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The Wednesday Word: The Gospel and Faith Part 6

Many times, in the Old Testament, the question is asked of God “Who is like unto Thee”. For example,

“Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

Likewise, “Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto Thee!” (Psalms 71:19).

Furthermore, “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardons iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retains not his anger forever, because He delights in mercy (Micah 7:18).

Who indeed is like Jesus?

Is Buddha like Him? No!

Or Mohammed? No!

Or any of the host of religious leaders from the past? No!

When do we ever read of Buddha, Mohammed or Confucius or any of them cleansing their people from their sins?

Never!

Who is like unto Thee?

Not only did Christ cleanse His people’s sin, but forty days after the crucifixion, He ascended into heaven, where He was welcomed with all honour and exaltation. But here’s the thing … when He was welcomed and honoured, His blood bought people were exalted and seated along with Him (Ephesians 2:5-6).

That’s what the Word teaches, and we, believers, take it by faith! Neither Buddha nor Mohammed nor any of the famous religious leaders did this for their people! So, the follower of Christ can now say, “As certainly as God came to this earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, just so certainly have I gone to heaven in Him.”

Let me challenge you … begin to make this your confession! Tell yourself this truth of being in Christ. Let it fasten itself to your heart.

‘Brother Miles, are you suggesting that we think this truth?’ Yes indeed, think it! But don’t stop there. Don’t merely think it, say it … confess it and declare it. We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10).

The gospel is not, as some would have us believe, about all the good things that He is going to do at some stage in the future, nor is it all about the good things God is doing now in our lives, but rather, the gospel proclaims Christ, His doing, dying and rising again. It is objective not subjective. In the gospel, we focus on Christ and the wonderful things He accomplished in the past in history.

As a result of the gospel, we see we have been forgiven, justified, adopted, reconciled, redeemed and restored to glory and honour in the Person of Jesus Christ.

What wonderful news!

Listen to this, as a result of the gospel we can say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3). Also, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:4-6).

To summarise, faith sees and embraces that we are in Christ and that we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10).

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Wednesday Word: The Gospel and Faith: Part 5

As the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit will generate faith (Romans 10:17) … and faith will cause the believer to see that God became a man. Not only did He become man, but faith also sees that He became our man. Faith receives that this God-Man, Christ Jesus, became our representative. Now, just to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance the first representative man was Adam. His fall was our fall. He represented us. But God in His grace and mercy gave us a Second Man, the Last Adam, who would regain all that was lost in the first (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-47).

Because the Second Man represented us, we can say, “When He lived, I lived, when He died I died and when He rose again I rose again.”

When the gospel is proclaimed and applied, faith sees many things. Among them it grasps that we were in Christ when redemption was accomplished.

By faith, the believer can now say I have lived a perfect life because I lived it in the person of my representative, Jesus the Christ, 2,000 years ago (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 3:3-4).

Faith also causes the believer to say, ‘I was punished, executed and buried 2000 years ago in Christ Jesus.’ In addition, believers can now say, “In Christ I rose again out of that grave, I ascended into glory and, in Christ, I sat down on the right hand of God’s favour” (see Ephesians 2:5:6).

By faith we can say, “In Christ, God also perfected me.” By faith we can likewise say, ‘In Christ, we have been taken, not to the woodshed but to the throne of grace. ‘

By faith we see we are risen with Christ and now by faith we may seek the things which are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We now are free to set our affection on things above not on things on the earth. For by faith, we see we are dead, and our life is hidden with Christ in God (see Colossians 2: 10;12-13, 3:1-3).

Gospel mercies declare that we have been washed clean in Jesus Christ and by grace have been taken into perfect fellowship with God. The good news is not “here are five steps to maturity” and “here are seven steps for growth.” The good news is that God came to rescue us. His work is finished and as a result ‘in Christ’ we are already complete (Colossians 2:10).

The gospel declares that God Himself broke into human history in the Person of Jesus Christ and became our representative man. What a demonstration of amazing love. That the Almighty would become one of us is almost too hard to fathom.

This event must shout volumes even to the deafest among us, for it declares that God is not against us … for how can He be, seeing He has become one of us? He became so identified with His people that everything He did was not only for us, but as us. His work was credited to us and reckoned as if we had done it.

For acceptance in heaven, we needed to fight sin and win but we failed; so, Jesus did it in our place. As sinners, we should be punished but Jesus took our place!

We had a great enemy, Satan, who wished to kill us and could have, but Jesus, on our behalf, destroyed his power. Faith can now boldly confess, “I have won this fight because I have already won it in Christ.”

The final enemy we will face is death, but Jesus went into its very jaws and defeated it. Faith makes us confess that, in Christ, we have already conquered death, and the reality of this confession will be finally seen at the day of resurrection.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com  

The Wednesday Word: The Gospel Truth about Faith (Part 3)

Popular as they are in some quarters, the believer has no need to be taught techniques of self-surrender and self-crucifixion. Self-crucifixion is both spiritually and physically impossible! Try physical crucifixion and see for yourself. You can hammer the nails into your feet and then maybe, just maybe, into one of your hands, but you can’t hammer the last nail into the remaining hand. This is also true of self-imposed spiritual crucifixion … it is a myth!

With gospel faith, such techniques are done away with because, as a result of the gospel, we are reduced to our proper place of brokenness and dependency.

Jesus taught that true discipleship was to deny self, take up our cross and follow Him. This is exactly what happens when we receive salvation by faith alone. Faith fully agrees with God’s verdict that we, in ourselves, are nothing and that we stand in total need of the Saviour. In that way, we are broken; self is denied; the cross is taken up and we follow Christ. Faith sees that the true believer is already crucified with Christ and that He, Jesus Christ alone, is his life. Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11).

Gospel Faith will cause us to give up our exhausting and useless efforts to do or feel something good in order to coax God to love us. Have you ever felt that, at times, you need to make that extra special effort at godliness to squeeze acceptance from the Heavenly Father? I’ve been there, done that and have many tee-shirts to prove it! However, to think like that is to walk in unbelief. The opposite of unbelief is faith and faith rests upon Christ alone to gain us approval and acceptance before the Father!

By faith, the scripture, “Having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10) becomes a reality. The unsaved person, seeing the apparent contradiction, may ask how we Christians have nothing, yet have all things. Perhaps a statement addressing this apparent contradiction, made more than one hundred years ago by the English preacher J.C. Philpot, can help us to understand this. He said,

“It means, having nothing in self, possessing all things in Christ. My own beggary leads me out of self into His riches. My own unrighteousness leads me out of self into Christ’s righteousness. My own defilement leads me out of self into Christ’s sanctification. My own weakness leads me out of self into Christ’s strength. My own misery leads me out of self into Christ’s mercy.

“Having nothing-and yet possessing all things” 2 Corinthians 6:10. These two branches of divine truth, so far from clashing with each other-sweetly, gloriously, and blessedly harmonize.”

J. C. Philpot: “Spiritual Poverty and Heavenly Riches.”

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com  

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

December 2, 2020 1 comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

11e. CONCLUSION

This tree,” to adopt the eloquent paragraph of another, “may have, to prejudiced eyes, a rough bark, a gnarled stem, and boughs twisted often into knotted shapes of ungraceful strength. But, remember, it is not a willow-wand of yesterday. These boughs have wrestled with the storms of a thousand years; this stem has been wreathed with the red lightning and scarred by the thunderbolt; and all over its rough rind are the marks of the battle-axe and the bullet. This old oak has not the pliant grace and silky softness of a greenhouse plant, but it has a majesty above grace, and a grandeur beyond beauty. Its roots may be strangely contorted, but some of them are rich with the blood of glorious battlefields, some of them are clasped around the stakes of martyrs; some of them hidden in solitary cells and lonely libraries, where deep thinkers have mused and prayed, as in some apocalyptic Patmos; and its great tap-root runs back, until it twines in living and loving embrace around the cross of Calvary. Its boughs may be gnarled, but they hang clad with all that is richest and strongest in the civilization and Christianity of human history.”[76]

As we survey this system we feel as one sitting at the manual of a great organ. Our fingers touch the keys, as stop after stop opens of the swell, until the full chorus responds, a grand harmony. Calvinism touches all the music of life because it seeks the Creator first and above all and finds Him everywhere. Or again, we have been out upon the deep, the great celestial dome overhead, the wide expanse of eternity all around our souls and in and above all, there is GOD. Or again, we stand, as it were, at the rifting of the rocks, with the landscape behind, the gorge before us, the mighty river of time flowing forth out of and into eternity, the sun in its zenith overhead, all ablaze with light and warmth, and in a whisper first, our souls have echoed back the words, “O the depth of the riches!” For Calvinism shows us God and traces His footsteps, — God, in all His greatness, majesty, wisdom, holiness, justice, love. Calvinism shows us God high and lifted up; and our souls cry out again, “What is man that THOU . . . art mindful of him?”

