Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email: cfpc@esatclear.ie

CALVIN THE SOULWINNER - WHAT HE SAID

COMPANION PAGE- CALVIN THE SOULWINNER - WHAT HE DID

" John Calvin…is looked upon now, of course, a theologian only, but he was really one of the greatest of gospel preachers. When Calvin opened the Book and took a text, you might be sure that he was about to preach "Through grace are ye saved, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." CH SPURGEON (14:216)

Like his dear Lord Jesus, John Calvin has often been wounded in the house of his friends. Some Christians - who should rejoice in his ministry - practically hate him as much as Rome ever did. All manner of things have been spoken and written against him. Often these are without any foundation at all. One such falsehood - and no lie is of the truth (1 John 2:21) - is that Calvin had no burden for souls. He is portrayed as a dry theologian, sitting content in his Ivory Tower in Geneva, indifferent to the souls going to hell round about him.

Below are a few bits and pieces, drawn from his own words, which will let the man speak for himself. There appear to be two John Calvin's on the go. The myth invented by those who reject his theology and feel they must denigrate his person and ministry and the real Calvin of history of whom Spurgeon cried: "That glorious man, Calvin!"

THE SALVATION OF SOULS…MORE PRECIOUS THAN THE WORLD:

"Yet, whatever result may at length follow our efforts, there never will be reason to regret that we showed both pious and grateful obedience to God, and, what we will be able to relieve our sorrow even in the greatest catastrophes, that we faithfully served both the glory of Christ, which is preferable to all the kingdoms of the world, and the salvation of souls, which is more precious than the whole world." (Concerning Scandals. St Andrew Press p.115)

CALVIN BELIEVED WE OUGHT TO BE MOVED WITH COMPASSION IF WE SEE A POOR SOUL GOING TO PERDITION AND DESIRE GOD TO APPLY THE REMEDY:

"However St. Paul speaks here expressly of the saints or faithful, but this does not imply that we should not pray generally for all men. For the wretched unbelievers and the ignorant have great need to be pleaded for with God; behold them on the way to perdition. If we saw a beast at the point of perishing, we would have pity on it. And what shall we do when we see souls in peril, which are so precious before God, as he has shown in that he has ransomed them with the blood of his own Son? If we see then a poor soul going thus to perdition, ought we not to be moved with compassion and kindness, and should we not desire God to apply the remedy? So then, St. Paul's meaning in this passage is not that we should let the wretched sinners alone without having any care for them. We should pray generally for all men, but he shows at the same time that we ought to have a special care for those whom God has joined to us by a tighter bond." (Calvin's sermon on Ephesians 6:18-19 BOT p684-685)

CALVIN BELIEVED THAT THE GOSPEL WAS TO BE PROCLAIMED TO EVERY MAN - ELECT OR NOT:

* Click here for many quotes which prove this point

CALVIN BELIEVED IT TO BE HIS DUTY TO PRAY THAT EVERY MAN WOULD BE SAVED:

"It is our duty to pray for all who trouble us; to desire the salvation of all men." (Comments on Psalms)

"We ought to pray that this and that and every man may be saved and so embrace the whole human race, because we cannot yet distinguish the elect from the reprobate...we pray for the salvation of all whom we know to have been created in God's image and who have the same nature as ourselves; and we leave to God's judgement those whom He knows to be reprobate." (Comments on John 17:9)

CALVIN CARRIED OUT THIS DUTY TO PRAY FOR THE UNSAVED, OFFERING PETITIONS LIKE THIS AFTER HE PREACHED THE GOSPEL:

"That it may please him to grant this grace not only to us but also to all people and Nations of the earth, bringing back all poor ignorant souls from the miserable bondage of errors and darkness, to the right way of salvation, for the doing whereof it may please him to raise up true and faithful ministers of his word that seek not their own profit and vainglory, but only to the advancement of his holy name, etc." (Prayer after his sermon on Galatians 4:8-11)

CALVIN URGED GODLY TEACHERS TO DO THEIR UTMOST TO BRING THE WHOLE WORLD INTO CHRIST'S FOLD:

"It is no small consolation to godly teachers that, although the larger part of the world does not listen to Christ, He has His sheep whom He knows and by whom He is also known. They must do their utmost to bring the whole world into Christ's fold, but when they do not succeed as they would wish, they must be satisfied with the single thought that those who are sheep will be collected together by their work." (Comment on John 10:27)

