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Bedtime Prayers

John Calvin’s Catechism of the Church of Geneva is appended by “Several Godly Prayers.” Here is Calvin’s prayer before going to sleep: (Other prayers include:prayer in the morning, Prayer before a meal, Prayer for going to school)

O LORD GOD, who hast given man the night for rest, as thou hast created the day in which he may employ himself in labour, grant, I pray, that my body may so rest during this night that my mind cease not to be awake to thee, nor my heart faint or be overcome with torpor, preventing it from adhering steadfastly to the love of thee. While laying aside my cares to relax and relieve my mind, may I not, in the meanwhile, forget thee, nor may the remembrance of thy goodness and grace, which ought always to be deeply engraven on my mind, escape my memory. In like manner, also, as the body rests may my conscience enjoy rest. Grant, moreover, that in taking sleep I may not give indulgence to the flesh, but only allow myself as much as the weakness of this natural state requires, to my being enabled thereafter to be more alert in thy service. Be pleased to keep me so chaste and unpolluted, not less in mind than in body, and safe from all dangers, that my sleep itself may turn to the glory of thy name. But since this day has not passed away without my having in many ways offended thee through my proneness to evil, in like manner as all things are now covered by the darkness of the night, so let every thing that is sinful in me lie buried in thy mercy. Hear me, O God, Father and Preserver, through Jesus Christ thy Son. AMEN.

John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 98-99.

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Seeing the Conformity of the Believer to the Image of Christ

The Apostle Paul speaks about Christ being the prototype of all the sons of God, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29 AV). Calvin highlights this as being one of the greatest privileges that the believer enjoys as being an adopted son of God. He writes,

“God had so determined that all whom he has adopted should bear the image of Christ…that he might teach us that there is in Christ a living and conspicuous exemplar, which is exhibited to God’s children for imitation.”

Elsewhere he writes that

“the final end of our adoption is, that what has in order preceded in Christ, shall at length be completed in us…we have eyes prepared to see God.”

This conforming to Christ’s image will prepare the believer to behold Christ in his glory, removing impurities, weaknesses and sin.

*** Quotes taken from John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries on Romans, page 318 and Calvin’s Commentaries on 1 John, pages 205-6.

 

Praying before a Meal

John Calvin’s Catechism of the Church of Geneva is appended by “Several Godly Prayers.” Here is Calvin’s prayer on blessing at the table:

All look unto thee, O Lord; and thou givest them their meat in due season; that thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, and they are filled with all things in abundance. (Ps. 104:27.)

O LORD, in whom is the source and inexhaustible fountain of all good things, pour out thy blessing upon us, and sanctify to our use the meat and drink which are the gifts of thy kindness towards us, that we, using them soberly and frugally as thou enjoinest, may eat with a pure conscience. Grant, also, that we may always both with true heartfelt gratitude acknowledge, and with our lips proclaim thee our Father and the giver of all good, and, while enjoying bodily nourishment, aspire with special longing of heart after the bread of thy doctrine, by which our souls may be nourished in the hope of eternal life, through Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.

Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth from the mouth of God. (Deut. 8:3.)

John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 97.

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Prayer for the Morning

I recently posted on John Calvin’s Catechism of the Church of Geneva and the appended “Several Godly Prayers.” Another one of his prayers is focused on praying in the morning:

MY GOD, my Father and Preserver, who of thy goodness hast watched over me during the past night, and brought me to this day, grant also that I may spend it wholly in the worship and service of thy most holy deity. Let me not think, or say, or do a single thing which tends not to thy service and submission to thy will, that thus all my actions may aim at thy glory and the salvation of my brethren, while they are taught by my example to serve thee. And as thou art giving light to this world for the purposes of external life by the rays of the sun, so enlighten my mind by the effulgence of thy Spirit, that he may guide me in the way of thy righteousness. To whatever purpose I apply my mind, may the end which I ever propose to myself be thy honour and service. May I expect all happiness from thy grace and goodness only. Let me not attempt any thing whatever that is not pleasing to thee.

Grant also, that while I labour for the maintenance of this life, and care for the things which pertain to food and raiment, I may raise my mind above them to the blessed and heavenly life which thou hast promised to thy children. Be pleased also, in manifesting thyself to me as the protector of my soul as well as my body, to strengthen and fortify me against all the assaults of the devil, and deliver me from all the dangers which continually beset us in this life. But seeing it is a small thing to have begun, unless I also persevere, I therefore entreat of thee, O Lord, not only to be my guide and director for this day, but to keep me under thy protection to the very end of life, that thus my whole course may be performed under thy superintendence. As I ought to make progress, do thou add daily more and more to the gifts of thy grace until I wholly adhere to thy Son Jesus Christ, whom we justly regard as the true Sun, shining constantly in our minds. In order to my obtaining of thee these great and manifold blessings, forget, and out of thy infinite mercy, forgive my offences, as thou hast promised that thou wilt do to those who call upon thee in sincerity.

