by John H. Kromminga
As anyone who reads his writings must come to recognize, there is a strong devotional strain in John Calvin. This devotional spirit stands out clearly in his many Sermons, a number of which are represented in these selections. Here Calvin is seen as the true pastor, bringing the full message of the Word of God with a genuine concern for the needs of his hearers. The spirit of devotion is strongly present also in his Commentaries, especially in the practical applications of the truths he expounds. Somewhat more surprising, however, are the brilliant flashes of devotional insight which are present in Calvin's major doctrinal work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Christian doctrine was not for him a mere intellectual exercise, but a pathway to the presence of God. And devotion is also clearly present in the tender concern, the Scriptural consolation, and the brotherly reproof which abound in Calvin's extensive Correspondence.
Among students of John Calvin It is common knowledge that the Reformer has been a badly misunderstood man. The perverted conception of his character, which is of long standing and continues to the present day, pictures him as a cold, impractical, one-track theologian.
That this popular picture is untrue is evidenced by the selections contained in this volume. It is a manly Christianity which is reflected in these writings. The practical application of Christian truth is never far from Calvin's mind. The Reformer exhibits everywhere a deep consciousness of the sovereignty of God. He engages in searching examinations of human frailties, speaking plainly and without compromise about the depravity of man. But throughout he manifests also a sturdy confidence in the grace of God which overcomes human sin.
It is hoped that through these selections the reader will gain a new appreciation of a truly great man. The selections will also carry the one who uses them into living contact with the faith of the Christian Church throughout the ages. But it is especially desired and expected that the use of this book will bring the reader into the presence of the living God. This is most in keeping with the purpose of the man whose motto included this truly devotional element: "My heart I offer to Thee, O Lord."
The selections from the Commentaries are taken from the edition prepared for the Calvin Translation Society. Readings from Calvin's Correspondence are taken from the four-volume English translation prepared by Jules Bonnet. The selections from the Institutes are from the translation by John Allen. Excerpts from Sermons on Isaiah are from the version of T. H. L. Parker, and are used by permission of James Clarke & Co. of London. Selections from Sermons on Job have been adapted from an old English version translated from the French by Arthur Golding and published in London in 1584, and the sermon excerpts on I and II Timothy are from a similar volume printed in 1579.
John H. Kromminga