CALVIN RECOGNISED THAT WE MUST LABOUR AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE TO BRING THE LOST TO SALVATION

"Thus we may see what St. Paul’s meaning is when he saith, God will have His grace made known to all the world, and His gospel preached to all creatures. Therefore, we must endeavour, as much as possible, to persuade those who are strangers to the faith, and seem to be utterly deprived of the goodness of God, to accept of salvation. Jesus Christ is not only a Saviour of few, but He offereth Himself to all. As often as the gospel is preached to us, we ought to consider that God calleth us to Him: and if we attend to this call, it shall not be in vain, neither shall it be lost labour…"Therefore, we may be so much the more assured that God taketh and holdeth us for His children, if we endeavour to bring those to Him who are afar off. Let us comfort ourselves, and take courage in this our calling: although there be at this day a great forlornness, though we seem to be miserable creatures, utterly cast away and condemned, yet we must labour as much as possible to draw those to salvation who seem to be afar off. And above all things, let us pray to God for them, waiting patiently till it please Him to show His good will toward them, as He hath shown it to us." (Sermon on 1 Timothy 2:3-5)

CALVIN SAID: IT'S NOT ENOUGH JUST FOR US TO BE SAVED…KNOWLEDGE OF GOD MUST BE UNIVERSAL:

"Seeing that God has given us such a treasure and so inestimable a thing as His Word, we must employ ourselves as much as we can, that it may be kept safe and sound and not perish. And let every man be sure to lock it up securely in his own heart. But it is not enough to have an eye to his own salvation, but the knowledge of God must shine generally throughout the whole world."(Sermon on 1 Timothy 2:3)

CALVIN WARNED AGAINST BEING FAINTHEARTED IN GOSPEL PREACHING:

"Nothing is more contrary to the pure and free preaching of the gospel than the straits of a faint heart."(Comments on Acts 18:9)

CALVIN SOUGHT NEVER TO BE WEARY OF GOSPEL WORK, RIDICULING THE THOUGHT THAT EXILE, FLIGHT OR MARTYRDOM SHOULD HINDER HIM:

"Therefore, if we desire to be counted their brethren, let us prick forward ourselves so diligently, that no fear or bitterness of cross discourage us, but that we go forward in showing forth the profession of faith; and that we never be weary of furthering the doctrine of Christ; for it is an absurd thing that exile and flight, which are the first exercises of martyrdom, should make us dumb and fainthearted."(Comments on Acts 8:4)

CALVIN SAW THE LACK OF EVANGELISM AS A FIGURATIVE LEAVING OF CHRIST IN THE TOMB AND INDICATED AN UNTHANKFUL SPIRIT:

"If the gospel be not preached, Jesus Christ is, as it were, buried. Therefore, let us stand as witnesses, and do Him this honour, when we see all the world so far out of the way; and remain steadfast in this wholesome doctrine…Let us here observe that St. Paul condemns our unthankfulness, if we be so unfaithful to God, as not to bear witness of His gospel; seeing He hath called us to it." (Sermon on 2 Timothy 1:8-9)

CALVIN BELIEVED IN WINNING JEWS TO THE OBEDIENCE OF THE GOSPEL AND HAD A STRATEGY TO DO:

"Yea and when we have to do with any Jews, which are not acquainted with our customs, and that we go about to win them and draw them to the obedience of the Gospel: we must for a time (in being conversant with them) abstain from the things which they think to be foresended [prohibited]." (Sermon on Galatians 2:6-8)

CALVIN GIVES ADVICE ON HOW TO USE THE REBUKE IN THE WINNING OF SOULS:

In that place then he did beat down the Galatians, because they exalted themselves, and did as it were set up their bristles [show fight] against God, through their lustiness. And now he reacheth them his hand, and lifteth them up again, and telleth them that after they have once felt and perceived their faults, they must not yet for all that think themselves utterly shut out from God, and from all hope of salvation. But this cannot be done except we have a carefulness to draw sinners to salvation. For many men will be vehement enough, and they shall have just cause so to do: but yet in the meanwhile their rigorousness will be so excessive, as it shall shut up men’s hearts, and make them take such stomach against the bitterness that is used towards them, that they shall cast themselves utterly out of order, yea and conceive a hatred against God and his word. Howbeit, they that are so oversharp will say they have just cause. Yea, but yet for all that, they which rebuke sin in the name of God, must always have a care and desire to bring those to salvation, which were in the highway to destruction. When they be so minded, no doubt but they will labuor to win such as were out of the right way, and to make them perceive that they seek their welfare, and that although their rebukings be grievous, yet they fail not to be for their behoove [advantage]. (Sermon on Galatians 4:11-14)