(Ps. 143:8.)—Grant that I may hear thy voice in the morning since I have hoped in thee. Show me the way in which I should walk, since I have lifted up my soul unto thee. Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, I have fled unto thee. Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God. Let thy good Spirit conduct me to the land of uprightness.

John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 95-96.

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Prayer on Preparing to go to School

John Calvin’s Catechism of the Church of Geneva is appended by “Several Godly Prayers.” Here is Calvin’s prayer on preparing to go to school:

Ps. 119:9. Wherein shall a young man establish his way? If he wisely conduct himself according to thy word. With my heart have I sought thee, allow me not to err from thy precepts.

O LORD, who art the fountain of all wisdom and learning, since thou of thy special goodness hast granted that my youth is instructed in good arts which may assist me to honest and holy living, grant also, by enlightening my mind, which otherwise labours under blindness, that I may be fit to acquire knowledge; strengthen my memory faithfully to retain what I may have learned: and govern my heart, that I may be willing and even eager to profit, lest the opportunity which thou now givest me be lost through my sluggishness. Be pleased therefore to infuse thy Spirit into me, the Spirit of understanding, of truth, judgment, and prudence, lest my study be without success, and the labour of my teacher be in vain.

In whatever kind of study I engage, enable me to remember to keep its proper end in view, namely, to know thee in Christ Jesus thy Son; and may every thing that I learn assist me to observe the right rule of godliness. And seeing thou promisest that thou wilt bestow wisdom on babes, and such as are humble, and the knowledge of thyself on the upright in heart, while thou declarest that thou wilt cast down the wicked and the proud, so that they will fade away in their ways, I entreat that thou wouldst be pleased to turn me to true humility, that thus I may show myself teachable and obedient first of all to thyself, and then to those also who by thy authority are placed over me. Be pleased at the same time to root out all vicious desires from my heart, and inspire it with an earnest desire of seeking thee. Finally, let the only end at which I aim be so to qualify myself in early life, that when I grow up I may serve thee in whatever station thou mayest assign me. AMEN.

The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will make known his covenant unto them. (Ps. 25:14.)

John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 96-97.

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The Light and Darkness of “the Interim”

I’ve written two posts (here and here) about some quotes in the Adultero-German Interim that I found particularly impressive and beautiful. I felt a little at odds with myself, writing about a document that Calvin so vehemently opposed. However, I came across a statement of his, from his commentary on Exodus 8:25 where he says (emphasis mine):

Our Pharaohs would altogether extinguish God’s glory, and this they madly set themselves to compass; but when reduced to extremities, if there be no further use in professedly contending with Him, they maim and mutilate His worship by a fictitious course, which they call a reformation. Hence arose that mixture of light and darkness, which was named “the Interim.”

John Calvin and Charles William Bingham, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010), Ex 8:25.

It was good to see that Calvin recognized the mixture of light that is in there. Sure, the document wasn’t favorable to the reformers, but credit where credit is due. There is some beautiful light in there.

To Borrow from his Wounds

John Calvin wrote quiet forcefully against the Adultero-German Intrim in his tract The True Method for Giving Peace to Christendom and Reforming the Church. However, in reading much of the Interim, I found some really great nuggets. For instance, in the description of redemption in the tract is really great:

3. And though God is propitious to us freely, (Rom. 3.,) and for his name’s sake, and wipes away our iniquities for his own sake, yet that he might not remit sins without any price of sanctification, he, for the display of his righteousness, of his incomprehensible wisdom and boundless goodness, mingled righteousness with mercy, and was pleased that a price for redeeming us should be paid by the blood of his own Son, that the punishments which we sinners ought to have suffered, the same that most innocent Lamb should endure on the cross, and we might be able to borrow from his wounds the price of redemption, which we miserable could not pay, and use it for our deliverance and salvation, that while our most gracious Father pities us freely, he does not, however, pity without the intervention of the blood of his own Son, that what is here bestowed on us freely we ought to ascribe to the merit and righteousness of Christ, that whosoever glories may glory in the Lord our Redeemer and Saviour. (Jer. 9.; 1 Cor. 1.)

