men, applies equally to our minds and our hands.
    • Book II Chapter 8. Retrieved 2015-02-25.
  • 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.
  • We must resist wandering thoughts in prayer. Raising our hands reminds us that we need to raise up our minds to God, setting aside all irrelevant thoughts.
    • Book III Ch. 20 First Rule, para. 1 and 2.

A Treatise of Relics (1543)


Full text of 1870 translation

  • The worship of images is intimately connected with that of the saints. They were rejected by the primitive Christians; but St Irenæus, who lived in the second century, relates that there was a sect of heretics, the Carpocratians, who worshipped, in the manner of Pagans, different images representing Jesus Christ, St Paul, and others. The Gnostics had also images; but the church rejected their use in a positive manner, and a Christian writer of the third century, Minutius Felix, says that “the Pagans reproached the Christians for having neither temples nor simulachres;” and I could quote many other evidences that the primitive Christians entertained a great horror against every kind of images, considering them as the work of demons. It appears, however, that the use of pictures was creeping into the church already in the third century, because the council of Elvira in Spain, held in 305, especially forbids to have any picture in the Christian churches. These pictures were generally representations of some events, either of the New 5 In his Treatise given below. 11 or of the Old Testament, and their object was to instruct the common and illiterate people in sacred history, whilst others were emblems, representing some ideas connected with the doctrines [008] of Christianity. It was certainly a powerful means of producing an impression upon the senses and the imagination of the vulgar, who believe without reasoning, and admit without reflection; it was also the most easy way of converting rude and ignorant nations, because, looking constantly on the representations of some fact, people usually end by believing it. This iconographic teaching was, therefore, recommended by the rulers of the church, as being useful to the ignorant, who had only the understanding of eyes, and could not read writings.6 Such a practice was, however, fraught with the greatest danger, as experience has but too much proved. It was replacing intellect by sight.7 Instead of elevating man towards God, it was bringing down the Deity to the level of his finite intellect, and it could not but powerfully contribute to the rapid spread of a pagan anthropomorphism in the church.
    • p. 10-11
  • The aversion of the first Christians to the images, inspired by the Pagan simulachres, made room, during the centuries which followed the period of the persecutions, to a feeling of an entirely different kind, and the images gradually gained their favour. Reappearing at the end of the fourth and during the course of the fifth centuries, simply as emblems, they soon became images, in the true acceptation of this word; and the respect which was entertained by the Christians for the persons and ideas represented by those images, was afterwards converted into a real worship. Representations of the sufferings which the Christians had endured for the sake of their religion, were at first exhibited to the people in order to stimulate by such a sight the faith of the masses, always lukewarm and indifferent. With regard to the images of divine persons of entirely immaterial beings, it must be remarked, that they did not originate from the most spiritualised and pure doctrines of the Christian society, but were rejected by the severe orthodoxy of the primitive church. These simulachres appear to have been spread at first by the Gnostics,—i.e., by those Christian sects which adopted the most of the beliefs of Persia and India. Thus it was a Christianity which was not purified by its contact with the school of Plato,—a Christianity which entirely rejected the Mosaic tradition, in order to attach itself to the most strange and attractive myths of Persia and India,—that gave birth to the images.
    • p. 13
  • I have already spoken of the effects which the solitary and ascetic life of the early monks produced upon their imagination. The same thing took place amongst the recluses of the convents, but particularly nunneries. “The imaginations of women,” says a celebrated author whom I have already quoted, “as their feelings are more keen and exquisite, are more susceptible and ungovernable than those of men; more obnoxious to the injurious influence of solitude; more easily won upon by the arts of delusion, and inflamed by the contagion of the passions.” Hence we may account for the rapidity with which in orphan houses, cloisters, and other institutions, where numbers of the sex are [122] intimately connected with each other, the sickness, humour, habits, of one, if conspicuous and distinguished, become those of all. I remember to have read in a medical writer of considerable merit, that in a French convent of nuns, of more than common magnitude, one of the sisters was seized with a strange impulse to mew like a cat, in which singular propensity she was shortly imitated by several other sisters, and finally, without a solitary exception, by the whole convent, who all joined at regular periods in a general mew that lasted several hours
    • p. 93
  • “The practice of employing images as ornaments and memorials to decorate the temple of the Lord is in a most especial manner approved by the Word of God himself. Moses was commanded to place two cherubim upon the ark, and to set up a brazen figure of the fiery serpent, that those of the murmuring Israelites who had been bitten might recover from the poison of their wounds by looking on the image. In the description of Solomon's temple, we read of that prince, not only that he made in the oracle two cherubim of olive tree, of ten 83 Vide supra, p. 17. 101 cubits in height, but that ‘all the walls of the temple round about he carved with divers figures and carvings.’ “In the first book of Paralipomenon (Chronicles) we observe that when David imposed his injunction upon Solomon to realise his intention of building a house to the Lord, he delivered to him a description of the porch and temple, and concluded by thus assuring him: ‘All these things came to me written by the hand of the Lord, that I may understand the works of the pattern.’ “The isolated fact that images were not only directed by the Almighty God to be placed in the Mosaic tabernacle, and in the more sumptuous temple of Jerusalem, but that [132] he himself exhibited the pattern of them, will be alone sufficient to authorise the practice of the Catholic Church in regard to a similar observance.”—(Hierurgia, p. 371.) All this may be briefly answered. There was no representation of the Jewish patriarchs or saints either in the tabernacle or in the temple of Solomon, as is the case with the Christian saints in the Roman Catholic and Græco-Russian Churches; and the brazen serpent, to which the author alludes, was broken into pieces by order of King Hezekiah as soon as the Israelites began to worship it.
    • pp. 100-101
  • The belief that the body of the Virgin was not interred on earth, but was taken to heaven, has deprived them of all pretext for manufacturing any relics of her remains, which otherwise might have been sufficiently abundant to fill a whole churchyard; yet in order to have at least something belonging to her, they sought to indemnify themselves for the absence of other relics with the possession of her hair and her milk. The hair is shown in several churches in Rome, and at Salvatierra in Spain, at Macon, St Flour, Cluny, Nevers, and in many other towns. With regard to the milk, there is not perhaps a town, a convent, or nunnery, where it is now shown in large or small quantites. Indeed, had the Virgin been a wet-nurse her whole life, or a dairy, she could not have produced more than is shown as hers in various parts.
    • Johnstone and Hunter edition (1854), p. 248

Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life (1551)

John Calvin's "Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life" (ISBN-10: 0801065283) was published December 1, 2004 by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States. Source: Google Books
  • When we hear any mention of our mystical union with Christ, we should remember that holiness is the channel to do it.
    • Page 17.
  • Holiness is not a merit by which we can attain communion with God, but a gift of Christ, which enables us to cling to him, and to follow him.
    • Page 17.
  • Unless we ardently and prayerfully devote ourselves to Christ’s righteousness we do not only faithlessly revolt from our Creator, but we also abjure him as our Savior.
    • Page 19.
  • Since God has revealed himself as a Father, we would be guilty of the basest ingratitude if we did not behave as his children.
    • Page 19.
  • The apostle denies that anyone actually knows Christ, who has not learned to put off the old man, corrupt with deceitful lusts, and to put on Christ.
    • Page 20.
  • We should not insist on absolute perfection of the gospel in our fellow Christians, however we may strive for it ourselves.
    • Page 21.
  • It is not lawful for you to make a compromise with God: to try to fulfill part of your duties and to omit others at your own pleasure.
    • Page 22.
  • No one in this earthly prison of the body has sufficient strength of his own to press forward with a due degree of watchfulness, and the great majority [of Christians] are kept down with such great weakness that they stagger and halt and even creep on the ground, and so make very slight advances.
    • Page 22.
  • 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. Though we fall short, our labour is not lost if this day surpasses the preceding one.
    • Page 23.
  • The one condition for spiritual progress is that we remain sincere and humble. Let us keep our end in view, let us press forward to our goal. Let us not indulge in pride, nor give in to our sinful passions. Let us steadily exert ourselves to reach a higher degree of holiness till we shall finally arrive at a perfection of goodness which we seek and pursue as long as we live, but which we shall attain then only, when, freed from all earthly infirmity, we shall be admitted by God into his full communion.
    • Page 23.
  • It is a very important consideration that we are consecrated and dedicated to God; it means that we may think, speak, meditate, or do anything only with a view to his glory.
    • Page 26.
  • Pagan philosophers set up reason as the sole guide of life, of wisdom and conduct; but Christian philosophy demands of us that we surrender our reason to the Holy Spirit; and this means that we no longer live for ourselves, but that Christ lives and reigns within us (Rom 12:1; Eph 4:23; Gal 2:20).
    • Page 27.
  • A Christian ought to be disposed and prepared to keep in mind that he has to reckon with God every moment of his life.
    • Page 28.
  • The denial of ourselves which Christ has so diligently commanded his disciples from the beginning will at last dominate all the desires of our heart.
    • Page 28.
  • There is deliverance in store only for the man who gives up his selfishness, and whose sole aim is to please the Lord and to do what is right in his sight.
    • Page 29.
  • If God has bestowed on us any excellent gift, we imagine it to be our own achievement; and we swell and even burst with pride.
    • Page 32.
  • The vices of which we are full we carefully hide from others, and we flatter ourselves with the notion that they are small and trivial; we sometimes even embrace them as virtues.
    • Page 32.
  • Hatred grows into insolence when we desire to excel the rest of mankind and imagine we do not belong to the common lot; we even severely and haughtily despise others as our inferiors.
    • Page 32.
  • The poor yield to the rich, the common people to the upper ten, the servants to their masters, the ignorant to the scholars; but there is nobody who does not imagine that he is really better than others.
    • Page 32.
  • Everyone flatters himself and carries a kingdom in his breast.
    • Page 32.
  • We should never insult others on account of their faults, for it is our duty to show charity and respect to everyone.
    • Page 33.
  • Scripture urges and warns us that whatever favors we may have obtained from the Lord, we have received them as a trust on condition that they should be applied to the common benefit of the church.
    • Page 35.