This is no vain and empty eulogy of Calvinism. With the above facts and observations every enlightened and impartial reader of history will agree. Furthermore, the author would say of this book what Dr. E. W. Smith in his book, “The Creed of Presbyterians,” said at the close of the chapter on, “The Creed Tested By Its Fruits,” — namely that these facts and observations are “set forth, not to stimulate denominational vanity, but to fill us with gratitude to God for that past history and that present eminence which should be to every one of us

A vantage-ground for nobleness‘;

and above all to kindle in our hearts a holy enthusiasm for that Divine system of truth, which, under God, has been the foremost factor in the making of America and the modern world.”

In conclusion we would say that in this book the reader has found some very old fashioned divinity — divinity as old as the Bible, as old and older than the world itself, since this plan of redemption was hidden in the eternal counsels of God. No attempt has been made to cloak the fact that the doctrines advocated and defended in these pages are really wonderful and startling. They are enough to electrify the sleepy sinner who has taken it for granted all his life long that he can square matters with God any time he pleases, and they are sufficient to horrify the sleepy “saint” who has been deluding himself in the deadening repose of a carnal religion. But why should they not cause astonishment? Does not nature teem with wonders? Why should not revelation? One needs to read but little to become aware that Science brings to light many astonishing truths which an uneducated man finds it hard, if not impossible, to believe; and why should it not be so with the truths of Revelation and the spiritually uneducated ? If the Gospel does not startle and terrify and amaze a man when presented to him, it is not the true Gospel. But who was ever amazed at Arminianism with its doctrine that every man carves out his own destiny? It will not suffice merely to ignore or ridicule these doctrines as many are inclined to do. The question is, Are these doctrines true? If they are true, why ridicule them? If they are not true, disprove them. We close with the statement that this great system of religious thought which bears Calvin’s name is nothing more or less than the hope of the world.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

November 25, 2020 Leave a comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

11d. CONCLUSION

The famous English Baptist Charles Hadden Spurgeon (1834-1892), one of the world’s greatest preachers, spoke as follows:

I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”

And again, “Many of our Calvinistic preachers do not feed God’s people. They believe election, but they do not preach it. They think particular redemption true, but they lock it in the chest of their creed, and never bring it out in their ministry. They hold final perseverance, but they persevere in keeping quiet about it. They think there is such a thing as effectual calling, but they do not think they are called frequently to preach it. The great fault we find with them is, that they do not speak right out what they believe. You could not know if you heard them fifty times what were the doctrines of the Gospel, or what was their system of salvation. And hence God’s people get starved.”

When we come to a study of foreign missions we find that this system of belief has been the most important agency in carrying the Gospel to the heathen nations. St. Paul, whom the more liberal opponents of Calvinism admit to have been responsible for the Calvinistic cast of the theological thought of the Church, was the greatest and most influential of missionaries. If we call the roll of the heroes of Protestant Missions we find that almost without exception they have been disciples of Calvin. We find Carey and Martyn in India, Linvingstone and Moffat in Africa, Morrison in China, Paton in the South Seas, and a great host of others. These men professed and possessed a Calvinism which was not static but dynamic; it was not their creed only, but their conduct.

And in regard to foreign missions, Dr. F. W. Loetscher has said: “Though like all our sister Churches we have reason, in view of our unprecedented resources and the appalling needs of heathen lands, to lament that we have not accomplished more, we may at least thank God that our venerated fathers made so good a beginning in establishing missions all over the world; that the Calvinistic Churches today surpass all others in their gifts to this cause; and in particular that our own denomination has the unique honor and privilege of discharging her farreaching responsibities by actually confronting every one of the great non- Christian religions, and preaching the gospel on more continents, and among more nations, peoples, and tongues, than any other evangelical Church in the world.” [74]

Although to some it may sound like an unwarranted exaggeration, we have no hesitation in saying that through the centuries Calvinism, fearlessly and ringingly polemic in its insistence upon, and defense of, sound doctrine, has been the real strength of the Christian Church. The traditionally high standards of the Calvinistic Churches in regard to ministerial training and culture have borne a great harvest in bringing multitudes to the feet of Jesus, not in temporary excitement, but in perpetual covenant. Judged by its fruits Calvinism has proven itself incomparably the greatest evangelizing force in the world.

The enemies of Calvinism are not able honestly to confront the testimony of history. Certainly a glorious record belongs to this system in the history of modern civilization. None more noble can be found anywhere. “It has ever been a mystery to the so-called liberals,” says Henry Ward Beecher, “that the Calvinists, with what they have considered their harshly despotic and rigid views and doctrines, should always have been the staunchest and bravest defenders of freedom. The working for liberty of these severe principles in the minds of those that adopted them has been a puzzle. But the truth lies here: Calvinism has done what no other religion has ever been able to do. It presents the highest human ideal to the world, and sweeps the whole road to destruction with the most appalling battery that can be imagined.

It intensifies, beyond all example, the individuality of man, and shows in a clear and overpowering light his responsibility to God and his relations to eternity. It points out man as entering life under the weight of a tremendous responsibility, having on his march toward the grave, this one sole solace — of securing heaven and of escaping hell.

Thus the Calvinist sees man pressed, burdened, urged on, by the most mighty influencing forces. He is on the march for eternity, and is soon to stand crowned in heaven or to lie sweltering in hell, thus to continue for ever and ever. Who shall dare to fetter such a being? Get out of his way ! Hinder him not, or do it at the peril of your own soul. Leave him free to find his way to God. Meddle not with him or with his rights. Let him work out his own salvation as he can. No hand must be laid crushingly upon a creature who is on such a race as this — a race whose end is to be eternal glory or unutterable woe for ever and ever.”[75]

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

November 18, 2020 Leave a comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

11c. CONCLUSION

We shall now turn our attention to Calvinism as an evangelizing force. A very practical test for any system of religious doctrine is, “Has it, in comparison with other systems, proved itself a success in the evangelization of the world ?” To save sinners and convert them to practical godliness is the chief purpose of the Church in this world; and the system which will not measure up to this test must be set aside, no matter how popular it may be in other respects.

The first great Christian revival, in which three thousand people were converted, occurred under the preaching of Peter in Jerusalem, who employed such language as this: “Him being delivered up by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hands of lawless men did crucify and slay,” Act 2:23. And the company of disciples, when in earnest prayer shortly afterward, spoke in these words: “For of a truth in this city against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass,” Act 4:27, Act 4:28. That is Calvinism rigid enough.

The next great revival in the Church, which occurred in the fourth century through the influence of Augustine, was based on these doctrines, as is readily seen by anyone who reads the literature on that period. The Reformation, which is admitted by all to have been incomparably the greatest revival of true religion since New Testament times, occurred under the soundly predestinarian preaching of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. To Calvin and Admiral Coligny belongs the credit of having inspired the first Protestant foreign missionary enterprise, the expedition to Brazil in 1555. True, the venture proved unsuccessful, and the religious wars in Europe prevented the renewal of the enterprise for a considerable period.

McFetridge has given us some interesting and comparatively unknown facts about the rise of the Methodist Church. Says he: “We speak of the Methodist Church beginning in a revival. And so it did. But the first and chief actor in that revival was not Wesley, but Whitefield (an uncompromising Calvinist). Though a younger man than Wesley, it was he who first went forth preaching in the fields and gathering multitudes of followers, and raising money and building chapels. It was Whitefield who invoked the two Wesleys to his aid. And he had to employ much argument and persuasion to overcome their prejudices against the movement. Whitefield began the great work at Bristol and Kingswood, and had found thousands flocking to his side, ready to be organized into churches, when he appealed to Wesley for assistance. Wesley, with all his zeal, had been quite a High- Churchman in many of his views. He believed in immersing even the infants, and demanded that dissenters should be rebaptized before being taken into the Church. He could not think of preaching in any place but in a church. ‘He should have thought,’ as he said, ‘the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.’ Hence when Whitefield called on John Wesley to engage with him in the popular movement, he shrank back. Finally, he yielded to Whitefield’s persuasions, but, he allowed himself to be governed in the decision by what many would rate as a superstition. He and Charles first opened their Bibles at random to see if their eyes should fall on a text which might decide them. But the texts were all foreign to the subject. Then he had recourse to sortilege, and cast lots to decide the matter. The lot drawn was the one marked for him to consent, and so he consented. Thus he was led to undertake the work with which his name has been so intimately and honorably associated ever since.