John Calvin and Hendry Beveridge, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 3 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 195-96.

I love that line, “and we might be able to borrow from his wounds the price of redemption, which we miserable could not pay.” What a beautiful reminder of God’s gracious kindness to us.

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Adoption Makes the Believer an Heir of Salvation through Christ

Adoption makes the believer an heir of salvation through Christ. The adopted child of God becomes the recipient of salvation through Christ, for “the name of Christ excludes all merit, and everything which men have of their own.” Christ’s merits, through His obedience, death and resurrection, are what secure the believer’s adoption. This is clear from Calvin’s writing on the purpose of why God had to become man. He had to become man to rescue us from our self-made hell, to conquer death, and to procure salvation for his people. This too, serves the believer’s assurance of salvation and heir to the Kingdom, “for the Son of God, to whom it wholly belongs, has adopted us as his brothers.” This work of salvation was achieved through the Incarnation, when “ungrudgingly he took our nature upon himself to impart to us what was his, and to become both Son of God and Son of man in common with us.”

In his application of the doctrine of adoption, it must be noted that John Calvin was discriminatory, opening up its comforts to believers, but also preserving this doctrine from those who would abuse it in unbelief. This discriminatory note can be detected when he cautions that the Incarnation must not be used to automate adoption. Just because Christ came in human flesh does not mean that all are the children of God. He argues rightly that

“when we say that Christ was made man that he might make us children of God, this expression does not extend to all men. For faith intervenes, to engraft us spiritually into the body of Christ.”

The fact that the believer becomes an heir of Christ also has eschatological dimensions. Although this is present in the Pauline doctrine of adoption, Calvin also brings it out in the Johannine complement of the same doctrine. He clearly brings out the ‘now-not yet’ tension of the enjoyment of the inheritance that believers receive through adoption. In his Commentary on 1 John, especially 1 John 3:2, Calvin notes that the believer’s condition as an adopted child of God has not yet reached full fruition and the believer is subject to death, misery, and all manner of evil. He counsels the believer to consider the privileges that yet await being stored up in heaven, looking to the coming of Christ which sustains faith,

“because the fruit of our adoption is as yet hid, for in heaven is our felicity, and we are now far away travelling on the earth.”

This tension is also apparent in his Commentary on Romans in which he highlights the fact that the believer’s inheritance through adoption will be fully realized in the future. He states that

“we shall partake of it in common with the only-begotten Son of God,” which requires patience and endurance in the present Christian life.

 

Adoption Assures the Believer of God’s Fatherly Electing Grace

At the heart of John Calvin’s theology and undergirding his development of the ordo salutis is the doctrine of adoption. Many scholars note that Calvin does not treat adoption as a separate locus in his systematic theology and magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. This is due in part to the fact that Calvin weaves the doctrine throughout the tapestry of God’s marvelous work in the salvation of sinners. The doctrine of adoption is not peripheral, but rather central to Calvin’s theology as noted by Sinclair Ferguson writes, (The Reformed Doctrine of Sonship, in Pulpit and People, Essays in Honor of William Still) “students of Calvin’s theology have too rarely recognized how important the concept of sonship was to his understanding of the Christian life.”

The fountainhead of adoption and its privileges in John Calvin’s thought is found in God the Father. Specifically the privileges that the adopted child of God receives are the comfort of the Father’s providence and the assurance received through the Father’s electing grace.

One of those privileges is that Adoption assures the believer of God’s Fatherly electing grace. The electing grace of the Father almost becomes synonymous in Calvin’s writings with the doctrine of adoption. He does not clearly delineate between these two concepts but rather merges them to show how adoption becomes a confirmation of election. Howard Griffith in his article clearly proves that election and adoption are closely tied in Calvin’s thought when he states:

It is quite clear that Calvin’s intention was to use the biblical teaching on election as Scripture does: in the service of assurance for believers. Election was dangerous and only a snare when considered abstractly. But if for the sake of the analysis of Calvin’s own thinking, we think of it first, it is fascinating to notice that Calvin repeatedly refers to election as God’s adoption of the believer. This is not just the slip of a pen: Calvin repeats it often.

Adoption can be conceived of as the rearview mirror if you will, confirming the electing grace of the Father in the life of the believer. The close relationship of election and adoption serves to assure the believer that he is indeed a child of God.

