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The Piety of John Calvin: A Collection of His Spiritual Prose, Poems, and Hymns (Calvin 500) (The Calvin 500 Series) Paperback – May 1, 2009
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"Here is a treasure. With impeccable scholarship and insight, Battles picks out products of Calvin's pen that take us closest to his heart, and presents them in a way that gives them fullest force. What a godly man! And what a wonderful book!" --J. I. Packer, professor of theology, Regent College, Vancouver
"Ford Lewis Battles -- a name that has by now rightly become virtually synonymous with the leading, modern edition of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion -- set his fertile mind to explaining not only the systematic theology of the great Genevan Reformer but also the underlying piety that continually sparked the engine of that systematic theology. . . . The republishing of this volume adds important vignettes to the window of Calvin's soul." --David W. Hall, senior pastor, Midway Presbyterian Church, Powder Springs, Georgia
"Ford Lewis Battles knows the heart and writings of John Calvin inside out. This book makes the rich, biblical warmth of the Reformer accessible to a North American pastor, student, or lay reader. . . . Six psalms that John Calvin versified, with melodies by cantors Greiter and Dachstein, are printed . . . harmonized by Stanley E. Tagg. The simple polyphonic settings catch the lilt and flow of the original melodies with captivating art." --Calvin Seerveld, professor emeritus in aesthetics at the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto
About the Author
Ford Lewis Battles (19151979) received his PhD from Hartford Theological Seminary. Battles was a visiting professor of church history at Calvin Theological Seminary and also taught at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Hartford Theological Seminary. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost Calvin scholars of recent years.
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As the title says, The Piety of John Calvin is "a collection of his spiritual prose, poems, and hymns." Other than the preface and a lengthy introduction, the author lets the reformer speak for himself.
Chapter one, "The Spiritual Pilgrimage of Calvin," is an autobiographical piece taken from the introduction to Calvin's commentary on the Psalms. Calvin's story is interesting, encouraging, and edifying.
The next three chapters are portions from the Institutes: "The Kernel of Calvin's Faith," "Calvin on the Christian Life," and "Calvin on Prayer." These writings reveal Calvin the pastor. Far from being interested in theology as an end in itself, he viewed theology as a means to rightly living the Christian life. "No doctrine of tongue the gospel is, but of life itself." "On the Christian Life," is the longest chapter, and is worth the price of the book.
Calvin was a man of prayer, and he believed it to be one of the greatest blessings and responsibilities of a believer. "As children fly to the protection of their parents, He bids us, urges us to seek in Him our every need." Chapter 4, "Calvin on Prayer," is Calvin's exposition of the Lord's Prayer. Chapter 5 is composed of many of the prayers he used in worship. There are prayers for Sunday, Wednesday, workdays, and any other occasion.
For the reader who loves hymns and music, there is a chapter of "Metrical Psalms Translated by Calvin." Not only are the Psalms arranged for music, but the notes are even included in the book. The book concludes with prose-poems adapted from Calvin's works and an epilogue: "Calvin on Christ and the Church."
For those not interested in John Calvin the man, the writings in The Piety serve their original purpose: to direct the reader's attention to the Lord. The book makes the perfect devotional, music and all. But the reader will also come away with a better grasp of the reformer from Geneva--a man full of devotion and love for God.
The author, Ford Lewis Battles, is considered one of the great Calvin scholars. He spent years translating Calvin's work, including an edition of the Institutes. One of his lifetime goals "was to balance the systematic strain of Calvin with the poetic strain." He achieved that in this book, which I highly recommend. It is one that you'll keep.