Classics

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INTRODUCTION

By The Rev. John Murray, M.A., Th.M.

THE publication in English of another edition of the opus magnum of Christian theology is an event fraught with much encouragement. Notwithstanding the decadence so patent in our present-day world and particularly in the realm of Christian thought and life, the publishers have confidence that there is sufficient interest to warrant such an undertaking. If this faith is justified we have reason for thanksgiving to God. For what would be a better harbinger of another Reformation than widespread recourse to the earnest and sober study of the Word of God which would be evinced by the readiness carefully to peruse The Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Dr. B. B. Warfield in his admirable article, “On the Literary History of the Institutes,” has condensed for us the appraisal accorded Calvin’s work by the critics who have been most competent to judge. Among these tributes none expresses more adequately, and none with comparable terseness, the appraisal which is Calvin’s due than that of the learned Joseph Scaliger, “Solus inter theologos Calvinus.”

It would be a presumptuous undertaking to try to set forth all the reasons why Calvin holds that position of eminence in the history of Christian theology. By the grace and in the overruling providence of God there was the convergence of multiple factors, and all of these it would be impossible to trace in their various interrelations and interactions. One of these, however, calls for special mention. Calvin was an exegete and biblical theologian of the first rank. No other one factor comparably served to equip Calvin for the successful prosecution of his greatest work which in 1559 received its definitive edition.

The attitude to Scripture entertained by Calvin and the principles which guided him in its exposition are nowhere stated with more simplicity and fervor than in the Epistle Dedicatory to his first commentary, the commentary on the epistle to the Romans. “Such veneration,” he says, “we ought indeed to entertain for the Word of God, that we ought not to pervert it in the least degree by varying expositions; for its majesty is diminished, I know not how much, especially when not expounded with great discretion and with great sobriety. And if it be deemed a great wickedness to contaminate any thing that is dedicated to God, he surely cannot be endured, who, with impure, or even with unprepared hands, will handle that very thing, which of all things is the most sacred on earth. It is therefore an audacity, closely allied to a sacrilege, rashly to turn Scripture in any way we please, and to indulge our fancies as in sport; which has been done by many in former times” (English Translation, Grand Rapids, 1947, p. 27).

It was Calvin preeminently who set the pattern for the exercise of that sobriety which guards the science of exegesis against those distortions and perversions to which allegorizing methods are ever prone to subject the interpretation and application of Scripture. The debt we owe to Calvin in establishing sound canons of interpretation and in thus directing the future course of exegetical study is incalculable. It is only to be lamented that too frequently the preaching of Protestant and even Reformed communions has not been sufficiently grounded in the hermeneutical principles which Calvin so nobly exemplified.

One feature of Calvin’s exegetical work is his concern for the analogy of Scripture. He is always careful to take account of the unity and harmony of Scripture teaching. His expositions are not therefore afflicted with the vice of expounding particular passages without respect to the teaching of Scripture elsewhere and without respect to the system of truth set forth in the Word of God. His exegesis, in a word, is theologically oriented. It is this quality that lies close to that which was par excellence his genius.

However highly we assess Calvin’s exegetical talent and product, his eminence as an exegete must not be allowed to overshadow what was, after all, his greatest gift. He was par excellence a theologian. It was his systematizing genius preeminently that equipped him for the prosecution and completion of his masterpiece.

