Calvin Decides

While the Genevans were pulling at him on the one side, the city authorities and the ministers of Strassburg were pulling, with equal energy, on the other and, in a letter to Nicolas Parent, Calvin says: “I am so perplexed or, rather, confused in my mind as to the call from Geneva that I can scarcely venture to think what I ought to do.”  By degrees, however, light began to rise in his darkness.  He began to see that Geneva was the only place in which there was any chance of establishing the worship of God and the discipline of the church as they ought to be established.  In France, there was no city in which the Reformed faith could be safely professed.  In Germany, there was no city which was politically independent.  But, in Geneva, the Reformed faith was dominant and the city was entirely free from external control.  It was the one city in Europe in which his conceptions could be realized.  In a letter to the Council of Geneva, written from Strassburg (February 19, 1541), he practically intimates his willingness to return as soon as the way is open to him.

From: John Calvin: His Life, Letters, and Work by Hugh Y. Reyburn (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914), p. 106.

 

 

Ascending Still Higher

…though that Son was dear to Him above others, the Son in whom He was “well-pleased,” yet we see that, far from being treated gently and indulgently, we may say that, not only was He subjected to a perpetual cross while He dwelled on earth, but His whole life was nothing else than a kind of perpetual cross…Why, then, should we exempt ourselves from that condition to which Christ, our Head, behooved to submit, especially since He submitted on our account that He might, in His own person, exhibit a model of patience?…How powerfully should it soften the bitterness of the cross to think that, the more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ, by communion with whom our sufferings are not only blessed to us but tend greatly to the furtherance of our salvation.John Calvin (1509-1564), Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), 3.8.1 (Henry Beveridge translation).

The Belgic Confession’s Sources

The Belgic Confession follows, with minor alteration, the French Confession.  In 1559, the chairman of the Synod of Paris asked for John Calvin’s help in writing a confession for the French churches.  Calvin hesitated, at first, but then sent representatives to the Synod with a confession of thirty-five articles, which was based on the 1557 Paris Creed.  The Synod of Paris then adopted this French Confession, with a few alterations…

The Belgic Confession’s other main source is Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”  The similarities can be seen structurally, as both are preceded by a letter to a king (Philip, in the case of the Belgic, and Francis, in the case of the “Institutes”) as well as the fact that the Confession follows the structure of the “Institutes”: God the Father (articles 1-5; Book 1), God the Son (articles 16-21; Book 2), God the Holy Spirit (articles 22-26, Book 3), and the church (articles 27-36 [article 37 is on eschatology]; Book 4).  There are some differences, though: for example, the Belgic does not deal with the three-fold office of Christ formally, as does the “Institutes” (2.15), and the terminology of covenant is scantily discussed only in article 34 (cf. “Institutes,” 2.10-11).  In [an] essay, S. A. Strauss also mentions the placement of predestination, which follows justification and prayer but is before the last judgment in the “Institutes,” while the Belgic places it between sin and redemption.  Strauss concludes, however, that this is exactly where the French Confession places it.

From: With Heart and Mouth: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession by Daniel R. Hyde (Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 2008), pp. 20-21.

Of Suffering Borne for Others

A remarkable characteristic of this entire prophecy is the frequent repetition of expressions conveying the idea of sufferings borne for others.  In one form or another, that thought occurs, as we reckon, eleven times, and it is especially frequent in the last verses of the chapter.  Why this perpetual harking back to that one aspect?  It is to be further noticed that, throughout, there is no hint of any other kind of work which this Servant had to do.  He fulfills His service to God and man by being bruised for men’s iniquities.  He came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and the chief form of His ministry was that He gave His life a ransom for the many.  He came not to preach the gospel, but to die that there might be a gospel to preach.  The cross is the center of His work and, by it, He becomes the center of the world.Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910).  Comment on Isaiah 53.12.

The Morality of the Regenerate Man

The goodness attained by the regenerate man is never independent of the grace of God at work in him.  Only the new self can see the radical need for self-denial.  It is then, for the first time, fully apparent.  “The regenerate man has the center of his life no more in himself nor in the world but in the crucified and risen Christ” (H. Martensen).  Only where supernatural regeneration is experienced is a decisive blow dealt to the old nature.  “For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3.3; cf. Galatians 2.20; 6.14-15).  Only as the new man is put on is the old man put off (Ephesians 4.22-23).  And only one who loves God and his fellow men, in this context, can govern his life by the evangelical moderation of the self, since it now becomes obvious – as, formerly, it was not – that the love of God and of neighbor as one’s self is the exact equivalent of biblical self-denial.  The Scriptures do not merely hint at this position, but they state it plainly in the strongest possible way.  To “find” one’s life on the basis of the old nature is, ultimately, to “lose” life.  To lose the old life is really to gain life by the new.  To exalt the old self means ultimate self-humiliation.  To humble the old self leads to a self-exaltation fitting one for a felicitous destiny (Matthew 20.16; 23.12; Mark 10.31; Luke 14.11; 18.14; 22.27).  One of the great lessons that Jesus taught His disciples was personal humility, a virtue nowhere so impressed on human experience as by the new birth.  The disciples were greatly concerned, on one occasion, about their rank in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18.1-6).  Jesus set a child in their midst and spoke of conversion.

From: Christian Personal Ethics by Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957), p. 394.

Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003) was a conservative Baptist theologian and writer.  He was, among other things, a member of the founding faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary (1947) and founding editor of “Christianity Today” magazine (1956).