ANXIOUS FOR THE SALVATION OF ALL:

"Thus our undoubted course of action is to be anxious for all, as far as we can, but because it has not be granted to us to save those whom God has destined for destruction, 'what is perishing, let it perish' (Zechariah 11:9)"(Concerning Scandals. St Andrew Press p.118) *

* Click here for a classic explanation of what Calvinists mean when they say that God has destined men for destruction

CALVIN'S FAITH IN THE SOVEREIGN PURPOSES OF GOD DID NOT RULE OUT HIS RECOGNITION OF THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER :

"It is enough for us to bear this only in mind, that the gospel does not fall like rain from the clouds, but is brought by the hands of men wherever it is sent from above… But hence we also learn how much ought all good men to desire, and how much they ought to value the preaching of the gospel, which is thus commended to us by the mouth of the Lord himself. Nor is there indeed a doubt, but that God has thus highly spoken of the incomparable value of this treasure, for the purpose of awakening the minds of all, so that they may anxiously desire it. Take feet, by metonymy, for coming." (Comments on Romans 10:14)

CALVIN RECOGNISED THAT GOD USUALLY EMPLOYED PREACHERS TO BUILD HIS CHURCH INSTEAD OF BRINGING SINNERS IN BY USING SECRET INFLUENCES:

"This points out to us also the ordinary method of collecting a Church, which is, by the outward voice of men; for though God might bring each person to himself by a secret influence, yet he employs the agency of men, that he may awaken in them an anxiety about the salvation of each other." (Comments on Isaiah 2:3)

CALVIN TAUGHT THAT THE GODLY ARE TO USE ALL MEANS TO WIN OVER THOSE STILL WITHOUT THE GOSPEL AND ALIENS TO THE FLOCK AND BESTOW SO MUCH LABOUR UPON THEM:

"Having said, "Not forsaking the assembling together," he adds, But exhorting one another; by which he intimates that all the godly ought by all means possible to exert themselves in the work of gathering together the Church on every side; for we are called by the Lord on this condition, that every one should afterwards strive to lead others to the truth, to restore the wandering to the right way, to extend a helping hand to the fallen, to win over those who are without. But if we ought to bestow so much labour on those who are yet aliens to the flock of Christ, how much more diligence is required in exhorting the brethren whom God has already joined to us?" (Comments on Hebrews 10:25)

CALVIN TAUGHT THAT GOD USES OUR EXERTIONS IN GOSPEL PREACHING GOSPEL AND THAT WE, GOD'S INSTRUMENTS, PREACH BY HIS COMMAND:

"Again, when Christ says, not that the ministers of the word sow, but that he alone sows, this is not without meaning; for though this cannot be supposed to be restricted to his person, yet as he makes use of our exertions, and employs us as his instruments, for cultivating his field, so that He alone acts by us and in us, he justly claims for himself what is, in some respects, common to his ministers. Let us, therefore, remember, that the Gospel is preached, not only by Christ’s command, but by his authority. and direction; in short, that we are only his hand, and that He alone is the Author of the work." (Comments on Matthew 13:37)

CALVIN USED DAVID'S EXAMPLE TO INTIMATE THAT HAVING PARTAKEN OF GOD'S MERCY OURSELVES, WE ARE BECOME HERALDS OF IT OURSELVES:

In another place we find him declaring that a new song had been put in his mouth, (Psalm 40:3,) and it seems to be in this sense that he here desires his lips to be opened. He again signifies the gratitude which he would feel, and which he would express, intimating, that he sought the mercy of God with no other view than that he might become the herald of it to others. My mouth, he says emphatically, shall show forth thy praise. (Comments on Psalm 51:16)

