A powerful word from Calvin’s Institutes about caring for our neighbor’s reputation. I am convicted by this word especially since I know that I have failed often in this area.
We delight in a certain poisoned sweetness experiences in ferreting out and in disclosing the evils of others. And let us not think it an adequate excuse if in many instances we are not lying. For he who does not allow a brother’s name to be sullied by falsehood also wishes it to be kept unblemished as far as truth permits (1:412).
The phrase, “as far as truth permits” is important because there may be times when one needs to speak ill of someone. But these times should be rare, and they should probably always be attended with grief for the person and recognition of one’s own sin. Calvin concludes,
Hence, evilspeaking is without a doubt universally condemned. Now, we understand by “evilspeaking” not reproof made with intent to chastise; not accusation or judicial denunciation to remedy evil. Nor does evilspeaking mean public correction, calculated to strike other sinners with terror; nor disclosure before those who need to be forewarned lest they be endangered through ignorance. By “evilspeaking” we mean hateful accusation arising from evil intent and wanted desire to defame (1:412).
When John Calvin wrote the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, it was in
tended to be a “simple handbook of Christian doctrine” (14). Just prior the time it was to be published, however, Francis I, the king of France, unleashed a “fierce campaign of repression” (14) against French Protestantism. In light of this, Calvin wrote an introductory letter dedicating his work to the king of France as a confession of the Christian faith and a defense of its truth.
Continue reading “‘The Institutes of the Christian Religion’ by John Calvin; edited by Tony Lane”
This was a particularly moving quote about John Calvin from T.H.L. Parker:
There is no threshing himself into a fever of impatience or frustration, no holier-than-thou rebuking of the people, no begging them in terms of hyperbole to give some physical sign that the message has been accepted. It is simply one man, conscious of his sins, aware how little progress he makes and how hard it is to be a doer of the Word, sympathetically passing on to his people (whom he knows to have the same sort of problems as himself) what God has said to them and to him.
Obviously this does not mean that Calvin pulled any punches when it came to fully and accurately delivering the whole counsel of God to his people, or that Calvin didn’t possess the qualifications that distinguished him from others as a pastor, but it does picture a man who trembled at the Word that he delivered because he knew it to be for himself as well as those under his care. And since Calvin was so deeply acquainted with his own sins and struggles, and with the great majesty of God, he was able to come to the pulpit with compassion and humility – as a fellow Christian who was seeking to apply the truth to his life first and foremost. Let us pray along with Steve Lawson, “May God give His church in this day humble and holy shepherds who practice what they preach.” Amen.