So largely was the Methodist movement owing to Whitefield that he was called ‘the Calvinistic establisher of Methodism,’ and to the end of his life he remained the representative of it in the eyes of the learned world. Walpole, in his Letters, speaks only once of Wesley in connection with the rise of Methodism, while he frequently speaks of Whitefield in connection with it. Mant, in his course of lectures against Methodism, speaks of it as an entirely Calvinistic affair. Neither the mechanism nor the force which gave rise to it originated with Wesley. Fieldpreaching, which gave the whole movement its aggressive character, and fitted and enabled it to cope with the powerful agencies which were armed against it, was begun by Whitefield, whilst ‘Wesley was dragged into it reluctantly.’ In the polite language of the day ‘Calvinism’ and ‘Methodism’ were synonymous terms, and the Methodists were called ‘another sect of Presbyterians.’ ….

It was Calvinism, and not Arminianism, which originated (so far as any system of doctrine originated) the great religious movement in which the Methodist Church was born.

While, therefore, Wesley is to be honored for his work in behalf of that Church, we should not fail to remember the great Calvinist, George Whitefield, who gave that Church her first beginnings and her most distinctive character. Had he lived longer, and not shrunk from the thought of being the founder of a Church, far different would have been the results of his labors. As it was, he gathered congregations for others to form into Churches, and built chapels for others to preach in.”[73]

It should also be said at this point that Wesley was a believer in witchcraft. Failure to believe in witches was looked upon by him as a concession to infidels and rationalists. Many of his biographers have passed over this subject in silence, although some of those most friendly to his cause have admitted that he stated his beliefs in words which cannot be misunderstood. In his Journal we read this report of a girl who was subject to fits: “When old Doctor Alexander was asked what her disorder was, he answered, ‘It is what formerly they would have called being bewitched.’ And why should they not call it so now? Because the infidels have hooted witchcraft out of the world; and the complaisant Christians, in large numbers, have joined them in the cry.” Although Calvin lived two and a quarter centuries before Wesley and had not the advantages of the scientific and intellectual progress that had been made during that time, we find no such strange credulity in him. His writings are not only free from witchcraft but contain numerous warnings against such belief.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

November 11, 2020 Leave a comment

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

11b. CONCLUSION

We have said that Calvinistic theology develops a liberty loving people. Where it flourishes despotism cannot abide. As might have been expected, it early gave rise to a revolutionary form of Church government, in which the people of the Church were to be governed and ministered to, not by the appointees of any one man or set of men placed over them, but by pastors and officers elected by themselves. Religion was then with the people, not over them. Testimony from a remarkable source as to the efficiency of this government is that of the distinguished Roman Catholic, Archbishop Hughes of New York: “Though it is my privilege to regard the authority exercised by the General Assembly as usurpation, still I must say, with every man acquainted with the mode in which it is organized, that for the purpose of popular and political government its structure is little inferior to that of Congress itself. It acts on the principle of a radiating center, and is without an equal or a rival among the other denominations of the country.”[70]

From freedom and responsibility in the Church it was only a step to freedom and responsibility in the State; and historically the cause of freedom has found no braver nor more resolute champions than the followers of Calvin.

Calvinism,” says Warburton, “is no dreamy, theoretical creed. It does not, — despite all the assertions of its adversaries, — encourage a man to fold his arms in a spirit of fatalistic indifference, and ignore the needs of those around him, together with the crying evils which lie, like putrifying sores, upon the open face of society.”[71] Wherever it has gone marvelous moral transformations have followed in its wake. For purity of life, for temperance, industry, and charity, the Calvinists have stood without superiors.

James Anthony Froude has been recognized as one of England’s most able historians and men of letters. For a number of years he was professor of History at Oxford, England’s greatest university. While he accepted another system for himself, and while his writings are such that he is often spoken of as an opponent of Calvinism, he was free from prejudice, and the ignorant attacks upon Calvinism which have been so common in recent years aroused in him the learned scholar’s just impatience.

I am going to ask you,” says Froude, “to consider how it came to pass that if Calvinism is indeed the hard and unreasonable creed which modern enlightenment declares it to be, it has possessed such singular attractions in past times for some of the greatest men that ever lived; and how — being as we are told, fatal to morality, because it denies free will — the first symptom of its operation, wherever it established itself, was to obliterate the distinction between sins and crimes, and to make the moral law the rule of life for States as well as persons. I shall ask you, again, why, if it be a creed of intellectual servitude, it was able to inspire and sustain the bravest efforts ever made by man to break the yoke of unjust authority. When all else has failed, — when patriotism has covered its face and human courage has broken down, — when intellect has yielded, as Gibbon says, ‘with a smile or a sigh,’ content to philosophize in the closet, and abroad worship with the vulgar, — when emotion, and sentiment, and tender imaginative piety have become the handmaids of superstition, and have dreamt themselves into forgetfulness that there is any difference between lies and truth, — the slavish form of belief called Calvinism, in one or other of its many forms, has borne ever an inflexible front to illusion and mendacity, and has preferred rather to be ground to powder like flint than to bend before violence or melt under enervating temptation.”

To illustrate this Froude mentions William the Silent, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Coligny, Cromwell, Milton, and Bunyan, and says of them: “These men are possessed of all the qualities which give nobility and grandeur to human nature, — men whose life was as upright as their intellect was commanding and their public aims untainted with selfishness; unalterably just where duty required them to be stern, but with the tenderness of a woman in their hearts; frank, true, cheerful, humorous, as unlike sour fanatics as it is possible to imagine anyone, and able in some way to sound the key-note to which every brave and faithful heart in Europe instinctively vibrated.”[72]

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

11a. CONCLUSION

We have now examined the Calvinistic system in considerable detail, and have seen its influence in the Church, in the State, in society, and in education. We have also considered the objections which are commonly brought against it, and have considered the practical importance of the system. It now remains for us to make a few general observations in regard to the system as a whole.

A sure test of the character of individuals or of systems is found in Christ’s own words: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” By that test Calvinists and Calvinism will gladly be judged. The lives and the influences of those who have held the Reformed Faith is one of the best and most conclusive arguments in its favor. Smith refers to “that divinely vital and exuberant Calvinism, !he creator of the modern world, the mother of heroes, saints and martyrs in number without number, which history, judging the tree by its fruits, crowns as the greatest creed of Christendom.”[67] The impartial verdict of history is that as a character builder and as a proclaimer of liberty to men and nations Calvinism stands supreme among all the religious systems of the world. In calling the roll of the great men of our own country the number of Presbyterian presidents, legislators, jurists, authors, editors, teachers and business men is vastly disproportionate to the membership of the Church. Every impartial historian will admit that it was the Protestant revolt against Rome which gave the modern world its first taste of genuine religious and civil liberty, and that the nations which have achieved and enjoyed the greatest freedom have been those which were most fully brought under the influence of Calvinism. Furthermore that great life-giving stream of religious and civil liberty has been made by Calvinism to flow over all the broad plains of modern history. When we compare countries such as England, Scotland and America, with countries such as France, Spain and Italy, which never came under the influences of Calvinism, we readily see what the practical results are. The economic and moral depression in Roman Catholic countries has brought about such a decrease even in the birth rate that the population in those countries hah become almost stationary, while the population in these other countries has steadily increased.

