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My Review of Calvin’s A Little Book on the Christian Life

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A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin. Translated by Burk Parsons and Aaron Denlinger.  Reformation Trust Publishing. 132 pages. 2017 

This short book on the Christian life is extracted from the second edition (1539) of John Calvin’s classic book Institutes of the Christian Religion. Parsons and Denlinger have given us an excellent new translation of the book, based upon the final and definitive Latin edition of the Institutes. The translators have striven to make Calvin’s meaning as clear as possible to English readers.
Calvin’s goal with the book was simply to present to godly people a model for ordering their lives. His purpose in this work is to present doctrine simply and concisely. He writes that the goal of God’s work in us is to bring our lives into harmony and agreement with His own righteousness, and so to manifest to ourselves and others our identity as His adopted children.
He tells us that there are two main parts to the instruction from Scripture on the Christian life that he will address. The first is that a love of righteousness—to which we are not naturally prone—must be implanted and poured into our hearts. The second is that we need some model that will keep us from losing our way in our pursuit of righteousness.
Calvin covers a number of themes in this short book, among them the holiness of God, doctrine, God’s Law, self-denial, uprightness and godliness, the cross, suffering and affliction, endurance and our calling.
This is a wonderful new translation of a classic from Calvin. Highly recommended reading in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin’s Chair

30 Quotes from A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin. Translated by Burk Parsons and Aaron Denlinger 

  • When we contemplate this relationship between ourselves and God, let us remember that holiness is the bond of our union with Him.
  • Holiness is the goal of our calling. Therefore, we must consistently set our sights upon holiness if we would rightly respond to God’s calling.
  • Scripture tells us that God the Father, who has reconciled us to Himself in His Anointed One, Jesus Christ, has given us in Christ a model to which we should conform our lives.
  • Doctrine is rightly received when it takes possession of the entire soul and finds a dwelling place and shelter in the most intimate affections of the heart. In order for doctrine to be fruitful to us, it must overflow into our hearts, spread into our daily routines, and truly transform us within.
  • Right living has a spiritual basis where the inner affection of the soul is sincerely devoted to God for the nurture of holiness and righteousness.
  • The Law of the Lord is the best and most suitable instruction for the proper ordering of our lives.
  • Once self-denial has occupied the heart, it crowds out the evils of pride, arrogance, and pretentiousness as well as greed, lust, gluttony, cowardice, and everything else that is born of self-love. On the other hand, where self-denial does not reign, the worst vices thrive shamelessly.
  • The proper use, then, of all the good gifts we have received is the free and generous sharing of those gifts with others.
  • Scripture teaches us that all the gifts we utilize are given to us by God.
  • You have no cause to evade anyone who stands before you and needs your service.
  • We should always look to the Lord, that by His care we might be led to whatever lot in life He provides for us.
  • No one, then, has properly denied himself except the one who has entirely abandoned himself to the Lord so that every aspect of his life will be governed by His will.
  • For those whom the Lord has chosen and condescended to welcome into fellowship with Him should prepare themselves for a life that is hard, laborious, troubled, and full of many and various kinds of evil. For it’s the will of their heavenly Father to test them in this way so that He might prove them by trials.
  • God has promised believers that He will be with them in times of suffering.
  • There is, then, good reason for difficult circumstances in the lives of the saints, since they create endurance in them.
  • Scripture supplies a more profound reason for us when it teaches that in adverse circumstances we’re being disciplined by the Lord so that we won’t be condemned with the world.
  • Whether we suffer poverty, exile, imprisonment, contempt, sickness, childlessness, or any such thing, let us remember that nothing happens apart from God’s pleasure and providence, and that God Himself does nothing that isn’t perfectly in order.
  • If it’s clear that tribulations work toward our salvation, shouldn’t we accept them with a grateful and calm spirit? In bearing them with endurance, we’re not yielding to necessity, but we’re assenting to our own good.
  • In whatever trouble comes to us, we should always set our eyes on God’s purpose to train us to think little of this present life and inspire us to think more about the future life.
  • There’s no middle ground between these two things: either earth must become worthless to us, or we must remain bound by the chains of extravagant love for it. If, then, we care for eternity, we must make every effort to free ourselves from those chains.
  • This life, though bursting at the seams with every kind of misery, should still be considered one of God’s blessings that shouldn’t be dismissed.
  • The Lord has so ordered things that those who will one day be crowned in heaven will first encounter struggles on earth.
  • No one has made much progress in the school of Christ who doesn’t look forward joyfully both to his death and the day of his final resurrection.
  • The cross of Christ finally triumphs in believers’ hearts—over the devil, the flesh, sin, and the wicked—when their eyes are turned to the power of the resurrection.
  • Scripture teaches that everything we own—everything appointed for our benefit—has been given to us by God’s kindness, so that all that we own is like a deposit for which we must one day give an account.
  • He has ordained particular duties to each one in his station in life. And so that no one should overstep his boundaries, He has identified various stations in life as callings.
  • Every individual’s rank in life, therefore, is a kind of post assigned to him by the Lord, to keep him from rushing about rashly for the whole of his life.
  • The one who doesn’t frame his actions with reference to his calling will never keep the right course in his duties.
  • Consequently, the one who directs himself toward the goal of observing God’s calling will have a life well composed.
  • For every work performed in obedience to one’s calling, no matter how ordinary and common, is radiant—most valuable in the eyes of our Lord.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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