John Calvin

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An excerpt from Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, edited by Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet (Baker, 1983), vol. 7, p. 183.

“There exists but a small number of letters exchanged between Knox and Calvin. Those of the Scotch Reformer alluded to [earlier in this letter] in Calvin’s answer, have been lost and the letters of the Reformer of Geneva have not had a better fate. Dr. McCrie, the learned historian of Knox, affords no explanation of the loss of this precious correspondence, which leaves in history a void so much to be regretted.”

Geneva, 23d April 1561.

calvinJohn “. . . I come now to your letter, which was lately brought to me by a pious brother who has come here to pursue his studies. I rejoice exceedingly, as you may easily suppose, that the gospel has made such rapid and happy progress among you. That they should have stirred up violent opposition against you is nothing new. But the power of God is the more conspicuously displayed in this, that no attacks either of Satan or of the ungodly have hitherto prevented you from advancing with triumphant constancy in the right course, though you could never have been equal to the task of resistance, unless He who is superior to all the world had held out to you from heaven a helping hand. With regard to ceremonies, I trust, even should you displease many, that you will moderate your rigor. Of course it is your duty to see that the church be purged of all defilements which flow from error and superstition. For it behooves us to strive sedulously that the mysteries of God be not polluted by the admixture of ludicrous or disgusting rites. But with this exception, you are well aware that certain things should be tolerated even if you do not quite approve of them. I am deeply afflicted, as you may well believe, that the nobles of your nation are split into factions, and it is not without reason that you are more distressed and tormented, because Satan is now plotting in the bosom of your church, than you were formerly by the commotions stirred up by the French. But God is to be intreated that he may heal this evil also. Here we are exposed to many dangers. Nothing but our confidence in the divine protection exempts us from trepidation, though we are not free from fears.

knoxJohn04Farewell, distinguished sir and honored brother. May the Lord always stand by you, govern, protect, and sustain you by his power. Your distress for the loss of your wife justly commands my deepest sympathy. Persons of her merit are not often to be met with. But as you have well learned from what source consolation for your sorrow is to be sought, I doubt not but you endure with patience this calamity. You will salute very courteously all your pious brethren. My colleagues also beg me to present to you their best respects.”

Words to Live By:
In my younger years in the ministry, this verse never failed to temper my agitated feelings against those who were my opponents in doctrine and life:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness, God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” — (2 Timothy 2:24-26, ESV)

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Being a Reaper for the Lord

McCormick The revival was going strong in the little Virginia church on the McCormick farm. Minister after minister preached the Word of grace from the Word of God. One Sunday morning, the challenge went out to the audience gathered, “I want everyone who is on Christ’s side to stand up.” People stood up all over the sanctuary, except the young man named Cyrus McCormick. The twenty-one year old went back to his house where he went to bed. Before he fell asleep, his godly father came into his room and said, “Son, don’t you know that by being quiet, you are rejecting Christ?” Young Cy had not thought of it that way. He rose up, got dressed, and even though it was dark outside, went to see and talk with Billy McClung. He was a believer in Jesus. Waking up the young man, he asked how he could know Jesus and get peace with God. Billy McClung was used of the Lord to show the way, and that night Cyrus McCormick committed himself to Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The next Sunday morning, he did what he did not do the previous Sunday, and publicly gave his testimony of having trusted in Jesus Christ.

All the spiritual ground was prepared by his godly parents, and grandparents, and ancestors. He came from a Scotch-Irish heritage of Covenanters who had stood for King Jesus in the old country of Scotland and Ireland. Being persecuted for the old faith was part and parcel of the life which they lived and died for in the “Killing Times” of the mother country. Young Cyrus, born onFebruary 15, 1809, had the spiritual upbringing of both the Bible and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. He was a spiritual product of the theology of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox. The twin truths of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man were stamped into his character.

Living in the Virginia farm was not easy however. Especially was it difficult to harvest the grain before it spoiled. Cyrus’s father had tried for years to build a machine which could reap the wheat quickly, so it wouldn’t be lost by spoilage. Cyrus McCormick took over for his father and with the natural gifts of God upon him, in 1834 took out a patent for a reaper which could accomplish all which he and every farmer of the land had long desired. But he didn’t stop there with the invention. He mass-produced the machine for usage by farmers all across America. Of course, this brought in incredible wealth to this Christian man.

Many have had the sad testimony that riches has ruined them in their Christian testimony. But Cyrus McCormick was different. He simply brought his heritage of Christianity, and specifically the rich Presbyterian heritage into his business life, so that family and friends could not separate his religious life from his business life. Even after marriage to Miss Nettie Fowler, and a family of six sons and daughters, he gave away huge sums of money to Christian and especially Presbyterian ministries. After his death in 1884, his wife continued the ministry of using her wealth for Christian enterprises. McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago is named after him because of that generous financial support toward that institution.

Words to Live By: Cyrus McCormick’s favorite Bible passage was Romans 8:31 – 39.  That is our application, or words to live by portion for today. Turn to it now and read the gracious promises of the elect of God.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

The Virtual Founder of America

The German historian, Leopold von Ranke, was the one who declared that John Calvin was the virtual founder of America.

Today, July 10, 1504, is the birth of this Swiss Reformer, John Calvin.  And yes, this is the first time we honor one in these historical devotions who is not an American, or for that matter, a Presbyterian.  But his influence pervades all of our history and our culture, so we briefly look at the man and his message.

Do we have any idea of how many Calvinists there were in our country up to the time of the American Revolution in 1776?  Loraine Boettner states that out of the three million citizens of the colonies at this pivotal time in our history, 900,000 were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, 600,600 were Puritan English, 400,000 were German or Dutch Reformed, and there were a lot of French Huguenots, who were Calvinists.  Two-thirds of our citizens had been trained in the school of Calvin.

Calvin was the first Reformer  to demand a complete separation between the church and the state. Note carefully what I  have just said.  It wasn’t a separation between God and the state, which is the commonly held interpretation today, but between the church and state. No one denomination was going to be the favored church of the government, as it was the case back in England. There would be freedom of religion. And that unique idea could be laid at the feet of John Calvin.

Next, our republic was to be looked upon as a representative republic.  In fact, if you look at the Presbyterian form of government, with its representative elders in the  congregation, we can see how our founding fathers simply took a leaf out of the Presbyterian form of government.

Let’s enter next,  what has been called the Protestant work-ethic in this whole discussion. Calvin held to the idea that every person’s calling can be characterized as a Christian calling, enabling them to serve God in every area of life. That has certainly helped  our people work hard in their respective jobs, knowing that they are serving God in those jobs as well as that one who has been called to the pulpit to serve God.

Further, the Geneva Bible came to these shores by the pilgrim forefathers. This was the version whose footnotes were decidedly Calvinist.

For all these reasons, we honor John Calvin today.

Words to Live By: 
Today Calvinism is almost a dirty word. We need to reclaim its force in people’s lives and equally in our national life, if we desire to return to the greatness of our land. If you, reader, are largely ignorant of this Reformer and his place of influence in the early days of our people, make sure that you are not neglecting the Westminster Confession of Faith and catechism readings, which are a part of Calvin’s legacy. And delve into his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which will more than repay you in bringing Biblical theology into your faith and life.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 10 – 12

Through the Standards: The manner of sanctifying the Lord’s Day according to the Confession

WCF 21:8 — “This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”

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