When we say that he was par excellence a theologian we must dissociate from our use of this word every notion that is suggestive of the purely speculative. No one has ever fulminated with more passion and eloquence against “vacuous and meteoric speculation” than has Calvin. And no one has ever been more keenly conscious that the theologian’s task was the humble and, at the same time, truly noble one of being a disciple of the Scripture. “No man,” he declares, “can have the least knowledge of true and sound, doctrine, without having been a disciple of the Scripture. Hence originates all true wisdom, when we embrace with reverence the testimony which God hath been pleased therein to deliver concerning himself. For obedience is the source, not only of an absolutely perfect and complete faith, but of all right knowledge of God” (Inst. 1, 6, 2). In the words of William Cunningham: “In theology there is, of course, no room for originality properly so called, for its whole materials are contained in the actual statements of God’s word; and he is the greatest and best theologian who has most accurately apprehended the meaning of the statements of Scripture—who, by comparing and combining them, has most fully and correctly brought out the whole mind of God on all the topics on which the Scriptures give us information—who classifies and digests the truths of Scripture in the way best fitted to commend them to the apprehension and acceptance of men—and who can most clearly and forcibly bring out their scriptural evidence, and most skillfully and effectively defend them against the assaults of adversaries . . . Calvin was far above the weakness of aiming at the invention of novelties in theology, or of wishing to be regarded as the discoverer of new opinions” (The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, Edinburgh, 1866, p. 296). As we bring even elementary understanding to bear upon our reading of the Institutes we shall immediately discover the profound sense of the majesty of God, veneration for the Word of God, and the jealous care for faithful exposition and systematization which were marked features of the author. And because of this we shall find the Institutes to be suffused with the warmth of godly fear. The Institutes is not only the classic of Christian theology; it is also a model of Christian devotion. For what Calvin sought to foster was that “pure and genuine religion” which consists in “faith united with the serious fear of God, such fear as may embrace voluntary reverence and draw along with it legitimate worship such as is prescribed in the law” (Inst. 1, 2, 2).

The present edition is from the translation made by Henry Beveridge in 1845 for the Calvin Translation Society. The reader may be assured that the translation faithfully reflects the teaching of Calvin but must also bear in mind that no translation can perfectly convey the thought of the original. It may also be added that a more adequate translation of Calvin’s Institutes into English is a real desideratum. In fulfilling this need the translator or translators would perform the greatest service if the work of translation were supplemented by footnotes in which at crucial points, where translation is difficult or most accurate translation impossible, the Latin text would be reproduced and comment made on its more exact import. Furthermore, footnotes which would supply the reader with references to other places in Calvin’s writings where he deals with the same subject would be an invaluable help to students of Calvin and to the cause of truth. Admittedly such work requires linguistic skill of the highest order, thorough knowledge of Calvin’s writings, and deep sympathy with his theology. It would also involve prodigious labour. We may hope that the seed being sown by the present venture may bear fruit some day in such a harvest.

John Murray,

Professor of Systematic Theology,

Westminster Theological Seminary.

Philadelphia, Penna.