  • You cannot imagine a more certain rule or a more powerful suggestion than this, that all the blessings we enjoy are divine deposits which we have received on this condition that we distribute them to others.
    • Page 35.
  • Let this be our rule for goodwill and helpfulness, that whenever we are able to assist others we should behave as stewards who must someday give an account of ourselves.
    • Page 35.
  • The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception, though the majority are very undeserving when judged according to their own merits. But scripture here helps us out with an excellent argument when it teaches us that we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love.
    • Page 37.
  • If he has deserved no kindness, but just the opposite, because he has maddened you with his injuries and insults, even this is no reason why you should not surround him with your affection and show him all sorts of favors.
    • Page 38.
  • We should forever keep in mind that we must not brood on the wickedness of man, but realize that he is God’s image bearer.
    • Page 38.
  • If we cover and obliterate man’s faults and consider the beauty and dignity of God’s image in him, then we shall be induced to love and embrace him (Heb 12:16; Gal 6:10; Isa 58:7; Matt 5:44; Luke 17:3-4)
    • Page 38.
  • There are people who are known to be very liberal, yet they never give without scolding or pride or even insolence.
    • Page 39.
  • First of all, Scripture draws our attention to this, that if we want ease and tranquility in our lives, we should resign ourselves and all that we have to the will of God, and at the same time we should surrender our affections to him as our Conqueror and Overlord.
    • Page 40.
  • To crave wealth and honor, to demand power, to pile up riches, to gather all those vanities which seem to make for pomp and empty display, that is our furious passion and our unbounded desire.
    On the other hand, we fear and abhor poverty, obscurity, and humility, and we seek to avoid them by all possible means.
    • Page 41.
  • It must be plain also that we should not anxiously strive for riches and honors by relying on our own diligence or cleverness or by depending on the favor of men or by trusting in the notion of good luck, but that we should always expect the Lord to direct us to the lot he has provided for us.
    • Page 42.
  • Moreover, a true Christian will not ascribe any prosperity to his own diligence, industry, or good fortune, but he will acknowledge that God is the author of it.
    • Page 43.
  • No one has rightly denied himself unless he has wholly resigned himself to the Lord and is willing to leave every detail to his good pleasure. If we put ourselves in such a frame of mind, then, whatever may happen to us, we shall never feel miserable or accuse God falsely because of our lot.
    • Page 44.
  • But a faithful believer will in all circumstances mediate on the mercy and fatherly goodness of God.
    • Page 45.
  • In short, knowing that whatever may happen is ordained by the Lord, he will receive it with a peaceful and thankful heart, that he may not be guilty of proudly resisting the rule of him to whom he has once committed himself and all his belongings.
    • Page 46.
  • For all whom the Lord has chosen and received into the society of his saints ought to prepare themselves for a life that is hard, difficult, laborious, and full of countless griefs. It is the will of their heavenly Father to try them in this manner that he may test them.
    • Page 48.
  • For though Christ was his most beloved Son, in whom the Father was always well pleased, yet we see that he was not treated with indulgence and tenderness, so that it may be truly said that he was not only continuously afflicted, but that his whole life was a perpetual cross.
    • Page 48.
  • Being humbled, we learn to call upon his strength which alone makes us stand up under such a load of afflictions.
    • Page 50.
  • For he [David] confesses that prosperity had so stupefied and benumbed his senses that he disregarded the grace of God on which he should have depended, relied on himself instead, and imagined that he could not fall.
    • Page 50.
  • Warned by such evidences of their spiritual illness, believers profit by their humiliations. Robbed of their foolish confidence in the flesh, they take refuge in the grace of God. And when they have done so, they experience the nearness of the divine protection which is to them a strong fortress (Ps 30:6-7).
    • Page 51.
  • If everything proceeded according to their wishes, they would not understand what it means to follow God.