In his Sermons on Election and Reprobation, Calvin closely links election and adoption when he says, “So, when our Lord engraveth his fear in our hearts by his holy spirit, and such an obedience towards him, as his Children ought to perform unto him, this is as if he should set upon us the seal of his election, and as if he should truly testify that he hath adopted us and that he is a Father unto us.” Throughout the Institutes he makes several references to the close relation between election and adoption where free election by the grace of God becomes the ground of the believer’s adoption. He states, “We were adopted in Christ into the eternal inheritance because in ourselves we were not capable of such great excellence.” Furthermore, man cannot renovate himself to receive the adoption of sons, nor is adoption because of any foreseen merit on God’s part, because “God’s special election towers and rules over all, alone ratifying his adoption.”

This assurance of election is further buttressed in his Sermons on Ephesians where he says, “When he [Paul] says that God has predestinated us by adoption, it is to show that if we be God’s children it is not through nature but through his pure grace…For we have no such status by birth or inheritance, neither does it come of flesh and blood.” The assurance this affords the believer is that it is by the grace of God in Jesus Christ that they are adopted into the family of God and thus “they whom he calls to salvation ought not to seek the cause of it anywhere else than in this gratuitous adoption.” Calvin continues speaking of the assurance that election and adoption affords the believer:

Whosoever then believes is thereby assured that God has worked in him, and faith, as it were, the duplicate copy that God gives us of the original of our adoption…It follows then that if we have faith, we are also adopted. For why does God gives us faith? Even because he elected us before the creation of the world. This therefore is an infallible order, that insofar as the faithful receive God’s grace and embrace his mercy, holding Jesus Christ as their Head, to obtain salvation in this way, they know assuredly that God has adopted them.

Far from declaring God’s election to be cold, calculating and deterministic, Calvin ties election and adoption closely together showing the comfort and warmth that can be derived from doing so. Election becomes the ground of adoption, and thus offers assurance to the child of God that he really is one of God’s children. The root of adoption is not found in the believer, but in God the Father, through Jesus Christ.

 

 

What Does the Law Teach?

The Law was committed to writing, in order that it might teach more fully and perfectly that knowledge, both of God and of ourselves, which the law of nature teaches meagrely and obscurely. Proof of this, from an enumeration of the principal parts of the Moral Law; and also from the dictate of natural law, written on the hearts of all, and, in a manner, effaced by sin.

Taken from Calvin’s Institutes 2.8.1,

“I believe it will not be out of place here to introduce the Ten Commandments of the Law, and give a brief exposition of them. In this way it will be made more clear, that the worship which God originally prescribed is still in force (a point to which I have already adverted); and then a second point will be confirmed—viz. that the Jews not only learned from the law wherein true piety consisted, but from feeling their inability to observe it were overawed by the fear of judgments and so drawn, even against their will, towards the Mediator.

In giving a summary of what constitutes the true knowledge of God,192 we showed that we cannot form any just conception of the character of God, without feeling overawed by his majesty, and bound to do him service. In regard to the knowledge of ourselves, we showed that it principally consists in renouncing all idea of our own strength, and divesting ourselves of all confidence in our own righteousness, while, on the other hand, under a full consciousness of our wants, we learn true humility and self-abasement. Both of these the Lord accomplishes by his Law, first, when, in assertion of the right which he has to our obedience, he calls us to reverence his majesty, and prescribes the conduct by which this reverence is manifested; and, secondly, when, by promulgating the rule of his justice (a rule, to the rectitude of which our nature, from being depraved and perverted, is continually opposed, and to the perfection of which our ability, from its infirmity and nervelessness for good, is far from being able to attain), he charges us both with impotence and unrighteousness.

Moreover, the very things contained in the two tables are, in a manner, dictated to us by that internal law, which, as has been already said, is in a manner written and stamped on every heart. For conscience, instead of allowing us to stifle our perceptions, and sleep on without interruption, acts as an inward witness and monitor, reminds us of what we owe to God, points out the distinction between good and evil, and thereby convicts us of departure from duty. But man, being immured in the darkness of error, is scarcely able, by means of that natural law, to form any tolerable idea of the worship which is acceptable to God.

At all events, he is very far from forming any correct knowledge of it. In addition to this, he is so swollen with arrogance and ambition, and so blinded with self-love, that he is unable to survey, and, as it were, descend into himself, that he may so learn to humble and abase himself, and confess his misery. Therefore, as a necessary remedy, both for our dullness and our contumacy, the Lord has given us his written Law, which, by its sure attestations, removes the obscurity of the law of nature, and also, by shaking off our lethargy, makes a more lively and permanent impression on our minds.”

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