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Institutes

Title Page
Prefaces
PREFACE TO THE ELECTRONIC EDITION.
INTRODUCTION
THE PRINTERS TO THE READERS.
THE ORIGINAL TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE.
PREFATORY ADDRESS TO HIS MOST CHRISTIAN MAJESTY, THE MOST MIGHTY AND ILLUSTRIOUS MONARCH, FRANCIS, KING OF THE FRENCH, HIS SOVEREIGN
THE EPISTLE TO THE READER
SUBJECT OF THE PRESENT WORK
EPISTLE TO THE READER.
METHOD AND ARRANGEMENT,OR SUBJECT OF THE WHOLE WORK.
GENERAL INDEX OF CHAPTERS.
INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
BOOK FIRST. - OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE CREATOR
ARGUMENT.
CHAPTER 1. - THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND OF OURSELVES MUTUALLY CONNECTED. —NATURE OF THE CONNECTION.
CHAPTER 2. - WHAT IT IS TO KNOW GOD,—TENDENCY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE.
CHAPTER 3. - THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD NATURALLY IMPLANTED IN THE HUMAN MIND.
CHAPTER 4. - THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD STIFLED OR CORRUPTED, IGNORANTLY OR MALICIOUSLY.
CHAPTER 5. - THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD CONSPICUOUS IN THE CREATION, AND CONTINUAL GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD.
CHAPTER 6. - THE NEED OF SCRIPTURE, AS A GUIDE AND TEACHER, IN COMING TO GOD AS A CREATOR
CHAPTER 7. - THE TESTIMONY OF THE SPIRIT NECESSARY TO GIVE FULL AUTHORITY TO SCRIPTURE. THE IMPIETY OF PRETENDING THAT THE CREDIBILITY OF SCRIPTURE DEPENDS ON THE JUDGMENT OF THE CHURCH.
CHAPTER 8. - THE CREDIBILITY OF SCRIPTURE SUFFICIENTLY PROVED IN SO FAR AS NATURAL REASON ADMITS.
CHAPTER 9. - ALL THE PRINCIPLES OF PIETY SUBVERTED BY FANATICS, WHO SUBSTITUTE REVELATIONS FOR SCRIPTURE.
CHAPTER 10. - IN SCRIPTURE, THE TRUE GOD OPPOSED, EXCLUSIVELY, TO ALL THE GODS OF THE HEATHEN.
CHAPTER 11. - IMPIETY OF ATTRIBUTING A VISIBLE FORM TO GOD.—THE SETTING UP OF IDOLS A DEFECTION FROM THE TRUE GOD.
CHAPTER 12. - GOD DISTINGUISHED FROM IDOLS, THAT HE MAY BE THE EXCLUSIVE OBJECT OF WORSHIP.
CHAPTER 13. - THE UNITY OF THE DIVINE ESSENCE IN THREE PERSONS TAUGHT, IN SCRIPTURE, FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.
CHAPTER 14. - IN THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, AND ALL THINGS IN IT, THE TRUE GOD DISTINGUISHED BY CERTAIN MARKS FROM FICTITIOUS GODS.
CHAPTER 15. - STATE IN WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. THE FACULTIES OF THE SOUL—THE IMAGE OF GOD—FREE WILL—ORIGINAL RIGHTEOUSNESS
CHAPTER 16. - THE WORLD, CREATED BY GOD, STILL CHERISHED AND PROTECTED BY HIM. EACH AND ALL OF ITS PARTS GOVERNED BY HIS PROVIDENCE.
CHAPTER 17. - USE TO BE MADE OF THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE.
CHAPTER 18. - THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF THE WICKED EMPLOYED BY GOD, WHILE HE CONTINUES FREE FROM EVERY TAINT
BOOK SECOND. - OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE REDEEMER, IN CHRIST, AS FIRST MANIFESTED TO THE FATHERS, UNDER THE LAW, AND THEREAFTER TO US UNDER THE GOSPEL.