    • Page 53.
  • For we are not all equally afflicted with the same disease or all in need of the same severe cure. This is the reason why we see different persons disciplined with different crosses. The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients; he gives some a milder medicine and purifies others by more shocking treatments, but he omits no one; for the whole world, without exception, is ill (Deut 32:15).
    • Page 55.
  • When we recognize the rod of a father, should we not show ourselves docile children rather than rebelliously desperate men who have been hardened in their evil doings?
    • Page 56.
  • Scripture points out this difference between believers and unbelievers; the latter, as old slaves of their incurable perversity, cannot endure the rod; but the former, like children of noble birth, profit by repentance and correction.
    • Page 57.
  • The more we are oppressed by the cross, the fuller will be our spiritual joy.
    • Page 66.
  • That they may not become too complacent or delighted in married life, he makes them distressed by the shortcomings of their partners, or humbles them through willful offspring, or afflicts them with the want or loss of children. But, if in all these matters he is more merciful to them, he shows them by diseases and dangers how unstable and passing all mortal blessings are, that they may not be puffed up with vain glory.
    • Page 69.
  • But it must be admitted that our heart is never seriously inclined to wish for and to mediate on the future life unless it has first thoroughly learned to forsake the vanities of the present world.
    • Page 69.
  • There is no golden mean between these two extremes; either this early life must become low in our estimation, or it will have our inordinate love.
    • Page 70.
  • Nevertheless, our constant efforts to lower our estimate of the present world should not lead us to hate life or to be ungrateful toward God. For this life, though it is full of countless miseries, deserves to be reckoned among the divine blessings which should not be despised. Therefore, if we discover nothing of God’s goodness in it, we are already guilty of no small ingratitude toward him.
    • Page 72.
  • When we come to a comparison of heaven and earth, then we may indeed not only forget all about the present life, but even despise and scorn it.
    • Page 74.
  • But the present life should never be hated, except insofar as it subjects us to sin, although even that hatred should not properly be applied to life itself.
    • Page 75.
  • But this we may positively state, that nobody has made any progress in the school of Christ unless he cheerfully looks forward to the day of his death and to the day of the final resurrection.
    • Page 78.
  • Even if this earth is only a vestibule, we ought undoubtedly to make such a use of its blessing that we are assisted rather than delayed in our journey.
    • Page 84.
  • For there have been some people, otherwise good and holy, who saw that intemperance and luxury time and again drive man to throw off all restraints unless he is curbed by the utmost severity. And in their desire to correct such a pernicious evil they have adopted the only method which they saw fit, namely to permit earthly blessings only insofar as they were an absolute necessity. This advice showed the best of intentions but was far too rigid. For they committed the very dangerous error of imposing on the consequence of others stricter rules than those laid down in the Word of the Lord. By restricting people within the demands of necessity, they meant abstinence from everything possible. On the other hand, there are many nowadays who seek a pretext to excuse intemperance in the use of the external things, and who desire to indulge the lusts of the flesh. Such people take for granted that liberty should not be restricted by any limitations at all; but to this we can never agree. We must grant, indeed, that it is not right or possible to bind the consciences of others with hard and fast rules.
    • Page 85.
  • Where is our acknowledgement of God if our thoughts are fixed on the glamour of our garments?
    • Page 85.
  • There is also an old proverb, that they who pay much attention to the body generally neglect the soul.
    • Page 90.
  • If we follow our divine calling, we shall receive this unique consolation that there is no work so mean and so sordid that does not look truly respectable and highly important in the sight of God (Coram Deo!) (Gen 1:28; Col 1:1ff)
    • Page 94.