A brief examination of Church history, or of the historic creeds of Protestantism, readily shows that the doctrines which today are known as Calvinism were the ones which brought about the Reformation and preserved its benefits. He who is most familiar with the history of Europe and America will readily agree with the startling statement of Dr. Cunningham that, “next to Paul, John Calvin has done most for the world.” And Dr. Smith has well said: “Surely it should stop the mouths of the detractors of Calvinism to remember that from men of that creed we inherit, as the fruits of their blood and toil, their prayers and teachings, our civil liberty, our Protestant faith, our Christian homes. The thoughtful reader, noting that these three blessings lie at the root of all that is best and greatest in the modern world, may be startled at the implied claim that our present Christian civilization is but the fruitage of Calvinism.”[68]

We do but repeat the very clear testimony of history when we say that Calvinism has been the creed of saints and heroes. “Whatever the cause,” says Froude, “the Calvinists were the only fighting Protestants. It was they whose faith gave them courage to stand up for the Reformation, and but for them the Reformation would have been lost.” During those centuries in which spiritual tyranny was numbering its victims by the thousands; when in England, Scotland, Holland and Switzerland, Protestantism had to maintain itself with the sword, Calvinism proved itself the only system able to cope with and destroy the great powers of the Romish Church. Its unequalled array of martyrs is one of its crowns of glory. In the address of the Methodist Conference to the Presbyterian Alliance of 1896 it was graciously said: “Your Church has furnished the memorable and inspiring spectacle, not simply of a solitary heroic soul here and there, but of generations of faithful souls ready for the sake of Christ and His truth to go cheerfully to prison and to death. This rare honor you rightly esteem as the most precious part of your priceless heritage.” “There is no other system of religion in the world,” says McFetridge, which has such a glorious array of martyrs to the faith. “Almost every man and woman who walked to the flames rather than deny the faith or leave a stain on conscience was the devout follower, not only, and first of all, of the Son of God, but also of that minister of God who made Geneva the light of Europe, John Calvin.”[69] To the Divine vitality and fruitfulness of this system the modern world owes a debt of gratitude which in recent years it is slowly beginning to recognize but can never repay.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

10. John Calvin

John Calvin was born July 10, 1509, at Noyon, France, an ancient cathedral city about seventy miles northeast of Paris. His father, a man of rather hard and severe character, held the position as apostolic secretary to the bishop of Noyon, and was intimate with the best families of the neighborhood. His mother was noted for her beauty and piety, but died in his early youth.

He received the best education which France at that time could give, studying successively at the three leading universities of Orleans, Bourges, and Paris, from 1528 to 1533. His father intended to prepare him for the legal profession since that commonly raised those who followed it to positions of wealth and influence. But not feeling any particular calling to that field, young Calvin turned to the study of Theology and there found the sphere of labor for which he was particularly fitted by natural endowment and personal choice. He is described as having been of a shy and retiring nature, very studious and punctual in his work, animated by a strict sense of duty, and exceedingly religious. He early showed himself possessed of an intellect capable of clear, convincing argument and logical analysis. Through excessive industry he stored his mind with valuable information, but undermined his health. He advanced so rapidly that he was occasionally asked to take the place of the professors, and was considered by the other students as a doctor rather than an auditor. He was, at this time, a devout Cathode of unblemished character. A brilliant career as a humanist, or lawyer, or churchman, was opening before him when he was suddenly converted to Protestantism, and cast in his lot with the poor persecuted sect.

Without any intention on his part, and even against his own desire, Calvin became the head of the evangelical party in Paris in less than a year after his conversion. His depth of knowledge and earnestness of speech were such that no one could hear him without being forcibly impressed. For the present he remained in the Catholic Church, hoping to reform it from within rather than from without. Schaff reminds us that “all the Reformers were born, baptized, confirmed, and educated in the historic Catholic Church, which cast them out; as the Apostles were circumcised and trained in the Synagogue, which cast them out.”44

The zeal and earnestness of the new Reformer did not long go unchallenged and it soon became necessary for Calvin to escape for his life. The following account of his flight from Pads is given by the Church historian, Philip Schaff: “Nicholas Cop, the son of a distinguished royal physician (William Cop of Basel), and a friend of Calvin was elected Rector of the University, Oct. 10, 1533, and delivered the usual inaugural oration on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, before a large assembly in the Church of the Mathurins. This oration, at the request of the new Rector, had been prepared by Calvin. It was a plea for a reformation on the basis of the New Testament, and a bold attack on the scholastic theologians of the day, who were represented as a set of sophists, ignorant of the Gospel …. The Sorbonne and the Parliament regarded this academic oration as a manifesto of war upon the Catholic Church, and condemned it to the flames. Cop was warned and fled to his relatives in Basel. (Three hundred crowns were offered for his capture, dead or alive.) Calvin, the real author of the mischief, is said to have descended from a window by means of sheets, and escaped from Paris in the garb of a vine-dresser with a hoe upon his shoulder. His rooms were searched and his books and papers were seized by the police …. Twenty-four innocent Protestants were burned alive in public places of the city from Nov. 10, 1534, till May 5, 1535….Many more were fined, imprisoned, and tortured, and a considerable number, among them Calvin and Du Tillet, fled to Strassburg . . . For nearly three years Calvin wandered as a fugitive evangelist under assumed names from place to place in southern France, Switzerland, and Italy, till he reached Geneva as his final destination.”45

Shortly after, if not before, the first edition of his Institutes appeared, in March, 1536, Calvin and Louis Du Tillet crossed the Alps into Italy where the literary and artistic Renaissance had its origin. There he labored as an evangelist until the Inquisition began its work of crushing out both the Renaissance and the Reformation as two kindred serpents. He then bent his way, probably through Asota and over the Great St. Bernard, to Switzerland. From Basel he made a last visit to his native town of Noyon in order to make a final settlement of certain family affairs. Then, with his younger brother Antoine and his sister Marie, he left France forever, hoping to settle in Basel or Strassburg and to lead there the quiet life of a scholar and author. Owing to the fact that a state of war existed between Charles V. and Francis I., the direct route through Lorraine was closed, so he made a circuitous journey through Geneva.

Calvin intended to stop only a night in Geneva, but Providence had decreed otherwise. His presence was made known to Farel, the Genevan reformer, who instinctively felt that Calvin was the man to complete and save the Reformation in Geneva. A fine description of this meeting of Calvin and Farel is given by Schaff. Says he: “Farel at once called on Calvin and held him fast, as by divine command. Calvin protested, pleading his youth, his inexperience, his need of further study, his natural timidity and bashfulness, which unfitted him for public action. But all in vain. Farel, ‘who burned of a marvelous zeal to advance the Gospel,’ threatened him with the curse of Almighty God if he preferred his studies to the work of the Lord, and his own interest to the cause of Christ. Calvin was terrified and shaken by these words of the fearless evangelist, and felt ‘as if God from on high had stretched out His hand.’ He submitted, and accepted the call to the ministry, as teacher and pastor of the evangelical Church of Geneva.”46

Calvin was twenty-five years younger than Luther and Zwingli, and had the great advantage of building on the foundation which they had laid. The first ten years of Calvin’s public career were contemporary with the last ten of Luther’s although the two never met personally. Calvin was intimate with Melanchthon, however, and kept up a correspondence with him until his death.

At the time Calvin came upon the scene it had not yet been determined whether Luther was to be the hero of a great success or the victim of a great failure. Luther had produced new ideas; Calvin’s work was to construct them into a system, to preserve and develop what had been so nobly begun. The Protestant movement lacked unity and was in danger of being sunk in the quicksand of doctrinal dispute, but was saved from that fate chiefly by the new :impulse which was given to it by the Reformer in Geneva. The Catholic Church worked as one mighty unit and was seeking to stamp out, by fair means or foul, the different Protestant groups which had arisen in the North. Zwingli had seen this danger and had tried to unite the Protestants against their common foe. At Marburg, after pleadings and with tears in his eyes, he extended to Luther the hand of fellowship regardless of their difference of opinion as to the mode of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper; but Luther refused it under the restraint of a narrow dogmatic conscience. Calvin also, working in Switzerland with abundant opportunity to realize the closeness of the Italian Church, saw the need for union and labored to keep Protestantism together. To Cranmer, in England, he wrote, “I long for one holy communion of the members of Christ. As for me, if I can be of service, I would gladly cross ten seas in order to bring about this unity.” His influence as exerted through his books, letters, and students, was powerfully felt throughout the various countries, and the statement that he saved the Protestant movement from destruction seems to be no exaggeration.

For thirty years Calvin’s one absorbing interest was the advancement of the Reformation. Reed says, “He toiled for it to the utmost limit of his strength, fought for it with a courage that never quailed, suffered for it with a fortitude that never wavered, and was ready at any moment to die for it. He literally poured every drop of his life into it, unhesitatingly, unsparingly. History will be searched in vain to find a man who gave himself to one definite purpose with more unalterable persistence, and with more lavish serf-abandon than Calvin gave himself to the Reformation of the 16th century.”47

Probably no servant of Christ since the days of the Apostles has been at the same time so much loved and hated, admired and abhorred, praised and blamed, blessed and cursed, as the faithful, fearless, and immortal Calvin. Living in a fiercely polemic age, and standing on the watchtower of the reform movement in Western Europe, he was the observed of all observers, and was exposed to attacks from every quarter. Religious and sectarian passions are the deepest and strongest, and in view of the good and the bad which is known to exist in human nature in this world we need not be surprised at the reception given Calvin’s teachings and writings.