ARGUMENT.
CHAPTER 1. - THROUGH THE FALL AND REVOLT OF ADAM, THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE MADE ACCURSED AND DEGENERATE. OF ORIGINAL SIN.
CHAPTER 2. - MAN NOW DEPRIVED OF FREEDOM OF WILL, AND MISERABLY ENSLAVED.
CHAPTER 3. - EVERY THING PROCEEDING FROM THE CORRUPT NATURE OF MAN DAMNABLE.
CHAPTER 4. - HOW GOD WORKS IN THE HEARTS OF MEN.
CHAPTER 5. - THE ARGUMENTS USUALLY ALLEGED IN SUPPORT OF FREE WILL REFUTED.
CHAPTER 6. - REDEMPTION FOR MAN LOST TO BE SOUGHT IN CHRIST.
CHAPTER 7. - THE LAW GIVEN, NOT TO RETAIN A PEOPLE FOR ITSELF, BUT TO KEEP ALIVE THE HOPE OF SALVATION IN CHRIST UNTIL HIS ADVENT.
CHAPTER 8. - EXPOSITION OF THE MORAL LAW.
CHAPTER 9. - CHRIST, THOUGH KNOWN TO THE JEWS UNDER THE LAW, YET ONLY MANIFESTED UNDER THE GOSPEL.
CHAPTER 10. - THE RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW.
CHAPTER 11. - THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO TESTAMENTS.
CHAPTER 12. - CHRIST, TO PERFORM THE OFFICE OF MEDIATOR, BEHOVED TO BECOME MAN.
CHAPTER 13. - CHRIST CLOTHED WITH THE TRUE SUBSTANCE OF HUMAN NATURE.
CHAPTER 14. - HOW TWO NATURES CONSTITUTE THE PERSON OF THE MEDIATOR.
CHAPTER 15. - THREE THINGS BRIEFLY TO BE REGARDED IN CHRIST—VIZ. HIS OFFICES OF PROPHET, KING, AND PRIEST.
CHAPTER 16. - HOW CHRIST PERFORMED THE OFFICE OF REDEEMER IN PROCURING OUR SALVATION. THE DEATH, RESURRECTION, AND ASCENSION OF CHRIST.
CHAPTER 17. - CHRIST RIGHTLY AND PROPERLY SAID TO HAVE MERITED GRACE AND SALVATION FOR US.
BOOK THIRD. - THE MODE OF OBTAINING THE GRACE OF CHRIST. THE BENEFITS IT CONFERS, AND THE EFFECTS RESULTING FROM IT.
ARGUMENT.
CHAPTER 1. - THE BENEFITS OF CHRIST MADE AVAILABLE TO US BY THE SECRET OPERATION OF THE SPIRIT.
CHAPTER 2. - OF FAITH. THE DEFINITION OF IT. ITS PECULIAR PROPERTIES.
CHAPTER 3. - REGENERATION BY FAITH. OF REPENTANCE.
CHAPTER 4. - PENITENCE, AS EXPLAINED IN THE SOPHISTICAL JARGON OF THE SCHOOLMEN, WIDELY DIFFERENT FROM THE PURITY REQUIRED BY THE GOSPEL. OF CONFESSION AND SATISFACTION.
CHAPTER 5. - OF THE MODES OF SUPPLEMENTING SATISFACTION—VIZ. INDULGENCES AND PURGATORY.
CHAPTER 6. - THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN MAN. SCRIPTURAL ARGUMENTS EXHORTING TO IT.
CHAPTER 7. - A SUMMARY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. OF SELF-DENIAL.
CHAPTER 8. - OF BEARING THE CROSS—ONE BRANCH OF SELF-DENIAL.
CHAPTER 9. - OF MEDITATING ON THE FUTURE LIFE.
CHAPTER 10. - HOW TO USE THE PRESENT LIFE, AND THE COMFORTS OF IT.
CHAPTER 11. - OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH. BOTH THE NAME AND THE REALITY DEFINED.
CHAPTER 12. - NECESSITY OF CONTEMPLATING THE JUDGMENT-SEAT OF GOD, IN ORDER TO BE SERIOUSLY CONVINCED OF THE DOCTRINE OF GRATUITOUS JUSTIFICATION.
CHAPTER 13. - TWO THINGS TO BE OBSERVED IN GRATUITOUS JUSTIFICATION.
CHAPTER 14. - THE BEGINNING OF JUSTIFICATION. IN WHAT SENSE PROGRESSIVE.
CHAPTER 15. - THE BOASTED MERIT OF WORKS SUBVERSIVE BOTH OF THE GLORY OF GOD, IN BESTOWING RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND OF THE CERTAINTY OF SALVATION.
