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Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles: Chapters 1-7 Hardcover – February 1, 2008
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How to answer the question Is your conscience at peace? A reading of any or all of these forty-four extant sermons on Acts by John Calvin will help the reader determine whether his conscience is at peace or simply asleep!
Calvin s vigorous presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its full extent shows the sixteenth-century expositor understood the ramifications of New Testament theology, just as did his mentor, the apostle Paul, who, after presenting his reasoned understanding of the meaning of Christ s work, immediately follows it with the therefore of consequence. Calvin mixes biblical teaching and its demands on the believer s life together so closely that the theology and its effects cannot be easily separated. Divine judgment and mercy underlie this effects theology , and it is the sense of judgment versus the promises of and the conditions for forgiveness and acceptance that informs the reader s conscience whether he is indeed forgiven and at peace, a member of the body of Christ.
On the other hand, the reader of the sleeping conscience, by comparison and self-examination, will be incited to awaken to a new or renewed relationship with the pressing demands of Christian effects theology . Calvin pulls no punches. If belief does not end in an increasingly Christlike character, it is as good as no belief, no theology. The reader is either at peace or asleep.
One wonders, after perusing any sequence of Calvin s sermons, whether Calvin would be welcomed in many Protestant, even Presbyterian, pulpits today. Calvin is hailed for his biblical theology, but largely ignored with respect to his insistence upon the transformed-life, life-long self-abnegation demanded of genuine Christian discipleship. The motive behind his insistence arises from his acute awareness that God, after expressing his fatherly love and gracious acceptance of the wayward, remains the uncompromising judge of all humankind, Christian or not. That awareness of judgment should, Calvin says, make our hair stand on end and drive us to repentance, without which there is no forgiveness.
It is hoped that the reader of these sermons will seek not just to confirm the sermons agreement with Calvinistic theology, but particularly to experience Calvin s sincere and profound personal response to the loving and merciful God whose Son is on the threshold of judging with finality the whole world with mercy and justice.
From the Translator s Preface
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Many people think of Calvin as the sternest and most intimidating (maybe even the most frightening) of all the magisterial reformers. Here we have a collection of his sermons from 460 years ago; sermons in which he painstakingly worked his way though about 10 pages of Biblical text verse by verse, taking a year and a half to do it. One could probably be forgiven for thinking that curling up with a book like that would be a painful experience.
One would be wrong.
Calvin has gotten a bad rap, based much more on what people have said about him than on his own teaching and preaching. The Renaissance concept of ad fontes, returning to the sources, certainly applies here. If you want to know about Calvin, you should read Calvin.
These sermons show us Calvin as pastor, teaching his congregation the whole counsel of God. He's concerned about their knowledge of doctrine, their behavior in the world, and the strength and reputation of the Church. But, most of all, he's always passionate about bringing honor and glory to God.
Dr. Rob Roy McGregor brings the text to life with his excellent translation from the French. Many of the most commonly used translations of Calvin's works into English were done in the 1800's, often based on work done even earlier. That handicaps the modern reader with the burden of processing the out-dated English of the translation before he or she can get to what the author was trying to convey.
Dr. McGregor makes us feel as if we are in Calvin's congregation, listening to him speak. He conveys the depth of Calvin's teaching without sanitizing his colorful approach. Calvin's penchant for railing against doctrinal "stupidity", religious "frivolity", and his weekly rants against the Papacy are all here, but all in context. Far from off-putting, I find his passion a breath of fresh air.
The only real downer in the book is the occasional reference to the fact that so much of the record of the pulpit in Geneva has been lost. The church hired a stenographer who transcribed all of their pastor's messages. These were bound and saved, eventually filling forty bound volumes.
They were given to the University Library in Geneva in 1613, but the library disposed of most of them in 1805. They needed the shelf space.
I'm sure that seemed like a good idea at the time.
What remains for us, however, is a treasure. Whether you are looking for reference material for teaching or preaching, reading material to feed your own mind and soul, or just a good book to curl up with, you'll be hard pressed to do better.