When only twenty-six years of age Calvin published in Latin his “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” The first edition contained in brief outline all the essential elements of his system, and, considering the youthfulness of the author, was a marvel of intellectual precocity. It was later enlarged to five times the size of the original and published in French, but never did he make any radical departure from any of the doctrines set forth in the first edition. Almost immediately the Institutes took first place as the best exhibition and defense of the Protestant cause. Other writings bad dealt with certain phases of the movement but here was one that treated it as a unit. “The value of such a gift to the Reformation,” says Reed, “cannot easily be exaggerated. Protestants and Romanists bore equal testimony to its worth. The one hailed it as the greatest boon; the other execrated it with the bitterest curses. It was burnt by order of the Sorbonne at Paris and other places, and everywhere it called forth the fiercest assaults of tongue and pen. Florimond de Raemond, a Roman Catholic theologian, calls it ‘the Koran, the Talmud of heresy, the foremost cause of our downfall.’ Kampachulte, another Roman Catholic, testifies that ‘it was the common arsenal from which the opponents of the Old Church borrowed their keenest weapons,’ and that ‘no writing of the Reformation era was more feared by Roman Catholics, more zealously fought against, and more bitterly pursued than Calvin’s Institutes.’ Its popularity was evidenced by the fact that edition followed edition in quick succession; it was translated into most of the languages of western Europe; it became the common text-book in the schools of the Reformed Churches, and furnished the material out of which their creeds were made.”48

“Of all the services which Calvin rendered to humanity,” says Dr. Warfield, ” — and they were neither few nor small — the greatest was undoubtedly his gift to it afresh of this system of religious thought, quickened into new life by the forces of his genius.”49

The Institutes were at once greeted by the Protestants with enthusiastic praise as the clearest, strongest, most logical. and most convincing defense of Christian doctrines since the days of the Apostles. Schaff characterizes them well when he says that in them “Calvin gave a systematic exposition of the Christian religion in general, and a vindication of the evangelical faith in particular, with the apologetic and practical aim of defending the Protestant believers against calumny and persecution to which they were then exposed, especially in France.”50 The work is pervaded by an intense earnestness and by fearless and severe argumentation which properly subordinates reason and tradition to the supreme authority of the Scriptures. It is admittedly the greatest book of the century, and through it the Calvinistic principles were propagated on an immense scale. Albrecht Ritschl calls it “the masterpiece of Protestant theology.” Dr. Warfield tells us that “after three centuries and a half it retains its unquestioned preeminence as the greatest and most influential of all dogmatic treatises.” And again he says, “Even from the point of mere literature, it holds a position so supreme in its class that every one who would fain know the world’s best books, must make himself familiar with it. What Thucydides is among Greek, or Gibbon among eighteenth-century English historians, what Plato is among philosophers, or the Iliad among epics, or Shakespeare among dramatists, that Calvin’s ‘Institutes’ is among theological treatises.”51 It threw consternation into the Roman Church and was a powerful unifying force among Protestants. It showed Calvin to be the ablest controversialist in Protestantism and as the most formidable antagonist with which the Romanists had to contend. In England the Institutes enjoyed an almost unrivaled popularity, and was used as a text book in the universities. It was soon translated into nine different European languages; and it is simply due to a serious lack in the majority of historical accounts that its importance has not been appreciated in recent years.

A few weeks after the publication of the Institutes, Bucer, who ranks third among the Reformers in Germany, wrote to Calvin: “It is evident that the Lord had elected you as His organ for the bestowment of the richest fulness of blessing to His Church.” Luther wrote no systematic theology. Although his writings were voluminous, they were on scattered subjects and many of them deal with the practical problems of his day. It was thus left to Calvin to give a systematic exhibition of the evangelical faith.

Calvin was, first of all, a theologian. He and Augustine easily rank as the two outstanding systematic expounders of the Christian system since St. Paul. Melanchthon, who was himself the prince of Lutheran theologians, and who, after the death of Luther, was recognized as the “Preceptor of Germany,” called Calvin preeminently “the theologian.”

If the language of the Institutes seems harsh in places we should remember that this was the mark and weakness of theological controversy in that age. The times in which Calvin lived were polemic. The Protestants were engaged in a life and death struggle with Rome and the provocations to impatience were numerous and grievous. Calvin, however, was surpassed by Luther in the use of harsh language as will readily be seen by an examination of the latter’s work, The Bondage of the Will which was a polemic written against the free-will ideas of Erasmus. And furthermore, none of the Protestant writings of the period were so harsh and abusive as were the Roman Catholic decrees of excommunication, anathemas, etc., which were directed against the Protestants.

In addition to the Institutes, Calvin wrote commentaries on nearly all of the books of both the Old and New Testaments. These commentaries in the English translation comprise fifty-five large volumes, and, taken in connection with his other works, are nothing less than marvelous. The quality of these writings was such that they soon took first place among exegetical works on the Scriptures; and among all the older commentators no one is more frequently quoted by the best modern scholars than is Calvin. He was beyond all question the greatest exegete of the Reformation period. As Luther was the prince of translators, so Calvin was the prince of commentators. [ed- A new edition of Calvin’s Commentaries in English has recently been published (1948) by the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids.]

Furthermore, in order to estimate the true value of Calvin’s commentaries, it must be borne in mind that they were based on principles of exegesis which were rare in his day. “He led the way,” says R. C. Reed, “in discarding the custom of allegorizing the Scriptures, a custom which had come down from the earliest centuries of Christianity and which had been sanctioned by the greatest names of the Church, from Origen to Luther, a custom which converts the Bible into a nose of wax, and makes a lively fancy the prime qualification of an exegete.”52 Calvin adhered strictly to the spirit and letter of the author and assumed that the writer had one definite thought which was expressed in natural everyday language. He mercilessly exposed the corrupt doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. His writings inspired the friends of reform and furnished them with most of their deadly ammunition. We can hardly overestimate the influence of Calvin in furthering and safeguarding the Reformation.

Calvin was a master of patristic and scholastic learning. Having been educated in the leading universities of his time, he possessed a thorough knowledge of Latin and French, and a good knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. His principal commentaries appeared in both French and Latin versions and are works of great thoroughness. They are eminently fair and frank, and show the author to have been possessed of a singular balance and moderation in judgment. Calvin’s works had a further effect in giving form and permanence to the then unstablized French language in much the same way that Luther’s translation of the Bible moulded the German language.

One other testimony which we should not omit is that of Arminius, the originator of the rival system. Certainly here we have testimony from an unbiased source. “Next to the study of the Scriptures,” he says, “I exhort my pupils to pursue Calvin’s commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmick himself (Helmick was a Dutch theologian); for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, as rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent gift of prophecy.”53

The influence of Calvin was further spread through a voluminous correspondence which he carried on with church leaders, princes, and nobles throughout Protestant Christendom. More than 300 of these letters are still preserved today, and as a rule they are not brief friendship exchanges but lengthy and carefully prepared treatises setting forth in a masterly way his views of perplexing ecclesiastical and theological questions. In this manner also his influence in guiding the Reformation throughout Europe was profound.

Due to an attempt of Calvin and Farel to enforce a too severe system of discipline in Geneva, it became necessary for them to leave the city temporarily. This was two years after Calvin’s coming. Calvin went to Strassburg, in southwestern Germany, where he was warmly received by Bucer and the leading men of the German Reformation. There he spent the next three years in quiet and useful labors as professor, pastor, and author, and came into contact with Lutheranism at first hand. He had a great appreciation for the Luthern leaders and felt closely allied to the Lutheran Church, although he was unfavorably impressed with the lack of discipline and with the dependence of the clergy upon the secular rulers. He later followed the progress of the Reformation in Germany step by step with the warmest interest, as is shown in his correspondence and various writings. During his absence from Geneva affairs reached such a crisis that it seemed that the fruits of the Reformation would be lost and he was urgently requested to return. After repeated urgings from various sources he did so and took up the work where he had left off before.

The city of Geneva, located on the shores of a lake which bears the same name, was Calvin’s home. There, among the snow-capped Alps, he spent most of his adult life, and from there the Reformed Church has spread out through Europe and America. In the affairs of the Church, as well as in the affairs of the State, the little country of Switzerland has exerted an influence far out of proportion to its size.