Calvin's Commentaries


Genesis (1554)

  • 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.
  • The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring.
    • Commentary on Genesis, Genesis 38:8-10, (1554)

Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke

  • The supreme and only Judge of the universe stands before the tribunal of an earthly judge.
    • Re Matthew 27:24 (Torrance 1972 edition).
  • 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.
  • "[Elizabeth] calls Mary the mother of her Lord. This denotes a unity of person in the two natures of Christ; as if she had said, that he who was begotten a mortal man in the womb of Mary is, at the same time, the eternal God.... This name Lord strictly belongs to the Son of God 'manifested in the flesh,' (1 Timothy 3:16,) who has received from the Father all power, and has been appointed the highest ruler of heaven and earth, that by his agency God may govern all things.
    • John Calvin. "Commentary on Luke 1:43". Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 1. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  • 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.

St John

  • For in the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world.
    • Re John 13:31 (Torrance 1959 edition).
  • Some think that He does not call her 'mother' but only 'woman' so as not to inflict a deeper wound of sorrow on her heart. I do not reject this; but another conjecture is no less probable, that Christ wanted to show that now that He has completed the course of human life, He puts off the condition in which He has lived and enters into the heavenly kingdom where He will rule over angels and men. For we know that Christ's custom always was to recall believers from looking at the flesh. This was especially necessary at His death.
    • Commentary on John 19:26

Epistles to the Corinthians

  • Each church is free to establish whatever form of organisation is suitable and useful itself, for God has prescribed nothing specific about this.
    • Commentary on 1 Corinthians, 11:2, quoted in William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (1989), p. 223
  • The name of Christ is used here instead of the Church, because the similitude was intended to apply—not to God's only-begotten Son, but to us. It is a passage that is full of choice consolation, inasmuch as he calls the Church Christ; for Christ confers upon us this honour —that he is willing to be esteemed and recognised, not in himself merely, but also in his members. Hence the same Apostle says elsewhere, (Eph. i. 23,) that the Church is his completion, as though he would, if separated from his members, be incomplete.
    • Commentary on 1 Corinthians, 12:12.
    • Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 1848, Rev. William Pringle, tr., Edinburgh, Volume 1, p. 405. [7]
  • There is not one little blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make men rejoice.
    • Sermon Number 10 on I Corinthians, 698. As quoted in John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (1989) by William J. Bouwsma, pp. 134–135.

Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians

  • This is the highest honour of the Church, that, until He is united to us, the Son of God reckons himself in some measure imperfect. What consolation is it for us to learn, that, not until we are along with him, does he possess all his parts, or wish to be regarded as complete! Hence, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, when the apostle discusses largely the metaphor of a human body, he includes under the single name of Christ the whole Church.
    • Commentary on Ephesians 1:23.
    • Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, 1854, Rev. William Pringle, tr., Edinburgh, p. 218. [8]


  • Then let every one of us, being warned by this sentence of the angel, acknowledge that he as yet cleaves to first principles, or, at least, does not comprehend all those things which are necessary to be known; and that therefore progress is to be made to the very end of life: for this is our wisdom, to be learners to the end.


  • Where many of you only have an understanding of the eyes. What you see is division and separation, it is indeed troubling that God would share his power with Lucifer and allow him to fight against him, and bring about discontent. You will say that Lucifer must have a vehement disposition and ungovernable impetuosity; as if that was enough to break the power of God. Now with this understanding it is impossible to accept Lucifer as independent from God without falling into the Paganism of Persia and Indiana. This paganism has infiltrated the hearts of Christians and has caused them to forget the power of God, saying he does not have control over all. Now from this we can conclude that Lucifer, who you incorrectly call a Devil, is a loyal servant of God.
    • This statement by an unknown author misattributed to Calvin has been spread online, but it exists in none of John Calvin's extant works.

