Friday, July 10, 2009

Calvin Glorifies God for His Mercy

Today is the 500th birthday of one of the most loved and most hated men in the history of Christianity—John Calvin. Much misunderstanding and misrepresentation of his character and teaching persist to this day despite abundant evidence that he truly was a man whose heart God had touched. In the hope of shedding some light on Calvin's Christian character, I'd like to offer this excerpt from his Last Will and Testament, quoted in Thine Is My Heart as the devotion for December 30:
In the first place, I render thanks to God, not only because he has had compassion on me, his poor creature, to draw me out of the abyss of idolatry in which I was plunged, in order to bring me to the light of his gospel and make me a partaker of the doctrine of salvation, of which I was altogether unworthy, and continuing his mercy he has supported me amid so many sins and shortcomings, which were such that I well deserved to be rejected by him a hundred thousand times—but what is more, he has so far extended his mercy towards me as to make use of me and of my labor, to convey and announce the truth of his gospel; protesting that it is my wish to live and die in this faith which he has bestowed on me, having no other hope for refuge except in his gratuitous adoption, upon which all my salvation is founded; embracing the grace which he has given me in our Lord Jesus Christ, and accepting the merits of his death and passion, in order that by this means all my sins may be buried; and praying him so to wash and cleanse me by the blood of this great Redeemer, which has been shed for us poor sinners, that I may appear before his face, bearing as it were his image.

I protest also that I have endeavored, according to the measure of grace he has given me, to teach his word in purity, both in my sermons and in my writings, and to expound faithfully the Holy Scriptures; and moreover, that in all the disputes I have had with the enemies of the truth, I have never made use of subtle craft nor sophistry, but have gone to work straightforwardly in maintaining his quarrel. But alas! the desire which I have had, and the zeal, if so it must be called, has been so cold and so sluggish that I feel myself a debtor in everything and everywhere, and that, were it not for his excellent goodness, all the affection I have would be but as smoke, nay, that even the favors which he has accorded me would render me so much the more guilty; so that my only recourse is this, that being the Father of mercies, he will show himself the Father of so miserable a sinner.
Though Calvin was aware of his redemption by God, his affection for God, and his usefulness to God, he knew himself to be a sinner and dared not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly leaned on Jesus' Name. Sounds like a brother to me!