Calvin’s influence in Geneva gives us a fair sample of the transforming power of his system. “The Genevese,” says the eminent church historian, Philip Schaff, “were a light-hearted, joyous people, fond of public amusements, dancing, singing, masquerades, and revelries. Recklessness, gambling, drunkenness, adultery, blasphemy, and all sorts of vice abounded. Prostitution was sanctioned by the authority of the State, and superintended by a woman called the Reine de bordel. The people were ignorant. The priest had taken no pains to instruct them, and had set them a bad example.” From a study of contemporary history we find that shortly before Calvin went to Geneva the monks and even the bishop were guilty of crimes which today are punishable with the death penalty. The result of Calvin’s work in Geneva was that the city became more famed for the quiet, orderly lives of its citizens than it had previously been for their wickedness. John Knox, like thousands of others who came to sit as admiring students at Calvin’s feet, found there what he termed “the most perfect school of Christ that ever was on the earth since the days of the Apostles.”

Through Calvin’s work Geneva became an asylum for the persecuted, and a training school for the Reformed Faith. Refugees from all the countries of Europe fled to this retreat, and from it they carried back with them the clearly taught principles of the Reformation. It thus acted as a center emanating spiritual power and educational forces which guided and moulded the Reformation in the surrounding countries. Says Bancroft, “More truly benevolent to the human race than Solon, more self-denying than Lycurgus, the genius of Calvin infused enduring elements into the institutions of Geneva and made it for the modern world the impregnable fortress of popular liberty, the fertile seed-plot of democracy.”54

Witness as to the effectiveness of the influences which emanated from Geneva is found in one of the letters of the Roman Catholic Francis de Sales to the duke of Savoy, urging the suppression of Geneva as the capital of what the Romish Church calls heresy. “All the heretics,” said he, “respect Geneva as the asylum of their religion…. There is not a city in Europe which offers more facilities for the encouragement of heresy, for it is the gate of France, of Italy, and of Germany, so that one finds there people of all nations — Italians, French, Germans, Poles, Spaniards, English, and of countries still more remote. Besides, every one knows the great number of ministers bred there. Last year it furnished twenty to France. Even England obtains ministers from Geneva. What shall I say of its magnificent printing establishments, by means of which the city floods the world with its wicked books, and even goes the length of distributing them at the public expense? ….All the enterprises undertaken against the Holy See and the Catholic princes have their beginnings at Geneva. No city in Europe receives more apostates of all grades, secular and regular. From thence I conclude that Geneva being destroyed would naturally lead to the dissipation of heresy.”55

Another testimony is that of one of the most bitter foes of Protestantism, Philip II of Spain. He wrote to the king of France: “This city is the source of all mischief for France, the most formidable enemy of Rome. At any time, I am ready to assist with all the power of my realm in its overthrow.” And when the Duke of Alva was expected to pass near Geneva with his army, Pope Pius V asked him to turn aside and “destroy that nest of devils and apostates.”

The famous academy of Geneva was opened in 1558. With Calvin there were associated ten able and experienced professors who gave instruction in grammar, logic, mathematics, physics, music, and the ancient languages. The school was remarkably successful. During the first year more than nine hundred students, mostly refugees from the various European countries, were enrolled, and almost as many more attended his theological lectures preparing themselves to be evangelists and teachers in their native countries and to establish churches after the model which they had seen in Geneva. For more than two hundred years it remained the principal school of Reformed Theology and literary culture.

Calvin was the first of the Reformers to demand complete separation between Church and State, and thus he advanced another principle which has been of inestimable value. The German Reformation was decided by the will of the princes; the Swiss Reformation, by the will of the people; although in each case there was a sympathy between the rulers and the majority of the population. The Swiss Reformers, however, living in the republic at Geneva, developed a free Church in a free State, while Luther and Melanchthon, with their native reverence for monarchial institutions and the German Empire, taught passive obedience in politics and brought the Church under bondage to the civil authority.

Calvin died in the year 1564, at the early age of fifty-five. Beza, his close friend and successor, describes his death as having come quietly as sleep, and then adds: “Thus withdrew into heaven, at the same time with the setting sun, that most brilliant luminary, which was the lamp of the Church. On the following night and day there was intense grief and lamentation in the whole city; for the Republic had lost its wisest citizen, the Church its faithful shepherd, and the Academy an incomparable teacher.”

In a comparatively recent book Professor Harkness has written: “Calvin lived, and died, a poor man. His house was scantily furnished, and he dressed plainly. He gave freely to those in need, but he spent little upon himself. The Council at one time gave him an overcoat as an expression of their esteem, and as a needed protection against the winter’s cold. This he accepted gratefully, but on other occasions he refused proffered financial assistance and declined to accept anything in addition to his modest salary. During his last illness the Council wished to pay for the medicines used but Calvin declined the gift, saying that he felt scruples about receiving even his ordinary salary when he could not serve. When he died, he left a spiritual inheritance of unestimated value and a material estate of from fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars.”56

Schaff describes Calvin as “one of those characters that command respect and admiration rather than affection, and forbid familiar approach, but gain upon closer acquaintance. The better he is known, the more he is admired and esteemed.” And concerning his death Schaff says: “Calvin had expressly forbidden all pomp at his funeral and the erection of any monument over his grave. He wished to be buried, like Moses, out of reach of idolatry. This was consistent, with his theology, which humbles man and exalts God.”57 Even the spot of his grave in the cemetery at Geneva is unknown. A plain stone, with the initials “J. C.,” is pointed out to strangers as marking his resting-place, but it is not known on what authority. He himself requested that no monument should mark his grave. His real monument, however, says S. L. Morris, is “every republican government on earth, the public school system of all nations, and ‘The Reformed Churches throughout the world holding the Presbyterian System.'”

And again Harkness, although not always a friendly writer, says this: “Those who see in Calvin only unfeeling sternness overlook the almost feminine gentleness which he displayed in many of his parish relationships. He grieved with his people in their sorrows and rejoiced in their joys. Some of his letters to those who had suffered domestic losses are masterpieces of tender sympathy. When a wedding occurred or a baby came to grace a home, he took a warm personal interest in the event. It was not unusual for him to stop on the street in the midst of weighty matters to give a school-boy a friendly pat and an encouraging word. His enemies might call him pope or king or caliph; his friends thought of him only as their brother and beloved leader.”58 In one of his letters to a friend he wrote: “I shall soon come to visit you, and then we can have a good laugh together.”

We must now consider an event in the life of Calvin which to a certain extent has cast a shadow over his fair name and which has exposed him to the charge of intolerance and persecution. We refer to the death of Servetus which occurred in Geneva during the period of Calvin’s work there. That it was a mistake is admitted by all. History knows only one spotless being — the Savior of sinners. All others have marks of infirmity written which forbid idolatry.

Calvin has, however, often been criticized with undue severity as though the responsibility rested upon him alone, when as a matter of fact Servetus was given a court trial lasting over two months and was sentenced by the full session of the civil Council, and that in accordance with the laws which were then recognized throughout Christendom. And, far from urging that the sentence be made more severe, Calvin urged that the sword be substituted for the fire, but was overruled. Calvin and the men of his time are not to be judged strictly and solely by the advanced standards of our twentieth century, but must to a certain extent be considered in the light of their own sixteenth century. We have seen great developments in regard to civil and religious toleration, prison reform, abolition of slavery and the slave trade, feudalism, witch burning, improvement of the conditions of the poor, etc., which are the late but genuine results of Christian teachings. The error of those who advocated and practiced what would be considered intolerance today, was the general error of the age. It should not, in fairness, be permitted to give an unfavorable impression of their character and motives, and much less should it be allowed to prejudice us against their doctrines on other and more important subjects.

The Protestants had just thrown off the yoke of Rome and in their struggle to defend themselves they were often forced to fight intolerance with intolerance. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries public opinion in all European countries justified the right and duty of civil governments to protect and support orthodoxy and to punish heresy, holding that obstinate heretics and blasphemers should be made harmless by death if necessary. Protestants differed from Romanists mainly in their definition of heresy, and by greater moderation in its punishment. Heresy was considered a sin against society, and in some cases as worse than murder; for while murder only destroyed the body, heresy destroyed the soul. Today we have swung to the other extreme and public opinion manifests a latitudinarian indifference toward truth or error. During the eighteenth century the reign of intolerance was gradually undermined. Protestant England and Holland took the lead in extending civil and religious liberty, and the Constitution of the United States completed the theory by putting all Christian denominations on a parity before the law and guaranteeing them the full enjoyment of equal rights.