Quotes about Calvin

  • John Calvin whose peculiar fad
    It was to call God murderous,
    Which further led that feverish cad
    To burn alive the Servetus.
    • Hilaire Belloc, "Ballad of the Heresiarchs," in Sonnets and Verse, Duckworth, London, 1923.
  • For Calvin, religion and piety are one and the same thing.
    • Émile Doumergue, Jean Calvin, IV, p. 29, quoted in John T. McNeill, 'Introduction' to John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Ford Lewis Battles (1960), p. liii
  • [T]he man who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense.
    • Will Durant, ‘’The Reformation, The Story of Civilization: Part VI’’, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1957
  • But seeing the source from which this book came forth, the majesty of the matter surpasses all human eloquence, being privileged and having such force within it that a single sentence has power to ravish, inspire, and give knowledge to the most stupid and ignorant beings alive in what way God wishes to be known, seen, and heard.
    • Elizabeth I to Catherine Parr prefacing her English translation of chapter 1 of Calvin's Institution De La Religion Chrestienne (30 December 1545), quoted in Leah Marcus, Janel Mueller and Mary Rose (eds.), Elizabeth I: Collected Works (2002), p. 12
  • Calvin's theocentric irrationalism eventually revealed itself as the cunning to technocratic reason which had to shape its human material. Misery and the poor laws did not suffice to drive men into the workshops of the early capitalistic era. The new spirit helped to supplement external pressures.
    • Max Horkheimer, “The End of Reason,” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (1982), p. 34
  • Whatever Calvin was or was not, he was a man to whom religion was the very breath of life. His piety was as profound as it was constant. All that was best, noblest and most influential in him (Rénan calls him the most Christian man of his generation) is traceable to its true source in a heart that was wholly given to God. Never has a more genuinely consecrated life been lived than his.
  • Piety was the keynote of his character. He was a God-possessed soul. Theology was no concern to him as a study in itself; he devoted himself to it as a framework for the support of all that religion meant to him.
  • He was wonderfully patient for those days and for one in his position with all kinds of creedal vagaries around him. It was only when these threatened (in his view) the foundations of morality and orderly government and therefore of society that he became severe. But (excepting in the case of Servetus) his severity limited itself to expulsion of the offender from Geneva as a disturber of the public peace, as a discordant element in the community whose continuance there might be fraught with insidious and perilous potencies of evil. Calvin in this respect accepted and applied the principle of the Justinian code, Cujus regio, ejus religio, though from a different motive, the motive not of the right of the powers-that-be to command the belief of subjects, but that of expediency in the interests of the public welfare, based as it was in his view on what he jealously regarded as the true religion.
  • Calvin took the position that Islam was not merely a threat to European Christendom, but to potential Christians all over the world. Slomp finds Calvin believed that Muslims were former Christians “deceived by Muhammad”. In this way, Calvin placed the blame for Islam as a false religion that sentenced souls to damnation solely on one man, Muhammad. In Calvin’s Opera, Sermon 26 on Daniel 9, he explains that “Muhammad had corrupted the greater part of the world, setting an example for other sects which always want to say and invent something new. All sects that exist today ... have come out of this mud puddle. ”Thus, Muhammad is not merely responsible for Islam as a false religion, but all other sects that have developed since then that mislead the people who, in Calvin’s mind, rightfully belong to Christ. Calvin blames Muhammad for the damned state of all Muslims, citing Muhammad’s “deceitfulness” that has “bewitched” Muslims to idolize him instead of worshipping Christ.
  • Had Luther and Calvin been confined before they had begun to dogmatize, the states would have been spared many troubles.
    • Cardinal Richelieu as quoted in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), edited by Charles George Herbermann
  • From a reading of The Institutes of Christian Religion, The Tracts, and much of the Correspondence of Calvin, I am impressed with the fact that Calvin allowed very little place in his life for purely aesthetic enjoyment of art. His whole attention was directed to theological matters and the precise, and to him the inevitable, relation which these theological matters bore to human conduct. His was a keen, penetrating mind, sharpened by legalistic training, which had never gone through the torment of doubt that so affected Luther.
    Calvin based every thought on the scriptures. He did not speak for himself, but was only the interpreter of the Scriptures. On the one hand this made him very humble, but on the other since he was admittedly the most astute theologian of his day, he could not conceive of anyone doubting the truth and the authority of his interpretations. Little did he realize that he was attempting to set up a new form of religious tyranny, and in many respect succeeding.