CHAPTER 16. - REFUTATION OF THE CALUMNIES BY WHICH IT IS ATTEMPTED TO THROW ODIUM ON THIS DOCTRINE.
CHAPTER 17. - THE PROMISES OF THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL RECONCILED.
CHAPTER 18. - THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF WORKS IMPROPERLY INFERRED FROM REWARDS.
CHAPTER 19. - OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY.
CHAPTER 20. - OF PRAYER—A PERPETUAL EXERCISE OF FAITH. THE DAILY BENEFITS DERIVED FROM IT.
CHAPTER 21. - OF THE ETERNAL ELECTION, BY WHICH GOD HAS PREDESTINATED SOME TO SALVATION, AND OTHERS TO DESTRUCTION.
CHAPTER 22. - THIS DOCTRINE CONFIRMED BY PROOFS FROM SCRIPTURE.
CHAPTER 23. - REFUTATION OF THE CALUMNIES BY WHICH THIS DOCTRINE IS ALWAYS UNJUSTLY ASSAILED.
CHAPTER 24. - ELECTION CONFIRMED BY THE CALLING OF GOD. THE REPROBATE BRING UPON THEMSELVES THE RIGHTEOUS DESTRUCTION TO WHICH THEY ARE DOOMED.
CHAPTER 25. - OF THE LAST RESURRECTION.
BOOK FOURTH. - OF THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH
ARGUMENT.
CHAPTER 1. - OF THE TRUE CHURCH. DUTY OF CULTIVATING UNITY WITH HER, AS THE MOTHER OF ALL THE GODLY.
CHAPTER 2. - COMPARISON BETWEEN THE FALSE CHURCH AND THE TRUE.
CHAPTER 3. - OF THE TEACHERS AND MINISTERS OF THE CHURCH. THEIR ELECTION AND OFFICE.
CHAPTER 4. - OF THE STATE OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH, AND THE MODE OF GOVERNMENT IN USE BEFORE THE PAPACY.
CHAPTER 5. - THE ANCIENT FORM OF GOVERNMENT UTTERLY CORRUPTED BY THE TYRANNY OF THE PAPACY.
CHAPTER 6. - OF THE PRIMACY OF THE ROMISH SEE.
CHAPTER 7. - OF THE BEGINNING AND RISE OF THE ROMISH PAPACY, TILL IT ATTAINED A HEIGHT BY WHICH THE LIBERTY OF THE CHURCH WAS DESTROYED, AND ALL TRUE RULE OVERTHROWN.
CHAPTER 8. - OF THE POWER OF THE CHURCH IN ARTICLES OF FAITH. THE UNBRIDLED LICENCE OF THE PAPAL CHURCH IN DESTROYING PURITY OF DOCTRINE.
CHAPTER 9. - OF COUNCILS AND THEIR AUTHORITY
CHAPTER 10. - OF THE POWER OF MAKING LAWS. THE CRUELTY OF THE POPE AND HIS ADHERENTS, IN THIS RESPECT, IN TYRANNICALLY OPPRESSING AND DESTROYING SOULS.
CHAPTER 11. - OF THE JURISDICTION OF THE CHURCH, AND THE ABUSES OF IT, AS EXEMPLIFIED IN THE PAPACY.
CHAPTER 12. - OF THE DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH, AND ITS PRINCIPAL USE IN CENSURES AND EXCOMMUNICATION.
CHAPTER 13. - OF VOWS. THE MISERABLE ENTANGLEMENTS CAUSED BY VOWING RASHLY.
CHAPTER 14. - OF THE SACRAMENTS.
CHAPTER 15. - OF BAPTISM.
CHAPTER 16. - PÆDOBAPTISM. ITS ACCORDANCE WITH THE INSTITUTION OF CHRIST, AND THE NATURE OF THE SIGN.
CHAPTER 17. - OF THE LORD’S SUPPER, AND THE BENEFITS CONFERRED BY IT
CHAPTER 18 - OF THE POPISH MASS. HOW IT NOT ONLY PROFANES, BUT ANNIHILATES THE LORD’S SUPPER.
CHAPTER 19. - OF THE FIVE SACRAMENTS, FALSELY SO CALLED. THEIR SPURIOUSNESS PROVED, AND THEIR TRUE CHARACTER EXPLAINED.
CHAPTER 20. - OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
ONE HUNDRED APHORISMS,
BOOK 1
BOOK 2
BOOK 3
BOOK 4
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