Calvin’s course in regard to Servetus was fully approved by all the leading Reformers of the time. Melanchthon, the theological head of the Lutheran Church, fully and repeatedly justified the course of Calvin and the Council of Geneva, and even held them up as models for imitation. Nearly a year after the death of Servetus he wrote to Calvin: “I have read your book, in which you dearly refuted the horrid blasphemies of Servetus …. To you the Church owes gratitude at the present moment, and will owe it to the latest posterity. I perfectly assent to your opinion. I affirm also that your. magistrates did right in punishing, after regular trial, this blasphemous man.” Bucer, who ranks third among the Reformers in Germany, Bullinger, the close friend and worthy successor of Zwingli, as well as Farel and Beza in Switzerland, supported Calvin. Luther and Zwingli were dead at this time and it may be questioned whether they would have approved this execution or not, although Luther and the theologians of Wittenberg had approved of death sentences for some Anabaptists in Germany whom they considered dangerous heretics, — adding that it was cruel to punish them, but more cruel to allow them to damn the ministry of the Word and destroy the kingdom of the world; and Zwingli had not objected to a death sentence against a group of six Anabaptists in Switzerland. Public opinion has undergone a great change in regard to this event, and the execution of Servetus which was fully approved by the best men in the sixteenth century is entirely out of harmony with our twentieth century ideas.

As stated before, the Roman Catholic Church in this period was desperately intolerant toward Protestants; and the Protestants, to a certain extent and in self-defense, were forced to follow their example. In regard to Catholic persecutions Philip Schaff writes as follows: “We need only refer to crusades against the Albigenses and Waldenses, which were sanctioned by Innocent III, one of the best and greatest of popes; the tortures and autos-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition, which were celebrated with religious festivities; and fifty thousand or more Protestants who were executed during the reign of the Duke of Alva in the Netherlands (1567-1573); the several hundred martyrs who were burned in Smithfield under the reign of bloody Mary; and the repeated wholesale persecutions of the innocent Waldenses in France and Piedmont, which cried to heaven for vengeance. It is vain to shift the responsibility upon the civil government. Pope Gregory XIII commemorated the massacre of St. Bartholomew not only by a Te Deum in the churches of Rome, but more deliberately and permanently by a medal which represents ‘The Slaughter of the Huguenots’ by an angel of wrath.”59

And then Dr. Schaff continues: “The Roman Church has lost the power, and to a large extent also the disposition, to persecute by fire and sword. Some of her highest dignitaries frankly disown the principle of persecution, especially in America, where they enjoy the full benefits of religious freedom. But the Roman curia has never officially disowned the theory on which the practice of persecution is based. On the contrary, several popes since the Reformation have indorsed it …. Pope Pius IX., in the Syllabus of 1864, expressly condemned, among the errors of this age, the doctrine of religious toleration and liberty. And this pope has been declared to be officially infallible by the Vatican decree of 1870, which embraces all of his predecessors (notwithstanding the stubborn case of Honorius I) and all his successors in the chair of St. Peter,” (p. 669). And in another place Dr. Schaff adds, “If Romanists condemned Calvin, they did it from hatred of the man, and condemned him for following their own example even in this particular case.”

Servetus was a Spaniard and opposed Christianity, whether in its Roman Catholic or Protestant form. Schaff refers to him as “a restless fanatic, a pantheistic pseudo-reformer, and the most audacious and even blasphemous heretic of the sixteenth century.”60 And in another instance Schaff declares that Servetus was “proud, defiant, quarrelsome, revengeful, irreverent in the use of language, deceitful, and mendacious”; and adds that he abused popery and the Reformers alike with unreasonable language.61 Bullinger declares that if Satan himself should come out of hell, he could use no more blasphemous language against the Trinity than this Spaniard. The Roman Catholic Bolsec, in his work on Calvin, calls Servetus “a very arrogant and insolent man,” “a monstrous heretic,” who deserved to be exterminated.

Servetus had fled to Geneva from Vienne, France; and while the trial at Geneva was in progress the Council received a message from the Catholic judges in Vienne together with a copy of the sentence of death which had been passed against him there, asking that he be sent back in order that the sentence might be executed on him as it had already been executed on his effigy and books. This request the Council refused but promised to do full justice. Servetus himself preferred to be tried in Geneva, since he could see only a burning funeral pyre for himself in Vienne. The communication from Vienne probably made the Council in Geneva more zealous for orthodoxy since they did not wish to be behind the Roman Church in that respect.

Before going to Geneva Servetus had urged himself upon the attention of Calvin through a long series of letters. For a time Calvin replied to these in considerable detail, but finding no satisfactory results were being accomplished he ceased. Servetus, however, continued writing and his letters took on a more arrogant and even insulting tone. He regarded Calvin as the pope of orthodox Protestantism, whom he was determined to convert or overthrow. At the time Servetus came to Geneva the Libertine party, which was in opposition to Calvin, was in control of the city Council. Servetus apparently planned to join this party and thus drive Calvin out. Calvin apparently sensed this danger and was in no mood to permit Servetus to propagate his errors in Geneva. Hence he considered it his duty to make so dangerous a man harmless, and determined to bring him either to recantation or to deserved punishment. Servetus was promptly arrested and brought to trial. Calvin conducted the theological part of the trial and Servetus was convicted of fundamental heresy, falsehood and blasphemy. During the long trial Servetus became emboldened and attempted to overwhelm Calvin by pouring upon him the coarsest kind of abuse.62 The outcome of the trial was left to the civil court, which pronounced the sentence of death by fire. Calvin made an ineffectual plea that the sword be substituted for the fire; hence the final responsibility for the burning rests with the Council.

Dr. Emilé Doumergue, the author of Jean Calvin, which is beyond comparison the most exhaustive and authoritative work ever published on Calvin, has the following to say about the death of Servetus: “Calvin had Servetus arrested when he came to Geneva, and appeared as his accuser. He wanted him to be condemned to death, but not to death by burning. On August 20, 1553, Calvin wrote to Farel: ‘I hope that Servetus will be condemned to death, but I desire that he should be spared the cruelty of the punishment’ — he means that of fire. Farel replied to him on September 8th: ‘I do not greatly approve that tenderness of heart,’ and he goes on to warn him to be careful that ‘in wishing that the cruelty of the punishment of Servetus be mitigated, thou art acting as a friend towards a man who is thy greatest enemy. But I pray thee to conduct thyself in such a manner that, in future, no one will have the boldness to publish such doctrines, and to give trouble with impunity for so long a time as this man has done.’

“Calvin did not, on this account, modify his own opinion, but he could not make it prevail. On October 26th he wrote again to Farel: ‘Tomorrow Servetus will be led out to execution. We have done our best to change the kind of death, but in vain. I shall tell thee when we meet why we had no success.’ (Opera, XIV, pp. 590, 613-657).

“Thus, what Calvin is most of all reproached with — the burning of Servetus — Calvin was quite opposed to. He is not responsible for it. He did what he could to save Servetus from mounting the pyre. But, what reprimands, more or less eloquent, has this pyre with its flames and smoke given rise to, made room for! The fact is that without the pyre the death of Servetus would have passed almost unnoticed.”

Doumérgue goes on to tell us that the death of Servetus was “the error of the time, an error for which Calvin was not particularly responsible. The sentence of condemnation to death was pronounced only after consultation with the Swiss Churches, several of which were far from being on good terms with Calvin (but all of which gave their consent) …. Besides, the judgment was pronounced by a Council in which the inveterate enemies of Calvin, the free thinkers, were in the majority.”63

That Calvin himself rejected the responsibility is clear from his later writings. “From the time that Servetus was convicted of his heresy,” said he, “I have not uttered a word about his punishment, as all honest men will bear witness.”64 And in one of his later replies to an attack which had been made upon him, he says: “For what particular act of mine you accuse me of cruelty I am anxious to know. I myself know not that act, unless it be with reference to the death of your great master, Servetus. But that I myself earnestly entreated that he might not be put to death his judges themselves are witnesses, in the number of whom at that time two were his staunch favorites and defenders.”65

Before the arrest of Servetus and during the earlier stages of the trial Calvin advocated the death penalty, basing his argument mainly on the Mosaic law, which was, “He that blasphemeth the name of Jehovah, he shall surely be put to death,” Leviticus 24:16 — a law which Calvin considered as binding as the decalogue and applicable to heresy as well. Yet he left the passing of sentence wholly to the civil council. tie considered Servetus the greatest enemy of the Reformation and honestly believed it to be the right and duty of the State to punish those who offended against the Church. He also felt himself providentially called to purify the Church of all corruptions, and to his dying day he never changed his views nor regretted his conduct toward Servetus.