    Calvin was completely ignorant of any approach to truth except by the way of logic and cold reason. There was nothing of the mystic about him as there was in Luther. He was lacking in imagination and in a sensitiveness to visual and aural beauty. In vain may one search for a single reference in his works to the beauty of Lake Geneva or of the Alps. Any man who would set out looking for a wife with a blue print of the desired qualities of his future mate in his hand, asking his friends for candidates, lacks qualities which we expect to find in a normal human being. But Calvin was not a normal human being. He was an organizing genius, wholly concerned with the matters of theology and conduct. His condemnation of Servetus has usually been cited as an example of his hardness of heart.
    Calvin's love for the classic poets, and the clear concise style of his own writing stand in welcome contrast to his lack of artistic sensitivity toward the other art media. I would not consider his encouragement of the congregational singing of the Psalms as showing a love of music as such, but only a realization of the power of music to help in bringing the word to the hearts of the people.
    • Leslie P. Spelman, “Calvin and the Arts”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Mar., 1948), p. 246.
  • Virginia Presbyterian dissenters firmly followed the Reformation teachings of John Calvin and John Knox, as these had been interpreted and adopted by a mid-1600s British Parliament which had been briefly dominated by the Puritans (whose very name indicated their zealous aspirations and earnest commitments to purify these established Church of England. In 1647 this so-called "Long Parliament" passed a series of Calvinist faith statements which were collectively known as The Westminster Standards. These consisted of a formal Confession of Faith and two instructional documents called the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
    • William E. Thompson, Her Walls Before Thee Stand: The 235-Year History of the Presbyterian Congregation at Hampden-Sydney, Virginia (2010), revised 2011 edition, p. 19
  • While Calvin in his preaching did not follow a lectionary of prescribed scripture readings for each Sunday of the year, his preaching did usually follow a previously publicized order of scripture selections, e.g.', a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments, or on the Beatitudes, or even on a sequential selection of Psalms. In that sense Calvin used a prescribed lectionary (of sorts) which at least some of his hearers might have studied in preparation for listening to his sermons. On the other hand, the 17th century English Puritan Presbyterian and Congregational preachers (who were the principal models for the 18th century Virginia traveling preachers) just "took (any) text and preached from it."
    • William E. Thompson, Her Walls Before Thee Stand: The 235-Year History of the Presbyterian Congregation at Hampden-Sydney, Virginia (2010), revised 2011 edition, p. 30
  • With Calvin the decretum horribile is derived not, as with Luther, from religious experience, but from the logical necessity of his thought; – therefore its importance increases with every increase in the logical consistency of that religious thought. The interest of it is solely in God, not in man; God does not exist for men, but men for the sake of God. All creation, including of course the fact, as it undoubtedly was for Calvin, that only a small proportion of men are chosen for eternal grace, can have any meaning only as means to the glory and majesty of God.
  • The question, Am I one of the elect? must sooner or later have arisen for every believer and have forced all other interests into the background. And how can I be sure of this state of grace? For Calvin himself this was not a problem. He felt himself to be a chosen agent of the Lord, and was certain of his own salvation. Accordingly, to the question of how the individual can be certain of his own election, he has at bottom only the answer that we should be content with the knowledge that God has chosen and depend further only on that implicit trust in Christ which is the result of true faith. He rejects in principle the assumption that one can learn from the conduct of others whether they are chosen or damned. It is an unjustifiable attempt to force God’s secrets.
  • The religious believer can make himself sure of his state of grace either in that he feels himself to be the vessel of the Holy Spirit or the tool of the divine will. In the former case his religious life tends to mysticism and emotionalism, in the latter to ascetic action; Luther stood close to the former type, Calvinism belonged definitely to the latter. The Calvinist also wanted to be saved sola fide. But since Calvin viewed all pure feelings and emotions, no matter how exalted they might seem to be, with suspicion, faith had to be proved by its objective results in order to provide a firm foundation for the certitudo salutis. It must be a fides efficax, the call to salvation an effectual calling (expression used in Savoy Declaration).
  • The ascetic, when he wishes to act within the world ... must become afflicted with a sort of happy closure of the mind regarding any question about the meaning of the world, for he must not worry about such questions. Hence, it is no accident that inner-worldly asceticism reached its most consistent development on the foundation of the Calvinist god's absolute inexplicability, utter remoteness from every human criterion, and unsearchableness as to his motives. Thus, the inner-worldly ascetic is the recognized "man of a vocation," who neither inquires about nor finds it necessary to inquire about the meaning of his actual practice of a vocation within the whole world, the total framework of which is not his responsibility but his god's.
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