CALVIN REGARDED THE DISREGARDING OF EVANGELISM AS INCONSISTENT WITH SAVING FAITH AND BELIEVED THAT THE GREATER A MAN'S EMINENCE…THE MORE DILIGENTLY HE WAS TO LABOUR:

And shall say, Come. By these words he first declares that the godly will be filled with such an ardent desire to spread the doctrines of religion, that every one not satisfied with his own calling and his personal knowledge will desire to draw others along with him. And indeed nothing could be more inconsistent with the nature of faith than that deadness which would lead a man to disregard his brethren, and to keep the light of knowledge choked up within his own breast. The greater the eminence above others which any man has received from his calling so much the more diligently ought he to labour to enlighten others. (Comments on Isaiah 2:3)

CALVIN URGED HUSBANDS WHO ARE SAVED TO LABOUR LONG AND HARD, UNSPARINGLY AND BY EVERY MEANS TO BRING THEIR UNSAVED WIVES TO THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL AS A MATTER OF URGENCY:

If a man whose marriage has occurred under the tyranny of the papacy is constrained to withdraw from the papal church on the grounds that he is prevented from serving God as faithfully and purely as he ought, I would first of all advise him to win over his wife that she might be in accord with him. For since he is her head, it is right for him to lead her in the way of salvation insofar as he possibly can.

For this reason it is improper for a Christian man, under the guise of following the gospel, to abandon his wife. Rather let him strive by every means to draw her to the Lord Jesus in order that both of them may obey Him with a common accord. Indeed let him do so not simply once, but let him continue to draw her, even though he might find her obstinate and rebellious. Let him do so unsparingly, and in making it his duty to teach and exhort her, let him ask God to touch her with His Spirit, for such is necessary, or all his labour will be in vain.

If one asks how long a husband ought to persevere in this manner, I cannot assign a period. I can only advise him to proceed as worthily and zealously as possible, so that day by day, he might advance a little more and as much as God validates such effort." (Letter of Calvin reproduced in "Calvin's Ecclesiastical Advice" T&T Clark p.60-61)

Likewise Calvin urged a Christian wife to strive to bring her unsaved Roman Catholic husband to faith in Jesus Christ:

Where the two parties consent, it is especially fitting for the Christian wife to double her efforts to be submissive to her husband - here regarded as an enemy of the truth - in order to win him if at all possible, as St. Peter advises in 1 Peter 3:1. Nevertheless, as matters stand today in the papal church, a believing wife ought not to relinquish her hope without striving and trying to direct her husband toward the road of salvation. (Letter of Calvin reproduced in "Calvin's Ecclesiastical Advice" T&T Clark p.132)

CALVIN SAW IT AS A CHRISTIAN DUTY TO BE LIKE A BURNING LAMP, ENDEAVOURING TO DRAW MEN WHO ARE ESTRANGED FROM GOD AND HIS TRUTH:

Generally, because we have the gospel freely preached here among us, and because we ought everywhere to be like a burning lamp to show the way of salvation [John 5:35] And particularly, by every man discharging his own duty that we give no cause of offence to our neighbours, but rather endeavour to draw to us those are estranged from God and his truth. (Sermon on Ephesians 4:6-8 BOT p340)

CALVIN SAID IT WAS TRULY THE PRINCIPLE THING TO SHOW MEN THE WAY OF SALVATION:

It is true that the principle thing we have to look to is to teach the ignorant and to show them the way of salvation." (Sermon on Ephesians 4:29-30 BOT p463)

CALVIN SAID WE OUGHT TO PROMOTE THE SALVATION OF OUR NEIGHBOURS:

Now if we ought to promote the salvation of our neighbours, and also their temporal benefit and welfare, what will be thought of it if we wickedly seduce them and quench and abolish in them all fear of God? (Sermon on Ephesians 4:29-30 BOT p463)

CALVIN BELIEVED WE WERE ENLIGHTENED BY GOD SO THAT WE WOULD ENDEAVOUR TO SHOW LIGHT TO THE UNSAVED:

What therefore in effect we have to bear in mind is that God's enlightening of us is in order that she should no more be plunged into darkness, but that, being enlightened by Him, we should endeavour to give light to poor unbelievers who wander and reel and stumble as though they would break their necks, for they are poor brute beasts. (Sermons on Ephesians 5:8-11 BOT p513)

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