Dr. Abraham Kuyper, the statesman-theologian from Holland, in speaking to an American audience not many years ago expressed some thoughts in this connection which are worth repeating. Said he: “The duty of the government to extirpate every form of false religion and idolatry was not a find of Calvinism, but dates from Constantine the Great and was the reaction against the horrible persecutions which his pagan predecessors on the Imperial throne had inflicted upon the sect of the Nazarene. Since that day this system had been defended by all Romish theologians and applied by all Christian princes. In the time of Luther and Calvin, it was a universal conviction that that system was the true one. Every famous theologian of the period, Melanchton first of all, approved of the death by fire of Servetus; and the scaffold, which was erected by the Lutherans, at Leipzig for Kreel, the thorough Calvinist, was infinitely more reprehensible when looked at from a Protestant standpoint.

“But whilst the Calvinists, in the age of the Reformation, yielded up themselves as martyrs, by tens of thousands, to the scaffold and the stake (those of the Lutherans and Roman Catholics being hardly worth counting), history has been guilty of the great and far-reaching unfairness of ever casting in their teeth this one execution by fire of Servetus as a crimen nefandum.

“Notwithstanding all this I not only deplore that one stake, but I unconditionally disapprove of it; yet not as if it were the expression of a special characteristic of Calvinism, but on the contrary as the fatal after-effect of a system, grey with age, which Calvinism found in existence, under which it had grown up, and from which it had not yet been able entirely to liberate itself.”66

Hence when we view this affair in the light of the sixteenth century and consider these different aspects of the case, — namely, the approval of the other reformers, a public opinion which abhorred toleration as involving indifference to truth and which justified the death penalty for obstinate heresy and blasphemy, the sentence also passed on Servetus by the Roman Catholic authorities, the character of Servetus and his attitude toward Calvin, his going to Geneva for the purpose of causing trouble, the passing of sentence by a civil court not under Calvin’s control, and Calvin’s appeal for a lighter form of punishment, — we come to the conclusion that there were numerous extenuating circumstances, and that whatever else may be said Calvin himself acted from a strict sense of duty. View him from any angle you please; paint him as Cromwell asked himself to be painted — “warts and all” — and, as Schaff has said, “He improves upon acquaintance.” He was, beyond all question, a man sent from God, a world shaker, such as appears only a few times in the history of the world.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVIII- Calvinism in History

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVIII

CALVINISM IN HISTORY

9. Calvinism and Education

Again, history bears very clear testimony that Calvinism and education have been intimately associated. Wherever Calvinism has gone it has carried the school with it and has given a powerful impulse to popular education. It is a system which demands intellectual manhood. In fact, we may say that its very existence is tied up with the education of the people. Mental training is required to master the system and to trace out all that it involves. It makes the strongest possible appeal to the human reason and insists that man must love God not only with his whole heart but also with his whole mind. Calvin held that “a true faith must be an intelligent faith”; and experience has shown that piety without learning is in the long run about as dangerous as learning without piety. He saw clearly that the acceptance and diffusion of his scheme of doctrine was dependent not only upon the training of the men who were to expound it, but also upon the intelligence of the great masses of humanity who were to accept it. Calvin crowned his work in Geneva in the establishment of the Academy. Thousands of pilgrim pupils from Continental Europe and from the British Isles sat at his feet and then carried his doctrines into every corner of Christendom. Knox returned from Geneva fully convinced that the education of the masses was the strongest bulwark of Protestantism and the surest foundation of the State. “With Romanism goes the priest; with Calvinism goes the teacher,” is an old saying, the truthfulness of which will not be denied by anyone who has examined the facts.

This Calvinistic love for learning, putting mind above money, has inspired countless numbers of Calvinistic families in Scotland, in England, in Holland, and in America, to pinch themselves to the bone in order to educate their children. The famous dictum of Carlyle, “That any being with capacity for knowledge should die ignorant, this I call a tragedy,” expresses an idea which is Calvinistic to the core. Wherever Calvinism has gone, there knowledge and learning have been encouraged and there a sturdy race of thinkers has been trained. Calvinists have not been the builders of great cathedrals, but they have been the builders of schools, colleges, and universities. When the Puritans from England, the Covenanters from Scotland, and the Reformed from Holland and Germany, came to America they brought with them not only the Bible and the Westminster Confession but also the school. And that is why our American Calvinism never

Dreads the skeptic’s puny hands,

While near her school the church spire stands,

Nor fears the blinded bigot’s rule,

While near her church spire stands a school.

Our three American universities of greatest historical importance, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, were originally founded by Calvinists, as strong Calvinistic schools, designed to give students a sound basis in theology as well as in other branches of learning. Harvard, established in 1636, was intended primarily to be a training school for ministers, and more than half of its first graduating classes went into the ministry. Yale, sometimes referred to as “the mother of Colleges,” was for a considerable period a rigid Puritan institution. And Princeton, founded by the Scotch Presbyterians, had a thoroughly Calvinistic foundation.

“We boast,” says Bancroft, “of our common schools; Calvin was the father of popular education — the inventor of the system of free schools.”40 “Wherever Calvinism gained dominion,” he says again, “it invoked intelligence for the people and in every parish planted the common school.”41

“Our boasted common-school system,” says Smith, “is indebted for its existence to that stream of influences which followed from the Geneva of Calvin, through Scotland and Holland to America; and, for the first two hundred years of our history almost every college and seminary of learning and almost every academy and common school was built and sustained by Calvinists.”42

The relationship which Calvinism bears to education has been well stated in the two following paragraphs by Prof. H. H. Meeter, of Calvin College: “Science and art were the gifts of God’s common grace, and were to be used and developed as such. Nature was looked upon as God’s handiwork, the embodiment of His ideas, in its pure form the reflection of His virtues. God was the unifying thought of all science, since all was the unfolding of His plan. But along with such theoretical reasons there are very practical reasons why the Calvinist has always been intense1y interested in education, and why grade schools for children as well as schools of higher learning sprang up side by side with Calvinistic churches, and why Calvinists were in so large measure the vanguard of the modern universal education movement. These practical reasons are closely associated with their religion. The Roman Catholics might conveniently do without the education of the masses. For them the clergy — in distinction from the laity — were the ones who were to decide upon matters of church government and doctrine. Hence these interests did not require the training of the masses. For salvation, all that the layman needed was an implied faith in what the church believed. It was not necessary to be able to give an intelligent account of the tenets of his faith. At the services not the sermon but the sacrament was the important conveyor of the blessings of salvation, the sermon was less needed. And this sacrament again did not require intelligence, since it operated ex opere operato.

“For the Calvinist matters were just reversed. The government of the church was placed in the hands of the elders, laymen, and these had to decide upon the matters of church policy and the weighty matters of doctrine. Furthermore, the layman himself had the grave duty, without the intermediation of a sacerdotal order, to work out his own salvation, and could not suffice with an implied faith in what the church believed. He must read his Bible. He must know his creed. And it was a highly intellectual erred at that. Even for the Lutheran, education of the masses was not as urgent as for the Calvinist. It is true, the Lutheran also placed every man before the personal responsibility to work out his own salvation. But the laity were in the Lutheran circles excluded from the office of church government and hence also from the duty of deciding upon matters of doctrine. From these considerations it is evident why the Calvinist must be a staunch advocate of education. If on the one hand God was to be owned as sovereign in the field of science, and if the Calvinist’s very religious system required the education of the masses for its existence, it need not surprise us that the Calvinist pressed learning to the limit. Education is a question of to be or not to be for the Calvinist.”43

The traditionally high standards of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches for ministerial training are worthy of notice. While many other churches ordain men as ministers and missionaries and allow them to preach with very little education, the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches insist that the candidate for the ministry shall be a college graduate and that he shall have studied for at least two years under some approved professor of theology. (See Form of Government, Ch. XIV, sec. III & VI). As a result a larger proportion of these ministers have been capable of managing the affairs of the influential city churches. This may mean fewer ministers but it also means a better prepared and a better paid ministry.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination